Archive for Video Game Reviews

Mario Kart 8: The Good, The Bad, and The Verdict

 

MK8boxSo, I have written three reviews for Mario Kart 8, but I haven’t been able to really get my thoughts properly out on the page. I’m really torn about the game and how I feel about it. So, I’m going to write two short reviews. One negative, and one positive. Here we go.

 

 

Why I Don’t Like Mario Kart 8

 

Mario Kart Wii was the last time I saw my favorite Nintendo characters drive around in go karts on my TV. Mario Kart 7 was a fantastic diversion, but I have been hungry for more. Sadly, in some ways, Mario Kart 8 takes steps backward in terms of where Mario Kart 7 and even Mario Kart Wii stands.

 

My biggest issues center around the roster of characters and the kart/bike options. While the roster of characters is larger than in the Wii version, there is less depth. There are only 8 sets of characters, and they all share the same stats. So it may appear that Toad and Shy Guy are different characters, but on the track they are exactly the same. This goes the same for kart types, wheels, and gliders. Like in Mario Kart 7 any character can select any kart, and there are a ton to choose from. That said, many share stats, just like characters, and (also like characters) they are not organized together. For example, there are 4 versions of the standard tire but some have one or two options between them when selecting kart options. This really makes it difficult to decipher what’s going on. It’s almost like Nintendo is trying to hide the fact that they got lazy. I mean, Mario Kart Wii had small differences between all of its characters, shouldn’t we expect the same or more for this game? If they were trying to make things more simple in light of being able to choose wheels and gliders for your kart now, they sure did complicate things by not organizing them properly.

 

Also, Metal Mario and Metal Peach (I know she has some longer stupid name) are pretty boring additions. Isn’t Metal Mario just Mario with a power-up? That’s like adding Cat Suit Mario, or Frog Suit Mario- either of which would have been more fun. Also, with a whole chunk of the roster being dedicated to Koopa Kids, how could they blow good roster spots on metal characters and a new baby character in the form of Baby Rosalina? Who the hell cares about adding Baby Rosalina? Why not add Cranky Kong or Dixie or something? They were in the last DK Country, so it kind of makes sense, and we’re down to one primate on the roster.

MK babies

I hate babies.

In Mario Kart 7 we were given the Lucky 7 item, and in Mario Kart 8 we have the Crazy 8. It’s quite obnoxious, feeling more like they ran out of ideas than anything else. It gives me the same sensation I imagine I’d get if I were driving down the street in a hail storm and all my windows decided to roll down on their own. Which window do I roll up first? Where is the button? Never mind, I’ve fallen off a cliff.

crazy 8

You mean to tell me that now I can shoot 2 shells, drop a banana, throw a bomb, rocket myself forward, fire a blooper, get 2 coins, AND activate a super star? FINALLY!

They also got rid of two of my favorite items (the hot-potato style cloud and the giant mushroom, both from the Wii version) but still opted to keep the worst item in the history of the series. I shouldn’t have to say it’s name in my blog, but the blooper has got to be one of the worst, most infuriating things ever thought up in and actually put into a video game.

 

One of my favorite things that Mario Kart 7 introduced was point A to point B races, where there were no laps, just one long race. There are only two in this game. One is a new course and one is the N64 version of Rainbow Road, which seems a little strange to me. That Rainbow Road course is still just a lap, albeit a long one. These were loads of fun in Mario Kart 7, and it looks like developers knew it, but only keeping 2 in there must be pretty confusing for players who missed that installment, and disappointing to gamers like me.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention that battle mode has basically been destroyed. Ever hear the expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, Nintendo evidently hadn’t. Now, instead of battle arenas, you’ve got your choice of tracks from the game to choose from. So, you can drive around the track, shooting at people….like you would in a race. Or I guess you could just hide from other racers, but that wouldn’t really matter because NO ONE IS PLAYING IT ONLINE.

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to the train Nintendo refuses not to run on it’s fans by way of it’s super-cheap 150cc AI.

death stare

You think this is a game?!

Why I Love Mario Kart 8

 

Mario Kart 8 has got to be one of, if not the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen available on a Nintendo console. And while Nintendo takes a lot of heat for repurposing the same old franchises over and over (Mario games in particular), it’s games like this that add new dynamics and new layers to familiar favorites which keep fans like me happy.

 

While I’m not hot about all the new items, the new item system works extremely well (with the exception of in 150cc when other karts always seem to have the item they need to keep you from finishing that last lap in first). The items seem more balanced this time around and while you can get creamed when in a pack, once you break free you will not have to live in constant terror of a blue shell coming to get you. They’re far more rare this time around and the super horn item can actually save you from losing your 1st place spot.

super horn

Super horn, I don’t know where you came from, and I don’t care.

Like I said before, the game is stunning, and Nintendo knows it. They actually took most of the HUD off of the screen and put it on the gamepad. Sure, it’s difficult to look down and get all the vital info, but everything is so beautiful that it really doesn’t bother me much. I wish there was some kind of option to put some info up on the TV screen, but I like the setup overall. You can even save replays and post them straight to Youtube. You cannot actually edit the videos, but it’s still a nice feature.

 

Here is me, winning by a nose.

The real big stuff pluses come through by way of the tracks, though. First of all, being able to ride on walls and other surfaces make the game way more interesting. Finding alternate routes and seeing which you can make it through the quickest is a lot of fun and makes tracks more rewarding to retread. Also, something needs to be said for the creativity and craft that went into these new tracks. There’s a whole level where you start in the clouds, find your way onto a vine, only to end up on one of Bowser’s flying warships. Visually, it’s the most amazing level I’ve seen in any Mario game in a long time.

 

Even the retro stages have been given a really slick upgrade. The N64 version of Rainbow Road looks phenomenal and even features updated versions of the train and fireworks that made that level so special before. One level that really impressed me was the flat and very straight forward Mario Circuit from the GBA Mario Kart. To give it a taste of anti-gravity, one whole long U turn has been raised about 60 degrees up in the air. As the race starts you actually get to see it getting lifted up off of the ground, and that’s pretty cool.

 

The Verdict:

I’ve got to give Mario Kart 8 a solid B-. It’s the best looking, most fun B- I’ve ever played, and there is a lot that they could fix with DLC in the future (I’m not holding my breath, but they could add some battle arenas, maybe add some depth to the roster of characters, throw in some A-to-B style races, etc). Mario Kart 8, on it’s own, if I had never played the Wii version or 7, would have been an A game for sure, but when you look what Wii and 7 had that Mario Kart 8 doesn’t, you cannot deny that Nintendo took their foot off of the gas with this one (PUN INTENDED).

 

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South Park: The Stick of Truth

Stick of TruthWhen I preordered The Stick of Truth, I didn’t know it was only about 12 hours long. If I had, I probably would have saved my money. But after spending about a week playing it and after beating the game, I’ve got to say that it does more things right in 12 hours than most games can in twice that.

You’ve got to really think about what went into this game to appreciate it, even if it is short. It was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and it holds the same comedic value of any South Park episode. The jokes are all very funny and well-timed, and the fact that the majority are not repeated over and over makes the game even more enjoyable. I am sure if the game were longer, the quality in this respect would have to be compromised, and the laughs are hands down the biggest draw of the game.

If you’ve ever played a Paper Mario game, you will not be surprised by The Stick of Truth or anything that it does technically. That said, The Stick of Truth does offer a great deal of opportunities to learn new attacks and level up your character by earning XP and by finding new friends on Facebook in the game. That might seem kind of weak for a game mechanic, but usually these friends add you after you complete some kind of quest for them, and once they send a request you can view their posts on your wall. Some are hilarious and some can be pretty annoying (try to do Al Gore’s quest last, since he’ll blow up your news feed about MBP, for serial).

You can summon some characters for assists during battle.  Jesus' "Crossfire" attack summons Jesus and his machine gun.

You can summon some characters for assists during battle. Jesus’ “Crossfire” attack summons Jesus and his machine gun, for example.

Another great thing about South Park: The Stick of Truth is the endless amount of references to the show. Be it just a simple line from a party member when walking by a location, or looking through the rooms of famous characters from the show, there seems to be no bottom to the well of throw backs to the show.

The short playtime does affect the game in a negative way at times, however. For example, there are a TON of weapons and clothes to find and earn for your character. Unfortunately, you usually find a better weapon or a better hat, or a better anything within an hour, so you don’t really have time to enjoy using the things you find. For example, I found this cool club that steals health from enemies, so I upgraded it and equipped it. A half hour later I found a sword that did way more damage. So, I had to unequipped my club, take off the upgrade, apply the upgrade to my sword, and then equip my sword. This seems like it could have easily been fixed by letting weapons level up, but maybe the designers were just trying to keep things from getting complicated; I’m not sure.

If you end up in one of the kid's bedroom's, check out their closet for a ton of cool references to old episodes.

If you end up in one of the kid’s bedroom’s, check out their closet for a ton of cool references to old episodes.

There are small minor mechanics that made me scratch my head as well. Some enemies can block melee attacks, for example, and they deal damage to anyone who tries to attack them this way. At one point the only person in my party was Butters and he didn’t have any more ranged attacks to use. I was looking all over for a way to skip his turn, but there was none. I had to melee attack and take damage in order to progress the fight. Also, there were some tutorials that were vague, such as learning new fart attacks and conducting an abortion (remember, this is a South Park game).

Still, the game’s charm shines through its flaws. The humor and the characters push this game to another level that I really appreciate. I give South Park:The Stick of Truth a B+ for great game play, countless references for die-hard fans, spot-on humor, and a few minor mechanical issues.

You might enjoy this game if you’re a fan of South Park, low-brow humor, RPGs, and parodies of fantasy movies and games.

The Joepinion’s Top 10 Games of All Time

NOTE: This is going to be a list that I will continue to come back to and update.  These are MY favorite games.  I have not played every game ever made, nor do I want to.  These are just the best games I’ve ever played.  Feel free to comment and leave me synopsis of your own favorite.

1. Punch Out!! (NES)

punch out!!There, of course, are two versions of Punch Out!! for the NES. One which features Mike Tyson as the baddest boss of all time and one that features Mr. Dream, which was a placeholder for Iron Mike once Nintendo could not (did not want to?) continue billing the infamous fighter on one of its games any further.

The boxers you face are all (almost racist) characatures of different ethnicities. They each have their own style and their own attacks/weaknesses that you will need to learn to win the fight. For this reason, the game is often called more of a puzzle game than a boxing game. I agree that learning the styles and pattens of each boxer is an important key to winning the game, but isn’t that the case for any game? I mean, think about any Bowser fight. Don’t you have to understand his patterns- where he is going to jump, when you can attack, etc., before you can win? It goes the same for any boss in any game, from God of War to Ducktales.

Why is Punch Out!! the best game ever made? It is the most unadulterated, straightforward test of skill there is in video games. Consider that there are no power ups in this game. While other games allow you to enter a boss battle with a mushroom, extended life bars, rocket launchers, or some other type of power that helps you beat the boss, Punch Out!! asks you to beat every boss with nothing going in but your reflexes and trainer that really doesn’t know what he’s talking about half the time. Sure, you can find ways to earn stars that give you a power punch, but this is done by finding hidden weaknesses in each boxer. You need to work to find those during the fight.

Exhibit B in my argument is the fact that this game is centered around boss battle after boss battle. There are no bonus rounds. There are no practice modes. The game simply puts you in front of a new boss and charges you with the task of finding out how to win. You have 3 dodge moves and four punches to choose from. It is 100% pure, beautiful, nerve racking gaming. By the time you get to the next boxer, you have earned absolutely nothing but the mental experience you earned from beating the last boxer. You have absolutely nothing, and you have everything you need to win.

For those reasons, defeating Mike Tyson (or Mr. Dream) is the biggest challenge in gaming, and Punch Out!! is the best game ever made.

  1. Portal 2

portal 2When I look at the most loved and successful video games, they usually have a few things going for them. They mostly have characters or at least one character that is iconic or that the player can connect to. They also, in some way advances some aspect of video games. When I was growing up, the big thing people were paying attention to and giving acclaim for was graphics. Games like Star Fox almost made it into the limelight based on cutting edge graphics alone. Somewhere around the time we stopped worrying about bits, the focus changed to story telling.

If someone were to ask me to complete the sentence: “In the future, I hope all games could be more ____,” I would probably either say “cheaper” or “like Portal.” Portal makes you think, it makes you explore, it makes you work out tricky puzzles, and it makes you care. It makes you wonder about the world you are in, it makes you like interesting characters, and it makes you feel like you’ve just been entertained for however long you were playing. It doesn’t do any of this through cut-scenes, and it doesn’t hold your hand through the most difficult parts of the game. It rewards you with a fantastic ending and hidden secrets that reveal more about the story.

The multiplayer, longer play time, and the addition of multi-player inPortal 2 make it better than the original, but the first title would have shown up on my list if it went up to 20 or 30, that’s for sure.

  1. Super Mario World

smwThe Super Nintendo is, in my opinion, the greatest console of all time, and it was launched on the wings (cape?) of Super Mario World. The game took everything that made Super Mario Bros 3 great and turned it up to 11. It introduced us to the next generation of gaming for Nintendo and really set the standard from that point forward for killer apps that would dominate video game console wars to come.

I only wanted to pick one Mario platformer for this list, so I tried to find the best by focusing on what set each game apart from the rest. Super Mario World is full of definitive moments in the franchise, including riding Yoshi for the first time, finding keys and unlocking new pathways out of levels, and a new depth of immersion and story telling that was not possible on the NES. The addition of many other Mario staples, such as the spin jump, Star Road, and Ghost Houses, to name only a few, made Super Mario World one of the last 2D games in the franchise that could really be called fresh and innovative.

Since Super Mario World, Mario has done a lot. He has entered 3D, he has driven go-karts, he has gone missing- but he has never quite matched the greatness that was Super Mario World. Sure, Mario 64 did something similar for the character and for Nintendo- and even for gaming in general, the game did have its glitches, and in my opinion lacks the iconic power-ups that can be found Super Mario World.

For those reasons, Super Mario World simply cannot be topped when talking about the best of the Mario franchise.

  1. Donkey Kong Country Returns

DKCRA Wii game? At number 4? For serious?

Totally for serious. And it might have even beaten out my #3 game if it wasn’t on the Wii, as a matter of fact.  I mean, shaking the controller gets kind of old.

The Doney Kong Country franchise made a lot of waves with its first installment and kind of petered out after that. When I first heard it was returning to its roots with a new game for the Wii, I went banana’s (that will be my only pun, I promise). And to be totally honest, the game had me going ape until the very end (ok, I’m done now, seriously).

I am not going to spend too much time talking about why I liked the game since I already posted a review on the Joepinion about it. Read that review if you’re wondering what makes this game so great.

5. Silent Hill

silent hill

Few games have actually affected me as a human being. I never got PTSD from playing Metal of Honor, and I never checked under my bed for zombies after playing Resident Evil. I mean, really, Resident Evil wasn’t scary. It wasn’t even a thriller. It was cool, but that’s about it. Resident Evil 2, maybe you could call that scary.. Silent Hill, on the other hand, was downright frightening. It gave me nightmares and it introduced me to what kind of terror a video game can deliver.

I mean, come on, the game starts off with you getting killed in a dark alleyway by a bunch of little demon children. Next thing you know, you’re running around a fog-ridden town trying to find you daughter as you bounce between what seems like a twisted version of reality and a world that seems closer to hell than anything else you’ll experience on the Playstation (unless you count Bubsy 3D).

The stuff you see and do in Silent Hill is damn near madness, and in terms of the horror genre in general, it was years before its time. The twisted and freakish look of its villains and the haunting moans of the monsters you are tasked to defend yourself against remind me of more recent and more significant horror movies than the horror movies of its time. Also, the investment you feel with so many of the characters in this game is beyond anything you could probably find in video games of this era, let alone in the horror genre.

This game was built to mess with your mind and really pulled you into its gritty and horrifying world. To this day, it is the ultimate game in survival horror in my opinion.

6. The Legend of Zelda

the legend of zelda

I am in the middle (kind of) of trying to get through Ocarina of Time again. If that game is so great, why the hell can’t I stay interested enough to beat it? Everyone keeps telling me to get past the first 3 dungeons and things will pick up. That’s fine, sure, but it takes hours to do that, and I’m bored NOW.

I never felt that way in the original Legend of Zelda or in a Link to the Past. Both games could have gone here, but I only wanted to pick one, and the most groundbreaking and eye-opening for me was the original. I mean, being able to explore all those dungeons and find all those items- uncovering the unexpected over and over again- it felt so much more special the first time around.

I discovered The Legend of Zelda before the internet was around and before I could go out and buy a strategy guide. Most everything I found in that game was either by accident or by someone showing me or telling me about it. Those were different times, and it made everything feel much more rewarding and individual- like you were on your own adventure outside of the game to try to figure out where to get the next great hidden item.

Other games have tried to live up to the greatness of the original, and some have gotten close, but sometimes you just can’t beat a classic.  It did more with 8 bits than most games did with 32 or 64.

7. Red Dead Redemption

reddeadredemptionRockstar was going to get on my list one way or another, and while most people might have included a GTA game on their top 10 before a Red Dead game, I was honestly most torn between including Red Dead Redemption of Red Dead Revolver in this slot. I remember Revolver taking over my life when I first got a copy. I unlocked everything that game had for me and I loved every minute of it (except maybe for that final quick draw battle. That sucked.).

Red Dead Redemption is definitely on the Mount Rushmore of games from the 360/PS3 era. It was beautiful, engrossing, and full of surprises. Its story was compelling and the characters that populated the landscape were fun to talk to and help out when you could. You could pick flowers or hunt animals or search for hidden treasure. It was the best old west game I have ever played.

Online was even fun, and that’s hard to pull off. I hate multiplayer in these kinds of games, but some of my best memories of this game were online. Like when my friend Max and I found these people in a stage-coach. We rode up, killed their horses and rode off, leaving them alone in the middle of nowhere to rot. Good times. Oh, and the Undead Nightmare DLC was spot-on. Bigfoot could have been my favorite character of that console generation.

By far, this was the most interesting and wonderful world Rockstar has created for us to explore, and that is why it is on my list.

8. Super Metroid

super-metroidThis is an interesting title to land on my list because even through it came out when I was 9, I just played it for the first time. I am going to write a full review for the game, so check back for that soon.

When you stack up Super Metroid to the other games on the Super Nintendo you can’t help be notice all the things that it did so well. Because of the cinematic score, the beautifully designed open-yet-claustrophobic setting, and the great boss battles spread out between power-ups and mini-bosses, the game gives you just enough to let you want to know more.

If you’ve played the original Metroid on the NES, it only makes you appreciate this game more. Just like the upgrades that make the series great, the Super Metroid game is a beautiful upgrade from the original. It improves the already great music, and every area feels even more varied than in the original, which are both great accomplishments.

9. Driver: San Francisco

driver sf

I like to reward people for being different, but when I first saw trailers for Driver: San Francisco, I wondered how the hell they were going to make it work. I mean, hopping from car to car and taking over the bodies of the people driving so you can control different vehicles in the middle of a mission seemed more like a sci-fi game than a driving game. It takes a lot to make me call a driving game brilliant, but this gamble paid off, because here is Driver on my list.

I would have never thought one of the most compelling stories on my top ten list would be in a driving game. Playing as Tanner, a cop in San Francisco, you start to discover you have super-natural abilities, described above. You use these abilities to try to stop a big time criminal from releasing a horrible fate upon the city. If I told you any more about the story it would ruin the game, so I’ll stop here.

I will say that the side missions, the characters, the “Last time on Driver: San Francisco” TV recap of your game so far when you turn it on, and the many Easter eggs to be found make Driver a game worth coming back to time and time again.

10. Tony Hawk’s Underground

thug

Before the first Tony Hawk game, these kinds of sports games didn’t exist. Then suddenly, after Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater hit shelves, we started getting snowboarding games, BMX games, rollerblading games. I mean, what Tony Hawk did for real life extreme sports he did for the extreme sports genre in gaming. It’s pretty incredible. Now, I know that the last few games that bore his name have been really horrible and literally unplayable, but for a while his games were only getting better and better. At the apex of the Tony Hawk franchise was my number ten game, Tony Hawk’s Underground.

What really set this game apart from others in the franchise was its editor modes. You could make your own park and then make your own goals in the park you’ve made. You could also make your own goals in the levels that were provided on the disk. This made Underground probably the game I have played the most on the list.  The story wasn’t all that bad either, and was probably the best and least annoying of all the attempts made by Neversoft to make a story mode work in a game like this.

Other notable features of the game included being able to get off of your board and climb around the levels. It included some great classic levels as well, including The School II, which is my all time favorite.

Castle Doombad

Castle Doombad by [adult swim] iconI love Adult Swim games for the iOS.  No matter who the developer may be, they’re all great.  Castle Doombad is no exception.  I bought it 3 weeks ago and have been all-about it since. 

 

The story is basically that you work for a bad guy who needs you to build defenses in his castle to keep heroes away from his captured princess.  You get to build all kinds of traps over multiple stories of the castle, including a trapdoor, a troll that blocks the path of the would-be good-guys, and spinning blades on the ceiling.  There are a ton traps that can be unlocked, some that attack on their own and some that rely on your expert timing to be deployed.  All of this is purchased with “screams” that you are harvesting from the aforementioned princess and from machines you can build that create artificial screams. 

Castle Doombad pits you against a number of heroic characters.
Pictured: Not your character

Castle Doombad is not the most original title in the world.  It harkens back to the 2004 game Evil Genius in a lot of ways, but it is simple to play like any other tower defense game on iOS. Still, what it lacks in its originality it makes up for in its execution and charm.  The minions you can buy are a lot of fun to watch run around your castle, and the heroes all have a level of personality that can be appreciated without being too distracting to make some nail-biting, last minute, game saving additions to your top floor.

 

Some other things this game gets right is that it’s not on a freemium model.  You buy it, and that’s all there is to it.  Other Adult Swim games could have used this approach (I’m looking at you, Amateur Surgeon 3), and I hope something has been learned here. 

 

While most Adult Swim games can end up feeling very repetitive (Robot Unicorn, Mole Escape and Giant Boulder of Doom, primarily), Castle Doombad has kept my attention for a while now.  Chalk this up to interesting game modes (including a mode that moves your castle progressively lower into the dungeon instead of up into the sky. I still can’t figure out why playing in this mode feels so different and game changing when it really isn’t…), tons of unlockables and upgrades, and an endless mode where you can earn a ton of gold to unlock other goodies. 

photo (1)

When things get flipped over in the dungeon stages, things feel very different.

If you just got an iOS device, I would still probably recommend Super Monsters Ate My Condo, but Castle Doombad is a close second.  It is by far my favorite tower defense style game on iOS, and possibly my favorite tower defense game ever.

 

Castle Doombad gets an A+ for creative design, fun characters, and game play that does not dull out as quickly as other iOS titles.

 

You should play this game if you’re a fan of: iOS games, Adult Swim games, Tower Defense games, super hero characters, super villains, or cartoon humor. 

Super Street Fighter 4 3D

I got this game because it was supposed to be the best looking game on the 3DS at launch.  I was not disappointed.  Well…ok, maybe I was a little, but it wasn’t because of the game.  What was disappointing was that I thought more titles would be contending for the honor of “Best 3DS Launch Title.”  Instead, I had to choose from this game and a plethora of uninteresting and seemingly boring games.  I mean, come on, Pilot Wings?  Was that game ever fun?  And Nintendogs?  I have a dog at home and she’s a pain in my ass.  She threw up last night and I had to clean it up because she “doesn’t have thumbs.”  Seriously, that’s her excuse for everything.

Anyway, the no-brainer buy for the 3DS owner is Super Street Fighter 4 3D.  It’s a mouthful of a title, true, mainly because Capcom has a fetish for raping franchises and making a ton of spin-offs and sequels which results in long complicated names.

 

Why didn't they just call the Alpha games Street Fighter 3? Also, guys, this is a Super Nintendo game, so shouldn't the title be Super Street Fighter Alpha 2? Or is that too much?

Irregardless, and all name-juicing aside, when you buy a Street Fighter game, you know what you’re getting.  The game delivers as all other Street Fighter’s before it in terms of gameplay.  This is the first Street Fighter game I’m playing on a Nintendo system that supports an analog control, so that’s making a big difference (the last game I played on a Nintendo system was Street Fighter 2 Turbo, which came to an untimely demise after I pull the cart out of my Super Nintendo and took it out back for target practice with my BB gun.  The short version of my reasoning for losing my mind is that M. Bison is a cheater and HOW THE HELL WAS EVERYONE ELSE SO EASY TO BEAT AND HE’S LIKE, TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE!?!).

 

The only reason my generation has for hating the USSR.

Anyway, I’m not very good at Street Fighter games, and I was a little nervous about shelling out the green to take this gem home.  But listen up people, the game is pretty easy on it’s normal difficulty.  The 3D looks amazing, too; so if you are getting the beat down, you’ll be able to do it in graphics that make you go “WTF IS HAPPENING IN MY EYESARRRHGGGHGGGGHHHH!” which is a plus, especially when you’re planning as Cammy.

The real fight happens in my mind, where I try to focus...on the game.

The down-low: The only issue is that the 3DS puts out some heavy duty work to make sure you can enjoy the 3D splendor, so something had to give in the graphics department as they ported it over.  What they compromised was the backgrounds.  The people standing around aren’t moving and the cars and everything else back there looks like it was taken from the early SNES versions of the series.  You will hardly notice it, though, as all the other action is literally jumping out at you, and all that actions looks fantastic.

There are two ways to play the game which include a classic view or a view angled from behind your character to enhance the 3D experience.  I prefer the classic view, and they both showcase the machine’s 3D capability very well.  The online play is seamless, beside the expected lag when WiFi signals are sketchy.  The player matching system works well and besides a lack of voice communication, it leaves little to be desired.  There are achievements to earn through playing off and online which award you with titles and avatar pictures for when you play online. The touch screen is used to give you four new buttons which allow you to perform special moves and combos with a tap of the screen.  This has been criticized for “cheapening the game” but I think it’s a way for the casual gamer to compete with a veteran, and anything to level the playing field is alright with me, although turning this function off on online mode might be a nice option for a later version, so the elite players could play together if they wanted to.   It also uses the StreetPass feature but I haven’t had the chance to use that function as of yet.

 

This is kind of what it looks like when you enter the 3D rear view mode thing. It's ok. Hard to tell how close you are to the other person sometimes.

I love the game and it is a definite must have for any owner of a 3DS.  Some things I’d like to see happen in Super Street Fights IV 3DS Alpha Turbo: Some unlockables that matter.  The name and picture thing is cool, and I read that some of the issues that Capcom has with unlockable characters is that it’s not fair to players who just got the game and have to play online against people with all the characters unlocked.  First of all, the unlockable characters don’t have to be invincible.  They can be just as balanced as any other character.  Second of all, if you want to reward people for buying a game early by giving them a chance to unlock characters before others can, that’s totally fine.  And third of all, we’re talking about a storied franchise with a ton of options beyond characters to use as unlockables.  How’s about a 16-bit Ken and Ryu that you can unlock?  Or some of the original levels from the arcade?  Maybe classic character VS screens?  The list is endless.  I know we’re talking about a 3DS game, so space is limited, but there are options available.  Also, I’d like to have some kind of easy way to talk trash to people I’m playing online.  If you can’t hear them cry, what’s the point of making them cry?  Am I right?

Overall, it’s a beautiful game with a great interface and control schemes.  B+ (mostly because of issues with replay value)

3DS

The Nintendo 3DS is simply amazing.  I’ve had it for two days now and I’m still in awe of what it can do.  I don’t understand how it works, I don’t know where Nintendo takes this technology next, and I really don’t care.  After experiencing the 3DS, I’m 110% along for the ride.  The 3DS comes with a lot of stuff preprogrammed.  I’ll outline some of those things and let you know how well it works and how enjoyable each is.  I will also write about the quality of the product and if it’s worth $250, for those of you who are on the fence.

Let me start by saying that the 3D can be a bit overwhelming at times.  My eyes strain and sometimes they can’t focus when playing.  When this has happened I simply turned down the effect, which can be done easily by using a slider on the side of the screen.  This fixes any problems I have and allows me to rest my eyes for as long as needed.

Of all the things programmed into the 3DS, there are only 3 things I’d really call a “game”.  First is the game Face Raiders.  Face Raiders basically turns your room into a shooting gallery.  You take a picture of your face and the 3DS puts it on flying enemies that fly all around you.  They shoot at you if you don’t shoot them down first.  The game forces you to look all around the room through your 3DS like a window that…actually, have you ever seen They Live? It’s like the glasses from They Live.

Only, instead of discovering that Aliens have taken over the world, you discover that Nintendo has just bitch slapped your sense of what is possible through today’s technology.  So, you look through your 3DS and shoot these things down.  There are boss battles and other stuff to deal with in the game as well.  The game actually asks you to feed it more faces for new enemies.  I love it.

(2D picture of 3D Image) Of all the bad guys I faced, none were more fierce and unforgiving than Justin in a lone ranger mask.

As you can see above, taking a picture of people’s Facebook photos works fine with the game.

The second game is part of the Mii Plaza application.  There are two games in here, one is called Puzzle Swap and the other is called Find Mii.  These games are both hard for me to review because the utilize the StreetPass ability built into the 3DS.  When walking around with your 3DS, you might pass someone else walking around with a 3DS.  If you do, your systems will link and share information.  When you get home you can go to your Mii Plaza and see how many people you’ve come across.  These people become characters in your 3DS that help you in these games.  The Find Mii game, for example, is waiting for someone to come along and break me out of a cage so I can continue through these games.  The Puzzle Swap game is waiting for Miis to pop up and give me some more puzzle pieces.  Since I’ve only had it for a couple of days, I’m not very far in this department.

Third, there is an application called AR Games that supports Augmented Reality Cards, or AR Cards for short.  There are 6 AR Cards total.  5 of them have Nintendo Characters on them.  When in the AR application, these cards project characters into the real world when viewed through your 3DS, similar to how you play Face Raiders, only now you can move these characters around the world yourself and make them grow, shrink, and pose in a few pre-established poses.

(2D picture of a 3D image) Ever since Samus got a Dell, she's been really jealous of Link's MacBook.

The only issue with the cards is you have to be able to see the cards to make the characters appear.  You can’t place a card, pull up a character, and then move the card away.  Also if show the 3DS the card and then tilt the camera so you can’t see enough of the card’s surface, your character will disappear.

(2D picture of a 3D image) That said, AR Cards are pretty bomb.

The last AR Card is a ? Block.  This card can turn surfaces into shooting galleries, Marble Madness type terrain games, and fishing ponds.  It can also make a freaking dragon come out of your table.  All together, the AR Cards are an endless supply of WTF and OMG.

For people who got the 3DS early, you can get a system update with a bonus 3D OKGo music video, White Knuckles.  The video looks great in 3D, and really is only the tip of the ice burg in terms of what we can expect in the future on this device since it is the only 3D outlet of its kind.

Remember how I said if you walk by someone with a 3DS and if you have a 3DS, magic happens?  You’re probably wondering why anyone would be walking around with their 3DS.  Well, it has a freaking pedometer built in it.  The more you walk, the more coins you get.  The more coins you get, the more stuff you can unlock in games, the more demos you can download, and the more rewards you can horde.  It’s a great idea all around.  I took it too class today and earned the max I could in one day (10 coins).  The cap suggests that Nintendo gets that you’re not going to take this thing everywhere, which I like.  They’re really not asking a lot of me.

I think I’ve covered all the basics.

Ok, here are my gripes and what I’d like to see in the future.  The 3DS charges on a sweet little dock.  If you don’t want to close your 3DS to charge it (if you want to keep playing a game or something) you can just unplug the dock and plug your 3DS right into the cable.  So…why have the dock?  It’s cool, but it’s basically a waste of space.  I never worried about my other DS falling off the night stand, and honestly this Dock could just as easily slide off my desk.  So, that seems pointless.

The AR Cards are amazing, but I can’t wait to see what happens in the future when this concept is revisited and redesigned.  It would be awesome to not have to see the card in my pictures or to be able to move the characters farther away from the cards.  There are a lot of restrictions with the cards as of today, but the possibilities are endless in the future.

I’m really waiting for some of the key franchises like StarFox, Super Mario, and Kid Icarus to make it to the 3DS, but there are other titles I’d love to see, and which I know would do very well in this format.  I loved the DK Country Returns title for the Wii.  With all it’s jumping in and out of the background on the Wii, a similar title would translate well into the third dimension.  Also, it would be great to see a Punch Out!! game in 3D.  Bald Bull rushing the screen would be epic.  Lastly, how’s about a Smash Bro.s game in 3D?  It would be great to see in 3D, and it would really help build Nintendo’s goal at creating a large multiplayer universe.

All in all, the whole thing is worth every penny.  I can’t get over how awesome everything looks and how advanced this device is.  I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it before.  I would say that I play with the stuff built into the thing than the games I bought for it.  There’s just so much to see and play with.  I would recommend buying it now, playing with all the cool stuff in it, and then buying a killer game once they start coming out (although, Street Fighter is pretty amazing).  I know a lot of people are waiting for Mario and Zelda to hit the 3DS before they get it, but it’s worth the money now.

I have two games for the 3DS other than the one’s that came programmed into the system.  So look for those reviews soon!  Thanks for reading!

Contra

Do it.  Enter the code.What can I say that people don’t already know about how awesome this game is?  Contra is amazing.  If you don’t know, in Contra you play as a badass with a gun that flips all over the screen shooting in all different directions killing less badass dudes with guns, aliens, robots, and a slew of other stuff.  It was one of the first games to really try the 3D thing, and they nailed it.  The bosses are difficult, but fair.  The controls are fluid.  I really have nothing bad to say about this. Aside from being an awesome game, it helped popularize the Konami Code.

In case you’re not a gameophile like so many awesome people around the world…and me, the code is “up up down down left right left right (b) (a) start.” Yeah, you’ve probably heard it or seen it many places, like here:

( this song sucks)

or here: (this song kind of sucks, too)

or in here: (this song isn’t nearly as lame)

Also, this:

Sexy? Yes?

Anyway, Contra is amazing and if you think you’ve been there and done that, like I have for years, go download the ROM and an emulator, and revisit your friend.  He misses you.

RIP Guitar Hero

Goodnight, sweet prince.

Oh, did you want to play?

I remember the first time I saw Guitar Hero. My friend and I stood around at Best Buy watching one asshole hog the demo for a good 15 minutes.  We heard the same songs over and over again, asking ourselves “Is this cool?  It seems cool, but is it lame?”  Some people say rhythm gaming is a lame excuse to be lazy and not learn how to play a real instrument.  I say Guitar Hero introduced a way for gamers to combine their passion for music and their passion for gaming in one absolute experience.  For a true lover of rock music and for passionate gamers, Guitar Hero was a true gaming gem.  It was like combining peanut butter and chocolate, or monster trucks and beer; you love it so much that you’re sad that you didn’t get to experience it sooner.

And now, Guitar Hero is dead.  And why?  Activision milked the golden goose until it bled from its teats.  With nine titles in nearly the last 18 months, and no significant change in game play, the Guitar Hero franchise has lost its luster.  This isn’t the first time a franchise has been beaten to death by sequel after sequel after half-assed sequel.  Activision is guilty of this crime many times throughout its history, most recently with the Tony Hawk series which had become stagnant after multiple released in quick succession with little improvement in each game.  The response of the company wasn’t to enhance the quality of game play and give fans what they wanted.  Instead they made a new skateboard controller that didn’t work properly.
Guitar Hero only needed a little time away from the fray.  It needed retooling and it needed its greatest attributes to be resurrected and brought into the forefront of game play.  The final installment of the series is a testament to Activision’s diluted sense of what consumers want and it’s blatant lack of regard for releasing a quality product.  Do gamers want a better, wider range of songs?  Do they want a new experience via gameplay?  Do they want a better multiplayer system?  More real rock stars in the game?  Nope.  They want to turn into super heroes and ANIMALS!

Insert Animorph references here.

Not cool.

What really gets to me is that I defended Guitar Hero, which I still believe has a better looking interface than Rock Band.  Even when Rock Back took an obvious lead in the genre, I stood by my old friend, Guitar Hero.  Now, they jumped the shark and sank.

RIP Guitar Hero.

Donkey Kong Country Returns

A must have for Wii owners of all ages.

A must have for Wii owners of all ages.

Donkey Kong Country Retruns.  I wish they would have called it something else…Like “Donkey Kong Country: Anything Other Than Returns.”  It was gone for a while, and now it’s back.  I get that.  It’s returned.  Ok.  But man…so cliche.  But it’s Nintendo, and since it’s not a Zelda game, the title is going to be, at the very least, lackluster.  At least they didn’t make some kind of banana pun.

Now that I got that out of the way, Donkey Kong Country Returns is the best game I’ve played on the Wii yet.  It might be the best platformer I’ve ever played, along with Super Mario World and Mario 3.  And of all the recent Nintendo re-imaginings and re-releasings, it shines as bright as the sun.  The game pulls no punches in its extreme styling and imaginative level design.  It holds on to all the things we fell in love with the first time we played a game as Donkey Kong and Diddy, including the rhino and a plethora of hidden areas.   It contains countless hidden items and offers great replay ability.  The game is very near flawless.

I played a lot of the game with my girlfriend.  The multiplayer is a marvel in the platforming genre, in which it is common for a second player to feel like more of a burden or a distraction.  NEW Super Mario Bro.’s suffers from this problem, as a second player gets in the way and is constantly vying for the best power-ups and trying to run ahead or is constantly slowing you down.  In DKCR, one player controls Diddy and the other Donkey Kong.  Each has his own abilities, such as DK’s ground pound and Diddy’s ability to use a jet pack and gun, and so each character  is very useful.  If a player in multiplayer is going to slow, they are transported to the faster character.  There is no slowing down.

The level design is what really puts DKCR in my list of top three platformers of all time.  Some levels take place during dusk, making everything in the level a silhouetted black.  Another level is shrouded in smog.  The mine cart levels return, as do new challenges, such as a rocket barrel you must navigate through obstacles R-Type style, and barrels that shoot the player into a new path hidden in the background landscape of the primary stage.   Yet another level has the player being attacked by an octopus from the background of the level.  By far, the most impressive level is one in which everything (from moving platforms to hammers that can crush the player), moves in beat to the level’s music.  It is level design like that, which can remain interesting and fresh even on your tenth try, that keeps gamers from giving up on the hard levels and pushes them to enjoy the next stage.

In terms of beautiful level design and meaningful interactions with those levels, DKCR delivers and delivers big.

In terms of beautiful level design and meaningful interactions with those levels, DKCR delivers and delivers big.

The boss battles can be a bit over the top in difficulty.  There are some things that seem to be random, like enemy attacks, that feel like they really should be determined by a pattern.  Some of them, like the crab boss, seem unfair because of this.  Still, it is entertaining and offers up a bit of variety in difficulty and game flow.

On the surface, the game can at times seem a bit campy and too cartoonish. Hardcore gamers should not be fooled. The true core of this game is groundbreaking and inspired.

The games gets an A+.  I loved every minute, and after finishing, there is still a lot more to do.  I can’t wait to 100% the game and really get the full effect.  If you own a Wii, this is a must have.  It is simply a beautiful and exciting game.

EA Hates You (If You Buy Used Games) or Ten Dolla Make Me Holla

EA has found a new way to rip off its customers.  Everyone who buys a used EA Sports game and takes it home must pay ten extra dollars to play online.  This comes as a result of the video game market being tapped by stores like GameStop who buy and sell used games.  The argument is that for every used game sold, the publisher and developer gets $0, where as if the stores did not sell used games, the publisher and developer would be making about $30 a pop since customers would be buying new games.

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I have a couple of arguments against this crock of shit position.

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First of all, people aren’t turning their used games over to GameStop for fun. They’re doing it for store credit- store credit they use to buy new games.  And why do people need to trade in their games to buy new ones?  BECAUSE THEY CAN’T AFFORD THEM!  A new game on the PS3 or the XBOX360 costs about $60 before taxes.  I can hardly afford that and I have a job.  I’m an adult!  There are tons of kids out there who love video games, and they want the new ones, so what do they do?  They trade in their old games so they can buy new ones, and guess what!  Game companies just made $30 off of GameStop’s tab.  Right?

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It works like this.  I spend my money at GameStop to buy a ton of games. Let’s say I buy five games.  That’s $300 GameStop just made from me, and of that $300, $150 went to the video game companies.

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I finish those games and I want a new one, so I trade them in.  Let’s say I get $5 back on each game (which is about right, believe it or not).  So I just made $25 back from GameStop (The video game companies still haven’t lost any money).

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Now, I put that money back into a new game.  GameStop makes another $60 and of that money, $30 goes back to the game companies.

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So, from my original $300, the video game companies made an extra ten percent because I traded in my games.

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Those games I traded in?  They’re old now.  No one really cares.  Some people do, but most don’t.  And here’s the thing about old used games: Most aren’t even available new.  Go to GameStop and look at the used games.  A lot of those games are only available used, so we don’t have a choice.  You can find copies of wonderful older games used, and if it wasn’t for that old bin of games, most people wouldn’t be able to experience what video game companies worked so hard to produce.

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Also, we’re talking about Xbox360 and PS3.  People can see what I’m playing from their dashboards.  Maybe they’ll start looking into these games, too.  And in an industry full of sequels and spinoffs, this is a good thing!  If I buy a used copy of GTA 3 and I see that 4 is coming out, I’m going to buy 4 new, if I liked the original enough.

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And that’s the key here.  If a game is below par, no one is going to buy the sequel used or new.  EA Sports is known for not doing much to improve its games. They take baby steps, and can you really blame them?  They’re constantly recreating the wheel.  Every year a new football game comes out, for example, that just set the bar a little higher the year before, and people are getting tired of paying $60 a year for a little bump in graphics and game-play.  This is why used sales of these games are so high.  People want to wait until the game is cheaper because they aren’t getting $60 worth of game  People don’t want to spend $60 on updated rosters, updated graphics, and some new gimmicks that probably aren’t that great.

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Maybe EA needs to look into updating their rosters online and just sticking with that.  This $10 charge to play online is crazy.  Especially since it also effects being able to acquire downloadable content.  That’s right.  If there’s a new driver in Tiger Woods 2011, I’m going to have to pay the $10 and the cost of the new driver to download it.  So a $3 item could end up being $13.  Good luck with that, EA.

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I’m pretty upset with this whole thing.  EA is one of the biggest publishers in the industry and they make way more money than I’m sure they need.  They’re just upset because they’re not making more, and that’s disgusting.  I know it sucks when people are out there making money selling your games used when you’re not making a dime, but think about it this way: does any other industry do this? Think about how many used cars are sold every year.  Does Ford or Honda go around trying to make money off of their used cars?  No.  They encourage it because it looks good. People are out their driving their cars just like people are out there still playing your old games, and it looks good when that happens.

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So, listen up, EA:  If people are talking about your old games and if people are playing your old games you should be happy, because if you keep releasing a product that people want, they’ll keep buying them and they’ll buy them new. But if you start putting out little improvements year after year, people aren’t going to give in, and you’re going to need to find something better to do than bite the hand that feeds you.

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