Yugioh Ultimate Masters World Championship 2007 Review

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It’s been a long while, but now I can finally jump onto the next installment in the Yugioh World Championships. I believe I am only missing around 4 of them now. The games lasted for quite a while back then and it’s a shame that they’ve stopped. Imagine how many cards a World Championship 2017 would have had. I suppose that with Duel Links the franchise may be wondering how they can top that, but I’d still like to see an attempt. While I prefer humanoid opponents to monsters in the WC series, this game holds up as well as any of the others. It’s pretty well optimized and the load times are nonexistent so that’s a win-win.

The main mode you’ll be playing here is the campaign. Essentially you start off at Level 1 where there are 6 opponents. To unlock the next level you must defeat each opponent 5 times. Fortunately this is now the only requirement to unlock the next level as previous games forced you to achieve a specific victory ratio. That required you to keep on resetting the game right before defeat which was tedious so this is a big improvement. There were opponents in this game that I had a losing record against so I am definitely glad that I don’t have to worry about that now. It makes gathering money a little easier since you actually get to keep it even through defeat.

There are 5-6 levels in the game, but only the first 4 are accessible without having to enter other modes so that’s where I stopped. My final record at the end was 96 wins and 88 losses which isn’t so bad if you ask me. I was just glad to stay above a 50% win ratio so that was satisfying enough. This main mode will likely take you at least 10 hours, but it’ll certainly depend on the deck that you create. Naturally there is a large amount of luck involved on which cards you get and such, but mitigating the risk is part of what makes you a good deck builder. Try to build a lot of combos into your deck so that no matter what you draw it’ll be a good one.

I focused my deck on Elemental Heroes. Sure, it may be borrowed from Jaden, but that’s exactly why I went with the deck. If it was good enough for him to wreck everybody then it’s good enough for me. I added in some extra spells and traps to make the deck a lot easier to counter with so at times it did backfire. Let me say that getting a hand with all traps and no monsters is no good. You always want to have a monster ready to summon or you’re really going to be in a pickle. At the same time, the final opponents all have very cheesy summons and combos so having a trap that automatically destroys the monster and wastes the last 5 minutes of their effort is a must.

The graphics are pretty clean. It’s not as if they’re doing anything too special but it’s easy to look at. The duel field isn’t cluttered and it’s always easy to see what is going on. As for the soundtrack, it’s okay. I think Tag Force has spoiled me a little as the themes there were just super awesome throughout, but the peaceful World Championship score isn’t bad. Honestly I’m usually way too focused on playing my trap cards and going through memes in my mind to actually notice it all that much.

It goes without saying that there is a ton of replay value in this game. After beating all of the main opponents you can go to the other modes that I referenced earlier. One such mode is the Limited Duel. Essentially you have to beat an opponent while adhering to certain limitations. Another one is the Duel Puzzle. You’ll be thrown in the middle of a duel and have to figure out how to win it in one turn. Despite the fact that there are only so many ways you can play your turn, this can actually be extremely difficult. Seriously, don’t underestimate just how tough this is. It’s pretty entertaining though so while it’ll take a while, you’ll have fun trying it out. Honestly it could probably take you as long as an RPG’s game length to tackle everything in this game. I won’t even count collecting all of the hundreds of cards since that would be even crazier. I have around 400 cards and I don’t think I’m even halfway there yet. Not to mention that you buy them lottery style so there is some luck at play there.

You couldn’t really ask for a better Yugioh simulator. Since the game even has mini animations for the big monsters, you really feel like you’re in the duel. The music will also change if you destroy your opponent’s ace monster. As I mentioned, the controls are really smooth so you’re not going to attack the wrong person by mistake. The turns are pretty quick so it’s not as if the long loading times exist to deter you. The amount of cards at play is also pretty good and earning money is quick so you are always ready to buy your next pack. As such I don’t really have any complaints for this game. A minor nitpick would be that I’d prefer to have fought some of Jaden’s opponents from the show instead of generic monsters. The classic Yugioh games all had you fight with iconic characters like Kaiba and Pegasus. There weren’t cutscenes or anything, but at least it would feel more like you were fighting an actual opponent. As you went up the levels you would fight stronger/more popular fighters. Here…I guess having Cyber End Dragon in World 4 makes a lot of sense, but I didn’t even know a bunch of the other monsters. It was just an odd change although the last Yugioh GX game did that as well so maybe it’s just GX’s gimmick or something.

One of these days I’m definitely going to have to make a list where I place all of the Yugioh Games from best to worst. Such a list would be super hype and perhaps I should make that an article. Keep your eyes out for that even if it may not have the clickbait headline that I usually try to have accompanying it. The highest game for Yugioh on my backburner is Duelist of the Rose, which will likely come up pretty soon. It technically is pretty short since there are only about 7-8 duels as opposed to close to 200 in this one, but I’ve heard they are super tough to compensate for that.

Pro tip for when you fight the opponents. Stalling them usually won’t work. I was able to really take advantage of that in the Wii game, but here they always have some kind of fancy combo to wipe the field so they can usually outlast you. If you have the edge in battle, just throw out an attack. Odds are that it will succeed and you’ll be glad that you did. Surprisingly most opponents don’t have a trap card to punish your attack in the later levels as mostly it’s just the intro opponents who will do that.

Overall, If you’re into Yugioh, then this is a solid game to get. My personal favorite World Championship game may still be 2006 because I felt the gameplay was the best from all of them, but I also may be bias because that game had my favorite deck. I went through all of the options for hours in that game and finally came out with a really hype fire deck. Every card had a lot of power behind it and I cruised through the game. Still, I made a pretty solid deck in the end through this game as well and it would be fun if I could fight myself with it. 2010 is also a pretty great title since that one did actually have a main story as well. I’m not sure which WC game I’ll get next, but 2005 is definitely the cheapest one which sounds good to me. I believe it is the final classic Yu-Gi-Oh title that I have not purchased yet.

Overall 8/10

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Trinity Souls of Zill O’II Review

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Be warned, there are quite a lot of spoilers in this review. This game has been on the backlog for me since as long as I can remember. I always winced as I saw the low 2% trophy collection hurt my overall average. Well, I decided to finally take the plunge and finish the game. It was as great as I could have hoped although it did have an issue or two that prevented it from getting a 9. There are some artificial means that the game uses to extend the campaign, but I’ll expand more on that in a second. Lets go over the plot first.

Areus is a half elf who has a tragic past. His father was murdered and his grand father is the King of evil, Balor. Areus now lives with his mother and step brother at an abandoned cabin. He earns money by fighting in the Colosseum and he has lived out his life solely to get revenge. He figures that the best way to get revenge is to pretend to join Balor’s army and rise in rank until he has an opportunity to meet with him in person. Then Areus will take him down. Complicating matters is the fact that Areus meets up with Selene and Dagda. Both of these figures have secrets of their own, but teaming up with them will let Areus achieve his goal quicker. Areus’ best friend Dorado is also around and he’s thrilled about Areus joining the army because he’s a big fan of Balor. Areus decides to keep secrets from everyone in the meantime.

Lets start with the positives here first. The graphics are pretty solid. This game is definitely a big budget PS3 game. It spares no expense with the big cutscenes as they even have fight scenes included. It was always a lot of fun to look forward to the cinematics. The in game graphics may not be as impressive, but they are still at PS3 level. The soundtrack is also very good. It can be a little limited as the same fight theme plays for just about every boss. Fortunately it is a catchy one. We also get a lyrical song that plays during a lot of the emotional moments and that one was also handled pretty well.

The gameplay is also a lot of fun. It’s simple, but addicting as you can use many different attacks. Essentially, each move is treated like a special ability. There is no magic meter to worry about so you can use them whenever you want. You can only have 3 abilities equipped onto one menu and you can equip two menus that you shift through with R2. The actual spells you can learn are closer to 15 so you’ll have to make some choices. I played as Areus for about 90% of the game and mainly relied on his sword combos. They seemed like the best bet if you ask me, but I also really liked the fireball ability as well as the Dark Meteor. Find out which attack is best against the enemy you’re facing and then put it to good use.

It feels like a beat em up most of the time as you enter large areas and try to get to the goal while smashing as many minions as possible. I would typically avoid most of them to be honest as I dashed to the exit. If there’s a cheese strategy to be found, I’ll find it. Fighting them is pretty fun though. I just love the 3D action genre so it never gets old. That’s a good thing since the campaign is quite long. It’s a little over 20 hours and the post game content will last you for even longer than that. Getting all of the trophies should bump this up to close to 50 hours unless the grinding gets a whole lot easier all of a sudden.

You can also unleash team attacks. I recommend doing that whenever you want free hits as it doesn’t do a lot of damage, but it’ll temporarily stun the opponent. The only exception to this is the final phase of the final boss so use the tactic as much as possible until then. I’ve covered the basics of the gameplay, but play the game to really get the full picture. The characters are fairly reasonable and the plot is solid. Throw in the replay value and you can see why this game is easily 8 stars. However, it’s time to talk about the game’s limitations.

First is how long it takes for the story to really get going. I mean, it’s a bit of a staple for many RPGs to have a slow start as you get used to the characters and all. I get that, although it is possible to have a much quicker start like The Last Story, KH Chain of Memories, or World of Final Fantasy. The problem is that it feels like almost nothing has happened for the first 15 hours of the game. That’s over half of the campaign feeling like filler. It’s also not particularly good filler. The point is that you’re supposed to really get used to all of the characters and just enjoy seeing them hang out but it didn’t work well. The dreary landscape of the olden days doesn’t help with that and it’s also that the characters aren’t quite that amazing. Areus makes a ton of mistakes all of the time, Dagda’s constant laughter is incredibly annoying and Selene’s plot was basically dropped for no reason. The amount of times you have to do random quests and beat the exact same recycled boss is a bit much. Once the story actually get going it is quite engaging, but it could have sped things up a bit.

Another issue is that because of this, we didn’t get to explore the lore as much as we should have. The final act of the game actually felt a little rushed if anything. We were introduced to some of the big villains quite abruptly, like the mad scientist. He was one of the big legends, but we just walked in and destroyed him in the span of 2-3 cutscenes. Balor went down pretty quick as well. Did we need to fight Sheelah’s group 3 times when we could have fought the others more? Not dissing the Sheelah fights though as they were actually the highlights of the game. Not sure if that’s unintentionally sad though.

Selene had a big subplot where she was looking for someone and would mysteriously vanish a lot. Well, that plot was probably the most anticlimactic as it turns out her sister was a miniboss with a recycled design. You destroy her and Selene gets over it. The plot had a ton of build up and ends in an instant. Dagda is afraid of going to the arena so we take him to the arena. That plot was just boring. Finally, we have Areus and his quest for vengeance. This one confused me a bit as usually the moral is that you ultimately let go of that right? You forget about getting revenge and just think about justice. Well, the story decided not to go down that path for whatever reason. Instead, Areus went through with his revenge and paid a high price. He never had any regrets and I felt like the narrative never even tried to paint this as a bad thing. It was just a “Good for him” kind of vibe I got from the game.

There’s also the mysterious cloaked Angels who have made a pact with Balor. It’s hard to tell if they’re a fanatical group (Most likely) or actual supernatural beings who would have done something in a sequel. (This game’s actually a prequel by the way. I did not know that) Either way we will never know because they appear as minions in one brief level and then never appear again. Granted, the level was awesome and very atmospheric as we break into a church and start beating people up, but that plot line felt like it had so much potential. The story as a whole had a ton of potential and it completely squandered it.

Back to Areus, he’s an okay character but you can see why he’s not great. He talks an incredibly good game and is always overconfident, but then he ends up losing. Sheelah beat him in a fair fight multiple times which is uncanny. She just kept getting him into choke holds. She even had to save him towards the end because he has no reflexes. Areus is a bit of an embarrassment to the caricature that he is supposed to be. You can’t be the strong, hot headed rival character if you’re always losing. Don’t even get me started on his plan. As if giving Balor the strongest sword of all time that would give him immortality was ever a good idea. I don’t know what that guy is thinking sometimes.

Selene was a good main heroine. She likes insulting Areus constantly and reminding the other two that she is way older than them. One cutscene that was fun was where she woke up from her nap just to insult Areus for no good reason and then go back to sleep. Her mysterious personality also works well even if it never leads anywhere. Dagda is the strong member of the group so naturally he’s not quite as clever as the other two. My only problem with him is that he laughs nonstop and is always trying to boss Areus around even though he’s not the leader. I’m never a fan of insubordination unless the character is doing it for heroic reasons (Wolverine, Superman, Huntress) or to go all the way and become leader. (Sting) Dagda’s has no purpose. (I’m seeing a pattern here)

Dorado is the best friend of Areus, but you’d be hard pressed to guess why. Areus is always being very mean to him and lies to his face throughout the whole game. He also ends up murdering Dorado to which Dorado points out that Areus should have just told him. I do think Dorado would have teamed up with him and Areus was just being short sighted. Instead Areus waited until a point where Dorado could not refuse a fight. Is it any wonder why I don’t like Areus much? Honestly, I’m disliking him more and more as I write this review. Taking down Dorado absolutely did not need to happen.

Sheelah is one of the main supporting characters. She’s a bounty hunter who just wants to get rich, but during the game you learn more about her backstory. I don’t know if it was optional or not since during the game I had a hard time telling the sub quests apart from the main ones which is also why the game took a while. Either way she got more personality than most of the gang and I dare say that she may have been a better character than either of Areus’ companions. Her partners never really got to do anything though.

Balor is the big boss, but he barely ever gets to appear during the game. All we know is that he is smarter than Areus but that isn’t even a feat at this point. He has a pretty good design and makes for a good villain. What he lacks in dialogue he makes up for with a good boss fight. The bosses in general were a little unimaginative with the designs so Balor ranks pretty high up by default. The dragon that showed up near the end was the real hero though. He kept on saving the day and ended up being more productive than the heroes. My favorite villain though may have been the first Dark Knight. (Actually she may have been the only one since the rest couldn’t be squeezed into the game I guess) Her armored form was pretty hardcore. The crazy dual personality may have been more weird than hype, but it wasn’t all that bad.

Come to think of it, maybe the reason the game didn’t delve into almost anything was because it was a prequel. I’m still not going to let that go so easily, but at least it’s a reason. Lets talk more about the terrible plan that Areus has though. He is going to capture the heroes (We meet a legendary golden hero by the way who comes out of nowhere. I was expecting him to be a traitor right from the start but surprisingly nothing came of it. He was just a noble hero right up til the end so not bad I guess? He seems not to mind murder as his team tries to destroy us without warning when we first meet, but I’ll let that slide) Areus brings in the group and is going to stab Balor as he gives him the medal. The plan itself is pretty bad as I never like having to essentially trap your allies just for a chance, but it’s not downright terrible.

The ceremony goes as planned and then a villain runs through the doors yelling about how Areus and the others are traitors. Areus seems to go deaf and just turns to the side. I guess he figures that if he ignores the villain then it’ll all go away. Balor just tells the guy to get out and the guards grab him. Unfortunately, he breaks free from the guards multiple times and keeps on spelling things out for Balor. Areus still does nothing so Balor trolls him by taking unsheathing Areus’ sword for him. Areus seems stunned as he has basically given Balor an extra weapon now. Then they are all locked up and the dragon has to save the team again. Why is Areus such an inept main character? He just keeps outdoing himself throughout the game with this moment taking the cake.

It’s too bad that all of the hype scenes are at his expense. As I mentioned earlier, the story can be slow so I always get super hyped when something really happens. The Sheelah fights were always exciting, the brief bout with the gold hero, the dark knight, Balor, etc. It’s just that Areus looked terrible in all of those cutscenes as he apparently can’t beat anyone outside of gameplay mechanics. Even his clash against Balor naturally had him need help from everyone else. He was only able to land the big blow at the end when Balor was weaponless and literally could not move. That’s our hero for you.

I should also mention that Areus failed to save his Mom and brother when they needed him the most. I don’t know why it took him so long since he got there late, but it just reminds you that he should have told Dorado everything. I doubt Dorado would have just went over and murdered his family if he had known. At the very least if he planned to do it anyway, Areus could have taken him down there. The game can be a little overly tragic at times and I think the game could have let them live, but it was all to remind Areus that he couldn’t show mercy at the end. The game was actually kind of edgy if you think about it.

Overall, The last few paragraphs may have sounded really negative, but it’s just that Areus is easy to mock. The guy failed time and time again. I didn’t even realize that I didn’t really like the character until I began writing this review. The game is definitely a complete package of quality though. The grahpics and soundtrack are on point, the gameplay is rock solid, there is a lot of content within this title, the Platinum trophy is also attainable as long as you put in a good amount of time. It’s not an elite title, but it is a great one and I absolutely recommend checking it out. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the story as unintentionally funny as I did at times.

Overall 8/10

Fire Emblem Heroes Review

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It’s time for a new App game! Since I got to Level 40 in Pokemon Go I figured it would be fine to finally check out another free game. This one got a lot of hype back in the day, but I think I got on the gravy train before it completely passed me by. After playing it for a few days I can definitely see why everyone loves it so much. The game is incredibly polished for a free game and it has helped make me a much bigger Fire Emblem fan than I was before. There’s so much to do here that if I took it seriously I would be here a while. It’s going to be more of a side project as new levels come in I’ll complete them and all but I won’t bother going for the more competitive goals.

The game actually has a plot which is already cool. Terry (Your original character protagonist) is summoned into the World of Fire Emblem. The realm is under attack by an evil sorceress with immeasurable power. She has enslaved whole worlds and almost the whole cast is under her power. Terry can tip the balance because he can summon heroes of his own to combat her and he is immune to mind control. You have to team up with the ones who summoned you to stop this foe and rescue everyone who has been enslaved. It’ll be tough though as you’ll have to defeat tough combatants like Lucina, Roy, Ike, and many others. Also, there are so many worlds that as soon as you leave one, the sorceress goes back to reclaim it.

It seems like new levels are added every once in a while, but I don’t expect the game plans to end the campaign anytime soon. The most recent level did end with a big plot twist though. It was one that was certainly expected, but it still counts as progression. There are 12 Story chapters I believe and 10 Protologues, with 2 Xenologues. It’s a pretty good amount of content. I beat the story part of the game in about 2 days, but there is a lot of other content to explore. There are online Arena Battles where you fight other players, Training Stadiums to level up and collect gems, Special Battles where you can fight new matches every day to get more characters and items, Voting Gauntlets, and several other modes.

This game is not lacking in content in the slightest and I probably didn’t even get to try all of the modes for about a week or so. It’s actually very overwhelming at first, but you gradually get used to it as you play more and more. Too much content is never a bad thing after all. If I don’t want to play a mode, then nothing is forcing me to do so. The main currency in the game are Orbs. You get around 5-8 every day for logging in. You can use 20 to purchase a full set of 5 characters. You can also use 1 to replenish your energy each time you run out and you can use 1 during a fight to restore all of your characters and they all get an extra turn. You don’t want to be too frivolous with the Orbs when you start because they get more scarce as you go on.

I mentioned the energy earlier and that determined what you can do every day. Each action costs energy and when you run out you have to use an orb or just stop playing for the day. That’s how they get you as you can purchase extra orbs. I know quite a few people online who’ve spent hundreds on orbs so they could get their favorite character. I definitely won’t be spending any money on this game though. In part it’s because Pokemon Go was my only exception to that rule and also because the game is quite generous with the orbs. I have never been in a spot where I was out of orbs and needed energy or even been in a situation where I was close to that. You would also need to play quite a lot in a single day to approach that limit. It should be a non factor for most players.

Once you’ve beaten the available story chapters in the game, I’d say that the main focus is now to collect all of the Fire Emblem characters. There are currently 168 and I have about 60. The ultimate final goal would be to get all of them to Grade 5 and max them out to Level 40. Of course that increases your time exponentially as doing that is really a long term goal. As such I won’t really be gunning for that. At most I’ll log in every day for my new fighter and eventually maybe I’ll have them all. Even if they’re grade 2 or 3 that’s fine. To improve their grade you have to level back to Level 1 with that character and spend 20,000 Feathers and 20 Shields which are not easy to come by. It can take weeks to obtain that and I personally can’t say it’s worth it unless you’re super competitive in the game.

The gameplay is extremely smooth and highly customizable. It’s classic Fire Emblem gameplay as you position your pieces on the map and attack. All of the characters have special abilities and there are 3 types, Green, Blue, and Red. Each type is good against another one and week to another. There’s also a blank class, but I’m not sure where they fit into all of this. Different characters have different styles of attack like close range or long which you need to take into account. If you want to fight and know that you’ll win anyway, you can set the game to auto fight and let the computer handle the fight while you get a bite to eat or something. I admit that I started doing this quite a lot after I beat the game to save time. You can also turn off the animations for each attack which saves a bunch of time and I wish more games did that. It would be very useful.

Fire Emblem Heroes really shines when it comes to the graphics. They are exceptionally good and easily the best that I’ve ever seen in a mobile game. It spared no expense with the character portraits and attacks. It’s one of the things that really drew me to the game when I first started. It’ll be really cool if they can grab more animated cutscenes by the end of the game, but even if they don’t I’m still pretty satisfied. The soundtrack is also solid. The themes are limited, but memorable. All in all I’m sure a very large amount of money was put into this game and I’m sure that it has made it all back quite easily.

It’s time to go back and rank all of the mobile games. In 1st is clearly Pokemon Go. The game’s amazing and I’ve put in over 1000 hours by now. You just can’t overestimate just how influential the title is. Truly a legend. 2nd is Fire Emblem Warriors. The immense amount of content and reasons to keep playing speaks for itself. I also like the generous log in bonuses as you really feel like it’s worth it to keep showing up. 3rd is Marvel’s Contest of Champions. It was a fun game, but a big step down from the first two as the gameplay was very repetitive. It also had a very long story mode but it was considerably lower budget and you never felt like you were making any progress. Honestly it’s a very similar style to Fire Emblem Heroes but think of the difference being like Mario Galaxy vs Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. 4th is Ingress. It’s basically just like Pokemon only without the Pokemon and the Gyms. It may go up as some point, but my whole area is owned by the opposing team and I need to reach Level 6-8 in order to actually do anything about it. I dunno, it’s fun enough but I always can’t help but think of how many Pokemon I’d be catching if I had Go open. Finally in 5th is 1010!. It barely counts when placed with the others since it has no plot and it more of a very simple game app. Still, I did play through it so counting it is fair. It’s a lot of fun at first, but actually gets less so the higher your score gets. After all, who wants to spend 30 minutes trying to top your score only to come out short in the end? Definitely not me! That’s 6 App games that I’ve tried out now. It could be a while before another one so we’ll see how that does in the end.

Overall, App games are very addicting. It’s easy to see how this one got so far. For every great title like this one there are probably 100 low budget mobile games that are pretty bad, but I’ve done a good job of avoiding those so far. I hope Nintendo comes out with a Super Smash app at some point as you just know that would be really awesome. I finally got Roy, Ike, and Lucina in this game so I’m definitely very satisfied with my turnout. I’d like to get Marth at some point, but I suppose it could be a while. If you’re interested in the game, I recommend downloading it as soon as possible. Even if you don’t want to play it yet, download the game just so you can start receiving your daily rewards by logging in. That way you’ll be extra prepared with a bunch of extra items and characters by the time you really do start. There are still a bunch of features that I don’t fully understand or have barely scratched the surface of and we’ll see if I ever do. At least it’s nice knowing that they’re there if I ever need them. It may be time to get a real Fire Emblem game, but I’ve heard mixed things on the newer ones and the old ones are so expensive. It’s definitely a tough call.

Overall 8/10

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future Review

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Time for the next Layton game. This is the big one folks. We assemble all of the characters from the first two games and throw in the most fantastic plot yet for epic results. While I don’t really care for some of the final twists in the game, I can’t really go into detail or else it would spoil everything. Needless to say though, the series has always been very grounded in reality which is something to keep in mind for this game. I like to think about what could have been had the twist not occurred, but it is what it is. It’s still a fantastic game and the best Layton title.

The game starts off with the Prime Minister being kidnapped. Layton and Luke head over to investigate when they are told a fantastic story. The Minister has been taken 10 years into the future and they can go over there as well to find him. Layton is skeptical, but he always keeps an open mind about these things so he heads on over. In the future we meet up with Future Luke who is now a genius who can compete with Layton in battles of the mind. He lets them know that Layton has turned evil in the future and rules the city with an iron fist. His gang is in control and the cops are no more. Layton wants to meet his future self and save the Prime Minister, but it will require some brawn as well as brain this time.

It’s just a very ambitious game and the new setting was a lot of fun. All of the usual supporting cast members got to come to the future as well which made for some fun interactions. The cop and his bumbling sidekick are here, Flora is here, the main villain from the first two games is here, etc. Everyone is back which makes the game feel pretty grand and the old villain even gets a backstory. I think the game maybe tried a little too hard to make him a nice guy all of a sudden who Layton treats as a rival, but I can roll with it. The standout character here is definitely future Luke. He had the perfect voice for the character and we just haven’t seen a really overconfident genius until now. They were either all very polite like Layton or not the genius type. Luke was just a nice contrast and any scene he was in was pretty great. It’s no exaggeration to say that he is my favorite character in the series. He was just really awesome.

The rest of the characters are really good as well of course. Layton is still a great lead who always stays calm and collected no matter what happens. He just stays in control of the situation and always has a plan up his sleeve. Honestly, I could have done without his flashbacks, but I suppose this way we finally learned about his past. It wasn’t the most interesting of tales, but I guess it gave him his motivation for why he became a genius. Young Luke is the same as always. He’s pretty eager to help out with the cases and he is actually very smart, but still lags behind the others. He’s nice enough.

I definitely enjoyed the story and it certainly went by quickly. The game is of a pretty decent length as it will last you over 10 hours, but the pacing is just really solid. It’s also still funny how everyone will randomly challenge you with puzzles for everything so you’re always solving. It’s sort of like how everyone duels you in Yu-Gi-Oh. The more forced the situation the better. That being said, I did have some problems with the final twists. I’ll try to go about it in the least spoiler way possible. Just skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to learn about the twists.

So, the big twist is that there is no future and the characters were just taking an elevator which took them to the basement of a building where the main villain created an exact duplicate of London down to every building and street. I get that the whole future thing didn’t work since it wasn’t realistic…but is this any better? I just have a very hard time believing that a duplicate London could be built without anyone knowing about it. You’d need an incredible amount of resources and time to do it. It would take at least a decade and probably more. Not to mention that at least one worker would have likely squealed at some point. I feel like the entire story doesn’t work as a result and I could not wrap my head around the twist. It happened though, so I just gotta hold that L.

The graphics are pretty good as usual. It’s still very impressive how the game has complete animated cutscenes within it. The normal levels also look really good and the puzzles are pretty clear. The soundtrack is actually better than usual and it’s easily the best Layton soundtrack. Again, you can tell that the creators of the game really put their all into this one. It’s just very well done on all accounts.

If I had another minor gripe, it would be that the puzzles can be a little unclear at times. You just don’t know what they want you to do and that can naturally make them difficult to solve. On the other hand, the game is more generous with the hint coins than usual so you should usually have enough to help you out with the tougher ones. A lot of other puzzles you can also guess through as there are a limited number of answers so you’re bound to run into the right one sooner or later. All in all, it was a solid puzzle selection though. To help with replay value, you also have parrot minigames and a car one. I didn’t play around with those much, but they’re not bad. There’s also the extra puzzles that you didn’t solve during the story. If you count all of that, the game will definitely last you a long while.

Overall, This was a really fun game. Everything is smooth, from the interface to the controls in the puzzles. I’ve definitely enjoyed the Layton games a great deal and can’t wait to buy the next one. The next game is apparently the start of the prequel trilogy so for all intents and purposes, this was the big climax of the series. You should really play the first two games to appreciate this one more, but it’s pretty new gamer friendly so you’ll be able to get into it either way. I already own the next game so I’ll certainly be starting it soon after a quick break to play through LBX first. Imagine if all puzzle games were like the Layton series, I’d be playing them a lot more.

Overall 8/10

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes Review

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After watching the anime, I was ready to go back and finish up the Sengoku Basara game I got a very long while ago. I’m a pretty big fan of beat em ups and it’s just very satisfying to blast away whole armies. Hyrule Warriors and Gundam have done the best with the genre because the over the top special effects just make it that much more intense. Still, Sengoku knows something about that as well and its predecessor Devil Kings for the PS2 was one of the most well crafted titles in the genre. This one follows suit and is a must buy for all fans.

As with most beat em up games, you can pick whoever you want and start the story. Each story has 7 battles and there are over 10 characters to play through. I chose Yukimura’s story of course. In his story, Yukimura is now the head of the Sanada clan while his boss is injured and he decides to follow his leader’s last request and take down Ieyasu’s army. Throughout the story he wonders if this is the right call though and if he should start to make his own decisions. He has dreams as a result and does a lot of crying. He even loses to Date Masamune once again. Yukimura eventually finds his resolve though and decides to keep going straight ahead to wherever this path will take him.

I’m not sure about the rest of the stories as I just did one, but Yukimura’s doesn’t have much of an ending. We end up having a draw with Ieyasu and both fighters just walk away. It wasn’t as satisfying as I would have liked. That being said, the actual story was pretty well done as we got some nice cutscenes throughout. I think the developers put a reasonable amount of effort into it. It’s also nostalgic to see the characters in the style of the anime. It’s too bad they couldn’t get all of the voice actors back, but they got most of them which is pretty impressive.

The gameplay is what you’d expect as you plunge ahead and take down hundreds of opponents. You have your standard attacks as well as your supers. The first levels are pretty difficult since you’re at a low level, but level ups come very quickly in this game so it’s not a problem for too long. It also makes you fight with strategy as sometimes you actually will have to retreat and get some health before going back to the boss. It’s always tough to retreat, but you gotta do what you gotta do right? The levels had a perfect amount of health items and size without it being too much. The attacks are also nice and flashy although they are a big step down from Gundam and Hyrule. The attacks don’t have the same widespread devastation that the others had, but I’ll take it over nothing. It is still trying to be semi realistic I suppose.

This game does also have trophies to collect, but good luck getting them all. It would certainly be a bit of a grind so I don’t plan on getting many more anytime soon. I should try to grab some to boost my rank up, but the Platinum is a little out of reach. This title certainly does have a bunch of replay value though. Playing through each story should take you around 3 hours a piece and then maxing everyone out and getting all of the equipment is another huge hurdle. The game’s going rate nowadays isn’t even all that expensive so it’s a bargain.

The soundtrack is all right. It’s rather forgettable, but it works reasonably well. I can’t recall a single tune but you’ll be so busy vanquishing the enemies in front of you that you won’t really care by the end. The graphics are pretty good as well. I’d definitely say that they’re PS3 level although they can’t shine as much as they could if it took place in a city. Why have we never had a beat em up in NYC? You have to admit that it’d be pretty awesome.

There’s not really much more to say about the game. It’s one of those titles that really just sells itself. The gameplay is really polished so fighting through the levels is a blast. I guess if I had one critique it would be that the story is a little weaker. Devil Kings was a lot more hype because he really felt like a big villain who was behind everything, but I guess you can’t have someone like that every time. Having the main antagonist be someone who’s also trying for world peace is definitely an interesting dynamic after all.

There’s also a lot of depth to the game’s gameplay that I didn’t even get to tinker with much. Not only can you equip better weapons as you go on, but you can equip accessories to them. I believe some give you extra EXP while others are more standard like more attack and such. You can have fun with a lot of experimenting there. It’s probably also a good idea to try out all of the characters to see which one you like the most. I believe Nohime was my favorite in the last one because using two guns in a game that’s usually all about swords is pretty fun. That being said, I always had to go back to my swords at some point.

Overall, This was a really fun game. It really captured the essence of what a beat em up is all about. You pretty much always had a choice of going straight for the boss or sticking around and helping your army take on the generals. I decided to savor the experience and took down all of the generals in each level before going for the boss. What made this possible was how quickly the enemies went down and that the levels weren’t too huge. I think it was a perfect blend in both cases. I played the game on Normal so it wasn’t a walk in the park but it wasn’t a brutal grind either. The map size was also good based on how fast you can fun. A bigger map would still work well as long as you can dash a little faster. Naturally there is also a co-op mode so if you really want to lay devastating damage to the armies with a friend, it’ll make the game that much better. Co-Op was basically made for beat em up titles like this one. If you don’t own this game yet, you should definitely fix that.

Overall 8/10

Mario vs Donkey Kong Review

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After many years, I have finally been able to play the legendary Mario vs DK game. I actually always thought that it was in the same style as the original Donkey Kong and was surprised to see whole levels and puzzles in this one. The final boss is the only level that is just like the old game. It was cool to see such variety though and it’s a pretty fun game. There is also quite a bit of bonus content to be found here as well. I have one issue with how you obtain stars in this game, but beyond that it’s a solid experience.

The plot is that DK has decided to steal all of the toys for himself. Mario doesn’t take too kindly to this and calls DK a big monkey as an insult several times. Seeing as how this doesn’t work, Mario decides to beat DK down until the monkey finally gives in. Will DK let go of his toys or will Mario have to hit him with a clean uppercut? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, the Mario toys are fairly advanced and seem to have some rudimentary A.I. going for them.

There are 6 main worlds to the game and each one has 8 levels. This makes for a decently long campaign. It should take you a few hours to complete the game in total and add a few depending on how difficult the puzzles can get. There is an extensive amount of replay value to be found as well since beating the game unlocks 6 Plus worlds. After this you unlock the X levels. Once you complete those, then you can face the true final boss and unlock the ultimately true ending. I believe you need to get all of the Stars to make it this far so that should really take a while. The game has an unbelievable amount of bonus content in it so you’ll b getting your moneys worth.

Now, I originally thought that to get a star for a level you just had to complete it while holding onto the three bags in the level. It turns out that you actually have to beat the level’s high score to do it which is a little annoying. It’s hard to know how to do such a thing so repetition is your best bet. Just keep playing until you can really ace the level. It’s a little harder than I’d like and I still think grabbing the bags will be enough. It does help raise the difficulty once again though.

The graphics are pretty solid for the GBA. It’s certainly a AAA title as the competitors wouldn’t really be able to match this. It’s that golden era in Nintendo where all of the character models are right. There was only one boss level where I couldn’t even see the ladder so I died a few times. It was more of an optical illusion than an issue with the graphics though. As you’d expect from a Mario game, the soundtrack is quite solid. I particularly like the Fire Mountain themes, but the game has a good variety to it. Most of the level themes are quite good and it certainly amplifies the quality of the game. You’re able to play the level over and over again because you have good beats to listen too. It helps that the loading times here are great so you never have to wait for long.

Even the story felt like it had more effort to it than you’d expect. Mario talks quite a bit here, certainly more than I expected. He may be a bit meaner than usual as he calls DK a big monkey at times, but this is the plumber who calls you stinky in Mario Party. It’s easy to forget that Mario wasn’t always the very chipper guy that he is today. Even the Mini Marios rub the loss in DK’s face as they laugh at him quite a bit. You end up almost feeling bad for the monkey by the end. He certainly didn’t ask for this. Of course, DK is a robber so he ultimately did bring this upon himself. You gotta just live with the consequences. I only got the first ending, but at least it gives DK a fighting chance as he grabs more toys and runs. Mario’s going to need to hire more security even if it hurts the whole budget cuts angle.

The gameplay is sort of like a 2D Mario adventure, but you’re stuck in a limited space. There are two acts to each level. The first act has you hit a bunch of switches and get past obstacles to bring a key over to the door. In the second act you just need to get to the Mini Mario. The gameplay is actually quite spread out and diverse. You have an array of many different jumps to use. I personally liked spamming the dash dance jump as it would give you a lot of height and you could cheese many levels with this. I’m sure that the developers really thought the level designs through but with this many different options it makes sense that you would be able to cheese parts of it. They just can’t expect to cover for every contingency.

There are also the Mini Mario levels. There is one of them in every world and they’re a nice change of pace. The little guys get lost rather easily so you have to make sure not to go too fast or you’ll leave them behind. I enjoyed the levels in this format that I played and while the main ones were certainly more fun, it’s always satisfying to lead the little guys to the goal. The Mini Marios have heart.

It’s relatively simple gameplay which is likely what makes it so fun. It’s only half brain teaser while the other half of the puzzle is having the ability to physically get through the obstacles. It’s a great blend and a lot of fun to play. The game does a good job of bringing in many different enemies and obstacles so that the levels don’t feel the same. It would have been nice to have seen classic characters like Luigi and Peach, but I suppose even Mario has to work alone sometimes. It’s probably nostalgic for him to be the lone hero like in the original Donkey Kong game.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this title. It’s easy to see why it became so popular. The game’s just a lot of fun and it even has some cutscenes. It’s pretty impressive since the game is so old. The graphics and soundtrack are both on point as well as the level designs. There is a lot of replay value here and my only complaint is that getting the stars in the levels to unlock the final bonus ones is maybe a little too tedious. I’d like to have a clear metric so I know exactly what I have to do in order to clear the level. That seems a little more fair if you ask me. Maybe they’ll implement that in the sequel. I’ll certainly buy that one although it could be a little while until I do. In the mean time, buy this one and let me know what you thought of it.

Overall 8/10

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Review

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I’ve been waiting to play this Star Wars game for quite a while. It got a lot of hype when it first came out and I’ve owned it for quite a few years but was blasting through the older games first. While the gameplay may not have aged incredibly well since it first came out, I quickly got into the swing of things and enjoyed the game quite a lot. Ironically the beginning of the game was more difficult than the second half of it since the upgrades really helped to change the course of battle. I just wish I had realized that I wasn’t logged in to my PSN because of some network issues as I missed out on the trophies. I’m still a little salty about that. With this review done, I’m also ready to begin the sequel to see how it improved upon the original!

The plot focuses on a young padawan named Starkiller. Darth Vader decided to train him as an apprentice in the hopes that the two of them could team up to destroy Palpatine. To this end he has Starkiller go around hunting Jedi to improve his abilities until he is ready. The problem is that Palpatine becomes aware of the plot so Vader has to take some drastic measures, but this ends up being a fatal mistake by the end. Honestly, Vader should have just taken the opportunity and fought right there. That definitely would have been his best chance.

The gameplay is 3D where you have total freedom to use The Force, Shoot Lightning, or attack with your Lightsaber. It’s one of the best gameplay styles out there and it was cool to play it. A lot of games like this I don’t really get to play like Infamous or Grand Theft Auto. You can level up the skills and get a lot stronger during the game. By the end you can really feel the difference in your abilities which was handled really well. The boss you had trouble with at the beginning is nothing more than a minion by the end. Now that’s what I call character progression.

One issue that I do have with the title is the lock on feature though. It’s really not helpful as it always locks on the wrong thing. You tend to miss with your attacks as a result at times which can really be annoying. You learn to work around that by the end, but the gameplay just could have been a little more polished in this angle if you ask me. I shouldn’t have to work around it. I’m sure this will be fixed by the end though.

The game is reasonably challenging, but it’s not unfair. You get to keep your EXP from the minions so just keep retrying the level until you win. Use strategy and try different tactics, you’ll get through eventually. I had some trouble with the first mini boss but it all went well after that. Once I had mastered the controls, it was on to the races. At only 9 levels the game is a little on the short side, but it should still last you about 4-5 hours. There is also some good replay value in finding all of the collectibles and obtaining your shiny Platinum Trophy. It seems like a bit of a grind as well as being reasonably difficult so it should take you quite a while to grab them all.

The graphics are really good and the game spared no expense with its cinematic cutscenes. The game feels like a big movie at times without limiting the gameplay. You have a good amount of quick time events for all of the bosses which always adds a thematic element into the mix. This is really the definition of a AAA game and we need more Star Wars games like this one. The soundtrack is also on point with most of the iconic film themes making it into the game. I can’t say much for the original music in the game as the film ones are the only themes to really stick out.

Starkiller is the protagonist here and he starts out as an evil follower and eventually becomes a hero. He even makes the tough call at the end to spare Palpatine instead of destroying him. Same for Darth Vader. He may not be quite as intense as I thought he’d be, but he’s pretty solid. I like him more than Luke Skywalker and some of the other Jedi. He probably is one of the best Star War Jedi either way though if that’s any consolation. He reminded me a lot of Cole from the Infamous series. I definitely also think that he’s one of the most powerful Jedi as he was able to hold his own against Vader and Palpatine, no easy feat.

The rest of the supporting cast was all right. The main heroine was good and took the plot twists in stride. The only character who was annoying was the blind Jedi. I believe Rogue One’s character was basically taken from this one. While he technically gave some good advice like telling Starkiller not to destroy his opponents, he was incredibly weak for a Jedi. He spent the entire story getting beaten up and being a liability. Starkiller actually could have made it through this game if not for him.

Still, it was an epic story no doubt about that. This could easily be adapted into a movie and I think it would be a really epic one. The cutscenes are movie quality as it is and the story could easily fit into the universe. Vader’s whole plan maybe felt a little extra convoluted and training Starkiller so well may not have been a good idea, but it made for a good excuse to have a character be so strong. I imagine Vader would be a pretty good teacher since he is so ruthless.

Overall, The Force Unleashed absolutely lived up to the hype. The only thing holding it back from a 9 is that the camera work/lock on feature is a little too unreliable and the game is perhaps a bit too short. There aren’t any real negatives, but to get to the 9 Star rating you just need something extra. Perhaps the sequel will be able to make it all the way up there, but at an 8 it is still a great title that you should get at all costs. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll be able to appreciate the game all the more. It lets you utilize every Jedi/Sith power seamlessly in the gameplay. You’ll feel like The Force is with you.

Overall 8/10

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Review

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I don’t buy games on Day 1 too often. When I do it’s typically for a big franchise that I follow like Super Smash or Dragon Ball Z. If you asked me a few months ago if I’d buy Crash day 1, I probably would have chuckled. Crash always seemed fun enough, but I’ve never played any of his games so I couldn’t call myself a big fan. That being said, the collection got a lot of hype and just about everyone I talked too had also pre ordered it. I decided that I needed to see what the hype was all about. It’s not the greatest game of all time as I’ve heard some say, but it is definitely a very solid title. The fact that it is 3 games in 1 just makes this even more of a bargain!

Lets start with the first game. There isn’t much of a plot, but Cortex has decided to destroy the world. Crash must stop this mad scientist’s quest for power while he can. The problem is that Crash isn’t very smart so he just mindlessly runs around and beating people up. He’s a force of nature and fortunately he is acting on the side of the heroes. The 3 games have some similarities as they all have around 25 levels and in the same format. You have 5 worlds and each world has 5-6 levels. That’s where the similarities start to end. The first game is easily the hardest of the 3 and relies less on gimmicks than the others. All of the levels in the first game are classic platforming challenges in 2D and 3D.

One of the level styles is the overhead water ones. They were my favorite levels but they were admittedly the easiest as well. I found them to be pretty bearable as I jumped from platform to platform. There were also the boulder chase levels where you have to rely on your reaction times to jump when a pit appeared since you couldn’t see them. (You’re running towards the screen) Surprisingly, this is the one aspect where the sequels were a bit tougher..or maybe my reaction time just slowed down.

The meat and potatoes of this game are the sky levels where you have to get past crumbling bridges. Apparently you can cheese parts of the level by running on the rope, but I didn’t notice that so I had to beat them the old fashioned way. I must have gotten 30-40 game overs on this level style because I just couldn’t get past some of the obstacles. Finally completing them was always a very satisfying experience. There were quite a few levels that I just barely completed and can’t imagine going back anytime soon. The game is merciless with the difficulty and it’s no walk in the park. I usually would only beat 1 world every time I turned the game on because it wasn’t easy to beat them in large batches like the sequels.

The gameplay is simple as you just run, jump, and spin. It’s easy to know the controls, but the levels are still tricky because you have to be very precise. If you don’t time your jumps perfectly, then it’s game over for you. I have to give the game credit for never being unfair though. The challenges were tough, but they weren’t luck based or anything like that. The more you played the levels, the more you got used to the obstacles. Also, you would only have to restart the level so the penalty for dying wasn’t absolutely terrible or anything. It was an intense way to start the collection.

The sequel adds some more plot and cutscenes into the mix. Cortex has asked Crash for help because an asteroid is going to crash or some other villain is messing around. Anyway, he demands that Crash find all of the gems once again and gives them to him. Crash’s sister consistently warns Crash that the guy is lying, but Crash doesn’t seem to understand and after being threatened, gives them to Cortex. I may as well say it now, I don’t like Crash. He’s not smart and not endearing. He makes all of the wrong decisions time and time again. He’s just lucky that Cortex isn’t much of a villain either. He’s certainly no Eggman or dare I say even Bowser? At least Bowser was threatening for a time. Cortex is just a second rate Wily.

This game is noticeably easier than the first. I only got the game over screen a handful of times and in particular the first level of the final world. Part of why the game is easier is because they added a new dash mechanic similar to DK Tropical Freeze. You don’t have to be as precise with your jumps anymore because the dash grab can cheese almost any obstacle. All of the villains are slower now so it is easier to time when you should spin. The final boss takes this low difficulty to the extreme as you can beat him in about a minute. He literally can’t attack you so you just chase him down 3 times which is incredibly simple. I was shocked at how fast he went down. There was no final form though so I guess that was that.

The second title experiments with the game a little more as you get airship levels and other gameplay styles. This meant there was a little less time for the traditional Crash levels which plays a big part in why the game was easier. Although, the normal Crash levels have also been nerfed from the first game so it’s probably a moot point. While the first game may be more satisfying, I can safely say that the second one is better since it had more of an actual plot and I did like the gameplay variety.

Finally, we make it to the third game. This one ramps up the gameplay variety even more as you get racing levels, water racing, underwater submarine combat, Star Fox simulator, and then the occasional Crash level. This game easily has the fewest Crash levels which may be a little sad for gamers who had to wait until it came out back in the day but since this collection already had a bunch of those I was pretty content. This game is even easier and I only saw the Game Over screen once. Admittedly that was kind of my fault for underestimating the game. It got so easy that I allowed myself to get a bit sloppy for a while there.

The plot for this game is that Uka Uka has returned and is commanding Cortex to destroy Crash. They also halfheartedly try to trick Crash again, but don’t seem too committed to that as they flip flop around the issue. I doubt Crash figured that out anyway though. Despite the hype, I can’t say that I care much for the mask. I can’t really take him seriously and his design isn’t all that good. Honestly the Crash series needs a better supporting cast. Who knows, maybe I’ll like them more as I play more games though. There are definitely a bunch of others to get at some point right?

There is a lot of replay value here and that’s an understatement. Even after beating the three games, there are many collectibles to get in each. Obtaining the 3 Platinum Trophies in the game will also take a considerable amount of time. Games 2 and 3 are easy enough, but part of getting the Platinum in the first game involves completing all of the levels…without dying. That sounds pretty insane to me and I just can’t picture pulling that off without an incredible amount of work. I don’t think I want to spend quite that much time since the deaths will really get to me, but this is certainly great news for Crash fans. You’ll have a shiny trophy to prove that you’ve overcome all of the odds.

The graphics are pretty good and it is nice that the game completely redid them from the ground up. They have certainly modernized Crash and friends with the new designs. The soundtrack is also surprisingly catchy. Some of the themes are pretty memorable like the final boss tunes and some of the factory ones. Crash 1 certainly has the best array of songs, but they’re all pretty good in their own right.

I do have one big criticism with the game though…the unskippable cutscenes. You can’t skip the Gameover screen which is the saltiest part of the whole losing experience. You have to watch the Mask laugh at you a few times and there isn’t anything you can do about it. The cutscene isn’t incredibly long, but it is definitely long enough to make you wince and take a step back. It feels quite bad. You also can’t skip the opening credits to the game. Every time you boot it up you have to watch all of the logos fly by and the narrator try to hype the game up. I can understand doing that the first time, but I don’t want to have to watch it every time. That’s just a little too much product placement.

There are no other real negatives to the game, but I did find a glitch during one of the boss fights. If you hit the scientist who throws the bottles at you too soon, he’ll forget to drop the bottle and just stay in a permanent electrocuted position. You then have to get out of the game and retry. It’s a mild thing as you can easily beat the boss another way, but it felt like I was being punished for being too fast. Did the quality testers never see this because they weren’t fast enough to beat him that way? Not to toot my own horn or anything. I do like the fact that there is an auto save for the game active and that you can save at any time as well. It’s just a nice quality of life addition that makes the whole package better.

As for the bosses, most of them were pretty easy. The only challenging ones were in Game 1 as you’d expect. It took me a little to realize that I could jump on the first boss so that took a bit. Any boss that involved aerial combat was a breeze. The final boss in Game 1 was reasonably difficult since dodging the energy bolts was tricky. Game 2’s was easy as I mentioned and Game 3’s was also very simple. It wasn’t all that hard to dodge his attacks. There was a lot of variety in the bosses so the game did good on that front. Very rarely was a boss similar to a previous one.

So, how does Crash stand up next to the all time greats? Clearly he is no match for Mario or Sonic, that one’s a given. I’d also give Ratchet and Clank as well as Jak the edge. Crash does surpass Sly and Klonoa though. I think that’s roughly all of the main platformers. I’d mention Rayman, but I haven’t actually gotten to start that one yet. One of these days though, it’s just around the bend.

How do the 3 games stack up? Well, as I said Crash 2 is the best, then 3, and then 1. I do appreciate Crash 1’s challenge and difficulty of course, but you can see how the games got a little more polished after that. As I mentioned, I like how they shifted the gameplay a lot in the sequels. The first will always be a classic, but the addition of a plot is just too big of an advantage to miss either. I will say that the first does give you the most bang for your buck since you’ll be there a while.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend picking this game up. It’s quite a bargain considering that you’re getting 3 full games for the price of 1. They are all classics as well so it’s not like you’re getting Flip’s Twisted World or anything like that. They have a seal of quality on them with solid level designs. It’s an all around pleasant experience. The 2nd and 3rd games are great for relaxing as you can breeze through the levels with minimal effort which lets you enjoy the scenery more. Then the first game helps wake you up every day as you have to bring your A game to conquer it. I suppose I may buy the next collection day 1, (After all, the 3rd game does end with a cliffhanger!…even if you can’t take it seriously) but it likely won’t be an issue because I plan to buy the sequels way before such a collection comes out. Gamecube/PS2, here I come!

Overall 8/10

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon Review

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Luigi’s Mansion was one of the first video games that I ever played. It came along with the Gamecube and while I did play on the Super Nintendo/N64/Game Boy, this was one of the first games that I really remember playing with my full gamer skills intact. It was a tough game and had a lot of replay value as I went through it many times. This sequel can’t fully match the original’s true greatness in part because of the nostalgia and also the fact that the Gamecube really made the most of the game. The original had more features and took greater advantage of the concept. That being said, this is still a great sequel and everyone’s favorite Mario villain finally gets to take center stage once again after a rather disappointing appearance in Super Mario Sunshine. (The one time Mario really took it to the guy)

The game starts off with Mr. Luigi “I do it” Luigi resting at his summer cottage. Unfortunately, E Gadd kidnaps him and tells Luigi that he has to liberate the city since all of the ghosts have turned evil after King Boo blasted it into multiple pieces. Luigi barely got away with his life the last time so he isn’t thrilled about getting a rematch, but he doesn’t really have any way of getting out of this. Luigi grabs his flashlight and prepares himself, but King Boo isn’t playing around this time. He has already kidnapped Mario and a bunch of the toads…Luigi may be next!

One thing you’ll notice straight away in the game is that the format is a little different. It’s not the free roam environment that you may be used to from the first game. Instead it is divided into linear levels among the various worlds. Each level will tell you to do something and then you’re beamed home afterwards. It’s different, but I’ll take it since we’ve been getting a lot of big free roam games lately like Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey lately so it’s good to keep things varied. The game is still reasonably long as some levels can take upwards of 40 minutes. Others are finished in under 10 though so it varies quite intensely. You should expect the game to last you at least around 10-13 hours.

The game’s difficulty is pretty low so you shouldn’t have much trouble against the actual ghosts. The power ups that you get during the game make this even easier. I only lost twice if I recall correctly. Once was to the Giant suit of armor and I also lost to the boss where you had to slide a few times. Beyond that, it didn’t feel like a cakewalk or anything, but you won’t feel too threatened. You are given a lot of health and it’s always easy to find more hearts.

There is some replay value here as you can go back to all of the old levels and grab all of the Boos/Gems. It may not be a whole lot, but it’s something to do and it won’t take an insane amount of time to do it. Hopefully you get something cool like an extra ending or picture. I think the first game let you upgrade your mansions based on how much money you had so that was a nice incentive. I thought there would be more power ups so I could list that under the replay value, but we maxed out before the final chapter even started. Between the solid length of the story and getting all of the collectibles, there is certainly a lot of content here.

The graphics are pretty good. Some elements are pretty stunning like the energy blasts, King Boo’s design, and one of the final cinematics as Luigi’s destination is forcibly changed. The game really put in a lot of effort towards the final levels with all of the cool designs. The soundtrack is mostly forgettable to be honest, but I did enjoy the final boss theme for King Boo. That one sounded really good and worked quite well to build up the tension. One good theme can always go a long way.

I do have to call the game out for being a little lazy with the sound effects and cutscenes though. We get the same recycled scene of Luigi being transported, landing, using his vacuum, and picking up the DS throughout the game. Adding insult to injury is the fact that we also get the same sound effects in the same order. Luigi grunts 4-5 times every time he lands which starts out as rather painful gasps to tired ones. After a while you sort of hope that Luigi will just get his game on and save the world. He also randomly utters one of the phrases that they recorded once in a while like “I do it” even if they aren’t totally relevant at the moment. I think Nintendo did phone it in to an extent in this department and could have certainly recorded more lines. That or they could use text like with what they did for King Boo. It just felt like someone was always talking throughout the game, but not in a fun Spider-Man kind of way, but in a forced “Lets play another grunt” way.

I was a little surprised that we didn’t get back some classic features like shooting fire or ice in this one, but we got a black light flashlight so that was neat. It lets you see invisible things and is immensely useful once you obtain it. The controls are simple so you’ll get used to them right away. You have your flashlight and your Vacuum Cleaner. Those are really the main 2 weapons that you’ll be using during the game.

Naturally we can’t end the game without talking about King Boo. He’s easily one of the strongest Mario villains even if he isn’t talked about quite as often as you’d expect. He defeated Mario even when the hero was aided by the Power Star and in this game he has done it again. He seems to have some reasonable reality warping abilities or at the very least advanced telekinetic abilities. His power lasers are great as well and he’s just a pretty intimidating villain. I actually feel kind of bad for him since his arch nemesis isn’t quite as intense. It was nice to see King Boo and I’m glad that the first game was mentioned so as to keep the continuity straight. It does kind of hint further that the Sunshine King Boo was different since he went straight from the first game’s painting to here, but I still think the Sunshine appearance needs to be looked into a little further.

The game really doesn’t have many negatives to talk about. The actual gameplay is simple, but well constructed. You won’t be running into random glitches here or poor level designs. One thing about the various mansions is it allows the game to give each one a different design which is nice. My one complaint is probably that Luigi’s a little too scared the whole time even if that is the point. I always imagine a game where Luigi is actually really hardcore and eagerly fights the villains, but maybe you could make the case that it wouldn’t be the same character. I still think it’s worth the risk and maybe it’s about time they announce a Luigi’s Mansion 3. Honestly, I’ve love to see a big budget one with a long campaign. (Think equivalent length to a big Mario platformer) It could have an array of side characters, maybe even a level or two where you play as Mario and physically try to fight King Boo. Of course, King Boo would need to be in it or the fans would riot.

Overall, I put off getting this game for many years as it kept sinking below other games that would come out. Well, I finally got to nab it and it was certainly a really fun game. I’d definitely recommend buying it, especially since it goes for only about 15-20 dollars now. That’s a really great deal and it’s why the Nintendo Selects tag is always a welcome addition to any game. Be prepared though as the game may be more intense than you’d expect and you’ll have to make some tough calls.

Overall 8/10

Split Second Review

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It’s time to check out a car game that I recently got. This may come as a surprise to some, but I’m actually a huge fan of the racing genre. There are few things more satisfying than nailing a crisp turn and sailing into first place. It’s why I used to play a car game on my PC for so long. Anyway, this is the first racing game that I’ve played in a while, not counting spinoff titles like Farmyard racing. This is probably the first pure racing game I’ve played since Asphalt 3D. (I think that was the title) This is definitely a really fun game and one of the best core driving games out there. It does have a gimmick and while I sometimes prefer my racing games not to have any (F-Zero) I don’t mind them if they’re handled well. Look at Mario Kart after all.

There are a few modes to play when you start the game. Online mode is around of course, but you’ll likely be heading straight to Season mode. (Honestly, I haven’t gone online at all) The season has 12 episodes in it and the general plot is that you’re starring in the show. Think of it as one of those reality programs on TV. You have to dodge all of the landmines and disasters to claim first and prove that you’re the best. Each episode has 5 events, with the final one being unlocked if you’ve earned enough points. Rinse and repeat until you’ve reached the end and you can replay old levels to increase your standing and earn more points if you’re short. For the most part I was able to make it to the end naturally but I did need to replay a few. Once you unlock a certain car at the end of the game, you’ll be breezing through it with no problem.

There are different kinds of events. The main one is a race. You go through the stage and try to come in first. The gimmick that this game rolls with is that you can use your energy meter to set off traps. You can energy by turning and driving behind another car. The best way is to dodge an opponent’s trap, but they rarely spring any. You can activate traps as soon as one energy bar is filled or you can wait til they’re all filled and activate a massive one. I don’t recommend the latter since you’ll typically destroy yourself as well. If there’s going to be a gimmick, I typically prefer a quick booster, but I can live with this. It’s a pretty unique concept after all and I like the strategy behind it. You always have to decide if it’s worth using your energy now or later.

Another event is Elimination. You start with 60 seconds and have to ensure that you’re not in last. After that, another car is eliminated every 20 seconds. You must stay at the head of the pack or you’ll risk being eliminated. This is another pretty fun event and as it’s quite a bit shorter than a race, it’s a lot easier to keep on replaying. Another event is the Airplane boss. You have to attack it by shooting missiles using your action meter. In this case, I recommend waiting until the red one is ready to go since you can then deal massive damage. Next is Survival which is probably the weakest by default. It’s just you by yourself as you try to complete the stage while the A.I. activates all of the traps. It’s essentially a time trial so it’s not all that exciting.

Finally, there’s the Oil tanker battles. This is the best one by far. A truck ahead of you will be spilling barrels and you have to dodge them as you overtake it. The more trucks that you pass in a row without being hit, the more points that you get. It really tests your reaction times and takes you down if you dare to go too fast. It’s just a lot of fun and I would have loved to have seen more of it. The variety of events in the game helps keep the gameplay fresh throughout.

With 72 levels in the game, it’s certainly one that has an ample amount of content. If anything, I’m glad the game didn’t overdo it and throw in over 150 levels just because it can. As it is, most of the levels are the same. I think there may be 12 tracks total, with a few more if you count night versions. It’s not a lot although I suppose it’s a decent amount. You’ll memorize the layouts after a while which is certainly useful. There’s a lot of replay value here as well. If you decide to aim for the Platinum, you’ll need to get 1st place on every level which will be quite difficult. It’s certainly not impossible, but I’d expect you to be replaying the levels many times before you can finally ace them all. Multiplayer also guarantees that the replay value is basically unlimited.

The graphics for the game are quite good. All of the cars look shiny and new. I could have sworn that one of the cars almost looked as good as the Ford Focus. The levels are nice and bright and the rare night time versions are also quite crisp. The game has aged very well there. Furthermore, the soundtrack is also pretty nice. There are some really good action themes. The music fit in pretty well even if I didn’t notice it in some episodes. It would sort of pop in and pop out if that makes any sense. I suppose not every theme can be an instant winner.

The game’s difficulty level feels pretty fair. There was a very brief time where I felt the computers were a little too fast and strong, but once I got the super car it was all good. I never really mastered the drifting mechanic, but I’d say that it felt fair. The overall gameplay was nice and smooth. Towards the end there weren’t many opportunities to drive as fast as the title would suggest, but driving as fast as possible was always very satisfying.

I also have to give a shoutout to the ending of the game. The voice acting was spot on and the way the game ends just begs for a sequel. Whether we get one or not, it works really well as a stinger. I was practically shaking by the end of the cutscene. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it, but I can safely say that I would be super hyped if they announce a sequel.

Overall, Split Second is definitely a great game. It’s one of those titles that you just don’t want to put down once you start it. You’ll find yourself wanting to play it constantly and you’ll be sad once it’s over. Once again, I do think the length was just right though. Extending it further might have felt artificial and they also got the right balance with the points needed to unlock the final levels. You had to do pretty well in the events (1-3rd place for the most part) but it wasn’t anything too crazy. You don’t want it to have to be a grind to beat the game, that should be left for the people who want the Platinum. The game was just solid on all accounts and I’d highly advise buying this title. It’s one of the best car games on the market.

Overall 8/10