9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Pokemon Black Review


It’s time to take a look at one of the most iconic Pokemon games of all time. Pokemon Black/White got a whole lot of hype and recognition when it first came out. It had one of the biggest stories back in the day and a massive postgame. Well, it’s all deserved. After playing the game I can definitely see why it is known as one of the all time greats. This game really had everything you could ask for and then some. The main campaign does feel a bit short though. In terms of play time it is the shortest Pokemon game I ever played with only 14 hours before being completed. Yes, that’s even counting Pokemon Ranger and Mystery Dungeon.

The game starts with Terry getting ready to be a Pokemon Trainer. He has two rivals in this game, Bianca and Cheren. Both of them want to be the best as well but of course the best they can hope for is second place at this point. Terry won’t let go of the 1st spot. One obstacle in his path though is Team Plasma. They are an organization that believes Pokemon battling is wrong and intends to separate all of the Pokemon from their trainers. While most of the members are radical and downright evil, it is a very interesting premise. The idea of Pokemon battling in any setting other than the Utopia Pokemon exists in would be quite sinister. I’d actually be on Team Plasma’s team to an extent but of course in this game they are the villains so don’t expect them to be too reasonable.

The most neutral character within the team is N. He really believes in the cause and tries to do things the right way. He takes down the Pokemon League including the Champion just to prove that he is the best. He’s not running around committing crimes or anything like that. At the same time he is helping Plasma though so you do have to acknowledge that he is at least complicit in what is going on. He’s effectively acting as an accomplice the whole time. He’s one of the best villains that I’ve seen in a Pokemon game though. The whole climax of the story is also great with a lot of difficult battles and they’re all back to back. I can’t think of another time where I actually felt such a sense of danger and tension while playing through a Pokemon game. It was really quite impressive.

I actually lost to the first few gym leaders a few times. Then when I hit the Elite Four I got slammed by the first member. Granted in part it’s because it takes forever and a day to get the two EXP shares in this game though. Once I obtained them grinding was a lot more efficient. It was fun to actually see wild Pokemon who were stronger than all of my characters except for the main one though. Even when I finally got Reshiram he was stronger than 5 of my Pokemon which was pretty crazy. The game doesn’t hold back in the difficulty and I rather enjoyed that. It made things fresh and kept you on the edge the whole time.

The gameplay is basically the same as always. It’s a classic turn based combat system where you assemble a team of 6 and work to defeat all of the other trainers. There are also caves and such to navigate around as you try to get to the end. Most of the HMs are gone in this game but you will still need Cut at some point. None of the others are mandatory for beating the game which is pretty cool. It’s always sad when you have to throw these moves on a Pokemon because they could have used the spots for something better. I do recommend using Fly once you get it though. It saves you a lot of the legwork. The game follows the usual formula for the most part as you obtain the 8 badges and then fight the Elite Four. The main difference is how you get to skip the Champion and having a real final showdown in the castle at the end. I don’t think Pokemon’s ever really changed things up at the last second like this before so it was pretty awesome.

The graphics look great as always. The sprites are on point and we do get a few cutscenes here. The scene of Zekrom shattering the windows and showing up was pretty cool. It’s always nice to see Legendary Pokemon actually looking legendary. This guy got a lot of hype and it was all pretty deserved. Meanwhile the soundtrack is one of the best that I’ve seen. Pretty much every theme is amazing and I even liked the Team Plasma jingle for whenever you fight one of their minions. This game felt really high budget and was probably around GameFreak’s peak. It takes the best out of the past Pokemon elements while ditching the unnecessary ones. Mix that in with a bigger plot than usual as well as extra rivals and you have a winning formula.

As I mentioned the story is only around 14 hours but when you mix in the post game and catching all of the Pokemon I’m sure you will be here for at least 30 hours. There is a lot to explore and based on the difficulty for the main game I’m guessing that the postgame will be quite challenging as well. It’ll take a while to get your team geared up to deal with all of the threats left. Especially since all of the limited edition Gamestop Pokemon are long gone by now. You won’t be able to rely on them to win you the day.

Overall, Pokemon Black is an excellent game. If you like RPGs at all then I highly recommend checking it out. Pokemon Ruby is ultimately still my favorite Pokemon main game of all time but I would certainly put this in 2nd place. It’s just a ton of fun and delivers a complete experience. I’m definitely pretty hyped to get the sequel at some point. Black 2 and Heartgold are now the only two big Pokemon games that I don’t have yet. Once I have them then I will have finally gone through the entire series which is pretty cool. I do aim to play some more Pokemon games in the near future though so it’s going to be time to dust off the spinoffs.

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories Review


It’s time to take a look at the second Disgaea game. After the first adventure I knew that it was time to jump into the second one. It’s a tad shorter than the first but by the end my playtime for both of them was basically on the same level. One big difference though is that the second game requires less grinding. At the same time, it’s also in part because I understood the mechanics better and had a more balanced team. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a mage on the team. I got one named Marcia in this title and she saved me more times than I can count.

The story starts by introducing us to a human town that has slowly been corrupted. Now all of the citizens are turning into monsters and it is the work of Overlord Zenon. Adell is the only human on the planet who has been unaffected and he takes this as a sign that he has to be the one to find Zenon. His Mom tries to summon Zenon but they accidentally summon his daughter Rozalin instead. As Rozalin is bound by the contract to stick with Adell for a while he promises to get her back to her father. This way they will both get what they want. Can he really trust this Princess though?

Along the way the duo meet quite a few allies to help in their quest. First up is Tink who is a demon frog with a split personality. He’s definitely a little on the crazy side and is easily the weakest character of the group. He never pitches in when it counts. Then you have Adell’s little siblings Hanako and Taro. Hanako is always calling Taro named and looks up to the demon lord Etna. She is a reasonable enough character I suppose and could be worse. Taro is too lacking in confidence and the fact that his goal in life is to be Razalin’s servant doesn’t really bode well for his character.

One character that shows up later in the game is Yukimaru. She is an assassin who wants to end Lord Zenon once and for all. Her ice abilities are pretty fun and her gimmick isn’t bad. Basically she says zam at the end of every sentence. Her brother also shows up on a similar quest although he isn’t nearly as heroic as she is. By the end of the game Yukimaru is one of the only characters who can keep up with the main two so I recommend keeping her in your party. As a character she is fun to have around as well.

One of the most enjoyable characters is Etna though. Since she was from the first game that made her appearances extra special. Initially she shows up as a guest star character who is at a crazy level 1000. She even takes down Zenon which is immensely impressive. I was glad to see the old characters get their hype since they didn’t get to be main characters this time. Etna is still as ruthless as ever though as she constantly destroys her minions. While she may be hanging out with the main characters for most of the game don’t mistake her for being some kind of hero. She’s definitely just in it to get more power and destroy Laharl once and for all.

Laharl gets a much smaller role as he only shows up for a quick boss fight. It’s still an amazing scene though and reminds you why he is the Overlord. Ultimately Laharl actually meets his match though. I would have liked to have seen him fight longer, but it was a decisive loss for him. Power isn’t everything and he probably could have used some of his old pals to help even the playing field a bit. Part of what makes Disgaea 2 so much fun is how epic these scenes are. It has the advantage of being a sequel to it can utilize the nostalgia of bringing the old characters back like this.

The amazing soundtrack is also handy for this. Etna gets a cool insert song whenever she appears as well and it fits with her amazing boss fight where you are completely helpless. It also builds the atmosphere as well. Axel gets a similar theme that’s really hype and of course Laharl brings in some of the themes from the first game. Despite just playing that one I can see how nostalgic that would be. The game also has a fully animated opening which is pretty awesome. You don’t really see those as often as you’d like. It’s got a little more shipping in it than you’d expect but the action is really hype and the lyrics are catchy. I’ve listened to that theme quite a few times.

Axel The Dark Hero is basically the replacement for the Dark Adonis. He’s another guy who thinks he is the rival to the main character. His story is a little tragic as he just wants to be rich and famous but things never tend to work out for him. When he finally does get his success everyone says he made the wrong choice. I think they were all just jealous to be honest. While I wasn’t a big fan of Axel at the start the game does a good job of developing him into a quality character. By the end he was quite enjoyable. I still prefer the Adonis but they were close.

As for Overlord Zenon, he’s a very unique villain. He takes a lot of losses throughout the game and gets beaten up so badly you keep wondering if the guy is really such a feared Overlord. It’s an interesting take because he clearly isn’t the strongest villain out there, but he’s just strong enough where people fear him. It’s a nice theme that Disgaea has done with the villains. Zenon makes up for this weaknesses with his near immortality and to be clear, he is still immensely powerful. He’d probably be top 10 for the fighters we’ve seen so far. His master plan is definitely twisted but really interesting. I don’t think I’ve quite seen such a plan before and his target’s reaction to it is also amazing. This fighter wasn’t phased in the slightest.

Adell is a great lead and one of the better main characters that I’ve seen in recent years. He’s just a guy who wants to protect his family and doesn’t need to have more of a backstory than that. He’s a very honorable main character who refuses to ever break a promise. While everyone doubts whether he is a human or not for the whole game he never has any doubts about it. His confidence is part of what makes him so solid and the game likely did subvert a lot of expectations with that. I was expecting some kind of twist by the end but Azell just didn’t need one.

Meanwhile Rozalin is a great heroine as well. At first she is constantly scheming to destroy Adell to protect her father but gradually realizes that he is not a bad guy. It’s a nice character arc for her and in particular she gets a pretty solid scene with Laharl. As royalty Rozalin refuses to back down to anyone. The only part that gets repetitive is the line “I’m a being of solitude” which gets old after the first 3 times. It gets spammed relentlessly in some games. That’s really the only thing I can say against the game though. This is pretty much a perfect adventure and the banter between Adell and Rozalin is a lot of fun. Disgaea 2 really does a superb job of balancing the hype scenes with more light hearted comedy/parody elements.

Wait a minute, did I skip the gameplay section? Well, the gameplay is basically the same as in the first one. You are in an overworld map view and your goal is to destroy all of the enemies on the square. You control up to 10 characters in a turn based combat system and use attacks and magic to defeat the enemies. You can gang up on an enemy or divide and conquer them. The tricky thing to keep in mind here is that only the opponent who actually destroys the enemy gets any XP. Everyone else does not so it can be very hard to keep a balanced party. I ended up having Laharl and Rozalin way higher leveled than the others. It takes too long to level everyone up so I just focused on having two. It’s rare where you’ll need more than 2 characters in a level if they’re strong enough.

A huge part of the game is the equipment you get though so make sure to buy the best of the best. It increases your stats way more than leveling up would. I also recommend focusing on attack power because it makes the grinding a lot faster. Also you should turn off the combat animations once you’ve seen them enough because it speeds the game up greatly as well. You’ll need to use the Dark Assembly to unlock higher enemies for the shop. If you want to pass any real bills though you’ll need to bribe them which can get expensive. It’s great for the post game though.

The main story is around 20 hours and then the post game is effectively endless. You can go up to level 1000 and there are so many things to do that it can get a bit intimidating. It’s nice to have though because if you really love the game then you can be here for quite a while. Disgaea never backs down from giving you quite a lot of content to deal with which is pretty awesome. The graphics are also quite sound and you can see how they’ve improved since the first game. It all looks quite clear and I look forward to seeing another upgrade in the third game.

Overall, Disgaea 2 is an excellent game and I would actually say that it surpassed the original. It’s very close in terms of characters but the story of the second game is just a lot more interesting and high stakes. I like the idea of every Overlord deciding to duke it out to see who the strongest one is. It’s a very complete story and one that doesn’t need a sequel but I’d like for these characters to show up again at some point. Perhaps the group would be seen as too powerful at this point but it would be perfect for a 2 on 2 fight, Adell & Rozalin vs Laharl and Etna. I’d definitely buy that. If you like a good RPG with tactical gameplay then I highly recommend checking this one out.

Overall 9/10

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Review


It’s time to look at the DBZ game that came out recently. It definitely looked like a real game of the year contender from the instant that we got the first teasers. Interestingly the game kept focusing on the first two arcs so for a while there I was wondering if Arc 3 would be included at all. Fortunately it is here so the game ends up feeling pretty complete. The story took me around 20 hours which is pretty good for an action title. It’s quite rare for any to rank all the way up there. It’s an excellent game and one I definitely recommend.

The story follows the events of the DBZ show/manga. If you don’t know what that is, here’s a quick recap. Goku is a hero who has saved the planet many times. He ended up marrying Chi Chi prior to the game’s start and they had a kid named Gohan. That’s when an alien named Raditz arrives and kidnaps Goku’s son. Goku has to then team up with Piccolo to stop him. Along the way more aliens show up such as Vegeta and Frieza as well as androids like Cell and even mythical beings like Majin Buu. Goku will have to keep on training in order to keep up with these guys, but he believes that he will be up to the task. Goku’s never turned down a challenge before and he doesn’t intend to start now.

The gameplay is similar to the Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi series although styles in more of a single player fashion. You’re using less advanced combos here and more flashy moves to take the opponent down. It’s fun using all of the signature attacks from the show and you can learn new moves/upgrade old ones as you go through the game. I didn’t touch the upgrading part until deep in arc 2, but it’s a handy feature. You won’t be able to upgrade all that much without going through some Roshi training though. Once you beat the game you can unlock all of the training lessons and then you can make your characters really strong. If you want to beat a powerful enemy without leveling up then just buy a lot of health items. Those come in handy although of course it will make getting S ranks a little more difficult. I got an S rank on almost every level but I don’t believe there is much of a reward for doing so here so it’s not a big deal.

In combat you’ll be fine if you just go with your instincts. Typically I like to just stick to physical attacks and don’t use the special moves much unless the opponent is shooting a laser and I don’t want to wait for it to end. Sniping the enemy with a laser of your own is a really good way to counter such a technique. If the opponent is blocking your hits a lot then I would recommend landing a few hits, teleporting, and then attacking more. The opponent is forced to either drop his guard and get hit or let his shield be broken. Either way works out quite nicely for you. There is a good amount of depth to the gameplay so you have the liberty of finding what method of fighting works best for you. The toughest fights for me were the ones where you have to fight multiple opponents. The Cell Jrs that launched at you were no joke.

Meanwhile the graphics here are definitely top tier. There are a lot of animated cutscenes to watch where the characters duke it out and even the normal cutscenes look really good. The engine works really well for a game like DBZ and it feels like you are back in the TV show. The most impressive cutscene was probably Vegito’s battle against Super Buu. The animators definitely had a lot of fun with that one. The scene of Vegeta and Kid Buu punching each other was also styled really well. It keeps up with FighterZ as the two best looking DBZ games. Then you’ve got the soundtrack which is really great. You’ll recognize a lot of the themes from the anime which is a nice touch. We also get an insert song at the very end of the game which was pretty neat. There was certainly no corners being cut in this title.

The sheer amount of content here is also impressive. As I mentioned I beat the game in around 20 hours. That’s considering that I didn’t stop to do any side quests or things like that. I just plunged right through the story. If you consider the side quests, extra boss, and leveling up then you’ll be here for quite a while. The Platinum trophy in this game actually sounds pretty achievable so if I start trophy hunting again then this would be one of the first games that I would focus on. I’d estimate that the game should take you around 40 hours to complete everything. That’s a lot of time and really helps to justify your purchase. Even just wandering around the hub world driving your car and fishing can be a lot of fun. The game did a good job of adding a lot of different gameplay options to have fun with. The game even let you play Baseball for a second which was nice.

Kakarot is a reasonably challenging game, but not one where you will ever be stuck for long. It all feels pretty fair and balanced in part because there are always workarounds. If a boss is too difficult for you right now then you can go and train somewhere, unlock new attacks, re-position your stat medals, cook some food, buy potions, etc. There is no way you will actually be stuck for very long but at the same time you may enjoy just retrying the battle a few times when the opponent is hard to beat like this as it really helps you learn the fighting style. Before long you’ll be racking up S rank after S rank.

Overall, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a superb game. It’s easily one of the best DBZ games I’ve played. I’ve seen it compared to Attack of the Saiyans quite a lot. While that game is also very good, I would have to give this one the edge. I’d put it in third place right behind FighterZ and Budokai Tenkaichi 3. I hope we get a sequel to this game which adapts GT, the movies, and Super. I’m sure they could also do that through DLC as well, but a sequel would be ideal because then it could be a full 20+ hour experience with a lot of cutscenes. I feel like you are slightly more limited with what you can do when it’s DLC but that’s not necessarily true. If you haven’t gotten this game yet then I’d recommend changing that. It’s one of the most complete DBZ adaptions you’ll ever see. When you finish the story you’ll feel as though you just scratched the surface of what the title has in store for you.

Overall 9/10

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Madden 19 Review


It’s time to look at one of the newest installments in Madden. It’s definitely been a fun series throughout the years and I’m proud to say that I own almost all of the installments in it. Madden 19 continues the series strong run into the modern era and it’s the kind of game that you could play for a very long time. It’s one of the only sport games where I end up playing through a full season before the review so I could really take in the smooth gameplay. There’s really not much to say against this game although there is a feature or two that take away from it being the perfect Madden title. (2004 will always be the best one)

First things first I jumped into Franchise mode. It’s really quite sad how this mode has gotten the shaft in favor of other titles over the years. You rarely hear people getting hyped about this one anymore, but to me it’ll always be the best mode. You just pick your team and play for as many years as you want. There is now the option to play the Franchise online which sounds interesting. I assume that means all 32 teams will be controller by someone online, but does that mean the matches have to be scheduled? I know there are also a lot of rage quitters so I wonder how the game handles that. Either way I don’t have PS+ so I had to play the franchise offline but that made it extra nostalgic.

As expected there are a few new bells and whistles here. For starters every player has XP as if this was an RPG and you’ve got missions for every game. Clearing them gives you more XP and you can use that to level up specific techniques or even the coach. I’m not sure if I’m 100% happy to have these extra things because I prefer to just play the game with my own playbook, but it doesn’t really harm things offline. Online it could mean that you end up being completely outclassed though if all of their players are maxed out. So I dove into the games and managed a 10-6 record. I managed to get a first round bye which was nice, but then I lost to the Eagles in the Divisional round 37-27. Considering I was playing as the Cowboys it was a pretty rough way to go. My backup quarterback fumbled twice and I also threw a pick. In the end we just couldn’t get past that. (And the random holding calls from my offensive line)

In a lot of ways the games have gotten even more realistic than they used to. A holding penalty suddenly showing up to wipe away my first down happened about as much as you see on TV for the team. Then there are also the constant injuries that would happen every game. Pretty much every important player on my team had to leave at least once during the game and several were out for weeks. I had to sign 3 more quarterbacks during the season to keep my team afloat until Dak arrived again in the final game of the regular season….only to get knocked out during the Eagles game. I’m really tempted to turn off injuries for the league next time I do a season.

Granted, I got a lot of mileage out of Dak. I ran for over 1300 yards as him and while my passing yards were only around 2800 or so, it worked out pretty well. My favorite play in the game is quick slants as there are a lot of options on the field and typically if they’re all covered well then you can run for it. Usually I would run for about 15-20 yards a piece. Of course I do recommend diving each time you run at the end because a direct hit would probably lead to a fumble. Running the ball normally was okay, but Zeke felt extremely slow so I usually wouldn’t get a lot of yards. I did go to Exhibition after the season to play as the Ravens real quick and their running back was so much faster. It just feels nice to blow past everyone.

On the defensive side it felt about the same as usual. You go after the quarterback or stay with the cornerbacks. It can be really tough to make any stops though and half the time it feels like you don’t have any real power here. I played defense for a little while and eventually turned it off. One of the best features here is the ability to skip one side of the ball. I would set it to Offense only so I would only take over at that point and the defensive side would be simulated. It was a pretty good balance if you ask me. Special teams is pretty good as well though and they tend to keep that one in. Field goal kicking has been greatly improved as it’s back to a “click x button twice” style as opposed to flicking the stick. It just feels a lot more natural now. Punting is also pretty good so these parts of the game are as good as can be.

The graphics and presentation are top notch as you’d expect. Madden has always been amazingly consistent in these areas and it shows how much effort the company puts into the game. Madden is a flagship title after all so you would expect it to always be this good. The players throw their clipboards away after a game and they’ve even got most of the celebration dances in. You can now choose how you celebrate after a play as well and the commentators really have a lot of good dialogue options so they typically know what they are talking about. It’s really rare for them to say something unrelated during the game.

Now lets talk about the only parts of the game that don’t work so well. First up, I like the concept of their Longshot mode which is where you get to start the game from college or high school and make your way to the championships. The problem is that the game has long cutscenes that cannot be skipped which is not something you want to see nowadays. I don’t think it was ever a good thing, but I understand that there may have been technical limitations at some points. Otherwise there is no excuse not to be able to skip cutscenes. That just hampers the mode quite a bit.

Meanwhile you’ve got the soundtrack which isn’t so good. EA’s always gone for very loud music which I guess ties into Football, but it can be a little obnoxious while you’re on the menus waiting for the next game. You’ll probably want to turn it off as soon as possible. Fortunately it is easy to do that. The final thing I have to mention here is that it’s still really tough to ever throw deep balls. One thing I liked about the older Maddens was that you could take shots down the field. Nowadays if you do that you’re going to get picked off. There are good receiver catching mechanics that have been added like the RAC option, but they don’t solve this issue. Typically the way to advance are short passes that go for 10-15 yards and that’s it. There are no long balls and that’s a shame.

Overall, Madden 19 is definitely a fantastic game. There is an endless amount of replay value to be found here as the game has tons and tons of different modes. It’ll take some time to master all of the mechanics since there are a lot of them and in general Madden has never been an easy game. You need to have great reaction times and to be able to scan the field right away since everyone’s positions will be constantly moving. Still, if you are able to do that you will find yourself dashing through the competition. Maybe you can even go for the Platinum while there are still enough people playing the game. Regardless Madden continues to be the greatest video game series out there right after Super Smash. I’ll definitely go after Madden 20 once the price has dropped to the 5-10 dollar level like this one did.

Overall 9/10

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order Review


It’s time to look at a Star Wars game that I’ve been hyped for as soon as the first trailer came out. This looked like a really good return to the Force Unleashed games and it does deliver. It’s not quite able to match the complete masterpieces of that duology, but comes close and definitely solidifies itself as a great title. It’s one of the best Star Wars games of all time and I would definitely like to see a sequel.

Carl used to be a Jedi in training, but after some tragic events he now lives in hiding. It’s hard to stay out of view for long during such turbulent times though and he soon finds himself back in the fight. There exists a holocron with the names of every kid who currently has some force abilities. Naturally the Empire wants this, but so do some rebels to bring back the Jedi order. It’s now a race against time to get to the cube first. The journey will span several planets and Carl will have to face his own inner demons along the way.

The gameplay is that of a 3D platformer with a lot of combat. If you’ve played The Force Unleashed then imagine that with some Spider-Man type gameplay. You’ll have some quick time events, but the bulk of the combat gameplay revolves around precise swings and parries. This makes the game pretty difficult at some points, particularly the boss fights but it’s also why the game is so much fun. It never feels unfair or difficult due to bad level design. It’s all quite fair and helps you nail down the timing. If anything this game is probably really good for improving your reaction times. In particular the final boss is incredibly difficult and took me many tries, but it’s great to see your progress as you go through the attempts.

The gameplay also makes it so you can’t just ignore the minions. They’ll actually deal some considerable damage if you try to run past them and you can’t blindly attack either. You’re going to need to block and parry with them as well. The exception are the storm troopers who you can stop any which way. It is fun to perfect block their shots to reflect them though and this is where the upgrades come in handy. One upgrade allows you to block automatically while running which makes it feel even more like you’re a Jedi. Then there is the upgrade where you do a combo attack which allows you to break almost any minion’s guard. It is extremely handy and was even critical against the second to last boss.

I recommend going for the upgrades that increase your base stats first though like improving your health and force abilities. I don’t even need to explain why those are handy to have. In most games my first objective is always to increase stats and then I go for combo moves. I figure it’s best to have top notch fundamentals first and then you have fun with the flashy stuff. There are also upgrades that increase your health shots, health, and force in the wild so keep a lookout for those. I found enough to increase my health and shot once, but didn’t find the rest in time. They are very helpful as well.

The platforming gameplay was a little weaker for me even though it was pretty ambitious. I think my main issue here was the fact that the jumps didn’t always go very far so I would fall to my doom. Even when doing a normal jump from vine to vine I wouldn’t always make it. Then you can get locked in hit-stun when you’re attacked so you lose your double jump. I died quite a few times for things like this, but fortunately you have a very quick re-spawn system so you never really lose much time there.

The one real negative in the game are the very long loading screens. Whenever you turn on the game you have to sit through a bunch of unskippable company logos. Then when you go from planet to planet there are long periods of time you have to wait as everyone buckles in. Couple that with the long time it takes to respawn after a complete death or all the menus you have to get through to save and it adds up. It might be that the game added so much content the game has a hard time loading it up right away. If that’s the case then it’s a worthy trade off but it is very noticeable. We’re almost talking Sonic 2006 at times.

As for the story, Carl makes for a good main character. Keep in mind that he is no Starkiller so don’t expect this guy to be running around defeating Sith lords and knocking out Vader. Carl is more of an in-training Jedi so he is still getting used to his various Force abilities. Still he does come up with some good wins as the game progresses. He makes the right decision in the end even if it took him a while to get to that point. Then we have Cere who used to be a Jedi, but due to some stuff in her past has put away her Force abilities. You never truly lose them even if you hide from the Force, but you can’t use them without accepting it once again.

She’s not quite as good. For starters another character had some valid points about how this is all her fault. The heroic sacrifice move doesn’t work if you aren’t truly powerful. It would have been better for them all to have left together. Live or die, at least you’re together right? Cere does do her best to get back up from this in the climax where she looks good. It was one scene where I disagreed with Carl, but I can’t go into depth without spoilers. Needless to say it involves using the Dark side and depending on the situation that’s not something you should be opposed to using.

Many Star Wars characters in the expanded universe have shown that you can use the Dark side without turning evil. Ultimately the Force is just a power and it’s all in how you use it. Once again I point to Starkiller who mastered both sides of this ability. He was a prodigy, but that doesn’t mean that the others can’t do it as well. The Sith abilities are very powerful so if you can master them then it will be helpful for the heroes as well.

We’ve also got some supporting characters like Merrin who appears near the end. The fact that she has powers already set her off to a good start. She’s fun to have around, but appears quite late in the game. It makes for a fun tag team fight like Link and Zelda vs Ganondorf though. Then there is the mysterious stranger in one of the final planets. He ends up having a pretty big role. Between his hype design and strong abilities he was one of the best characters here. Obviously the guy is pretty shady and sort of insane, but he is the kind of character who spices things up. I like when a new antagonist shows up out of nowhere and changes everyone’s plans.

Of course the main villain is the Second Sister from all of the trailers. She has a lot of pretty great scenes and fights with us quite a few times. Between the fun design and her character I would say that she is one of the better villains. It helps that I have also always liked the Sisters group. They tend to be on the evil side, but it’s nice to have a third faction who aren’t necessarily Sith or Jedi. The third sister in the game gets the smallest role and doesn’t really do much though.

Finally I also like how some of the fights feel real before you actually realize that you can’t win. The health bar is going down slowly but the boss just feels so insanely powerful. Typically you have to actually get the boss down to 50% but when you don’t know that and you have them down to 60% while you’re at 1%…you wonder how you can make a comeback. It’s a good way to build up tension and the game handles it quite excellently. The game developers really did a great job here.

The graphics are definitely top notch as well. The cinematics are quite striking. It’s pretty much movie quality here and the graphics during normal gameplay are really good as well. It’s all very high level although I’d expect nothing less from EA. Even with the sport games they churn out every year the graphics are always incredibly impressive. I also enjoyed the soundtrack. It’s not super memorable, but it has that classic Star Wars vibe. You’ll feel pretty hyped during all of the boss fights.

The actual campaign here is pretty long. You should be busy for around 15 hours or so and then there is a lot of replay value. You can go back to all of the old planets to get the last transmission logs and max out your character level. Platinuming the game should take you an extra 20 hours if not a little more. There are a lot of collectibles out there and the planets are quite large. It’s one of those games that would be fun to Platinum though as none of the trophies are tedious or have forced grinding in them.

Overall, Fallen Order definitely lived up to the hype. It’s a very complete game with an engaging story and top notch gameplay. I really like the trend of cinematic style gameplay like this where you are in control the whole time, but do get treated to little cutscenes depending on how precise your movements are. All of the boss fights are excellent and while the platforming could get a bit iffy at times, it’s certainly the best we’ve gotten in the series. The Clone Wars Republic Heroes isn’t even close and that was really the last big platforming title. If you haven’t bought this game yet then you should definitely change that as soon as possible!

Overall 9/10

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Astral Chain Review


It’s time to look at one of Nintendo’s most recent games. This one looked like a day 1 purchase right away. It really had everything I could want from a game through its solid gameplay, epic soundtrack, cinematic story, etc. Astral Chain was pretty much guaranteed to be a home run hit and I’m glad to say that it did not disappoint. I definitely hope the game gets a sequel and it continues to show why Platinum is so good at making quality titles. The game will last you for around 14 hours to complete the main story which is pretty good.

The basic plot is that the world is under attack by invisible monsters. The only way to see them is to equip a Legion which is effectively a captured monster that you fight with. This helps to even the playing field with the evil monsters. The main character is one of those silent assassin types who gets the job done without complaint. His sister Akira is the more vocal member of the group who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. The two are selected to be in the Legion program and now work to make the world a safer place. Still, it is odd how there are so many portals with monsters showing up lately and their boss seems rather shady. Akira and the lead will have to stay sharp.

I picked the guy to play as, but if you had chosen to play as Akira then the guy would probably be doing the talking while you are silent. I’m definitely never a big fan of the silent lead, but I suppose it’s not like it hurts the story all that much. It just makes him really lacking in personality. Also, even though I named him Terry nobody actually called me that and in two different cutscenes they called him something else which I’m guessing is his actual name. Still, while the lead has no character the heroine is mostly solid. She’s quick to stand up to the bosses and jumps into action. Her character arc does go in some dicey directions such as her final fight with us which really came out of nowhere. Akira was solid for the most part though and that’s what counts in the end.

The gameplay is that of a 3D brawler. You can fight up close with the sword or hang back and use your gun. The gun is significantly weaker than the sword so it’s not something you’ll want to use very often. A big part of the gameplay is also in controlling your Legion. It’s effectively like an A.I. ally who comes in to help you. His attacks deal massive damage and you can also use him to jump across large distances or for combo moves. The gameplay has a lot of depth to it, but it’s explained well so you’ll quickly get the hang of it. There is also a training room with a lot of tutorials you can go to if you ever forget how to do something. The game also helpfully reminds you of the key abilities whenever you’re in a puzzle which I definitely appreciate.

The soundtrack is definitely quite solid. The main boss theme is rock based and really gets you into the zone. The whole game just clicks really well and it goes without saying that the graphics are really good as well. You can customize your character’s look a lot as well which sticks around for the cutscenes. I had fun changing up my character depending on what was happening. I started out as a hopeful cadet, then I switched to a casual slacker, and then finally to a very cynical rogue. It was a fun little side thing for sure.

I’d say that the only weak part of the game (relatively speaking. This is still a 9 star title so there wasn’t anything seriously weak here) was the investigation parts. I don’t really think this ended up adding much to the game. I suppose it helps the immersion since you’re a cop and there should be a lot of investigating going around. It’s just a lot slower than the actual combat and while you’re finding clues all you can think of it continuing the story a little more. Other than that, the game is very fast paced from start to finish with a lot of twists and turns all around.

I would say that there are enough loose ends here to have a sequel come up. Really it feels like the humans are still the shady ones here, but either way the threat isn’t over. Two plans have already been put into action without results so the heroes are going to have to think of what to do next. If there is no sequel the ending here can still be seen as definitive, but I think a sequel would be a good idea. I’m also glad that the main character stayed strong all the way through to the end even if his legion did not have similar resolve in his actions. One is better than none.

Assuming you’re playing on the Platinum difficulty then I recommend buying upgrades to your Legolas right away. Doing so gives you extra batteries which are effectively extra lives. They are incredibly handy when fighting with the bosses. The game is reasonably difficult so you’ll also want to have items on hand. They’re a little expensive but you want to be maxed out on battery chargers at all times. I barely took down the final boss and that’s considering that I came prepared with around 10 batteries and a bunch of full heals. If you come in with anything less then you’re definitely going to possibly be in some trouble. For replay value you can work on maxing out all of your legions after beating the game. There are also a bunch of side quests and achievements to complete as well. This will definitely take you some time and I expect you will be well acquainted with the world by the end of your adventures.

Overall, Astral Chain is definitely an excellent game and I highly recommend checking it out. The menu screens are all very intuitive. Leveling up is pretty easy and never feels like a drag. Obtaining enough premium codes to max everyone out seems like it’ll take a long time, but the replay value is good. It’s not forced so you only have to keep going if you want to. With all of the difficulty levels here you never have to feel like you’re truly stuck. As you learn the boss patterns you can also put up a much better fight the longer you train. If you don’t have this game yet then you’re going to want to change that.

Overall 9/10

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Madden 18 G.O.A.T. Edition Review


It’s time to look at the next Madden title. I’m really close to being caught up now, but I’ll likely wait a year before getting 19 so it drops down to the 5 dollar bin. The Madden games have historically been great. They’re consistently solid across the board and 18 is naturally no exception. This one even added a story mode of sorts although I didn’t try it this time. Basically you start out as a college kid who gets signed on to a team and during the game you rise up the ranks. It’s a pretty cool concept and while I would mainly be sticking with the tried and true quickplay battles, more options is never a bad thing.

Madden 18 has really got everything you can ask for. You can practice, play online, start a franchise, play the story, etc. They even added more options for the gameplay. You can now choose between arcade style, basic, or online for glory mode. I choose the last option of course because I want to be ready to take down an opponent at any time. It was definitely a lot of fun too and they finally brought speed back into the equation. Yes, you can run fast again and that is huge. I’m wondering if Madden 17 might have had some option in the back end where you could have switched the style. Either way, 18 definitely gets credit for showing you how to do it. It makes running the ball a lot more fun when you can just take off like this.

The gameplay is the same as it has been for the last 18 years so there isn’t much to say about it. The goal is to get across the opponent’s end zone to score some points. Score enough and you’re home free. On Offense I really like passing the ball, but it is always a lot riskier. Thanks in part to the whole “aggressive ball” mechanics you never really know if your guy is going to make the pass. There’s an equal chance that the other team’s player is just going to rocket from across the sidelines and knock the wind out of you. If that happens then you’re gonna fumble or you’ll end up throwing a pick 6. You want to only throw bullet passes and you want to do it when your guy is wide open. As a result I have to be really careful about where I throw it. You just can’t toss the ball in the air and make a play anymore.

Fortunately as I mentioned they brought the running game back. My favorite thing to do is pick a Hail Mary play and then run it with my quarterback. Most of the time you can gain an easy 10 yards. I average 10-11 yards per run with the quarterback. He almost always gets 100 yards by the time the game is over. It may feel a little broken at times, but I think a quarterback should be really mobile like that. It really opens up the offense. I get how it makes the defense a lot trickier to control, but I think it’s a fair trade considering how much better the ball covering is now. Running the ball traditionally is also good. You tend to pick up 2-3 yards. Madden continues to feel more and more like the real deal. I even get final scores that are like real games like 10-7.

On defense I’m mostly still at the mercy of the computer. I always pick a guy to try and sack the quarterback, but I only get 1-2 sacks a game. Otherwise I just hope I’m in the right place at the right time to make the stop. Otherwise I just get to watch and weep as the guy shakes a bunch of tackles and breaks an 80 yard run for a touchdown. In my defense, I usually shut the run down pretty well but when it comes time to pass then it’s all up to the luck of the draw. The computer either runs right through me or they throw some terrible passes and punt.

Special Teams is always fun even if it’s very brief. You get to do some free style running and that never gets old. Kicking the field goal and punting are still not my favorite with the new system though. It’s a lot harder since you have to press the X button at just the right time multiple times to launch a kick. It definitely does make kicking a little riskier so if that was the goal then the game succeeded. I just don’t think it was necessary. Ah well, it’s not like that really hurts the game all that much at all. A large part of the Madden experience still comes down to how quickly you can react. On any given play there is always an avenue for success when you’re on the offense. The defense’s job is to give you as little time as possible to make the right call. It’s just really hard to keep track of so many guys running on the field at the same time, but it’s exactly what you’ve got to do if you want to secure the win.

The graphics here definitely look quite amazing as expected. The players are all so lifelike and the presentation is still quite amazing. I enjoy the sound effects and the music doesn’t seem bad. You won’t really notice it aside from the main menu though so unless you stick around there for a while you really won’t notice it. The game has limitless replay value with the online mode and all the other content it has got. It’s always hard to see how you’d be ready to switch up to the next game in the following year. I suppose if you’re playing this full time then maybe you can get through it, but otherwise it probably feels like the next title is right around the corner.

Overall, Madden 18 is definitely an excellent title. Sadly the G.O.A.T. version doesn’t really change anything for me since I don’t have the online and it’s all expired by now, but the vanilla version will do quite fine. For 5 bucks you also can’t go wrong here. It’s a big upgrade over the last Madden I played and this one will rank up there with some of the classics that I’ve played. If you even remotely like Football then you’ll love this game. EA may not have the best rep, but I can say that they’ve never phoned in a Madden title. They give it their all year after year.

Overall 9/10

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Madden 17 Deluxe Edition Review


All right guys, it’s finally time to take a look at one of the newer Madden titles. Madden is easily still my favorite sports title out of all the big EA games and 17 continues to impress. While this installment isn’t quite as impressive as some of the older ones, it still had all of the positive fundamentals that we have come to expect from the series. It’s certainly a steal considering it was only 3-4 bucks.

The gameplay is the same Football mechanics as the older ones at least in a grand scope kind of view. The goal is to score more points than the other team by getting a player with the football into the opponent’s end zone. Alternatively you can just kick the ball in. You’re really going to need to be able to survey different parts of the screen at once especially when throwing passes. It’s a very intricate game and you do need great reactions to pull this off. Part of why the game is so satisfying is because it needs all of those skills. You can’t pick up the game and suddenly become good, you’re going to need to work on it. There’s definitely a lot to learn too since you’ve also got other sides of the ball like defense, kicking, and running.

While not much has changed since the last Madden they did retool the kicking gameplay once again. Now you’ve got a meter that goes up and down which you have to stop twice. I definitely preferred the old system where you would just flick a lever up and down. I suppose this one is a lot trickier though, but I don’t think you need to over complicate field goals. It also makes the meter pretty crazy when you increase the difficulty. That’s not new, but I still disagree with it since I want a challenge on the field when upping the stakes, not a challenge to fight myself!

Accelerating is a little less obvious here so the game is a little more like a simulation than arcade style. I miss zooming around the field, but I do get the logic and it works well enough. The tackling is still on point and you can see how the game is really well polished in all areas. The gameplay is just a lot of fun provided that you like the sport of Football. It accurately portrays how the game goes down. When you’re playing you feel like you’re in total control so the game succeeds here.

It goes without saying that the graphics are pretty incredible as always. Everything is just so lifelike and while EA may not have the best reputation they do always deliver on this front. As for the soundtrack, it’s less obvious than usual. You’re really not going to be paying it much attention anyway since you’ll be in the game by that point. Now the presentation is where its at and the game is stunning there. It really feels like a real game with how the announcers introduce the teams and we get a nice pre game set up. Likewise you get a good set up for the playoffs and super bowl.

There are a lot of modes beyond the quick games of course. You can practice or jump into the online modes. There are a lot of ranks to go through so if you play online then you’ll probably be around for quite a while. Learning all of the playbooks will take a while and naturally obtaining the Platinum is quite difficult. These games may come out every year, but one title is enough to hold you for several years to be honest since there is just so much to do. There’s also the fact that every game is different so like a fighting game there is basically unlimited replay value here.

Due to the nature of the game there isn’t a whole lot to say but I’ll end off with my tips on how to take the computers down a few pegs. I was able to take them down until All Madden difficulty after all although at that point they cheesed me out. One thing I don’t like about All Madden is that your players start to choke. They begin dropping passes and fumbling all over the place which doesn’t feel like a real difficulty spike. It’s more like your players start breaking down as if they’re 1st year rookies going into their first playoff game. So ignoring that, my strategy for winning was a bland but effective ground game. I’d run it on 1st and 2nd down and then pick up the final 3 yards over the place. Then I’d mix it up with a first yard pass sometimes. I would win in very low scoring games like 17-10 or something like that. The computer has a hard time fully shutting down the run so you’re almost guaranteed to get 2-3 yards up the middle each time.

On the other hand, if you go around then you’re more likely to lose yardage but you have a decent shot of getting a big gain. I prefer consistency so I go up the middle and you’ve also got the shot of making a big gain so the way I see it there isn’t much of a downside to this. Just keep plugging away and eventually you’ll get some kind of win. Defense is also important, but I don’t really have any tips for that. What’ll happen will happen with that one.

Overall, Madden 17 is definitely a game that you’re going to want to jump into. It’s only 2-3 dollars so there is really no downside to making the purchase. By the same token you can also just skip to 18 which is basically the same price and have close to the same experience. It’s really up to you to see what you want to do, but there’s no bad option. While I do think they should speed up the gameplay a bit like in the old days it is still very balanced. I think the problem of the low acceleration is that the running back feels like just an ordinary player as opposed to the speedster. It also gets rid of the quarterback advantage which is too bad because I loved scrambling for every play and getting a bunch of yards. I guess it was pretty broken to be honest though. The quarterback was unbeatable in some of the older games.

Overall 9/10

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

NCAA Football 12 Review


It’s time for my NCAA Football marathon to come to a close. It’s been a good run but they must all end someday. This one actually does change the gameplay up quite drastically compared to the last games which were pretty much identical. Unfortunately I don’t think it works quite as well as the last few. This one slows down the pacing so it’s more of a classic football simulator. Not a bad idea, but after playing the fast paced ones it is just hard to go back.

The array of game modes are pretty much the same as always. I’m not sure why they listed quick play as a new mode inside of the game, but I’ll assume that was a quick misdirect to try and get more sales in and trick people into thinking there is more content. It wouldn’t exactly be the most sinister thing that EA ever did after all. There’s franchise mode, practice, and a bunch of other options. I believe the servers are likely down for this one so don’t expect to be getting into some crispy online battles just yet.

Either way the majority of your time in the game will be playing full Football matches which is why the gameplay is key. You can’t just cheese the game by running in with your quarterback anymore. This game really encourages you to run the ball with your running back as you would typically do in real life. It works well enough and for the record I was still able to win against the computer on Heisman level. It just meant playing very patiently and working on getting used to how this game rolls. For the first few drives I actually wasn’t able to score so I definitely did have to take a step back and re-evaluate how I was playing. Once I got the hang of it then it was off to the races. I found that the best plays were still slants and crossing patterns. The computer always seems to have a tough time with those no matter what year it is.

Surprisingly the computer wasn’t so good on offense this time around which is the only reason I was able to stay in the game. I was able to stop them many times. It almost felt like a glitch at points as the computers would try the same screen pass over and over again. They’d either run it or screen it, but they never really went for real throws. It happened so infrequently and that worked out for me since it’s hard to protect against the longer shots. I kept holding them to field goals so that was pretty cool. I still think something didn’t seem right. When zooming out to see the play it would also flicker at times so there may be something up with my copy after all.

Regardless, the gameplay is still a lot of fun. It may not be as fast as the others, but every aspect of the gameplay is still very polished. You have a lot of control over the player and there are so many different plays you can run. Each game will never feel quite the same as the last one with so many variables intact. Part of why I love the Football games is because of how fun and peaceful they are. You can get lost in these games for a long time as you just go play by play. Before you know it you’ll have gone through the full season. This definitely reminds me that I need to go and play the next Madden soon.

As for the graphics, they’re definitely on point as you would expect. Everything looks pretty sharp and while it isn’t a big change from the other games, this series has never looked bad. EA is always proud of their graphics so that doesn’t really come as a surprise. The sound effects are on point and the game holds up as well as you would expect it to on a technical level. There’s a lot of content here as I already mentioned so you don’t need to worry about replay value. Considering that you can get this game for a dollar now, that’s more than enough content to keep you busy.

Overall, NCAA Football continues to impress. It’s certainly the best ongoing sport series aside from Madden. If the games are still coming out then I’m pretty behind at this point since this is the latest saga in the series that I own. I’ll definitely take a look and see if I notice any newer ones next time I’m at Gamestop. I definitely recommend this game if you like Football and naturally I’d skip on it if you don’t. It’s the kind of game that completely depends on whether you enjoy the sport so you’ll likely know right away whether this is the game for you or not. Now I’ve gotten my sport backlog down to 37 games which is pretty cool. You’ll be seeing it at 0 before you know it!

Overall 9/10

9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

NCAA Football 10 Review


I know that was fast, but it’s time to jump right into the next NCAA Football title! As expected there really aren’t a lot of noticeable differences in this game. I do think that they nerfed the QB speed a bit which is understandable. It forced me to play the game a little more like how it was actually designed instead of just cheesing along as with last time. I still schooled the computer on the highest difficulty in the game though so no matter what they can’t take away my Football mix-ups!

The gameplay is the same as with the other Football games. Basically there are two teams on the field and the goal is to score more points than the other team. You earn points by kicking a Football through the uprights of the goal at the end of the field or physically running into the end zone with the ball in your hands. As a result you’ll be playing Offense and Defense at different times. Then there’s also Special Teams which can make the difference between a win and a loss. The game does a good job of incorporating all of the different mechanics into the game and providing you with an authentic Football experience.

The graphics seem really identical here so I really can’t say that I noticed any kind of change. I’m thinking that a year just doesn’t make a whole lot of difference even if you play them back to back. Still, they hold up just as well as 09’s did and that’s no small feat. The rest of the technical aspects are on point here as well. I even tried playing a match on super windy and snowy at the same time and you can feel the difference in the gameplay. I’d say that it was definitely executed well.

Then we’ve got the massive amount of content here that equals 09. All of the usual modes are still in place like training, quick games, and franchise mode. You can watch your team and custom player grow and get better as the years progress. There is an online mode, but the servers are long gone so you’ll be wanting to get the full experience in your local mode journeys. Fear not, that’s still plenty and since you can get the game for a few bucks it’s really a steal either way.

One slight difference I noticed in the gameplay is that the defense stays a lot closer to your receivers than last time. This is mostly noticeable when you decide to take off as the Quarterback. Even once you’re approaching the line of scrimmage they won’t leave their post so you have a much better chance at breaking off a really good gain. That’s why I went back to the Hail Mary pass and once the receivers are far enough I’d dash through. There’s a lot more nuance to this than I’m saying, but you’ll understand once you get into the actual game. The camera angle also changes a bit when you’re in running mode which may take a little getting used to, but I’d say that it worked out really well.

Once again special teams seems pretty good as I returned another kick for a touchdown. The best way to do that seems to be running straight at the other team and making one guy miss. Do that and it’s off to the races! Usually your returner is the team’s fastest player so you don’t have to worry about someone catching him from behind. That’s still the worst feeling in any game. You never want someone to actually catch you once you had already been going full steam ahead.

The NCAA games really have no negatives so you may be wondering what gives the Madden games their edge over this series. Really the only substantial difference is the amount of promotions and presentation that Madden has. They give the commentators more to do and there are always a lot of interesting stats you see before the game starts that are likely dug up from the previous year in real life. As a result the whole thing feels a lot more genuine than NCAA could hope to match. Then throw in the fact that the teams are all ones that I’ve grown up with in the NFL and the bigger stadiums and NCAA is really doomed. It just feels like a smaller version of Madden. It’s still got the same level of quality but when asked which game I prefer I would be able to very quickly tell you Madden with no hesitation.

Overall, NCAA Football is another keeper. I am continuously reminded how much I enjoy these Football games. From all of the sport titles EA cranks out these are definitely my favorites. I’m gonna be sad once these are gone and I’m back to something like NHL or another sport. All of the sports are solid in their own right of course, but they definitely don’t have the same energy and excitement that Football possesses. I think it’s because even if I’m not the biggest fan of playing defense in these games at least it feels like I’m doing something. In other sports like Baseball I feel like I’m just waiting to see how many runs the computer is going to score on me. In FIFA I’m just waiting for the game to end so we can do the overtime kickoff since nobody gets to score there. Football feels the most balanced, but I am a big Football fan so take that into account.

Overall 9/10