Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First Impressions: Golden Sun Dark Dawn

I know I'm in the middle of another RPG right now with Chrono Trigger, and I've had Donkey Kong Country Returns eating up my time, but I just wanted to throw in some initial impressions of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. I picked up my copy today from Gamestop and I've booted up my DS. I'll write a full review down the line once I've played it a greater deal but I just wanted to show my love of the game as it first dished it out to me.

The box art for the game is pretty nice, showing off the various Djinn and our lead Matthew. In white are the different summons found in the game. The art is successful, at least in making this season Golden Sun veteran to want the game. Though, when I booted up the game. That title screen... so simple and yet what makes it amazing is that familiar sound. The theme to Golden Sun. What an amazing piece. I've fallen in love with it all over again.

It's been a while since I've played the originals so the recap in the beginning was nice. It actually clarified something with me too. The premise of this game is that thirty years have passed since the original eight had saved the land of Weyward. The 3D graphics, at least from the beginning from the game, look pretty good. Some textures are muddy but already there's a lot of animation and detail not seen in previous titles. Still, it's great seeing Isaac and Garet again. Garet even has a mustache!

When I was able to finally move about, the graphics looked even nicer. This is a semi-cel-shaded appeal to it. I found my first herb and encountered my first "emoticon event". These don't do anything to alter the storyline from what I read in previous articles about the game but it's still fun to have some kind of input. Considering Matthew seems to be taking the place of Isaac as the 'silent protagonist' in this game, that is a nice little addition.

There is a lot of narrative right off the bat, though in true Golden Sun fashion I expect that not to change. Still though, with the production values in the music and the in-game cut-scenes of sorts, it feels so far kind of like a movie. It's rather engrossing and for that I am delighted as opposed to turned off. After a little problem with Garet's son "Tyrell" I was able to move freely again inside Matthew's house. I discovered a book called the Sun Saga 1. It turns out it was a bit of a backstory through still-image cutscenes. It seemed hidden almost and kind of a neat little find. Everything about this game screams 'warm fuzzies'.

The battles look really nice so far. I can only imagine the possibilities as I learn more moves, more psynergy, gain djinn, and unleash hell on some baddies. I know I was a Golden Sun fan since its inception, but so far this feels like a great homecoming.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Poker Night at the Inventory

This review is going to be quite shorter than my previous ones due to the nature of this game. Actually, my upcoming reviews may all be short, since I've been playing small indie games from a pack that Ink bought me during Steam's thanksgiving sale.

Poker Night involves you and four characters from very different backgrounds in a poker game. In this game, we have Tycho from Penny Arcade, Max from the Sam & Max games, The Heavy from Team Fortress 2, and Strong Bad from Homestarrunner. All have been featured in a video game before and Strong Bad and Max are in the developer Tell Tale's games specifically.

The game is basic Texas Hold 'Em poker and... that's about it, there's really no variation in what type of poker you play in the game and you can't modify the rules. The card game of poker itself sort of takes a back seat for attention in this game though, the main reason to play this game is the conversations shared between the four characters. Each one's personality is different enough to keep the comments interesting and make you want to play multiple rounds of poker with them so you can hear everything they have to say. Other than the characters, the only other thing in this game that I can recommend getting it for is the Team Fortress 2 items you can get from it.

The Verdict:

The game is five bucks on Steam right now, and it's worth the price if you want to see the character interactions between these four, especially if you're a fan of any of the backgrounds they come from.

See? I told you it would be shorter.

What I liked:
-Character conversations
-Team Fortress 2 items

What I didn't like:
-A pretty barebones experience
-No variation in the game played

Friday, November 26, 2010

Flash Friday: Achievement Unlocked

I've actually got two for you today!

Achievement Unlocked


Achievement Unlocked 2

If you're like me, you love gathering achievements so you can brag against your friends about how many you have... and then one day you realize that they're completely pointless, but as the first screen of the game says, 'Don't worry, metagaming is all that matters.'

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gamer Culture: Youtube Covers: Vol 1

I'm putting a "Vol 1" on this because I fully expect more in the future. I don't quite remember how this happened tonight, but I somehow found myself on Youtube seeking gaming music. Then I stumbled upon this dude (featured below) who is amazingly talented with his Chrono Trigger covers. Well, that's insanely relevant right now, so I thought I'd post two of my favorites of his. First though, the first of these three, is one of my all-time favorite songs ever, done eloquently and beautifully. Sure, the kid pulls a bit of the nerd-factor with his Mario accent, but it just adds to the fun of this cover. Listen and enjoy. After that are two more songs, both from Chrono Trigger, and both by the same amazing talent. A quick warning though, the Chrono Trigger one's are significantly louder than the Super Mario 64 tune. So adjust your volume accordingly.

Super Mario 64 - Credits Theme

Chrono Trigger - Frog's Theme

Chrono Trigger - Robo's Theme

I don't know how to explain why this stuff hits me like it does. Video game music is something that makes me happy in such a way that few understand it. I know I'm not alone though. Do you have any favorites that just make you melt into a big bowl of smiles? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Playing The Classics: Chrono Trigger: Vol 3

I don't think I'm honestly THAT far into the game but still, I've made significant progress since I last checked in. I'm glad I have this game for one. It's been a lot of fun so far though early on there was a lot of just mashing the A button to attack. There still is that factor sometimes but more and more strategy has come into play as my magic abilities grow and such.

The plot picked up quickly and while I knew this game was about Time Travel, I still found it surprising and fun when things got all Marty McFly on us. Lets hope Crono doesn't disappear while rocking out on the guitar. I didn't expect Lucca showing up so soon but she did and it was great having another member of the team. I fought my way through finding the Queen who had been kidnapped, though I had trouble that made me feel ridiculous. For instance, it took me quite a while to notice those faces on the wall in the secret chamber of the cathedral. They removed the spikes and wow,... I felt stupid after realizing that. Then again, I also had to GameFAQ it for learning how to save. I didn't know how for a while but then I saw I could anytime while on the Overworld. That changed things, haha. After the trial, which was a neat little segment, I escaped the castle. I vaguely remembered fighting on that bridge and when I came to that boss, I had no problem with my strategy. Destroy the head. Then the wheel. Then the body. Once all that was over, I made my way through the Ruins to the Arris Dome. That first patch of 'ruins' was the last place I got to the first time around oh so long ago. I was pleased to be past that point and experiencing the game for real.

The rats the stole my potions were douchebags and I didn't appreciate them. I also didn't really like the real-time battling because it was so stressful. Still, at this point I kept it as it was. The plot continues to thicken and I was having fun. The constantly swapping of heroes has been interesting. Now though, Lucca permanently sits in the time world and I am using Crono, Marle, and Robo. Once I earned Robo, that was about the time I decided to switch to the wait system for battling. There isn't too much of a difference but honestly, I need that extra moment to think. I'm not used to the menus and it only pauses when I'm selecting a move after I've already decided to do one. I don't feel bad about it anymore, though I don't know if this was in the original SNES cart or not.

When I made it to the blue creature with the water moves, the Heckran. That's when things got hard and tricky. I died multiple times and felt like I was stuck. There's no place to really level up or grind, but I've heard that's not really necessary in this game anyway. After setting the game down and going back to it later, I realized my problem quickly. I was attacking through his taunting phase. If I didn't though, he wouldn't attack me. This made things easy. I'd use Robo and Marle to heal and Crono to kick ass. That Heckran went down easily. I felt proud.

I ended up in the caveman times and I wasn't sure where to go. That's the one major problem I have with this game. Sometimes you just have to look really closely but sometimes it's just a plain mystery on where to go next. I got all the way through to some area after fighting hard enemies and then I realized I was a section or two ahead of where I was. I went back to my own time and now I think I'm on track again but it sucks there was nothing to stop me from wasting my time with the Flintstones for that little while. So far so good though. I'm pretty sure Lucca's been leveling up with me despite being on the bench and for that I'm thankful. It would suck to want to use her later in the game and have her still at Level 13 when everyone else is at 20 or 30.

Read Part 4

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flash Friday: Dino Run

I almost forgot I was going to keep this an ongoing thing!

The flash game for today is a pixel style platformer called...

Dino Run

If you recall, I love dinosaurs and this game places you in the consciousness of a small theropod escaping the imminent doom that is the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. You have to run your way through each level, continuously trying to outrun the blast. You can also upgrade your dinosaur before each level depending on how many DNA points you have.

That's a short overview of the game, now go play it!

Second Opinion: DrFinkelstein

I gave this game a go just now and I was surprised. It's essentially like Sonic The Hedgehog with Dinosaurs and a greater sense of peril. It's kind of a morose game if you really think about it, but play it anyway. I also appreciated the very 8-bit look and sound of the title.

Review: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

I seem to have come down with the sniffles, but I will attempt to do a review today, though it may be shorter than my previous ones. I appreciate Dr. Finkelstein contributing this week, so go check out his articles! Anyway, onto the review...

I bought this game at the beginning of this year and... well, I didn't finish it, until now. I just restarted the whole game because I don't like to pick up a game after several months of not playing and then try to beat it, especially if it's an RPG or action/adventure. I've been a big fan of the Mario RPGs, I've played and beaten every single one, with the exception of Partners in Time, which I did have at one point, but, like Bowser's Inside Story, I didn't finish it when I first bought it.

Out of all the Mario RPGs, this one probably has my favorite story and writing. Bowser eats a bad mushroom from the main protagonist and he sucks in all of people in Peach's Castle. The main protaganist in the game is a little guy named Fawful from the first Mario & Luigi who speaks almost like he was hilariously mistranslated from Japan to the US, but that was completely intentional. I suppose Fawful was chosen as the villain because he has had a big cult following and the fans wanted to see more of him.

Like the other Mario RPGs, the battle system in this game relies on timing and expects the player to pay attention when the enemy is attacking so you can avoid damage or counter. With that system, the game feels like an action rpg without being one... if that makes any sense.

Other than the battle system, there are various mini-games through the story that Mario and Luigi will have to complete inside Bowser's body. You won't be doing the same mini-game too often, each one you will only have to do 3 or 4 times throughout the entire game. One special mini-game is a short shmup that allows Bowser to become gigantic, and that takes you to another battle system where it's like a turn-based fighter. These segments were my favorite part of the game. You turn the DS on it's side, book style, and you use the stylus to control bower's actions. It feels very satisfying to slide the stylus and see Bowser punch your enemy halfway across the battlefield.

The Verdict:

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is a fine installment in the series. I'm not entirely sure when we'll see another game like this, since it's been announced that the next Paper Mario will be on the 3DS, will there ever be another 2D Mario RPG? Well, if there isn't, this is a good close for the series if they decide not to make any more.

What I liked:

-The writing and Fawful: I HAVE CHORTLES!!!
-Fun turn-based fighting Bowser segments.
-Battle system that requires attention.

What I didn't like:

-The ending felt abrupt, but maybe it's just me.

Playing The Classics: Chrono Trigger: Vol 2

-- Part One --

Last night after the movie I attempted to play some more Chrono Trigger. I made my way through the story and was transported to 600 AD in search of the girl I met at the fair. That fair tune is one of my favorite songs from any video game ever and I was glad to hear it at the source. However, shortly after I time travelled I neglected to estimate properly my HP and I died... well the game hasn't let me save yet so I lost all progress.

Going through this a second time now, I decided to not go to the fair right away first. I went to the nearby forest leveled up a bit. I'm determined to keep the "live" battle system going as opposed to the waiting one but I do find it frustrating. I'm sure I'll get used to it in time though. I made my way south a bit and investigated a nearby town. I love the little touches in this game already like the monster who plays the piano at the bar. He excitedly asked me if I wanted to hear an upbeat tune or a sad tune. Both were nice and I hope this game is riddled with little touches like these.

One thing I've noticed already, after moving up a couple levels, is that the HP gained is pretty significant. In past RPG's I've played, notably the Super Mario-based ones, you only move up 2 or 3 hit points on average. In Pokemon, this is the same way. In Chrono Trigger so far I've been making much greater leaps. At least double that of the aforementioned games. I wonder how this will come into effect later as I expect the bosses I'll be fighting soon to be hugely strong. I also wonder who the key antagonist is in this game. I know I'm not deep enough in to find out but so far all the issues I've had are by natural monsters and Lucca's machine going nuts when the pendant was inside. If I remember hearing correctly, there was some kind of over-arching antagonist, so I look forward to seeing more about this world's enemies. Maybe I'm wrong though and it's specific to the time I'm in specifically. I'm not sure if I'll enjoy that more or less but eh, I'll find out soon enough.

Before writing again in this series, I'll wait to get a bit farther into the story so I have more to discuss. For now though, the start was slippery, but pretty much that's because of my own issues. I must ask though, when and how do I save? Unless I'm just purely ignorant, I haven't yet had the opportunity. Is this coming? Also, I wonder if it's smarter to save my money or to upgrade weapons and armor at every stop... I'm not looking to find out the best things to do as per a FAQ or something but feel free to answer the basic question in the comments as well as my save query.

Read Part 3

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Playing The Classics: Chrono Trigger: Vol 1

I have never played Chrono Trigger. *GASP* Yes, I know that's shocking. I consider myself quite the "hardcore gamer" if I had to label myself but just like with movies and music, I can't have tried all the classics. When this originally released, I wasn't very much into RPG games. I owned Dragon Warrior for years but never did much with it. I never made it far through the original Final Fantasy for the Gameboy. In fact, I had owned a Genesis well before a Super Nintendo so that was yet another reason I never got a hold of Chrono Trigger. Then one day a long time ago, I tried the rom version. It was a little glitchy and I generally don't like roms anyway because I find keyboard inputs to be cumbersome. So after playing just past the prologue, I stopped. So okay, I technically have played it but you know what I mean. Years later I was very hyped for Chrono Cross. The theme song alone blew me away and I knew I had to play and own it. Problem was, being solely a Nintendo gamer minus my Genesis, it took way too long for me to get a Playstation and even then it was such an old model, it wouldn't play Chrono Cross when I rented it from the local Blockbuster. So that dream died too. This is my history with the Chrono series. I love the music I've heard, I love the word Chrono itself, but I never got to truly experience the series and be a part of the love that radiates from its core....until now. I purchased Chrono Trigger DS from Amazon the other day and it came in this afternoon. I am going to play through this classic for the first time and provide at least a couple of entries about my progress and thoughts. I really encourage our readership to chime in also but please don't speak about things farther than I am at. What good would that do me? So that all said, here's the first installment of a blog-series I hope to continue with for a long time coming, "Playing The Classics". Chrono Trigger, you beautiful bastard, now's my turn to try you.

This first post was intended as a backstory on my history with the legacy and to set up the blog-series in general. Right now as the DS sits on my desk, Im loving these cutscenes and this intro. The music is incredibly epic and the animation is superb. I know that these cut scenes and such are only from a later version of the game and we obviously not in the original SNES version but they definitely seem to add something to the game already. I can feel emotion and tension from these characters that might help immerse me even further into the actual game itself. I press A. That classic ticking pendulum rocks and the logo appears. I am in for something special, I can just feel it. I hope, though can't promise, that I'll finish this game before my highly anticipated Golden Sun: Dark Dawn arrives. Still though, it feels good to be playing an RPG again. It's been a while. As much as I like being able to think about my strategies with RPGs, I think I'm going to play it with an Active Battle mode. If I recall correctly, this was the original way of playing and I'm quite intrigued on how I handle the need to think fast on my feet to cast spells or attacks. Maybe it'll immerse me even more as if I was really in danger and really fighting against all these enemies.


The seagulls flock and the festival begins... and with that I pause. Hey, there's Harry Potter tonight, I need a nap. But I will write back soon in this series with the point of continuing my journey through Chrono Trigger.

Read Part 2

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gamer Culture: Forever Famicom

Do yourself a favor for a moment and press play on this youtube link below.

Alright. Now listen and read my words. There are two genres of music I don't enjoy. Authentic Country and Hardcore Rap. That's just how I am. I like old-school hip hop and folk or bluegrass if you want some grounding of my enjoyment of the variants. Anyway, that all said, it was earlier this year when somehow (perhaps from the Negative World forums) I discovered Forever Famicom.

Mega Ran and K-Murdoch, as the two lead musicians are known as, have taken something I absolutely love with something I rarely consider in my daily life. The result is amazing music that hits me at my 8-bit heart and resonates with my gaming soul. The sample you're listening to now on youtube is called "Dream Master". The art makes it obvious but this track samples from the NES classic, Little Nemo: Dream Master. The music to this game has fond memories for me and these guys masterfully rap well-written lyrics along side with it. I don't really know how to explain it, better than just listening to it, in order to make you understand.

This album samples from all sorts of excellent classic NES games. This track was from Little Nemo, but my other favorite song, "For The Gamers" takes samples from the excellent DuckTales game. Other games sampled include, Mega Man, Earthbound, Starfox, Kirby's Dreamland, Chrono Trigger, and Metroid. Their album, Forever Famicom, is fourteen tracks long. The album feels very full and satisfying both to listen to and for the price point. A digital download is nine dollars (barely 64 cents a track) while a signed hardcopy and a digital download is fourteen dollars (only a dollar a track).

It appears that after releasing this album in June of this year, they released a bonus CD called "Forever Famicom DLC". That contains eight tracks, with samplings from Zelda II, F-Zero, and even Mario Paint. Then it contains instrumental versions of all fourteen original tracks. Amazing value for seven dollars. Just last month they had a third release called "Thank You For Listening". This is simply one song and this song is free to download off the site. It takes samples from Super Mario Bros. 3. It's the perfect way to test the waters and see if this stuff catches your fancy.

It only takes a mere couple of a seconds for me to geek out over this stuff. Mega Ran and K-Murdoch have created something insanely special and unique. They deserve your dollar and with the holidays just around the corner, this is perfect for that gamer in your life. Visit their page and purchase some tunes. At the very least you can listen to full tracks streamed and find details on which games were sampled in which tracks. Don't game over on these guys... they sound awesome.

Forever Famicom Homepage
(I have problems playing the samples in Safari but it works great in Firefox.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: Goldeneye 007

I told myself today, "You cannot play anymore Goldeneye until you write the review. Stop neglecting your duties!" Well, here I am because dammit, I wanna play.

Where do I begin though? Goldeneye 007 is a re-imagining of the film with some elements borrowed from the Nintendo 64 classic. Note I didn't say it was a remake of anything because a remake this is not. I wont dive into it much for why this isn't a remake but a few reasons off the top of my head... here that goes. You wont find the classic multiplayer maps, nor some of the 64-based weapons, and the plot of the game itself doesn't entirely match the film. That last one said, luckily they hired one of the original writers of the film to write the script for this game. The story actually makes enough sense to not bother me personally and I'm a huge fan of the original film. It's my favorite Bond film in fact. I have a slight bigger issue with the cast changes but only because I love Pierce Brosnan and I miss Robbie Coltrane (who played Valentin). Any sane person however should be able to get over this and enjoy what the game is really about, being a fun FPS on the Wii.

The single player mode was something I was looking forward to just as much as the online multiplayer. From the first level through till the last one, I was completely engulfed by the presentation. There is a lot of effort here to immerse you into the role of Bond. While the first level, the classic Dam, has a lot of scripted segments, the rest of the game doles out these moments sparingly so that they don't become overwhelming. They pretty much always add to the experience. I loved the way that the EMP blast was done and how the final Cradle battle was handled. I played the game initially on the easiest mode, which does include regenerating health, but the fourth and final difficulty level borrows the health bar and health pickups of the 1997 Nintendo 64 title. Purists quit your bitching! Hurrah! I did play the highest difficulty level in the form of their Time Trials... and well my experience so far has been less than pleasant. It's insanely difficult, for me anyway. You have to pretty much run past every enemy in order to traverse these lengthy levels in typically under 10 minutes (not including the cutscenes). To me, that's not fun. I would have preferred either they make the time restrictions a bit more lax, or just changed it somehow that I can't think of. I don't find it fun when a game about being stealthy and accurate as Bond should be, becomes just how well you can be a bullet sponge without dying. Not fun at all. That's okay though because when I got frustrated with that, I just hop online and get frustrated some more... in a good way.

You'll come for the single player and stay for the online multiplayer. Matching up with random people works exceptionally well, with the exception of hosts quitting mid-match. Luckily that's not that often. Matching with your friend-code friends works pretty well too. The only downside is the somewhat awkward invite system. It works, but it just doesn't work perfectly. There's a great selection of maps to play and I having loadouts is unique. I suspect this might be an old feature for the FPS genre but still, it's pretty new to me. The only downside is that when you're just starting out, you wont have a loadout with neat gadgets or bonuses yet you'll battle someone who will. It's not a match-breaker though. If you're good, you're good no matter what. There's also a lot of different types of matches from your classic Conflict and Team Conflicts to the more unique ones like Heroes and the Black Box. It's been sucking my time like crazy the past eight-nine days. Part of the drive to keep this addiction up is the fact that the game utilizes a points earning system to unlock more modes and weapons and bonuses. Sometimes it feels like leveling up takes too long, but I guess I wont know until I continue. I'm around level 15 right now, and I know that some stuff wont unlock until level 52 or so... that'll take a long long time of online battling. I haven't played any off-line multiplayer but I would assume it's not much different. However, there is split-screen multiplayer. I don't really have the need for it anymore because my gaming friends have all since moved away or quit playing. Still, I really appreciate that they put it in there regardless.

One last thing I want to say is that the version I purchased was the one with the Gold Classic Controller Pro. I've never owned one and while I never did play this game with that controller (I used the Wii Remote + Nunchuk combo) I love the controller. It looks great, it feels great. It's not any cheaper getting the bundle versus buying a controller separately but it is the only way to get a gold colored one. If you haven't yet purchased a classic controller, I really would recommend getting one this way. If you already have one though, it's probably not worth it. I wont be using it for Goldeneye but you better believe I'll be using it for my VC and WiiWare purchases.

The Verdict:

Simply put; You should BOND with this game because it will BLOW you away. Well, I hope it will. It's a very solid shooter for the Wii with controls that are rather customizable in an almost Conduit quality. Lots of variety and it'll excite any Goldeneye-lover assuming they don't have a stick up their ass expecting something that was made thirteen years ago.

What I liked:

Brings Goldeneye to life in ways the 64 game couldn't. Online is very addicting! Production values are high.

What I didn't like:

Online can be unfair slightly. Music isn't as iconic as the 64 game, but blame that on nostalgia. Time Trial mode, while appreciated, is way too difficult for anyone but the most serious first-person shooter gamers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flash Friday: Upgrade Complete!

Since I have extreme writer's block right now, I thought this would be the perfect time to unleash a cheap alternative to writing my opinion: sharing free flash games that I've played! For this Friday, I give you...

Upgrade Complete!

It's a very basic shmup, but with a catch... you have to literally upgrade everything in the game. Even the preloader for the game itself!

So... go play it and tell us what you think about it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Retro Review: Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was released in 1999 by Eidos Interactive and published by Crystal Dynamics. It's from the same company that created Gex and the later Tomb Raiders.

Before owning a PS3, I had never heard about this game before. After seeing it as a PSone classic and doing some research, I decided to fork over the six bucks and buy it.

It seemed like standard 64-bit era fare when I started it up. Pre-rendered cutscenes and all that jazz. After the opening cutscene ended, I was treated to the smooth, booming voice of Tony Jay, explaining gameplay elements as I went through a sort of introductory stage. The voice acting is nothing short of fantastic. None of the characters sounded bored or wooden, unlike several other games I could mention. The writing is great as well, with the story almost on par with classic RPGs of old. The combination of storytelling and voice acting immediately won me over, and I kept playing.

Raziel, the protagonist of the game, controls really well. The controls aren't frustrating or confusing and you don't have to worry about whether or not you'll miss that jump. The gameplay is very reminiscent of the Metroid series, in that you have a giant world to explore, but areas are blocked off until you gain extra abilities, such as phasing through gates. Combat is very simple, but it works well for the game. It's all a manner of dodge/attack/dodge until you can finish off your opponent and absorb his soul. Weapons are plentiful in this game, often found along the walls. Later on, you can eventually get the Soul Reaver, so you won't even need a weapon to combat your enemies.

You can't really lose in Soul Reaver, due to Raziel's situation. Since he's already basically dead, all that happens when his life bar empties is that he goes back to the spectral realm, where he may regain his health by absorbing souls. The most that you'd lose is progress, since you'll have to backtrack a little to find a point where you can go back into the material realm.

The layout of the world of Soul Reaver can get a little confusing at times, though. There is a portal system allowing you to travel between points, but that requires a bit of memorization as to which portal goes where.

Final Summation:
+Great controls
+Fantastic story
+Voice Acting is incredible
+Metroid-styled gameplay (I'm biased for Metroidvanias)
=Combat is pretty simplistic
-Really confusing world layout

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Impressions of Rock Band 3 and the Future of Music Games

This past weekend I had a couple of friends over. One brought over her Xbox 360 and Rock Band 3. I was really anxious to try it out since I had been hyped about it for quite a while. I'm a fairly recent convert to music games and rhythm games in general. I've only been into them for the past 3-4 years. Though... I suppose that may make me more knowledgeable about them than most people. Anyway, onto the impressions.

The interface and organization of the menus is perfect, and I love the new filtering system. (Though we didn't need it, since she hadn't transfered her other songs over yet.) There is a small complaint though. Suppose you want to play keyboard, guitar, and bass in your band... well, you can't do that unless you activate 'All Instruments Mode', which places the game in a sort of 'karaoke mode.' It isn't really too troublesome, but activating the mics just because you want to play guitar, bass, and keyboard with your friends is a bit irksome.

I love the new road challenges, they're not quite like the career, but... I can do without a world map to show where I'm playing. One thing about these challenges that I love is that they'll never constantly pick the same song over and over again like in Rock Band 2. You actually have a choice for what you want to do for your challenge, either pre-made, random, or custom setlist of a set number of songs.

To my surprise... I was able to get used to the keyboard enough to where I was playing hard pro mode. I'm not sure if this was because I'm already used to music games or the fact that I was only playing hard pro mode on songs that had low difficulty ratings, but it was probably due to the latter. I have to say though, I loved the keyboard, it felt like a very solid peripheral, and some musicians are saying it does great as a MIDI instrument if you want to compose something using a program when you hook it up to a computer.

I can't comment on the guitar, because my friend didn't have it, and we're all waiting for the actual Fender guitar to come out... which is the next thing I'm going discuss. It was just announced today when the Fender Squier guitar for Rock Band 3 will come out, and how much it will be. Available to pre-order January 1st, 2011, and available on March 1st, 2011, and will retail at $279.99. Expensive as a peripheral? Yes... to us gamers. Expensive as an actual friggin' guitar? Not so much, it looks like a quality product, UNLIKE POWER GIG'S CHEAP-O UKULELE WITH THE GAME WITH THE TERRIBLE INTERFACE  THAT DOESN'T EVEN REALLY TEACH YOU HOW TO PLAY.... ahem... sorry, that was my Rock Band fanboy side coming out.

Here is a look at guitar with a video teaser:

I can't wait to get my hands on the guitar next year. As for the future of Rock Band and music games in general? Well... here's an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal interview with Greg LoPiccolo, the Senior VP of Product Development at Harmonix:

WSJ: Unlike traditional ways of learning to play, in Rock Band the music and audience come first and your input comes second. This is a kind of reversal of music making. Do you think Rock Band can encourage players to compose music and find a personal style?
LoPiccolo: The biggest musical benefit of Rock Band Pro is that it motivates beginning musicians to stick with the basics, and evaluates their progress, so they can develop the dexterity and muscle memory to express themselves outside the game. Most beginning musicians never get past this stage, so this is the area in which we hope to really help new players. Once they have some skills, other avenues of self-expression can open up for them. In the future, we’d love to try to tackle composition and improvisation as gameplay experiences, but those are very difficult problems to solve.
WSJ: How close is Rock Band 3 to meeting the company’s ambition of what a music game can accomplish? Where can you go from here?
LoPiccolo: Rock Band 3 is a significant step for us, but we ultimately hope to erase the boundary between “gamer” and “musician.” We have a long way to go in pursuit of that goal.
via RockBandAide

Composition and improvisation, eh? Sounds pretty promising if Rock Band 3 is a precursor to that type of game eventually coming to be.