Ratchet & Clank Into The Nexus Review

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It’s been a while since I really got to enjoy a Ratchet and Clank game. I tried playing All 4 One a while back, but the game kept freezing on me. I suppose it’s bound to happen when you buy as many games as I do, but that one along with Rayman advance not working definitely stung a little. I get the chills just thinking about those games. Into The Nexus was always notable for being very short and I can see why. You really breeze through the game. Considering that I took it down in a few hours while managing to die at least once in every level…it’s very short. I mainly just kept dying because I would forget about certain gimmicks. There were a lot of controls and no manual in the game so if you forgot how to do something…it becomes button mashing time. Still, it is a very solid game despite the length and there is a reasonable amount of replay value to be found here as well.

Ratchet and Clank are serving as escorts for a pair of dangerous villains that need to be brought to jail. Unfortunately, they break free and murder two of Ratchet and Clank’s friends as they head off to destroy the universe. Ratchet decides to disobey orders to retreat back to home base and pursues the villains. This time it’s personal and Ratchet isn’t playing games. He’s armed to the teeth and is ready to make the hard calls. With the whole universe in the balance, Ratchet may learn that sometimes you need to have a backup weapon at the ready. Luckily, Ratchet always has a bunch of guns.

While the gameplay appears to be the same as always on the surface, it’s less polished. You’ll quickly get used to the 3D shooting style as it’s made to be easy to pick up and play. I love 3D games and Ratchet & Clank has always nailed it. That being said, this one is missing a lock-on feature. You can use L1 to “focus” which is like locking on, but it won’t follow the enemy. You always have to manually aim while fighting. It’s not a big deal, but it can be a little inconvenient if you’re used to having a lock-on at the ready. Due to the size of the game, the weapon selection is also a lot more limited. You have less than half of the weapons that an average Ratchet & Clank game has along with half the gadgets. They each only have 3 base levels as well so you’ll max out the weapons quite easily. It seems like there are an extra 3 levels that pop up later on though so that helps. This makes the Platinum Trophy easier I suppose, but it still sounds reasonably difficult.

The weapons that we do get are pretty good though. They’ll all old I believe so don’t expect anything new, but all of the good weapons made it back. All you’ll really need are the bombs and machine gun, but I do recommend buying the missiles and metal discs once you are able to as well. Earning money certainly isn’t hard in this game and just enter a few tournaments if you want some quick cash. It’s definitely worth the trouble. There are 5-6 worlds in the game and each one can be completed in under an hour. The tournament planet was probably the shortest plot-wise, but since there are bonus tournaments, it ends up lasting a little longer.

As always, the graphics were definitely on point here. The animations were very smooth and the character designs were as sharp as you could expect. The energy attacks all look really good and I enjoyed the level designs as well. The game did a good job of grabbing the classic stage traits like a City level and a forest one as well. That’s definitely a good thing since every Ratchet game should have at least one City world. Those always look fantastic. The soundtrack never really stood out to me though and I couldn’t recall a single tune afterwards. Music is probably one of the only areas that isn’t a strength for this series.

As mentioned, there is some decent replay value. Getting all of the trophies will take some time and that helps make the game worth the price. Even without the replay value, I think the game goes for around 10 dollars now. That’s certainly not a lot of money for an AAA title. The plot may not be as grandiose as the others, but it’s still engaging. As far as the platformers go, it destroys most of the competition. Only Jak can really keep up with it consistently and I’d still give Ratchet and Clank the edge.

One thing that I can definitely get behind for this game is that the level up system is so smooth. Aside from your weapons, you can also level Ratchet up. It’s not particularly long or time consuming to power up, but you still don’t have to unless you want too. The bosses are definitely beatable if you want to go straight for them. There are also constant check points so even if you lose, you never have a long way to go. I think the phrase that I’m looking for is “Quality of Life” mechanics for this game. You never get lost for hours and hours like LoZ and you never have to go back through a long area with unskippable cutscenes like Orphen. Into The Nexus is a game that’s made with the gamer’s needs as top priority and it’s something that I’d like to see more games achieve. It’s easy to see why the series is known as one of the all time greats.

Overall, This felt like a little treat for Ratchet & Clank fans to hold them over until the next full installment. I’d think of this as more of a spinoff than a full fledged game. Think of it as the mini adventure to keep you ready for the next big title like what Kingdom Hearts does. Of course, KH spinoffs are still typically at least 20 hours long, but we’ll let that slide for now. It’s short, but that doesn’t mean that Into The Nexus is any less of a good game than you’d expect. While it’s not as polished and complete as the others, I still had a blast playing it. The time really flies when you’re blasting the opponents. I’m definitely looking forward to playing the next game although I hear that it switches up the format a little. Hopefully it keeps in the fun and intensity of this game.

Overall 8/10

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Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury Review

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Stop the madness! Is this one of the rare DBZ games that I didn’t own before now? Yes, I finally took the plunge and got the game at long last. It’s a very solid sequel to the last one and the gameplay continues to be quite excellent. Leveling up never feels like a grind here and the game seamlessly throws some of the movies into the plot. It’s all handled very well and while the game is not particularly long, it makes for an enjoyable experience.

The game’s plot adapts the Buu arc from DBZ as you’ve probably guessed. If you’ve never watched DBZ before, it involves the world’s strongest heroes coming together to defeat an evil genie. They’ll need team work and a lot of heart in order to win this round. The text boxes do a good job of adapting the whole arc and keeping in enough details to ensure that you still know what is going on the whole time. It’s a good way of blasting through the arc while still knowing enough to bluff your way through a quiz.

The gameplay is the same as the two predecessors. It uses an overhead view as you can punch or shoot energy blasts. If you can block, then I’m not sure how as I never bothered. Punching is the way to go here and with each level up you can power up a stat. Go for Strength and ignore everything else. The rest are borderline useless by the end while strength will allow you to one shot all minions. This allows for easy level ups and then you can build up your defense. You can also turn Super Saiyan which gives you extra energy and increases your speed. I didn’t notice it actually amping up the strength of my attacks, but it must have had some kind of effect. The gameplay is easy to pick up and you’ll likely have it mastered in no time.

One thing that I’ve always really liked about this series is how easy it is to level up. You can gain 50 levels in a quick 30 minute run and even faster if you’re in the right place. At times, you’ll get a whole level up for each individual minion that you defeat. Considering that they go down like flies, this results in a huge rank up to your characters. It’s quite impressive to be honest and is the single best RPG at the leveling system. It puts titles like FF VII to shame where you’ll have to fight for a very long time to make any kind of head way. I’m still rather sore at that game for making the climax so much work. It’s not so much the difficulty but the fact that if you save in the wrong place…you’re doomed. It’s just going to be game over for you from then on. More on that in another review though.

The game holds up really well when it comes to the graphics and the soundtrack. The sprites are all pretty fun and the images that the game uses for the text are unintentionally funny as well. The characters are constantly yelling and panicking throughout which doesn’t always fit the lines, but that’s part of what makes it enjoyable. As for the soundtrack, there are a number of good themes here. One of them is a remix of a rock theme from the anime, but sadly it cut out all of the rock elements which was a little disappointing. DBZ 2 is still the best when it comes to the soundtrack because of the great Cell theme, but the music here will still get you into a nice groove.

There isn’t a whole lot for replay value after you beat the game. You can max everyone out and grab a bunch of items, but that won’t buy you all that much time. The fact that there is any post game content is still a plus though. The actual game’s story is roughly 6 hours so maybe you could take it to 10 or so by the time you’re done with everything. You’ll likely be buying this game for a very low price so the time is not bad. Especially when you consider how good the game is. Quality over quantity and all that right?

One thing I’d highly recommend is stocking up on food while you can. Save your money for most of the game and then just buy as many Onigiri’s as you can for the final part of the game. I’d also recommend leveling up Vegeta a little since you’ll need him at the end and otherwise it’ll be a little tough to beat Buu. Ideally you want to be at around level 130 or so because then you can finish him quickly. Never use any money to buy equipment since the enemies will all drop a lot of it towards the end of the game. Also, put on the heavy boots and gear to get level ups faster. It makes quite the difference and considering that the game was already easy to level up in…this almost feels criminal.

Overall, Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury is a solid way to end the DBZ adaptions for the GBA. It was a really good trilogy and a very underrated one for DBZ. Granted, I’ll still take Budokai and Tenkaichi any day, but this was a great way to play on the portable. The series did everything that it could with the RPG format and I can’t imagine another title taking it out. Maybe if they ever made a big budget DBZ RPG with anime cutscenes and an awesome plot I suppose. For the GBA though, they maxed it out. I highly recommend checking this game out and seeing what you think of it. Now I just need to get the GT GBA game and I’ll have completed that saga of Dragon Ball adaptions. The gameplay shift is a little unfortunate, but I like beat em ups as well so it should be fun. Until then!

Overall 8/10

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Review

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After finally finishing the last Professor Layton game, I quickly jumped onto this one. I was pretty close to wrapping up Little Big Planet, but Layton is one of those elite series that takes precedence over just about anything. It also helps that the game is fairly short so it’s not as if it’ll be holding onto that spot for a long time. This sequel is very good and while the first one is certainly the better game in my opinion, this one had the better plot.

Layton and Luke head onto a train, but their adventure is quickly derailed when they find out that someone was murdered over a mysterious box. The heroes dig up some dirt on it during the first town they stop in, but the real evidence starts to appear once they hitch a ride to a ghost town. They infiltrated the royal deluxe suite in order to get in and the only problem is that they might not be able to get out again. That’s fine, they’re prepared for the dangers that may arise, but will their intellectual skills be up to the task?

It’s certainly a solid follow-up to the last game and it acknowledges the first one by having their new partner Flora show up. We also get the big villain from the last game to appear again although the main villain here is a big improvement. There are a few new characters along with some old ones like the Inspector. One of the main reasons why I found the plot here to be better than the last game is that it gets to the meat of the story right away. The first game gave you a lot of time to get used to the characters and the plot didn’t start until you were well into the game. Since people are dying from the box, the stakes are higher than the first game from the get go. Things really heat up during the climax as well since we get a sword fight through one of the cutscenes and the heroes actually get kidnapped.

I have to say that the whole kidnapping plot was pretty odd. The heroes hallucinated about a large gang and then the butler acted as if everything was normal. I suppose that the hallucinogens got to the heroes, but it was still an odd scene. It was an epic one as well though so I’ll take it. The game was just very entertaining and exciting from start to finish and you won’t want to tear yourself away. As always, the game paces itself pretty well. It is noticeably shorter than the last one though as I beat this game in a little over 9 hours while the last one took me around 16. Granted, I got stuck on a puzzle for a while in the last game so it should have been a lot shorter.

I do think this game was easier than the last one though. Perhaps some of the test players said that the first one was too hard so they fixed it here. It’s still not extremely easy to the point where you will be bored, but now a lot of the puzzles have limited answers. This means that instead of figuring it out rationally, you can just guess all 5 or 6 of the possible choices until you get it right. The final puzzles are surprisingly easy as you will be able to solve quite a few of them at a glance. I’ve heard that the post game quests are quite challenging though so that will probably bump things up a notch. On the other hand, I do think this is possibly a smart move if the developers wanted to get more kids to play. I still don’t think a kid would be able to solve some of the puzzles from the first game.

On a technical level, this game is quite solid as expected. The graphics are very clear so everything stands out nicely. You can always see a puzzle with absolute clarity so you can focus on figuring it out as opposed to thinking about what it is supposed to be. The fully animated cutscenes look really good as well and I feel like there are more of them this time around than in the first game. Having a fight in one of the cutscenes was also a blast to see. The music is also pretty catchy. It’s fairly simple, but that’s what makes it effective for the puzzles. There also is a good danger theme which plays during some of the game’s more tense moments.

There is a lot of replay value here which should more than make up for the 9 hour story mode. I only beat around 90 of the missions which means there are still almost 50 left to go. That’s a lot of puzzles and naturally the ones that I left are the trickiest ones of all. I never had to stop at any point in the story mode to solve more puzzles to get to the next chapter because I had fun beating a lot of the quick n easy ones in the mean time. This does mean the toughest ones will take longer and unless you’ve got a lot of hint coins stashed away (Which is feasible since this game was really generous with them) you’ll find that this game could get to an RPG’s length very quickly. I don’t personally plan to go back and beat the rest of them soon, but maybe someday.

Another aspect that helps the series is the colorful cast of characters. The Inspector is a nice ally to have around. He may not correctly guess who the culprit is most of the time, but he does try his best and is a likable enough fellow. Luke is a good kid who continues to improve when it comes to riddles. Flora is a good heroine as well and while she’s not much of a detective yet, she does like finding new riddles. Layton steals the show whenever he appears and managed to basically be a perfect lead. The recurring villain is rather bland and won’t leave an impression on you, but they can’t all be winners. I did like the voice that the game gave him when he was coming out of a disguise. The new villain was great and Katia was good enough. Poorly written characters could have held the game back so I’m glad to see that this was not a factor here.

Overall, Professor Layton is a series that I’m glad to finally be apart of. I’m definitely going to get the third game as soon as possible and will probably order it once February hits. This series is just so much fun and in a way it’s good that I took so long to start it because it means that there are more games to catch up on. I believe there are 6 at the moment so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. It makes me realize that if the Switch had gotten a Layton game for launch, that could have made things very interesting. Ah well, it’s never been a big console title anyway, but that would be fun to think about. If you played the first game then you already know what to expect. If you haven’t, you can still get into this game easy enough, but I’d recommend playing the first one first since this one builds off of that. Not to the extent where it is unplayable, but it’s nice to see the characters reference the past events. At this rate, I don’t see how a Layton game can get under an 8 so long as they don’t mess something up with the formula. It’s just a really fun and exciting game that you can play whenever you want. The controls are easy to pick up and you’ll be a whiz in no time.

Overall 8/10

Professor Layton and the Curious Village Review

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This game was stuck on the backburner for a very long time. That final puzzle was just insane and I had to quickly confer with the Gamefaq experts. In the end, I do think it was a fair puzzle though as the squares all seemed rather legitimate. This is a puzzle game that actually handles them really well and the game never felt unfair or unbalanced. It’s one that I’d highly recommend and you’ll find it hard to put the game down once you have started.

The tale follows Professor Layton and his sidekick as they enter a mysterious village. There is something wrong with the place as people disappear or seem to be murdered and then show up the next day. If they want to get to the bottom of this, the heroes will have to solve a lot of puzzles and make their way to the suspicious tower. Luckily Layton is a gentleman so he knows how to handle every situation thoughtfully and with purpose.

Layton’s gameplay is rather easy to understand. You click on various objects to see if they have puzzles or hint coins. Each hint coin allows you to unlock a hint for a puzzle, but you have to spend them wisely as each puzzle has 3 hints, but there are more puzzles than coins. As such, you should only use them on puzzles that you really can’t figure out or you will have used them up on all of the easy ones. I was able to achieve a very nice balance as I had coins whenever I had need of them. Even with the 3 hints, the final puzzle was a little too much though. You’ll never have to do anything complex as the puzzles are purely about figuring things out as opposed to any sort of platforming.

The actual plot was interesting enough. Layton makes for a good lead and he’ll remind you of the Adam West version of Batman. He’s very down to Earth and always considers everything. His young apprentice isn’t quite as wise yet, but he’s learning and always makes sure to complement Layton. There are a host of supporting characters who all seem rather suspicious. As with any good mystery novel, you can’t really trust anyone here. The main villain is also reasonably good although he’s not too charismatic. I wouldn’t mind not seeing him in the sequel since he doesn’t add much to the game, but he’s not bad either. he did add a touch of danger to the climax so I’d say that was a good thing. The train plot will probably be a little better for me as I like a good ride. I have heard that the sequel is shorter though which is a little concerning, but I’m sure it’ll be long enough.

The graphics were certainly acceptable here. It’s the kind of game where graphics don’t really mean all that much and aren’t given a chance to show off either way. There were some fully animated cutscenes though so those looked sharp and a lot of DS games don’t even have that so it was impressive. The stills looked good as well and all of the characters were on point so I’m definitely satisfied with how it all went down. The music is rather boring, but it’s probably meant to be that way so it doesn’t get in the way of your puzzle solving abilities. You’re not really playing this for the music after all, though I am of the opinion that fast paced rock music would actually add to the experience.

There is certainly some replay value here as you can go back and try to solve all of the puzzles. I found a bunch of them, but didn’t actually solve them all. I left the most challenging ones of course and I expect that you would do the same in the game. As such, there is guaranteed to be something to do and the game should easily crack 20-30 hours by the end. The actual game’s length I’d say is probably around 10-12 hours, but it took me 16 because of that final puzzle which I spent hours and hours on. I just didn’t want to surrender, but in the end I have to admit that it defeated me. I have a feeling that a rematch would go quite differently though and I aim to prove that in the sequel.

Overall, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a great game. It’s just really fun and I could play it for hours and hours. There is really something to be said for simple puzzle games or any game that has a very clear and easy to understand objective. No matter how hard the individual puzzles may be, it’s not as if you’ll ever be lost and wonder what you have to do next. The challenges are straight forward and it’s simply up to you to meet them head on. I look forward to playing the next title as I already own it and will be tackling it very soon. The game is very streamlined all the way through and it’s easy to pick up and play. It can hold its own against just about any other game and is easily the best puzzle game. I want to play Ace Attorney someday to see how it stacks up even if both games are quite different. They’ve always been natural rivals.

Overall 8/10

Shantae Half-Genie Hero Review

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It’s time to take a look at another one of the Christmas games. Shantae was definitely a lot of fun to play through and it’s an indie game done right. It’s not super long or anything since it’s a game that is made to be speed runned, but it’s still long enough for you to feel like you got your money’s worth. The level designs are all on point and the game just looks and sounds good in general. I can also finally say that I’ve played a game in the Shantae series!

Shantae was trying to enjoy her beauty sleep when the village has need of her services once again. As a half-genie hero, Shantae protects a village and in exchange they pay her or at least give her a place to live. Unfortunately, the mayor has a habit of firing her. The village is attacked by all sorts of villains, including Risky Boots. Shantae will have to take them all down and save the genie realm, but can she do it?

The game has a nice retro feel to it as the game uses sprites the whole time. The levels are all pretty bright and cheerful. Even the villain levels and burning remains are still bright enough for you to see where you’re going at all times and breeze through. The game has that simple fun factor that the Mario and Sonic titles of the past possessed. It’s something that some games tend to lack nowadays with their artificial length and unnecessary quests. This one had a few riddles that needed to be deciphered, but they weren’t anything too crazy. I found them all in a reasonable amount of time.

Ironically, I managed to find most of the bonus collectibles in the mean time. By the time I was able to get to the next story level, I was very overpowered. I had a large heart collection by then and a lot of power ups that made the rest of the game a breeze. Naturally, all of these collectibles help the replay value section. The main game should take around 5 hours or so, but in order to get the Platinum Trophy, you’ll need to play the game again and complete it in a mere 4 hours. Certainly doable, but it’ll take some practice and a nice plan in mind. This is a game where I actually do plan on getting all of the trophies sooner than later so stay tuned for that. I’ve already got 72% of the trophies and more are on the way.

The music selection in the game was certainly enjoyable. The song that played during the first level was definitely a lot of fun and so was the boss theme and the burning cafe. They helped make the game more exciting for sure. This game definitely really succeeded on a technical level as well as when it comes to the pure gameplay. The creators definitely put a lot of heart into it and I can see why the kick starter people would feel good about their contributions.

As for the gameplay, it starts out like a classic Mario game, but with her hair acting as a sword of sorts. As you play through the game, you’ll get gradually stronger to the point where the old levels will suddenly be a piece of cake. You’ll learn how to fly, swim underwater, grab onto ceilings, and also multiply your attack power and speed by 4x. It’s fun to see the contrast to the start as you really begin to breeze through all of the levels. It’s hard to believe just what a difference the power ups make, but they are well worth it.

As mentioned before, the level designs are really good, which help to further make the gameplay shine. The only part of one level that seemed a little overly difficult was the Flappy Bird homage in part 3 of the last level. Luckily, you can cheese it out by falling on the very left of the final spike platform and then turning into a Bat. I somehow think that this wasn’t intentional, but we certainly take those. Anything goes when it’s time to complete the game right?

Shantae makes for a good main character. She reminds me a lot of Lina Inverse from Slayers, but less obsessed with money and riches. Shantae’s just a noble hero who tries to do the right thing and save the day. She even takes time out of her day to chat with the villains when they’re not busy trying to rule the world or resurrect old pals from the previous games. There are a lot of references to the older games, but it’s certainly not necessary to purchase them to understand what’s going on. You’ll be able to get into the game rather easily. Shantae’s grandfather and two friends aren’t that charismatic so I don’t mind that they got a rather small role. This is one of those games that really leans on Shantae as she has the most personality by far.

Risky Boots does the same for the villains. She seems to be the only villain who is totally evil and doesn’t have time for niceties or cracking jokes like the others. Her plan was actually pretty intense and if you get the bad ending, she does succeed in destroying quite a few people. Naturally, I went for the bad ending since the good one needed me to grab more collectibles. I’ll probably see that one when I attempt the speed run at some point. If not, well..I can probably tell what will change anyway, but you’ll just need to find out for yourself.

The sheer fun factor of the game ends up putting it ahead of Shovel Knight and Mighty No 9. There is a lot of backtracking here and helping people out with side quests, but they were all fun to play through. The levels are also short enough where it isn’t a bother to go back and forth as you look for collectibles. It’s just a very well made game and if I were to have any complaints, it would be that you can’t skip the credits, but I suppose that’s cool for the people who pledged to this project.

Overall, Shantae Half-Genie Hero is definitely a good PS4 game and I’d recommend picking it up. It’s certainly not the longest game on the block, but it’s long enough and has a good amount of replay value. If we do end up getting some free DLC for it soon, that’ll be even cooler, but there’s enough base content to make it all worthwhile. Sprites also work perfectly for the game since otherwise the dancing and attires could be a bit much in this desert land, but sprites make everything 20% better. Hopefully this game did really well so we can get a sequel at some point. Of course, if Shantae is added into the Switch version of Smash, then she’ll have enough publicity to last a life time!

Overall 8/10

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Review

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The Star Wars marathon continues! The last game was exceptionally good and set the bar quite high. Unfortunately, this one is not able to quite reach the same level when it comes to the pure gameplay, but the exciting story and multiplayer turn the tables. There are some obvious problems with the gameplay that hold it back just a bit, but it overcomes those odds. While it could be more polished, the rough gameplay actually helps to make the multiplayer mode more interesting. Just press some buttons and hope for the best!

The game covers the events of the third movie. Anakin and Obi Wan continue to do their best to stop the Sith forces and all of the other villains who are around. The main problem is that the head of the Republic is also evil so the heroes have to watch out for threats from both sides and one of their ranks allows the pull of the Dark side to sway him. This game covers the birth of Darth Vader!

I have to say that playing this game again reminded me why Episode III is still the most epic and exciting Star Wars film to date. It may not be the best, but it does make sense why it would be the coolest. This was back in the days where there were many Jedi warriors and lightsaber battles were commonplace. The film had a bunch of awesome fight scenes within and the game adapts them all and then some. It’s something that all of the movies since have lacked and I’m hoping that Episode VIII gives us a bunch of hype battles. I could definitely get behind that and I’m expecting great things from it.

This game starts off rather slow, but quickly picks up once Anakin joins the dark side. Suddenly you’re fighting other Jedi warriors instead of mindless droids. This makes for more enjoyable battles and also an engaging plot. The banter between the characters is brilliant during the fights and you’ll actually like some of the characters more than you did in the film. One warrior who showed up and confidently took on Anakin is safely one of the cooler Jedi warriors. It was a quick moment, but one that separated her from the common masses who were all dying in an instant.

The game didn’t adapt the cool scene where Palpatine took down the 3 warriors though. I had to quickly watch that scene myself and saw a cool video explaining why the Jedi masters lost so quickly. It was simple, they lacked the speed needed to defeat Palpatine. Apparently that is his strongest skill and he can strike so fast that he barely appears at all. Mace was only able to hold his own because he used a forbidden technique that granted him the power of the Dark as well so it was definitely an interesting watch. Needless to say, despite the video hinting otherwise, I’d still take Anakin over them even at his current level.

There are 16 levels like in the other Star Wars game. In addition, there are 4-5 bonus levels and you can unlock Darth Vader for multiplayer mode. That will be your main source of replay value since fighting friends never gets old, but you can also go back to the levels and grab the secrets. Each level has secret health and Force power ups which permanently increase the size of each. I found a bunch of them by breaking things so I imagine that’s how you find them all. The campaign is only around 3 hours long, but couple it with these other factors and I’d say that the game has a fair length. It’s just a lot easier than the last game so it goes by a lot quicker.

The gameplay is purely about hand to hand combat. It may be more accurate to call it Lightsaber combat. You have standard slashes and power moves. There are also your Force abilities of course, which allow you to lift opponents, stun them, and even push them away. I didn’t properly learn how to use the force until the final 2 levels so I recommend trying to learn it a little sooner. Boss fights in this game are quite difficult as they will block or parry just about anything that you throw at them. Ironically, the final boss is easily the weakest one in the game as he refuses to block just about anything. For the others, I recommend whacking them a few times and then going off to heal. (Yes, you can heal yourself in this game) Then rinse and repeat until the job is done. You can usually run fast enough to get this strategy to work. Alternately, you can master the rock, paper, scissors gameplay, but it didn’t make much sense the whole time so I just reverted to classic button mashing. It’s never failed me before so I have always trusted this legendary technique. Your character will gain experience after each level and you can use it to improve your force abilities (Like healing. I highly recommend focusing on that one) and physical abilities. By the end of the game, your character will be close to being maxed out.

The graphics look quite good. The lightsabers really stand out the whole time and they did a good job with the blasts getting deflected off of the swords. It’s aged pretty well and I can definitely see why this game would be thought of as an older Force Unleashed. There are a lot of similarities to be found here and I look forward to trying that game out at some point. The soundtrack is just as good. It has all of the classic Star Wars themes that you may wish for and the battle themes are all intense. It’s definitely a rock solid game on a technical level.

Overall, Episode III may have gotten off to a rough start initially, but it really grows on you. I was sure that it would only be getting a 7 at first, but the plot really picked up and the gameplay is definitely a lot more fun when you’re fighting actual sword fighters. There is a lot less variety when it comes to the gameplay compared to the other title, but how can you not like a classic 3D sword-fighter styled gameplay? It never gets old and none of the levels are painfully long so that also helps a great deal. It’s the kind of gameplay where I also wouldn’t have pictured a multiplayer mode so it’s really cool that it was featured. The cast could be longer, but I guess we’ll save that for an official Star Wars fighting game. The series certainly has enough characters for it by now. I definitely recommend checking out this title. My Star Wars marathon will likely go on a brief break here since I’ll be getting some new games for Christmas, but it’ll be back at some point.

Overall 8/10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Review

Star Wars The Clone Wars
With the new Star Wars film in theaters it was only fitting that I go back and finally play the next Star Wars game. It’s had a pretty good track record thus far and this one continues the saga on a high note. It has quite a few different gameplay modes considering that this is a movie tie in and the quality is surprisingly good. Throw in the multiplayer feature and we have ourselves a winner. It may not be Star Fox Assault, but it does as much as it can to try and rival it.

The Empire continues to be quite powerful. I believe they are referred to as the separatists this time around and the Jedi warriors have their hands full. They are fighting a losing war and need something to tip the scales. Luckily they have their two aces, Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. The two of them are quite powerful and that is good since the heroes need every warrior that they can get. The real question is….will these two be enough? If they aren’t, then the Dark Force stealer will end up sucking their powers dry and bringing the universe to the brink of ruin.

Right off the bat you can tell that this game wouldn’t be at the level that you may have expected from it. For starters, the controls are seamless and you can play this game as well as any AAA title. There are several gameplay modes as mentioned earlier so lets run through them all. First, we’ve got the tank gameplay. You control a tank and move quite quickly through the terrain, blasting all who stand in your way. You have your booster and missiles at your disposal. An endless supply of energy blasts also makes your tank a force to be reckoned with. This mode was a lot of fun and may have even been better than Star Fox Assault’s version.

Next, we have plane mode. You fly around using your green lasers to smite your opponents along with normal blasters and bombs. You feel truly powerful while in plane mode and it’s fun to rain bombs on the dozens of robots that get in your way. Again, this mode is actually smoother than Star Fox Assault’s and it’s crazy just how much destruction you can cause. You still have to be careful not to just rush in and get blasted, but you can survive for a while at 1 HP. I got caught on my last breath in two levels, but took advantage of the high speed turns to complete the level anyway. It was pretty exhilarating!

One mode that only appears once or twice in the game is where you control one of the large Tripod robots. It’s very slow which is a big weakness, but more than makes up for it with overwhelming destructive power. Most enemies will crumble after a second or two of being blasted. This mode was also a lot of fun. Finally, we have human combat. This is the only area where the game failed. It’s incredibly hard to hit anyone because the controls are too sensitive. Using the Force isn’t recommended either because you’ll have gotten blasted many times as you try to land a single hit. Throwing your lightsaber is easily the best attack, but try not to move as you do so or you’ll start running in circles. We didn’t get many human levels and perhaps that was for the best. Typically that would be the best mode of gameplay, but it was clearly less refined than the rest. It was still not bad though. If anything, it was just a little campy and I can get behind that.

There was also one racing level where you had to jump on a little scooter and breeze through the forest. That was probably one of the toughest levels as it was hard not to crash against all of the trees. There were so many obstacles lying about that it was pretty crazy, but also very satisfying to get past. That’s one thing that the game really did well, it was satisfying to play and complete the levels. The check points were put in good places for the most part so redoing the sections over and over again wasn’t too annoying.

I had to go back a few times because the game is actually fairly difficult. I played it on normal mode and most levels took me 3-4 tries to complete. If you wander into an enemy ambush then you’re going to die. There’s not much that you can do at that point. I had to resort to run and gun tactics for some levels when I was low on health. It’s very tense when you’re at low health and are still outnumbered 20-1. The difficulty was at the perfect notch where it was too hard to beat in one shot, but not cheap where an opponent could one shot you. You had to treat some of the enemies like Mega Man foes where you memorize the pattern and then rush in. Even then, I beat several bosses with only a sliver of health left.

My recommendation is to really use the health packs sparingly. If you’re at half health, don’t waste the full health pack yet. Wait until you’re as low as you feel comfortable waiting. It’ll end up paying off big time by the end. The ammo packs are also really handy since I just spam my full arsenal as soon as I get it filled up. It makes a big difference when you’re outnumbered since the missiles will scatter the opponents and take a lot of them down.

The graphics are pretty good. I like how the energy blasts look and the character models are sharp. The faces can be funny to look at though as they do try to be very expressive and it can result in some interesting results. The game did the most that it could with the barren landscapes that it had to work with. The soundtrack is excellent as it uses many themes from the movies. You’ll probably recognize just about all of them. Even Darth Vader’s theme plays several times as you go through the game. A lot of the music is reused over and over again as the soundtrack is quite small, but it is effective.

Another factor that helps the game is its replay value. The title has a multiplayer mode in it so that helps a lot since you can always challenge a friend at the game. Multiplayer mode is a must if you want to earn an extra star from me and it really helps solidify this game as an 8 instead of as a 7. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I definitely will within the next few days or so. There is also some single player replay value as well as you can try to complete all of the bonuses to unlock illustrations and such. I got a good chunk of the bonuses naturally, but the ones that are left do seem quite difficult to unlock. Keeping your allies alive seems to be a recurring theme and that’s one thing that I’m not so good at.

If I had any complaint for this game, it’s that I’d like for less of the levels to be about protecting people. I lost quite a few times because my allies died as opposed to it being due to me losing. The levels where it was just me still had me die sometimes, but it felt more legitimate as in those cases it was just an instant where the villains planned better than I did. At 16 levels, the game had a good amount of missions in its arsenal so I just think that they could have redistributed it a little better.

Overall, This is a very good Star Wars game. I’m not going to say that it is the absolute best because I believe that Bounty Hunter may still deserve that title, but it is really close. The fact that it can actually beat Star Fox Assault in some areas really speaks volumes since that is a completely elite title. Star Fox ultimately wins though because of a superior story, multiplayer, graphics, and soundtrack among other things, but that’s not a strike against The Clone Wars. It has a good amount of content for the low price that you can get it for and I’d highly recommend it even if the game was a little more money. It’s just a solid game through and through. Trust me, you’ll have a blast blowing everything up with your crazy arsenal. I can’t say that I’ve played many games at all where you have this much power to unleash on the environment.

Overall 8/10

Rayman Arena Review

Rayman Arena
It’s finally happened. I’ve finally gotten around to playing one of the Rayman games! Honestly speaking, I can’t say that he’s probably going to become one of the more likable main characters. I just can’t get behind this guy in the same way as the hardcore platformer leads like Sonic, Pac-Man, Mega Man, Mario, and Roy(?). That being said, I do like fighting games and I really like 4 player ones. That was a huge advantage that the Gamecube always had over the other consoles. It’s the one thing that the Playstation consoles have lacked. If they ever got this feature for most of their games, it would be Game Over for the competition. This game is great when playing with friends and just good if you’re by yourself. You need to have others around to make the most of this adventure.

There are two main forms of gameplay here, Racing and Fighting. Each of these two options have two more options so lets get right to it. The normal way of fighting is a time limit is set to around 2 minutes and you have to blast each other. The player who scores the most points takes the win. You can use your normal blaster to take away life points from the other player or you can use the power ups which are scattered across the stage. I highly recommend going for these super weapons since they are incredibly overpowered. Grabbing the Green Multi Rifle basically guarantees a full 5 life wipeout for the opponent. There is no way to escape once you have been hit which is why the next 4 shots are confirmed. You can also grab bombs, (Which are terrible) self guided missiles, (Also terrible. They should have grabbed a page from Star Fox Assault’s playbook) and Barriers. (Which are awesome) There are a few more weapons, but those are the main ones. A nice defensive option is a magnet, which lets you steal the opponent’s weapon. Use these tactics to win the fight! You can jump and hide to cheese out the opponent if necessary. It may not always feel fun, but if it works then it’s time to use it.

The other form of combat has both opponents try to grab as many objects as possible. Both players get a freeze gun to start the match and shiny objects are placed around the field. They switch positions each time someone grabs one. The matches are all right I suppose, but these are definitely very luck based and once you have a large lead, you can just stand in place and wait out the clock. I definitely prefer the standard combat. The main racing game has you try to dash to the goal. There are many obstacles around the stages and you have a purple energy blast which you can use to activate traps and grab aerial rings to give yourself a boost. Activating traps may not sound like it’s in your best interests, but you can really trip up an opponent that way. This was definitely the toughest mode as the A.I. is quite good. Just remember to pace yourself and look for the shortcuts. They will certainly come in handy.

The alternate racing style is a one on one fight. You have to get ahead of your opponent by 6 seconds in order to win. This results in a lot of incredibly short 1 lap fights in one player mode, but I don’t see how it’ll work in multiplayer mode when you’re facing someone of similar skill. Maybe you just lose if you’re behind when a certain amount of laps end or something like that. Both players get freeze guns once again so you can try to freeze your opponent at a tricky spot so they lose a lot of time I suppose.

Graphically, the game holds up pretty well. The character designs have that solid Gamecube feel about them. They have depth and everything looks pretty sharp. The color scheme is a bit dark if you ask me, but it’s solid otherwise. The soundtrack is very forgettable though and it doesn’t help that the game doesn’t really have any cutscenes. World of Final Fantasy puts this game to shame in that aspect among others. It doesn’t hold the game back, but having some more up beat tunes would certainly make the game a lot more fun.

There isn’t a whole lot of replay value to be found here. There are 4 tournaments for each event and you can play each event in two difficulties. That makes 32 tournaments or 96 actual matches since each tournament has 3 rounds. You can beat each tournament in around 10 minutes and possible less depending on the event. It’s not a terribly long game, but there’s not much point to beating the hard mode versions aside from a few extra shirts for the characters. It wasn’t enough of an incentive for me honestly and that’s the only post game content available.

Of course, there is one form of replay value that does save the game. I’m talking about multiplayer mode of course. The fact that it is compatible with 4 players opens up a lot of doors that had been slammed. The game would still get a solid 7 if it was just single player, but it would be lacking quite a bit in content. Fighting games get around this through the multiplayer and that’s exactly what Rayman does. This kind of gameplay would work really well with 4 players. It has less depth than others, but the core gameplay is solid. The racing works really well and I can only imagine how chaotic it gets with 4 people around. Likewise for the shooting events. That ultimately helps bump it up an extra star as it’s a game I can definitely see myself picking around Christmas time for everyone to have fun with.

Overall, Rayman Arena is definitely a solid game. Adding in both racing and fighting was definitely a good idea as it adds some variety and also adds more content to the title. A little more of a story would have been appreciated though. It would possibly help me like Rayman more as a character and it would make Story Mode more interesting. Just look at Pokken, they were able to squeeze in a nice story during the normal campaign. Trust me when I say that it makes quite the difference. Of course, Pokken was just a complete masterpiece in every sense of the word so that’s another story. Rayman’s great, but Pokken is amazing. It’s scary how large the jumps are between scores. Look at Super Smash Bros, Pokken isn’t even in the same league because Smash is the ultimate game. It’s like the saying goes, there’s always something better. I digress. I definitely recommend picking Rayman Arena up if you want a new fighting game to play or just something fun and chaotic for a session with friends and family. This game won’t let you down and it’s very easy to simply plug and play. The controls are intuitive.

Overall 8/10

Justice League Heroes Review

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This is a game that I’ve wanted to get for quite a few years. The Justice League rarely get their own video games after all and this seemed like a nice counterpart to Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance. Personally, I actually consider this to be the better game, but more on that later. I actually originally got this game for the DS, but playing it on big console is certainly a different experience. Both versions are a blast, but this one is certainly better.

The plot revolves around Brainiac’s plan to take down the League once and for all. Robots have started showing up in cities around the world and a lot of villains are also in on the scheme. Ranging from White Martians all the way to lesser enemies like Queen Bee. One thing’s for sure, the League is going to have their hands full. They are the world’s strongest heroes though so there is nothing that they can’t stop if they put their minds to it. Is this scheme really everything that it appears or is there another villain lurking in the shadows? Time to find out!

The gameplay is similar to Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance. It is mostly overhead although slightly 3D so you’re not too far from the actual fight. Each character has their standard attacks and power moves as well. You can link them into combos, but you really only need your standard attacks to get through the game. There are also 4 special moves per character those really tend to come in handy. In particular, I recommend upgrading the projectile attack that your character has as those can be quite useful. Whenever you get a level up, you will obtain two upgrade points. Rather than putting a little bit in each category, I’d recommend maxing out on something. Health, Power, or your Projectile are the three best options in my opinion. Max them out and you’ll be fine.

It’s worth mentioning that in this game all characters have health regeneration on their side. This means that if you are getting overwhelmed, you should try to run away. Flying away is typically ideal. Most opponents will go down quickly if you just fight them head on, but challenging a group is not recommended. They can drain your health all the way in a very short amount of time so you won’t be able to escape. Bosses are typically easier since you can hit and run as much as you like until you claim the win. Queen Bee is annoying though as she is very fast and actually camps you out from time to time. If only there was a good way to lock on and actually get the hits in.

Graphically, the game is pretty solid and we actually do get some nice cutscenes. It was a fun story and while the voice actors may have not always matched the characters well, they were still fun to listen too. Superman was a little out of character for most of the game though. He really flew off the handle once Darkseid showed up and turned into a total renegade. The team made up by the end though and at least Superman made for a good AI ally. In these kinds of games, your partner will usually die easily and you have to worry about defending them the whole time. That’s not the case here as I was the one who kept on dying so finally I just let Superman take the lead. He dealt with the minions and that definitely worked for me.

The soundtrack is fairly bland. You won’t really recall any of the themes after playing it. I suppose that anything would seem bland after hearing the classic intro for the first time. Seeing the narrator remind us that the Justice League is the strongest team in the universe was definitely neat as well. He’s got a point since the rest of the comic book teams pale in comparison to the good ole JL.

It’s a fairly short game that you will be able to breeze through. It isn’t too short though and considering that you can purchase it for a low price, it’s definitely worth the money. As they say, quality>>>quantity. You’ll be having a blast with each level and it’s the kind of game that has a lot of replay value because the actual levels are fun. There isn’t a VS mode though so you’ll mainly just be playing the game again to max out all of the characters. Once you’ve purchased everything and gotten them to the top, you’ll have completely finished the game.

The main reason why the levels are so fun is because the level up system was handled really well. Getting to the next level always feels very achievable and doesn’t take all that long. The power ups are noticeable in the gameplay and makes it all feel worth it by the end. That’s actually why I liked the classic DS port of this game so much as well. I actually did max everyone out in that game and I played it quite a lot back in the day. The main unfortunate part is that the DS version didn’t really have a story mode. Sure, there was a semblance of a story in there, but they cut most of it out. I suppose this was due to DS limitations or something like that. Both versions are really addicting, but the DS one is in more of a Pokemon Go or 1010! kind of way while Justice League Heroes is in more of a standard AAA video game style. The PS2 version wins out of course, but you should buy them both while you still can.

One thing that is pretty funny though is how Heroes basically copies the last part of the story directly from the final two episodes of the DCAU TV show. Unlimited ends with Lex trying to resurrect Brainiac and reviving Darkseid instead. In this version, Brainiac tries getting unlimited knowledge and gives himself a power up, but it turns the guy into Darkseid. The game only came out around 6 months after Unlimited finished so that was enough time to watch the episode and then turn it into a fun climax. I think it would actually have been fun to have seen a game adapt more episodes from the classic show and I’d still love to see a PS4 game do that. Imagine fighting the Justice Lords in a big 3D environment? That’d be a lot of fun. Heroes even manages to adapt most of Darkseid’s famous speech about despair before he would finish off Superman. Of course, Darkseid’s voice is a lot different. It’s fun and certainly super deep, but the TV show definitely wins here.

Overall, Justice League Heroes is a very solid game and one of the better comic book titles. The Superman Gamecube game is probably still the definitive single player experience and when we go to multiplayer it’s hard to deny X-Men Next Dimension or Marvel vs Capcom, but Justice League Heroes can hold its head high and play with the big boys. It’s certainly the best Justice League game as well. The story adds the extra dimension to the game and there is even a fight in one of them as we see Darkseid take down the whole league. There were some iffy moments like when Batman actually lost to Killer Frost, but we can chalk that up to him just not having enough prep time. Batman definitely wouldn’t fall for the same trick twice! With this game review completed, it’s hard to say which one will be next. It could be the Pizza Delivery Boy, World of Final Fantasy, or possibly even Professor Layton.

Overall 8/10

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet Review

GensoRondo
This is my first Touhou shooter game so I’ve finally been able to start a new franchise! The gameplay is certainly a lot of fun and it is a solid game. The plot is the main thing that holds this title back, but not enough to really take any points away this time. There’s a good amount of replay value after all and that tends to help quite a bit.

So, there is a story mode, but most of the stories don’t really have anything to do with each other. You play as one of the magical girls as they go around picking fights. The fights are called Danmaku battles and in cannon it seems to be similar to the actual gameplay, but naturally it is not lethal. One girl’s story has her beat everyone up because her mistress told her that dinner would taste better after these tough battles. In the end, it all turned out to be a lie though. Another story had a girl host a tournament and then she went around beating everyone up. The others didn’t want to enter the tourney, but they had no real choice in the matter. Another girl needed inspiration for her puppet shows so she went around challenging everyone. Rinse and repeat.

The story suffered from the same problems as AquaPazza. There just were not any real interesting characters and none of the stories were particularly interesting either. There simply were not any stakes to be had here as they were all just having fun. That can work out fairly well of course, but the game didn’t do much with the concept. It doesn’t help that there are no actual cutscenes here either. There is a still image for the beginning and the end as well as quick text conversations between the characters prior to each fight. It’s just not much though. Ah well, you’re really here for the gameplay anyway.

Each character has a standard attack where you can shoot a barrage of bullets at the opponent. You really want to land as many blows as possible since the opponent can absorb the energy from the stray hits. That means that the closer they get to the bullets without getting hit, the closer they will be to a final smash attack. Aside from the standard bullets, you also have power bullets and alternate bullets. I call them all bullets, but they won’t all necessarily look standard. One character’s alternate bullet has her summon a doll which shoots lasers and one power attack has a lot of energy stars appear and blow up, which sends energy everywhere. Each character can also move in slow mode, which decreases your speed, but also allows you to absorb more energy. There is also dash mode where you can quickly move with a burst of energy and you also have access to 3 new bullets. Speed Bullet, Speed Power Bullet, etc.

Once you have gained enough energy, you may use your final smash. This takes you to a new field where you will try to land hits on the opponent. While in this mode, the opponent cannot escape and can only leave by waiting out the timer or eliminating all of your health. Not to worry though, the health that you lose during the final smash has no effect on your actual health bar. That will only change if you activate your final smash when you have exactly 1 HP left. When you reach 1 HP, all bullets vanish for a second to give you a chance to launch a counter attack. The Ultra Smashes never work on computers, but I’m sure that they would be decent against a second player. If you don’t want to engage in bullet battles for long, you can also quickly turn things into a hand to hand battle if you charge into the opponent’s circle. There, you can use 2 attacks, standard and power. Standard attacks can be blocked and countered while power attacks beat the counter, but lose to standard.

As you can see from all of this, the controls are really quite complex. There is a lot happening in the game at all times and this is certainly not a cash in. It’ll take a little while to get used to all of the controls, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. It’s the kind of game that is definitely a lot more fun against actual players than against CPUs though. CPUs are simply too good at perfectly dodging the bullets and predicting your every move. Not to mention the fact that they are able to defeat your final smashes in an instant. I always thought that was pretty suspect.

On a technical level, the graphics are quite good. With all of the bullets hitting the screen at once, the area always looks very colorful. The game never starts lagging up either so they did a good job with the coding. The soundtrack is very limited though so that isn’t quite as impressive. None of the themes are particularly good either so that’s something that I would like to see improve in a sequel. At this point, a sequel is certainly not in doubt so if it is licensed as well, that would be the top priority for improvement. I’d also like a better story mode if that’s possible.

Aside from Story Mode, there is a good amount of other content to play around with. There is boss battle mode, where you only fight against Ultra Smash opponents. If you can beat 8 opponents with any character, you will get a trophy. I was only able to beat 3 opponents myself when I gave it a whirl so that sounds incredibly tough. You need to get really good at the game if you want to pull something like that off. There’s also Arcade Mode, which basically seems to be Story Mode without the story. I haven’t actually tried that mode yet though so maybe there are some wrinkles to be found there.

The main incentive for playing around in these modes is definitely the fact that this game has a lot of trophies to grab. Almost all of them were listed as Ultra Rare when I last checked so they are certainly no joke. I don’t see myself getting the Platinum anytime soon as I would need to get a lot better, but it’s a fun goal to strive for. You also can’t underestimate how good simply having Multiplayer is for the replay value. This is the kind of game that you can play and have fun with at any time.

Overall, Bullet Ballet is a fun title to have. I have not played a whole lot of games like this and the one that I have played didn’t have a multiplayer option so that was completely new for me. It’s a novel concept and if you have seen the game, but weren’t sure if you should take the plunge, I recommend jumping in. You will have definitely not played anything quite like it.

Overall 8/10