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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Alter Echo Review

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This is one of those games that I knew next to nothing about, but decided to buy on a whim. Lets face it, a cool cover and solid gameplay is enough to warrant a purchase. It’s why I like surfing Amazon’s retro games once in a while to find the hidden gems. Alter Echo’s definitely quite a lot of fun. It’s not quite on the same level as Eve of Extinction and Oni as those games were phenomenal, but it’s another good entry for the PS2 that holds up really well. The plot is certainly original.

So, humanity has gone pretty far. We now have telepaths to an extent who can reshape things. One day, a group of humans stumble upon a planet where they had sent a few others many years ago. It seems like their time in space has turned Paavo’s expedition evil so they now want to wipe out humanity. Our 3 proud heroes decide to stop them, but they are split up when landing. Nevin decides to find them and get off the planet while he can. He meets with an artificial intelligence that is the actual planet and it begs Nevin to help him stop Paavo. Nevin declines whole heartedly and gives this entity a hard time throughout the game, but it finally gets personal when the body count starts to rise and he realizes that there will be nowhere to escape to if Earth is destroyed. He reluctantly agrees to help and fortunately, the entity gives him a power suit and an assortment of weapons to bolster his abilities.

The plot is definitely going all in with the science fiction. That’s a smart move since it makes everything cooler. The opponents that you’re fighting are technically entities made of telepathic energies and all, but you can think of them as aliens. The designs are really cool and Nevin’s suit is also like something out of Iron-Man. The gameplay is pretty straight forward. It’s a 3D action title where you’ll be doing a lot of fighting. In standard mode, it plays out like a Link title. You swing at anything that moves. You have a beast mode which lets you climb onto objects and enemies alike. Finally, there’s Gun mode, where you turn into a large mecha and start blasting away. You’ll find that human mode is the most reliable, but you’ll have to use them all since some enemies are impervious to your different forms.

There’s an aspect of platforming to this game as well. You’ll need to activate nodes across the levels at times or get from one place to another with your acrobatics. There are also some puzzles for when you are deciphering a node. Don’t worry, they’re the good kind of puzzles. It’s all about reaction times as you must make the right turn. This also happens when you use your time manipulation to strike at enemies. It’s a really handy ability that I recommend using whenever possible since it gives you extra currency to spend on upgrades. I maxed out all of my powers and bought some combos as well, but you won’t really find yourself needing the combos. Button mashing works well enough on all of the opponents.

The game is fairly easy although the final boss will give you a run for your money. He has two phases and if you lose at any point, you must start again. Luckily, while I did die against the first phase 2-3 times, I never lost to the final one. That would have been demoralizing. It was very tense though since I won at the very end of my health bar. I always give my clutch factor some credit there along with the developers since nothing is more satisfying than winning at the very end like that. The same thing happened to me in Breath of the Wild and Kingdom Hearts II. It’s a good feeling. For the final boss phase 2, I recommend just baiting out his attacks and then punishing them. It’s a fool proof plan.

Alter Echo also ends with a big cliffhanger although a sequel is unlikely. Spoilers are present for this paragraph to skip it if you must. You ready? Well, it would appear that the entity is also evil and the heroine lives after all. She had seemingly died a while back so it’s good to see that she survived. That being said, she’ll probably be turned evil or not given a choice so that’s too bad for her. The other villains are also alive as well. The sequel probably would have been a blast so it’s a shame that it didn’t happen. The plot wasn’t particularly strong, but it still would have been enjoyable.

The graphics are good. They aren’t anything special, but the levels are fun to look at since the space theme is good. I will admit that all of the levels look the same though. There is no real variety to speak of since all of the levels are on the planet and in the caverns. This was a little lazy on the side of the developers so that’s something that could be fixed in a sequel. The time stop attacks look really good with purple energy all around. As for the soundtrack, it’s also really good. The themes are all really fast paced and increase the intensity of the levels. I’d definitely like to see the tunes return in a sequel.

Unfortunately, there is no replay value here. Once you beat the game, you cannot replay the levels to get the extra power ups. Your only option is to replay the game and that would purely be just to have fun. It’s a game that you complete and then put back on the shelf. The playthrough is good though so this isn’t a bad thing, but I always like to have some replay value. It gives the game an extra boost if you ask me.

While the game is good, there are clearly some negatives since I’m only giving it a 7. As I mentioned, the story isn’t great. It’s not bad and showed signs of promise like whenever the two friends would appear. It just suffered from some slow parts where nothing would really happen during some levels. The gameplay could also be a little repetitious since you would have to keep shifting forms to deal with various enemies. It wasn’t a big deal though and I still enjoyed the gameplay. These are just elements that hold it from being an 8. I did enjoy the puzzle system for the time stop attacks though and I’d definitely keep that for the sequel.

Overall, Alter Echo is a solid game and one that I would definitely recommend. It’s fairly short and won’t last you too long, but the gameplay is on point. The soundtrack is solid and the plot isn’t bad either. It’s the kind of game that nobody has heard of so it’ll also earn you some brownie points with other gamers when you mention that you’ve played such an obscure game. It had some issues like the levels being repetitious along with the gameplay to an extent, but that’s where the short length actually came in handy. Hopefully we get more space games soon, but I doubt that’ll be a problem. Space games are always going to be seen as cool.

Overall 7/10

Academy of Champions Review

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Academy of Champions is one of the more enjoyable Soccer games that I’ve played. For whatever reason, I was never too impressed with the FIFA titles so Mario Strikers and Pure Futbol have been my go to titles for the sport. Granted I haven’t actually played the FIFA games as much as I could have. I can acknowledge that those games have a lot more depth to them, but this title is easy to just plug and play. Adding in popular characters like Ezio and Rayman is just a nice bonus.

Lo and behold there is actually a story mode in this game. It starts off with our young hero receiving an invitation to the world’s most prestigious soccer academy. The person who invited the hero doesn’t remember doing so but decides to roll with it anyway. It turns out that this is all going according to a corrupt teacher’s master plan. The main character is going to need to stay sharp since no one can be trusted.

There may not be much to the plot but at least the game has a story. That’s more than you can say for a lot of its rivals. How the story works is that you go through his various school semesters. Each semester is 20 days with a critical event occurring every 5 days. You can’t afford to lose those days so they are mandatory but the other days are low stakes. Winning will get you more exp so that’s the main incentive for the average day. The other incentive is just your pride.

The activities in a day vary according to different categories. A match event is self explanatory as you’ll play a hand against an opponent for practice. The gossip task will have you chat with your friends about how tough the villains are. Training tasks will have you doing basic drills and then you also get tasks to head to the shop and to upgrade your characters. That was a bit of an annoying addition since it meant that you could not upgrade at will, you had to wait for that day to arrive.

The matches were pretty fun because the gameplay was actually very on point. It’s pretty simple to pick up and play but very challenging to score goals until you learn the tricks. Passing to your teammates is highly recommended along with running side to side as the goalie will take the bait. Each player has a super attack with you can buy to take your game to the next level. They actually didn’t help me much as the A.I. would just block it every time, but it will be good against human opponents. Just stay aggressive and knock the opponents down.

I have to give the game some credit for having full cutscenes. I wasn’t really expecting that. They may not have had any dialogue as that was all done via text box but it was still neat. The character models are a little off. Graphically, the game isn’t bad. The designer just went a little too wild with the character proportions which is what made everything a little dicey. The game was still very clear and you could always tell what was happening. It was good enough for me to enjoy the rest of the game. I’m afraid that the soundtrack was significantly less impressive. There weren’t any tunes that really stood out to me. It was all fairly generic and lifeless. I don’t think the developers put much time into this part of the game.

There really isn’t any replay value aside from multiplayer mode. This is the kind of game where you can’t go back and hire everyone to form the ultimate team. You can replay the last few days I believe so you can grind out some extra stats for your characters but there’s nothing you can do with them anyway. Since the gameplay is good the multiplayer can go a long way. I suppose it will just have to suffice in this case. If you have a friend over, this is as good a pick as any.

One quality of life issue that I had with the game was that you couldn’t see your individual stats for each player when switching up your lineup. You’d have to write them all down or memorize the stats if you wanted to make some changes. It just ended up being a longer process than I would have liked. Finally, the difficulty level of the game is pretty good. You can definitely expect to meet a real challenge towards the end of the game. The tournaments are maybe just a little too long, but at least the game always feels fair. Replaying the level never becomes a chore.

Overall, Academy of Champions was definitely worth the couple of dollars that I bought it for. This may not exactly be a triple A game, but they put some nice effort into it. Incorporating the guest characters into the story would have been awesome but I guess we can’t have it all. Some mechanics weren’t thought out well like not being able to upgrade at will, but the gameplay was on point. I usually don’t care for the “day” system where a day will pass each time you do something but the game pulled it off pretty well. I’d recommend getting this title. You’ll be surprised at just how good it is.

Overall 7/10

Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels Review

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The Star Wars marathon continues. I’m finally into the TV show continuity so that takes me one step closer to the original films. It’s been a fun marathon, but it is almost time to put it on hold since my Birthday is quickly approaching and that means that Legend of Zelda is on the horizon. Still, Star Wars will be back and this is a really solid game to have as the latest title. A Star Wars fighting game makes perfect sense and the series certainly took its time before coming to this conclusion.

The plot adapts classic fights from the movie and the show. Most of the levels are relatively stand alone in that sense as they skip you from fight to fight and it works as a nice abridged version. Honestly, the plot was pretty exciting as a result since the fights just kept on coming. It’s the kind of editing that would work well for many other titles as well. Imagine a DBZ adaption where it skipped all of the set up and just threw you into the fights? To an extent, Tenkaichi already did that, but it included a lot of minor fights while this one only kept the best.

One strike against the game is that it’s incredibly short. There are only 9 levels and each level will take you about as long as your average Street Fighter match. Maybe a little longer if your opponent starts to block a lot, but it’s still nice and quick. This game would probably not even last you two hours so it’d probably be sad to have gotten this game at full price. It’s not as if there is no replay value though. You can play challenge mode to unlock the final fighters. I tried one of the challenges which was to not use any force abilities, but it’s hard to not do this accidentally. I would have preferred that the game just disable those attacks so you can button mash at will. If you really want the characters then it’s worth trying out, but I can’t say that it nabbed my attention.

Multiplayer is where the real replay value is at. The gameplay is surprisingly fun considering that it’s heavily motion based. You wave your Wii remote around like a sword and try to take names. It may not be quite as epic as the Bleach game for Wii, but few are. You won’t hurt your wrist the same way that the Bleach game weakened it so that’s a nice trade off. The controls are easy to learn, but hard to master which is always a good balance. It’s the best way to develop a game because then casual gamers can get into the fun and people who take it seriously won’t have to hit a skill ceiling too quickly. I’d say that I’m still a casual in this game as I basically stuck to button mashing and trying to figure out what combos to use in the meantime. I learned a little about Force attacks and would randomly throw them out during the fight. It worked and I beat all of the foes so that’ll suffice. There are higher difficulties for you to play the levels in as well which should give you a real challenge based on the normal difficulty setting.

The graphics are pretty good. At times, I couldn’t tell which parts were from the game and which were the clips. It’s all pretty smooth and having cutscenes with action inside of them was a nice treat as well. I feel like this game actually got a pretty reasonable budget which is nice to see. Imagine how cool this game could be with Gamecube controller support. I dare say that it would have been one of the Wii’s top tier titles. The soundtrack is rather bland. We have a decent “previously” music theme that plays a few times, but the others aren’t very notable at all. You’ll likely forget them as soon as you finish playing.

The cast of characters are all pretty likable in this game. From Dooku to the Killer Droid, everyone brings something to the table. I especially love all of the overconfidence that emanates from everyone. The amount of trash talking in this game is impressive and the stream of comments just never stops. It’s safe to say that Anakin is my favorite character in this game as expected, but the Killer Droid probably had the best design. A robot wielding Lightsabers just makes sense. I really want to see more wielders in Episode VIII because these games keep reminding me how much I miss those battles. High octane Lightsaber battles is what Star Wars is all about.

Overall, Lightsaber duels is actually one of the better Star War titles although the bar is already quite high so that might be misleading. It’s certainly not as good as Episode III and Bounty Hunter, but I dare say that it’s better than all of the small console titles and maybe even the two Gamecube flying ones. It’s a tough call, but being a pure fighting game can do wonders for you. I do wish that the game had been longer and contained more characters though. That keeps it a little lower than I would have liked the game to be at. Next up is the DS Clone Wars game so it’ll be interesting to see how that one plays out. If it’s essentially a portable version of the same fighting style, then I think we’ve got a real winner here folks.

Overall 7/10

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Review

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It’s time to take a look at the latest Star Wars game that I managed to beat. This game’s really short as it’s only about an hour long tops. That being said, the game’s poor level designs will ensure that the game could take you a little longer. Several levels took me more than one try, but there is one big trick that will save you a bunch of time once you learn it. Read on and I’ll explain it towards the middle of the review.

The game’s plot covers the second film. Good luck figuring out what’s happening from the cutscenes though. It’s not as if you’ll get confused or anything, but you’ll never get all that invested. You just see guys with swords fighting each other and that’s not a bad premise, but the story certainly isn’t trying very hard to be exciting. This is one of those games that you’re really supposed to be playing for the gameplay anyway. The title couldn’t even be bothered to give us any really cool screencaps in the mean time.

This game is a classic 2D beat em up. Think of the old X-Men games from back in the day and you’ll get the idea. Most levels consist of you beating up on robots and other enemies so you can move forward. Naturally, you’ll just get stopped by another group of enemies and you have to fight them as well. You need to really like the gameplay in order to be content. Honestly, I thought that the gameplay itself was pretty good. Blocking and reflecting energy blasts was a lot easier than I would have expected. The transition between attacking and reflecting is typically smooth and the only part that doesn’t work well is turning around. Do so at your own peril.

You can use a super jump when you have enough meter and you have to obtain energy orbs to use any other force abilities. You can learn the Force Push for example, but it takes a lot of energy. So, here’s the trick. Enemies will only give you force energy when you defeat them if you’re not maxed out yet. They’ll only give you health once you force is maxed out. The trick is to simply never use your Force abilities. Several levels require them and there will be moments where you need the super jump, but if you can resist the urge to use them otherwise, then you’re set. See, the tough levels were the ones where robots would constantly attack you and your health would be whittled down. It’s incredibly difficult to defeat them all without being hit after a while.

That’s where the health drops come in handy. If you haven’t been using your Force abilities, then the enemies will be dropping a lot of hearts for you to pick up. That results in an endless supply of health. If I had known about this from the start, I would have breezed through the game a lot faster. It won’t help much for some levels as the second to last one has a one hit KO attack for example. Still, it is of great value if you ask me. Don’t be intimidated by the final boss either, he looks like he’s tough stuff, but he’s actually not that bad. Hold the A button and keep alternating between low and middle strikes. Do it fast enough and he’ll be virtually helpless. This is also a good time to use your Force abilities if you haven’t done so already.

While most of the levels have the same format, there are 2-3 levels where the game turns into a 3D racer. It was a nice change of pace, but it was hard to keep up with what was going on. I just kept on turning and somehow made it to victory. On the last race I don’t even know how I won, but I guess my missile hit a weak spot or something since the win screen came up almost immediately. We take those. There are 11 levels total and each one is only a few minutes even if some feel much longer. There is absolutely no replay value since there isn’t anything to collect or achieve. The game uses a very old password based system so you don’t even get to keep a save file. This game gives you about an hour of entertainment so you really have to think about whether or not it’s worth the money.

One issue I have with the game is that there are no checkpoints. If you die, then you go all the way back to the beginning. That may not sound all that bad since the levels are short, but it’s very annoying. Keep in mind that some of the levels have you on a roller or in a set path where you have to wait for the enemies. You could end up waiting for a minute or two as you roll around in boredom. The levels like to start slow and ramp up later on which doesn’t work very well the second time around. Checkpoints would have made the game so much better and I dare say that it would have bumped the game up to a 7. It’s bold, but it definitely could have worked.

I do like beat em ups for the most part. Hyrule Warriors was amazing and I really enjoyed Devil Kings as well. I haven’t played as many 2D ones, but the X-Men game was entertaining. These titles also tend to be pretty difficult so I was ready for it. Without the health trick, I’m not sure if I could have beaten the level with the winged creatures. It was a really long one and I had to stop and grind out the health several times. I applaud anyone who can get through the level without it. The game really needed to lighten up on the repetition with these levels. If the gameplay had been worse, it could have severely hurt the game. As it stands, I enjoy taking down scores of enemies over and over again.

The graphics weren’t bad. The 3D levels tried to cram in too many things at once so the graphics did suffer quite a lot in this set up. The beat em up segments were a lot better though. While the Stormtroopers looked a lot chunkier than usual, there was a noticeable improvement here. Likewise, the soundtrack wasn’t half bad. The game over screen certainly had a pretty thematic feel to it and since we got very well acquainted during the course of the game, I was glad that it wasn’t a boring tune. I do think the developers put in some real effort to these areas of the game so I can appreciate that.

Overall, This is one of those games that you buy for a single playthrough and then it vanishes…never to be seen again. I can’t imagine buying this on launch day for 20-30 dollars, but for a few bucks? I’d say that it’s worth it. Some parts of the game are clearly low budget, but others age fairly well. The final boss was pretty neat even if it could have been annoying if I had lost more times since I’d have to replay the whole level. Luckily, button mashing never fails in this kind of game. I have a feeling that the next Star Wars game will be better or at the very least, longer. Still, this game was fun in the end and that’s what counts.

Overall 6/10

Final Fantasy VII Review

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Well, it’s time for the big one. I started this game ages ago and have finally completed it. Final Fantasy VII is a legendary game that just about everyone has heard of. I became a big fan of this timeline thanks to the Advent Children film which was a complete and utter success. Unfortunately, the game was unable to live up to this level of hype. I was prepared for an amazing game, but ended up with a rather disappointing game. In many ways, FF VII was ahead of its time and was certainly high budget. In other ways, it was simply not up to snuff and really held itself back from a better score.

The plot involves a soldier named Cloud. He doesn’t really remember his past and the villain likes to mess with him quite a lot. He meets up with some resistance members and they decide to take down the corrupt government and save the day. This gets a little complicated when Sephiroth shows himself. He is a being of near limitless power who wants to end the planet. Cloud and his friends are just normal joes, how can they deal with this? They’ll need a lot of Materia (Summoning/Magic crystals) and allies if they want to overcome him. It’s a race against time now.

That’s probably not the best plot summary, but the game is very long with a plot that is constantly adapting as new stories come into play. There are also a lot of side quests and bonus content t hat flesh out the story even more. It’s a legendary game for its plot and this holds up very well. I actually didn’t know much at all about the game despite being a rather big fan of the series in general. A lot of it was all new to me, which was certainly a blast. Cloud’s origin was definitely nice and convoluted and there were so many twists that even I was a little confused by the end. It was in a good way though as it was well thought out and you can understand it as long as you give it enough thought.

The game was also a little more intense than I had been expecting. To be honest, I didn’t notice that the game had blood in it until I stumbled into the lab level where the staff had been viciously attacked. It really came out of nowhere. I will admit that this level was extremely atmospheric and if anything this element made it all the scarier. This was also when the game’s plot started to pick up and get a little more exciting. The beginning of the game is fairly laid back and FF VII likes to slowly build towards the plot. That’s an element that all Final Fantasy games go for as it lets then plot develop the characters and get you to sympathize with them. It’s a good tactic so long as the payoff is really good.

The payoff was worth the wait. Sephiroth is still the best Final Fantasy villain and both of his themes are incredible. The One Winged Angel theme is extremely iconic and it’s certainly great to see the original version of the song. It has all of the memorable beats and is not something that you’d expect from such an old game. Rock/Opera themes like this didn’t really seem to get mainstream until a lot later. Sephiroth also had another theme, which was the surprise hit of the game. It’s a horror theme through and through and with Sephiroth fading in and out like a ghost the whole time, it was really fitting for him.

Final Fantasy is easily the most tense game that I’ve played. It’s the closest to a horror game at these points and as I’ve never played a full horror game before (Or if I have then I can’t recall at the moment) Final Fantasy VII was a nice glimpse of what that would be like. A horror game done well can certainly be good if handled right as this game showed. Even the final bosses had very intense designs as I don’t think you’ll be forgetting Jenova anytime soon.

The graphics are exceptional. In gameplay the character models all hold up well. They are kinda pixely and you can really see that when you play the mods of them in Super Smash Bros, but they are really good for this day and age. Even more impressive is the fact that it had fully animated cutscenes. They weren’t short either as some were quite long. Even the super attacks had them although that’s an iffy point. It goes without saying that the soundtrack is absolutely top notch. You’re not going to find any game that can completely destroy this one in that area as it’s just very solid.

I haven’t touched on the gameplay yet. It’s classic turn based style and that has always aged well. I do miss it to an extent in modern gaming, but if the alternative is that all future Final Fantasy games will go with Kingdom Hearts gameplay….then I have to say that Square Enix made the right call. Real time gameplay is absolutely better although I really love them both. There is a lot of depth to the gameplay as your level isn’t the only thing to think about. Your Limit Level, Equipment, and Summons are all absolutely crucial. A pro tip for any gamers who haven’t played this yet is to make sure that you switch Limit Levels when you unlock a new one. Having a strong Limit Level 3 or even a Level 2 will make a big difference when compared to level 1. I apparently unlocked Level 3 a while back, but I never realized it so I played the whole game on level 1 until the very end. It was a sad moment.

There is a lot of replay value to be found here. You can easily spend over 100 hours on this game and maybe even more. There are numerous pieces of equipment to find and leveling everyone up to the max will take a very long time. There’s a lot of exploring to be done and side quests to complete. Some aren’t even accessible if you wait too long so then you’ll need to start over again. This is the kind of game that never really ends for you unless you put in a crazy amount of time. Even if you just want to play the main story, that’ll last you a while as well.

So…this sounds like a really positive review at the moment right? Well, lets get into the negatives now. One problem with the game is that it got a little too focused on showing off its graphics. Every time you summon a monster, you have to watch a very long and unskippable cutscene. As you’ll be going for many summons, this really ends up dragging out the fight. You’re gonna get sick of watching these cutscenes and there is seriously enough time to go to the kitchen and grab a snack since you can have all 3 of your characters prepare a summon. This means that you have to watch all 3 back to back to back which can take almost 5 minutes. Lets not forget that Sephiroth has his infamous solar system attack which is the longest one in the game.

The first negative was just a mild inconvenience next to this one. This negative is the fact that the map is very bad. Nothing is labelled so you’ll want to have a note pad on hand to write down what all of the islands stand for. Otherwise, you end up being lost for a while as you try to find the location. Wait, it gets worse. There are times in the game where you are given nothing to go on. I got stuck 3 different times in the game and I spent around 10 hours working to get unstuck. I was victorious the first two times, but in the end I finally cracked and ran to Gamefaqs to see what they had to say. I never would have guessed that I had to go into the ocean and find a secret cave towards the top where there were some designs for a cool mech that would lead me to the robot that would break into Sephiroth’s lair. There was absolutely nothing to even suggest this and this felt like a very unfair puzzle. The game had quite a few moments like this and it made the whole experience lose a lot of its enjoyment.

It’s also not very fun to be attacked by minions constantly for taking even a single step. The minions are everywhere and they just keep on coming over and over again. If you made a wrong turn, too bad. You’re gonna have to fight yet another monster. You can run, but then you will still be taking some damage in the mean time. Did I mention that leveling up in this game takes forever? Seriously, don’t expect to get to level 100 anytime soon. The minions are pretty durable and don’t give all that much EXP anyway. That’s why your top priority is developing your limit and finding cool weapons. Those will ultimately make the difference along with some ribbons to protect you from status attacks.

This game can also be a little mean spirited. If you made the mistake of saving once you were in the area of the final bosses and didn’t make another file…then you’re stuck. If you’re at too low a level to defeat Sephiroth, there is now nowhere to safely train and gather your health back. Luckily, I made around 5 files to be on the safe side and gathered a lot of supplies before attempting the boss again. It took me 2 tries, but I managed to secure the hard fought win. I was pretty proud of myself to be honest even if the area before the final boss gauntlet was way too long.

In the end, my main problem with the game is parts of its design. It was just lacking in some basic areas like the map and quality of life concerns. I shouldn’t have to wait through really long battles thanks to the cutscenes and getting lost for hours because the game sent me on a random goose chase is no fun. It’s a shame because the game is a technical masterpiece and the plot is solid. It’s like an AAA game that just didn’t get a great deal of quality control to back it up. I need my quality control which is why I can safely say that Deca Sports was the more enjoyable game. “But that’s crazy!” I’m not saying that Final Fantasy VII is a bad game, but it just wasn’t a fun game most of the time. I was expecting to have a lot more fun with it.

Overall, Final Fantasy VII was a little disappointing. It’s probably my fault for skipping ahead and playing the glorious FF XIII games though. The tough question here is whether to give the game a 5 or a 6. On one hand, my main negative is alleviated if you just buy a guide book or use online resources to get through the puzzles. On the other hand, that’s kind of a cop out. On the other hand, how can you give a game with 5 star graphics/soundtrack/plot and good gameplay a measly out of 10? It’s definitely one of the tougher decisions that I’ve had to make. It also brings Majora’s Mask into the picture as it’s in a very similar situation to FF VII. It has many of the same negatives with regards to the unfair puzzles, but its strengths are a bit weaker. That game I had been leaning towards a 5 on as well, but that puzzle wasn’t even as unfair as FF VII’s. The 3 day system is madness, but at least you can still make it if you keep on practicing long enough and looking for clues. It’s still a poorly conceived puzzle to be clear, but it’s not as drastic since you at least know where to look. Why can’t more games be like Layton? I was stuck there for around the same time as this game, but it never got upsetting as the puzzle was just very fair. Well, I gotta go with my gut here. Being enjoyable is still a game’s top priority. FF VII messed that up and so I can’t really cut it any slack. It will join other legendary titles like Star Fox Zero, Mario Party 10, Sword Art Online Lost Song, Frogger, and Nintendogs in the 5 star ranks. Hey, it’s still not a bad game and if you don’t mind wandering around for a while and being constantly attacked by enemies, then this is right up your alley. In the mean time, I’ll be looking forward to the remake as the gameplay shift should end up helping out a lot.

Overall 5/10

Yogi Bear Review

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I admit that I have never seen the Yogi Bear film. It’s one of the few influential bear films that I have yet to see, but I figured that getting the game was the next best bet. It’s a fun enough game and it was clear that the developers were trying to make this game like a Mario title. They gave it a real effort, but you can’t just make an AAA Mario game with a limited budget and artificial length. It’s fun for 2-3 hours, but then you’ll just go back to playing Mario.

The plot has Yogi show up at the Ranger’s house to steal his lunch. Yogi also scatters the ranger’s photos to the wind as well so now the national park is going to be shut down. Apparently there are no backups and there is no other way to get people to come to the park. Yogi agrees to go and find the animals so he can take new pictures of them and hopefully steal some food along the way. Go fast Yogi!

The gameplay is your standard 2D platformer. You jump through the levels and avoid enemies. You die in a single hit to anything so you have to tread carefully. Luckily, there are frequent checkpoints throughout the level so you’ll never beset back more than a minute. You can do body slams to stun the enemies and get past them safely. You can’t actually defeat any enemies so you need to move quickly so they don’t get back up and take you down for good. There are pies everywhere and grabbing 50 of them will give you an extra life. There are also 3 medals in every level and I’d recommend grabbing any that you see.

At first I was ignoring them completely, but that ended up catching up to me. There is a park ranger who shows up every once in a while and the only way to get past him is to bribe the guy with medals. Getting 2 out of every 3 is a good way to make sure that you can always bribe the guy. They’re not even that hard to get as there will be obvious caves everywhere and if you see an arrow pointing right…go left. That’s all you really need to know to grab those medals.

The game keeps track of your game overs so I recommend playing carefully. I was actually able to beat the game without ever losing all of my lives. I’m trying to act surprised, but maybe this is expected right? Heh heh. The graphics aren’t all that bad. You can see what is happening at all times. It may not be high end graphics, but they serve their purpose. I do have to give the gaame a lot of props for actually having full cutscenes with voice acting within. A lot of Wii games actually don’t have this so it’s definitely pretty impressive. The soundtrack is less impressive and you won’t remember any of the tunes by the end. You’ll definitely remember the sound effects though because Yogi Bear constantly mentions how he’s smarter than the average Bee, Human, etc. He talks a lot during the levels and even talks when you try the bodyslam. As a result, you can expect constant chatter throughout, which is not bad per say, but it can get repetitive.

My main negative with this game is the artificial length. The game coud easily be completed in a single sitting if not for the ranger constantly asking for medals. Once I knew that I needed medals I was able to get enough where I didn’t have to go back anymore, but it was still a little annoying. Lets face it, even if the levels aren’t that bad, it’s not as if I want to go back and play them again. That’s reserved for a big title like Sonic or Mario. It also just shows that the developers couldn’t think of a better way to make the game longer.

There is some obvious replay value…getting all of the medals and baskets. It’s not something that would entice me to play the game again though. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of those games that you play to completion once and then it goes into the drawyer…never to be seen again. It’s fun enough and the price is pretty low so you’re getting a good value.

Overall, It’s good to see that Yogi Bear has gotten his own video game. He’s certainly the kind of character that you can get behind. He’s so mean and over confident the whole time in an “oblivious” way that it works well. The gameplay is good enough to keep you playing and at the very least there is nothing that will hamper your progress aside from the ranger. The ranger definitely brings it down by a star. It’s a good game, but one that you won’t be playing after you’ve beaten it. I recommend giving it a shot if you want a fun little platformer, but the burning question will always be “Why not just buy a more established one?” Still, it is Yogi Bear so that gives it some novelty.

Overall 6/10

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

Little Big Planet Review

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It’s time to take a look at Little Big Planet! This game was fairly big when it came out and it took me a while to finally get it. Many people started comparing it to Mario and it was supposed to be Sony’s big answer. Well if that is the case, then it is safe to say that Nintendo won this round by a mile. LBP’s gameplay is decently solid, but the whole game tries to be very “art house” and meta instead of focusing on just being fun and easy to get into. The plot’s also rather lackluster, but what else is new for platformers?

You play as Sackboy. It is heavily implied that the characters know that you the player are controlling Sackboy. The game constantly tries to be meta like this and all of the characters are actually paper cutouts. They are all being manipulated by a mysterious villain known as the Collector so you have to go around saving them all and proving that the Little Big Planet is more resilient than the villain thinks. Honestly, the story would have been much better if it wasn’t constantly trying to remind you that the whole thing was fake. The main villain even cries at the end and quickly turns good so fast that you had to wonder what was going on.

As a result of the game trying to go for a very indie feel, the graphics were actually pretty bad. Honestly, they looked worse than the average PS2 game and I’d take good ole N64 and PS1 games over it. The graphics just weren’t my style and the fact that they were all made of paper just seemed like it was an easy way to save some money on the budget. It was all pretty iffy if you ask me. The soundtrack was fairly decent I suppose, but certainly not memorable. There are no tunes that you’ll be humming to yourself afterwards.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the plot just isn’t good. You have to ignore the graphics and the story and just focus on the gameplay. That’s the only way to really enjoy Little Big Planet. Even then, it is a lot choppier than Mario. Possibly to reinforce the fact that they’re all paper, it’s easy for Sackboy to get stuck to objects or jump a little too far. I died quite a few times in the thunder level because it was hard to control where I was going. It didn’t feel like it would have been much of a challenge if the game had Mario’s level of refinement. It’s just so much smoother than this title.

All right, this has been a pretty negative review so far. Keep in mind that the gameplay is still good, but it’s more at the level of Flip’s Twisted World than Mario. It feels a lot more like an Indie game than a AAA title and maybe it is I suppose. Regardless, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I was expecting a very different game than what I got, but that’s the price of not really looking up a game until you buy it. Just as some will be better than expected, others end up turning out worse.

There is a lot of replay value here to help hold the game up. After completing the game, you are only around halfway done at best. There are plenty of other levels to complete and stickers to assemble. Along the way you can aim for the Platinum Trophy which seems fairly reasonable to obtain. It would take a long while though and you’ll need to master the controls along the way. They definitely do get easier to use the more that you play the game. Doing all of this will definitely extend the play time of the game. The actual story is reasonably short and you can complete it in a few hours, but the Platinum should easily take you to around 20 hours if not longer.

There were boss battles in the worlds, which were fun as well. Most of them were pretty easy, but the fights were well thought out. I also think that all Platforming games should have bosses of some kind to change up the gameplay and to just provide a nice challenge. It at least offers the semblance of a story. I guess this game should be described as more of an experience than anything else. You get to run through various levels like a desert or a haunted house. The haunted house was definitely the most tense and atmospheric level while others like the Canyons were fairly generic. There is a great contrast between the various worlds and I suppose that’s a good thing. You can also create levels in this game which is a fairly big deal, but I skipped that part. Maybe I’ll go back to it someday, but with Mario Maker in existence, there’s no real reason to use any other title for level creation.

Overall, Little Big Planet may have not been the platformer that I wanted, but it’s definitely the one that I deserved after not giving him fights on my blog for so long. The game was disappointing which had an impact on making this review so negative, but keep in mind that it is still a decently good game. There is a lot to do here and the gameplay was decently well thought out. I always talk about how gameplay is really the bottom line for a video game and this title is the perfect example of that. The execution wasn’t perfect, but the game did try to give you as much control over Sackboy as it could. You can change his facial expressions, make him give a thumbs up, and a lot of other customization. You can dress him up any way you see fit and that can make the levels a little more entertaining. I don’t imagine that I’ll be buying the sequel anytime soon, but if you’re looking for a good platformer to spend some time on, this one will work as well as any.

Overall 6/10

Monkey Mischief: Party Time Review

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It’s time for another party game. Honestly, this one wasn’t half bad. The actual minigames are fairly well designed and the campaign mode isn’t made to irk you like the Outdoor Fun title. That being said, the game is incredibly short and you can beat it in around an hour. I got the game for 2-3 bucks, but if you paid any more for it then you would probably be very disappointed. It appears that this game may have also gotten another spinoff for the Wii. It’s feels like for every party game that I complete, two more take its place. Gamestop is just about all out of Wii games though so I don’t see myself getting many more party games, if any in the near future.

There’s no story mode of course so lets jump right into the technical aspects. The graphics certainly aren’t very good. They are fairly low budget for a Wii game and while you can tell what is happening…the game won’t do much for you beyond that. It’s passable as the game at least isn’t fairly dark like one of the levels in Flip’s Twisted World which will get you stuck for ages. What is more annoying is the soundtrack and the sound effects. Each level will have the Monkeys laughing and yelling constantly. I suppose this can psych you out, but that’s not a positive in a party game. Some of the levels have a very awkward moan when you click on them which is just plain disturbing. The monkeys sound like humans, which is also something that you’d hope the developers would have thought of. The actual music is decent, but the sound effects are much louder so they will keep popping up. No worries though, I got you covered. There is an option in the settings to disable sound effects, this should be the first thing that you do when you turn on the game.

There aren’t many modes here to play. You’ve just got single player mode and multiplayer mode. They both take you to the same screen of games. There are exactly 20 games here and they are split up into 4 different worlds. Most of the games are fairly easy to complete with a small handful coming down to luck. No worries, the game has a bunch of glitches and some of them will help you out. Some games count as being completed even when you lose so just keep on playing til you see the “complete” sign. That helps to take a little of the pressure off.

It was certainly interesting to see that this game completely copies one of the minigames from Block Party. “Slobber Slammer” to be precise. Instead of saving a kid from being eaten by a Dog this time, I believe it’s a Hippo or something like that. It’s a little less crazy than the dog version, but it is literally the same minigame with the same controls and everything. The game better have been made by the same developers or this is just a bold faced moment of plagiarism. Another minigame is heavily inspired by Mario Party as you bounce around and try to knock each other off of a mountain. It’s not nearly as hype and awesome of course, but it’s still a pretty fun minigame here.

Another good one has you try to hold on to the ground amidst heavy wind conditions and other Monkeys trying to kick you off. This one was fun, but the computers died so instantly that I didn’t really get to have as much fun here as I would have liked. Dodgeball was another really good minigame and a bunch of others as well. There are other fun minigames like this and that’s why I’d say that the minigames were actually decent. They were enjoyable and the timer was fairly low so it’s not as if they lasted too long. If you focus on the positive minigames you’ll come out of here with a decently positive experience.

Naturally, not all of the minigames were hits. I didn’t care for the “Draw exact shapes” game because with the Wii Remote, that’s just way too hard. It’s also just not very entertaining so naturally this was one of the few minigames that the game decided to reuse. There were some generic shooter minigames as you shoot at targets or everyone shoots at a single target. They weren’t bad, but just felt rather soulless. Give me a kite minigame instead any day. (Now the kite minigame was pretty solid, it’ll test your skills!) The one shooter game that I liked a lot had all 4 Monkeys flying with balloons and you had to shoot them down before they shot you. Now that was a well thought out game. This title actually had some effort put behind it which I can expect. Considering the extremely low budget that the developers likely had, they did a decent job.

I guess you can say that there is some replay value since you can fight against your friends in multiplayer mode. I always count that as replay value, but lets face it, why would you play this over another party game. The minigames aren’t half bad of course, but there is always Mario Party to really fit the bill. It does help the game get a little longer as being a one player party game would be even worse. Believe it or not, there are some party games that actually are single player.

Overall, Monkey Mischief: Party Time was a little better than I expected. That being said, it is incredibly short with no real replay value besides multiplayer mode. That being the case, I couldn’t bring myself to give it a 6. I think a 5 is perfectly reasonable for a game like this as it can be fun to play for a little while, but has enough against it to keep from getting an actual positive score. After all, I just couldn’t really recommend this game to someone and a 6 would imply that I could right? Outdoor Fun at least had 30 games and medals to earn for each tournament so it had a lot more replay value. As I said though, if you want about an hour’s worth of fun for 2 dollars, this game is one that you should pick up. Think of it as a 1 day rental and then you can put it back in the closet.

Overall 5/10