Sunday, January 29, 2006

$20 dollar game of the week: RPG Maker 2 (PS2)

I'm gonna include the review I did for my own site 2 years ago since It explains it more accurately than I can. "If you want to make your own role playing game, this is for you. However, I'm gonna tell you right now though, if you don't have patience, a deep attention span, and a month of two to spare, you might as well not even @#%$ with this, becuase it is HARD. I mean HARD like a nigga's dick with elisha cutbert and Miko lee sucking on it. HARD like ellen degeneres's nipples while she is standing butt naked in antartica looking at all-girl porn shoot. Hard like a hockey player getting slammed into the wall at 90 mph hard. It's low totem compared to those bootleg internet tools, and those are even more complicated. You need to have read the manual. You can't pick this up, pop it in your PS2 and expect to create a final fantasy style epic in an hour or two. You have complete control over everything, from items, to expierence, to maps, and building design. THere are 3 different modes: beginner, normal, and advanced. You can switch anytime, but you should start with beginner so you can look at the sample data. Good thing is is that you can use a USB keyboard to type out long scripts. THe new interface is it's biggest strength and it's biggest hinderance. Now it's possible to do more stuff, but it's very complicated. FOr instance with events, instead of putting a graphic with an event, now you have to create a script, and have the event call it. And with dungeons, you have to create the model, then the object placement model, then register the dungeon and object placement with world organization. THe graphics are shitty N64 quality, the character models are the worst I've ever seen, and there is some damn motion blur, but graphics isn't what this game is about. THe sound is a lot better than in the first one. I wish this had some online capablilty so you could share things and download. It kinda makes you think of what a third installment could do, using a hard drive. It would be ill to be able to use the expanded memory to put your own music into the game, or use PS2's online system to trade over the internet. Once again, I must stress, if you ain't got the patience or time, don't even pick this up. Go home and play mario or something. + expanded features, better music, more options - VERY complicated, bad graphics" This is more or less an introduction to game design for up and commers. Anyone with basic knowledge of object oriented programming will know how to really work this. Although there are better things out there (including the PC version RPG Maker XP), and a sequel to this is out now, but you can't go wrong with this.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Impressions: Shaolin Monks

A number of years ago I was priveledged to see the Shaolin Monks perform in the United States, showing off their great physical prowess and discipline, and educating the audience on their ancient ways. Finally a video game has been made celebrating their brand of martial arts. Eh, not really. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks gleefully celebrates the hey-day of the franchise by taking place between MK and MKII. Its a 3D brawler not unlike the mega-popular, mega-hard Ninja Gaiden. Take Lui Kang or Kung Lao beyond the tournament and button mash and combo and jump and special attack the shit out of an endless number of Outworld enemies. After the stunning opening FMV, I was totally ready for this game. While I booted up MKII the other night, it really shows its age and the most fun you can have is the cheese aspect of the story. MK:SM has that in spades! Voice acting isn't great, story is as expected so far, but what fun! Its a great pick-up and play game after the first hour. And after you beat it (or use a code...) you can select Sub Zero or Scorpion and do the game all over! Can't say so far its a must buy experience, but if you've got the means to rent it, I'd endorse that option. Mortal Kombat was a such a cultural touchstone of the 90s that there isn't a gamer out there who won't chuckle with every uppercut, "Superb!" announcement, and Fatality. MK started losing its audience a couple games ago, and Deception might not be for everyone, especially if they stopped playing after MK3. But I'm really looking forward to getting through Shaolin Monks. Its not a perfect game, and i'll wager the replay value isn't high unless you're playing Co-op, but it puts a smile on your face to see Raiden's blue apron and fighting those weird robed guys from the portal and hear Lui Kang jibbering howl as he does that bicycle kick. Review pending upon completion of the game...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

GameFly rentals finally quicker

I'm a big fan of gamefly's service as an online rental place for games. Price is right, selection is awesome, and you can opt to keep almost any game you rent for a fair price. One thing I wasn't a fan of was how LONG the return process is. It can be a week between sending a game back and getting the next one on the list. They're based in California and mailing that game all the way just takes that long. Thankfully they're fixing it withFast Return, where the post office scans the game while its still on the way back to GameFly so they know to go ahead and just send me the next thing on my list. Sounds cool, and maybe now I won't stagger my returns so I'm not left with all my games in the mail for a week.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pro Gaming goes to 60 Minutes

60 Minutes interviews Fatal1ty, and you can either watch the whole show or read a word-for-word transcript at that link. Pretty nice. Toward the end of the peice Steve Kroft even goes a couple rounds of Halo 2 with Lil' Poison, the 7-year-old prodigy from the MLG. The story plays up the possibilities of pro gaming as a spectator sport in the US, but doesn't forget to mention that 100,000 people show up in South Korea to see people play StarCraft on a giant screen. Me, I love watching other people play. Especially when its a game I play! Reaction times play into Fatal1ty's success, but learning and watching and thinking up strategies plays a big part too.

Follow up: Sonic Rush!

Just to continue on the rest of the review I started with the impressions, I'd like to say Sonic Rush is easily the best portable Sonic game to date, and is great fun to race through levels you've already completed trying to get the best time and high scores (I left zone 7 act 2 with over 500 rings on my best run!). It should also be noted that the Chaos emerald stages are super fun and take after the Sonic 2 half-pipe, using the stylus to guide Sonic toward rings and away from obstacles. The final Chaos emerald is a real pain in da ass, so I'm throwing in the towel and sending this one back to Gamefly. Sorry Sega! I haven't collected all the emeralds in any game aside from Sonic Adventure.

$20 game of the week: GTA San andreas (Xbox, PS2, PC)

It's gonna be kinda overloaded seeing this here as well as the rockstar double feature I'm typing up, but now that this game has dropped to 20 dollars, it's too good to ignore, not only that, hopefully we can open up some real discussion here. OMG!!! TEH EVIL GTA SAN ANDREAS!!! WTF LOL!!! To the most jaded of fanboys and probably Gamepro magazine, GTA represents everything evil about the gaming industry. However to the rest of us, it's another solid entry that adds so much to the series and to gaming as Vice city and GTA 3 did before it. While it's theme of crime, along with it's new urban element is a magnet for controversy, (not to mention the hot coffee controversy) it's easy to ignore how innovative and groundbreaking the series has become since It's inception into 3d. Although the series, particulary this entry clearly isn't for everyone, it manages to once set down trends that the industry has been trying to duplicate since then, and you'll see the industry continue to copy into the future. (see beatdown: fist of vengence, ride or die 187, Crime life, and other 'free roaming' or 'urban' games...) Anyway, on to the game. Along with the free roaming gameplay the series pioneered (and most games today attempt to imitate), this game introduces an RPG-like character building system thet required a player to work out and eat frequently to keep your strength up (although it is as nowhere as tedious as it sounds, you can easly max yourself out early into the game), and will increase your skills with various vehicles and weapons to become better at using them. Along with this, the uniform system of VIce city is expanded, and now players can customize thier clothing, and appearence. The world you explore is three times bigger than vice city, with 3 seperate cities with tier own style, and dozens of small townships scattered inbetween. Oh yeah, your character can finally SWIM now! No longer do you have to reload the game soon as you hit the water. In addition, the voice acting is topnotch. Young Malay (the up and comming rapper who plays CJ) does an excellent job making the main character CJ seem more human than Vice City's TOmmy vercetti or the nameless dullard in GTA 3. In addition, Samuel L jackson turns in a preformance as the corrupt officer Tenpenny that rivals any of his movie preformances. The radio stations include everything from early 90s and old school rap to funk, new jack swing, alternative rock, and even country. There is definently something for everyone in this game. A popular misconception is that this is a game all about gangbanging and hip hop music. Nothing however, could be further from the truth. True a large part of it is influenced by the gang culture of LA in the early 90s, (further punctuated by the music selection for the soundtrack) but this game is so much more than crips and bloods (or rather the famlies and ballas, the game's fictional gangs). The game really opens up after you are forced out of Los santos early in the game, I'll guarentee you. You'll hit up the casino, preform eleborate burgularies, meet familar characters from previous GTA games, and even commandeer aircraft such as a military bomber, a helicopter, and even a jetpack. As I said before, the series's glorification of crime isn't meant for everyone, but those who can approach this with an open mind will definently be rewarded.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Supply and Demand: The Next Generation

Hot on the heels of reading a major japanese retailer is importing Nintendo DS units from the USA to satisfy demand, I walked into Best Buy to find a single, lonesome Xbox 360 core system that nobody wanted. Its funny that the 360 launch has generated so much hype that impression is that its somehow the greatest thing ever, when people are telling Peter Moore to his face that theres serious problems. Meanwhile, the DS has generated some of the most talked about a played games of the past year, and so many people are ready to see Nintendo fail. Is this fair? I mean, Animal Crossing is still selling like nuts, I can't even find a copy. And the hottest thing for 360 is Call Of Duty 2, which at best is a game available on PC as well and at worst is yet another WWII game. Who said the 360 is the next generation? Outside of the online service, theres nothing next gen about the experience yet. Nintendo DS much more aptly fits the next gen description, even if it is a portable. Its offering high demand games, innovative experiences, and new ideas. Best of all, people are actually buying them and playing with them. The 360 can't move a core unit right now because theres nothing to do with it and the majority of gamers don't think much of the 'stripped' system in the first place.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

$20 game of the week: The Punisher (xbox, PS2)

THQ's the Punisher is among the latest in a long line of excellent comic book based games. Although it's your typical third person shooter without all it's extra flash, this game succeeds by doing what SPider man 2 and Hulk: Ultimate destruction do so well, and that's to place you, as the player inside the shoes of the Punisher. You carry an arsenal of weapons and you can tourture enemies for information and power ups. Sometimes special spots wil be available for special interrogation moves and kills, such as a mean packer, a buzzsaw, and even a charging rhinocerous. THere is also tons of hidden artwork to unlock, and challenge modes help keep th eaction fresh. Guest appearences include Daredevil, Iron man, the Kingpin, and Bushwhacker among others.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

$20 dollar game of the week: Xenosaga Episode 1

In 1998, Squaresoft released one of the most underrated RPG's ever, Xenogears. The 2 disc PS1 monster told the epic story of Fei, and his quest to find out who, or what he really is in a world filled with giant robot mechs. With plenty of Judiac religion refrences, the story took several complicated twists and turns. THese plot twists, combined with excellent CGI & anime cutscenes, and a unique battle system made this a cult classic with players who could look past it's flaws (long nondescript maps, constant random battles, and long winded cutscenes). Several years later, Namco would make a prequel of sorts, which was set thousand of years before Square's classic. Although it has yet to reach the epic status of it's predecessor, Xenosaga stands out all on it's own. Retaining the gear combat and fighting system of the original Xenogears and a complicated plotline which would span several games, Xenosaga Episode 1 proved to be a worthy start to what could be a top notch RPG franchise. Unfortunantely, it was followed up by a somewhat lackluster sequel last year, and the third episode, comming soon, will be the final entry in the story line, cutting it short to an early end, due to key members of the staff leaving. Even so, PS2 owners who like RPGS would do well to pick this up. BTW, there is also a upcomming DS version which will contain both episodes 1 and 2.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Impressions: Peter Jackson's Official King Kong Official Game Of The Movie. Officially.

Beyond Good and Evil was a really good game. I can see why PJ would want Michael Ancel to direct the game for King Kong. As a major movie license its going to give Ancel a boost too. Maybe he'll be able to do that BG&E sequel! I heard it described as a 'thinking man's first person shooter' and thats about right. blowing away the monsters won't clear the game. You've got to set traps, distractions, hide, solve puzzles, and blow away monsters. And it does this to pretty good effect. All the levels playing as Jack Driscoll will impress and delight even a novice shooter fan. What this game DOESN'T do right is the much advertised Kong levels. They're on rails, they're a mess, and sloppy controls. Mash the hell out of the punch button and do a couple grabs and you'll kill anything pretty quickly. Some stuff like chasing down a target is really bad because its just pressing forward and tapping jump or climb as you get to those obstacles. I also notice significant frame rate drop. Much of the Jack levels run at 30 FPS, and even hit 60 when you're in a smaller room. I had Kong drop my frame rate to like 15 FPS at some points. Maybe the 360 version doesn't do this, but my regular xbox doesn't seem to be able to handle the big ape swinging all nimbly bimbly from tree to tree. But I digress. Its a movie game! And its mostly fun. Its worth a rent, and maybe even a purchase when it inevitably hits the greatest hits list. To anyone who hasn't seen the movies and only played the game or vice versa, theres good news. The game has an original story. Yes, the characters from Peter Jackson's movie do make up the cast, but there are virtually no common events between the movie and game. Everything is similar and basics like Anne being taken away and Jack goes to save her are all there, but you arrive on the island at night in the rain instead of in the morning, theres a sea plane that drops supplies and rescues some of the crew, several deaths are under much different circumstances, and theres way more of those goddamned centipedes. It had to be reworked to make it a playable game, but they went out of their way to make the game as much a reworking of the Kong remake as the Kong remake does with the original!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

$20 dollar game of the week: Fable the lost chapters (Xbox)

If you've already played th eoriginal fable to death, there is little incentive to get this purchase. However, for those new to the world of albion, this is an excellent purchase with it's extra content. THink of it as "Morrowind lite", as that is what it's free roaming gameplay is most reminicent of, only there isn't as much to do. The spell and item interface is fun and easy to use, and combat is simple and effective. Although it is somewhat short and comes off as cheesy sometimes, it's still a good game for Xbox owners looking for a good RPG. Although there were a lot of features promised here during previews that were left out of the final game, this is still an excellent feature to any Xbox gamer's library. If for nothing else, though, this leaves much to be desired in an Xbox 360 sequel for the game. Even so, there is no excuse for any xbox owner not to have this great title now.