7 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Golden Sun: The Lost Age Review


The first Golden Sun was a really great game. Definitely one of those RPGs you probably won’t be forgetting anytime soon. As The Lost Age is the direct continuation (Even called Book II in the opening credits) I expected more of the same. Unfortunately, it does suffer from it’s unclear directions and a slow first half for the plot. The second half picks up quite a bit, perhaps not enough for me to call it a great title like the first, but certainly good enough that it’s still worth getting to complete the saga.

Last time we followed Isaac as he and the gang were sent to stop the villains from lighting the lighthouses. A cosmic being told them that if this happens the world could be plunged into darkness. Unfortunately the villains lit up 2/4 of them and so the game ends with a whole new level of urgency for the heroes. This one picks up with the villains on their quest to light the final 2 houses. The game keeps their reasoning hidden until we get near the end of the game but you’ll probably suspect that something is up. These guys used to be friends with Isaac and the others so how could they defect so completely? Then you’ve also got the more supernatural villains who seem a lot meaner than the humans. It’s definitely a game where some communication would have gone a long way. Can you help these guys light the final 2 lighthouses or will you ultimately throw the fights and lose on purpose to protect the world?

The plot is definitely more expansive than that but the rest is pretty heavy with spoilers so you need to experience it for yourself to really appreciate it. I will say that the game does give you a lot to think about on which side to root for. Also make sure you stick around past the credits as there are quite a few scenes and they are all massively important. The third game definitely looks like it’ll be starting a completely new story in the saga.

The best moment in the story is definitely when Isaac and the gang return though. In the first game since you played as Isaac you didn’t really get to see his character so now that he talks you really get into it. Seeing his team take on the villains is definitely hype and I dare say that Isaac would have won if he didn’t get distracted. The game’s best theme popped up for the scene as well. There aren’t a lot of plot heavy moments until the end of the game so this was definitely one of the best scenes. I also like how Isaac’s group made it before ours, showing that they are still the best adventurer group in the biz. The other best scenes all involve the big villains as well.

The game took me a little over 40 hours to complete but from that time the villains only show up for around an hour or two. Surprisingly most of the game is pretty laid back. It’s not filler as we explore the world and light up the lighthouses, but the main plot surprisingly doesn’t come into play for quite a while. As a result the stakes feel a lot lower than the first game even if that isn’t actually correct. It’s just the way that it goes. I have no qualms with the story though. The main issue I have with this game is that it can be very hard to know what to do next.

Part of why this is the case is because The Lost Age is supposed to be more of an open world RPG. You can actually tackle most of the islands in any order you want as either way you’ll need to do a lot of backtracking once you get more abilities. You do have a map, but the issue is just that you don’t know what direction to go. Of course you will eventually go the right way, but that can feel like a small consolation when you are wandering aimlessly. Even when you do go the right way you can go for hours without a single cutscene. We do get more cutscenes once the second half starts though.

Without an online guide I probably still would have not beaten the game. There’s also the matter of the data transfer. The game has a cool set up where if you played the first game then you could transfer your data into the sequel. Since Isaac and the crew don’t show up til near the end it wouldn’t make a difference until then but it’s pretty neat since you keep your abilities. Of course, that does mean you get heavily penalized if you didn’t play the first game. There are whole areas that you cannot explore and multiple Djinn and weapons that you can’t obtain. It’s a little harsh, but I do like that the developers really wanted you to play both games. It did make this feel like a true saga and seeing the characters you were playing as from the outside is cool. It’s a missed opportunity that the two groups didn’t get to fight though.

The graphics definitely still look good like in the first game. I also enjoyed the soundtrack. In particular the villain theme was downright amazing and I listened to it on loop for over an hour. It really ramps up the tension for whenever they appear. This game definitely didn’t pull any punches on a technical level. Make sure you stick around after the credits as there are quite a few extra scenes and bonus content to absorb. It changes the ending entirely and makes it so that a sequel wasn’t really needed. There are some plotlines that could become loose ends, but if they never continued you could also interpret them as a full ending.

I didn’t really mention the gameplay but it is as solid as ever. The turn based system works really well here and I like the added dynamic of choosing to get your summons ready or just making the base character stronger. In the first game I went with the latter while in this one I did the former with the exception of the final boss. Both strategies definitely have their merits and there are so many different ways that you can approach a single fight. The gameplay is really advanced and while I did have to spend a lot of time leveling my characters up for that sudden spike in difficulty with the final boss, you get the level ups pretty quickly at the turtle cavern. Whenever you spend 40+ hours on a game you know that the length was quite good.

Overall, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a solid game. It’s a big drop down from the first game thanks mainly to having a weaker main cast and less of a focused plot compared to the first. (The Ancient One’s final test still makes no sense even after you think about it) I think making an RPG non-linear isn’t a bad idea in theory, but it should still be a little easier to know where you’ve got to go. One of the big benefits of being a long game though is that your good memories quickly overwrite the rocky start that the game has gotten. Even if the first 10 hours are pretty rough, if you get a great 30 hours after that then it’s easy to let bygones be bygones. It still does hurt the score compared to the first one, but at the end of the day I’ll still give this game a thumbs up. I’d recommend checking it out, but you should definitely get the first game before this one so you can take advantage of the data transfer.

Overall 7/10

Advertisements
7 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge Review


I’m not too familiar with Banjo-Kazooie despite hearing the name a whole lot. The problem is that most of the games never came out for a console that I’ve owned. This is the first installment that I get to play. The lead duo seem fun enough and I’m always up for more platformers. I may have joined this franchise late, but better late than never right? It’s a fun title and one that you won’t want to miss on for the GBA. You don’t have to worry about playing previous games to understand what is going on here.

The plot starts with Gruntilda escaping her rocky grave to enact her revenge on Banjo and Kazooie. She succeeds in kidnapping Kazooie so now Banjo must do whatever he can to get his pal back. Fortunately his friends are around to give him useful tips and transformation techniques so he can succeed at this goal. Once the duo is together again, they vow to put an end to Gruntilda’s plans once and for all. Let the villains try to stop them, nobody can mess with their teamwork!!

The plot is fairly direct as you’d expect. There are 6 worlds and each one has a certain amount of objects to obtain. Grab enough and you can head to the next world. You’ll need 50/60 of them in order to fight the final boss so you can effectively skip a world if you collected them all. I don’t think it is possible to skip the entire world since some orbs can’t be obtained until after you get some other power ups but you can skip a reasonable chunk of them. Each world is connected through a door so by the end of the game the hub world is quite huge. You’ll probably get lost a few times, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it and then it’ll all be cake for you.

The levels use an overhead camera and you move as you would expect. You start the game only being able to jump and roll but by the end you can glide, use super jumps, and have an array of other abilities at your disposal. You better make sure your L and R buttons work well because if they’re damaged like mine then the latter levels could be a little tougher than you might expect. Always keep your guard up. None of the levels feel cheesy and there aren’t any bugs that I came across so the game is designed well.

Graphically the game has aged quite well. The character models are on point and the level layouts are nice. There isn’t much to say about the soundtrack, but the themes aren’t bad. On a technical level the game succeeds. I also naturally have to mention that the sound effects used for whenever a character would talk are naturally a blast as well. It reminds me of Yooka Laylee which is likely a homage to this title. Everyone sounds like they’re gargling under water and over the top effects like that are always fun. The only area where the game does get a bit iffy with the replay value though. You’ll be able to easily 100% the game in under 10 hours. At that point there won’t be anything more to do. Still, it’s a fun play through and if anyone ever asks you what a platformer is you can redirect them to this game. It contains everything you would expect to be in a title of this genre. It’s a solid all around title.

I also appreciate how Banjo and Kazzoie both have unique personalities. It feels like some platforming protagonists don’t have a whole lot to say or express during the game. These guys are not like that. Kazooie is the kind of guy who is constantly throwing insults around and he keeps everyone on edge. While getting kidnapped may prevent you from taking his tough talk seriously, it’s always good to have a character like that. Without him the villains would probably walk all over Banjo. In comparison, Banjo’s a very nice guy who is always doing his best. He stays polite through it all and I suppose that this is admirable although he isn’t nearly as much fun as Kazooie.

Aside from the main platforming levels you also have a few minigames which are always fun. One of them is a fishing game where you have to reel in some fish. The timing of it can definitely get tricky and you’ll need to grab a lot of them but it’s a satisfying side mission to grab your attention. Then you also have the slides, there seems to be 1 per world. These are easy but also a nice detour as you try to grab a lot of energy pieces. I’d be game for more little side events like that.

As for the villains, we have two of them in this title. The main villain is Gruntilda who is a witch with a lot of hype. She seems reasonably tough and I do like her confidence. She is a lot better than her sidekick who is a very smart King K Rool type foe, but one who doesn’t command her level of respect. I can see them returning for most if not all of the games in the series.

Overall, Banjo-Kazooie is a fun game. I can see why the series was well liked in the past. The levels are well designed and the gameplay is pretty smooth. It has some unique gimmicks to complement the adventure and you’ll get to use all of your skills as the game goes on. It’s a little on the short side, but I imagine that the main games would have had a lot more content to wrap things up. If you get this game for a good price then it’s certainly worth it. I don’t think this series will be ready for the big hitters quite yet, but I look forward to a modern remake some day.

Overall 7/10

7 Star Games, Game Reviews, Reviews

Rayman 10th Anniversary Review


It’s time to take a quick look at the Rayman collection I recently beat for the GBA. This one made the interesting decision of merging the first and third games in the series. I don’t really understand why they would skip the 2nd game. Maybe it just wasn’t formatted in a way that would be easy to port to the GBA the way that the others were. Either way, it’s no big loss since I’m guessing it should be rather similar to the others. This is my first real venture into the Rayman series so that was neat. I’d say that it holds up pretty well though the third game definitely more so than the first. If you are a sidescroller fan then you need to check Rayman out.

The first game is pretty intense with how difficult it is. You get 10 continues and you have to be sure to not lse a life too easily. If you died too much on a level consider restarting your system right away so you can win without that hapening. I just barely made it as I finished the game with no continues left. Of course, if I was going for the secret ending by finding all cages then that would have been another matter entirely. The controls are good, but I can’t say as much for the level designs. There are a lot of blind jumps and cheesy sections where the game just stacks the deck against you. That’s fine, but then we should get unlimited continues like in most games. I never like when the game has a limit and then you just have to start over. That doesn’t seem very fair and will just become tedious after a while.

The plot of the game is a little weak though and that’s one thing that seems true for both titles so far. It’s just that Rayman himself isn’t nearly as interesting as most of the other colorful protagonists in these kind of games. I’m assuming he will get more personality soon but right now the cast doesn’t really jump off the page so to speak. They’re all just going through the motions so to speak. Since you don’t even get to see the ending without getting the 100+ cages then it’s not even much of a satisfying end. This game is fortunately supported by the next one.

Rayman 3 is a noticeable improvement in just about every way. For starters the gameplay is a lot faster and smoother. You really feel like you are in control this time around. None of the enemies scare you and if they ever start to get a little rowdy you can quickly take them out. Your lives are quite abundant and there is no limit on retries so no worries there. There is also more of an actual story this time as we get text boxes and the villains have more of a goal. The story still isn’t at the point where it could actually be considered as a selling point, but it’s getting closer which is the important thing. Just a few more steps and it will be ready for the big leagues. Regardless, this is a title that I could recommend a lot sooner than the other one. It’s just a solid side scroller and one that holds up well as it isn’t clunky.

The graphics for both games look pretty good. Naturally the 3rd game is a little brighter and more detailed, but it’s not a huge difference. Both games are quite clear and you can tell that effort was put behind them. Likewise the soundtracks for both games are pretty similar. There are some memorable tunes in there, but nothing super intense. Either way you’ll probably be too absorbed into the levels to notice much. The levels require a lot of concentration or you will be doomed to lose quite a lot.

As far as replay value goes I’d say there is quite a bit here. In the third game I was able to get most of the collectibles naturally so the bulk of your play time will be in the first game. The third one is also shorter in general, but every bit helps. It should last you a few hours. Then the first game will definitely last a few hours and obtaining everything will extend the time even more. Just keep a look out for those lives and continues since they are very previous. Once lost they will not be returned. That’s why the stakes are so high in the first Rayman.

Overall, The Rayman 10th Anniversary game is pretty solid. Since it brings 2 games for the price of one it is already a pretty good bargain. If you haven’t played the series before then it’s the perfect way to start I’d say. It may be tough goings for a little while but you’ll certainly get a lot of experience in how to handle a platformer by the end of this. It’s why I would be a little hesitant to recommend this to a kid but given enough time I’m sure anyone would be able to clear these levels. It’s just all about repetition and trying to learn some strategies. Now I can finally go and play some of the newer Rayman games. I’ll definitely snag them at some point and we’ll see if they can possibly match these two or if they are doomed from the start. No guarantees on just how soon “at some point” means though.

Overall 7/10

6 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Kirby & The Amazing Mirror Review


I have wanted this Kirby game for a very long time. It always looked like a lot of fun since the cover was so exciting and that’s how I judged games back in the day. Alas, the title was 25 dollars and that’s not exactly chump change when you’re a kid. Still, I saved up and over 20 years later I was finally able to snag it. Unfortunately this game does not live up to the hype. Nintendo messed around with the gimmicks a little too much once again and as a result this game is rather messy. There’s a great final boss as always, but the game is just lacking that wholesome feel to it.

The plot of the game is that Kirby has been thrown into the Mirror World and split into 4. He must now team up with himself to save the planet and stop the darkness from consuming it. I do like the plot as teaming up with yourself is always the smartest possible move. You just can’t go wrong there. Of course, you have to take the plot at face value as there will be no more cutscenes at all until the climax of the game. Clearly you are supposed to be playing this game for the gameplay and not the riveting story. Certainly not a bad thing, but worth pointing out.

The gameplay is your typical Kirby experience as you run and jump while going through the levels. You can absorb all of the enemies and most of them will give you super powers. You can only use one ability at a time though so don’t try and overdo it with absorbing everybody or you’ll end up with a weaker move than the one you already had. If you are playing on single player mode then you can use the R button to call in the other 3 at the expense of 1 Wifi Bar. They are extremely OP in this game so if you want to beat a boss really quickly just call them in. Typically they will restore you to full health and also beat the boss in under a minute. Even the final boss is no match for the Kirby crew. Meanwhile you can use the L button to leave a level. Why would you possibly want to leave a level? Well, that’s where things get a little interesting.

This game doesn’t have typical start to finish levels like most Nintendo games. Instead it went the Metroid route (Why would you do that?) and the level just segways into a bunch of others, but they are also connected. Unlike Metroid you do get a bunch of different teleport areas which will take you from place to place so that’s a start. At first the game will be a rather tough experience as there are dozens of entryways to explore. Once you find a portal and activate it you can use it from the hub world. Naturally this does mean that the game will get a lot easier as you go through it. The first 2-3 world keys took me forever to get, but the last 3 were done in a snap because there just weren’t many paths left. It’s not really my cup of tea though. The intro would have certainly been a lot easier if I had realized the perks of each special ability though. Fire Comet lets you break metal blocks in front of you while stomp handled the ones beneath. Most abilities have some kind of purpose to them so just remember where you can find the enemy with the ability that you need. If not, each teleport chamber has 2 abilities so the more that you find, the easier access you have to them. I spent a ton of time just running around without a clear direction because I couldn’t find out how to get past the blocks. If you know which abilities to use from the start that should help considerably.

The graphics are pretty solid and do the Kirby characters justice. The sprites have aged really well and the colors are very easy to look at. You won’t have to squint at the screen and wonder what is happening at any point in the adventure. Likewise the soundtrack is also pretty solid as we get some nice boss themes and level music. It’s really no surprise as Nintendo excels in these two categories, but always nice to see nonetheless. Of course, since the game was so light on cutscenes that probably did free up the budget for everything else.

As far as the length is concerned, I was certainly satisfied. Thanks to the maze like structure of the game I doubt you will be speed blitzing through this title. A lot of the levels involve trial and error as you choose one way the first time and a different one on the second try. Once you get the maps for each world that eliminates such an approach but the irony is that you probably won’t find them until you are nearly at the end anyway. I ended up beating the game while still missing 4-5 of the maps so ultimately they weren’t a huge factor. As far as replay value goes, collecting the rest of the collectibles is naturally the main incentive. That should take a reasonably long amount of time.

Overall, Kirby & The Amazing Mirror is probably the weakest Kirby game. It’s very close between this one and the Rainbow title, but the latter did have a better story. Still, the game holds up decently. It’s just one of those titles that has a really dicey start so you just have to endure it until you’re in the second half. It’s the same situation as Digimon World Next Order for example as your Digimon have to constantly use the bathroom and everything at first, but by the end it’s better. Still, you can certainly find better platformers so buy this Kirby game only if you’ve already played all of the others.

Overall 6/10

Game Records

Phalanx Stats and Records

Stats time!

Well, unfortunately this is the kind of game that has no stats. Out of the 8 levels, I did complete 5 of them though and died in the 6th so that’s sort of a stat. If only this game has a Continue feature. Even if it took some arcade points away I would have liked to have gotten to the ending firsthand. Ah well, I guess this game was as tough as it looks.

7 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Phalanx Review


It’s time to look at an old GBA game that decided it would be a good idea to get rid of the continue option. It tries to go for a very authentic arcade feel as you have to try and go through the whole game with one shot of lives. Granted, it does autosave your progress so if you die on level 6 with and used up 2 lives in the attempt, that’s how you’ll spawn. Ideally you will get so good at the game that eventually you would clear the game and reach the ending. That would be impressive because I can assure you that this game is no walk in the park. It will take quick reaction times and a whole lot of heart.

The plot is rather vague and you only get about 3 cutscenes in the whole game. It seems that alien machines are trying to destroy the worlds and you have to stop them. Fortunately that won’t be too much of an issue for our hot shot pilot Rick. He is willing to risk his life to save his planet and that’s what it takes to be a real hero. You have to appreciate the guy’s passion through and through. Still, it’s as cookie cutter a plot as you can get so you will be playing this game for the gameplay.

It’s a traditional 2D shooter. You are always in the air and the screen is constantly moving so you can’t take your time. On the other hand, this also means you can’t go too fast as you wait for the screen to catch up. The only time it will typically stop is for a boss fight. Then you maneuver as you please to dodge the attacks. There is usually a good amount of room so you don’t have to worry about bumping into things. The average level is around 5-7 minutes long and there are 8 levels total. The game will last you about an hour if you’re a whiz at the gameplay and a little longer if you die a lot. It’s not a long time, but you don’t expect much more length out of this genre.

You have your primary weapon which is a typical energy gun, but you will pick up a bunch of other weapons along the way. Rockets, Energy Balls, etc. When you get hit by an enemy you lose one of your 4 health points along with your current weapons. You can stock up to 3 weapons I believe so choose them carefully. You will likely think that some weapons are better than others so if you see an enemy drop a bad one sometimes it is best to just leave it. You also get bombs which wipe the screen of weak enemies and weaken the tough ones. Your 3 bombs are refilled whenever you get a health item so quickly spam them before making contact with it. I also recommend stocking up on lives during the earlier part of the game since you will need them for the end.

Another thing to watch out for is the ceiling. The game’s lighting can be quite deceptive so it’s possible to be ramming into a cliff and not know it. You’ll quickly be tipped off as you take damage and die though. I think the visual effect is intentional because the cliffs shouldn’t camouflage so well. That’s just mean to the player if you ask me. The gameplay is quite sound all things considered though. I enjoyed playing through the game. It’s the kind of title that I wouldn’t stick around to try and complete without being able to use a continue, but still a good arcade title nonetheless. I probably would give it a try at one of the ole machines.

There isn’t much replay value as you can probably expect. After all, Story Mode is the only thing to do and it’s simply an hour. Fortunately I got this game for about a dollar so that’s a good bargain. I did think that the soundtrack was far better than I had ever expected it to be. The fast paced rock theme really gets you into the levels. The visuals are on point as well and on a technical level the game even looks worthy of the DS. I’d say that they spared no expense here. While there are no bonus features, you can’t say that the developers didn’t treat this game with a whole lot of care and grace.

Overall, Phalanx is a fun shooter. It is not the best in the market nor will it ever be, but it doesn’t make any real mistakes. It is a fun experience for however long it lasts you and I’d recommend picking it up if the price is right. It’s not a game I will forget very soon even if it was one of the shortest games I’ve played in ages. If it ever gets a big sequel/remake I would be interested in seeing how they enhance the plot. Adding in a continue feature would also help the game considerably.

Overall 7/10