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  • Shadowblind

    by Published on January 1st, 2011 18:20
    1. Categories:
    2. Xbox 360 News,
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    Tales of Vesperia
    Publisher: Namco Bandai
    Developer: Namco Bandai
    Genre: RPG; JRPG, SRPG
    Players: 1-4 (Offline)
    MSRP: $59.99
    Platform: Xbox 360

    The Tales series really never has gotten the proper respect it deserves. People who have played the tales series games have most loved it, and this was shown by the love that Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Destiny(which is actually a low point in the series in my opinion) had received for the Gamecube. Abyss, Legendia, and just about all of the other Tales series have never nearly gotten noticed by the mainstream in America and Europe. by releasing this RPG on the 360, it seems Namco Bandai has been hoping for the best with results in getting the series well known in the US. (They must not be too enthusiastic about it, since I have yet to see a commercial or advertisement for it anywhere.) But nevertheless, here it is, the next chapter in the Tales of series, Tales of Vesperia. Despite being on the Xbox 360, Tales of Vesperia warranted a vast turnout in Japan, launching the often abysmal 360 sales 5 times what they normally are. Currently, there is even a shortage of 360s in Japan right now, which has never before happened. This should tell you a little something about the amount of influence that this series has in the East.

    But anyway I'll stop beating around the bush and get this review started. The Tales of Series has always been known for its signature Anime style graphics, character skits, and what is quite possibly the best character development in the genre. So the first thing you'll notice is the intro. Its made fully of cartoon-Anime CG, and stands out very well from many different game's styles of cutscenes(Fact: This is one of the very few games that I've even bothered to watch the intro of.) This highlights one of the defining traits of Tales series games; they make use of full cartoon graphics in some cutscenes. They have done this for a while in fact: Tales of Symphonia has 1 or 2, Abyss had around 3-5, and Vesperia has around 21. It gives a very nice break from the normalcy of full CG graphics all the time. Back from what they never really specified(correct me) but they give a great and distinct flavor to the way the story is unraveled, and they also serve to highlight some of the most important points in the game. The character skits were also bashed a good bit. The thing is, they are all optional, but if you want to get the most out of the storyline, you'll want to watch them. And I'll tell you now, if your even slightly interested in the story you will want to watch them. They feature animated, drawn versions of the characters and they have conversations, which ends up really helping to endear the characters to you. But don't take it from me. Take it from what the people who have played the series have said.

    The overall story also reaches a standard of greatness, and easily is the best story that a Tales game has seen yet. It tells the tale of badass ex knight Yuri as he forges his own idea of justice in a corrupt empire. Along the way(naturally) meeting a cast of characters who, as well, get a huge level of development before the game is over. Unlike most JRPGs, the characters (with few exceptions) break most boundaries of generic "save the world" JRPG characters(you know, classic cliche characters.) Still, they do have the essence of the Japanese RPG hero, which in itself has a bit of overall generic-ness to it. Compared to most games out there, however, they stand out well. The story has a few linear parts to it, but Vesperia takes the storytelling abilities of the Tales series to greater heights. Perfectly paced with some of the most well developed characters of any JRPG out there. Much better then Symphonia, and somehow even better then tales of the Abyss. After you finish the game, you may be begging for a direct sequel(Even more then I did with Abyss. And thats saying something.) The story never gets boring or too cliche(though it has its moments) but to get into the story you may have to invest a good 30 minutes or 1 hour. But oh how its worth it.

    Speaking of which, the 30 minutes you'll first be spending will probably in figuring out the combat system. A large number of small tweaks to the ever-expanding Tales battle system greatly enhances the it far past the likeness of Symphonia and most passed iterations of the game. The combat is real time, and starts off a bit slow. Once you've got a full party of characters at your disposal a a good list of moves and skills, the core combat gets deep. Awesome attacks, spells, and combos(Mystic Artes are stunning) make up the combat in Vesperia. The main combat is fairly 2 dimensional though, as you only have the attack option of moving forward or backward. Hold the left trigger and you'll be able to freely run around the arena however, but you'll need to attack the enemies in a regular, linear fashion. Combos in Vesperia are also a great deal longer then in past Tales games, if you do them right. With one character, you can get a 75 hit combo all while continuing to do combos in the air, reaching a huge height before bringing them back down in a broken mess with a 20 hit combo upon returning to the ground. And if you have read my Ninja Gaiden review, you know just how much I love a kick*** combo.

    I cut this flower--for HONOR!

    Multiplayer has returned to this installment of Tales as well. Four people can play cooperatively at the same time, and it is by far one of the most fun JRPGs(and one of the only ones) in terms of multiplayer. Each player controls a different character, and uses their specific abilities to help the team and take out monsters. Combat is fast and fun, and cooperating with the people you playe with is key to winning the battles. Magic users don't suffer from the same boredom they do in singleplayer when it comes to fighting bosses, since support is a huge need in battles, and with a human player directing the magic, it becomes far more effective then it would with A.I. Its not without some problems though. In battles you will be using a good bit of items, and to use them you need to pause the game to use them. Its only a minor annoyance though, since most players will know how to use items fast by the time you'll really be needing to use them often. The biggest complaint, and the reason Namco Bandai says they excluded online play, was because there is only one character in the overworld at any one time. I could think of a vast number of ways to make it interesting for other players as well, but whats done is done. The lack of online stings. Badly. However, if you have a few mates to play the game with locally, you've got nothing to worry about. The multiplayer is fast and fun, though not without its annoyances.

    And there isn't a Tales game without its puzzles. Vesperia beats Abyss in terms of puzzles that you have to actually think your way through, rather then guessing or easy puzzles. The puzzles usually makes use of logical decisions to solve them, which is done by iteraction to the vast environments. Once you find what is interactive and what isn't the puzzles usually consist of you trying to figure out how to get these two things to do what they are supposed to. Vesperia won't guide you through them either. They are fairly difficult, which for you people out there who like challenging puzzles will please fairly well. But the main problem I had with these puzzles is how the story is usually at a hugely climactic part when the game throws a tough, time-consuming puzzle at you. As a design choice, its absolutely perfect. It makes the player not want to finish playing till they have beat that puzzle and see what comes next in the story. As a person who really isn't very big on puzzles in games, I got fairly aggravated at this. However, this part does come down to personal preference, so I won't be adding or taking away score for its timing. The puzzles aren't really complicated though, which makes the design of them quite ingenious. Still, there are some puzzles that are there really to JUST build hype for the next major plot twist, and they usually aren't so much challenging as they are time consuming. Still, as an RPG first and a puzzler, well, not first, Vesperia has some very well designed puzzles. They aren't exceptional or amazing, but they do give a well rounded amount of challenge to they're players, at(in my opinion) some of the worst times.

    Back to combat, the combat system has no trouble staying fresh and fun through the entire game, but despite smaller tweaks and more attacks and magic, its not so much different from Abyss and Symphonia's battle systems. So I guess you could say that while its obviously better and smoother then past Tales games, the combat really isn't very innovative.

    You'll probably hear the phrase "not extremely innovative" for a good bit of things about this game. The storyline, while well done and interesting through the game, is basically exactly what You'd expect from a Japanese RPG. Not writing it off, but the overall feel of it feels very traditional, and the plot shares many of the feelings you'll get from playing Tales of the Abyss. In fact, this game could best be described as "fun and fresh, but not too fresh." Yes it is confusing, but I think you can understand. The game makes a fantastic sequel, but not an amazing new take on the series. But you know what they say, why fix it if it isn't broken.

    The Tales classic Anime-inspired look is back and better then ever.

    More things from the past games have returned here without much change too; the ones most profoundly effecting gameplay being the Overworld, cooking, and synthesizing. Likewise, all have had an upgrade, despite being very similar to they're Symphonic roots. The ridiculous loading times in Abyss have been fully done away with in Vesperia, and the Overworld runs at a perfect framerate. Monsters appear on screen, and are never random battles(one of my all time favorite parts of the Tales series) and the detail displayed in the overworld is as colorful and fine for the monsters as it is in the battle arena. Cooking and synthesizing are basically the same, with more things to learn and eat(and that your teamates will sometimes complain if you don't cook often enough. I probably did it once every 5 hours, so its not a big deal.) Overall, you could say the core gameplay isn't taking the series to a whole new height, but its doing everything a sequel should in terms of freshness.

    The graphical design of the Tales series is basically they're series trademark. Tales has always tried to look as close to an anime in terms of graphics as they can, and with the graphics Vesperia has, they are getting extremely close. The entire world is a beautiful cell-shaded look(Trust me on this. I would never say the word beautiful. Thats how good it looks.)that is extremely colorful and endearing. Its got a sort of charm that Symphonia certainly had, and its been translated very well into the HD era.

    The character models aren't lacking much depth and detail to them, though the characters appear less detailed then Eternal Sonata who uses a similar style(also published by Namco Bandai.) While they are a bit less detailed then the aforementioned, Eternal Sonata makes use of rigid outlines, whereas Vesperia's characters more or less are distinctly visible against the watercolor look of the background by shading. Overall it looks fantastic, and the art direction isn't to be messed with either. Backgrounds in towns, cities, dungeons, and other enter able areas for the most part are just as detailed as the characters, and sport a very artistic look to them. The animations are clean and crisp, and some of the battle animations look awesome. Most of the animations by normal attacks and some Artes are pretty normal, not bad, but nothing that'll have you screaming about how awesome it looks. They do exactly what they are supposed to, look fine, and thats really all they need to do.

    What will make you think "thats awesome!" about the graphics are some of the magic and special attacks. As usual, Mystic Artes look absolutely awesome, and the new Burst Artes are pretty sweet too. The effects in this game are up and away the most well done part of the graphical aspect. Colorful, brilliant and appealing magic attacks are found in every battle. While some of the melee fighters don't have a "bang" to they're visual attack styles, the magic users spare no expense lighting up the battlefield. Nothing quite like seeing some of the best Artes in Tales history rendered in full HD with these effects. It'll make any Tales fan shed a tear.

    Probably gonna hurt.

    The backgrounds that DON'T share the same detail as the characters, effects and towns are the Overworld backgrounds. While by no means bare, the lack a huge amount of variety. When you encounter an enemy, you go to a mini arena to duke it out, and the backgrounds there are even worse. They certainly don't look bad, but they have little to absolutely no interaction at all with the character, which makes them have no part in determining a battle. Its more of a problem of what they lack rather then what they do wrong. Really, it doesn't make any matter where you fight when it comes to determining the battle. The landscapes in the background look good, but the foregrounds are severely lacking in detail. This has always been the case for Tales games, and it couldn't hurt to much to make the backgrounds a little more stand-out-ish while in combat.

    Jumping topics to sound here. The musical score has a very emotional feel to it, and will well envelope you in some of the battles. it may sound strange, but the music sometimes even effects your willingness to fight some of the battles. Other battles the music will send you into a fiery feeling that you just want to beat the crap out of your enemy. Even other times will make you just want to mess with some of the enemies. The point being that the music helps to inspire much of the emotions in the game, and it works absolutely well for its purpose. And I'm willing to make a bet that no one out there can finish this game and NOT have Bonnie Pink's song Ring a Bell(the games theme song) stuck in their head for the next few days. The music is obviously inspired, and it does its job of inspiring you as well. A fantastic soundtrack for what its supposed to be, though listening to the tracks along without the substance of the cutscene or battle may not be as good as listening to it in game.

    Voiceovers are(considering the infamy of JRPGs with western VOs) rather well done. While there annoying characters in the game, the characters you will be hearing the most won't sound bad. The lead character especially does his job well, and is probably the best voice in a Tales game since Symphonia's Regal. The emotions that they're voices convey will reach you, which just goes along with the fact that the characters are extremely well done and fleshed out.

    The story in Vesperia isn't as long as Symphonia or Abyss. In fact, as far as the main story goes its can be completed in 30-40 hours, which is a bit average for a JRPG, while short for a Tales game. The side quests give this game a huge amount of extra life though. In fact, it nearly doubles the life of the game well past 80 hours. Should you also take the time to get a significant amount of grade for a second play through will probably take you upwords 150 hours. To say the least its a massive game, and if you have people to play it with it will become much longer. So its not over quickly, but you'll defineatly be wanting more when it is over.

    Great backgrounds, though they could use more interactivity.

    Wrapping it up.

    Major Selling Points:
    --Anime styled Graphics
    --Fast and fluid combat system
    --Explore a massive, expansive world
    --Characters are extremely well fleshed out
    --Decently challenging and fun puzzles

    Major breaking Points:
    --Doesn't break much new boundaries
    --Intricate puzzles are placed at some of the worst times.
    --Check closing comments

    Story: 4.5/5
    An interesting and thrilling tale with some of the most well developed characters ever made. The story doesn't really break any huge boundaries though.
    Graphics: 4/5
    The classic tales anime style characters have never looked better. They don't have the same amount of detail as Eternal Sonata, but they still shine. The art direction and the watercolor look of the towns are also charming, but arena backgrounds and some dungeons look bare. Environmental interaction is at a low.
    Sound: 4/5
    An epic soundtrack really brings out the emotion of the scenes. The Voice overs are well done and show each characters personalities and feelings very well.
    Gameplay: 4/5
    The combat system hasn't had a huge overhaul, but small fixes and tweaks and some awesome new features show that the Tales series still has life in it yet. Challenging puzzles are pretty fun(if poorly placed), but there is a good bit of running around to do. Nothing to hold it down though.
    Replayability: 4/5
    The main quest will take you from 30-40 hours, but side quests can get you well over 150. Achievements won't have you running back to the game.
    Value: 4/5
    At a full price tag, this game is well worth it. The best JRPG on the 360 yet, and the best Tales game ever.

    Tales of Vesperia does everything its supposed to and nothing it isn't. There isn't really any big flaw or major problem with the game, and the experience is a perfectly authentic JRPG one. However, the game doesn't break new ground by any means, and may seem a bit too similar to past Tales games. Still, Vesperia has everything a JRPG fan could want -- a great combat system, and epic (If very common) storyline, great characters, and a pipe smoking dog that fights with a sword.
    by Published on January 1st, 2011 18:18
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    2. Xbox 360 News,
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    Feeding Frenzy 2: ShipWreck Showdown
    Publisher: Oberon media
    Developer: Sprout Games
    Genre: Arcade Action
    System: Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE)

    Big fish eats small fish. Its a fact of life, and is a saying that well explains the worlds state of life. Feeding Frenzy takes this saying quite literally, as you play as a fish in the big sea whose only purpose is to eat small fish and became a big fish to eat even bigger fish. Sounds simple right? Well it is, almost too much so. The game isn't broken(well, controls may be) but it certainly does what its supposed to, if by 'supposed to' means bore you in little over an hour.

    The gameplay revolves around trying to devour other smaller fish and grow larger, so that you can eat the larger fish. Thats the formula for every level you play, except for the occasional bonus level which has you doing some some mini game to attain a higher score. The thing is, its all been down before, and in 1995 at that. Playing this game reminded me of a lesser quality version of Odell Down Under, a similar game where the gameplay is nearly identical. However, Feeding Frenzy is far more simplistic. There is usually only a single type of fish you are able to eat, and that will, for most at least, get extremely boring as the game progresses, since there is really no change to gameplay. This results in a very repetitive experience all throughout story mode, as there is far too little depth in the game to really hold anyone other then a casual gamer's interest for very long. The 'not-so-different' special levels you do every so often do little to keep your interest.

    The controls are quite a mess. Constantly, you'll end up drifting into the mouth of a bigger fish on accident because of the Astroids-style drift that happens after releasing the controller stick. It also makes devouring small fish a pain, at least until you get the Vacuum ability to suck up fish.

    The good news is there is co-op, and if you have a relative who doesn't generally like video games, this is a great game that can be played with them. The game's difficulty is easy and its learning curve is non-existant. Just try to make sure your friend or family doesn't fall asleep while playing it.

    Try doing this for just 10 levels and see if your not sick of it.

    The charming underwater theme of the game fits very well with the mood of the game. Vibrant and colorful, but all too bland and reptitive. The backgrounds repeat, the same fish sprites are used constantly, and all in all its just becomes boring after the 15th level of the same background and fish. I guess the solution Sprout games used for this was to invert the fish colors every so often. Meh.

    The tranquil music does its work, like the rest of the game, to make you feel tired, and sort of relaxed. The creepy sound effect you hear of the guy saying "Feeding Frenzy" is more likely to scare you then relax you though. Sound effects for eating fish will get annoying after a few hours of continuous play, but hey, at least they didn't have you hear the fish screaming bloody murder every time you eat them.

    Closing comments:
    Feeding Frenzy is one of those games that your sister would play on an internet game site rather then a game you'd be wanting to spend money for. After all, there are some almost identical flash games you could play at no cost. I suppose Feeding Frenzy's biggest offense that it commits is just not being all that fun, even though it generally does what its supposed to. Which I suppose, is make you get very drowzy.

    Story: N/A
    Graphics: 2/5
    Sound: 1/5
    Gameplay: 1/5
    Replayability: 2/5

    OVERALL: 1/5
    by Published on January 1st, 2011 18:18
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    2. GBA News,
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    Klonoa: Empire of Dreams
    Publisher: Namco
    Developer: Namco
    Genre: Action
    Players: 1

    Klonoa: Empire of Dreams
    for the Game Boy Advance Nintendo handheld game system

    Now this was the first Klonoa game I bought. After playing it, I was hooked. This game set a gold standard for GBA games for me, platformers specifically, and this was a definate before-its-time, being one of the first GBA games to be released.

    As with all Klonoa games, its a standard platformer. Unlike its earlier relatives, it is full 2D, as a GBA able to emulate 3D would be a miracle. The sprites a well done, they fit together very well, fully articulate design spaing no pixel of Klonoa's character and essence in attacking, jumping, and the other things a game character basically does. The enemies are particularly something, as they reflect the lighting effect that would be present in a 3D game. The background is not as intricately designed, often being a single landscape. The level design is a bit more detailed on most maps, despite the glossy background. Here is a screenshot of ingame play:

    While not showing much in foreground, you can plainly see the glossy land-scaped background, but it isn't very noticable during in-game play, despite its obvious nature. Cut-scenes have nicely rounded textures, showing obvious work in detailing most parts of the character and background images, with touch ups to the already nicely drawn and created sprites. Heres another screenshot for the good nature of adding them:

    The sound is perfect for the levels...but sometimes the levels are a little too fluffy for their own good, much like in the Kirby game series. This makes some levels music both vexing and calming, which usually makes you tune them out. This doesn't mean the music is bad, its simply not very noticable when indulged within the addicting gameplay. The music in the cutscenes usually fits the scene to the best I would think possible. Again, like in the other Klonoa games, they speak they're own, un-interpretable language. For the music type the GBA is able to chug out, this is a good addition to the game.

    The battle system remains the same in this Klonoa game as all others; sucking in enemies with your ring and expounding them to other enemies or into a walls or to gain distance. Although this style has gotton a bit old, hte Klonoa game series is still holding to it strong. With that effort they also make it continue to remain interesting. In this game, like Door to Phantomile, your ring is powered by the spirit which dwells inside it, namely Huepow.

    The story begins as you, Klonoa, find yourself in multiple visions where you are not sure where you are, or whether theis place even exists or not. Soon you find out that the King of this land has put a law out which claims that no one may sleep, or dream more importantly as the law states. So now I know what your all thinking: "So what if they dream? Whos gonna stop them?" In answer to that: the guards. They, even though made miserable from this law, go and arrest anyone who they find sleeping, even breaking into homes to perform the arrests. The king's reasoning upon the law? The king is having a sever case of abnormal insomnia. He has not been able to sleep in days, and will not permit others to sleep. So comes Klonoa, the "dream traveller". Not really sure what he's doing, he fights through the visions to find out why the King is having insomnia and to liberate the land from this dreaming deprevation.

    Now onto the ratings:

    Graphics: 4 out of 5Nicely drawn sprites and eneies, and great front-gound scenerio textures. Now we get to that screwy-looking background. Sheesh...good thing its not very noticable.

    Sound: 3.5 out of 5
    Very calming music, which fits the levels. Unfortunately, sometimes you just wanna start smashing stuff to some jamming music, but oh well, this is second best!

    Replay Value: 4.5 out of 5
    Im not sure just what it was about this game that made me want to play it about 3 times over before I got bored. All I know is that it is wicked fun from start to finish and back again.

    Gameplay: 4.5 out of 5
    Another well done, good-to go platformer. What makes this one special is its the first best I've seen for GBA, AKA handheld.

    Overall: 4 out of 5
    As GBA games go, this one has held out to me as one of the strongest een since its release at the beginning of the GBA saga of gaming.

    by Published on January 1st, 2011 18:17
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    2. Xbox News,
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    Fable: The Lost Chapters
    publisher: Microsoft
    Developer: Lionhead Studios
    Genre: Action RPG
    Players: 1
    System: Xbox Original

    Fable 2 is coming up, so it might be a good idea to do a "pastview", eh?

    Fable had promised gamers the world; or at least leader of lionhead Studios Peter Molyneux had promised it. One of the oddest surprises about the original Fable which had failed to deliver anywhere near the promises of peter M. was that it was still an absolutely fantastic game.(I wasn't really mainstream at the time, so wow, I could only imagine what he actually said was gonna be in the game at the time o_0) Fable still held its own in the gaming world for a few reasons; one, it had an intense magic and melee combat system. Two, it had a hugeopen world and lots to do. And three, you could be a hero in the game, or a villain, and the line wasn't drawn that clear either.Fable: The Lost Chapters was essentially Fable 1 with some the stuff that SHOULD have been in the original. This included more side missions, weapons, magic, and other things, but nothing truly warrenting a repurchase of the game. if you were like me, however, and never had the game in the first place, it was a spectacular deal.

    Fable had a pretty average combat system for its time; emphasis on melee without many different combo attacks, magic that was sweet but ran out too quickly, and a bow for ranged attacks. But the combat system was very fluid, and battles commenced in seamless real time on the overworld. Boss battles were grand and fun. The only problem was that the combat system wasn't very deep. Racking up combos then delivering finishers was fun with melee, but thats about as deep as it went. magic was pretty fun, but overall not as helpful as melee, and rendered pretty useless in comparison. the Extra skills that you could purchase at the Guild made things a little more interesting, but not by a huge amount. Overall, Fable had a very fluid and easy to use combat system, but it didn't contain the depth of such games as Ninja Gaiden and God of War. The control you have in battles and the overworld is spot-on. The controls don't stick, the camera isn't jumpy or messy, and it all around works well.

    What was probably the main selling point of the game was its twisting storyline. This was one of the few games where you have immemse amounts of decisions that truly affect how the rest of the game will be played out. And a lot of these decisions actually are decided by your moral standing.(A study once showed that only 5% of the players of Fable could actually stand to be bad all the way through. I know I ended up with a halo, though I wanted to be an assasin :/ )These choices don't just affect the story, they effect you and the people around you. If your bad, people will tend to avoid you or run away when they see you. If your good, people flock to you, and usually bug the crap out of you. but its not so black and white. You can be good or bad, or a mix of the two. Or closer to good then bad, or vice versa. Even the quests you complete at the Guild will decide how people veiw you, so much that if you don't actually do anything, people won't know you. on the other hand, if you take on many quests and emerge victorious each time, you'll get famous. If you drink too much booze you'll get a beer gut, if you work out enough you'll get buffer, and really many things effect your character in adverse ways. And best of all, the choice is up to you. It could even be called a 'benchmark in gaming interactivity', if you use the term loosely.

    With Fable 2 on the horizon, it may be a good idea to pick up Fable: TLC if you haven't already played it. Its selling for dirt cheap now, and its still a fun game today. Its backwards compatible with the 360 as well. So if you've run out of games to try and want a new experience for cheap, give it a go. Be sure to look out for our DCEmu Fable II review coming soon.
    by Published on January 1st, 2011 18:16
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    2. Xbox 360 News,
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    Fable II
    Publisher: Microsoft
    Developer: Lionhead Studios
    Genre: Adventure RPG
    System: Xbox 360 (exclusive)

    The original Fable was quite a controversial game. The game's creator Peter Molyneux had promised the world to gamers, and much of that promise went unfulfilled in the first game. The strange thing about it, was that although many of the features that were said to be in the game weren't, it still proved to be a very fun game, and the features that were in it were very innovative. The opposite of the scandal is true with Fable 2. This time around, Peter Molyneux under promised, and over delivered. Whereas Fable was a good game, Fable 2 takes everything from Fable, entirely new concepts, and a world ten times larger the the original, and expands upon it in every way imaginable. Funny, thrilling, emotional, and entirely too short, Fable 2 is everything people wanted it to be and then some.

    Like the original, Fable 2 is all about its satirical nature, that is, its very very funny. What makes it stand out from other "funny" games is that its GENUINELY funny in its nature. While containing a very serious plot and story, everything from the people to the expressions, which are basically your way of communicating to people, to the things that the characters say, it has a unique charm and humor to it.( A bit of an understatement; this is one of the most unique game worlds ever created, in part due to its charming atmosphere.) This atmosphere of Fable sets it apart from the countless other fairy-tale style games, and it truly gives it its own image and personality as a game. This is by and large the most endearing aspect of the game, and what will have you coming back for more, even after you've completed all the quests and the story. And about the story...

    The original Fable had a rather weak story, although thats what in part made it so fun(Not many times had a game been made where you can choose which way a generic fairy tale will be told). Fable II's story, while by a good margin better, isn't great. What it boils down to is a rather generic story of a hero who must combine powers with 3 other heroes to save the world. Not so original. What makes it original, is how you can essentially choose the way the story is told.(For all I know you might be able to even kill the mains, I never tried.) Everything you do, even down to the small chores you did in the beginning of the game influence how the world is shaped for you and how the story and sub stories will play out. This also means you sometimes have to be careful as to what quests you don't do(For the most part, quests you do do won't mean the desolation of entire cities) Still, the story mode itself

    The graphical style for Fable 2 is one of those games that you could call art and not have Kojima slapping you across the face for it. If a game should have ever been called "art" due only on its visuals, Fable 2 is up there with Okami and Shadow of the Colossus. The bright and colorful vibrant shades during the daytime in such places as Bowerstone lake and Market make you entranced by the world as very few games have been able to accomplish before. Just as well, in contrast the dreary, dark and pale colors of such places as Wraithmarsh and The Bandit Coast give the game a true air of tense feeling. Its these great graphical styles that really suck you into the world, and make it a treat to just run through the roads and look at the world itself.

    The game isn't so much technically impressive as it is creative. The graphics are simple, as are the water effects and most of the game. The magic is positively striking, but the effects do have some negative effects on the game. For instance, most massive level 5 spells will cause the game to slowdown for a few seconds. Nothing major, but defineatly an annoyance. The thing is, as colorful and fun-filled as the graphics are, the sheer lack of technicality in this age of gaming is disappointing. Also, when night falls on the forest levels and other levels where the color attracts you to them, the levels appear very drab and boring.

    You can jump off this bridge, like most things.

    Animations are something that needs work as well. Stiff looking attack and magic animations, and enemies are no different. Expressions are well done. The characters movements pertaining to interaction with your character, such as fear, joy, admiration, and most actions on the parts of the villagers just feel fake and hollow. Despite this, your characters animations are fantastic when it comes to the customization you can do. Instead of the animations being absolutely terrible to fit with all the different clothing possibilities you'll have, the animations stay the same, even if the same does need a bit of work.

    Fable 2 has a very fun and repetitive combat system. That sentence about sums up what you'll be feeling by the combat. The thing about it is that it stays mostly fresh throughout the entire game. Its absolutely simple and has, as the creator pointed out, a one button combat system, yet the feeling of combat in the game doesn't get boring for a long while. This is due in part to the upgrades you can level up during the game. As you earn experience from killing enemies, you can use the experience to level up different areas of your character, such as power, skill, and will--or in other words, swords, guns, and magic. Each time you level these areas up, you gain a different skill in that area--whether its the ability to block an attack, zoom in on your gun, or get a far more powerful spell, the combat will stay fresh until you've unlocked everything that can be unlocked. Unfortunately, unlocking everything doesn't take a huge amount of time to do, so the combat may bore some people after a while. Its simple, which is a double edged blade in this case. Figuratively and literally. The control is responsive, though there are occasional hiccups during combat. Movement could be a little more fine tuned. But the choices for how you kill the enemy are still there. Tons of different weapons, both melee and range that have their own special attributes make it very fun to swap out weapons every so often and see how the battles will play out that way.

    Also, leveling up your character in these three aspects will produce physical changes on your characters appearance as well. Level up power and you'll get buffer. Skill and you'll grow taller. Will and blue magic lines(which I thought looked kickass) will start appearing on your skin. For the most part, these changes are appealing in the game. The problem is, if you don't want these changes to occur but still want the benefits of that certain level, your outta luck. For example, if your playing as a female character and actually care about appearance in the game, then your not going to want to level up power much or you'll start to look like a berserker from Gears of War(i.e. like a freak). Or, if you don't want to be a Goliath looking creature you'll probably refrain from upgrading skill.

    Thankfully, Lionhead seemed to come prepared for this. They split each group--skill,power,and will-- into 3 groups each. only one upgrade group within each group effects your characters appearance, and thats the group that determines the amount of damage they will do. And once you have legendary weapons with massive amounts of damage, you will no longer need those possibly-freaky enhancements. Just in case though, Lionhead made a feature where you can downgrade at any time, one of your upgrades. So if your extremely tall but want to be shorter again, simply downgrade that skill. Its simple.

    Undead. What RPG would be complete without them.

    Another feature that will effect your characters appearance is also one of the most innovative features in an RPG, that of the ability to choose your path in a non-linear fashion. Most of the actions you take in Albion will yeild you either Good or Bad karma. This can be anything from stealing random stuff from someones house or killing your spouse, to making a crowd of people upbeat by playing the lute to donating to the Temple of Light. The game lives up to its motto "For every action, a consequence. Who will you become?" But all these choices you make won't be for nothing, and many of them will certainly be very hard to make(especially if you plan on being good.) Depending on how evil or good you are, your physical appearance will change. You hair will become golden and you'll get a halo if your good. If your bad, your eyes will become red and you'll grow horns. There is also a more subtle layer of "good and evil", which is more of the grey area in between, called Purity and Corruption. Doing kind acts and eating good foods will give you purity points, which will make your character look attractive. Eating pies and meats all the time and charging your tenants massive rent will give you corruption, in turn making you fat and ugly. These features are where Fable 2 shines its brightest, and are one of the most fantastic innovations in an RPG in years.

    There is also the world around you that reacts to your actions. For instance, if you go on a crime spree in a town and kill people, then crime and panic will break loose in the town. The economy will drop, and it will become a miserable place to be. On other other hand, if you spend tons of money there and charge your tenants less in that area, it begins to flourish, and the economy will skyrocket. People will love you more, and more people will begin to appear there. Your ability to influence and change the world around you as well as yourself is, too, a fantastic innovation that Fable 2 introduces well. Oh, and yes, P.M. was telling the truth when he said that you can buy everything in the game world of Fable. Pretty much, everything.

    A good bit of the music is recycled from the original Fable with minor changes in what instruments seem to be used to play the song. Still, the music sounds like orchestral music, which fits the game's "epic fairy tale" premise well. Sound effects are nice and varied; different blades and guns yeild different sounds, as well as each different spell you cast. The sound also helps the world come alive to you, as this game plays fantastic in Dolby 5.1(Lets give a round of applause to Thomas, who let me test his surround sound to the point of almost breaking it. Sorry Tom.)

    The game also runs on some fantastic voice overs. Each NPC has some well written and executed lspeech they want to say to you, and the greatest thing about the VOs is that they are done comically, like the rest of the game. In fact, I'd be willing to go so far as to say that without the VOs being as funny as they are, the game simply would be far more boring. At least to your ears it would be.

    When a game manages to make hopping fences fun, you know its good. Fable II is good.

    The game's story takes about a mere 12 hours to finish. But to be perfectly honest, thats not what your gonna be doing most of the time anyway. After opening all the doors, buying all the property, spending a good while at the crucible and finishing most of the quests, I found that I had taken about 50 hours, give or take a few. That means, after basically finishing the game, it took a good deal of time to accomplish. This really isn't much in the way of Oblivion or a JRPG, but its fairly long.

    Co-op won't have you running back for more. Playing with a friend whos right beside you will end up being more funthen the online co-op. This is due to a number of reasons. First off, the joining player can't play as his character, only a premade one. Second, your Skill powers get flushed down the drain. Third, if your "friend" is bored, he can just as easily slaughter a very important character who you can never get back. And fourth is the lag. Lots of lag. Stupendous ammounts I have experianced in fact. If you can get over these issues, then you may yet have some fun here. Well....

    Closing Comments:
    In all honesty, I love this game to death now. Pretty much one of the only games I've really went back and did all the side quests after finishing the story mode. I bought this game with moderate expectaions, which made it a pleasent surprise to find out it was worth the money. But I won't lie; errors and glitches mess this game up badly. If you can get over those errors though, you'll find an experiance deeper then any RPG or JRPG you've played in the last ten years.

    Major Selling points:
    -Fantastic and colorful graphics
    -Addictive Combat system
    -Ability to play the game on your own path, and be as good or evil as you want to be.
    -Lots of cutomization and choices that reflect on your character
    -Wide, open freeroam world
    -Huge game; many quests and things to do

    Major Breaking Points:
    -Lots of technical hiccups
    -Co-op sucks
    -Story mode is a bit short

    Final Scoring:
    Graphics: 4.5
    Story: 4
    Gameplay: 5
    Sound: 4.5
    Replayability: 4

    Overall Score:

    by Published on January 1st, 2011 17:00
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    Unreal Tournament III
    Publisher: Midway
    Developer: EPIC Games
    Players: 1-16
    Genre: FPS
    ESRP: $59.99

    When the original Unreal Tournament debuted back in 1999, it took many multiplayer nuts by surprise. While it wasn't necessarily unforeseen since Quake II made such a bang with its new twitch-action multiplayer, the level of depth to this FPS was almost unmatched. The ideas surrounding it were simple enough; a game made almost solely for multiplayer action. This doesn't mean only against other living players, but also against some of the the best A.I. bots for its time. Well, you can rest assured that the formula for the blockbuster game hasn't changed much, though that may well be the reason for the troubles with this game. Don't jump to any conclusions; I'm not saying its bad or good. Just read on, you'll get it.

    The Unreal tournament series has always been known for its mindless run-and-gun fireattatwitch FPS action. Things haven't changed a whole lot in Unreal Tournament III. The insanely fast paced nature of the game has been left in tact, and as per usual, you don't have to do a lot of thinking to know how to win. The main point of UT3 is still to blast the other guy to kibbles before he blasts you. getting killed thirty times every match is the usual, but what might seem a little unusual, is that its USUAL even during campaign mode. In fact, campaign mode is actually one of the few things that sets UT3 apart from its predecessors. For one, the new campaign features actual cutscenes to tell the story. The bad part is that cut-scenes are the ONLY thing in this game that tell the main story. Levels simply consist of a sequence of bot matches that range anywhere from one to fifteen before going to the next chapter, and the next scene. Before each battle, however, you do get a short briefing on your mission that adds a little to the story, but generally feels like a bunch of audio-fillers, so it doesn't have to explain the story. It doesn't really feel so bad at first, but after ten consecutive bot matches without any new story to back it up, it tends gets on your nerves. its not all bad though, as those bot matches constantly feature changing game types, such as CTF, team deathmatch, and a new game mode where you must destroy your enemies core while protecting your own. Still, after all is said an done, the campaign mode feels as though it was only thrown in there because it had to be. At least its something, which is a lot more then Shadowrun did. (If you didn't know, Shadowrun's best and only selling point was its multiplayer. Not even a tiny bit of story-mode.)

    I am coming for you

    Like I said before, the story was told completely through cut-scenes. Although it wouldn't have hurt to have a little subliminal story telling like most games these days do, if it was gonna be told through anything, it would have best been through these scenes. They look absolutely fantastic. Great camera angles and many high octane adrenaline fueled sections of the rather large scenes gave it almost the same feel as a mix between Halo and Gears of War(Which really shouldn't be much of a surprise, seeing as EPIC made Gears as well). In the end, even though the cutscenes do a great job of conveying what little story in this game there is, it never fills the void completely, and left me feeling like they, too, were thrown in there "just 'cause." Still, even though the cutscenes tell the story well, the best part of these cutscenes is also the best part of the game; that is, the graphics.

    Well, be honest here. Did you expect anything except the very best from EPIC? After Gears of War, I can confidently say that it would have been more a surprise had they not made the best graphics around. Even if your playing on a non-HD set up, you'll notice right away that the graphics for this game are top notch detail. The character models seem to have the most detail in the game, but they end up looking a bit funny despite looking so good. the thing is, unlike in most other games, in UT3 you practically are never standing still long enough to notice the graphics, since you'd be shot to pieces if you tried. Smooth animations, though there really aren't that many in the game anyway except for dying and hover boarding. The vehicles in the game look nice, but they tend to all look (and handle) too similarly to one another. Not really bad, just, not really creative. The backgrounds are great as well. Textures all look highly detailed, and are usually very diverse. As far as the game's graphics are concerned, the Unreal 3 engine is working the best we've seen here. The framerate has never dropped as I played it even in some of the most hair-raising nine-on-seven fights. The backgrounds are fairly large too, though they are more of the typical FPS battlefield style, that is, a semi-large usually circular in ...
    by Published on January 1st, 2011 17:00
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    Ninja Gaiden II
    Publisher: Microsoft
    Developer: Team Ninja
    Player: 1
    Genre: Action Adventure

    The famed Ninja that makes Kratos look like a teletubbie is back.

    In Ninja Gaiden II, you are once again Ryu Hayabusa, the fastest, most badass Ninja killing machine ever to walk the earth. You are called one last time by CIA agent Sonia to put a stop to the archfiend's plot to rid the world of humans forever. With a host of melee and ranged weapons, as well as magic ninpo attacks, you set out to save the world yet again.

    Story? Are you ****ing joking?
    First things first: I'm not even sure there IS a story here. Actually a better way to describe what I mean is I'm not sure there is a story in this that is better then one in the Ninja Gaiden 2 for the NES. While the story makes sense and is technically a very average story (for an 8-bit game), the story never goes beyond a paper-thin make up of the original Ninja gaiden story. That basically explains it. The story is there, but is fit for, at most, a lame N64 game. Character development exists only in your imagination. The characters don't change at all, either in personality or anything else you can think of. The only possible "change" would be of Muramasa the shopkeeper, when he enters a room and mows down tons of spider ninjas. So beyond the WTF factor of that scene, Muramasa, like all other characters, is the same persona throughout the game. Although, the wacky plot does have some benefits to it. The plot actually successfully justifies the constant travel to cool and unusual places in the game. It takes you anywhere from a futuristic Tokyo to Venice to Hell. Interesting stuff there. Bland, generic, interesting stuff.

    Damn Ninjas can look pretty good
    Starting with characters. Character models are extremely detailed, from the top of their face plate to the bottom of their feet. Ryu Hayabusa is one of the best main character models of any game, anywhere. Sub-characters are spared no detail either. Everything about the characters is fantastic. Art direction looks like it came out of a 1960's comic book, but the game IS based on a rather old game after all. Take Genshin for example. Claws, pointy masks, electric swords--he's straight out of a Marvel comic book. The same goes with most of the enemies (and some allies, i.e. Sonia). Most all the bosses look like enemies that Superman would fight. That said, none of that is bad. They are so well designed and animated, 1960's or not, they look great. Fiends and common enemies aren't overlooked either. I defy you find an enemy that doesn't look great in the game. Onto animations. Each and every character's animations are easily the best graphical part of Ninja Gaiden 2. Extremely fluid animation for Ryu hayabusa, considering he has well over hundreds of different attacks. The care taken with each and ever attack is astounding; and it doesn't end with Ryu. Every enemy, every attack, every fireball they shoot looks extremely natural. if you want comparison, this beats Euphoria by a mile. Shying away from foregrounds now. Backgrounds are skillfully created, with a great deal of futuristic direction to most of the levels. Even the Dragon's castle level looks futuristic, despite being rather old. Now not everything is glorious with the backgrounds. Interaction with the backgrounds is non-existent. No blowing up walls, no breaking in doors, not even denting the walls. The only thing you can do to the background is smear blood all over it. Not noticeable unless your really looking, since Ninja Gaiden isn't about interaction of the backgrounds. Another problem is the framerate. later in the game when you fight possibly 30 ninjas at once, the framerate crawls, rendering the fight almost impossible to finish. However, for the most part the framerat holds up well. All in all it is a very nice looking game.

    Excuse me, I do believe you have a scythe in your stomach.

    Adrenaline pumping Rock-metalcore-japanese-techno stuff
    The muzak in the game is perfectly fitting. Heart pounding rock style music with a hint of Oriental sounds and techno style electric rock are so fitting for a game this over-the-top. However, the music is ALWAYS a mixed bag- its either great, or its terrible. Seems to happen very often with Ninja gaiden, both II and Black. The rock music of Aqua capital is note worthy while the less-then-acceptable style of the music in the Dragon Castle is NOT-worthy(lol.) Beyond music, sound effects and voice acting is all thats left. Neither of them bad, neither really all so good. Sound fx can be argued as being well done, but every ninja dies with a similar grunt, and all the fiends die with the SAME grunt. the slicing and slashing of Ryu's weapons are easy on the ears, but everything else is simply average. not good, not bad. Voice acting is only good if you don't care for terrible lip-sync. Sonia over-acts, and Ryu sometimes has an emo spout about his voice. beyond that, only the wacky dialogue will make you say 'Huh?' as far as the VOs go.

    I'm willing to bet the crappy-a** camera got Ryu killed by that other ninja.

    Fast, furious, and full of glitches
    gameplay. I'll be honest will you: Gameplay is the only really over-the-top part of this game. Without the insanely fast paced gameplay, no one would play this. But thats why its there. Ninja Gaiden II is the fastest, most brutal, action packed game I have ever seen. As far as shear awesomeness goes when it comes to combat, it blows every other button mashing game clear out of the water. God of War II holds no candles to NGII when it comes to combat. And unlike Ninja Gaiden, every single weapon in NG2 is gold; no weapon is sub-par or boring to use. Even the bow is actually--dare I say it--FUN to use. To put it simply, you could get through the game using any 1 of the many weapons available to you in the game. None of them are slow. But thats necessary--anything slow in the game will be dead within seconds. This game is FAST. Faster then any game that has come before it. You need to know your weapon and know your combos to get through each and every insanely fast-paced fight. But lucky for you, Ryu Hayabusa doesn't know the meaning of slow--he moves in flashes of lightning no matter what weapon he uses. he makes the cast from dynasty warriors look like zombies. Even GoW's Kratos looks like an old man compared to this guy. but let me get one thing straight--this game is not for the kiddies. It is the most violent, brutal, bloodiest and goriest game I've ever played. Every battle is a load of flying limbs and decapitated bodies going every which way across the screen. In fact, its almost so bloody that its actually funny. And for more proof thats its not for your little 6 year old, the games difficulty mode is frustratingly difficult. Even Acolyte is tough, but Mentor is absolutely impossible. Trade in your game after Warrior, theres no possible way to beat the two hardest modes. Now for the not so good points. Glitches RULE this game. I've had to restart my game twice because of glitches. I beat the game four times before it finally didn't freeze during the credits. The glitches are easily enough to make you never want to see this game again, and the bugs are horrendous. I don't know what Team Ninja was smoking when they thought this game was market ready. A combat related annoyance is that they beefed up the amount of cheapshots the enemies take. I've had a beserker spider grab me 3 times in a row, literally disallowing me to get a single shot in before he takes 3/4 of my health down with each grab. Another terrible problem is the crappy camera. 3/4ths of the time you will have no idea what your attacking, and if you do know, you can't see it. If I had to describe Ninja Gaiden II in one word, I would have a problem deciding between 'cheap' and 'bugs'. If you can get past these extreme issues with the game and focus on its award-worthy combat, then you've got to get this game. However, thats about it. Combat IS the game, and if your expecting puzzles like in NGB, your gonna be disappointed. Beyond that gameplay is fun. Just don't expect it to be easy.

    Taking names.

    The life of a ninja is long and hard
    There is no online modes in this game. That said there is still a huge amount of things to do in this game. The story mode will take you 15-20 hours to finish, and Tests of Valor will have you back again a few more times. You'll also probably go through it again on Warrior for the achievement, and TRY to to do it on Mentor (only to fail). Leaderboards are there for the 20 of you who have friends who actually have this game. However, beyond achievements theres nothing to keep you coming back for more. Still, thats at least a good 50 hours or so.

    Major Selling Points:

    ◄ Insanely fast paced Action
    ◄ Difficult, but extremely rewarding
    ◄ Tons of weapons and combos
    ◄ Easy achievements and leaderboards
    ◄ Travel to many different greatly designed areas

    Major Breaking Points

    ◄ Too difficult in the later modes
    ◄ Enemies are constantly more powerful then you
    ◄ So many glitches it'll make your head spin
    ◄ Terrible camera system

    Now then:

    Story: 2/5
    While it makes sense, its stupid. And no one likes a stupid story.

    Sound: 4/5
    Music is hit or miss and voice acting is decent. Sound effects are pretty great though.

    Graphics: 4.5/5
    Amazing character models and some of the best animations anywhere. Awesome backgrounds.

    Gameplay: 4/5
    Insanely fast combat makes for the best I've ever seen. Pity that glitches and bugs hurt the whole thing so badly.

    Replayability: 4/5
    2 times through, tests of Valor and a few achievements and your done.


    Graphics, combat, and sound make up for lousy glitches. The gameplay is ultra-fast and amazing, graphics are uber-great, but glitches tear holes in it. Still, a great game and any action fan should already have it.
    by Published on January 1st, 2011 17:00
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    I know its part of the orange box, but I'm just gonna review TF2, mmmkay?

    All online, all shooting and all cartoonish, Valve has a good sequel to the questionably "good" Team Fortress. Because there is no storyline, i guess thats all for that part.

    TF2 is an all multiplayer class based shooter, much like its predecessor. There are nine classes which include Scouts, Pyros, Soldiers, Demoman, Heavies, engineers, medics, snipers,and spies. The presentation when it comes to connection is usually terrible. Joining games take unneccesarily long times and half the time the game displays rooms with open spaces but in turn states that its full or "no longer accepting players" (whatever the hell valve meant by that) when you try and join them. The classes are fairly well-balanced, but when it comes to the grind, the game can be terribly unfair, far worse then Halo or Gears., However, the game is terribly addicting, like Halo or Gears.

    Easily one of the best parts of the game is the character development, despite never having a story mode. You just kinda figure out their individual personalities and traits just by using them. Unfortunately, it doesn't go much further then that. The class based multiplayer sure is a blast, at least, when its fair. When you've got 3 enemy sentries, 2 soldiers, a medic, and 2 demomen placing bombs right outside your spawnpoint, its easy to tell Valve really didn't give a crap about the cheapness factor in the game so much as throwing it on the market.
    In other words, it can be a good game. But to games like R6V, Resistance, and Halo which ARE good games instead of CAN be good games, it falls pretty short.

    The graphics are another great thing about this game. Its endearing cartoon-style graphics perfectly compliment its blow-you-limbs-off with a rocket style of gameplay. All the characters are hilarious at times, the things they say. And the CG makes all of it possible.


    Presentation: 2/5
    Horrible connection issues, boring interfece and lack of gameplay modes kills it. Bad. Glitching is absolutely terrible and causes many games to where the opposite team has a terribly unfair advantage.

    Gameplay: 3.5/5
    While its a blast while the class-based multiplayer is WORKING, many a time the game will make absolutely no sense as to why some things happen.

    Graphics: 4/5
    Best part of the game. The cartoonish CG is perfect and original.

    Sound: 3/5
    While the gunshots and beats of a wrench work, there are no amazing things about the effects. Music is non-existent.

    Replay value
    : 4/5
    With nine classes, 6 maps and 3 gameplay modes it makes for a decent time. With more maps, weapons, and classes on they're way, it makes for a fun time. Granting you can bear the issues.


    I'm sure this will be argued. Alot. but the fact is, while I'm hopelessly addicted to it, I've easily seen all the crap this game has to offer. Still, its a solid experiance. At least, most of the time. ...
    by Published on January 1st, 2011 17:00
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    1942: Joint Strike
    Publisher: Capcom
    Developer: Backbone Entertainment
    Genre: Flight Shooter
    Players: 1-2
    Price: $10
    Platforms: XBLA (Version reviewed), PSN

    Namco's recreation of the classic 1942 is less then perfect.

    No one will argue that top down shooters are one of the greatest classic game types ever made. Still no one will argue that they can be fun to play. Take Ikaruga for example; its a top down shooter and uses a classic formula like all the rest. But tweaks and extra stuff make the game much more enjoyable, though its still tough like many 1942-esqe shooters. Nanostray is another example of how the classic can still be good today. 1942, the cult classic that inspired all of this, had you back in WWII fighting off Japanese bombers, and it was a great arcade game back when it first debuted, and an even better Co-op game. So here we are today with Capcom's remake of the classic dubbed as 1942: Joint Strike. As far as classic remakes go this is pretty well done. But Capcom might well have made it a little too faithful to its roots. Read on...

    When you start up the game you'll see what may be the most annoying part of the game. The menu screen. Don't get me wrong, the menu screen is fantastic; the effects and old style mission cards are great. However, every move you make in the menu is marked by the absolutely annoying roar of airplanes flying in from the side of the menu, which at first is kinda neat, but after the twenty-seventh time, I've more then heard it enough. And here is the next problem; if you don't have anyone to play local co-op with you like I didn't, then you will miss the best part of the game. After uncountable attempts to find someone over XBL to play, I couldn't even finish the game because the connection timed itself out and made both of us log off. Since that one time I've never been able to find another gamer to play the game out co-op with, and even though I got enough in to write the co-op section of the review, no one is gonna buy this for single player. No one with sense, anyway.

    The graphics had a major overhaul, and they are pretty nice.

    Co-op is what this game is made for. Hence the name "JOINT" strike. (Which I never actually could do, btw....) As far as co-op goes this game is fairly impressive. 3 ships and 3 special Joint possible attacks add a bit more game time after you've played through the 20 minute campaign mode with a friend. Taking down bosses together is always fun, and if both you and your friend get the dual lasers power-up then you can basically keep a constant blue streak going across every part of the screen, eradicating most enemies before you even see them. No special modes, but 5 difficulty levels and some "decent" achievements. As for the difficulty levels...without a buddy, you almost can't beat campaign mode, period. No continues whatsoever, and you can't save the game at any point. This game can be even more frustrating then Ikaruga, believe it or not. And when you can't beat the game when you don't have a companion, and trying to find a fellow gamer on Xbox LIVE is like trying to find one on Space Giraffe, the games "game" falls flat. Co-op is the saving grace, but thats only even "good". The gameplay itself isn't broken, but this game has just enough problems to ensure that it breaks most of the fun the gameplay can offer.

    The graphics aren't really too bad for a remake of an old sprite based game. 3D models for most enemies and environments, and they don't look very bad either. A good color pallete of pastels gives the game a lighter feeling, as opposed to a dark and serious feeling. I unfortunately can't rant on and on about the animations and character models as I would like to since there really aren't any. This is planes we're talking about after all. Screen tearing does occur, and it is a bit noticeable since there is usually not too much variety in the things going on on screen at any one time. The one time I was able to play online the framerate was pretty messy at some points, specifically during the 1st and 4th levels. The weapon effects are bright and neat though, but when you drop a bomb the explosion sometimes clips through the level. Overall though, the revamped graphics aren't too shabby. The old style DANGER screen is pretty cool too. Really though, this a top down shooter. How much more is there to say?

    On 2 stars or higher, you will never make it here on singleplayer.

    Wow...this is one of my shortest reviews I think I've made in a long time. But really theres not much to say about this game. Except maybe that for the value this game really isn't worth it. $5 maybe, but $10 is just cruel. If you've got a friend whos willing to purge the money with you, it may be worth it, but otherwise its just another shooter, and one thats almost impossible by yourself.

    Story: N/A
    Its not gonna be added to the score because its not supposed to be about the story.
    Graphics: 3.5/5
    The graphics had a huge overhaul from the arcade days of 1942, and it really does work. Minor issues are still present though.
    Sound: 3/5
    The menu airplanes drove me nuts, and all around the music is bland and the sound effects are decent.
    Gameplay: 3/5
    The game is all about co-op, and quite frankly it does it well. However, single-player is boring and unfair, and there isn't a single soul to play against on XBL.
    Replayability: 2.5/5
    If it wasn't for being able to go through it many times with a friend the score would be much, much lower. Campaign is only about 20-30 minutes long.
    Value: 2.5/5
    $5 and we'll talk, but for $10 this game will rip you off. Ikaruga is a much better choice at the same price.
    by Published on January 1st, 2011 17:00
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    2. Nintendo DS News,
    3. DCEmu Games Reviews

    Because my best review yet got deleted before it was even posted.

    Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution
    Publisher: 2K Games
    Developer: Firaxis
    Players: 1-2
    Genre: Turn based Strategy
    ESRP: $29.99

    A revolution for handheld TBS games, in a good way.

    I've been a Civilization series fan since the release of Civilization: Call to Power. Funny that I thought it was so great, since critics didn't. But I wasn't alone as it seemed, since it ended up being one of the best selling Civilizations of all time and...well never mind that. Point is that the turn-based Civilization series has always had a place in my gaming psyche. Civilization Revolution actually seems in a way like a step backward from the Civilization Revolutions out on the PS3 and 360. But that's easily to be expected from a handheld iteration of the game that was always speculated to just be a crappy console port like most DS games that are cross-console seem to be. Well rest assured Civilization fans that they didn't screw the DS version up. However, they did take it down a notch on features, as you could imagine(Did you really think that a handheld version of console game could possibly be as good?). The end result of these changes makes the game feel a whole lot like a mix between Civilization IV and Civilization II. You'll find out why in a minute.

    Like past Civilization games, the point of the game is to build a Civilization from scratch, and win the game through either a Cultural, Military, Scientific, or Wealth Victory. Any one of these will lead you to Victory, though all of them take time to accomplish. About time. Previous Civilization games often took many, many hours, and often, days to win the game through some form of victory. It was practically impossible to beat it in an afternoon, much less a few hours. Civilization DS doesn't follow that same formula. I probably beat the Free mode, which was "The Game" for past Civilizations, in about 2-3 hours. That doesn't mean your through though, it practically means you haven't even begun. Each map in Free mode is randomly generated, so it has an infinite amount of ways your Civilization can go. This, combined with the ability to choose from a host of Civilizations, leads to not only a wasted afternoon, but a possible wasted month, depending on how much you like it. I mentioned how you can choose from many Civilizations to start your game. This isn't just for looks like the Civilizations of old used to have them. Each Civilization has its own skill about them that makes it more or less good or bad at whatever. The thing is, through out my play, the skills I had for my Civilization didn't seem to make much of a difference in the least, it didn't seem to help my opponents in the game very much either. I guess its to keep it as equal as possible, but that's where "honing your strengths" comes in. About knowing your strengths and weaknesses...this game has a pretty iffy learning curve.

    It looks pretty complicated, but you'll get used to it fast.

    Most Civilizations in the past had a fairly steep learning curve to them, and while Civ Rev is no exception, it does seem to be a bit less complicated this time around. Having played Civ Rev on the console and Civilizations in the past, I was able to jump in quickly to the games more sophisticated points,(government, science, city management blahblahblah) but I soon found that most of them feel like they've had a downgrade to them. Not a downgrade in features so much as the game does more of the annoying stuff for you.(This may be why it is so much easier to play through the game so fast) For example, after almost everything that happens, an advisor pops up and gives you a hint as to what to do next. However, you can disable this from the option menu. When that's taken away, you soon figure out that the reason it feels more downgraded is because the menus are so simplified. Each thing tells you exactly what they do and how they do it, whether they be wonders, building, units, etc. Rather then this ending up being annoying, it becomes helpful, and allows the game to progress more smoothly. Now something that hasn't been simplified at all, or maybe its been OVER simplified, is battling.

    Probably the biggest part of any Civilization game are the battles. if your a fan then you know most of the issues already: Weaker enemies constantly beating stronger enemies, defensive terrain sometimes counting for nothing, and the oh-too-often knight destroying the helicopter.(Yes, it does happen. Still.) But Civ Rev gets a little extreme on it. At one point in the game I was attempting to take over an enemy city. They had a single archer defending it and I had about 7 legions, 8 riflemen, 2 knights, and 3 cannons standing at ready to be thrust in fierce battle. As I send each of them, the battle animations take place, and my jaw just drop out of frustration. Each and ever one of my units could not score a SINGLE hit against the archer. Each time I attacked the archer shot one arrow and nailed them before they even got close. Now this doesn't mean the whole battle system is screwed up, though it seemed like that when I tried. It meant more that archers CANNOT BE KILLED. At first i thought it was just because I was using short range attackers, but when my riflemen couldn't score a shot, I got pissed. Good news is, where all 20 of my units failed, I sent a tank and mauled that archer. That really was the main time that something that screwy happened in the games battle system. Granted, the battle system suffers from the same problems of the past Civilization games, but ranged units seem to be good against just about everything in this game. Close combat unit battles seem to be the most fair thing about the combat. Now about the graphical aspects of the combat system...

    As you can probably tell from the screnshots, this game isn't the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. If anything it reminds me of Civilization II for the PSX; it was a great strategy game but its graphics looked like chop suey. But when it comes to battles, this game sports some really great looking sprite-animated battles. Unlike past(way past) Civ games, Civ Rev takes off Civ IV with real time battles when engaged. (And if your losing, you can even retreat before they are all dead) While some of the earlier units sprites look questionably good, later sprites like Bombers and tanks look very nice when blasting off rounds in a certain archer's forehead. While battles look pretty good, the rest of the game has some pretty awful graphics. All sprites, and all without changing animations for directions, they all look bad. Now you can take it from me though-- the more you play the game, the less you'll care. I was less then thrilled to play this game when I first started, but after about 30 minutes the graphical mess didn't even bother me a bit. Its weird; its like the strategic element of the gameplay makes your mind forget all about the other aspects of the game. Still, whether you forget them or not, they are still there, and many of you won't be shutting your mind out to the graphics. Well, it is supposed to be all about thinking right? So images shouldn't matter much, right?.....uh...

    Well for the most part anyway, though this game really could have used some better sprites, since it could have easily handled them. Unlike graphics though, the SFX is something you probably won't block out of your head. Civ Rev has some very clear and nice sound effects. Knights and warriors beating each other up have the distinct sound of steel against metal, and clubs against shields. I guess this falls mostly under the category of "battle sounds" though. As for other sounds, well, there aren't too many. However, for most of your accomplishments, such as building a city, or creating a unit, or finishing a wonder, they all have some charming SFX to each of them. Something that i wouldn't mind muting indefinitely is the terrible, half-muttered, half-gibberish that your opponent Civilization leaders say when you talk to them about war, money, advances ect. But that may well be a good thing, because it gives you a definitive reason to want to destroy they're civilization. As far as music goes, there really isn't whole bunch of it here. The few numbers are during battle sequences and the menu screens. Both of them have some nice sounding tunes to them, but each is too short to really make you care.

    They are no match for us, now, or ever!

    Now Civilization isn't all about battling, as I probably made it sound, though it is a major part. You have to make your own Civilization flourish before you can try to take down other civilizations. The key to this is city improvements, or buildings, that you construct in your cities. As you make more buildings, you cities will begin to produce more gold, more production to build things faster, more science to find new stuff, new food to thrive..a good lot of things. About science. Like past Civilization games, science is quite possibly the single most important thing in the game(Though if you go all toward science, you'll still fail. You need a good balance.) As you learn more things you are able to make more advanced weapons and improvements, and even wonders. Now these things are where Civ Rev really shines. the strategic elements to this game are great, especially considering its a handheld game. Most handheld TBS games are stripped of most of they're best and most in-depth features. Like I said earlier, it is stripped of a good bit of features from the console versions, but it has more then enough to make it an authentic Civilization experience. If you do things right, and keep the right balance at the right times, your Civilization will thrive. If you create a terrible balance, or don't balance enough toward a certain thing at a certain time, you probably won't make it to your next turn.

    Lets finish this up, so my entire review doesn't get lost again...

    Major Selling Points:
    -- Great handheld strategy game
    -- Very deep and intuitive gameplay
    -- A faithful Civilization Recreation
    -- Random maps means infinite gameplay

    Major Breaking Points:
    -- Horrible Overworld graphics
    -- Some unfair battle issues
    -- Feels a little stripped

    Story: N/A
    Since there really isn't a direct story, this can't really be a score
    Graphics: 2.5/5
    Pretty horrific. The sprites even aren't that good, but battling they look fairly slick.
    Sound: 4/5
    The sounds that are here sound great. Music is good too, but short, and doesn't play very often.
    Gameplay: 4/5
    Despite some combat issues and some stupid A.I., Civ Rev is a deep, fulfilling strategy game. The touch screen can or can't be used, your choice.
    Replay Value: 4.5/5
    Random maps means tons of replay value in free mode alone, not even counting the many scenarios and WiFi play.
    Value: 4/5
    A great strategy game that is well worth the price, but only if your into strategy games. otherwise you may get bored, fast.
    A great, if scaled down, Civilization experience to fit in your pocket. It has the makings of a good TBS game, and is a great start for the genre on handhelds.
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