Friday, December 11, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition (Wii) Review

You know what would be sad? If this next game gets used as an example on why third party games don't sell on Wii. You know why. Enough about that though-- it's time for a brand-new review. This time we're taking a look at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition for Wii. It's a two year-old port of the original HD Call of Duty 4. Is this reflex agile enough for the Wii?

Think Fast!



The original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was a hit on a grand scale-- no, make that an epic scale. With a Hollywood-style presentation, great levels and multi-player, and a harrowing single-player experience, Modern Warfare was 2007's big blockbuster. It's two years later and the sequel to the game is hitting the HD consoles while the Wii is just finally seeing the original Modern Warfare. Says a lot about the state of third parties on Wii, doesn't it? Regardless, has Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition been worth the wait for Wii owners, or has this mission failed?

The world is in turmoil. A fictional Middle Eastern dictator has possession of nukes, and he's not too shy about using them. The United States and England take his threat of nuclear proliferation seriously, and the two superpowers team up to try to track this terrorist down. In Modern Warfare you switch off between playing as a member of the U.S. Marines and a soldier for the British Special Forces. The story itself is your typical big-budget video game story. Though it does an admirable job of trying to emulate Hollywood-- more specifically, a Michael Bay film. The story has plenty of twists and turns to keep your mission interesting, and everything ends with a satisfying conclusion.

Ooh-rah.

Modern Warfare takes place in three acts and a prologue and epilogue each. This totals up to around eighteen missions to tackle. Most missions you'll be following the instructions of your squad leader and teaming up with fellow squadmates as you blow away terrorists with a myriad of militant weaponry. Your teammates are quite smart, and they can take down large numbers of forces without you. Though unless you want to sit around for a while waiting, it's best you get into the action, too. Some missions you'll be using stealth and camouflage to outsmart enemy forces who will otherwise cut you down with bullets in a flash. This is one of the more stressful but not frustrating missions in the game. Another mission will have your squadron moving from enemy house to house, taking down all enemy forces inside. The list of objectives and requirements for mission completion are wide and varied. Seldom do you feel like you're doing the same thing. At the same time, the level design is created so it's basically moving from one big firefight to the next most of the time. Nonetheless, this formula seldom gets repetitive even with this structure.

This mission is all about stealth
and using your camouflage well.

I spoke of weaponry earlier, and there's plenty of it. Your character can hold two weapons at the same time, and enemies drop valuable weapons that can picked up and switched out. There's AK-47s, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, pistols, grenades, and other military weapons to use. On the gadget side, there's ground-infiltrating claymores, night vision goggles for those particularly dark spots in the game, and C4 which can be planted to various vehicles and buildings to blow them the heck up. There's so much to use that players will quickly find a gun that's perfect for them.

While this mission is about avoiding that searchlight.

Hidden in most of the levels are intelligence computers owned by the enemy. By downloading these throughout the game, you'll unlock cool cheats such as paintball mode and infinite ammo that can be used in the game's Arcade mode. This unlocks after the game has been completed, but with four difficulties, there's a level of challenge for everyone who plays.

Apart from the single-player mode, there's an entire armada of multi-player options to select from. You can either join a party, add a friend (using those damnable friend codes), or enter yourself randomly into a game. The cool thing about multi-player is that even if you're losing, you're still making progress. Every kill, every assist, you gain points. These points are used to gain new ranks. As you earn ranks, you earn new abilities, perks, and weapons to use. New modes also open up for higher ranked soldiers. These aforementioned perks give you cool bonuses such as being able to call in for an air raid on a specific target or group of enemies. Treyarch is actively supporting the community, kicking out hackers, having double experience days, and adding new fixes to known glitches, so you're taken care of online. Additionally, there can be four separate profiles on one system which is always good for people with more than one gamer in the house/apartment/foxhole/whatever.

There's sixteen different maps to explore online. Most of these are taken directly from the single-player campaign, but some are new, too. There's also plenty of modes to participate in including your standard solo and team deathmatch, a capture the flag type mode, and many, many more which are unlocked as your rank increases. Overall, lag isn't too much of a problem in Modern Warfare Reflex, and the community seems as active as ever.

Online is just as hectic as its HD big brother--
just without helpful voice chat.

Moving from multi-player to the controls, Reflex allows players to fully customize theirs. Turning too slowly? Re-size the bounding box to a smaller size. There's a robust amount of customization options to utilize and make your own. You can even change what each button does to your liking. Don't like reloading with a shake of the nunchuk? Then you can map it to a button instead. This grand amount of customization is truly appreciated. Like any other Wii FPS, turning is done by pointing your Wii remote to one of the sides of the screen. In conjunction with the analog stick on the nunchuk, you can move and aim around simultaneously with ease. Sure, it may take someone used to dual analog some practice, but once mastered it becomes hard to go back to dual analog.

Activision did their best to hide the existence of Modern Warfare Reflex. Perhaps they were afraid it would steal sales away from the Modern Warfare 2. Regardless, it couldn't be because of embarrassment as Reflex runs and looks very well. Obviously it's nowhere near the level of the HD platforms, but it looks nice enough. There's some muddy textures here and there, and the occasional framerate jump, but other than that everything is here and pleasant to look at. The voice work and soundtrack (including that god-awful rap at the end) were ported directly from Reflex's big brothers, and yes, they sound just fine.

Gunfire everywhere but not a drop to drink.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition may be two years late, but for Wii owners it's the best first-person shooter on the system. It has an intricate online system, terrific controls that I greatly prefer to dual analog (but not quite keyboard and mouse), and all of the options and fun of the HD original. Although the visuals are severely downgraded compared to the PS3 and 360, they won't ruin many players' experience with this game. Now one of the best military shooters of all time is now available to Wii owners, and fans of the genre certainly shouldn't miss out on it.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Third Party Woes on Wii - Who's to Blame?

Recently the president of EA said finding success on the Wii was "confounding". I found this statement rather confounding myself due to various reasons. This seems to be a common thing with third parties on Wii. Many publishers are hesitant to put big budget content since it's failed them in the past. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy if I ever heard one.

Firstly, third parties have no one to blame but themselves. Answered that question quickly, didn't I? They were the ones who created the current market on Wii by filling it with garbage. What games that aren't garbage they produce get limited marketing and next to no commercials. Again, compare the marketing of the "biggest" Wii third party game, The Conduit, with the marketing of Rogue Warrior, a B-level action game for the HD consoles. Rogue Warrior has received way more of a push. What games deserve to sell on Wii? Little King's Story? Muramasa? Dead Space: Extraction? Maybe. But which ones received proper advertising? Oh, yes. None of them. So none of them "deserved" to sell. Quality can only do you so much in the games business. Customers have to know your game exists before they can buy it. Even when they say it on shelves, how should they know what it's about? That's why I think games like Carnival Games and its ilk do so well. It's obvious when you look at the box what Carnival Games is about. Unless you're a moron which I was told all Wii owners are. "They're casual, they're stupid. They're mass-market. They're mainstream!" Oh, my! I'm getting scared! At least that is what you'd be led to believe by looking at the majority of third party software for Wii.

Then they whine when their games don't sell. No, really. You think? You put out heaps of garbage, and you expect them to sell? You plan to cheat consumers out of money by having them purchase crap on a disc? They also whine that Nintendo gets all the sales. I wonder why. Big mean Nintendo getting all the sales.

I guess you can blame Nintendo. No, not for everything like some companies, overzealous console warriors, and fat, bearded bloggers. Nintendo is the only company this generation seeing mass profits in a time of loss. They're set. They need not do anything for third parties who crapped on them two generations running and now this third one. I think the solution is simple: Nintendo should stop making games that are of quality and games that don't treat their players like mentally retarded or redheaded stepchildren. They should make the same garbage games that everyone else does, so third parties will have a chance. In all seriousness, I think helping third parties with advertising of top games would help out a lot. It wouldn't set the world on fire, but we've seen Microsoft do this (because their first party studios are highly inferior to either Nintendo's or Sony's-- why else would every year be shooter year on the 360?).

So that's the problem with third parties. They're not going to fix their mistakes. They're not going to dare admit they fail at understanding the Wii because in their perception, it's the Wii's fault. Not their own. Will this self-fulfilling prophecy ever change? Probably not this generation. Probably not next either until Nintendo stops making good games that sell well. They don't sell well because they're from Nintendo. They sell well because they get proper advertising, and don't come off as gifts for your mentally ill cousin. Until then, third parties will continue to bleed money, studios will close, and decent people will lose their jobs. Is the Wii the savior of these companies? No, but we've seen the HD business structure is unsustainable. Might as well try something new, guys.

And with that, I'm through talking about this Wii/third party nonsense that pops up every other week. Adieu!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Most Overlooked PlayStation 2 Games - Part One

Last night, we looked at a slew of overlooked and under-appreciated Gamecube titles. Tonight, we're going to be showcasing some of the dominant PlayStation 2's games that went without much celebration. There's a huge catalog of games to choose from, so we'll have plenty of installments for you in the future. So settle down if your favorite overlooked game isn't mentioned this time around!

Mega Man X8

After a horrible attempt at taking the franchise into true 3-D, the developers behind Mega Man X8 decided to go with a 2 1/2-D perspective with colorful 3-D models and backgrounds. As usual, there eight Mavericks to take down, each with their own themed levels and weapons to obtain. While two of these levels were throwaway cycling missions, the others were quite good. This was the first game in the series whose final boss was not Sigma. Instead, you took on the maniacal Lumine in an epic showdown for world supremacy. With familiar characters such as X, Zero, and Axl which could team-up to take down bosses and foes and play through levels, and dozens of secrets to unlock, Mega Man X8 is a brilliant way to cap off the series.


God Hand

This brutal brawler is all about bashing foes in as many ways as possible from fists of fury to supernatural powers from the one and only God Hand. For gamers who have played something like MadWorld, you'll feel right at home with the action. It's quite similar. For everyone else you have a beat-em up title from the makers of such great games as Okami and Viewtiful Joe. The game seldom takes itself seriously from the simple story to the hilarious end credits theme, God Hand is one overlooked and underrated game that is sure to please.


Fire Pro Wrestling Returns

Forget the WWE and TNA! Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is where it's at! Using customizable 2-D sprites that allow you to make everything from ring apparel to ring patterns to your very own created wrestlers, Fire Pro is more akin to something like Super Wrestlemania as opposed to Wrestlemania 2000. There's a host of match types from cage matches to one-on-one brawls to win over the crowd. If you have a special flash drive, you can actually save other creator's creations to your own game and use them! Not bad for a wrasslin' game!


Hot Shots Golf Fore!

Foooooooore! The best of the Hot Shots Golf franchise brings more characters, more courses, and more options than ever before! Choose from one of sixteen characters including Ratchet from Ratchet & Clank and Jak from Jak & Daxter. Play on one of twelve uniquely-designed courses each with their own world location and theme. You can even play in any of the four seasons. If that's not enough there's a host of options including online, mini golf, several mini-games, and an in-depth career mode to collect new characters and costumes for them. If you're jonesing for some golf action, check out the best cartoon golfer around with Hot Shots Golf Fore.


Graffiti Kingdom

This title was merely a blip on the radar compared to other Eastern games. In Graffiti Kingdom, you controlled a prince who, with a special wand, could transform into any monster he wanted. I say any because it was true. You could create your own monsters with the in-game tool or just edit preexisting ones to your liking. There were hundreds of monsters to defeat and collect their cards that grant you the ability to transform into them. While Magic Pengel was more a monster battling game, Graffiti Kingdom is more of an action-RPG with high focus on fighting and exploration. Add in a soundtrack by Yasunori Mitsuda of Chrono Trigger/Cross fame, and you have a nearly irresistible package that was overlooked by millions of PS2 owners.


We Love Katamari

Roll with it in We Love Katamari, the sequel to the sleeper hit, Katamari Damacy. The game was pretty much the same only with new areas and levels to explore. The premise was basically the same, roll up small items first. When you've rolled up enough, your katamari will expand, allowing you to roll up larger objects and reach new areas. The cycle continues until your katamari is at the specified size. Then it's just a high score affair afterward. New to the series was the ability to play with a friend, trying to roll your katamari around in unison. While nothing earth-shatteringly new, We Love Katamari is often considered the best in the franchise which it's a shame it didn't sell all too greatly.

There you have it. Another installment of Most Overlooked and the premiere edition for the PlayStation 2. Have a game you'd like to see? Let us know in the comments.

November 2009 NPD Results

November is the second biggest month for video game sales with December being the first. Let's check out sales for this all-important month.

Data care of NPD Group

Reporting Period: 11/1 - 11/28/09


PlayStation 2 203.1K
PlayStation 3 710.4K
PSP 293.9K
Xbox 360 819.5K
Wii 1.26M
Nintendo DS 1.70M


CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2* 360 ACTIVISION BLIZZARD Nov-09 4.20M
CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2* PS3 ACTIVISION BLIZZARD Nov-09 1.87M
NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. WII WII NINTENDO OF AMERICA Nov-09 1.39M
ASSASSIN'S CREED II 360 UBISOFT Nov-09 794.7K
LEFT 4 DEAD 2 360 ELECTRONIC ARTS Nov-09 744.0K
WII SPORTS RESORT* WII NINTENDO OF AMERICA Jul-09 720.2K
WII FIT PLUS* WII NINTENDO OF AMERICA Oct-09 679.0K
ASSASSIN'S CREED II PS3 UBISOFT Nov-09 448.4K
DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS* 360 ELECTRONIC ARTS Nov-09 362.1K
MARIO KART W/ WHEEL WII NINTENDO OF AMERICA Apr-08 315.0K

In a surprising turn of events, the 360 outsold the PS3 this month. In other news, the DS and Wii once again dominate the sales charts with four Nintendo-developed games on the top ten and over two million consoles sold between the two platforms. The PSP continues to sell poorly in the U.S., nearly being eclipsed by the almost decade's old PS2.

The bigger winner this month is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 which sold six million across two platforms, the 360 and PS3. Runner-ups include New Super Mario Bros. Wii-- already a million seller-- as is Assassin's Creed 2. Then there's Left 4 Dead 2 with nearly 750,000 copies sold, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit Plus, Dragon Age: Origins, and Mario Kart Wii.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Most Overlooked Gamecube Games - Part One

Welcome to an all-new edition of Most Overlooked. This time around we're doing something different. We're heading back to past generations now, and first but most definitely not last on our journey through generations gone is the Nintendo Gamecube. Oh, Gamecube. The world shunned you even with all of your excellent games. The following games are either overlooked, underrated, or unappreciated in the Gamecube's robust catalog of games. In most cases, your mileage may vary.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

A big reason why this game is overlooked so much is that each player needed a Game Boy Advance and link cable to play. Regardless, Four Swords Adventures is truly an enjoyable single-player game. You control all four Links, set up formations, solve some perplexing puzzles in each level (most of which extremely clever), bash baddies, score force gems, and cooperate to proceed and complete each of the game's twenty-four levels. These took place all around Hyrule and in familiar locations like Lake Hylia, the Eastern Palace, Death Mountain, and Kakariko Village. For a non-traditional take on the Zelda franchise, look into Four Swords Adventures.


Star Fox Assault

Compared to the fantastic Star Fox 64, this sequel paled in comparison. Standing... er... flying on its own, however, Star Fox Assault was pretty darned good. The on-foot and Landmaster portions of the game took getting used to, but after a little while they become second nature. The traditional corridor flying missions are really where this game shines along with its top-notch presentation and impressive, orchestral soundtrack. What other Star Fox game can you leap out from your Arwing, run around, and hop into your Landmaster? Meanwhile, the multi-player mode was one of the more fun experiences on the Gamecube-- even without bots.


Bomberman Generation/Jetters

These colorful romps were enjoyable adventures starring everyone's mad bomber, Bomberman. Generation was the first game released on the Gamecube, and it was done so early in the console's life cycle. Likewise, Jetters came out in the latter half of the Gamecube's short, tragic life. Both games sport an awesome cel-shaded art style, the bombing bad dudes action you know and love, and a multiple levels and bosses to blast through. This game's more similar to the Bomberman 64 line of games except with a less serious story attached to them. They were at bargain bin prices to begin with, so there's no wonder how cheap you can get each for now!


Mega Man: Network Transmission

A spin-off of the Mega Man Battle Network games, this platformer will surely test the reflexes, patience, timing, and platforming skills of whoever plays it. As you played, a bar would fill up. Once it did, the blue chip bomber would have access to an assortment of chips. Chips served as weapons, helpful abilities, or traditional items. The crux of all this is that the bar filled up soooo slow that it could become tedious waiting for the exact chip you wanted. Regardless of this, Network Transmission was no walk in the park with difficult bosses and challenging gameplay. Despite these shortcomings, Network Transmission remains an underrated gem in the Gamecube's chip folder.


Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat

The beat goes on with Donkey Kong. This game came with or without the bongo controller, the vessel that would move DK around in this innovative platformer. Hitting the left bongo would move the top banana left while hitting the right would move him to the right. Hitting both together in unison would make DK jump up, and clapping would allow my main monkey to grab onto enemies, flowers, and whatever else have you. Each world was comprised of two levels and a boss battle. These boss battles required the player to wallop on the bongos to inflict damage on a weakened foe. While not a poor seller, a lot of the Gamecube fanbase looked over the impressive and intuitive game.


Odama

Not to be confused with the current president of the United States, Obam-- dammit! Odama was another interesting experiment. It was a pinball game that utilized the same controller that Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat did-- the bongo controller. I can dig it. The left bongo operated the left flipper and the right moved the right. Meanwhile your goal of feudal conquest involved moving your soldiers across the battlefield, taking out enemy troops with your "pinball", and saving the day for imperialism everywhere! While sometimes frustrating, Ob--almost did it again-- Odama shines as an intriguing game for those with dust forming on their bongos. No sexual euphemism intended.


There we go. What games would you like to see in future editions? Were there any games listed that you disagree with? Let everyone know in our comments section!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

SPC Quickies - Volume Five: 360 Blockbuster

It's time for another big blockbuster of Quickie reviews. This time around we're going to be exploring the 360 catalog. As always, the following games are those in my personal collection of titles. We'll be ranking these games on a scale from 1-5 with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. Let's jump in and get this blockbuster busted!

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
- Banjo and Kazooie took a long vacation since Tooie and their GBA side-story. They came back not in a platforming adventure but in a vehicle-based game. The goal was the same, however-- collect as many Jiggies from challenges as possible. The creation of vehicles was a blast to do even if the challenge variety wasn't as large as the endless amount of vehicle types you could make. While not Banjo-Threeie, Nuts & Bolts came off as a competent and very entertaining game. 4/5


Beautiful Katamari - Roll without the changes in Beautiful Katamari. It's really just more of the same, so if you're looking for innovation in this franchise, you've come to the wrong place. The goal here is the same: roll up as much as possible with your Katamari ball. When you roll up enough, the ball with grow bigger, allowing you access to new areas of each level. Roll your ball up to the specified size, and you win. The problem with the 360 sticks is that they're not parallel making speeding up your Katamari by cycling the sticks back and forth a problem. 3/5

Bioshock - A game oozing with ambiance and atmosphere, Bioshock is a beautiful-looking game. The underwater city of Rapture is remarkable to look at, and the story keeps you guessing right until the very end. The first-person action and shooting is different from other 360 shooters. It's all solo. No multi-player to be found. Eco-chambers make dying less frustrating than it otherwise would be, and going back to visuals, the game is not only mesmerizing but jaw-dropping in the visual department. 4/5

Blue Dragon - The first project from Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, since his departure from Square-Enix to form his own studio, Mistwalker, Blue Dragon is a colorful RPG with clever characters and an interesting art style. The music is done by Nobuo Uematsu, also of Final Fantasy fame. For those looking for another RPG to put under the tree this Christmas, Blue Dragon is a great and cheap pick. 4/5

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - Play as a member of the U.S. Marines as well as a British Special Ops in Modern Warfare. You switch in between the two as you progress through the game, attempting to take down a dictator with real live nukes. The single-player levels are highly memorable, the multi-player allows you to unlock new weapons and perks as you gain experience levels, and the presentation is one of the best period. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is definitely one of the best games this generation. 5/5


Crackdown - The premise of Crackdown was simple. It was a sandbox game where the goal was to eliminate each of the three main islands' gang leaders. The surprise twist at the end was more than enough to salvage the otherwise weak story. Driving cars, scaling up tall buildings, using rocket launchers and machine guns as you take down bad guys (and good). Crackdown was a fantastically fun game, and I eagerly await the sequel. 4/5

Dead Rising - Dead Rising gives you the role of Frank West, freelance journalist in for the scoop of his life. The local town has become infested with flesh-craving zombies. Dead Rising features an arsenal of unconventional weapons from lawn mowers to frying pans to more useful weaponry such as chainsaws, machine guns, and shotguns. Some caveats to this game are the save system that takes getting used to as well as the sometimes clumsy controls and braindead A.I. Regardless of these problems, Dead Rising remains one of my favorite 360 games. 4/5

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam - This was my first Dynasty Warriors game, and by the end it was a real grind. Other than that, the game was nice, repetitive fun. Being able to control a Gundam, slice through a wave of enemies, and fly around at fast speeds on land and in air were very enjoyable. The ability to play through the various pilots' campaigns locally with a friend (or in this case brother) really kept things from growing too dull. 4/5

Eternal Sonata - This music-themed RPG features a soundtrack composed by Motoi Sakuraba of Star Ocean and Tales Of fame. Unlike Blue Dragon, Eternal Sonata showcases an active time battle system including real-time fighting. I honestly prefer a battle system like this compared to something like a traditional Final Fantasy, but both work well. It's just a matter of preference. With sensational visuals and a pleasing story, Eternal Sonata is a remarkable RPG regardless on which HD platform you get it on. 4/5

Forza Motorsport 2 - Gentlemen, start your engines! Forza Motorsport 2 is the first edition on the 360, and it has tons of variety be it in car or track selection. You can either make five-hundred different left turns on an oval track or race on a more complicated street track. Forza Motorsport 2 also looks absolutely astonishing. The game holds up well even with its new sequel now out. For a racing experience that nearly eclipses Gran Turismo, check out Forza 2. 4/5

Gears of War - If I were a man-child, this would be the game I'd make. It's a compilation of blood, gore, guns with chainsaws attached to them, squad-based gameplay, giant monstrosities known as the Locust, big steroid-crazed marines with bulging muscles, and cover mechanics. And it's pretty darned fun, too. The multi-player was recently fixed otherwise this game wouldn't be getting such high marks. There were cheaters and exploiters all around. Thankfully Epic Games cleaned up their act. Now about Gears 2... 4/5


Grand Theft Auto IV - GTA IV takes a more realistic approach to the franchise. There's no wacky jet-packs or anything like that. The city is more of an interesting character than the actual "I don't want to kill people but I do for fun anyway" contradiction of a main character. The story is an interesting one (though not oscar-quality), and it will have hooked for most of the game. There's some parts of the saga that drag on, but really GTA IV is an intriguing installment of this excellent series. 4/5

Halo 3 - Shooters are very popular on the Xbox 360. They're also very popular with Microsoft who generally pumps one out every year as their big game. Regardless, Halo 3 is my favorite of these from Microsoft. It had terrific weaponry, great level design, awesome multi-player action, and plenty of people to "pwn"-- as the kids say. Play the single-play campaign alone or with up to four friends shooting and blasting through the game together. A wonderful game marred only by a crappy matchmaking system in multi-player, and some drawn out levels. 4/5

Kameo: Elements of Power - This adventure game is similar to Zelda in design. It doesn't come close to the fabled franchise, but it's an admirable effort nonetheless. Kameo, the titular hero, can transform into one of many monsters from the punching Pummel Weed to a fiery dragon that will toast its enemies with a hot coat of flames. The soundtrack is a beautiful mix of orchestral and choral music, and the visuals are still impressive to this day-- but a tad dated. Those looking for an experience rare to the 360, check out the launch title, Kameo: Elements of Power. 4/5

Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy - Don't get cocky, kid. Lego Star Wars II was my first installment in the franchise, so comments such as it felt the same were lost on someone like me. The game brought with it action-platforming as well as puzzle-solving-- not to mention rampant Lego stud collecting! The game took you through all three of the original trilogy's stories taking you through about fifteen levels total. For something that's accessible and fun for everyone in your family, you can't beat Lego Star Wars II. 4/5

The Orange Box - Take five unique games: Half Life 2, Episode One, Episode Two, the puzzle-based portal, and the multi-player centric Team Fortress 2, and you have one heck of a collection on your hands. To this day this impressive compendium of Valve efforts has really yet to be beat. Feel like a story-based affair? Try out one of the Half-Life 2 episodes. Feel like "pwning n00bs" as the kids say? Check out Team Fortress 2 to satisfy your cravings. No matter what you like, The Orange Box has a game for you! 5/5

Perfect Dark Zero - A lot of people shoot down this game with their Mag-secs, but I happen to love this game. Yes, the art style is goofy and unappealing for the most part, and yes, the game is a poor follow-up to Perfect Dark, but what game wouldn't be? The objective-based single-player mode was here with online or local co-op, the multi-player is some of the 360's best with over a dozen players or bots on each map at a given time, and the music was rocking and pumping. Overall, a great but imperfect game. 4/5


Phantasy Star Universe - After playing Phantasy Star Online, I was absolutely psyched to play an all-new Phantasy Star Online entry. What we got instead was a half-assed online sequel with a tremendously tedious single-player story. This made the already repetitive task of running through dungeons-- something that was fun in past games-- all the more boring and ridiculous to you. No, thanks, Sonic Team. 2/5

Saints Row - Volition Games' answer to GTA III, Saints Row is all about juvenile antics and the thug life. You can customize you character to wear anything you'd like-- just as long as you pay for it, yeah? Starting police chases, setting fires and explosions throughout Stilwater, the city's yours for the taking. If it weren't for the lame True Skill system to rank players in the game's entertaining multi-player modes, this game would be close to perfect. 4/5

Saints Row 2 - Saints Row 2 takes what made the original Saints fun, continues the story, and adds even more outlandish events. The put-your-body-on-the-line Insurance Fraud is back, and now this and every event and mission can be played with a friend online. There's also new distractions, too, such as the ability to shoot raw sewage at nice houses to lower the property value of the area. The perfect plan! Add in awesome multi-player action, and you have a better version of Saints Row-- even better than GTA IV in my opinion. 4/5

SEGA Superstars Tennis - Sonic and friends take to the court in SEGA Superstars Tennis. It's an easy game at first with a challenge mode taking you on different themed courts unlocking new characters such as Alex Kidd and Gum from Jet Grind Radio. There's also online play thrown in for the HD versions featuring some fast and frenetic gameplay with little in the way of slowdown. The real problem with the game is the bare bones presentation and lack of extra options. 3/5

Sonic the Hedgehog - It sucks. 1/5

Sonic Unleashed - Sonic returns, and this time it's part 2-D part 3-D. The early levels are fantastic displays of the old Sonic we know and love, but adding in the Werehog was a clumsy decision at best. He plays all right when the camera allows him to, but his levels drag on far too long and slow the game's pacing down to a crawl. The later Sonic stages are full of cheap holes, obstacles, and camera problems. Overall, this is barely an average game. 3/5

Tales of Vesperia - The Tales series hits Microsoft's tampon-shaped box for the first time, and it did so with style. With a less annoying ensemble of characters, better map system, and even more excellent combat than Symphonia, Vesperia is an awesome edition to any Xbox 360 owner's collection. If you liked Eternal Sonata, you will absolutely adore Vesperia. And even if you didn't, you will absolutely adore Vesperia. 4/5


Tony Hawk's American Wasteland - My final love in the Tony Hawk franchise, American Wasteland gave you a sandbox city to explore with multiple areas featuring different treacherous skating locations. The story took you as a young skateboarder interested in making it to the big time in the L.A. skate scene. And then the fun begins! Still more focused on the more interesting arcade-style gameplay than the realistic skating physics later Tony Hawk games would use, American Skateland was my last truly loved Tony Hawk game. 4/5

Tony Hawk's Project 8 - In making the series more realistic most likely due to the then upcoming Skate, the series lost a lot of its fun luster. What used to be a heavily accessible series turned into something frustrating and less enjoyable. The game was again sandbox with multiple areas of an unnamed town. You completed challenges to unlock the next portion of the story. While still a good game, it signals the start of the downward spiral of the franchise leading to the abysmal Tony Hawk Ride. 3/5

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2007 - Wrestling was a passion of mine as a kid. As I grew up and as the WWE got more tame and restrictive, I grew out of it. The game uses the sticks to grapple which I already dislike. There's a myriad of match types and online play included, but that doesn't matter if the core gameplay isn't appealing which with this wrasslin' game it isn't. How I dream of a game that can match WWF No Mercy or Day of Reckoning! 2/5

Viva Pinata - Viva Pinata is an interesting specimen. The goal is to expand your garden, allowing new pinatas to come to your garden, and hopefully breed as many different pinata species as possible. Ah, the life of a gardener! A bright, cheery, gorgeous game, it definitely has that Rare feel to it-- something that has been missing from previous games by Rare since their acquisition by Microsoft. For a fun time for the whole family, check out this underrated gem in the Xbox 360 library. 4/5


Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise - Looks like trouble in paradise! Viva Pinata 2 brings in more pinatas to raise, more tools to utilize, and more garden varieties including an icy wonderland. The formula essentially remains unchanged: expand your garden, invite new pinatas to your garden by fulfilling certain conditions, and keep %#%in' that chicken! One of those doesn't belong. You can guess which! Overall, Trouble in Paradise makes for a great sequel even if it doesn't do too much new to the franchise. 4/5

That does it for another edition of the Quickies. See you next time!

Perfect Dark (XBLA) - Achievements and Screens

We have some goods for you this evening! It's some brand-new screens and an achievement list for the upcoming Perfect Dark for Xbox Live Arcade. This is probably one of most wanted games, and if I had known it was coming out next year it would have been in my most desired game list. Check them out as they were taken down from the source which makes them seem all the more real.


HOW'S THAT FOR STARTERS? : Complete dataDyne Central - Defection

BOTH BARRELS : Shoot an enemy when dual wielding

ACT YOUR AGE, JOANNA : Destroy Carrington's wine collection

DOUBLE 64 : Kill 128 enemies using secondary fire mode

CAMERA SHY : Destroy 10 security cameras

DEADLY LAPTOP : Kill 50 enemies using the laptop gun in sentry mode

PACI-FIST : Complete any Solo Mission on Special Agent or harder using only your fists

TOOLS OF THE TRADE : Get a Bronze rating or better with all 32 weapons in the Firing Range

VERSATILE : Complete a Combat Simulator game using each of the six preset Scenarios

GOLDEN DAYS : Complete a Combat Simulator game on Felicity, Complex or Temple using Classic Weapons

PRIME TARGET : Complete every Challenge up to and including 29, the tenth Prime Number

A FRIEND INDEED : Complete any mission in Co-operative Mode

...WHO NEEDS ENEMIES? : Complete any mission in Counter-Operative Mode

DATADYNE SPECIALIST : Kill at least one enemy with each of the dataDyne weapons

CARRINGTON INSTITUTE SPECIALIST : Kill at least one enemy with each of the Carrington Institute weapons

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GCN) Retro Review

We've been busy this Monday. We've already seen and heard my favorite VGMs, looked at some new pics of SuperPhillip: The Game, and now we're taking a gander at a Zelda review in anticipation for Spirit Tracks. Here we are with a retro review of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures.

Are Four Links Better Than One?


The Zelda franchise is the most celebrated in gaming. For the longest time, the series has been known solely for its single-player excursions. No longer with the Game Boy Advance Four Swords game and this multi-player focused Zelda title, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for the Nintendo Gamecube. With four Links to control and solve brain busters and smash massive monsters alike, are four Links really better than one?

Long ago, an evil wind sorcerer named Vaati began capturing and imprisoning several young maidens into his dastardly clutches. The people of Hyrule needed a hero, and they got one in a young man who claimed the mystical four sword, split into four of himself, and did away with Vaati. Several centuries later, Vaati escaped once again from his imprisonment. He captured the Princess Zelda, and locked her away inside a crystal chamber. Zelda's childhood friend, Link, opted to pick up the four sword, split himself into four, and take down the sinister Vaati once and for all. But in doing so, he awakened a flurry of evil shadow versions of himself. Now Link must do away with Vaati, and take care of the evil shadow engulfing the land of Hyrule before it is too late. The story is told with in-game cut-scenes with written text. It's nothing fans of the series haven't seen before. By the midpoint of the game, the plot turns on its head with an even more formidable foe being the focus of the adventure...

Somewhere over the rainbow...

There's two games in Four Swords Adventures. There's the standard Hyrulean Adventure mode which is main mode of the game, and Shadow Battle which is purely a competitive multi-player affair. Hyrulean Adventure can be played solo or with up to four players. In order to play multi-player, each player needs a Game Boy Advance. This makes trying to find friends with Game Boy Advances a hassle indeed. Regardless, if you play alone, you control all four Links. You can split them up and control each Link separately with the X button, you can call your Links into one of four formations from a cross, to a vertical or horizontal line, or in a box. In two player, each player controls two Links, in three player, two players control one Link and the third controls two, and in four player, everyone controls one Link. What makes multi-player fascinating is that you'll have to work together in order to proceed through the levels. Also, certain puzzles are altered compared to single-player to create a brand-new experience with more than one player.

Four Swords Adventures takes place across eight areas with three levels to each area. Unlike traditional Zeldas, these levels are stand-alone from one another. This means that nothing carries over between levels-- items, heart containers, stat-boosters-- nothing. Another twist is that you can only carry one item at a time. These include Roc's Feather, the Pegasus Boots, the fire rod, bombs, bo and arrows, boomerangs, and many more. These items can be leveled up by a great fairy. To use the Pegasus Boots as an example, when they're leveled up, that means you can run across chasms and holes with ease. Most levels have an overhead perspective while a select few are side-scrolling like Link's Awakening. You'll go to familiar locations such as the Eastern Palace, Lake Hylia, Death Mountain, Kakariko Village, the Lost Woods, and the Desert of Doubt. The levels themselves all feel like dungeons, even the outdoor ones, with puzzles thrown in here and there. Occasionally you'll encounter ambush rooms where your four Links will have to come out fighting against twenty or more enemies. It's very hectic and crazy.

Working together does wonders in this game.

Usually a level ends with a small boss battle, with every third level ending with a big boss battle to save one of the seven maidens. You'll face off against the likes of Phantom Ganon, bomb-hating Dodongos, and gigantic worms. Many times you'll take on Shadow Link-- nearly every level. Sometimes he'll toss giant exploding bombs that will kill your quartet of Links in one blow unless they hide inside a cave while others he'll just be causing havoc inside a level. Then there's the encounters against him. Each has a different hook to it from fighting on icy platforms to a fiery wonderland. Oftentimes he'll change color which means whatever color Link he is is the one you attack him with.

Phantom Ganon's back, and he's not here to chat.

It's not all action in Four Swords Adventures, however. The use of four Links brings about a whole new variety of perplexing puzzles to solve. Some are relatively simple such as stepping on four buttons to unlock a door while others are much more complicated. As an individual Link, you can pick up another Link and toss him across short chasms. There's also traditional block-pushing puzzles, torch-lighting affairs, switch-puzzling puzzles, and tons of other brain twisters that will feel home to many Zelda veterans.

What won't feel home to many Zelda veterans is the use of the Game Boy Advance. Like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, all players must have one-- except when playing solo-style. The reason each player needs a Game Boy Advance is that when you enter a house, cave, or a Dark World portal, the game switches from the television screen to your Game Boy Advance. In solo mode, the GBA screen pops up over the television action, and it can be removed with the Z button. It's cool in practice, but the actual finding someone-- much more four players with GBAs-- is a lofty aspiration for sure.

The game switches to a GBA screen
on the TV in single-player.

Something odd in Four Swords Adventures are the force gems. They replaced rupees in this journey. In order to complete a level and smash through the magical gate blocking exit into the next level, you need to collect 2,000 of these gems. If you don't have the gems by the conclusion of the level, you're warped back to the start. Once you collect 2,000, you're warped back to the end of the level. What's the point of this really? It's great in multi-player as it's both cooperative and competitive in nature to see who can collect the most force gems. In single-player, it's pretty much worthless.

Speaking of competition, the other mode in Four Swords Adventures is Shadow Battle. It's pretty much every Link for himself to see who can finish off the other three Links before they're taken out themselves. There's five or six arenas to compete on, and that's pretty much all there is to say about this mode. It's an interesting distraction, but at the end of the day that's all it is.

The visuals are reminiscent of A Link to the Past.

Any fan of A Link to the Past will fall in love with Four Swords Adventures' presentation. The art style utilizes familiar graphical assets from the game. Meanwhile, the Link's themselves, explosions and enemy destruction animations use a Wind Waker approach to them. The game zooms in and out depending how far each Link is from one another. Additionally, the soundtrack borrows heavily from A Link to the Past with remastered and remixed versions of various LttP tracks. The Game Boy Advance sections are in comparison have much less going-on in them. There's no smoke effects, Wind Waker effects, or anything of that matter. It's fairly tame in comparison.

Four swords might definitely be better than one in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. The levels are expertly-crafted with little in the way of back-tracking, the aesthetics are wholeheartedly pleasing, and the puzzles created by having four Links instead of one are truly maniacal. An often overlooked entry in the Zelda franchise, Four Swords Adventures get a hearty recommendation with or without friends to play it with.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

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