8 Star Games, App Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Pokemon Masters Review


It’s time to look at Nintendo’s latest mobile adventure. Pokémon is one of those series that can really sell well so it makes sense to jump into the market. Just look at Pokémon Go after all. Unfortunately, this one does make some errors along the way which prevent it from being the ultimate title it could be. Still, it’s a great experience and one you may find yourself sticking with for a long time.

The basic plot of the game is that a big tournament has been announced which is called the PML. It is a 3 on 3 tournament with each trainer choosing one buddy Pokémon to team with in this grand adventure. The main character is a new trainer who has been steadily improving his skills. He quickly impressed gym leaders and elite four members and is one of the favorites to win the tournament. Of course to qualify he must first get all of the gym badges and then it’s off to the races.

The story is pretty good. I am glad that the game already covers grabbing all of the badges and the tournament has even begun. I am wondering how the game will stretch this story out for years like the other mobile games. Either we will keep fighting old teams who jump ship or Team Break will interrupt the tournament at some point. One thing that the game could have made clearer are the rules for the tournament though. Originally as it is a 3 on 3 tournament you assume that losing knocks a team out as you proceed. Instead when you beat a team their members are allowed to join you. That means you’re stuck in a lengthy loop if everyone keeps rejoining teams. I feel like once you have lost you should be eliminated from the tournament. By the end of the current campaign the main team may have up to 60+ teams which is pretty insane. This tournament definitely doesn’t seem all that balanced.

The characters also bring up a valid point about how the tournament organizer’s plan doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t believe in friendship or bonds so why did he make a tournament where it’s mandatory to have both of those? It just seems a little odd to be honest. Maybe it’s just his chance to beat all the opponents and prove that the bonds were fake, but it’s a pretty roundabout strategy.

Now when it comes to the soundtrack this game is top notch. It’s comprised of a bunch of awesome remixes for previous battle themes from games of all previous generations. Not a single one is left out and they are all quite catchy. I dare say that the soundtrack is one of the best parts of the game. I ended up turning off the special effect sounds and voices so I could focus on the music. A lot of these remixes even beat the originals. Then you’ve got the graphics which are quite incredible. This does not look like a mobile game and could hold its own with the mainline titles. The character models are on point and there is some actual voice acting so the game did get a good amount of effort out behind it.

I haven’t spoken about the gameplay much yet. It’s a turn based style similar to the main games only you’ve got a meter that lets you know when you can attack again. This way you are more focused on coordinating your attack strategies quickly instead of waiting for the opponent to make a move. Weak moves only take one bar of energy while the stronger ones take 3. Usually anything weaker than 3 is not worth using. Support abilities are crucial though so definitely bring those into play. The gameplay is easy to get the hang of so you should be fine.

There is a lot of content in the game aside from the story. (and the story is fairly long as it is) Every day you get 3 extra levels with 3 difficulties that you can play 3 times each for a lot of items which are used to raise your level cap. You’ve also got the permanent ones which you can play all day to further stockpile your materials. Each character you recruit comes with an extra mission that is basically a long cutscene. Leveling up each character is quick, but they’ve got multiple caps which can only be broken with a considerable amount of materials. Once you have to get the gym notes you are really going to be stuck for a while since you have to beat incredibly hard levels. These levels cannot be beaten on your own so you’ll have to jump into the online content which the game seems to be heavily pushing.

Unfortunately the online is the weakest part of the game so it’s too bad that it’s effectively mandatory. The online matches take forever because the speed is set to 1. I always have it set to 4 to make the matches go a lot quicker so by comparison 1 feels like we are moving at turtle speed. Even then the gym notes aren’t guaranteed so you’re starting to see the grind. This game definitely has a ton of grinding within it if you want to go far. I played for well over 15 hours and didn’t even get a single gym note. You need around 3-5 just to unlock the cap again.

The good news is that there is no energy meter so you can really play the game for as long as you want. Some speculate that this is why there is so much grinding and I suppose that makes sense. Still, I think the game overdoes it with the grinding. After you’ve beaten the main story up to the current update then it becomes really apparent just how much grinding you are expected to do. So, it’s definitely a tradeoff.

It’s still an addicting game of course, but one that could use more of an end game. It does feel noticeably emptier once you have beaten the main story and I know that I would never be all that thrilled about the multiplayer stuff. I like fighting other players but the co-op option won’t work if the speed is stuck to 1. Maybe that will change down the road. I imagine that this is the kind of game that will only get better and better as it goes on so there is a lot to be hopeful about here.

Overall, Pokemon Masters is definitely a great game. It’s got some flaws, but they are not enough to overcome the smooth gameplay and top tier music/graphics. This is a game that big Pokemon fans will get a kick out of for the story as well. It’s nice to see all of the classic characters again and in particular the team up with the Black & White main characters was really nice. I’m sure that when Red shows up that will be a powerful moment as well. This game will probably last years so maybe in a decade or so I’ll check back in and see how far the story has gone.

Overall 8/10

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8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia Review


It’s been many years since I played the original Pokémon Ranger so it’s nice to finally be checking out the sequel. Shadows of Almia takes you through the full experience of being a ranger and does a great job of giving you a lot of content. It’s a very solid all around game with no real weak points. The level up system is solid and it delivers on everything it sets out to do.

The plot follows a kid who is in ranger school and learning to be one. As time goes by he actually does join the rangers and quickly begins to rise up the ranks. However, it isn’t all fun and games as a villain organization known as Dim Sun shows up and begins mind controlling Pokémon. The ranger must now find a way to save the Pokémon and stop this villain group once and for all. He doesn’t have enough power on his own but if the lead can capture enough Pokémon for temporary duties then he has a shot.

Right away I can say that the gameplay plays a big role in why this game is so much fun. It revolves around making circles around the Pokémon to weaken it until you eventually have trapped it which counts as a catch. You only keep the Pokémon until you’ve used it once so be sure to wait for the right opportunity. You can then use that Pokemon to help you catch others down the road. You can’t stockpile a whole lot of Pokémon so it’s best to be using the abilities here and there. Usually if you see a big Pokémon it is there for a good reason like an obstacle or something so keep an eye out for that and don’t use the Pokémon too soon.

It’s a very quick paced gameplay and one that feels like it has a lot of rewards. You get level ups pretty quickly and it does give you a noticeable boost in power. As a result you can really feel yourself getting stronger as you progress through the game which is great. Personally I think level ups should always matter so it should never feel like you are basically the same. Running around the large hub world is never tedious because you learn how to fly later on and the first half isn’t so large that it would take forever. The directions are always clear and there are no forced encounters so that’s a recipe for a leisurely time.

As for which Pokemon abilities you will want to use, I recommend the thunder shock the most. Hopefully you chose Pachirisu when the game first starts as his ability is the best if you ask me. The opponent is frozen for 2 seconds so you get to spin a lot of loops around the Pokemon. You’re gonna need to go very quickly to pull this off, but the more you play the game the easier that’ll be. It can be tough when a Pokemon goes to the edge of the screen, but you’ll always find a way. You don’t even really need the abilities as the upgrades to your base pointer are good enough, but the abilities definitely make things easier. You can also skip Pokemon encounters, but I don’t recommend doing this since the EXP is very important and you’re gonna want it down the stretch.

As far as the graphics go it all looks pretty solid to me. The sprites hold up well and I do like the victory pose that the lead uses whenever he takes a win. The soundtrack is also pretty solid although it does feel very limited. For example you are going to hear the Dim Sun theme more times than you can count. Fortunately it is catchy so that works out. I’d say that the best theme in the game is the boss theme. It gives those fights a good level of importance.

The story’s definitely a lot of fun and one of the villains here definitely ranks as a top tier character even among the main games. His name is Ice and he is one of the big members of Dim Sun. This guy’s actually very intelligent and is able to keep up with the main genius in the game. He’s got a cool personality and always hits the dab. For a while all of the members were your standard grunts so when the 3 big villains were introduced I was pretty thrilled. They come into the game fairly late, but leave an impression. In general the game turns the story up a few notches towards the end as the villains invade your base and a lot of chaos ensues.

The heroes are also fun, but definitely less useful. Typically it’s up to you to save them time and time again. While the others are supposed to be your equals that rarely feels like it’s the case. The lead is just really good at being a ranger and the others inevitably become second fiddle in comparison. There’s no shame in that though and the important thing is that they can keep up at least a little. Sven is one of the pros here and that guy holds his own. He certainly does better than Keith who takes a whole lot of Ls throughout the game. Then you’ve got the scientist but he’s suckered pretty easily so he didn’t quite rank. At least he didn’t go into full traitor mode unlike a certain other character. Granted, that character was evil from the start so maybe calling him a traitor is uncalled for.

In terms of replay value there is quite a lot here. The main story took me around 15 hours and that’s considering that I didn’t really do any of the side quests. If I had then you could jump that number up quite a bit since there are many extra quests. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this installment that’s for sure. I can’t stress the enough the importance of having a good hub world. I’m not talking purely about size of location, a good hub world means your character should move quickly enough so you can get through it. There should be minimal distractions and the exits should be clearly labeled so you don’t have to use much memory on it. Pokemon Ranger does a solid job of everything above.

Overall, Shadows of Almia is a great game and one that I highly recommend checking out. It continues to do justice to the Pokémon brand as even the spinoffs tend to be quite well rounded. The length is pretty good and the plot/gameplay are enjoyable. As I mentioned there really aren’t any negatives to be found here so as soon as you see this game in stores you’re gonna want to snag it. Now I look forward to getting the final game on the Ranger series at some point.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

NBA Live 14 Review


It’s time to take a look at yet another Basketball game! These really do keep on coming don’t they? Well, I haven’t played a Live title in a little while so it was fun to float back to it. This time I actually ended up preferring it to the 2K counterpart so that was pretty neat. It’s a very fast paced installment and there’s no long tutorial to get in your way so you can dive into the action. I tried facing off against the computer on standard difficulty and then again on the toughest level. Both times the games ended around the same way which is odd, but I did lose so maybe the computer just likes to keep it close.

I’ve already explained the rules of Basketball in my last 10 Basketball game reviews so you may be wondering why I keep on doing it. Well, I figure that every review is potentially someone’s first review so a short recap isn’t a bad idea. I will be keeping this fairly brief though. The goal of the game is to score more points than the other team and the way you score points is by throwing the ball inside the opponent’s hoop. This is tricky since there is always a defender right next to you and their goal is to swipe/block the ball and make some scores of their own. You’ll need teamwork to stop these guys since just taking over a game isn’t a completely viable strategy.

As mentioned earlier one of the biggest reasons why the game is so great is because Live 14 is just really fast paced. It actually felt like I was playing one of the Gamecube installments which was definitely neat. Those were really good times and the players also felt more like pros. I was sinking a ton of 3 point shots and they just weren’t missing. On the other hand, that meant I really couldn’t stop the other team since my best bet was usually to pick up the rebounds. Speaking of which, the rebounds are tough here because it feels like your player completely freezes when the ball is in the air. I’m not sure if that’s a new mechanic or if it’s always been like that, but it definitely did make things pretty tricky.

At one point I even got a 10 point lead against these guys so you know that I was feeling pretty sharp around this point. Then half time occurred and as always the computer started to make a miraculous comeback. I still think that there’s something a little fishy here. They ended up taking a narrow win but it was a very entertaining match. At least since my players weren’t constantly missing the ball it felt like I was actually playing. I didn’t do any fancy ball tricks, but I did do a lot more passing as well. Sometimes I try to play the games fairly realistically since that’s fun in its own way and other times I just charge the ball constantly.l

Then in the super tough difficulty match I never got a huge lead, but I did have a 2 point advantage to start the fourth quarter. It still proved to be futile, but one of these days I will score a definitive win against the A.I. Defense is definitely still holding me back because if I were able to make the occasional stop that would make all the difference. You can’t win on offense alone, you’ve got to dominate on both sides of the ball. It’s absolutely crucial that you do that if you want to rise up the ranks.

The graphics are definitely top notch and after playing this one and 2K back to back you can see the difference. EA spares no expense on the mainline NBA games and it’s always hard to see how the graphics can keep improving. After a while you’ve basically just become as lifelike as you can possibly get. As expected there isn’t really much of a soundtrack to note here. It’s around, but you won’t be on the main menu a whole lot anyway.

There’s a lot of content and replay value here of course. I’m thinking that the servers for this title are probably either gone or empty, but it’s worth checking into if you have PS+. The main draw will likely be the actual games though so that’s where you’ll be putting in a lot of time. It’s always fun to see yourself improving as you play game after game and the Basketball season has a ton of matches per season so you’ll be here a long while. At the end of the day the replay value will depend on how much you like the sport. A game like Madden I could play forever while NBA I would probably clock out after 20-40 hours. Still a great value for 5 bucks though.

Overall, NBA Live 14 is definitely a great title and one of the best NBA Live installments. The gameplay is back to being very fast. It’s definitely going for more of an arcade style than the simulation gameplay that 2K brings. Both have their strengths of course, but sometimes I am just in the mood for a quick arcade bout with lots of points flying across the board. This game delivers on that and is a solid way to end my Basketball run for now. Coming up are a lot of Soccer and Hockey games so stay tuned for those as I continue to dive into my sports backlog. Knocking that down to 0 will definitely be an awesome milestone!

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

NBA 2K18 Review


It’s time to jump back into the world of NBA 2K! This one’s actually pretty recent so I was almost surprised that it is only a few bucks to buy nowadays. Well, that definitely works for me and the game is consistently good as always. It’s a solid Basketball game that will help you through the fundamentals and allow you to really see what it’s like to be on the court. The tutorial is a little too long to be honest, but once you’re through that then you’re ready for the full experience.

As I mentioned there is a bit of a tutorial when you start up. Basically you have to play endless games against the computer as all of the modes install and the game finishes downloading. This took around an hour and a half in addition to the 30 minute install before you could actually start playing the game. Add this in and you should get prepared for a long wait. I suppose being forced to face off against the computer is much better than just waiting on an empty menu though. At least you are given something to do right? It works as well as a classic Play Now feature so I’m guessing my experience is pretty much the same as it would have been.

As always the goal of the game is to throw the ball into the opponent’s hoop. To do this you will pass among your teammates until one of you is in range to claim the points and nail the win. It’s definitely not as easy as it sounds though since your players will routinely miss every shot they can. You can’t really depend on these guys and likewise they won’t be depending on you much either. They’re all just going to get ready to do their own thing and you try to follow along with them as best you can. It’s just odd to see these prop players missing baskets when they’re so close to the hoop. I’m sure there are some methods on how to score baskets more reliably, but until you learn them get ready to miss a lot.

Still, I did keep the game real close for the first half. I’ve noticed this is a bit of a trend as I’m right with the other team, but as soon as the halftime break ends they come out swinging. Maybe the games actually incorporate a little pep talk into the A.I. now. If so, then that’s definitely pretty interesting. Regardless, they blew me out of the water by the end, but I’m just glad that I kept it respectable for a while. I even landed a few 3 point shots, but ultimately missed way more than I landed.

As expected the graphics are pretty good here. They definitely aren’t as good as the main NBA titles, but 2K is still holding their own right up there with the main guys and that’s pretty impressive in its own right. The soundtrack isn’t memorable enough to really mention but I’m sure it’s decent. Sport games don’t tend to have my favorite soundtracks but they use a lot of real songs so that’s something. I just want some fast paced instrumental tunes and then I’d be all set.

There’s definitely a ton of replay value here of course as you try to earn all of the trophies. Each game is unique and so playing around in franchise mode will also take you a long time. In theory there is no reason why you would need to spend less than 50 hours on this game. There’s just a lot of Basketball fun to be had. Usually I’ve been preferring these to the main NBA titles, but this time it did feel a little extra slow. 2K is more about realism than bringing the party to the gameplay, but with everyone constantly missing it definitely slowed down the tempo a lot. Still, not enough so to hurt the score.

On offense I still recommend doing a lot of charging the basket and quickly passing to the outside for either a quick 3 point shot or a better angle to run in. It’s pretty hard to get in close enough to dunk and the risk with taking a super close shot that isn’t a dunk is the character tends to hold the ball a little longer than he should. At that point it just ends up getting stolen or missed entirely. On offense you just want to keep moving at all times. Do this and you should definitely be fine.

On defense there’s less I can recommend since the computers tend to do whatever they want. There’s no full proof way to stop them so my recommendation is to constantly charge into them with L2 and force them to make a shot instead of going for the dunk. At least this way there is the chance that they will miss. Additionally you can go for steals, but don’t do it too often or they all start turning into flags instead. The tricky part is that a lot of the time they will end up picking the ball back up after you knock it away because your players tend to be a little slow. Defense is never as fun as offense in any game, but Basketball’s is still solid enough. Basketball and Football definitely have the best defensive gameplay, but offense will always be my favorite part regardless.

Overall, NBA 2K18 is definitely a solid Basketball game. There isn’t really a lot that has changed since the last installment, but that means it also hasn’t gotten any worse. If you like Basketball then this is a steal for only a few bucks. You’ve got a ton of content to absorb here and before long you’ll be taking these computers down for the count. Defense will likely always be tough but you can definitely nail the rhythm on the offense and start mounting your comeback there. The important thing is to remember that as long as you have the basketball you’ve always got a shot. You just can’t panic and start relying on the 3 point shots. That’s the quickest way to concede defeat. I don’t have 2K19 but there is a different Basketball game that I’ll be reviewing soon.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, App Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Dr. Mario World Review


It’s time to look at another mobile game that I’ve been going through. This is definitely more of a Fire Emblem than a Madoka in terms of how long I’ve been playing it. Dr. Mario World is a simple yet addictive mobile title which will keep you coming back for more. With over 200 levels available at launch Nintendo really did a good job of making sure there was a lot of content here.

The basic plot of the game is that viruses have launched an invasion on the mushroom kingdom and even on surrounding lands like Bowser’s kingdom. The only way to stop these viruses is to have them take some medicine. Dr. Mario and Dr. Bowser form a reluctant alliance to end the threat, but will they really be able to stop these guys?

So far we’ve only had the one cutscene after the opening which is where Bowser stepped in. I honestly think more cutscenes could have easily been added considering that they are basically just still images with the characters. It wouldn’t be too crazy to have added them after every world right? In the game’s defense, it did freeze after I beat world 3 so I had to restart and enter world 4 so there is a slight chance that there was a cutscene there I suppose. I haven’t looked on YouTube or anything but at least in my experience I’ve only seen the one cutscene.

The gameplay is basically an upside down Dr. Mario which is pretty interesting. I’m thinking they switched the gameplay style so it would be easier on the mobile but that is just speculation. Regardless you’ll quickly come to love the style. I dare say that I much prefer it to the classic gameplay. It’s a lot easier for me to dive into and I’ve been tearing through the levels. You have to match 3 of a color to eliminate the locks and viruses. Most levels are won by eliminating the viruses but some are about collecting coins or other such goals. The game is very clear about the goal from the start so there is no guess work. As you go through the levels the game continues to add new versions of enemies and obstacles. New things continue to be added after level 100 and I wouldn’t be surprised if the game isn’t done yet.

Graphically, Dr. Mario World doesn’t pull its punches. All of the screens are quite clear and the visual effects when eliminating the viruses are pretty satisfying. All of the visuals can hold themselves over as if they were from a big console game. The soundtrack is very small as is usually the case for mobile titles but the main theme just fits the game so well that you probably won’t notice.

As for replay value, the game definitely has a lot of that. As mentioned the main game has 200 levels plus speed levels in each world. These levels get progressively harder so even if you beat a lot of the early ones in one shot you definitely won’t be doing so in the later ones. You also do have an energy meter so if you lose a level 5 times straight then you will need to take a break for a few hours. That hasn’t been much of a problem because of all the maintenance though. They give you an extra 10 hearts for that each time. While going through the levels you will also be earning coins which you can use to buy more doctors and assistants from the shop. These guys have effects that are pretty subtle but they add up during a match. You can equip 2 assistants to help you. As for the doctor, you get to pick one at the beginning of the game and get a random one later on. I decided to go with Dr. Bowser and have not regretted that decision at all. His ability to destroy 2 rows is very handy and makes up for the fact that he is pretty slow.

Then we can’t forget about versus mode either. The gameplay is similar but more like the speed version. You get the matches as quickly as possible in order to launch an attack at your opponent and cause more lines to appear. The actual levels are a lot simpler than the story ones but that goes both ways. I really found my stride in this mode and got up to 1200+ points which brought me all the way up to tier 4. Now I’m starting to have a win ratio close to 50% so this seems to be the right area for me. It’s definitely a lot of fun going through the matches and after every 7 wins you get a box filled randomly with coins or other collectibles. I do think that throwing viruses in there was unnecessary though as getting nothing as a prize after 7 wins is pretty harsh. After your 7 wins in a day the rest does not help you get another box. Only 1 box per day.

There isn’t much negative to say about the game except that it’s maybe a little too stingy with how you get new doctors and collectibles. If you’re playing to get everyone that will probably never happen or at least not for a very long time. I do like how once you’ve maxed out a character they take him out f the pool so you won’t get duplicates. More gatcha games need to do this, but since even maxing out one character is incredibly difficult it won’t really come into play. The game also has a habit of freezing at times when you’ve won a level and then it only counts the win sometimes. That one is a bug that should be pretty easy to fix though. It’s definitely an annoying one but it hasn’t personally affected me much yet and I’ve played a lot of versus battles.

Overall, Dr Mario World is definitely an excellent game. It’s a very simple title with straight forward controls so you never have to worry about getting lost or being unsure what to do. It may look like there isn’t a lot to do here but the amount of content is definitely satisfactory. I recommend checking it out and since the game is free it’s not like you will be risking much in doing so. Just give it a whirl and if it’s not your thing then you can delete it just as quickly.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Golden Sun Review


It’s time to look at a fairly legendary RPG from back in the day. While Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest tend to have most of the popularity right now, Golden Sun used to be pretty big back in its day. It’s only got 3 games, but the series still got quite a lot of fans. I’ve had this game on the back burner for an extremely long time so it’s good to finally be able to jump in and experience the story in all its glory. It reminds me why I love the RPG genre. Fighting games will ultimately still reclaim the top spot, but RPGs are always fun to play with. It’s partially because the idea of grinding your stats up is always a good one and the games last long enough for you to really enjoy the characters.

So in this world there exists a few select people who are called Adepts. They are able to harness elemental powers like fire and water to increase their strength or to be used as projectiles. Some already had these abilities while others are triggered once a meteor storm occurs. There is a group of enemies who want to light all 4 of the lighthouses. Isaac and the other heroes don’t exactly know why they want to do this, but they can’t allow the villains to do as they please. They decide to stop them, but along the journey they end up finding out that there is more to their plan than meets the eye. Is stopping them from lighting the lighthouses really the best move?

The game is fairly long and it took me around 22 hours to beat it. This is partially due to how big the map is, but also how difficult the enemies get. Golden Sun’s no joke and the difficulty really spikes towards the second half of the game. Suddenly the enemies are able to take you out in a few hits and that’s just the minions. The bosses basically one turn KO you so you need to level up a lot if you want to beat them. I got everyone up to Level 30 and that made the battle pretty manageable. I think if you want it to be a little calmer getting up to level 32 would probably be a good bet. Also, a big part of the game revolves around the Djinn so you are going to want to grab those guys.

There are 28 of them in the game and they are like power sources that allow you to summon. There are 4 types and 7 per type. The strongest summon of each type is worth 4 orbs so you can summon 4, 4 level summons in one match and then 4 level 3s. I only got 25/28 of the Djinn, but I can guarantee that without them I would not have been able to beat the final boss. Initially I didn’t go after them and even avoided obtaining them unless they were directly in my way. I figured that they weren’t all that important, but they are crucial. Aside from the summoning just owning the Djinn increases all of your stats as if you got multiple level ups. So once you have 25 you’re way stronger than if you didn’t have them. For example one of my characters went from having 200HP to over 500 with them equipped. I can’t stress enough just how useful these guys are.

Golden Sun is definitely an RPG with a pretty intricate gameplay system. The turn based combat is pretty much the same as always, but then you’ve got the element system. This also ties into the Djinn. Depending on which ones you’ve got equipped and your element ratio, your attacks per character will be different as well. Likewise they will also change depending on if you have your Djinn set or on standby. There’s a whole lot to consider as a result and it does make you have to re-think how you want them arranged on the board for each fight. You’ll want to think over every fight very carefully. Even by the end of the game I can’t say that I really understand the system perfectly. It’s also hard to tell which attacks are best to use since the type advantage system isn’t always obvious. By the end of the game using a normal attack is typically better than using almost any of the magical abilities which is pretty interesting.

The game definitely holds up quite well with the visuals. There’s a lot of nice backgrounds here and the game even gets a nice 3D effect during the credits. The attacks are all a lot of fun to look at and in general everything is pretty bright. Then the game also has a dynamite soundtrack. There are a lot of great themes to listen to here that range from being fairly heroic to setting up a moody atmosphere. It’s all exactly what you want to see here. Golden Sun just holds up well in every area. There is almost nothing to dislike about the game.

While the story may not be quite as exciting as some other RPGs, I did like it overall. You can tell that there’s more to this story than your usual heroes vs villains story. The villains definitely have their own reasons for doing things and don’t seem to be inherently evil. Of course there are many villains who believe they are the hero, but since the heroes don’t know what will happen if the lighthouses are activated, it’s possible that it is the right thing to do. Of course, it would be easy to tell the heroes this, but none of the villains ever feel like talking. The heroes also get lucky quite often as the villains could have easily won on a number of occasions. They just prefer to split up rather than fight as a team.

Isaac doesn’t really have a personality in this game as he is just the player. Garet is a good ally who basically acts as the leader of the team even if he is a bit impulsive. Mia’s a solid medic who joins on later. We don’t get a whole lot of time to develop her personality but she seems nice. Then you’ve got the young mage who seems really nice even if lacking in experience. The childhood friends are all suspect though with how they don’t tell the heroes much. They basically miss the entire game as they just get a few scenes after being kidnapped, but they seem to be taking it in stride. It seems like the villains ultimately start to convert everyone.

The game ends with quite a lot of loose ends for the sequel. While there are probably one or two that you could finish through side quests, there are definitely some that can’t be. There’s a scene after the credits for example which shows that the adventure isn’t quite over yet. It makes sense since there’s a big villain who doesn’t show up in the climax. Also, in general it just doesn’t feel like a conclusive ending because there are more lighthouses left and more villains so the heroes can’t rest easy now. As I already own the sequel you can bet that I’ll be jumping on that one pretty soon.

If there’s anything that’s a bit iffy here, it’s that the game isn’t always clear on where to go next. It actually has a map with town labels on it so that’s a big upgrade from something like Final Fantasy VII, but at the same time there are usually multiple routes to choose so you end up wasting a lot of time looking for the right one. The good news is that it gives you more time to level up though. Once you’ve gotten strong enough then you can also just flee the battles, but it takes quite a while to get to that level. Another thing I do like is that if you die you are taken back to the temple, but don’t lose any data. It costs money to revive your teammates, but that’s a fair price. A lot of little things like that help the game overall because it takes away the irritating nature of a game over. Dying and being forced to restart the area is very fair if you ask me.

Overall, Golden Sun is definitely an excellent RPG and deserves to be known as one of the greats. It’s aged really well and made for a very fun 20+ hour experience. I look forward to seeing how the sequel goes since it should feel pretty similar. I’m also ready for Isaac to talk since that would be awesome, but even if he doesn’t I’m sure the story is going to be really good. If you haven’t played this game yet then I highly recommend changing that. It’s just a great all around title with no real weaknesses. You’ll be engaged from start to finish even if you might end up with a slight headache from how complex the gameplay mechanics are. The important thing is that you’ll feel a sense of pride and accomplishment because this is definitely one of the tougher RPG titles out there.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Super Mario Maker 2 Review


It’s finally time to take a look at the new Mario Maker game. The first one I still have listed as one of the greatest Mario games of all time. Mario’s tackled many different genres and for the most part they have obvious #1 titles. The best 3D Mario is 64, the best Mario sports title is Strikers, the best racing game is Double Dash, and the best 2D is Super Mario World. The question is…where does Maker fit into all of this? It’s basically its own genre, but it can hold its own all the same. Ultimately I wouldn’t say it is quite as good as the first Maker, but it’s very close and is definitely a game with tons of replay value.

This time around we do have a real story mode, but only barely since there aren’t really any cutscenes. There isn’t much of a plot either but I am still glad that Nintendo at least made the attempt and gave us something. They definitely could have gone the lazy route and just not included it. We did get some quality levels as well and it is a good way to learn all the mechanics of the game. By the time you’re done with the story you’ll be ready to tackle the others modes. A new addition to the game is the ability to fight other players online. The 4 of you are thrown into a level and the first to clear it wins. If you die in the level then you’ll be taken back to the start or the checkpoint. These segments can be a bit laggy at times, but for the most part it works well.

There is also the classic course world from the previous games. You can play new and popular levels while honing your own skills. Try to grab some world records while you’re at it. You can sort through the levels a bunch of different ways or even look up specific levels from the course ID. There are endless levels to have fun with here so there’s no reason to stop playing. Unfortunately the star system is gone and in its place is a more simplified like/dislike button system. It doesn’t really let you see how the stage is doing quite as well, but that was a pretty minor part of the process anyway.

As this is Super Mario Maker a big chunk of your time will likely be spent on making levels as well. I mean, it varies I suppose, but I imagine that for most people this would have been the main reason to get the game right? There have been new items and enemies added so the sky is the limit on what you can make. The stage builder is incredibly detailed and there are almost too many options. You can’t even fit everything on one screen so to find more items you have to go through a settings window. It’s all pretty intuitive once you start though with two exceptions. You can’t draw on the screen with a pen so you have to do it by hand which is a little tricky. There also doesn’t seem to be a way to zoom out and that would be handy. I actually feel like making levels in Mario Maker 1 was a little easier, but maybe that’s just my memory playing tricks on me.

As of the time of this review I have completed two stages and am in the process of uploading a third. In this game you can only upload 32 stages instead of 100 like in the last one so you don’t want to use up all of your slots too soon anyway. I don’t think I would get over that amount anyway so 32 isn’t a bad limit for me, but it is a pretty disheartening change for the more experienced makers of the game. So, as you can see Maker added a lot of improvements, but also slid backwards a little bit. I think the main part that is disappointing is how they got rid of all the extra characters here. It was awesome getting to play as characters like Daisy and Mega Man. It was also fun to try and collect them all as it added a lot more end game content as opposed to simply going around and playing all of the levels. It gave the game more of a focus and it’s just a shame that it is gone.

Naturally the graphics are definitely pretty solid here. All of the styles look good and Nintendo never cuts corners in this area. The soundtrack is pretty limited, but the tunes all sound pretty good so that’s not really an issue. On a technical level this game is quite sound and the fact that you can spam your levels with a ton of objects is also impressive. You don’t run out of space in a level for a verrrrrry long time. That’s something that other stage builder games still have a lot of trouble with.

There’s definitely a lot of replay value to be found here. Really the game never quite has to end. I’ll have to put it back to sharing game time with other titles now that the story is over, but I’ll still be playing it a little every day for a while. It doesn’t quite have the full array of content that the first game had to keep you going, but so long as you like the classic Mario gameplay then there’s no reason to stop playing. Also there are little medals and achievements built into the game this time around so that’s something to focus on. I imagine that getting all of the medals will take a very long time.

Overall, Super Mario Maker 2 is definitely one of the definitive Mario games. It’s the kind of title that can last you throughout the whole life of the Switch. You’ll be able to just keep playing it over and over again. At this point Nintendo can’t really release another big 2D Mario game since there isn’t much of a point when you can make all of the levels here. That means they’ll need to either come up with a cinematic story or stick to the 3D Mario games. Either way the mascot is in good hands right now as he isn’t leaving the limelight anytime soon. I wonder what this game will do for paid DLC. Maybe they’ll add a new style or more objects for maker mode.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Need For Speed Carbon Review


After a long break it is now time to go back into the world of Need For Speed. Carbon brings in a lot of familiar elements from Underground 2 and Most Wanted while also adding its own spin on things. I would consider this to be the best NFS in a lot of ways with the only thing I don’t like being the whole territory system. On the whole it’s also tough between this one and Most Wanted, but I would probably give this one the slight edge. It definitely does have the best story although the gameplay is naturally the deciding factor.

So you’re playing as an underground racer who was nearly caught by the police but managed to escape. Of course, the issue with this is that he had to desert everyone else to do it. Now the rest of the racers and even his old friend are pretty upset at him. It’s a rough time for our nameless lead and he gets sloppy enough to even let a bounty hunter catch him. Fortunately a “nice” gangster frees the hero and tells him that the only way to restore his rep is to go and take over all the various gangster territories in the city. I don’t know exactly how that makes sense…if anything that would make him seem even more like a jerk right? He comes back just in time to beat everyone up and get the cops back on the trail? Ah well, the hero likes the plan so that’s what we’re going with. As the game goes on it turns out that there may have been something more to this incident. Were the cops really just coincidentally in the area?

I liked the story because there are quite a few cutscenes and I do think it did a pretty good job of setting the stage. Each of the main mob bosses gets a very exaggerated cutscene where they yell a lot with crazy colors in the background. It’s got a very 90’s-early 2000s vibe which works really well with the Need For Speed franchise in general. You really just can’t go wrong with the story here. Most of the levels are at night which is cool, but you will find yourself missing the day time by the end. It’s always good to have a mix of both. When there are only day levels I miss the night themed ones and vice versa. I think the game would have done well to have included a nice mix. As for the soundtrack, you’ve got an array of EA songs as always. They’re pretty fast paced even if the lyrics aren’t anything to write home about.

As for the gameplay it is pretty standard. The driving is pretty good and you’ll get the hang of the turns as the game goes on. Personally I always found it easiest to quickly let go of the pedal and turn before slamming it again. Alternately you’ve got the hand brake by pressing A, but I always found the turns to be a bit too wide using that method. You can also brake to turn which I would use at times if I really had to make a sharp curve in time. They’ve all got pros and cons of course so you’ll just want to try everything and see what sticks. You can also buy turbo which will permanently give you the option to use boosts. One warning for that is once you activate it then the computers will obtain it as well. I’d say that it’s worth it though because the boost really comes in handy.

You start out with a pretty average car, but as the game goes on you will be able to buy new ones. I actually used the same car for most of the game before eventually buying 3 more by the end. It’s worth staying with one car for as long as possible since your new ones will get outdated very quickly and you’ll run out of money. As it stands I only got 3 cars and I was out of money at the end. Of course, the third car I got was the best one money could buy in the game by the end so it was well worth the price. It effectively is impossible to win the last races with a weak car since it is simply too slow. Even if you don’t make any mistakes you simply won’t be able to keep up with the opponent.

Then there are also the cops to worry about. If they catch you too many times then they’ll take your car away for good. If they take all of your cars then you go all the way back to the beginning of the game. I don’t know exactly how that works since I didn’t let them take away 1 car, let alone all of them. Hopefully you’d be able to quickly reset the Gamecube so you wouldn’t actually have to go back. That would be pretty devastating. Speaking of the cops, the game does have an open world as always so you can have fun getting into police chases. I didn’t play around with them much compared to the last games because this time you aren’t forced to stay in the city the whole time. Instead of finding races through free roam you can just warp to them from the safe house. This saves an incredible amount of time and is a great change. You also don’t have to worry about increasing your reputation or anything like that. This game finally gives you the ability to just focus on the races and claim them all.

Now, this wouldn’t be a Need for Speed game without some kind of pointless gimmick though. For Carbon it is the territory system. The way you advance past each world is to win a lot of races and then challenge the boss. When you beat him then you claim the area. The problem here is the fact that other teams can challenge you for the territories you took earlier. If you refuse to fight them then they take your area automatically. So get ready to have to fight these guys quite a bit in races that you’ve already won. I dunno, maybe it’s not all that bad but it felt like a quick way to extend the game a bit. It’s also not needed since the game is actually pretty long I’d say.

The main story should take you around 10 hours or more. For replay value you can go around and beat all of the levels that you had not conquered yet. Since you’re able to skip about 1/3 of the levels that should add on another 3-4 hours under your belt. In general free roam is also limitless fun as long as you just like driving which is the whole point anyway. I can’t say that I’ll be sticking around with this game, but maybe some day I’ll come back to do those extra races. I basically skipped all of the drift challenges since the controls for those are pretty wonky.

Finally, I should mention that in the story mode there are a few different kinds of events. The general gameplay is the same of course, but the objectives are different. First you’ve got normal races which are self explanatory. Then you’ve got Canyon Races which are usually 1 vs 1 races (it can be 4 way though) and they take place at night on a canyon. In these stages you can actually fall off the track which is an instant loss. I really liked how they handled these levels. You’ve also got check points where you’re doing a time trial, speed bumps where you want to go your fastest as the scanner steps in, etc. The only pretty iffy one is Drift and I avoided every single one of those. By the end of the game I hadn’t completed any of them and I’m glad that I didn’t. It would have taken forever for me to force myself to learn the controls which wouldn’t have been super efficient.

Also, you’ve got a partner for some of these races and he really comes in handy. There are a few different kinds of helpers like people who show you short cuts, help you boost, etc. I went for a guy who can ram into other cars to help you get a lead. It went over really well since the guy was great at his job. It’s part of why I got away with using a terrible car for so long. The blocker could buy you up to 20 seconds at a time which is huge in a race. I owe him a lot.

Overall, Need For Speed Carbon is definitely a solid title. The story ends a little too abruptly if you ask me. There’s really no payoff to the long detective journey and by the end you will definitely wonder what the point of the villain’s plan was. He would have been doing good if he didn’t bring the hero in to mess things up. I suppose it’ll just be a mystery. I actually don’t have the next Need For Speed so that’ll probably be a while, but in the meanwhile I do have another video game review coming out so keep an eye out for it. Meanwhile you should definitely check this title out. You’ll have a hard time trying to find a better racing game than this one.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

NBA 2K7 Review


It’s time to look at one of the oldest 2K games out there. It’s certainly the oldest one that I’ve got. Right away you can see how retro the game is and it’s actually quite a lot of fun. It makes for a good change of pace and feels a lot more like the classic arcade style or NBA titles. Of course that doesn’t stop the computer from basically making every shot as expected. It really does feel like they are all stars while you’re playing as the normal joes.

Naturally I went into a quick match to gauge just how good of a fight I could put up. Turns out that I wasn’t quite ready for these guys. I kept it close for the first 3 quarters but eventually their slight lead got larger and ultimately it was a decisive loss for me. My guys would just miss easy shots and gradually that would cost me since the computer seems unable to miss unless they are going for a 3 point shot. The computer was even able to save for the ball many times to scoop up the rebound while my guys would hang back.

Still, I think they did a good job of adding a lot of cool animations and mechanics in this game. For one, being able to literally dive into the ground to grab the basketball is pretty cool. That’s not really something you see very often but in the 2 games I played I got to see it numerous times. Then you’ve got the “assists” where you’ll shoot the ball and another player will try to help by getting a hand on it and pushing the ball through the hoop. I remember seeing that quite a bit when I was watching the NBA Finals so that’s a nice touch.

In general the game is just a lot smoother than the newer ones. You can just run up and down the court without worrying about all of the extra mechanics. On the other hand, the gameplay is a lot more slippery as you lose the ball quite easily. I probably knocked the ball away 30 times, even if the computer was always quick to grab it back. Playing defense is more fun here than in later games so that’s definitely a plus. Defense will never be as fun as offense, but the closer you get the better.

In the second round I managed to keep it close for a bit, but then they started steamrolling me again. This time I wasn’t able to last til the third quarter, I’d say that after the first half it was already out of control. One thing about basketball is that it’s very hard to make a comeback. Once you see that the team has a considerable advantage in the score you start trying riskier techniques which makes the gap grow more and more. There are people who say that there is no sport more boring than Basketball when it turns into a blowout. That’s definitely a little exaggerated but I will admit that it isn’t nearly as fun once it is so one sided.

Of course the graphics are pretty solid as always. The screens are very clear and there is a lot of attention to detail here. The colors are pretty sharp and the character models are detailed enough where you can really see the resemblance to the real players. The soundtrack is less impressive though and basically just serves as background noise. Finally the presentation overall is definitely impressive. It feels looks like you’re watching a real game and simulates that pretty well.

In terms of replay value this game is basically limitless as always. You can have a good time for as long as you want since each game is different and doing a franchise will give you access to an incredible amount of matches. There are also other modes like practicing so you can improve your fundamentals. No online of course but if you’re buying a 2007 title that almost goes without saying. You’re likely just buying this game to see what it used to be like so you won’t be disappointed. The 2K series has come a long way. It may have traded in fun for realism, but at the end of the day only marginally so as I have enjoyed all of the 2K titles quite a lot.

Overall, NBA 2K7 is definitely a great game to check out. It’s got a lot of hype basketball action in it along with solid graphics and good fundamentals. It’s a game that has really withstood the test of time and ages incredibly well. It’s just as fun as it was when the game first came out and if anything you may enjoy it even more now after playing the newer titles. It’s quite different and reminds us that Basketball can always be presented in a new way.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

NBA 2K8 Review


It’s time for the next 2K adventure! Once again this game shows that for some sports the older titles just felt more natural. 2K8 is definitely a lot simpler than a game like 2K15 so it may not capture quite as much of the realism but it’s just a lot of fun. You can run up and try to shoot a basket without having to worry about a ton of variables like in the newer ones. You can just trust in your casual fundamentals and go from there.

As always I did jump into the quick match option and it was probably the most back and forth match in a very long time. At first I had the lead and managed to hold on to it for around the first half of the game. At one point I was winning by as much as 7 points. My 3 point shots just kept landing and it was all going good. Everything changed when the computer remembered that it had the fast break option. Suddenly they scored a bunch of points and I was the one down by 7. I rallied as hard as I could and got the lead back by 1 but then in the final minutes they started scoring again and beat me by about 6. So I did lose the match but it was definitely a lot of fun. It felt more interactive on both sides if anything as I was able to play some good defense and even got steals. Offense was fun as always.

I do think that the timing is a big part of making the shots here as opposed to it mostly being luck based. I was able to land 3 three pointers in a row at one point and I think it’s because I had the right angle. On the other hand, some of the 2 point shots still get a little fishy. They should be easy layups and yet the player will miss anyway. The computer never misses those shots so at that moment I just have to shake my head. Still, as I mentioned the games are just a lot of fun which is the important thing. One day I’ll start winning matches consistently.

Going back to the gameplay for a sec, it all just feels so organic. That sounds pretty vague so I’ll try to elaborate on that. When you start to shoot the ball you’ll see a defender casually reach up to try and block it. He’s not using some kind of secret skill or doing anything out of the ordinary. No, instead he’s just getting up there and getting the job done. When you steal the ball it’ll roll on the court before someone grabs it instead of magically jumping into someone’s hand. A lot of these things may technically be because the game isn’t super refined yet, but I actually like it. It makes the characters feel more human since they actually make mistakes. I also thought that the gameplay was a little more exciting than some of the newer ones although of course this is to a small margin. Technically I thought all of the games were exciting in their own way.

As always there is a lot of extra content to play around with. You can forget about the online options though as those servers have been down for a very long time at this point. Still, you can practice your shooting skills, running around the court, etc. There’s also the legendary franchise mode so you can have endless games as your favorite team. There’s no end to the replay value here as you’d expect since that is basically par for the course for sport titles. The NBA games are very consistent with their modes and that’s a good thing.

Naturally there is less emphasis on the presentation here since the graphics aren’t quite as all star as in the later games. Still, everything that you actually do need to be clear is well defined. You’ll never lose yourself on the court or anything like that. The screen is clear and I didn’t notice any glitches either. As for the soundtrack, it’s pretty standard as expected. These areas are probably the most similar across all the titles, but why fix what isn’t broken right?

Overall, NBA 2K8 is definitely another really solid title. It brings all of the classic Basketball action that you would expect and then some. These games just never get that old although I will admit that I am just about ready for the next sport. I only have 3 more Basketball titles left so I am in the homestretch there. The goal will be to win one of those last 3 games although I guess we’ll see how it goes. If you haven’t bought this game yet then I really don’t see why you would. At this point the players/teams are so outdated compared to the newer titles. i’m sure a bunch of these players are probably even retired by now. Still, it does hold up and since you can buy the game for about a dollar it really is a steal if you think about it.

Overall 8/10