Sword Art Online Calibur Review

As I am currently playing through the Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet game, I figured that I should finally go and wrap up one of the spin-off manga titles. This one shot is based on the mini Asgard arc and has always been known as a relatively weak story. Unfortunately the manga makes it even worse by adding in a ton of fan service so you can probably already tell how this review is going to end.

The manga starts off with Suguha letting Kirito know that some players have finally found out the location of the hidden sword Excalibur. The heroes had found it about a year earlier but because they were so slow the rest of the world caught up. Kirito has to form a group of 7 people in order to conquer this quest but it may prove more dangerous than expected. If the heroes don’t complete the mission quickly than the whole virtual game will turn from a happy fairy based one into an apocalyptic ice land. Fortunately Kirito is up to the task.

This is Sword Art Online so I should probably bring up the unfortunate fan service right away since we all know that it’s coming. The manga sets the tone for how this is going to play out right from the beginning as the very first panel on the first page is a fan service shot. The author even mentions at the end that he added more than usual. It is constant enough during the volume where it probably happens every chapter. Some of the scenes are totally made up for the manga and really don’t help the overall case. It really limits what the rest of the manga can hope to accomplish.

At least the general art looks pretty good. The characters are very detailed and this translates well into the fight scenes. The quality here is high so it’s too bad that this artist couldn’t have picked a better arc than this one. Of course, this manga also has to have a quick flashback to a certain scene in arc 2 just to fit that extra bit of fan service in. So, very solid art but it’s used for scenes that really don’t help the overall manga.

Fortunately Kirito is a pretty solid main character as per usual. He comes up with the plan to save the day and even uses a new skill that is game breaking. He is always surpassing his limits so it should really come as no surprise. Even when everyone tries to mess with Kirito like putting him on the spot by asking if he would pay for the meal, Kirito takes it in stride. He was happy to pay and comes across as a solid team player.

Klein unfortunately looks about as bad as ever. He is still a very desperate character who will try to ask out a computer program and he is also super weak. The guy doesn’t even work well as a comic relief character but he does help to make Kirito look even better. That always seems like the real reason Kirito keeps him around. Klein just can’t go one page without humiliating himself.

Sinon gets the biggest role from all of the heroines. Unfortunately the author uses it for the wrong reasons at times but at least her fight scenes are solid. Since her bow and arrow skills are double that of the usual max, her weapon is actually pretty overpowered. Her reaction times are likely second only to Kirito’s here so that is very useful as well. Considering that she has apparently had the account for a day (if I recall correctly) Sinon must have trained a great deal.

Leafa is around just to feel bad for the creatures getting destroyed by the other players but doesn’t do much beyond that. If anything she can be a little on the annoying side since she knows about the Asgard myths but conveniently forgets about them until right after the fight. Asuna, Lizbeth, and Silica don’t actually get to do anything. They are basically just here to fill up the party.

Then we have the main villain who is certainly a terrible character. He’s a very sketchy villain whose goals are terrible and so there is absolutely nothing to root for in his character. There is also the prisoner who has a big plot twist which does not help her character. That’s because her actions up until the plot twist are extremely manipulative and she was basically using the heroes. Certainly not a very nice thing to do if you ask me. Not that it would have been much better without the twist but the character was having too much fun with her role. The plot twist is pretty obvious but the manga does a good job with it since the characters are self aware about it. They all know the twist but decide to play along anyway. Even then they only play along because Klein essentially forced them into doing so.

I think the only positive change that the manga did was give Sinon an extended fight. At the very least I don’t recall that happening in the show. It’s not much, but it shows that the manga did something right. With the artist’s skills he/she should still do well in a future SAO manga provided they focus on fight scenes and not adding anything else that would be tragic for the manga’s score.

Overall, This was definitely not a good SAO volume and it doesn’t do this wounded franchise any wonders. It just continues to make the same mistakes that the franchise has always made. It had great fight scenes, but is bogged down by all of the fanservice. I’d recommend just sticking to the original Sword Art Online manga instead of checking this one out. You’ll thank me for it someday.

Overall 4/10


Sakura Wars: So Long My Love Review

This is one of those games that has been on the backburner for a very long time. I don’t even know how many years its been since I first bought the game but there were just so many that kept getting ahead of it. Well, the game finally made it to the top and I managed to complete it. I haven’t played too many visual novels, but it definitely can be a fun genre when handled well. The story is good and the characters are fun so it’s a good experience. Of course, the genre can only go so far without too much gameplay.

The story starts off with our hero Shinjiro Taiga. He has arrived in New York to be an usher at a famous theater. It turns out though that this theater is actually the headquarters for the New York Combat Revue. This team fights off all of the giant robots and aliens that threaten the planet. After the first mission goes terribly for the team, Shinjiro steps up to be the leader in place of the injured Ratchet. He may not have experience and the team may not respect him yet, but he will give the mission his all! As the game progresses he gradually begins to learn about his teammates and their tragic pasts. With a new sense of unity within the team, they will have to stop a fearsome demon known as Ranmaru from awakening the ultimate evil!

You can argue that the most important part of a visual novel is the cast. This is the one genre where the gameplay isn’t really the focus. There is gameplay of course, which I will talk about later but with bad characters it just wouldn’t matter. Fortunately the cast is solid for the most part. There are only a handful of characters that aren’t all that good and most of them are minor supporting characters as opposed to being the leads. Naturally we should start off with the main character.

Shinjiro is the main character and he’s a nice guy. He doesn’t really have any personality beyond being a nice guy who works hard. I suppose that’s all he needs though and I’m only judging him from the decisions I made. You have the option to make him into a fairly sketchy character if you wanted too. He’s not going to be remembered as one of the best main characters out there, but he’s a good guy and that’s good enough I’d say. He wants to protect his friends at any cost and is always quick to jump into a fight. That’s the kind of vigor you want in a main character.

Ratchet is a character who felt like she would be really important in the story, but surprisingly doesn’t get much of a role. She appears a lot more than the two girls by the front of the theater, but her actual importance is barely any higher. Still, Ratchet seems like a nice character even if I disagree with her decisions. She does care about the team and what she lacks in fighting ability she makes up for in tactics. One of the game’s paths apparently has her fight again towards the end which is cool, but in my story she never got back into the mech after the opening level. A shame since it would have been cool to have had her fight.

Gemini is definitely the main heroine of the game. She’s in the center on the cover, the game’s subtitle is referencing her, she’s the character Shinjiro ends up with in my story path, her subplot is the most important one and shows up in various chapters, etc. She is definitely the main protagonist aside from Shinjiro and she gets a ton of character development. She moved to New York to try and succeed in the Big Apple. Gemini grew up on a farm and has to adjust to the city but wants to prove that with hard work you can succeed anywhere. The other half of Gemini moved to New York to avenge her master who was murdered by the demon Ranmaru. See, Gemini was born with two hearts because she was supposed to be twins, but there was a complication during the birth and so the twins share one body. They are able to change places depending on which will is stronger. It’s an interesting take on the plot since usually it would just be that Gemini’s split personality isn’t actually real.

Here both Gemini are real people who are simply trapped in one body. I liked Gemini’s twin quite a lot and so officially I would put her as the best character. Gemini would be the second best though so it doesn’t matter too much compared to the others. The twin’s quest for revenge is just handled really well and she can actually fight without a machine which gives her a step over the others. It’s just a great plot and while of course it does throw in some romance you can avoid it for the most part. I chose to use Shinjiro as a good friend who was helping her through a tough time. The only rough patch of her arc is that we learn that her mentor was actually a pretty bad person so it turns out that Ranmaru was doing everyone a favor. Sometimes it is good to have villains around I guess. Gemini also owns a horse which gives her extra bonus points.

Sunnyside is the director of the team and definitely the shadiest character around. He jokes around so much that it’s hard to know when he’s serious. Perhaps he really would have destroyed one of the main characters in order to stop the villain. It’s just hard to say, but either way I can’t say that I’m a fan of his. He just isn’t a likable character and I can’t say that he did a great job of leading the team since he is always withholding things from them. Letting Shinjiro be the captain of the team was probably his best decision.

Diana is the weakest member of the main fighters. Her story arc is about how she doesn’t value life at first. She feels like since everyone dies eventually they may as well die right away. Definitely a rather grim way at looking at things. As a result, she lets the villains destroy a lot of birds in the process before she gets ready to fight. It’s just such a terrible plot because birds were the one creature that she was always really fond of and she still wouldn’t get up to fight. By the time she does it is simply too late. I couldn’t respect her as a character and there wasn’t much she could do to save herself at that point. Honestly, we don’t have to stop at main characters. She’s the weakest character in the game for sure. Her chapter with the birds is also what caused the game to lose one star with all of the animal violence.

Rosita is a fun character and probably the only main character that the game doesn’t try to pair you up with which is a nice change of pace. She’s basically just a kid so the bond with her is more of a father figure. She is a bounty hunter so Rosita is a tough kid. She wields two guns which she doesn’t hesitate to use. I still question how she was able to apprehend so many criminals but I guess if your gun skills are good enough then age quickly starts to become irrelevant. I feel like the voice actress probably had a lot of fun laying it on thick with the accent. It sounds rather fake, but is pretty fun. When used well accents can definitely make a character more memorable and I doubt I’ll be forgetting her voice anytime soon. Rosita is also very useful during the fights since her attack range is so long.

Then we have Subaru. She’s the quiet, but mean character who thinks she is above everyone else. I say “she” because I think it’s obvious, but a mild subplot is that nobody knows which gender Subaru is despite the character trying to make it obvious to everyone on several occasions. The game even forces you to ask her directly at the very end of the game to which she naturally doesn’t bother telling you. Honestly, who would in such a situation? Subaru isn’t a bad character, but I’d probably consider her to be the second weakest of the main 5 behind Diana. She just isn’t as interesting as the others and her episode wasn’t quite as fun. At least she can fight in hand to hand combat which is cool. The quiet character archetype can work well, but usually the livelier ones will end up being more enjoyable.

Cheiron is the law expert and she is always firm with everyone. She does lose a lot of credibility during her backstory though where she sells out to corporate and tries to destroy Harlem. The whole time this is happening you keep waiting for the twist where she is actually helping them out, but it never happens. She was apparently just brainwashed while getting her degree and forgot about the little people. It’s definitely well known that power corrupts, but it really hurts her character to see it happen to drastically. We put her back on the right path and she becomes a good character after that though. She’s quick to come to Shinjiro’s defense when the others take it a bit too far in their picking on him and she also serves as a mentor for Rosita. A rocky start is certainly better than a rocky ending as we at least got to see Cheiron improve during the game. She’s not the best member but at least she is a good one.

Ranmaru is the main villain of the game. He shows up in every chapter to mock everybody and keeps making threats. He’s technically very strong and so the whole team has to come together to stop him. I guess you could technically say that about most of the bosses though. While Gemini wanted revenge, she goes manage to spare Ranmaru as part of her development. I can get behind that, but it’s a bit of a stretch when the whole cast chooses to just let Ranmaru go. At least arrest the guy! This was a big mistake and is the reason why Nobunaga later gets revived. Ah well. Ranmaru is definitely a solid villain and he makes for a good enemy for Gemini. She definitely would have been outmatched without the others though.

Finally we have Nobunaga. He’s not nearly as interesting as he just shows up to say that friendship is fake before admitting that it’s the best thing ever. He doesn’t have a whole lot of time to appear so I guess it makes sense, but he could have been a lot cooler. Things also started to get a little weird when they brought reincarnation and time travel into the mix. Getting rid of that subplot would have probably been a good idea since it does come completely out of left field. That being said, he did give us some good fight scenes. Nobunaga’s design is on point and he is certainly a threat thanks to his high power level. It’s intense to see one guy taking on a whole squad of super powerful mechs.

So the gameplay mainly occurs at the very end of each chapter. There are minor quick time events during the chapter where you will walk a few steps from area to area or move a lever. There are of course many choices that you have to make, but I’m not even sure if I’d call that gameplay. I mean, it’s just pointing and clicking. Still, your choices will have an impact on the ending. I believe there are 5-6 endings so choose carefully as the game will force you to pair up with someone so it might as well be a hype character. I tried going for the friend zone, but the game denied me.

The main combat gameplay is Xcom style like in Mario vs Rabbids or other games of that nature. You control 5-6 robots and have to either destroy a bunch of generators, defeat all enemies, or take down a huge boss. Typically the big boss at the end will have several parts and you’ll have to decide which target to focus on. You can go straight for the boss core or try to take out the armor and limbs around it to make the boss weaker. It’s always a tough call and there’s no real correct answer. They can all be risky and you still have to watch out for the minions swarming you from all sides. It’s a really tactical game and you feel like a true leader. I definitely had fun trying out quite a few different strategies. The final level in the game is naturally the hardest and it took me quite a few tries to complete the level where you are protecting the ship. Just keep on trying out different tactics until you figure out which one works for you. Your allies’ strength will depend on how well you get along with them when you’re making decisions so it does actually encourage you to be nice to them. I got quite a few wrong answers with my partners which is probably part of why the levels were so hard towards the end. Still, I always have to give the answer that makes the most sense.

As it’s a visual novel the game does have some pretty iffy choices at times. We get the usual hot springs mixup as well when the main character forgets how to be smart. Even the falling on top of someone cliche happens. Still, the game was fairly tame in this regard. It may have been because I would always give the safest answer, but that’s part of why being able to pick your response is always a good thing. It’s a minor enough element where it’s not a big deal. The harem elements of this game are pushed to the backburner which is a really good thing. You can still choose to interpret the game as everyone (except your final decision character) just likes Shinjiro platonically.

The graphics are really good. This game actually has full anime cutscenes scattered within which is really cool. A lot of the game’s cutscenes are just stills with voice acting after all so this shows where they spent their budget. The illustrations do look good though and the character designs are on point. Mix this all together and I’d say that the graphics definitely did a really good job. It may not be the next big thing or anything like that, but it’s solid enough.

It almost goes without saying since I’ve never heard of a short visual novel, but the game’s length is pretty good. It should last you around 15-20 hours I’d say. There isn’t any replay value since once you beat the game that’s it so it’s all about the initial playthrough. I mean, there are multiple endings, but would you really want to play the whole game again just for that? If that’s your plan, then it’s best to make multiple save files once you’re deep into the game in order to experience them all. There’s definitely enough content here to justify the price and the difficulty also ensures that you won’t blast through it too quickly.

Overall, Sakura Wars was a fun game and definitely fun to play through. The length was good and the gameplay was fun when it happened. Most importantly, the story was good so it was like watching a fun anime movie. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the visual novel genre. If you really need gameplay or don’t like long cutscenes then this won’t be the title for you. So long as you know what to expect and like the idea of this game then I’d say that you’ll definitely like it since the execution is on point. It’d be cool if we got another Sakura Wars game someday. Also, I have to give the game one final shoutout for making the whole thing take place in New York. That was really cool and it’s the only anime type game that I can think of which takes place there. Unless I’m missing something, I’ve now played two visual novel games. This one and Guardians of the Galaxy. I guess we’ll see what the third is!

Overall 6/10

Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive Stats and Records

Stats time!

Play Time 13h 50m

Scrolls 59/222
Jutsu 23/35
Ninja Tools 23/51

Story Mode Level Ranks

Chapter 1 S
Chapter 2 S
Chapter 3 S
Chapter 4 S
Chapter 5 C
Chapter 6 S
Chapter 7 B
Chapter 8 C
Chapter 9 C
Chapter 10 C
Chapter 11 C
Chapter 12 S
Chapter 13 S
Chapter 14 S
Chapter 15 A
Chapter 16 C
Chapter 17 C

Mission Ranks

D Class
1 B
2 S
3 C
4 S

C Rank
1 B
2 S
3 A
4 B
5 B
6 B
7 B
8 S
9 B

B Rank
1 S
2 S
3 B
4 S
5 S
6 S
7 S
8 B
9 S

A Rank
1 –
2 –
3 S
4 –
5 –
6 –
7 –
8 –
9 –

S Rank
1 –
2 –
3 –
4 –
5 –
6 –

Yugioh Ultimate Masters World Championship 2007 Stats and Records

Stats time!

Overall Duel Record 96-88 (I stayed in the green)
Duel Record against monsters W-L
Winged Kuriboh 5-0
Fox Fire 5-2
Des Wombat 5-2
Snipe Hunter 5-3
Eria the Water Charmer 5-6
Dark Red Enchanter 5-1
Ultimate Tyranno 5-4
Dark Ruler Ha Des 5-6
Tualatin 5-3
Hilta the Fire Charmer 5-6
Frostosaurus 5-8
Ancient Gear Beast 5-4
Yamata Dragon 5-7
Neo=Parshath the Sky Paladin 5-12
Allure Queen Lv 5 5-2
Infernal Dragon 5-5
The End of Anubis 5-4
Fusilier Dragon, The Dual Mode Beast 5-3
Levia Dragon 1-3
Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys 1-0
Cyber End Dragon 1-4
Horus the Black Flame Dragon Lv 8 1-0
Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch 1-0
Destiny Hero Dogma 1-3

Cards Collected 381

% of Decks completed below
Legend of the White Dragon 18%
Powerful Seal 14%
Established Chaos 7%
Shadow Magicians 61%
Scarlet Firestorm 10%
Summoning Thunder 9%
Ultimate Power 10%
Requirements of a Hero 98%
Confusion Envoy 5%
Toon Revenge 1%
Machines Unleashed 3%
Reboot Electronics 33%
Eternal Mentor 20%
Thirst for Victory 1%
Ominous Fiends 39%
War Against Dragons 75%
Gravekeeper’s Destiny 45%
Union Strength 1%
Sword and Sorcery Combo 24%
Messenger from the Sky 43%
Temple of the King 41%
Destroyer from Light 3%
Wrath of Evil 65%
Destruction and Rebirth 3%
Light into Darkness 48%
Deep Shadows 1%
Dark World Invasion 5%
Dark Collection 1 56%

Beyblade: Metal Fusion Battle Fortress Review

It’s been a long time since I let a game play me instead of the other way around. It may sound impossible, but this is one of those games where you are encouraged to put down the Wii remote once the battle starts. There is even a bonus you get for winning rounds without using the controller at all. It’s really a unique way to play the game, but not in a positive way. If I wanted to watch the game I’d check out a Let’s Play or watch the TV show adaption. Fortunately the fun story and solid soundtrack help save the game, but this ended up being a real missed opportunity.

The main characters of the Beyblade Metal Fusion series have been kidnapped and brought to an alien spaceship. The aliens want to absorb their Beyblading abilities through matches so they can then destroy the planet. A lot of humans are also helping them in exchange for “Molecular Powers” which will apparently help them exceed the skill levels of the normal humans. Gingka doesn’t like this since he says that all a Beyblader needs is a determined spirit and prepares to stop them all.

Lets dive right into the gameplay. Through the years the Beyblade games have experimented with a bunch of different gameplay styles. From Turn Based to Monkey Ball to the classic Gamecube Beyblade where you rotate your tops on a field and try to knock the others off, the series has been places. This one tries to be like the Gamecube one. Your Beyblades (Which are effectively tops) are placed on a field and you try to knock the other one off. When you have enough meter you can use a super attack which covers a fixed range which either comes from your Beyblade or from the center. Knocking your opponent out of the ring gives you two points while destroying it or outlasting the spin just gives you one point. Getting to 3 is the goal for most levels.

That’s no problem. This gameplay is what Beyblade is supposed to be. There’s just one big problem….You Can’t Move. That’s the only problem, but it is a massive one. Who thought it would be a good idea to make it so that you can’t move at all in the game? It’s like playing a DBZ game where you can choose when to use the special abilities, but otherwise the characters do whatever they like. It would get irritating very quickly since they keep getting hit by basic bread and butter combos that you know you would dodge. That is definitely the worst part about the situation. The fact that you know you could do a better job. As a result, you’ll find that your Beyblade is knocked out of the ring many times. I customized my Beyblade beautifully so that it could wreck all of the others quite easily. I basically never lost a head to head fight. The problem is that they would just knock me out of bounds instead and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. You can use a mini boost but it always just sends you off the stage as well.

One stage took me close to an hour at one point. I was able to get some good reading done in the meantime, but it’s not exactly the most entertaining experience. The game actually took quite a while because while most levels were quick and easy, the ones that were tough took many, many tries. The story could also get a little repetitive at times as they make the same speeches over and over again as you meet new bladers. It was a little funny just how often Gingka would start talking about a Blader’s spirit. He would mention it before and after virtually every fight. At the very least, you can’t say that Gingka isn’t serious about the subject. He will never hesitate to let everyone know what’s up.

The story will get you interested in the show since it seems to have quite a lot of “hype” characters. You’ve got Gingka’s first rival Kyoya who was tempted by the power but got knocked out of it. Hikaru who may have defeated Gingka in the past (Story was vague on that) but fights with honor. Hyoma, Tsubasa, Ryuga, etc. The cast is very solid and I’m sure they all get quite a lot of intense fights in the anime. Unfortunately, the story’s original characters weren’t all that great. I liked the designs for the robot killers and their various super forms, but there’s not too much to say about them besides that. Once you’ve fought one robot blader you’ve fought them all. The old man scientist wasn’t a very interesting villain either and it was hard to buy his character arc of turning good again so quickly. Mariko was okay as at least she had a character arc that was a lot more developed than the others. She was pretty shady from the start, but at least she fooled the heroes for a while. She’s also pretty powerful so she can hold her own in a fight.

The graphics are pretty good. It’s the kind of game where all of the cutscenes are just recycled pictures of everyone as they yell and point fingers, but the actual images look pretty sharp. The gameplay shots are also fairly decent although the quality certainly does end up taking a hit. As far as the music goes, that is even better. We really only have a small handful of tunes, but one of them is quite excellent. That really helps to seal the deal here since I got to hear it a bunch of times during the story. One good tune can always go a long way.

There is a pretty good amount of content here to keep you busy. The actual story has around 5 worlds and each world has 5-6 battles. I doubt you’ll beat them all in one go but even if you do that should last a few hours. I’d imagine that this game should last you 6-10 hours. There’s no real replay value after finishing the game but odds are that you’ll have had enough of the gameplay style by then. You’ll be ready for something new and fresh. At least there is multiplayer mode so with the luck system in place it should make for some pretty entertaining matches.

Overall, This is a good Beyblade game, but one that could have been so much better. You’ll mainly just want to play it to hype yourself up for the show. I’ve never been a big fan of luck based gameplay so a title where it is almost 100% luck is just not going to be up my ally. Especially as there is one event where you have to win 3 matches in a row or get sent back to the first and various 1 vs 3 rounds where you just need luck to save you. With enough time you will beat them all as a result, but I don’t really want to wait to get to the end. Skill should be the only thing to have to worry about. I’d definitely recommend the Gamecube game instead of this one as that is the definitive Beyblade game. That being said, if you really prefer the Metal Fusion cast to the old characters then it isn’t a bad one to get. Just focus on the story instead of the gameplay.

Overall 6/10

Trinity Souls of Zill O’II Review

Be warned, there are quite a lot of spoilers in this review. This game has been on the backlog for me since as long as I can remember. I always winced as I saw the low 2% trophy collection hurt my overall average. Well, I decided to finally take the plunge and finish the game. It was as great as I could have hoped although it did have an issue or two that prevented it from getting a 9. There are some artificial means that the game uses to extend the campaign, but I’ll expand more on that in a second. Lets go over the plot first.

Areus is a half elf who has a tragic past. His father was murdered and his grand father is the King of evil, Balor. Areus now lives with his mother and step brother at an abandoned cabin. He earns money by fighting in the Colosseum and he has lived out his life solely to get revenge. He figures that the best way to get revenge is to pretend to join Balor’s army and rise in rank until he has an opportunity to meet with him in person. Then Areus will take him down. Complicating matters is the fact that Areus meets up with Selene and Dagda. Both of these figures have secrets of their own, but teaming up with them will let Areus achieve his goal quicker. Areus’ best friend Dorado is also around and he’s thrilled about Areus joining the army because he’s a big fan of Balor. Areus decides to keep secrets from everyone in the meantime.

Lets start with the positives here first. The graphics are pretty solid. This game is definitely a big budget PS3 game. It spares no expense with the big cutscenes as they even have fight scenes included. It was always a lot of fun to look forward to the cinematics. The in game graphics may not be as impressive, but they are still at PS3 level. The soundtrack is also very good. It can be a little limited as the same fight theme plays for just about every boss. Fortunately it is a catchy one. We also get a lyrical song that plays during a lot of the emotional moments and that one was also handled pretty well.

The gameplay is also a lot of fun. It’s simple, but addicting as you can use many different attacks. Essentially, each move is treated like a special ability. There is no magic meter to worry about so you can use them whenever you want. You can only have 3 abilities equipped onto one menu and you can equip two menus that you shift through with R2. The actual spells you can learn are closer to 15 so you’ll have to make some choices. I played as Areus for about 90% of the game and mainly relied on his sword combos. They seemed like the best bet if you ask me, but I also really liked the fireball ability as well as the Dark Meteor. Find out which attack is best against the enemy you’re facing and then put it to good use.

It feels like a beat em up most of the time as you enter large areas and try to get to the goal while smashing as many minions as possible. I would typically avoid most of them to be honest as I dashed to the exit. If there’s a cheese strategy to be found, I’ll find it. Fighting them is pretty fun though. I just love the 3D action genre so it never gets old. That’s a good thing since the campaign is quite long. It’s a little over 20 hours and the post game content will last you for even longer than that. Getting all of the trophies should bump this up to close to 50 hours unless the grinding gets a whole lot easier all of a sudden.

You can also unleash team attacks. I recommend doing that whenever you want free hits as it doesn’t do a lot of damage, but it’ll temporarily stun the opponent. The only exception to this is the final phase of the final boss so use the tactic as much as possible until then. I’ve covered the basics of the gameplay, but play the game to really get the full picture. The characters are fairly reasonable and the plot is solid. Throw in the replay value and you can see why this game is easily 8 stars. However, it’s time to talk about the game’s limitations.

First is how long it takes for the story to really get going. I mean, it’s a bit of a staple for many RPGs to have a slow start as you get used to the characters and all. I get that, although it is possible to have a much quicker start like The Last Story, KH Chain of Memories, or World of Final Fantasy. The problem is that it feels like almost nothing has happened for the first 15 hours of the game. That’s over half of the campaign feeling like filler. It’s also not particularly good filler. The point is that you’re supposed to really get used to all of the characters and just enjoy seeing them hang out but it didn’t work well. The dreary landscape of the olden days doesn’t help with that and it’s also that the characters aren’t quite that amazing. Areus makes a ton of mistakes all of the time, Dagda’s constant laughter is incredibly annoying and Selene’s plot was basically dropped for no reason. The amount of times you have to do random quests and beat the exact same recycled boss is a bit much. Once the story actually get going it is quite engaging, but it could have sped things up a bit.

Another issue is that because of this, we didn’t get to explore the lore as much as we should have. The final act of the game actually felt a little rushed if anything. We were introduced to some of the big villains quite abruptly, like the mad scientist. He was one of the big legends, but we just walked in and destroyed him in the span of 2-3 cutscenes. Balor went down pretty quick as well. Did we need to fight Sheelah’s group 3 times when we could have fought the others more? Not dissing the Sheelah fights though as they were actually the highlights of the game. Not sure if that’s unintentionally sad though.

Selene had a big subplot where she was looking for someone and would mysteriously vanish a lot. Well, that plot was probably the most anticlimactic as it turns out her sister was a miniboss with a recycled design. You destroy her and Selene gets over it. The plot had a ton of build up and ends in an instant. Dagda is afraid of going to the arena so we take him to the arena. That plot was just boring. Finally, we have Areus and his quest for vengeance. This one confused me a bit as usually the moral is that you ultimately let go of that right? You forget about getting revenge and just think about justice. Well, the story decided not to go down that path for whatever reason. Instead, Areus went through with his revenge and paid a high price. He never had any regrets and I felt like the narrative never even tried to paint this as a bad thing. It was just a “Good for him” kind of vibe I got from the game.

There’s also the mysterious cloaked Angels who have made a pact with Balor. It’s hard to tell if they’re a fanatical group (Most likely) or actual supernatural beings who would have done something in a sequel. (This game’s actually a prequel by the way. I did not know that) Either way we will never know because they appear as minions in one brief level and then never appear again. Granted, the level was awesome and very atmospheric as we break into a church and start beating people up, but that plot line felt like it had so much potential. The story as a whole had a ton of potential and it completely squandered it.

Back to Areus, he’s an okay character but you can see why he’s not great. He talks an incredibly good game and is always overconfident, but then he ends up losing. Sheelah beat him in a fair fight multiple times which is uncanny. She just kept getting him into choke holds. She even had to save him towards the end because he has no reflexes. Areus is a bit of an embarrassment to the caricature that he is supposed to be. You can’t be the strong, hot headed rival character if you’re always losing. Don’t even get me started on his plan. As if giving Balor the strongest sword of all time that would give him immortality was ever a good idea. I don’t know what that guy is thinking sometimes.

Selene was a good main heroine. She likes insulting Areus constantly and reminding the other two that she is way older than them. One cutscene that was fun was where she woke up from her nap just to insult Areus for no good reason and then go back to sleep. Her mysterious personality also works well even if it never leads anywhere. Dagda is the strong member of the group so naturally he’s not quite as clever as the other two. My only problem with him is that he laughs nonstop and is always trying to boss Areus around even though he’s not the leader. I’m never a fan of insubordination unless the character is doing it for heroic reasons (Wolverine, Superman, Huntress) or to go all the way and become leader. (Sting) Dagda’s has no purpose. (I’m seeing a pattern here)

Dorado is the best friend of Areus, but you’d be hard pressed to guess why. Areus is always being very mean to him and lies to his face throughout the whole game. He also ends up murdering Dorado to which Dorado points out that Areus should have just told him. I do think Dorado would have teamed up with him and Areus was just being short sighted. Instead Areus waited until a point where Dorado could not refuse a fight. Is it any wonder why I don’t like Areus much? Honestly, I’m disliking him more and more as I write this review. Taking down Dorado absolutely did not need to happen.

Sheelah is one of the main supporting characters. She’s a bounty hunter who just wants to get rich, but during the game you learn more about her backstory. I don’t know if it was optional or not since during the game I had a hard time telling the sub quests apart from the main ones which is also why the game took a while. Either way she got more personality than most of the gang and I dare say that she may have been a better character than either of Areus’ companions. Her partners never really got to do anything though.

Balor is the big boss, but he barely ever gets to appear during the game. All we know is that he is smarter than Areus but that isn’t even a feat at this point. He has a pretty good design and makes for a good villain. What he lacks in dialogue he makes up for with a good boss fight. The bosses in general were a little unimaginative with the designs so Balor ranks pretty high up by default. The dragon that showed up near the end was the real hero though. He kept on saving the day and ended up being more productive than the heroes. My favorite villain though may have been the first Dark Knight. (Actually she may have been the only one since the rest couldn’t be squeezed into the game I guess) Her armored form was pretty hardcore. The crazy dual personality may have been more weird than hype, but it wasn’t all that bad.

Come to think of it, maybe the reason the game didn’t delve into almost anything was because it was a prequel. I’m still not going to let that go so easily, but at least it’s a reason. Lets talk more about the terrible plan that Areus has though. He is going to capture the heroes (We meet a legendary golden hero by the way who comes out of nowhere. I was expecting him to be a traitor right from the start but surprisingly nothing came of it. He was just a noble hero right up til the end so not bad I guess? He seems not to mind murder as his team tries to destroy us without warning when we first meet, but I’ll let that slide) Areus brings in the group and is going to stab Balor as he gives him the medal. The plan itself is pretty bad as I never like having to essentially trap your allies just for a chance, but it’s not downright terrible.

The ceremony goes as planned and then a villain runs through the doors yelling about how Areus and the others are traitors. Areus seems to go deaf and just turns to the side. I guess he figures that if he ignores the villain then it’ll all go away. Balor just tells the guy to get out and the guards grab him. Unfortunately, he breaks free from the guards multiple times and keeps on spelling things out for Balor. Areus still does nothing so Balor trolls him by taking unsheathing Areus’ sword for him. Areus seems stunned as he has basically given Balor an extra weapon now. Then they are all locked up and the dragon has to save the team again. Why is Areus such an inept main character? He just keeps outdoing himself throughout the game with this moment taking the cake.

It’s too bad that all of the hype scenes are at his expense. As I mentioned earlier, the story can be slow so I always get super hyped when something really happens. The Sheelah fights were always exciting, the brief bout with the gold hero, the dark knight, Balor, etc. It’s just that Areus looked terrible in all of those cutscenes as he apparently can’t beat anyone outside of gameplay mechanics. Even his clash against Balor naturally had him need help from everyone else. He was only able to land the big blow at the end when Balor was weaponless and literally could not move. That’s our hero for you.

I should also mention that Areus failed to save his Mom and brother when they needed him the most. I don’t know why it took him so long since he got there late, but it just reminds you that he should have told Dorado everything. I doubt Dorado would have just went over and murdered his family if he had known. At the very least if he planned to do it anyway, Areus could have taken him down there. The game can be a little overly tragic at times and I think the game could have let them live, but it was all to remind Areus that he couldn’t show mercy at the end. The game was actually kind of edgy if you think about it.

Overall, The last few paragraphs may have sounded really negative, but it’s just that Areus is easy to mock. The guy failed time and time again. I didn’t even realize that I didn’t really like the character until I began writing this review. The game is definitely a complete package of quality though. The grahpics and soundtrack are on point, the gameplay is rock solid, there is a lot of content within this title, the Platinum trophy is also attainable as long as you put in a good amount of time. It’s not an elite title, but it is a great one and I absolutely recommend checking it out. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the story as unintentionally funny as I did at times.

Overall 8/10

SPRay Review

It’s time for another Wii cash in. I’m afraid that you can’t really expect too much from this game. It has a pretty interesting premise with regard to the gameplay but it isn’t very polished so there are quite a few bugs and issues with the gameplay. It gets off to a decently good start and has a nice end, but the middle of the game can be tricky with some levels that don’t always feel very fair. It’s a decently good game but one that could have certainly been a whole lot better.

The plot revolves around a Prince. His kingdom has been taken over by sludge monsters led by a giant monster. His father may have been murdered in the process as now he is a ghost with no form. He tells the hero to call and slay all of the monsters while grabbing all of the jewels so he can save the kingdom. He is given two guides to help with that. One of them is a mean guy who fights with vomit and the other is a nice girl who attacks with water. With these dependable allies at his side, the Prince is ready to make some waves.

You don’t gain any new members during the game, but you do get more powers. Soon you are able to shoot out sticky material, ice, and even the powers of Darkness which can open up portals. It’s important that you understand what each power does since they will all be necessary to complete the game. Each world has 6 levels and there are 5 worlds in total. The levels start out pretty basic and gradually get harder by the end. At one point, the levels were taking me close to an hour to beat each one. Once I got the hang of the abilities and missions though, I greatly reduced the time and could even beat some missions in around 15 minutes. It just really depends on if you know what you’re doing. There is a compass, but it tends to be pointing in the wrong direction half the time so you really can’t get used to trusting it. Fortunately you’ll notice that the levels basically start to repeat themselves or are at least very similar by the end.

The graphics are okay. The colors all look different so you can always tell what is happening and the game is able to keep the colors that you’ve already shot on the board so that’s good. It’ll remember your colors even if you go to a different world and come back. There isn’t really a soundtrack to speak of so that area of the game is significantly less impressive. It can’t quite match up to the graphics at any rate. Throw in the glitches and this game isn’t ready for the big time. You’ll fall through walls quite a lot and you’ll randomly slam to the ground in other moments. See, the main character has a ground pound technique which you can use by double tapping the jump button but it often happens on its own which is kind of rigged.

Naturally the gameplay is hampered by the Wii remote. The game would be a lot smoother with a proper controller. It’s like Mario Sunshine or De Blob in a way with you shooting paint everywhere but the other two games just handled the concept a lot better. I like 3D platformers in general so I still had a good time. There aren’t many bosses here, maybe only 3-4. You really have to figure out to handle them on your own since the game naturally won’t even give you much of a hint. Once you figure it out though, the bosses become child’s play to defeat. You’ll have them down in no time.

The story’s pretty forgettable but make sure you pay attention to the ending. It hints at a sequel and even hints that the main character’s mother may have been the main villain. It’ll give you some doubts about your supposed father since it’s not as if we ever see the guy right? It raises a bunch of questions so it’s really a shame that a sequel is likely never going to happen. I’m sure that the gameplay would have been a lot more polished as well so it would have been nice. I guess we’ll just have to rely on fan theories for this one.

The game is pretty long to be honest. It lasted me over 10 hours and that’s always a reasonable time. There really isn’t much to do in the way of post game content though since you had to get all of the jewels to challenge the final boss. There’s no real multiplayer either so this is definitely one of those games where you beat the main campaign and then call it a day. At 10 hours that is reasonable and the going price is really cheap last time I checked.

One thing the game did pretty well was its use of the dynamic levels. As mentioned earlier, it’s sort of like Mario 64 where you have one level and then multiple objectives within it. This game goes into even greater depth as the level grows for each level as you unlock new paths and it keeps track of what you’ve done in it. This means that the level will be a mystery at first, but by the 3rd and 4th levels you’ll really have the place’s layout down and can progress a lot faster. The levels aren’t being reused in a lazy way, but a progressive style where you really feel like you’re accomplishing. This is probably one of the main reasons why the game got a positive score in the end.

The other is that at the end of the day it is pretty fun to shoot the elements all around. In particular I liked the ice ability as moving around at top speeds was just really great. Once you got a new power, it became hard to think about how you used to go on without it. The abilities are just necessary. Fighting enemies could be annoying as they kept respawning over and over again and some were too durable, but the annoyance wasn’t too bad. The controls are tougher than the enemies after all.

Overall, SPray is another game that fell well below the radar. I can understand why as it clearly didn’t get the same amount of effort a AAA title has, but it isn’t bad either. It has some good ideas and while the execution isn’t on point all the time, the game really grows on you. By the end you’ll almost wish it could have had a few more levels. For a sequel the game mainly just needs to fix the compass or make the levels a little more straight forward. In particular, tracking down the invisible enemies was always a real hassle. It’s just hard to keep track of them in the giant levels. I’d recommend checking the game out for a unique experience.

Overall 6/10

Split Second Review

It’s time to check out a car game that I recently got. This may come as a surprise to some, but I’m actually a huge fan of the racing genre. There are few things more satisfying than nailing a crisp turn and sailing into first place. It’s why I used to play a car game on my PC for so long. Anyway, this is the first racing game that I’ve played in a while, not counting spinoff titles like Farmyard racing. This is probably the first pure racing game I’ve played since Asphalt 3D. (I think that was the title) This is definitely a really fun game and one of the best core driving games out there. It does have a gimmick and while I sometimes prefer my racing games not to have any (F-Zero) I don’t mind them if they’re handled well. Look at Mario Kart after all.

There are a few modes to play when you start the game. Online mode is around of course, but you’ll likely be heading straight to Season mode. (Honestly, I haven’t gone online at all) The season has 12 episodes in it and the general plot is that you’re starring in the show. Think of it as one of those reality programs on TV. You have to dodge all of the landmines and disasters to claim first and prove that you’re the best. Each episode has 5 events, with the final one being unlocked if you’ve earned enough points. Rinse and repeat until you’ve reached the end and you can replay old levels to increase your standing and earn more points if you’re short. For the most part I was able to make it to the end naturally but I did need to replay a few. Once you unlock a certain car at the end of the game, you’ll be breezing through it with no problem.

There are different kinds of events. The main one is a race. You go through the stage and try to come in first. The gimmick that this game rolls with is that you can use your energy meter to set off traps. You can energy by turning and driving behind another car. The best way is to dodge an opponent’s trap, but they rarely spring any. You can activate traps as soon as one energy bar is filled or you can wait til they’re all filled and activate a massive one. I don’t recommend the latter since you’ll typically destroy yourself as well. If there’s going to be a gimmick, I typically prefer a quick booster, but I can live with this. It’s a pretty unique concept after all and I like the strategy behind it. You always have to decide if it’s worth using your energy now or later.

Another event is Elimination. You start with 60 seconds and have to ensure that you’re not in last. After that, another car is eliminated every 20 seconds. You must stay at the head of the pack or you’ll risk being eliminated. This is another pretty fun event and as it’s quite a bit shorter than a race, it’s a lot easier to keep on replaying. Another event is the Airplane boss. You have to attack it by shooting missiles using your action meter. In this case, I recommend waiting until the red one is ready to go since you can then deal massive damage. Next is Survival which is probably the weakest by default. It’s just you by yourself as you try to complete the stage while the A.I. activates all of the traps. It’s essentially a time trial so it’s not all that exciting.

Finally, there’s the Oil tanker battles. This is the best one by far. A truck ahead of you will be spilling barrels and you have to dodge them as you overtake it. The more trucks that you pass in a row without being hit, the more points that you get. It really tests your reaction times and takes you down if you dare to go too fast. It’s just a lot of fun and I would have loved to have seen more of it. The variety of events in the game helps keep the gameplay fresh throughout.

With 72 levels in the game, it’s certainly one that has an ample amount of content. If anything, I’m glad the game didn’t overdo it and throw in over 150 levels just because it can. As it is, most of the levels are the same. I think there may be 12 tracks total, with a few more if you count night versions. It’s not a lot although I suppose it’s a decent amount. You’ll memorize the layouts after a while which is certainly useful. There’s a lot of replay value here as well. If you decide to aim for the Platinum, you’ll need to get 1st place on every level which will be quite difficult. It’s certainly not impossible, but I’d expect you to be replaying the levels many times before you can finally ace them all. Multiplayer also guarantees that the replay value is basically unlimited.

The graphics for the game are quite good. All of the cars look shiny and new. I could have sworn that one of the cars almost looked as good as the Ford Focus. The levels are nice and bright and the rare night time versions are also quite crisp. The game has aged very well there. Furthermore, the soundtrack is also pretty nice. There are some really good action themes. The music fit in pretty well even if I didn’t notice it in some episodes. It would sort of pop in and pop out if that makes any sense. I suppose not every theme can be an instant winner.

The game’s difficulty level feels pretty fair. There was a very brief time where I felt the computers were a little too fast and strong, but once I got the super car it was all good. I never really mastered the drifting mechanic, but I’d say that it felt fair. The overall gameplay was nice and smooth. Towards the end there weren’t many opportunities to drive as fast as the title would suggest, but driving as fast as possible was always very satisfying.

I also have to give a shoutout to the ending of the game. The voice acting was spot on and the way the game ends just begs for a sequel. Whether we get one or not, it works really well as a stinger. I was practically shaking by the end of the cutscene. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it, but I can safely say that I would be super hyped if they announce a sequel.

Overall, Split Second is definitely a great game. It’s one of those titles that you just don’t want to put down once you start it. You’ll find yourself wanting to play it constantly and you’ll be sad once it’s over. Once again, I do think the length was just right though. Extending it further might have felt artificial and they also got the right balance with the points needed to unlock the final levels. You had to do pretty well in the events (1-3rd place for the most part) but it wasn’t anything too crazy. You don’t want it to have to be a grind to beat the game, that should be left for the people who want the Platinum. The game was just solid on all accounts and I’d highly advise buying this title. It’s one of the best car games on the market.

Overall 8/10