James Bond 007: From Russia with Love Review


From Russia With Love certainly left quite an impact to even get its own video game eventually. Bond has had quite a few games which tend to range from being first person shooters to third person. Fortunately this one is the latter as I tend to prefer that style. It’s a pretty good retelling of the movie’s story and even throws in some extra moments to extend the playthrough. The game’s at a reasonable length and has some bonus levels to strive for as well.

The basic plot is that the villains at Octopus (Yeah that’s their new name now instead of Spectre) have decided to trick Bond once again. They get a former Russian agent known as Tatiana to pretend to work with Bond and get him to take many risks in obtaining a device. She believes this is a legitimate mission from Russia and doesn’t realize that it’s a trap. Bond knows it’s a trap but wants to enjoy himself so he looks the other way. The characters are now on a collision course and Bond will have to watch out for an assassin that is coming after him. Will Bond be able to survive?

There are around 22 levels in the game and the goal is usually to grab some intel or just make it to the end in time. Each level has a few different objectives and once you complete them all then the mission is over. Pro tip, if you’re close to dying but about to clear the objective, just run as fast as you can. If you complete it even for a second before dying, it will create a new checkpoint so you recover all of your health when you wake up. This saved me quite a few times.

The game is rather difficult so you really need to make each shot count. Just go in guns blazing and don’t worry about the rest. The toughest enemy to deal with is a big guy who runs in with a machine gun. He can completely destroy you with just a few hits so you desperately need to pepper him with assault rifle rounds of your own or it’s game over. It’s really impressive just how daunting of an opponent he is to fight. If you lower your guard that’s it. He’s even stronger than most bosses.

Most of my losses in the game are due to this guy showing up. You can switch through your weapons and gadgets during gameplay so always try to keep an eye on which one has ammo. Another tip is that most guns have a second kind of ammo so if you run out of the first, go into the menu to switch to the other one. For that reason you should start with the backup ammo since when you finish it automatically cycles back to the normal one. It’s a pretty good way to do things.

The stealth mechanics are also handy. If you sneak up on an opponent from behind you can take him out in a single blow. This can often be very handy since you don’t have to use up any health. It’s also worth noting that the game has an upgrades section. You can build up your guns or even your armor by spending achievement points. I never quite figured out how you earn those points but by the end of the game you should have a good amount. I highly recommend using these on your armor since it extends the health bar which is incredibly useful.

If you ever do end up getting stuck in the game you could probably go back to old levels to earn more points. I assume that would work and the more level ups you get the easier the game would be. That being said, you should be in a good spot for most of these levels. The toughest level in the game by far is the first boat level. I lost that one many times before finally winning. It’s definitely difficult when you’re not at the wheel. The driver really tends to turn at the worst moments.

The graphics are definitely sharp. The game felt rather cinematic as it used cutscenes to reenact a lot of big moments from the film. We even get true fight scenes in the cutscenes which is impressive. The game put in a lot of effort and I’d say it was rewarded since the game is rather well known. This may be based on a movie but it’s no cash-in. The soundtrack is good as well with the classic Bond theme playing a few times. Aside from Bond’s voice sounding noticeably older, the game really sounds just like the movie.

So the base game is probably around 5-7 hours and then with the extra levels you can bump that up a bit. Earning all achievements should take a while too and then the game also has a big multiplayer mode. That really helps to amp up the replay value since you can have a blast staying there for hours. I’d expect no less from a big Gamecube game that’s for sure. The game was very well done and I look forward to seeing what Bond comes up with next. The series lends itself well to a third person shooter style.

I’d like the next ones to keep in the upgrading system as I always like things like that. It incentivizes you to grind the old levels to get stronger and stronger. If I had my way then all games would have some kind of level up system since it’s just so much fun to have. You never truly feel stuck when you can go back and get even stronger.

Overall, From Russia With Love is a pretty fun game. It’s a title that should be nostalgic for long time Bond fans. Even if you haven’t seen the movies you should be pretty well set here though since the game adapts the whole movie so it’s pretty new user friendly. At its core this is a story about agents from different countries all being manipulated by the villain organization. That’s a plot that you can dive into without any issues.

Overall 7/10

Panzer Paladin Review


Limited Run has returned with their next big game. Panzer Paladin is a run adventure that feels a lot like the recent Blaster Master. It has a similar style of letting you control the machine and the human but the actual gameplay I’d say is more similar to Megaman Zero. It’s very smooth and you can really go at the enemies. There are a few other mechanics which also help this game to stand out.

The main character of the game is Flame. She is a robot who wasn’t built for war but is forced to quickly prepare for it as evil forces are running rampant on the world. The villains are all monsters and mythical figures from around the world such as Medusa, an evil Snowman, Baba Yaga, Lilith, and many more. Flame decides to suit up and stop them along with her Paladin machine. Faced with no other alternatives, the government agrees to this and sends her off. The characters all warn her that evil is quickly approaching so she must not be tempted but the heroine realizes there is little chance of that as she has a world to save.

The story here is pretty fun. The visuals are all rather intense and the sprite style is used really well. You have a very apocalyptic vibe to the whole thing and it feels like even if you do win, it will come at a great cost. These machines have ravaged most of the planet at this point. Then you have a mysterious Protoman type figure and he even gets a catchy tune similar to how a tune would play whenever Protoman would show up in the original Mega Man games. This definitely had to be a homage of some kind.

As for the gameplay, it introduces a few new twists as I mentioned. Lets start with the basics which is that this is a 2D platformer. You can run, jump, and swing your weapon as you go through the levels. The goal is to get to the end of the level where you will take out the boss. You can also jump out of your mech and into your pilot form. There is a few seconds where you are invincible when doing this so it’s certainly a good way to dodge some enemy attacks. There’s at least one boss where I think this is what you are supposed to do in order to block their attacks.

Then for your blades you can hold 4 of them at once. You can switch depending on what you need for the situations. Some collectibles are hidden behind a specific blade for example while others are under a different one. Then there is also the fact that each blade holds a special ability. For example, one may have “Attack up” as its ability. If you intentionally break your weapon, it will give you a status boost for a while. Additionally if you don’t want to break a sword, be careful how often you use it.

Each weapon has its own health bar which goes down whenever you land a hit on an enemy or destroy a block. When it goes all the way down the weapon will break but you won’t get the special ability that way. So if you want to use the ability then you need to make sure you break the weapon yourself or you’re going to be in some trouble.

A lot of times you will want to strategically switch your weapons out. For example, if you are already holding 4 swords and then pick up a 5th one it will be automatically taken to your inventory. So you want to hold 4 swords as long as possible. The reason is you can fuse swords in your inventory so that they power your mech up to the next level. Additionally once you have it maxed out, you can just store them for their special abilities.

One sword I was saving for the final boss because it would heal all of my health. It was the only sword like that I saw in the whole game. In the end I didn’t need it for the boss but it definitely felt good having it with me. It’s the kind of thing that just brings you a good amount of comfort.

The graphics are pretty solid. The sprite art style works really well as mentioned before. A good amount of effort was put into the game on this front. Meanwhile the soundtrack is definitely on point with a lot of fast paced Megaman type tunes. They’re catchy enough where you’ll want to look them up after completing the game.

I should mention the game seems to have more than one ending based on what decision you take. I wasn’t totally sure there was a decision at the time so I kept going as normal but in the end I still think the move makes sense. As long as you have a strong will, then taking this would only be an asset. I won’t spoil what the decision is though so you can have fun choosing your ending. That also should give some replay value in case you want to see what the other ending is like.

Overall, Panzer Paladin is definitely a fun game. It’s a platformer that holds up really well and has an engaging story. It’s a bit of a short title that you should complete in under 4 hours. There are a decent amount of levels after completing all of the story ones though. The various extra modes will help in terms of replay value. Gathering all of the awards definitely won’t be easy and will keep you going back to the levels. If you want a fun platformer to play through then this is the one to pick.

Overall 7/10

Neptunia Virtual Stars Review


This is the first Hyper Neptunia game I’ve gotten from the series but what better way to start than with a 3D beat em up genre game right? Virtual Stars mixes in the 4 goddesses from Neptunia along with a bunch of virtual idols this time. The game has a pretty solid story and the gameplay is on point. While it could certainly use a little more polish to make it to the next level, I was pretty satisfied with the overall experience.

The game starts with the Neptunia goddesses getting ready to enjoy a solid video game. Unfortunately before they can do so they end up falling inside a cyber world where another goddess lets them know that her world is being taken over. See, these worlds are homages of Youtube, Twitter, and general internet settings. The world is now being forced to create low quality content and to install paywalls everywhere. As a result everyone is upset and morale is quickly fading fast. The Neptunia goddesses agree to help her out and restore peace to the universe. The same goal is given to the idols who are taken away from their big online comedy routine. Can these girls all team up to save the planet or is it already too late? Only time will tell.

There are two main gameplay styles here. When you’re playing as the goddesses it is a third person shooter. You blast away at the enemies with your machine guns, grenades, and other long range techniques. You can also activate a team final smash where everyone blasts the target although in my case the other goddesses were so weak that ironically this would deal less damage than your normal attacks. Yes, it’s a bit odd but I recommend just giving all of the best equipment to one of the goddesses and ignoring the other 3 completely.

For the virtual idols the gameplay is more like something out of Dynasty Warriors. You use your sword to slice away at all of the enemies who get in your way. The attacks don’t deal as much damage though so after the first level I basically didn’t play as them again. I do like how the game really lets you feel like you’re playing two different games this way though. It’s a nice way to keep things fresh as you progress through the game.

Make no mistake, there is a ton to do in the game. You can customize the characters with accessories that unlock latent special abilities and of course general equipment. The V-Cubes are your best bet here since they are even better than traditional level ups. Here’s what you need to do, whenever you pass an item box, only open it when it turns to the V Cube corner. All other items are basically irrelevant in the game. As long as you focus on the cubes you will be good to go here. Whenever you get a weak one, just sell it for DP so you can power up your current one. By the end of this you will be suitably overpowered.

Also, it’s worth noting that the final phase of the final boss introduces a whole new mechanic to watch out for. You can only injure his core with alternate power. The initials are something like TXMD, but you’ll be able to see this on the menu. Make sure you keep some weak V Cubes for this or you could be in for a world of pain. Things almost got tricky for me there but fortunately I had held onto some. I don’t like the concept for that though, why do you have to lose some strength for the final boss? Without an explanation it was just a bit odd.

The game doesn’t tend to explain a whole lot but you can typically make sense of the mechanics on your own. The graphics are pretty solid as well. This may not be the ultimate AAA experience but there’s enough here where the visuals look impressive. I do think they could have put some more effort into having actual cutscenes or at least more stills though. I’ve seen Playstation 1 games with more cinematics. It would have made the story feel a lot more alive than it is. The only kind of animations the game shows a lot of is a fanservice animation for the DOA type effects.

While the game is mainly legit, they do force this into most cutscenes which can get a bit old. The game’s certainly not focusing its attention on the right things here like also amping up the soundtrack. I like the lyrical song pretty well but it shows up for literally every boss fight so I think they could have added a few more songs for variety. It can’t have been that difficult to shake things up a bit more right? Maybe alter the speed or something to at least make it sound a bit different.

As for the characters, they’re solid enough. Neptune is the leader of the main group and she is always ready for action. She likes calling out the tropes and breaking the fourth wall as much as possible. She may be more oblivious than the other characters but she is also the least likely to give up which is important. Her friend Noire isn’t quite as ready for the spotlight as she just isn’t used to being open with the other characters. Blanc is the weakest of the 4 though as her thing is that she’s the low key mean one who is always being passive aggressive but will always tend to blow up. Vert’s the least memorable as there isn’t a whole lot to her.

Then for the Idols you have Me and You which are pretty cool names when you think about it. Me’s a lot of fun and gives Neptune a run for her money as far as the bubbly lead is concerned. Her singing skills are legit and she holds the stage better than You. You is always trying to squash all the fun but Me makes sure to keep her from being too much of a downer. There are other supporting characters and Idols who show up as well of course but these are the main characters.

Then for the villains you have Hero and Kado. As the main villains they felt a lot like the duo from Gridman to me although things play out very differently. I was quite surprised with how Hero’s plot ended up turning out because it just seemed the whole time like it was going to go somewhere else and then it just didn’t. Terrific red herring that’s for sure and he has a solid design. Kado’s one of those characters with more of a sympathetic backstory although she was also letting people run all over her so easily that it could be a bit annoying. If she had been more assertive then things would be a lot different.

Additionally, she was whipping and torturing one character for the majority of the game so when we learn that she may not have been so bad…it’s hard to buy. Kado has an epic design and makes for a good villain but I have a hard time seeing her as anything other than a villain. So the game has a solid story here. The script has a lot of fun with this and the writing can really shine at times. It’s a pleasant game to go through and one that has a reasonable length. I want to say this will last for around 10 hours. Then if you want to get the Platinum that will add more time as well since you have to clear side quests and do some extra minigames like singing.

Overall, Virtual Stars is a good way to kick off the Neptunia series. The gameplay is solid and the plot is pretty good. What keeps it from being an 8 star game though is the lack of lock-on and the gameplay generally not feeling as refined as it could have been though. Additionally I think more effort could have been put into this game on a technical level like adding more cutscenes and illustrations. They could also get rid of the bouncing effect on the characters for good measure since it’s not really adding to the story. I like to think a sequel would be able to make it to the next level but either way this is a fun game and I expect you’ll have fun going through it.

Overall 7/10

Battlestar Galactica Review


Battlestar Galactica is one of those games that should have been good by all accounts. It’s a Sci-Fi game like Star Fox with a direct plot involving aliens and a main character who’s already showing some sass in the first level. How could it fumble the ball this hard? Well, unfortunately the controls are pretty bad and the game design is even worse. You have to be prepared for an incredibly long level and if you die at any point during it there are no checkpoints. That’s exactly the kind of thing that you don’t want to do.

The game starts off with a bunch of alien robots showing up. They want to destroy the Galactica. Your mission is to stop them and prevent the Galactica from being destroyed. Simple enough right? Unfortunately not really and this was the last level I would see. I gave it a whirl for around 3-4 hours but it was just not enough to get through. You have to see the same cutscenes and dialogue each time too which can get old. The main character constantly saying that he’s not a cadet but the other characters mock him anyway gets old pretty quick. It’s a shame because the main guy had some potential here.

The core gameplay is that you’re in a 3D environment where you have to fly in and start taking names. You have your main weapon, your sub weapon, boosters, and a few other tricks up your sleeve. You can reallocate your stats to increase attack or speed. Additionally you have charge missiles and other weapons by holding down each button. I think this may have been part of the problem though. The game just got a little too ambitious with all of this. At the end of the day the main issue here is there are too many controls. You have so many different attacks and movement options that none of them are actually reliable.

Then you have the fact that the levels are massive so it feels like you are never making any progress. I’m telling you, I’ve gone through that exact same intro so many times in this game that it’s incredibly old at this point. It’s just the same dialogue options over and over and over again. You really need a checkpoint system in this game or in any game with long levels for that matter. The worst feeling is dumping a few hours into something without anything to show for it. While minor, I’d say at least adding a play time ticker somewhere in the game would do it wonders. Then I could at least put that down somewhere as a quick achievement. Without it, the game feels like an empty experience.

The graphics are really good at least. The game looks surprisingly solid for the PS2 era and you could make a case for this looking like a PS3 game. It’s got full voice acting and the soundtrack is on point as well. On a technical level this game can hold its own and that’s more than I can say for other games at this level. That’s part of why the whole situation is tragic since at least some of the departments working on this game seemed to try hard. Just not hard enough to really make this a good game.

So, how would I fix this? Well, aside from adding checkpoints I would remove some of the control options. We shouldn’t have 3 different ways to boost. Make R1 the boost option and otherwise you are accelerating by default. L1 will be to slow down. Square button will fire the homing rockets. No need to have it twice. I would make the lock-on system a whole lot more pronounced so you don’t have to be wondering where the enemies are. Remove the team strategy options or just make it something you control from the pause menu. Same for redistributing your skills in the level, that should be through the pause menu. Now with this we’re cooking with gas.

Next up, instead of making each level 20-30 minutes and only having 7 levels in the game, make it 21 shorter levels. Each level is the objective so the length is more akin to what an average Star Wars or Star Fox level is like. Bite sized levels like that are perfect for objective based games like this one. For that matter they make a lot more sense as well. With these changes I think you can instantly bump this game all the way up to a 7. It would feel like a completely different game in a good way.

Of course at the end of the day that’s all just wish fulfillment. The game exists and nothing’s really going to change that. Perhaps if the developers see this they can use it for context on their next game though. For some reason sci-fi games just tend to have a lot of issues I’ve noticed. Star Trek hasn’t exactly hit it out of the park and then you had that game about visiting planets a while back. Star Wars has had its hits but it’s also definitely had some titles that didn’t hit people the way you would have hoped they did. I don’t get what’s so hard to make about a space shooter. Just look at Star Fox Assault for a good idea of how to handle it. That game is quite old by now and yet to this day it is easily the best sci-fi shooter I’ve ever seen. It could handle both aerial combat as well as on the ground. It’s a true legend.

Overall, Battlestar Galactica is not a franchise that I’ve ever started and this game definitely wouldn’t help me to turn around on that. It’s just not a very well developed game with the level designs being too long and the controls are overly complex. The series in general always seemed like an alternate version of Star Trek so there’s a lot of potential there. We just need a modern game version to really adapt the series and give it more respect with the fundamentals. I think if you handle this right then you may definitely have something here. Until then though, stay far away from this game and buy Star Fox Assault instead. You’ll be glad you did.

Overall 3/10

Blaster Master Zero 2 Review


After playing through the first Blaster Master I knew that it was definitely time to dive into the sequel right away. Blaster Master 2 definitely ups the stakes with more of a detailed story and more areas to explore. Rather than be stuck on one planet you can now travel across the universe. With the graphics and soundtrack being on point there is absolutely a lot to enjoy here. You just can’t go wrong with this classic gameplay.

The game starts with Jason and Eve attempting to find a cure for her mutant corruption. The first game ended with her deciding to destroy herself to prevent the spread while Jason was unaware but there was a true ending so I suppose in that version he was able to save her in time and this is continuing off of that. Due to this illness, Eve is unable to leave the ship so Jason has to explore on his own. He is determined to heal her and then they can destroy the mutant plague once and for all. Many planets have been affected already though and there’s a mysterious fighter who keeps getting in Jason’s way.

The gameplay is pretty similar to the first game. You pilot the tank and fly through the levels as you blast through any opponent in your way. You can also get out of the tank and go through dungeons as the pilot which takes more of an overhead approach to the shooting gameplay. As a tank you have a whole lot of defense so as long as you play things out carefully you should be able to take your opponents down. There is a greater emphasis on switching weapons to combat the bosses so some weapons are better for some occasions.

Your main blaster is always handy though so I definitely recommend it. As the pilot I like his L8 and homing variations as well but for most of the bosses I would just stick to the standard gun. It does a whole lot of damage. One thing that’s important is to really learn the boss attack patterns. Towards the end there is a big boss rush like a Mega Man game where you have to take down multiple bosses without gaining any health. That was pretty tough and definitely took me a few shots to get through.

Pure gameplay-wise I would say the game is a little weaker than the first one. It’s only really noticeable in the tank where it’s harder to hit enemies with how fast it moves. That said, it’s a very small difference. Also, it’s worth noting that this game is considerably harder than the first one so you need to take that into account as well. It’s definitely not exactly going to be a walk in the park that’s for sure. I would recommend at least grabbing some of the optional upgrades and power ups since they make a difference in a pinch. Without the extra health I would have certainly lost more fights since a lot of bosses literally came down to my final health point which was pretty intense.

For the story you should definitely be engaged from the start. The fact that we’re expanding the lore with other mech pilots running around was pretty neat. We run into 4 of them. 3 who are allies on different planets and then one who is out to murder us. The whole time I was expecting a plot twist that this guy was from the future where things didn’t work out for the lead. The game doesn’t go in that direction but I still like the theory and it hasn’t been ruled out so that’s my head canon for now. It explains why he really can’t stand Jason and keeps on trying to destroy him. Makes for a lot of great dialogue and boss fights too of course.

As good as Jason and Eve are doing in their campaign though, it does feel like they’re outmatched at the moment. For every villain they take down more show up. Even some bosses from the first game have returned along with the same name so I assume the mutants revived them? This game has a few bosses who are recycled so I won’t count the second versions of them but at least for the initial ones it does seem like they are back from the grave. With the heroes being away from Earth for so long as well you know that the main planet won’t be doing so well either. Hopefully if we get a third game they get some backup because otherwise they may be doomed.

The graphics are really solid. The sprites all look very good and we get more illustrations here for the story. Jason’s outfit is like something out of Kamen Rider or Power Rangers and he’s even got a cool cape. The main rival/villain also has a pretty great design as well. You’re always in store for something visually cool as you go through the levels so that’s certainly a credit to how solid the game is. For the soundtrack, it’s definitely got a nice Mega Man vibe going. All of the tunes were solid and definitely kept up the solid sci-fi themes.

The game took me around 6 hours to conquer. Outside of that there is a lot of replay value here as you try to assemble all of the maps, weapons, and bonus items. Then you can go back to conquer the true final boss and along the way collect the rest of the PS4 trophies. I imagine that this should extend you to at least 10 hours of play time by the time this is all over. You’re definitely getting good value for your dollar here.

Overall, Blaster Master Zero 2 is a great follow up to the first game. The ending is also pretty surprising although of course there is a true ending so you can always play through some more to get that as the more satisfying climax. It depends on what kind of ending you’re looking for of course. The sheer suddenness of this one was pretty intense though and you can also see how it would work as a real ending because there are still some glimmer of hope here. This would definitely make for a great anime someday. Well, I definitely recommend playing through this game, you don’t want to miss out on the hype.

Overall 7/10