6 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Mario Golf Advance Tour Review


It’s time to take a look at a Mario game that I’ve had on the backburner for many years. Golf is already not one of my favorite sport games to play so even with the Mario factor I wasn’t sure this would be a hype one. I would play a few rounds here and there but the game just didn’t click. Well, now that I’ve played through the whole game I can say that it is better than the average Golf game. I think Nintendo did a reasonable job of making this as accessible as possible. That being said, it still wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues.

There isn’t much of a story beyond the intro. You’re playing as a kid who is trying to get into the game of golf. It’s tough though because you are in a world where everyone is really good for some reason. You’ll have to improve your skills before you can even challenge the top tournaments. There are 4-5 tournaments in the game and every time you clear one you unlock another. Once you’ve beaten all of the human tournaments you will finally be given the opportunity to take on Mario and friends. It’s the ultimate goal and a one in a life time opportunity. You can’t let this chance pass you by.

I’ve got to give the game credit for the amount of content in this game. There is really a lot to do at all times. Aside from the tournaments there are a bunch of mini games in each area. You can work on landing your shots next to the pole in one hit or exploring different tracks. Additionally you can upgrade your racket although I’m not sure how you get the guy to build you more after the first one. The game seems like it’s going for an RPG angle so talking to everyone is a good idea. There’s just a lot going on and this will also help you get more of a story out of the game. If that’s not your thing then no worries, you can just enter the tournaments and ignore everything else. Each tournament has a singles mode and a doubles option. I just did all of the Singles but I wonder how Doubles works in this context.

Each tournament has 18 holes. Your score is tallied over the course of these shots and the goal is to have the lowest amount of points at the end. The quicker you get the ball into the hole, the lower your score will be. When you finish a tournament you gain EXP which you can use to improve your stats. I always improved my maximum shooting distance. The others are things like control and spin. Just be careful because as you increase your skills it can be harder to control yourself. This is rarely an issue in anything beyond racing games but it is something you will want to keep in mind for this game. Especially since learning the controls isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

The graphics are pretty nice and I dare say that they are one of the game’s highlights. Everything is bright and colorful which is always good. The presentation is really nice and if you lose a match you definitely can’t blame the graphics. Then the soundtrack may not be the most memorable but it works pretty well if you ask me. It’s all just got a very calm/peaceful feel to it.

In terms of replay value the game also has a lot to offer. The main tournaments probably won’t take you much longer than an hour, but then you’ve still got the minigames and doubles tournaments to play through. You’ve also got the post game tournament which is sure to be pretty difficult. Finally you can max out your character’s level. I’m sure this will still be around 10 hours or less, but it’s a pretty good deal. I don’t think you can really ask for much more in the end. It took Golf about as far as you could on the GBA.

If I have any complaints with this game it is that the Mario characters should appear more. I’d say that the Mario Tennis for GBA game did a better job with this. They felt like end boss characters and had a presence. That isn’t really the case here largely due to the fact that the story really doesn’t get to happen. If we had gotten Bowser to show up or another villain I think that would have done a lot to make the game a little more memorable.

Overall, Mario Golf Advance Tour is impressive. The gameplay is pretty smooth and the loading times are virtually nonexistent. That being said, it is still Golf so there is a hard limit on how far it can go. In the end it’s just not my thing. It’s fun enough in short doses but I can’t see myself going back to this one. If you like Golf then this is a must buy. If you’re not really into Golf then the only reason to get this title would be to see Mario and the others, but you don’t see them much at all so I don’t think that would be the best option. With Mario Golf you should know what you’re getting yourself into. It delivers on everything it is trying to be.

Overall 6/10

5 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Yugioh GX Duel Academy Review


It’s time to look at another game that uses the dreaded day system. I still cannot fathom why games would ever choose to use such a system. All it does is force you to miss out on huge amounts of the game so it’s like the developers are wasting their time adding a bunch of features that we’ll never get to use. The core Yugioh gameplay is still good which keeps this from being a negative game in the end, but it is heavily limited.

The story (albeit it there isn’t much of a story here) is about a new kid who has arrived at Duel Academy. He’s looking to perfect his craft and become one of the greatest duelists of all time. It’ll take a lot of semesters and training to do it, but practice makes perfect. That’s the extent of the game. Every few months you get to take an exam to try and rank up, but the questions are surprisingly tricky. I did well enough in the dueling part…I actually had a positive record. The problem is that if you don’t do very well in the written exam you go down in rank anyway. I thought this was a bit iffy, but I suppose it is what it is. After a bunch of duels and weeks went by I figured it was time for the review.

In terms of gameplay it’s the usual Yugioh rules that you should be familiar with. In every turn you get to summon a monster and play some spells or traps. The goal of the game is to get your opponent’s life points down from 8000 to 0. Once you do that you will have won the game and you get to duel the next person. Everyone’s always got a bunch of trap cards to play so you want to work around those. For example, always attack with the weakest monster first and if you have more than 1, put the others in defense mode. That way when Mirror Force is played you won’t lose all of your monsters. As you play more and more duels you’ll see why it’s very important to protect your backup monsters. Each day seems to have 3 segments so you can plan out quite a few duels per day. You then get to watch the week days go by with nothing happening except a chance to buy some cards at the shop. Then you go back to fighting off more duelists.

One thing that slows down the duels here though is the fact that the characters like to talk a lot. It’s an interesting idea but I think it should be done without interrupting the flow. I suppose voice acting would have been out of the question for a GBA game, but maybe have everyone talk as an intro instead of during the duel. I believe that would allow you to really get in on the dueling and not have to worry about the rest. I was pretty satisfied with my starter deck though. It had a lot of fun fire monsters that I always like to have along with some good traps and spells. I made a few modifications here and there, but mainly kept it in tact.

When it comes to the graphics I’d say that the game was pretty solid. you could always tell what was happening and the illustrations were nice. The dueling effects were good and we got a nice amount of backdrops. The soundtrack is also pretty good. It’s not quite ready to take on the GX anime ost or anything like that, but it has actual variety which is important since you’ll be dueling quite a lot.

This game’s got a long amount of time if you want to truly complete the game. It’s hard to say exactly what beating the game entails but I imagine you would need to conquer all of the exams and reach Blue Rank. Assuming you have a great deck and don’t mind restarting the game during exams a few times maybe you would clear this game in around 20 hours or so. Technically there is a ton of replay value to be had here as well. Obtaining all of the cards feels like it would probably take a life time to achieve. Furthermore you’ve got to abide by the day system so you can’t just go to the shop whenever you feel like it.

It really all comes back to that system. Not to be repetitive, but I don’t like having the game force me to only be able to do certain tasks at specific times. I like being able to choose what to do next. While games don’t have to be linear I also like to have a concrete goal so I know exactly what I am supposed to do and when I am supposed to do it. Things like that really go a long way in my eyes. I prefer the retro Yugioh style where it used to be that you would fight 5 duelists, beat all of them 5 times to unlock the next row and then rinse/repeat the system. At least that way you always knew you were making progress.

Overall, This is one of the weakest Yugioh games. It’s a shame because I love GX and really wanted it to have a solid game to fall back on. Unfortunately this is not the game to do that. Tag Force would end up being a better option to represent GX. This one feels more like a cash-in and there is little that it can offer in place of other titles. I would highly recommend getting one of the World Championship games instead like 2006 which is still my favorite one. Those have more direct goals and the gameplay is completely streamlined. That’s all I really need in my Yugioh games and then I’m a happy camper.

Overall 5/10

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

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