Need For Speed Rivals Review


Well, at long last the Need for Speed marathon is now over. Rivals was the last one I owned that I had not yet played so this was quite the milestone. It’s been a lot of fun racing around and Rivals definitely does feel like a lot of effort was put into it. The graphics are definitely top notch and there’s a whole lot to do here. You have fast travel here which is always a must for games where the hub world is so huge. The story may be a bit weak but you’re here for the gameplay and definitely will not be disappointed.

The game starts off by asking if you want to play as the rebels or the cops this time around. I went with rebels since I played as the cops last time. Please note that you can switch sides at any time. Ideally the game is hoping you’ll go ahead and complete both stories. As it is, each side is fairly long so the game did a good job of really making sure the purchase was worth the money. I don’t think it would be possible for you to beat this game in under 10 hours for example. On the Rebels side the plot is basically that the main guy is trying to prove that it’s best to live life on the edge getting your 15 minutes at a time as he breaks all of the rules. The cops begin getting more and more desperate to catch him. Then you have the cops who are doing everything they can to take this rebel down but it’s proving to be difficult. They’re also having to deal with a lot of copycat racers so all of those guys need to go down and fast.

The game has a lot of different ways to race. You’ve got the standard races, time trials, pursuit races which is a race while being chased by the cops, and Interceptor which is a 1 on 1 battle with you and a police car. Each chapter is divided into missions and each mission is divided into a few tasks. For example one mission might be to win 3 races, clear one time trial, and earn 100K. Once you do all of that then the mission is completed and you will move onto the next set. I like the clear plot progression here as well as the fact that none of them feel all too crazy to me. The tasks are all pretty achievable even if they may take some time. The toughest set always seemed to be the drifting ones so I didn’t even try those. Typically you’re given 3 options on which set of tasks you want to complete and I would go for the racing focused ones. They just seemed the most direct.

I’d say the game took around 12-15 hours but I suppose it’s hard to say exactly. The final race in particular was a really tough one that took me quite a few tries. You have to drive over 30 miles nonstop in order to reach the end and if you made a wrong call or had a bad bump then there’s a chance you would lose and have to start from scratch. Let me tell you, starting from scratch is never fun. Still, since it’s the final level I can give it a pass. None of the other levels are nearly so long and it does make sense that you would want the final level to be a challenge. This game actually had far better pacing than most other Need for Speed games with how the levels go so I have to give a lot of kudos there. I also liked the variety. This was just a really well balanced game.

Part of what makes it work is how interactive the hub world is. It just feels alive with cars moving around at all time and the cutting edge graphics. As I mentioned earlier the game looks amazing. Definitely what you would expect form a next gen title. The soundtrack was also not all that annoying this time around which is great. The franchise is not usually known for having a good amount of solid themes so it’s something that can always be a bit concerning. This way there wasn’t really anything to worry about. When you pack on the replay value then you’ve definitely got a bargain here.

At its core what makes Rivals so good is of course the gameplay. It’s all very smooth and you feel in control of the car. I like that you unlock cars which you can use and buy them with cash but there isn’t the crazy level of customization that other titles have. I don’t mind a little customization of course but after a point you want to be able to just jump into a car and start driving instead of always wondering how you can optimize it. This one leaves things reasonably automatic as well which I think is a great middle ground. The game also has a lot of items at the ready here as you can attack with mines and shockwaves as well as protect yourself with Jammers and stuff like that. Items can work quite well when used the right way. For racers I really don’t mind not having any gimmicks but I won’t complain about them either.

Overall, Need For Speed: Rivals is a great game. It really captures the essence of the series and executes on every angle quite brilliantly. There is no part of the game that I would shake my head at. Even the story which can be a bit overdramatic as you follow a lead who is so far from being a hero that you can’t root for him, is okay in the end. At least it doesn’t drag on which I appreciate. You don’t get to see a whole lot of cutscenes but at least each one has a direct purpose. If you’re looking for a good racing game to pick up then I would definitely recommend this one. You really can’t go wrong with Rivals.

Overall 8/10

Shantae and the Seven Sirens Review


Shantae has had a pretty fun gaming history over the years. While her games did not start off very big, they’re now titles that are at the top of the Indie charts to the point where you probably could call her mainstream nowadays. The best title in the franchise is still Half Genie Hero if you ask me, but the Seven Sirens is a great follow up. It’s always nice to see the characters get together for some more adventures and the new Siren characters are pretty solid as well.

The game starts with Shantae and her friends going on vacation. They’re looking forward to having a peaceful time away from their usual save the world adventures. Unfortunately it won’t be as easy as all that. It turns out that there are a bunch of other half genies so now Shantae isn’t the only one. This is great except that they are all promptly kidnapped. Shantae is once again the last one standing but this time she has a chance to save the others. She’ll have to travel all across the island and an old villain by the name of Risky Boots has shown up which complicates matters. Risky always has some kind of purpose behind her actions and Shantae is going to need to figure out what that is before it’s too late.

The gameplay is that of a classic platformer but it’s got Metroidvania elements to it as you will often have to go back and forth in the map as you search for things. You start the game off with no real powers and every world you learn 2. For example, when you start the game there will be large pools that you can swim in but once you unlock the frog ability then you can go back there. It’s unlikely that you will memorize all of the different routes so you are highly encouraged to go back through each area when you gain new abilities. At times the map will show you where you need to go next but usually it’s more about trial and error. At one of the 3 towns there will usually be someone who can give you a hint though.

Your main attacking option is your hair. It’s a pretty quick attack that deals a lot of damage. At the shop you can buy an upgrade to make it faster or to make it more powerful. If you earn enough coins you can quickly max out both stats which makes a big difference in the battle. The rest of your abilities are explained as you learn them which includes shooting electricity, seeing invisible objects, and causing tremors. One ability allows you to heal yourself or cleanse poisoned water which is really handy. You can also buy magic spells like fireballs which can aid you in gameplay although they’re never as effectively as your classic hair blows if you ask me.

The boss battles can be pretty tricky at first until you remember that you have items. So at first I was just spinning my wheels without any backup assistance. No magic or items, just my platforming skills and hair. That’s when I realized that something just wasn’t quite right. It was then that I realized I had been holding myself back for quite a while. With the items the game becomes a whole lot easier to the point where you should not lose again. Not only are items so common that you should have all food maxed out pretty quick but you’ve also got your healing spell which takes up virtually no energy and heals you thoroughly. Your magic meter also regenerates pretty fast as long as you have the proper equipment on which you unlock near the middle of the game.

So the game should not pose a challenge to you as long as you remember these key elements. At that point you will be all set for action. So the gameplay is nice and fast paced which should keep you entertained at all times. The story is also pretty fun. The Squid is definitely my favorite character now. Not only is he just a fun guy but he’s got a great character theme as well. His story is rather tragic if you think about it. He really just wants to be successful and he’s trying to do it the right way but it’s just been tough for him. Hopefully one day he’s able to get that spinoff game that he’s always wanted. Shantae is a fun lead as always too. She may be a little starstruck at the other half genies but at the end of the day I would take her in a fight. Risky Boots is also a solid villain who never underestimates anyone. She just uses whichever characters are around and that’s the hallmark of a talented villain.

The graphics here are definitely real solid. The art style is excellent and is part of the game’s charm. It’s all definitely as colorful and vibrant as can be with a lot of good level backdrops. It may be a little more limited than the previous installment since you’re mainly stuck on the island the whole time but it’s a good locale in general. The soundtrack is also very good. You have some remixes from past games and then a lot of original tunes. They all bundle together for a solid array.

The game’s length is around 6 hours or so but there is a good amount of replay value as you grab all of the collectibles and aim to grab the PS4 trophies if that’s the version that you got. The toughest trophy will probably be the speed run entry since you have to complete the game very quickly. It can definitely be done if you put your mind to it though. Platformers usually aren’t super long or anything so 6-7 hours is pretty standard I’d say. You’re getting a good purchase for your buck.

Overall, I’d recommend picking up Shantae and the Seven Sirens. It’s a fun game with a pretty engaging plot and definitely a solid cast of characters. This is a game that’s very easy to pick up and play at any time. The overall atmosphere helps to keep the game calm and interesting from start to finish. I do hope they keep the Shantae series up with quick releases because there’s always a whole lot you can keep doing here. The game ends on what I would consider a cliffhanger after all so I am expecting another game at some point. In the meantime I suppose I just have to wait until she makes it into the Super Smash Bros series.

Overall 7/10

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time Review


It’s time to take a look at the new Crash game that just came out. It’s About Time was definitely a title that got a lot of hype because it has been a very long time since we got a brand new Crash adventure. Throwing in time travel is always a good idea and in the press releases before the game they were showing off quite a lot of content. You really couldn’t go wrong here and not surprisingly the game is quite fun. It’s a worthy successor to the other games and continues the series on a solid note. It’s not very long but I’d say it’s about average length for a platformer. Additionally there is a lot of replay value with the various bonus levels and reverse modes present. Those’ll help this game last for quite a while.

The game starts off with the villains working to escape the pocket dimension they’re in. Uka Uka is able to break the villains out but they leave him to die. Nefarious decides to mess with the timestream quite a bit so now Crash will have to gather 4 of the legendary masks to counter this. Fortunately Crash isn’t alone this time. He has his sister Coco and a mysterious new heroine to help him out in the quest. With time travel and alternate dimensions to factor in, this won’t be an easy adventure for Crash. Cortex also isn’t thrilled at how things are going right now so expect some big things to occur as the game goes on.

The plot is fairly simple but does throw some wrinkles at you. I do always enjoy some good time travel so this helped the plot get to the next level. For the most part the game doesn’t use any big trips to the past but near the end there is one chapter that delves into this a bit. It’s also my favorite part of the game because I really liked the banter here. Time travel opens up unique situations like that which are a lot of fun. The Crash games wouldn’t have a whole lot more to bring up since the cast isn’t huge so that helped them pick the best character to do this with right away.

Crash as always isn’t the best main character but I suppose he just isn’t able to think a whole lot. He’s certainly better here than in some other titles I suppose though. It’s hard for me to call him a hero since I don’t even think he knows what he is doing but at the end of the day he does help save the world in his own way so I have to give him some props there. His sister Coco looks good here as well. She is definitely the brains of the operation and being a playable character was certainly cool. The new heroine is the best of the heroes though. She reminds the others that sometimes fighting on your own is the best way to go about things. She’s certainly been through a lot and I would have been game with having her appear more. Perhaps even as a boss fight trying to get the main characters to give up their quest. One thing’s for sure, I’m hoping she sticks around for future games.

Then we have the villains. Nefarious is the main villain here as he definitely gets the biggest role. He’s fun although he doesn’t quite have Cortex or Uka Uka’s charisma. He’s one of the weaker main villains in the series. Fortunately Cortex gets a big role either way. You can never keep this guy on the backburner. He’s always got to force himself into the plot one way or another and he definitely makes sure to do that here. In some ways you may even feel bad for him here. He’s the kind of villain that is almost pretty likable because of the fact that you know he is doomed each time but he always keeps on trying. You have to at least give him credit for his resilience.

The gameplay here is pretty smooth. The levels are 3D Platforming types where you jump past obstacles and take down enemies while approaching the goal. As Crash you can spin and double jump as always. The other characters have different moves though like how the heroine has a grappling hook and Cortex just blasts his enemies into submission. There’s also another character whose moveset is pretty different. The game helps to give you a lot more variety with the movesets this way which is a good thing. They’re all polished as well so none of them were just squeezed into the title.

The graphics here are definitely very good as you would expect. Everything is in HD and the character models+stages really pop out at you. I was glad that classic Crash was a costume option as well. That was definitely pretty neat and as soon as I unlocked that I never went back. The soundtrack isn’t super memorable but the stage themes had a lo of variety. One sad thing is if you die in a level then the character’s dialogue in the background is cut off and you don’t hear it again. I feel like you lose out on a lot of dialogue if you lose quickly. This was probably to make sure you don’t get annoyed by a line playing over and over again if you die a lot but I feel like they should have it set up so that only happens if the line is completed.

Overall, Crash 4: It’s About Time is definitely very good. It’s really a complete Crash adventure and has all of the classic elements from the first games that you will enjoy. The levels are reasonably difficult so you also won’t just breeze past each level without difficulty. You’ll definitely have to work hard at this to make sure you pace yourself and have good fundamentals. Without that you certainly won’t be prepared to conquer this title. Hopefully they keep on rolling new Crash games eventually. There’s always more you can do with the series after all. Maybe we can have the team warp to a dystopian future next time but of course we need to have Cortex on the team for a quick team up with Crash. Then he’ll see once and for all how conquering the planet could put people in danger. It may even cause him to change his ways or at least I’m sure he could trick Crash about that.

Overall 7/10

Icey Stats and Records

Stats time!

PS4 Trophies 10/34

Brutal Blade Level 2
Back Slash (Ground) Level 1
Cyclone (Air) Level Max
Skull Shaker Level 0
Cloudsplitter (Air) Level 0
Bounceback Level 1
Pummel Level 1
Skewer Level 1
Sweep Level 1
Uppercut Level 1
Deadly Disc Level 0
Shadow Dance Level 0
Overload Level 1
Shadow Slice Level 1
Vertical Cut Level 2
Vitality Level Max
Bubble Level 1
Perception Level 1
Regeneration Level 2

Streets of Rage 4 Review


It’s time to look at the new Streets of Rage title! The original games came out a bit before my time so I never got to experience them in their time. Well, now I’m in with the party this time and it’s definitely a fun beat em up. You’ve got to take back the streets from the gangs that have taken the city over. Everyone is against the 4 lone heroes so they definitely can’t let their guard down.

This time Mr and Ms Y have taken over the city. It seems like last time Mr X was the villain based on the dialogue. This pair of villains work pretty well in the story. They have intimidating designs and since they did take over the city that means that even the cops are on their side. It makes for a pretty intense dynamic here because the heroes really have no backup. They seem to usually be vigilantes anyway though so I don’t think they take it all that hard here.

You can play as any of the original 4 characters and I believe you can unlock a few more later in. There are 12 levels and each one is around 10-12 minutes so the main campaign should last you around 2-3 hours depending on how well you do. The levels are reasonably difficult so don’t expect to just be blasting through them. Even I died once or twice in some of the big battles. The bosses really go in and it can be difficult to deal with the minions if you let them overwhelm you. A common theme in the game is to make sure and divide your enemies so you can conquer them a lot easier. If you let them group up then your chances of victory will continue to grow slimmer and slimmer.

I found that the most difficult enemies to deal with were the ones that would jump kick you. You really have to plan your gameplay around them or you will take heavy damage. The damage really adds up and you want to have a good amount for the boss at the end of each level. One thing I would say is to make sure and break anything that seems suspicious. A lot of objects are hiding health items or money. Even if you have full health make sure you use the health items since they increase your score, same with the money. When your score is high enough you will be able to get another life. My score was never high enough to get 2 lives in one even but apparently it seems that this is possible.

The gameplay is that of a 2D beat em up. You have your standard attacks and can move up and down to be in a different lane than your opponent. Always move around because it makes it a lot more difficult for the enemies to really do anything against you. Additionally, I would recommend using the power moves sparingly. Each power move drains your health. You can earn that health back if you land some hits on other minions but if they hit you just once it will crush your combo and you will lose the health for good. It still comes in handy for the bosses though. I wouldn’t have been able to deal enough damage in time without it.

Memorizing the patterns of the bosses can be tricky. I beat quite a few levels with just about no health left. I beat the final one with literally no health showing on the bar so that was really close. I was pretty proud of that win though because I was able to perfectly memorize the boss movements. I have 0 health for most of the fight but once I took out one of the opponents I was able to deal with the other one well enough. You’ll be at the edge of your seat for most of these battles.

The graphics definitely look real nice. I like the hand drawn style they use for the illustrations. I wouldn’t say that the cutscenes themselves are all that animated though as it’s more like a comic book. The soundtrack is also pretty fun. It’s got that retro arcade feel to it which works well for the retro aesthetic the game is going for. It’s all like a blast to the past so you should have some nostalgia here especially if you played the first ones.

There’s also a decent amount of replay value here. For starters you can beat the game with all of the characters. Obtaining all of the trophies will probably take some time as well. This still won’t end up being one of the longest games out there but there is definitely enough content to keep you busy once you’re out there. If you have someone to play with that will also boost the playing value as you can have fun one upping each other and trying out the different characters.

Overall, Streets of Rage 4 is definitely a game worth checking out. It’s a bit on the short side so you should check the price before going through, but the gameplay mechanics and story are on point. You will definitely have a good time here and I’m up for some more Street of Rage installments. There’s still a lot you can do with the city since there is no end to the amount of gangs that want to terrorize the city after all. There will always be a need for these vigilantes.

Overall 7/10

Sephirothic Stories Review


It’s time to look at a recent RPG for the PS4. These guys made the Asdivine Games and it really shows in some areas. The music and menus are grabbed straight from those titles. The original Asdivine was a masterpiece. The sequel may not have been as good but it was still a solid RPG. That’s where this game lies as well. It’s a pretty solid game but what holds it back is really the length as opposed to the characters holding the other one back. You’ll have this game completed in under 5 hours which is pretty unheard for an RPG. I have a theory on this but more on that in a bit. Either way if you like RPGs you should enjoy this one as it’s very smooth.

The game begins by explaining the story which is a bit out there so bear with me. Sephiroth is a giant tree that powers 3 planets. It drops fruits which then snatch up some vessels which allow them to become human. They will eventually be poisoned by the murk that appears on the planet. At that point they have to either find a new vessel or get erased. Sephiroth himself has to keep being replaced as the old one dies. It’s basically a cycle of death and rebirth that happens all the time. So the game follows a fruit named Harold and his best friend the lizard monster Izzy who try to find some apples for Harold’s sister. She is quite ill and won’t last very long. The village’s heroes are sent out to find the cure for her but only one of them returns. It would seem that they were ambushed by monsters.

Harold is afraid of monsters but he agrees to help them out. He was born with the ability to sense monsters which should help in avoiding them. That’s the idea at least. After obtaining the cure, the Grandma informs them that things aren’t right with the world. Harold needs to find the lost hero quick and also see why the planet is falling into ruin. Monsters are even gaining intelligence which shouldn’t be possible. Harold will get to the bottom of this one way or the other but is it already too late for the planet? Things get pretty cosmic towards the end.

One thing you may be wondering from the start is, was using the name “Sephiroth” a coincidence? I personally doubt it since there are too many similarities to the Materia and the whole lifestream of the planet stuff from the original game. Still, it’s a good way to get people interested. The idea of Sephiroth becoming a tree is pretty interesting but there’s more to it than that. Despite the short length there are a ton of plot twists so I won’t talk about the story much. Needless to say, there is quite a lot to tackle here and nothing is quite as it appears to be.

The gameplay is a turn based combat system although it uses speed as a factor so it’s more like Mega Man X Command Mission than Pokemon. You can attack when it’s your turn but the villains can use abilities to slow that down. You then have your normal attacks or skills to use. Interestingly general magic and physical skills are both merged into the same icon for this game. You’ve also got Fusion which is a combined attack you can use later on in the game. It deals a ton of damage so save it for bosses since it can pretty much 1 hit KO just about all of them. Don’t even think about wasting it on a minion.

The graphics are pretty nice. I miss the sprite style but the 3D models look good. At most it can just be a bit clunky as characters start to walk around aimlessly during cutscenes or open their mouths for a bit before talking happens. Seems to me like some opening hiccups with the style but I’m sure they’ll have it down before long. The soundtrack is excellent though. It’s very nostalgic hearing the classic Asdivine Heart themes in there as those never get old. They’re all so fast that it really builds up your excitement for the whole thing. Then we’ve also got the quality menus that those games had. Just about everything is customizable which is fantastic.

One thing against the game though is it looks like it wasn’t tested/balanced very well. You’re simply given too many options in the game which makes it a piece of cake. For example, you start the game with a ton of premium coins so you’re able to buy one weapon of your choice. I bought the Sephiroth Sword which made Harold the ultimate glass cannon. He could take down any non boss throughout the whole game in one hit. Even bosses didn’t last much longer than that. You won’t have enough premium coins to buy anything else for the rest of the game but you don’t need too anyway. Then there are plants which you raise to enhance all of your stats and weapons you can keep on merging. Really, what this boils down to is that it makes it very easy for you to blast through the game. Part of why it was so short is you could take down bosses in a matter of seconds. I love the speed but I think they probably could have given you less options.

It does make you feel in total control though which is always good. As for the characters, they’re not bad. Harold isn’t my favorite lead since he’s so scared of things though. I prefer my main characters to be a bit more confident and just blast aside anyone foolish enough to stand in their way. Harold’s a lot more timid than that despite everyone saying how awesome he is. Clarice is the main heroine and she’s decent. Not quite as strong as most but she talks tough. She always makes sure Harold doesn’t get the wrong idea about things. Izzy’s a pal though. He’s always here to encourage Harold and make sure that he stays on the right track. The main cast may not be the most interesting but none of them are bad which is always important.

Overall, Sephirothic Stories is a fun RPG. I would have liked for it to have been a little longer though. As it is, it almost feels like you’re playing a preview to the real game. As a result the pacing is tight though as you jump from one event to the next. It also could have been more difficult but I’ll never fault a game for being too easy. After all, there are many ways to make a game more difficult for yourself. One of those ways would naturally be to just turn the game’s difficulty setting over to Hard. That’s a pretty simple way or going about things right? I’d be game for a sequel to this or maybe some kind of crossover at some point. One thing’s for sure, the developers have really mastered the menus at this point. All RPGs should have some of the quality of life bonuses this one has like turning battle effects off and speeding up the turns. Auto battle would be amazing for helping with grinding in other games. Since your characters can only use the standard attack when in auto mode it also ensures that you don’t use it as a crutch. If you’re always wondered about going into the RPG genre but was unsure about them because of the length, this is a good one to start out with so see how you enjoy it all.

Overall 7/10