Friday, January 8, 2010

Games Others Liked, I Didn't

A while back, sometime last year, I wrote an editorial regarding games that I enjoyed that the majority of the gaming public might not have. You can check out the aforementioned article here. Anyway, we're going to do a reversal of that idea. This time around we're taking a look at some "popular" games that I don't particularly care for and some reasons why. It's Games Others Liked, I Didn't on SuperPhillip Central.

Gears of War 2 (360)

Take a series made by manchildren for manchildren, and you can automatically see what I hate about this game. You take big burly space marines with steroid addictions, throw in some guns with chainsaws attached to them, visceral violence, profanity, and blood, and a melodramatic story that takes itself way too seriously for how stupid it is, and you get Gears of War 2. My favorite part of this putrid piece of slime is when one of the main character's wives is shown mutated into a repugnant locust. So the sobbing dude takes out a GIANT MAGNUM to blow her away. Overdo it much? Toss in online multi-player that somehow has all of the same glitches and exploits of the original Gears (the original Gears had these issues patched long before the sequel came out), and you can see why Gears 2 grinds my own gears!

Killzone 2 (PS3)

I was immediately taken aback by the level of cursing involved in Killzone 2. Every line was "%#$% this", "$%@$ that", it was embarrassing. That's not how you come across as mature. In fact, that's how you come across as juvenile! Furthermore, the gunplay and controls just didn't feel right. Every gun had heft to it which made aiming very difficult. Why do you need realism with your weapons when this is the same game where we're fighting guys who have to breathe through special black suits? It's a bone-headed decision that just didn't sit well with me and made enjoying the game difficult. Another part of the game that annoyed me was gray. Every level, every area, gray. This is truly next-gen when there's no primary colors to be found. Apart from these negatives, I really did enjoy the multi-player and how it didn't take you out of the game just to change modes. Very intuitive and cool on that side of things for sure.

Dead Space Extraction (Wii)

EA neglected to call this game a light gun shooter for a reason apparently. Light gun shooters have far, far more action in them. There were ten missions in all, but the killer for me was that you couldn't skip dialogue-- this meant you were stuck for minutes at a time listening to the characters squirm and squabble while you're just wanting to blast some necromorphs to hell and back! Additionally, each mission took thirty minutes or more to complete. While that isn't bad all to itself, it is bad when there's no way to save mid-mission. Power go out? You better be ready to start the mission all over again. Finally, the fifty dollar price point definitely got on my nerves. It's far too expensive for a game of this genre, and the consumers made this abundantly clear. As for positive things, the game does look sensational. And none of this "for the Wii" crap either. Either it looks good or it doesn't, and Dead Space Extraction on Wii does look good.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)

Wow, that title's almost as long as a given cut-scene within the game! Almost. That's my main beef with the game. It constantly takes you out of it with a cut-scene! I should not have to sit through fifty minutes to movie just to get to the gameplay. Skip the dialogue, and then I miss out on the god-forsaken bat-%#%& crazy story. Games are not Hollywood. They shouldn't be Hollywood. Games are interactive experiences. The majority of the time spent "playing" Metal Gear Solid 4 is done passively watching cut-scenes unfold. No offense to those who like this game's story, but it's some of the most convoluted garbage I've ever witnessed. It completely ruins past Metal Gear continuity and feels like it was written by a Hollywood hack who couldn't make it in the business, so they decided to go to video games (see: Epic Games).

Punch-Out! (Wii)

The most disappointing game in this list happens to exist on the Wii as Punch-Out!, an update to old NES classic. What can I say about the game? It has everything to succeed from its powerful presentation to its satisfying gameplay. Well, satisfying to the point that it's too damn hard for someone like me! Damn that samoan slugger and his fists of doom! How dare he show that I'm-- as the kids say-- "weak sauce" at this game! Furthermore, there's really not much else to do from the single-player rise to the championship mode. Multi-player is a pure button-masher/waggle-fest (see, kiddies? I'm using the term waggle correctly!). Despite my inadequacies with the game, it is well put together if just not my type of game.

There we are. Five titles that I deem to be disappointing and/or disgusting. Have you some games that are popular yet you don't like them? Let us know in the comments section.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii) Screens

As suggested earlier within the week, here are some more photos I have taken while playing Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers on Wii. The majority of these should be spoiler-free, so don't worry about perusing their contents.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES) Retro Review

We're really putting the pedal to the metal in 2010. Let's continue with our first retro review of the year. My older brother and I recently played through this game together, so I figured why not jot down some of my experiences and opinion on the game. It's Kirby's Dream Land 3 for the Super Nintendo.

If I could talk to the animals...

The cute and cuddly Kirby originated on the Game Boy with the original Kirby's Dream Land. That game would a second sequel on the portable platform, but Kirby's first console offering would be late in the Nintendo Entertainment System's life with Kirby's Adventure. While not his first Super Nintendo outing, that would be Kirby Super Star, his last would again be late in the Super Nintendo's life, Kirby's Dream Land 3. With the addition of color and a cast of animals to ride, Kirby's Dream Land 3 is an impressive title.

It's a peaceful day on the planet Pop Star when all of a sudden, a mystical force invades the land. It sprinkles harmful dark clouds all over the planet, and as hero of the world, it's up to Kirby to save the day! He must travel to five worlds, solve simple puzzles, battle baddies, bosses, and his ever-hungry stomach while cleaning up the mess this evil entity has caused. Are you up to the task to join him? Of course, you are, so let's get to it!

They see me rollin'.

For those who have never played a Kirby game before, Kirby is a pink powder-puff who can suck up enemies and take their powers. If Kirby gets hit enough, he'll revert back to normal. There's plenty of powers for Kirby to possess, but he can only hold one power at a time. Kirby can burn enemies, freeze them in place and kick them into other enemies, turn into a powerful stone, ball of spikes, and much more.

The new addition to Kirby's Dream Land 3 is that of ride-able animals. There's six or so in all each with different abilities. For example, the hamster can climb up walls, the owl can fly around, and the fish is an excellent swimmer. Combined with Kirby's power-ups the animals attack in a variety of different ways. You can only ride one animal at a time, and plenty of times there will be paths that only a certain animal can take-- adding to Dream Land 3's longevity. There's also blocks that can only be taken out by using a select power which also adds to the replay value.

Also new to Kirby is the advent of having a partner around. This partner can be played by a second player making for some very enjoyable co-op fun. If the partner gets too far away from Kirby, he'll be automatically transported close to Kirby's side. If the second player dies, there's no real loss, but every time the second player enters the game thereafter, a part of Kirby's health decreases. Another change is that unlike some Kirby games, in this adventure, the titular hero can float for an infinite amount of time. This makes some levels as easy as hovering over entire rooms similar to using a P-Wing in Super Mario Bros. 3 to bypass dangerous stages.

There's six different animals to
utilize in Kirby's Dream Land 3.

In Kirby's Dream Land 3, there's five worlds to explore, each with seven individual levels. The seventh level always holds a big bad boss to take down. These are simple as waiting for a foe to strike, sucking up the star they let loose from their attack, and spitting it back at them to damage them. Of course, if Kirby has a power, it makes the battle all the more easy. The in-game levels are comprised of several elongated rooms either stretching vertically or horizontally. Sometimes the screen is scrolling, but most often it is not. Kirby will enter red hot mountains, underwater exploits, and grassy wildlands on his quest to right the wrongs of the world. The game itself isn't terribly long perhaps taking an ordinary player but a few hours or more.

Sure, players can just breeze right through the game at their leisure, but there's a catch to unlocking the final battle of the game. Each of the game's 40+ levels has a hidden goal that must be completed in order to obtain a heart star. Collect all the heart stars, and Kirby and friend can tackle the game's true final boss aside from King Dedede. Level goals include things like not stomping on flowers, completing a level while riding a certain animal, completing a mini-game, collecting a set number of collectibles, and tackling a hidden mid-boss within a level.

After all the heart stars are collected, some belonging to recognizable Nintendo characters, the final boss will be ready to be attacked in the center of Pop Star. The boss fight is a multiple phase affair and uses a 2-D side-scrolling shooter mechanic instead of the traditional platforming action the game has been using all along. After the foe is bested, the day and Pop Star have been saved all thanks to the indomitable little pink puff, Kirby... and friends!

Old and new friends get help from Kirby.

One of my main problems with Kirby's Dream Land 3 is that it's very easy to beat and complete. Sure your lives reset every time you restart the game, but it's easy to obtain anywhere of upwards of thirty lives in one sitting. Health items are also abundant making the game a cakewalk for most players, but to be fair, it certainly is one fun and delicious cakewalk!

Kirby's Dream Land 3 uses an incredibly impressive crayon-styled art style to showcase some impressive visuals unlike any other on the Super Nintendo. It's quite the site to look at, and the soundtrack helps create a happy go-lucky mood, too. There's plenty of hummable tracks and familiar ditties to sing along to.

Kirby's Dream Land 3 may be on the easy side, but there's something about it that's enjoyable to play regardless of this fact. It has loads of charm, enchanting visuals, and simple enough gameplay for anyone to get involved in. Kirby's Dream Land 3 is a highly recommended title to look into, especially since you can find it for only eight dollars on the Wii's Virtual Console.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii) Review

It's snowing heavily outside my window, so it's a good night to stay in, write a new review, and unwind for the night. Tonight we'll be reviewing a game that's been in development for three years. It was one of the first announced Wii games. It's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers. The game has a snapshot function, so I utilized it to the max. See more photos tomorrow right here on SuperPhillip Central.

Grin and Bear It.
All screenshots by SuperPhillip.

To this point in time, the Crystal Chronicles line of Final Fantasy games has been a Nintendo-exclusive venture. We've seen the original Gamecube Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, the two DS games (Ring of Fates and Echoes of Time), and two WiiWare installments. Now the series has entered current-gen consoles with the Nintendo Wii and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers. It's a long name that seems to roll off the tongue. Is the Crystal Bearers a game whose appeal is as clear as crystal?

The world of Crystal Chronicles has changed since we last visited in Echoes of Time. The Yuke clan has been eviscerated from the world as they know it in a great war between them and a rival clan, the Lilty. A young, brash crystal bearer named Layle is about to caught in the middle of the resurrection of the Yuke clan, the kingdom's military, and a quest to save all four kingdoms from destruction. In the world of Crystal Chronicles, crystal bearers-- magic users-- are despised by the public, so Layle does what he can to get money. The first job we see him in is assisting the transport of a military ship, the Alexis. Suddenly, a Yuke summoner, long since thought to be extinct attacks the airship. The assailant leaves, but not before Layle pickpockets a mysterious green crystal idol. As the airship begins to descend into the earth below, Layle takes the controls and saves everyone from an untimely doom.

Layle checks out the gorgeous scenery.

The story of the Crystal Bearers is quite interesting to follow, but there is a problem with not being able to skip the otherwise beautiful cut-scenes. This makes a second play-through via the title's New Game+ option a serious pain in the butt. The only character that really ground my gears was the Selkie named Belle. Her voice is just awfully annoying and has that valley girl sound. She also does a lot of stupid things throughout the duration of the game to make her an unlikable character. Alas, she doesn't ruin the game which is a sigh of relief.

Take everything you think you know about The Crystal Bearers and cast it aside. Keep your expectations fresh. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is not an RPG. In fact, the entire story revolves around mini-games with occasional exploration excursions. There's a lot of different types of gameplay here to keep things fresh. You'll be navigating an airship through a narrow gorge, assisting a girl named Belle fend off her Chocobo-riding pursuers by tossing them away with Layle's bearer powers, chasing down a wily summoner while on the back of a Chocobo, helping Belle cheat her way to a victory in a beach-themed mini-game, and much more. By the end of the game you'll be able to revisit and replay mini-games completed for higher scores and better rewards.

Nothing like a good chase to pump the adrenaline!

The actual battling takes place as you travel from destination to destination. There's no real map so overworld navigation can be difficult at first, not knowing where each path leads. After a play-through of the game, the locations will be down pat and you'll know where to go without much trouble. In certain zones of the overworld map which is more akin to a Zelda overworld than a traditional Final Fantasy walking a world map overworld, a timer will signal when the next miasma stream will open. When it opens, a horde of monsters comes out and is ready to attack. The stream opens and closes every five minutes, so you're timed in exploring freely and facing off against the monstrous beasts the game throws at you. This is quite annoying almost having a whole group of monsters defeated only for the time limit to expire. If you don't feel like making war, these encounters can be skipped entirely, but the rare items dropped from the monsters is enough of an incentive to face off with and vanquish them.

Layle's got a bone to pick with this enemy.

The Wii remote is used in conjunction with the B button to grab and pick up monsters, enemies, townspeople, and whatever else is lying unsuspectingly on the ground. Combat is incredibly simple if your plan is to just injure monsters, pick them up, and slam them up against a wall a couple of dozen times. However, the real point of combat is to experiment. For instance, fiery bomb monsters hate water, so dousing them with a bucket of water will take them down a few notches. It's experimenting with the environment, the various monsters, and your own crystal bearer powers that makes the fighting in this edition of Crystal Chronicles enjoyable. Then again you may very much enjoy taking on foes by slamming them against walls over and over again. No harm in that as long as you're having fun, right? Play the game how you want.

Chocobo-- the only way to ride.

Layle doesn't gain experience from battling monsters, but the materials dropped by monsters is more than enough to want to fight them. Materials are used to make accessories for Layle to wear. These can be made at one of many workshops run by the ever-lovable moogles. There's three types of accessories: wards, rings, and earrings. What-- a brother crystal bearer can't wear an earring or two? The rarer materials create stronger accessories. Equipping these accessories increases Layle's offense, defense, focus, range, and luck in battle. By vanquishing all monsters in a given area, Layle will earn an item that boosts his life by one bar.

May I have this dance?

The Crystal Bearers will take an ordinary player anywhere from 10-15 hours to complete the first time around. As stated before, a New Game+ option then opens allowing Layle to keep all his accessories, health, and money. There's also medals to earn. Three-hundred and thirty of them in total. These are achievement-like goals that are hidden away for the player to discover such as experimenting with enemies in battle, finishing mini-games with a record time or score, and exploring the land of the game. Exploring the world is fun. There's numerous secrets to find and treasure chests to uncover.

The Crystal Bearers is indeed one of the more impressive Wii games with a high presentation budget and razzle dazzle effects to make you rethink what console you're playing the game on. If it's an epic you want, it's an epic you'll get with the Crystal Bearers. The lands are detailed, the characters are animated well, and the soundtrack is superb. If the game hadn't released so late in the year, it would have been my soundtrack of 2009. It's full of familiar tunes, hummable tracks, and pleasant-sounding songs. Again, aside from Belle, the voice acting is quite good and pleasing to listen to.

Exquisite views like this are common
in the world of the Crystal Bearers.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is a fascinating and welcomed installment to the fantastic Crystal Chronicles line of Final Fantasy games. It's definitely not for everyone given how quirky combat is, but if you give the game a chance and with an open-mind, there's plenty to explore, cherish, and love in the world of the Crystal Bearers. Those who don't mind an action-adventure with a generous helping of mini-games should definitely check out Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.25/10]