Tuesday, October 31, 2000

The Witcher Enhanced Edition | 9.0

I was somewhat skeptical originally because the last to forays I made into PC RPGs were quite disappointing(NWN and Titan Quest). I waited until the enhanced version came out and the reviews were so good plus I had some free time before I started my masters program that I finally decided to go for it.

The first night I wasn't sure because my ego made me choose the harder difficulty and that made some of the battles VERY hard when you don't understand how to use alchemy. However the second day when I began to get the hang of the system and the story became more interesting I played 9 hours straight into the 3rd chapter. If you have a decent system with an 8 series or newer Nvidia or 3800 up ATI the graphics are stunning. A few particular areas in the game sometimes I will simply stop and watch what is going on.

I actually enjoyed the frequent swearing as its fairly novel in a PC game and fits this fantasy world. The option to collect sex cards did not interest me hugely though sometimes the situation which arise due to choices your character makes in the game are slightly humorous if a bit juvenile.

The only way to compare the story in PC games is to think of Baldurs Gate which had a story interesting enough to follow on its own merits. This game actually inspired me to read the books which has never happened from a computer game before. The books are good, far better than average but not equal to the best fantasy out there like Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Bonehunters (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 6) or The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1).

The only downfall for me was I really enjoyed the party system of Baldurs Gate which does not fit the Witcher world. I did not really think about that lack until the second time playing from the beginning looking for the quests I missed the first time thru.

Great value for the money if you enjoy RPG or adventure gaming! I'm going to support this developer as much as possible(buying 2 copies of the game for friends, reviews etc)and if they can come out with something even close to as good as this game I'll be very impressed! 1600x1200 maximum settings (all monitor could handle)
Core 2 Quad Q9550
8 GB of DDR2 RAM
Radeon HD 5970 Black Edition
Windows 7

Monday, October 30, 2000

Halo 3 | 10

So as you've heard everyone else say, HALO 3 starts right where HALO 2 left off. Master Chief is embroiled in the conflict to end all conflicts aiming to be the savior of the universe.

First off, the story is... just a continuation/conclusion of the HALO saga. Don't really want to say anything here because this is a review, not a walk through.

When you first start out, you might be a tad bit disappointed with the graphics as I was. After the first 15 to 20 minutes, however, you really begin to appreciate the visuals. There is SO MUCH STUFF that is rendered on the screen at any given time (eons more than GoW), and all of it is really very detailed. The only stuff that disappoints is the character models... very generic and last gen.

The sound is... wow. It's a huge part of the atmosphere of this fantastic finale. While you are playing through for the first time, my bet is that you won't really notice it all that much, but take the time and listen. You have to appreciate the fact that you are not only getting a great game, but an entire orchestral musical score made specifically for it as well.

The game play is classic HALO style run and gun. Nothing really all too new or fancy except the new "deployables." These X button wonders are really a lot of fun to play around with and there are found in a good variety. During my play through on heroic (PLEASE DON'T START THE GAME ANY LOWER THAN THAT!!!), I need to use them quite often. They were pretty much essential for me.

*BUT* Who buys HALO just for the campaign? The proof is in the pudding... oh, excuse me, I mean the proof is in the multi-player! That's where the gold is. It's a (much) bigger, better, and shinier version of HALO 2's amazing frag fest, and it certainly is no slouch. Lotsss of maps, weapons, vehicles, and death! Did I mention the "Forge?" Well, I wouldn't want to write another 5 paragraphs (and you wouldn't want me to either I bet).

So stop reading my (fantastic) review, and go out, or in, really, and PLAY!

Sunday, October 29, 2000

Spellforce Universe | 8.0

As a big fan of rts games and rpgs, this was a pleasant combination of both. It did a great job of balancing the heros abilities with the rest or your units. And for the price you can't go wrong with this game. It was an easy clean install and after the initial install the game played perfectly. The only complaint I have is with the first spellforce, there is now way to do a skirmish with just the computer so after you finish the campaign there is only online multiplayer and there really isn't any of that. However, skirmish mode has been added to spellforce 2 which is fine since I only played the first one for the campaign.

The first spellforce:
- This isn't a game for everybody; it's not a "true" RTS nor a very deep CRPG. If you can't deal with that, don't buy it.
- It's a mix of both but on the light side of things. I like that because I'm bad at "real" RTS games.
- It's a very entertaining game which is nicely paced. It starts off slow but you'll get some rather difficult scenarios after that.
- In order to develop your avatar into a powerful force you need to do all side quests and stick with the skills you have chosen from the beginning (like Elemental Magic) and watch what attributes you need to be able to increase the skills to the next level. I recently replayed both this campaign and the follow-up (Breath of Winter) and it makes a big difference. I reached Level 29-30 without a problem.
- The different ways of building your avatar adds a lot of re-playability to the game.

first you must consider the main features. SF2 is a combination of two genres - RTS & RPG. This means that you can switch to a 3rd person view, collect items, solve quests and get skills for your avatar & hero party through a skill tree.

Fascinating is especially the mission design & the story concept. I really enjoyed it and its really a way different from other RTS games. On the whole the single player campaign has a playtime of more than 40 hours. But then there is also a free game mode campaign which has nearly the same playtime and can be played as well with friends over the internet. I can recommend it to any fan of RTS & RPG games. Its just the perfect blend between Dungeon Siege & Age of Empires.

Spellforce 2 is about a 8 out of 10, and is an effective mix of both RTS and RPG, however, it does neither genre particularly fine My biggest criticism is that all online screenshots look astounding. .In this game, there is a large drop off between High and Medium graphics settings. My PC kicks butt by a few years after these game engines came out.

During their journeys, your avatar and his hero companions will often find it required to call upon the military of armies to accomplish their objectives. This is where the game's RTS elements emerge. You gain workers who gather resources and build the structures compulsory to summon the military units for your army. You can also build self-protective composition such as archer towers to keep foes at bay. The RTS element of the game is far less altered from Spellforce. The first games had six races from which you could summon armies: Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Trolls, and Dark Elves. Spellforce 2 includes the Barbarians, Gargoyles, and Shadows. However, the nine races are divided into the three factions: The Realm (Humans, Elves, Dwarves), The Clans (Orcs, Trolls, Barbarians), and The Pact (Dark Elves, Gargoyles, and Shadows). Unlike Spellforce, where you had to find runes and plans to summon armies from rune monuments, in Spellforce 2 you are acknowledged a headquarters as a base of operations. You gain access to new races, and more advanced buildings by completing quests. Instead of simply finding runes, there are representatives from each faction who will "bond" you to grant you the ability to assemble armies of their faction. Instead of their levels being fixed at the level of the worker rune you used, as in Spellforce, your units also level along with the avatar, albeit much more slowly; their maximum level is 18. Of course, you can still zoom in and out from an overhead view to a earth level "chase cam", viewing your avatar and units up-close. This is a enormous perspective to be grateful for the remarkable structural design of some of the game's arrangement.

I didn't play any of the expansions, but there is four here.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty | 10

Starcraft is 12 years old, and it is still one of the most played games. And as far as I can see, it won't go out of fashion anytime soon. I bought it when it first came out. Then through the years, I moved several times and got new computers several times, not to mention all the times I reinstalled windows. This meant that I lost the game and keys more than a few times. But no problem, I simply went out and bought another one because I thought it was worth it. Why? It was simple to install. It gave hours of entertainment by myself and with friends. LAN parties were the best. Not only that, my friends and I even created maps of our own to have god knows how many hours of fun.

Starcraft 2, on the other hand, lacks everything that made Starcraft the most popular game of its time. When I first tried to install it, I had to go online to register. When it asked for all the personal information that made me very uncomfortable to give, I had to pause and asked myself if it was worth it. After considering it for a while, I finally decided to give it a try. Then I figured out that what I had bought wasn't the game at all. The game itself was online. Ok... I thought.

When I actually played the game, I realized very quickly that all the units were glass units. Everything died too easily too fast. The resource gathering is considerably faster than SC, which meant that the economy ain't as important in SC2 as it was in SC. You be the judge of whether this is a bad thing or not. But the glass units really got to me. Since the units die too easily too fast, then what's the point of melee units?

I'm an old school SC player. This means that I know exactly what each unit is good for in an online competitive tournament. In a competitive online match in the old SC, my right hand is constantly moving the mouse and clicking a dozen clicks a second while my left hand would be pressing all the keys for short command codes. In other words, SC economy was slow and in a competitive setting I already have trouble keeping up with the pace of the game. And each unit has its strengths and weaknesses. A group of mutas could devastate your opponent's economy while a single templar's storm could destroy that group of mutas (I'm sure some people here knows exactly what I'm talking about while most of you are clueless). And that's the point. Some units easily die in certain situation while not so easily in others.

But in SC2, resource gathering is fast and units die too easily and quickly to be of any use for strategy. What's the point of strategizing your attack if everything dies just as easily and quickly as everything else in every situation?

So, my question to Blizzard is why the fudge did you guys replace all the good units from SC with glass units for SC2? Do you not like good strategy gamers?

The most important feature about the old SC that made it so popular for so long is the ability by the players to create and refine the maps. The best maps were created and are still being created and refined by fans. And each one of these maps was created for a different purpose. For example, if I'm all pumped up I might want to play something fast pace and intense like 3v3zc or any of the diplo or WW maps. But if after a full day of work and all I want to do is relax a little bit before bed time, I might just sign up for slow pace maps like sunk and overmind defense. All of these maps were created by fans and they are the best maps out there.

In SC2, after spending $60 for the first 1/3 portion of the game, you will have to spend more money to buy premium units and premium maps. And you don't actually possess these maps on your computer. They are all stored online. So, it looks like this is a closed system and us players can't actually create any map. In other words, this is beginning to look more like a totaltarian police state than a free enterprising market. In SC, popular maps remained around while unpopular maps simply die. Anyone can put any idea into maps. But with SC2, people are now stuck with what Bnet2 has and they have to pay for these premium units and premium maps.

But your craptacular multiplayer experience doesn't end there. There's no chat room. I'm still trying to figure out how to add a friend. You can't log onto another server. I know a few people from Europe that I'd like to play with. And if I really want to play with them, I'd have to spend another $60 to buy the European version.

SC is 12 years old and people are still playing it across the globe in record numbers. It is the longest lasting most popular strategy online game of all times. If Blizzard hope for SC2 to even come close to the popularity SC has been enjoying in the last 12 years, they should remove all the BS that I'm sure those greedy corporate scammers came up with.

Let us dedicated customers enjoy the game and worry less about all the BS. Like I said, over the last 12 years I bought and re-bought SC many times because I thought it was worth it. I absolutely don't think SC2 1/3 is worth $60. And I absolutely refuse to buy the other two when they come out unless Blizzard remove all the BS safeguards.

That's my opinion on the matter. Take it for what it's worth. I certainly hope you will make the right decision about whether or not to buy this game. If you have money coming out of your ears, then be my guest and buy SC2. If you want to enjoy a well balanced game that will give you hours of entertainment, I highly suggest SC.

SC1 enjoyed not only short term success but also a long term success. It's been 12 years and people are still paying good money to buy the game. It is still one of the most played games of all times.

So far, we know that SC2 enjoyed a very good short term success because many of us were duped into buying it. Whether it will enjoy longevity is something we need to wait to see. But it does look to me like Blizzard just wanted to make a quick buck on this one with no plan for a long term success.

Sunday, October 22, 2000

Dragon Age: Origins PC | 9.5

Dragon Age: Origins could nearly be considered two games, the one for the PC and the one for the Xbox / PS3. Unlike other titles such as Mass Effect, Bioshock or Halo, the computer version of Dragon Age offers a unique and different experience than the consoles. Either version is likely to be considered one of the top ten games of the year as this RPG is more accessible to the masses than titles like Oblivion or Fallout 3 but just as rewarding and challenging to the hard-core RPG player.

On the PC Dragon Age can look and feel similar to Diablo or Neverwinter Knights, but the structure more Mass Effect (another Bioware title) in fact, players of Mass Effect will find that this is very much that game set in a time a 1000 years earlier. The movement for example, for fans of games such as Final Fantasy or The Witcher, it may be off-putting to not have a world to wonder freely, for this game, like Mass Effect, gives you destinations on a map which you travel to while the area is loading, but you can't simply go walking about outside of each area. But, don't let that get you down, because each area will cost you plenty of hours, and hours, and hours. This game is huge.
The PC version gives you the option of a top-down view, the characters become very small and graphically it now looks like Diablo, you have hordes swarming you, you can pause, direct your four players one command at a time and then watch them carry it out. Although some crave this level of control and strategy, others of us who want to finish the 100+ hours of exploring and side quest can find it daunting. The PC does offer an "easy" level for those of us who do our battling in real time, but be warned, only the strong survive and easy is not so easy.

PC or Console, Dragon Age will force you to talk to everyone and finish a vast amount of side quest or suffer defeat after defeat after defeat in battle. Why? Because there's no world map to go out and level-up on! You have to get levels up completing side quest and get better weapons and armor through exploration and selling-off what you find but don't want. You'll also find that you have to talk people into joining the battle or when attacks come your small team will have not-enough-help and little things like clicking on some barrels to find out there's oil in them can later translate into a knight on the battle field you tell about the oil creating a massive fire barrier the enemy has to get through to attack. That's how this game works.

Dragon age also gives you 6 possible origin stories depending on who you play as and how you customize them. The origin stories give you about two hours of different locations and plots before the game congeals into the basic monster that it is. Eventually who you are and where you came from are not that important, you're a Gray Warden and that's that, but early on it does make a difference. Now, just like in The Witcher, what you say and if you can convince people of certain things drastically changes outcomes. You want to save before important conversations as you may need to try over and over until you get the outcome you want. It also changes the way your party sees you, loyalties may falter, comrades may just leave if they don't like you, since some are honest and forthright, others are thieves or murders you've recruited -- and it is possible to completely miss party members along the way and never recruit them! -- so you really need to take a middle-of-the road approach keeping everyone happy some of the time if you want them to all stay.
So PC Vs Console? Well, both if you can. The PC has superior graphics. The XBOX is grainy and weak, the PS3 better but the PC is awesome -- if yours can handle it. My rig is an Intel Core 2 Quad QX9550 @ 2.8 GHZ per core (12 MB L2 cache), 8 Gig DDR2, Radeon HD 5970 Black Edition card in 16X PCI-E Slots and I run the game at 100% graphics at 1400X900 16:10 resolution with 60fps and no drops. The graphics are full, lush and you never see them render, it gives me full distance at full quality all the time.

My PS3 version looks like the PC graphics set at all Medium Quality. Grass is constantly growing before me as I move, the images are sharp and a little flat, not natural and well shaded like the PC, the distance view is never any further than your feet. Considering how amazing Final Fantasy XIII looks, this is a major let-down.

However, playing on a console does have its advantages. Unlike the PC version, the console has no-drop-down view so tactical pausing isn't really desirable, though you can do it. However, it compensates with auto-targeting allowing a faster, if more hack-and-slash, playing model.

In Conclusion, if you are playing more for story and exploration and want battles a bit simplified and less daunting, then the PS3 version is the best, and easiest way to view on a large screen as well. However, the PC offers vastly improved graphics (for the mid to high-end PC -- see my specs above) and a top-down view that pause-and-play gamers will want. There's also the option, if you can afford it, of doing both, I'm playing a game simultaneously on PC and PS3 and the experience is varied enough that I enjoy both -- though I only paid for the PS3 add-ons.
Dragon Age: Origins is a MUST HAVE for RPG gamers, this is up there with the best Final Fantasy, The Witcher, Mass Effect, and for those of us who still remember the NES games, this is like those, on steroids.

Just a few comments. Both the PC and especially the PS3 have unreasonable loading times. Some areas on the PS3 stop and load at every door. On the PC, with 8 gigs of ram, 2 gigs of video ram and a quad-core processor there shouldn't be so much loading either.

I also recommend turning off "persistent gore" as the game is just as violent, except every battle doesn't leave everyone covered in unreasonable splatter until the next battle. I played on the latest patch (v1.04) upon writing this.

Saturday, October 21, 2000

Chrono Cross | 10

RPG fans know that the Final Fantasy series is the best and most successful rpg series of all time, and Final Fantasy VII is arguably the best of the Final Fantasy's. I can't explain it, but when you play FF7, you become part of its world. You just can't stop playing! (Homework? What Homework?)...

First, the gameplay. FF7 takes you to peaceful and exotic towns and cities, mysterious caves and forests, a corporate tower, an eastern palace and pagoda, urban slums, an ancient temple, a rustic farm, even a motorcycle chase and an addicting casino. The game provides countless hours of new challenges (rare materia, chocobo breeding) and pointless fun (snowboarding, gambling) in addition to the main quest. The amount of detail is gorgeous too, especially in the towns. The detailed buildings and room interiors are some of the best video game backgrounds I've seen. They retain the overhead view of old FF's, unlike most of FF8, but they are so life-like. Of course, the characters are memorable, and the plot is intruiguing. There are so many great moments in the game, and the awesome movie sequences which show off heavy-duty computer animation are icing on the cake.

Second, the music. I have always loved the music of the Final Fantasy series (Nubuo Uematsu is a genius). The FF7 sountrack has plenty of incredible songs and a lot of mood-creating or atmospheric tunes. This is different than the FF6 soundtrack which had awesome catchy song after awesome catchy song. However, the FF7 soundtrack contains Uematsu's best work. The Overworld Theme (aka the Main Theme), One-Winged Angel, Interrupted by Fireworks, and Aeris' Theme (and Flowers Blooming in the Church too) are masterpieces. If you ever get to hear the orchestral version of the FFVII Main Theme, you'll see why it is probably my favorite FF song. And some unlikely favorites of mine are the Cosmo Canyon theme, Anxious Heart, the music in Bugenhagan's observatory, and especially the Chocobo Farm music. Nubuo Uematsu is a great composer, and I can see why he is now composing a movie score (a Japanese Anime). Music buffs will undoubtedly appreciate this game.

The only weak points of FF7 are the fact that the game, plot, and music don't get their best until 4 to 10 hours into the game, so some impatient players may miss out on the parts that make the game so good. Also, the plot gets vague and confusing at times, but hey, at least it makes you think.

Basically, this is my favorite rpg. I'll admit it's not for everyone, but any rpg fan who actually hasn't played FF7 will definitely enjoy it.

Friday, October 20, 2000

Titan Quest Gold Edition | 8.0

Just Right
Time Spent:
10 to 20 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Highly addictive"

Works great with a Geforce 8800 GTX, but it'll run on a Geforce 7800 GTX. I particularly liked that you can see the exact armor and weapons on your opponents and, after you killed them. Fighting a hard opponent is rewarding because everything drops for looting.

Titan Quest (and its expansion) has no deep background - except lots of excellent Mythology (correctly told for once).

There is no "official 20-sided dice" getting thrown somewhere in the background - but do you really care? Hack, slash, zap, burn and destroy. Loot, sell, buy and equip. Repeat as needed.

Stable when Iron Lore went bankrupt unlike Hellgate: London for example. It's flagship's fault. I admit that unlike Hellgate London, it wasn't a stupid game purchase. It beat Disciples II in gameplay and it looked better. This game is on par with Dungeon Siege II.

Graphics 8
Gameplay 8.5
Sound 7
Overall 8

Thursday, October 19, 2000

Final Fantasy VII | 10

RPG fans know that the Final Fantasy series is the best and most successful rpg series of all time, and Final Fantasy VII is arguably the best of the Final Fantasy's. I can't explain it, but when you play FF7, you become part of its world. You just can't stop playing! (Homework? What Homework?)...

First, the gameplay. FF7 takes you to peaceful and exotic towns and cities, mysterious caves and forests, a corporate tower, an eastern palace and pagoda, urban slums, an ancient temple, a rustic farm, even a motorcycle chase and an addicting casino. The game provides countless hours of new challenges (rare materia, chocobo breeding) and pointless fun (snowboarding, gambling) in addition to the main quest. The amount of detail is gorgeous too, especially in the towns. The detailed buildings and room interiors are some of the best video game backgrounds I've seen. They retain the overhead view of old FF's, unlike most of FF8, but they are so life-like. Of course, the characters are memorable, and the plot is intruiguing. There are so many great moments in the game, and the awesome movie sequences which show off heavy-duty computer animation are icing on the cake.

Second, the music. I have always loved the music of the Final Fantasy series (Nubuo Uematsu is a genius). The FF7 sountrack has plenty of incredible songs and a lot of mood-creating or atmospheric tunes. This is different than the FF6 soundtrack which had awesome catchy song after awesome catchy song. However, the FF7 soundtrack contains Uematsu's best work. The Overworld Theme (aka the Main Theme), One-Winged Angel, Interrupted by Fireworks, and Aeris' Theme (and Flowers Blooming in the Church too) are masterpieces. If you ever get to hear the orchestral version of the FFVII Main Theme, you'll see why it is probably my favorite FF song. And some unlikely favorites of mine are the Cosmo Canyon theme, Anxious Heart, the music in Bugenhagan's observatory, and especially the Chocobo Farm music. Nubuo Uematsu is a great composer, and I can see why he is now composing a movie score (a Japanese Anime). Music buffs will undoubtedly appreciate this game.

The only weak points of FF7 are the fact that the game, plot, and music don't get their best until 4 to 10 hours into the game, so some impatient players may miss out on the parts that make the game so good. Also, the plot gets vague and confusing at times, but hey, at least it makes you think.

Basically, this is my favorite rpg. I'll admit it's not for everyone, but any rpg fan who actually hasn't played FF7 will definitely enjoy it.

Guild Wars Trilogy | 10

The Orange Box has nothing against it, three quality RPGs for the price of one! I'll start off by saying first that Guild Wars trilogy is the best value of any game out there, period. How can I say that? Simple, It is three incredible and gigantic games in one. When you first start to play Guild Wars you feel like a little kid trying to learn a new language. You know nothing, and there is so much to learn. However, Guild Wars does well at teaching you the basics so you can at least get going and killing monsters and completing missions. Although at times missions are hard to start [when you are not sure where to go to get the next mission] every mission moves you and your character forward in the world. However, the true value of this game is two-fold. First: it contains two other campaigns. When I 1st started with Prophecies I got bored very quickly because your character levels up very slowly. So I moved over to factions which moves very quickly and loved it. Then I tried Nightfall and loved that too. If I had just Prophecies I would be disappointed but with all three you get a chance to create many different kinds of characters [each campaigns gives you a slightly different look] as well as different ways of playing the game. Second, the interaction with thousands of online players and guilds [groups of people to play together] means there are always people to go on missions with or trade with or join together for glory with.

What I love most about this game though is the deep strategy of it. Each profession has many skills and spells that effect each other. The higher your skill is the more powerful your spell. But these spells/skill sets [called builds] allows you almost infinite flexibility with how you want to play this game. Do you want to run in and hack people, or stand back and blow them to bits with your fire? That is just the two most basic, but the beauty of Guild Wars is that there are dozens of other strategies based on hundreds of spells that can be combined with devastating effects and people are constantly coming up with new combinations that you can download and try! Or work to come up with your own unique combination of spells and skills. This coupled with three campaigns (as well as a fourth in Eye of the North) makes for endless hours of re-playability for a very small price. If you want the most gameplay for your money then BUY THIS GAME!!!!

And remember to jot your character's name down on paper and stick it to your tower, because the login requires it. Oh and by the way there are casual 50 year olds on here! Harray! Oh and I like the king and queen outfits in Guild Wars. Great stuff

Played on a great PC:
Core 2 Quad 9550
Radeon HD 5970 BE
6 GB of DDR2
Windows 7
Catalyst 2010 March

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey | 9.0

Overall, I'd give this game a thumbs up, but I have hard time calling it a true sequel to the original masterpiece, and have some mixed feelings about this game. First, it's a new game, with a new lead character, and a whole new style of play. If you liked the original you will probably enjoy this "sequel" as well, but things have changed. The main character is now Zoe Castillo, with an older, jaded April Ryan playing second fiddle. The original April Ryan is absent from this game, and , I have mixed feelings about Zoe taking over the lead role in this series

April Ryan , of the original game, was charming, witty, light hearted and fun. Zoe , a nice girl, is simply more serious and lacks a lot of the levity provided by the original April Ryan. I will, however, say that Zoe's( as well as most actors in this game) voice acting is excellent and she's capable of handling some deeper, more mature subjects convincingly. However, I very much miss the whackiness, wit and youthful optism of April. April was arguably one of the best adventure game characters , to date. She was a milestone that set the standard for a number of other games. Her character has changed dramatically in the latest installment, and the game suffers from that. Zoe, while enjoyable, just doesn't stand out as much.

Kian, the third player has virtually no real involvement in the game, other than a handful of conversations, and simple combat sequences there's nothing about him that couldn't have been made into a cinema. Perhaps he may have a role in a following sequel, but not in this game. The story, like the lead character has also made a distinct change.

The story line is faster moving, more intense, and more sci-fi oriented than the original. It's a good , engrossing, story line, but it lacks the wild creativity and fantasy of the original. It has a distinctly diffferent feel or "flavor". The overall magic, awe, wonder,whacky humor and originality of the first installlment are just missing. Again, not a bad storyline, but not what made the original game a classic. The gratutious profanity and innuedoes have been toned down quite a bit, but it's still an adult, or "mature audience game"

This game is *NOT* for young children. There are a curse words, sexual situations and innuendos, some mature subject matter, and violence, as well as references to drugs and alcohol. Nothing over-the-top, but it's not some G rated title.

The controls in this game largely detract from the overall experience. Playing Dreamfall is more like playing a 1st person shooter, than a point and click adventure game. Navigating cramped areas can be a nuisance. It took me several hours of play before the controls became second nature, so to speak. I enjoyed the simple beauty of point-click the original offered, much more. Secondly, maybe it's my imagination, but this game doesn't seem to have quite the level of diversity in scenary the original did. The frequent load sequences also tended to detract fromt the overall experience.

Thinking and problem solving have definitely taken a back seat to eye-candy cinemas, simplistic combat, and puzzles generally tend to be "dumbed down" to accommodate individuals who don't enjoy games with any thinking involved. I wouldn't go so far as to call this game an interactive movie. It has puzzles. They are there. They're just much simpler, and scarcer than puzzles typical of earlier adventure games. Frequently another character in the game will tell you where to go and what to do next, making the game a bit too easy. This gamealso has numerous fight, flight and flee sequences. Arcade sequences are hardly new to adventure gaming, but in Dreamfall they're frequent and water down the game's status as an adventure, puzzle based game. The saving grace is that the story progresses quickly, and will keep most people interested in just what the heck is gonna happen next. Secondly, very few people will spend hours pixel hunting for a simple clue, or silly oversight. Personally, I'd rather see the adventure game market watered down, and and still alive, rather than die off completely. If that means putting up with silly combat scenes or excessive cinemas, that's fine with me.

This game has no real ending, just a place where the game stops, and the remaining chapters were written simply to whet your appetite for a sequel. I was upset when I saw the ending of this game. It was sad, disturbing and abrupt. It just left so many unanswered questions, with many sad possibilities waiting in future installments. The ending was much like "cliff hanger" season finale to a television series. It was meant to to tease the player, not provide resolution. That fact shouldn't be a problem if there's a sequel, but due to lack of interest in adventure games, there may not be another installment of this game.

Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Sid Meier's Civilization V | 9.0

I have played Civilization from Version 1 actually its the first game I owned for my first PC. I am was an avid Panzergeneral + Empire + Strategic Command + Alpha Centauri player. If you know these games I believe you will like Civilization 5 too.

Civilization 5 brings back the actual thinking. The problem of the previous Civilizations was that you could abuse easily the game system, put together a stack of units and go rampage build all wonders and feel great about yourself. It was fun but never hard.

What has changed? You will notice that it takes now considerably longer to build buildings and the maintenance costs are much higher. You will face the problem that you cant anymore build every building in every city as easily. This gets a yeah from me because the cities develop much more naturally than before and you have to choose what to build.

Happiness works all over empire. Its not just a local problem if your population is unhappy its now global problem you cant ignore anymore they are now **** about Ivory and Whale meat etc. and a s good ruler you have to think how to get this stuff.

Best for an old Panzergeneral player. When you fight you have to plan and bring enough units. As others are already complaining its not just as simple bringing the biggest and badest stack of units but you hav to deploy them and even then you will loose some taking a city. For me its the best part of the game actually. Wars are not any longer putting together a badass stack and march over to next enemies city its fight over positions between your kingdoms, computing working crews / settlers , holding hills ambush infantry on plains with your cavalry. Ships are actually useful now too. Surprise ;) Even in your first game the computer adviser tells you that you need now usually up to four units to storm a city . So sadly no rush conquest anymore.

Graphics of the game are clean and fine . Interface works for me. I like the new policy system focusing your civilization in a certain direction.

Some small issues and hopefully they will be addressed in a patch soon.

- diplomacy its kind of to simple. War , peace trade, give some gifts (Neutral states). what I like you cant tech trade (give me wheel I give you pottery) anymore but make research contracts.

- I think there are some game balance issues yet: 1st. The concept of "great people" can be easily abused to get to quickly advances. For example : A science great man can be sacrificed to get a new technology, techs differ greatly in research time. You can easily create a slingshot scenario. Get great people, get techs that others cant reach soon, get wonder which gets you great people rinse repeat.

2nd. Wonders are to cheap. A water wheel costs more than to build a wonder, adds to the problem mentioned above.

3rd. I think its to easy to get a cultural victory you can move to quickly through your social policies.

4th. Some people mentioned that is possible that a unit get multiple free tech upgrades through ancient ruins leading to scenarios that riflemen roam the ancient world. Didnt happen to me up to now but has to be patched if its really possible.

5th Multiplayer well needs some serious work. Stability , the option to turn on animations, Hotseat option

6th. The AI needs some work too: building/using ships, sometimes its a warmonger then a surrender monkey, needs to take more seriously important resources as Iron etc., needs to work on its tactical skills

Some minor quibbles:

-One thing regarding user interface I cant find an option to observe units which move under "auto explore" running around in far away lands. Its kind of hard to find your units again.
- I would like to have some more automatic options. for example for archers and towns to automatically shoot an enemy unit coming into range.
- I would like to have my wonder movies back!!!!
- I would like to see ALL my building on the map or in the city screen

Still overall its for me the best CIV yet. Just get the free DEMO and the free manual, print the keyboard shortcuts (make the game much faster) and have FUN. There are quite alot of things I would love to have been taken care off. Nevertheless its game basics make it for me the best initial CIV release yet and I am looking forward to play friends in an LAN party soon. All and all, wait 2 months before owning this one, when they reintegrate features from Civ 4 such as Religion and fix all the crash bugs. Like old Diablo 2, this game is virtually unplayable without patch and that is just to bring up the gameplay screen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Eternal Sonata PS3 | 8.5

The battle system is great; it gets increasingly difficult, so you are always learning. You have regular attacks and special attacks. Both use an action gauge to predict how many attacks you will have. Special attacks are measured by how much time they take to complete. So lets say the action gauge is 10 seconds and a special attack takes 2.7 seconds; therefore, you have a rough idea how many times you can use that attack. Movement also used the action gauge, as well as using items.

As the game progresses, character levels are not the only levels which increases. You also have "party level" which will increase to a max of six. I'm on level 4 right now, indicating where I am in the game at the moment. As you increase in "party level" the action gauge will decrease faster and faster and continue to decrease even while you stop. If I remember correctly, the first two "party levels" stops the action gauge when you are just standing still. So as the "party level" increases the battle system becomes more difficult. I don't like this personally, but it keeps things interesting I guess. The last "party level" is annoying I've heard. The attack button will disappear and reappear on the screen and you will have to press them in order to attack. So you won't just be sitting there mindlessly pressing buttons. You'll have to pay attention.

To defend you will have to press the circle button when you are prompted by the "defend" icon which shows up during battle. If you press it at the correct time, you will defend. Don't worry, it's much easier that it sounds. Each monster will have a certain rhythm which isn't that hard to figure out at all. You will also be able to defend against boss attacks as well. Defending drastically reduces the amount of damage you receive. Later, at "party level" 4, you will be able to counterattack only regular attack. The "counterattack" icon will also appear just like the "defend" icon.

Lastly, there are "echos". Using regular attacks will build up "echos", which drastically increases the power of "special attacks". So you have two characters, or one, use regular attacks to build up "echos" and the third character will use their special attack and unleash massive damage. Later, at "party level" 4, you will also be able to use "harmony chains" which you will get when you build up at least 24 "echos".

The monsters can be repetitive. For a PS3 game, I expected better graphics, but in all fairness, its a relatively old game. I think the player should get an option of both a battle camera and field camera. When in battle you get a general overview of the battle field and you sort of have to remember where the monsters are, because if you do too much running around, your action gauge will run out and your turn will just end. No attacks. No items. A camera would have helped. But I guess this ALSO adds to the difficulty of the battle system. In the field, the camera is way too high up. I've missed chests because of this.

You will notice as you play, that the game is very linear. You are in a dungeon, you solve the little puzzles, then you have long cut scenes. You are in a dungeon, then long cut scenes. After being in the dungeons, you long for the cut scenes...lol. Leveling up can take a while, but if you fight everything you come across, you don't have to spend hours leveling up. When you leave a room and reenter while solving puzzles (and the puzzles are mainly around how to get chests), the monsters will reset, if you fight all of them again, instead of avoiding them, you won't have to spend hours leveling up, which is why, when you're finished with the dungeons, you long for the cut scenes...lol. For me its a much needed break.

Now for the plot. The plot isn't unheard of. But there are some good twists. It doesn't live up to the twists and turns of a Final Fantasy game, but good nonetheless. A general gist: two nations might be going to war; there is an underground group fighting against what is considered the "evil" nation; the "good" nation doesn't want to go to war; and the "evil" nation is raising an "evil" army...lol...to fight the good nation. There is a twist about how this army is being raised.

You get a choice of Japanese or English voice acting. I chose the Japanese voices because it sounds more authentic. You also get to choose between English and French text. I have Japanese voice and English text/subs.

If you are an RPG player, the characters are not ones you haven't come across before. The dumb blond girl, who is the main female, and wants world peace and speaks with a whisper. The cocky male main character, who like the dumb blond girl; his little brother; the kind of stern and cold female characters; and the joker, who is a girl.

I must say though that in all my years of playing RPGs, I've never come across such stupid characters in my life. The characters are built to be so innocent it seems, even for the brothers who are like Robin Hood characters. They're a bit preachy, especially the dumb blond. They don't understand, or it takes them a long time, to come to the correct answer, even though the answer is staring them in the face. This can be SO ANNOYING. And it seems like when they come to the correct answer, they don't believe it and have to meet the "evil" people to double check and make sure. The game is set up where the two nations are distinct. The "good" nation is in snow, the prince and princess where white, and everything seems to be about life and green stuff. The "evil" nation is darker. The duke (if I remember correctly) wears black. All his minions are evil. Yet, the main characters, still look for "good" in all people, even though the game is set up in such a way where you, the player, knows that there are "good" people and "evil" people in the game world. Very simplistic. It seems as if the script writers us the characters to create doubt about the clear distinction between "good" and "evil" in the game, which I think they fail at.

Chopin life is sort of the compass for the game. You get bits of how his life progresses. There is an interesting inquiry into what denotes reality. I love learning more about Chopin. During the game you can find "score pieces", which come in pairs. You will meet NPCs in the game with whom you can play music with. If the pieces matches up, you will get items.

Should you buy this game? Yes. But it's by no means an emphatic yes. Overall, it's a good game so far. I don't regret buying it. In fact, I'm glad I did. I've wanted it for a while. Maybe, my expectations were too high. I've wanted it since it came out on the XBox 360.

Syberia PC | 8.5

Syberia is more of a cinematic game than an interactive game. Adventure gamers will love this one, it truly brings the genre into perspective in a time where it is dying. It is a beautiful setting, a beautiful story and a present atmosphere throughout. This kind of storytelling and experience is found nowhere else but in the adventure game. Rarely do any action filled FPSs or overhead strategy titles achieve this. Syberia passes, with flying colors.

As mentioned the story and setting is exceptional. There are times where you might have to stretch credibility but for the most part it is very involving and delightful to watch. The game is a 3rd person adventure rather than a 1st person adventure. Therefore you feel more as if you are controlling the character rather than being the character, which most 1st person adventures fulfill. This is also in part due to Kate Walker's personality which is played up a lot through the game, through things like phone calls. I found these phone calls and melodrama a bit unnecessary, but it hardly pulls you away from the game too much.

The puzzles are easy for an average adventure gamer. A newbie to the genre or just a casual fan picking up the game because it looks good won't find it as hard as certain other games in this group. There are moments which are tedious, and it isn't helped by the fact that walking from place to place again and again isn't that fun in Syberia's locations because for the most part they are static with some atmospheric movement, and it feels like a burden. However, when first moving around the locations you will feel very amazed at the setting. There are also a lot of amusing moments between characters and Kate Walker.

In conclusion, I would reccomend Syberia to pretty much anyone. It's not too hard, and not too easy, the story is very well done, as is the setting and atmosphere. It brings the adventure genre another gem to add to it's collection. Highly reccomended with 4 stars.

Monday, October 16, 2000

Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War | 9.5

Awesome graphics, awesome models, awesome game! I've been a fan of PC flight simulators, especially the Jane's series for a very long time and never thought a decent flight sim could be made for a console until the Ace Combat series came about.
When first loading up the game, I was treated to a magnificent opening movie that told a wonderful story of what was turning into a bleak future for the world. The story set the stage for the campaign mode of the game, which has thus far been pure eye candy! Namco managed to improve greatly over AC4 with Ace Combat 5. i have to say that the game itself has wonderful graphics and is much more engaging than the previous titles. The missions are challenging and fun and most are varied enough.

From 5,000 feet, the textures of the ground and water look almost real, and the way the shadows and light play off of the aircraft in 3rd Person flight mode and really beautiful. The only thing that could have been improved on where the explosion effects, which were not realistic looking for my taste. I expected to see fireballs and falling debris, but did not see any of that. Sinking ships during the naval battles would have been nice as well.

Being a Navy veteran, the game reminded me of combat drills where we would receive briefings about fictional countries we were at war with and hand to protect ourselves against. The briefing and debriefing portions of the game brings back many fond memories for me and are as much joy to watch as it is a joy to play this game.

If you are a military aviation enthusiast and love flight sims, you have to have this game!

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin | 9.0

Just Right
Time Spent:
10 to 20 Hours
The Bottom Line:

you will love this. just like symphony of the night & dawn of sorrow (and apparently aria of sorrow but never played that) -- it's a blast. lots of sidequests & secrets, it uses the same levelling up system & map systems of the others, but there are warp rooms to different areas, too. so while the main castle isn't as big as in dawn of sorrow, the game area is actually bigger. totally awesome purchase for ds

If you've never played a Castlevania game before, they revolve around exploration of a Dracula's castle. You play as Jonathan and Charlotte as a type of co-op. I'm a huge fan of Castlevania and this one does not disappoint. It has some interesting aspects that are new to the series. The title, "Portrait of Ruin," is used because although the story takes place in Dracula's castle, there are many portraits that take you into little mini zones you must clear. I felt like this added a unique aspect to the game and allowed the developers to change up the scenery instead of the typical castle. You also control 2 different characters, which is new. This aspect is ok, I felt like I could do without it.

Sunday, October 15, 2000

Guild Wars: Eye of the North | 8.0

As a gamer who has loved Guild Wars but who, honestly, is not very good at it, I thought I would throw my voice in the mix: GWEN is a great continuation of the GW legacy.

I agree with other reviewers that the new mini-games (Asuran Polymock and Norn Fighting Tournament) are lame, the Hall of Monuments is not nearly as cool as it could be (although it has improved significantly since release), and some of the dungeons are rugged (SOMETIMES on par with the elite dungeons in the three campaigns, but often not).

However, it is great at doing what GW does best: fun fantasy/adventure role-playing in a rich and vibrant world. If you liked the others, you'll like this (if not, then no). What's nice and new is that the story branches into the Jurassic/meso-American Asuran line, the forested Char line, and the snowy Norn line. This way, you always have something fun to go do, even if you get stuck or bored with the scenery or whatever.

Despite all the complaints about reskinned armor... the new stuff generally looks really good and gives you a way to reward characters who have fought long and hard.

The new skills add a great dimension to gameplay, even in the other campaigns. The heroes are super-fun. Most importantly, whether you like to explore, collect, achieve, or whatever, it broadens the horizons for your characters in both serious and light-hearted ways.

The 1up review on this site is totally unfair: There was a very satisfying amount of content for me just in the main story-arc... not including all the great side quests. I've done plenty of dungeons and most of the quests by myself or with one other person... and I'm not any uber-elite player. It is generally challenging on par with the later levels of the other campaigns, but I did not get nearly as stuck and frustrated as I did at the campaigns' missions. And to call the Norn "obviously Conan-inspired" as if all of GW isn't... "Thank you, Captain Obvious." GW is a great extender of the classic sword & sorcery genre... That's why it WORKS!

GWEN is the next step for people who are having fun playing GW, and it continues the legacy of awesome.

Dark Souls (PS3) 9.5

Well, these are exaggerations on both counts but... you get the idea.

I do not consider myself a hard core gamer but there were a few grand games that I played hard and long on the PS3: Oblivion, Fallout, Grand Turismo, Demon's Souls. Of these, Demon's Souls was the only Platinum I've ever earned and it clocks at over 500 hours of pure fear, strong anxiety and intense frustration punctuated by brief moments of pride and joy brought by the hard earned sweet victories.

I started talking about Demon's Souls because to us, PS3 gamers, Dark Souls is NOT the first coming of unspeakable terror onto our consoles. Dark Souls is the SECOND coming. And what a visitation this promises to be :)

Okay, here it is, after the first few hours. I am going to post updates (not spoilers) as I progress through the game.


Deomon's Souls has many, never-seen-before, amazing innovations. We hoped and we expected to see most of them again on 'chapter two' and Dark Souls does not disappoint even though Dark's seems to be a Universe unrelated to Demon's. It's not even a parallel Universe (I like to think of parallel Universes as those in which the other fellow Dark Souls players exist - if running around as a hollowed-out soul you can call 'existence'. It's a different world but a lot works in seemingly familiar ways.

Here's what I would call the Demon's heritage:

- One-save only. And this is a BIG thing because the game saves itself every couple of seconds. Once you get hurt or you hurt someone you didn't mean to you can't go back to the previous save because there's no such thing. Unless you have one hand on the power cord ready to pull it, everything you do has consequences and you can't go back and try again. Be VERY careful when you talk to them merchants or blacksmiths because one unintended slap and they will never deal with you again.
- Human vs. Soul form. Can't be invaded by other players while in Soul (Hollow) form. As a Human you can invade other words, help others, seek help.
- Classes. You pick yours from 10. Not exactly the same as in Demon's though.
- Stats. Again, 10 different categories, some differently named, some totally new like 'humanity' and 'attunement'.
- The ability to seek help and to help others. I believe that you can have up to 3 others helping.
- The Stones. They are of different colors but they have uses not unlike the Demon's stones, possibly more: to seek help, to leave messages, to invade.
- Souls as currency of the land and the price price you must pay to level up. And you lose them all every time you die so... use them (buy, uplevel) before you lose them.
- Every time you rest all non-boss enemies respawn.
- The ability to play nasty and invade other players' worlds.
- Blood stains. You can see how others died.
- Second (and ONLY second) chance. You can recover lost souls if you can touch your own blood stain before you die again.
- Messages. Can leave messages but don't expect to be able to type away detailed clues. You pick your message from a pre-approved list.
- Incredibly precise combat. Each class of weapons acts differently and you can see/feel the difference between hitting flesh, bone or armor.
- Uchigatanas!!! Need I say more? These are by far the coolest katanas you'll ever swing in any game and probably the best you can get through this one at least through mid-game. Demon Souls most terrifying black phantoms (invading players) where the 2-Uchigatana dudes. Most, possibly all of the Demon's weapons can be found in Dark: Claymores, Halberds, Clubs, Axes, Estocs and so forth.
- Practice makes perfect. Like Demon's Souls, this is a struggle for perfection because in most instances only perfect or near-perfect attacks and defenses will save you from yet another horrific death.
- Continues the Deomon's tradition of no difficulty levels. Like its predecessor, there's only one difficulty level on Dark and that's 'very easy', as in 'very easy to get yourself killed'. Seriously, for anyone who played Demon's, Dark feels like the second or third playthrough only you start at a low level, have no weapons or armor and find yourself in completely unfamiliar territory now so it takes a little bit of dying, observing and experimenting before your learn the ropes.

THE DELTAS (new and never seen before)

This, I'm sure, is going to be a growing list and I'm going to update it as I progress into the game. If what's going on in this game can be called 'progress'.

- One-world design. This appear to be a huge world but gates, bridges and passes are all well guarded so be prepared to shed a lot of blood and die a lot to earn your right of passage. Unlike Demon's which had a hub that was the only connection between the several separate 'worlds', Dark's world regrions are very much interconnected and much of the fun and mystery is your gradually discovering and unlocking sometimes secret doors and passages.
- The healing system. The role of 'grasses' is drastically reduced (there are some mosses that you can still use to cure ailments) but Dark doesn't make it as easy when it comes to your ability to recover health. It's no longer near-unlimited.
- The Covenants. Each of the 9 will open new play modes and, as always, every action brings about consequences. Joining may appear an easy decision but separation can be painful and costly.
- Pyromancy as a THIRD class of magic, joining sorcery and miracles. For anyone who likes fire and explosions... it's awesome.
- The Gifts. Interestingly some seem to have no effect while others such as the Magic Key you get if you pick the class of Thief is quite useful.
- Danger times 2. It may be just because I'm a little rusty playing Souls or because I know Demon's so well now it's like a walk in the park but Dark appears to be a lot harder. But... we play, we learn. We shall see :)
- More color. Can't imagine Demon's with colors but in this world the occasional bright splashes blend well and don't subtract from the feeling of danger.
- No Luck. You COULD get lucky in Deomon's Souls but that's no longer the case. That particular stat has disappeared, replaced by your ability to hold 'humanities' which you lose every time you die.
- Sweet revenge. One of the covenants mission is to hunt down and kill those nasty dark phantom bullies.
- And, of course, Dark Souls does away with all the gentleness and hand-holding occasionally found in Demon's. It really does. Remember that nice Russian lady in the Nexus that you must kill if you want your Platinum? Gone! My first impressions: don't trust anyone because everybody seems to be either evil or insane.


Not quite sure what's expected of me yet and I don't think I should spoil anyone's fun anyway. There is a prologue, of course and, clearly, terrible things happened that caused this not to be a happy world. Need to investigate some more but I'm not sure who's to be trusted, who should be used, who can be a friend.


If Amazon's 5 stars stands for 'I love it', what would be the star count for "I love it, I fear it and, 80 hours into the game I'm obsessed by it"? Well... 5's the limit :). I expect to spend hundreds of hours playing this game and, hopefully, with a little or maybe a lot of help from my friends and a lot of priceless advice from some of the game-focused sites - I will name my favorites on a comment to this review.

Saturday, October 14, 2000

Xenogears | 10

I don't know how to say it, but some other reviewers have already said it. This game is DA BOMB!!! The story is the best!!! The characters are memorable!!! Want me to go on?!

Well anyhow, I can probably give you an idea on how the game starts.

Alright, the game starts with an anime CG movie(pretty dang good looking, but the dubbing is a little off, but still pretty good)showing people on a transport ship trying to cease the problem they're having, then after, we are shown a young man named Fei Fong Wong in a village, Lahan Village, painting a picture. He's having fun and decides to take a break. He goes out to hear news of his two friends, Alice and Timothy are getting married, and he decides to help out, but Alices little brother, Dan, doesn't like Timothy all that much and he doesn't want him to marry her. After going to see Alice, she asks Fei to go up to the village doctor on the mountain to get something. After this, Fei decides to stay for dinner because the doc's wifes cooking is the best. As he is going home, machines suddenly start flying into the village and chaos is breaking out. Citan helps out Fei by going to the village and helping out the injured. When they get there, they run into Timothy and Alice. They tell them to get out and to safety. They do that, but then, Timothy comes back for something and is in the line of fire of one of the machines. Will Timothy die from being in the line of fire in the middle of all the chaos? Find out by playing the most amazing RPG ever, Xenogears.

bI must get out to all you RPG gamers that this game may not be for newer players of its genre, but it's rather for more oldschool, devoted RPG players to whom graphics are not an issue. Yes, the graphics in Xenogears are lacking, but its deeply intricate and well written story is more than enough to compensate. I would have to say that the storyline for Xenogears has piqued my interest more than any other game I had ever played, RPG or otherwise, and I really commend the Xenogears team for its great work. Another reason this game may not be for all players is also because of its story. The story behind the game is a little sacreligious in many ways, as it tends to put a little backspin into your beliefs in "God" and the origin of the human race.

Aside from the storyline, the battle style is also very innovative, even if it is turn-based and based on the all-too-familiar level-up system. Its combo attack style is a nice change in the battle system that I've not seen in any other game, not even Xenosaga, the game's rumored prequal. The battle graphics seem lacking as well, and I believe that is because it's based off the larger scale of graphics used for the gears, hence, the granular appearance of the characters. However, this is an old game, and it isn't expected to have top-of-the-line graphics.

It's very serious and complicated with many adult themes (think Neon Genesis Eva), so many that it was almost never released into the United States. Nevertheless, the story is very awe-inspiring and very well thought out.

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne | 8.5

I have played pretty much EVERY RPG for PS2... this games trumps most of them. (I am partial to the Artificial Intelligence system in Final Fantasy 12) Nocturne is a very in depth game. You go through the game defeating demons after the destruction of Tokyo. However, you also get the demons to join your party, which is pretty simple to do, and then fuse them together to create more powerful demons to fight by your side. Most RPG's you get 5-8 characters who fight with you throughout the game. Nocturne gives you hundreds, literally. It's always new, always exciting because your new demons all have different abilities and levels of strength and magic. It NEVER gets old and dull. The story is OK, but this game is really not all about the story. The game is also HUGE. There are tons of levels and different areas to go through.

I think the main thing that makes this game harder is the fusions. Not having the right spell in this game can be your down fall, and if you fuse you only monster with a healing spell, you're screwed. I'm used to the fusions because of the Persona franchise. Granted, they aren't exactly the same when it comes to the monsters but the same principle is there.

Even for seasoned vets, I'd recommend you at least look at an online guide if you get stuck or frustrated. This game doesn't have many clues when it comes to what to do next at times. If you take a break from this game, prepare for a lot of wandering until you remember what you have to do next. The pros to this game is the challenge. You can depend on having to look for weakenesses when it comes to bosses. The story line is great. I'm about 20 hrs in. Basically you control the destiny of the world. Your actions will result in the various endings in this game. The graphics aren't anything special but they were good for a early ps2 game. The music is pretty good, all of it is fitting for the game.

Metroid Prime Trilogy | 9.5

I played the first Metroid prime (~80%) on game cube and loved it. Back then I gave up on this game as I could not solve the last riddle and was not familiar with online strategy guides.

Since Prime series came out as Trilogy on Wii, I feld obligated to give it another shot and here is what I experienced.


-BLOW JOUR MIND: The environment, the scene and the experience you get through them is just amazing. I still can't believe that they created such effect using gamecube technology. JUST MARVELOUS.
-Gadgets: Different beams, missles upgrades, suit upgrades, double jump, powerbomb, combo attack, morphball upgrades, grapple beam. JUST AMAZING.
-Story: This is what I like. For those who don't care much about the story, you don't have to read it all. But to those who do, everything will be explained in the FINEST DETAILS. VERY WELL DONE.
-Bosses: Again very creative. The final battles are probably THE MOST CREATIVE in the trilogy.
-Length: Areas are fairly huge. If you go after majority of items which is highly recommended as final bosses can be tough, it will take you a while to explore them all.
-Bonuses: More you explore, more endings you get to uncover. EXTREMELY REWARDING EXPERIENCE.

- LOTS OF BACKTRACKING: Without a guide, this can be really irritating. Even with a guide, I hated how you have to back track a lot of areas in the ending.
- Annoying double jumps: Some upgrades require morphball double jumps. Failure to do so will punish you (harshly at times.
-Too many words: Story is really good, but I wish they had more cut scenes.


-COOLER THAN THE 1st GAME: The environment, the sceneries, the characters and theme are darker than the first game (and by that I don't mean they are black in color, they are more shady, the tone is a bit more serious).
-Gadgets: Cooler beams, awesome visors (actually useful in this one), missles, powerbombs, grapplebeam, PLUS MOST IMPORTANTLY YOU HAVE SCREW ATTACK. JUST LOVE IT.
-Bosses: While final fight was not as great as 1st (Still pretty good), the rest of the bosses are THE BEST IN THE TRILOGY. I mean the first time you encounter dark Samus is just EPIC. And other bosses especially in the dark world are very fun.
-Length: Greater thanks to dark world
-Bonuses: same is first

-Dark world is a wonderful creation, but as you lose health while playing in it causes constant stress in your mind and can make the experience torturous in the beginning. Don't worry, towards the end you get upgrades to counter it.


-A WHOLE DIFFERENT VIBE: While the first two game are mainly solo mission where don't get to interact that much with other living beings, this one is completely opposite. This game has quite a few interesting characters with awesome abilities (Unfortunately not playable though)
-Gadgets: Again newer beams and other goodies.
-Hypermode: LOVE IT. New and most welcome addition. Don't want to spoil it for you.
-YOUR SHIP IS ACTUALLY USEFUL: HA HA play to find it out.
-Very Creative use of Wii mote: Yup. You will be using wii mote in different ways to perform different actions. I liked it.
-Bosses: They are good. I like their abilities more than the fights themselves. Like in 1st and 2nd, you can't just shoot them to kill them, you'll have to use your nugget.
-Length: Only slightly longer than the first (definitely shorter than second)
-Bonuses: Same as first two (Love the 100% ending though.

-Same as first two, LOTS OF BACKTRACKING, ANNOYING DOUBLE JUMPS (most annoying of trilogy, horrible), TOO MANY WORDS
-Not that Metroid games are that adult rated
-Easy to miss USING AN UPGRADE: Upgrades in this game are very useful, but if you are not reading their details, you won't utilize them fully making the experience dull. HIGHLY RECOMMEND USE GUIDE OR EXPLORE YOUR ABILITIES A LOT

Common Conclusion:
-Even with Wii's inferior technology, the graphics are updated (look pretty good on my HDTV).
-The use of wii mote makes shooting and other actions easier and fun (While making few actions difficult and annoying).
-As for the trilogy itself, it's pretty amazing. While all three games do have some setbacks as described above PROS OUTWEIGHS CONS BY A HUGE MARGIN SO BUT IT AND HAVE ~50-80 HOURS WORTH OF BLAST.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii | 9

Classic gamers will know what I'm talking about. This game is good, but borrows heavily from Super Mario Bros 3 for the NES. While not quite a "REMAKE", it shares most of the basic rules - map world where you go from level to level in a branching path, bonus mushroom houses where you can play a minigame in order to collect powerups that you can use before levels, etc.

While this is all good fun because Mario 3 was my all-time favorite in the series, New Super Mario Bros kind of dumbs it down a bit. There are about 3 new powerups (Propeller Head, Ice Fireballs and Penguin Suit), but are missing about 5 (or more) of the ones in Mario Bros 3 (Tanooki Suit, Frog Suit, Hammer Brother Suit, Raccoon Tail, P-Wings). While I'm sure this was to "mix things up", they should have thought bigger than smaller. Another thing that was downsized was the maps. Now there are about 4 or so levels before each castle - in Mario Bros 3 there were often 6 to 8 levels before each castle - meaning less levels and less gameplay in each world. In short, they updated the graphics, took out half the powerups, added a quarter more of new powerups, cut down the length of each world, and added 4 player multiplayer.

The biggest difference between New Super Mario Bros and Mario Bros 3 is that in this game you can have up to 4 people play simultaneously. This is probably the best and worst part of the game. Don't get me wrong, I love multiplayer, but the implementation of this multiplayer has its annoyances. First of all, you can't walk through eachother and you can bounce on eachother's heads. Now this may sound innocuous enough, but believe me, you will commit dozens of unintentional murders of your co-op buddies when hopping from platform to platform. I had a big share of this problem even with only two players - so you can imagine what it would be like with 4!

That is not to say this is a bad game - far from it. It is simply a "remix" of Mario Bros 3 with a mixed-results addition of multiplayer. The Mario Bros 3 formula remains great still to this day, but I feel that this game really shows how much Nintendo is relying on their old game ideas and nostalgia to market and sell their new games. I would have liked to see a game that took this formula to a new level, but this game seems like its on par and actually behind gameplay-wise, which, if released 20 years ago, I would have loved it. But we're talking two decades after Mario Bros 3! That's the time difference between Pac-Man and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare!

Again, I liked this game. I just wanted to point out the faults under the hood for the gamers who have been around the block a bit. A good buy, but I'd wait until you can get it for a bit less than $50.

gameplay 9
sound 7.5
graphics 8
replay value 10
overall 9

Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Forza Motorsport 3 | 9.5

This is by far the most technically accurate driving simulator I've played. I bought it primarily for the chance to drive the Circuit de la Sarthe and drive the Audi R10 TDI and although I've not yet gotten the R10 yet, the Circuit de la Sarthe is pure virtual bliss! The single player experience is one of the best I've played of any racing game and the seasons and tracks and available cars make for hours of fun.

The variety of vehicles is varied enough to keep anyone engaged and the ability to nearly infinitely customize not only the mechanics of the cars but the actual set ups as well in terms of suspension tuning, spoilers, tires, etc. In addition, the in-depth ability to customize the looks of the cars is awesome!

But, it's not all fun and games on the Circuit de la Sarthe... I am EXTREMELY annoyed with the lack of ability to create one car design/paint scheme and apply it to multiple cars. This is disastrous! Why spend all the time to create a great design for a car and only be able to apply it to that specific car???? Ideally, you could create a great paint/graphics scheme and apply to any car... it might need to be tweaked for that car but at least the basics would be there. The second disappointment is the multiplayer experience... you cannot play this with a friend on your own xbox... the only multiplayer is via xbox live which, in my opinion, is great for Halo, GRAW, etc., but mediocre at best for racing games...

If not for the disappointing multiplayer and the car design limitations I would absolutely have rated this a 5.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 | 10

Since plenty of reviews have preached this game's virtues since it's release, I want to focus on one thing in particular which has been underplayed in my opinion. The two player mode in Galaxy 2 is great, in the right circumstances. For two gamers, I can see how it isn't that much fun. But for a gamer and non-gamer, or gamer and young child, the two player mode is a blast and adds so much to the game. My girlfriend and I play the game together. I bought it as a single player game, planning on playing it alone. I bought New Super Mario Bros Wii around the same time so that we'd have something to play together. We've played some of that, but since she's a casual gamer, she gets frustrated by dying in the game.

We tried the two player mode in Galaxy 2 out of curiosity. During the first level, I didn't really think she'd like it, there didn't seem to be that much to do and it didn't seem to be all that helpful to have a second player. But she did like it so we continued playing and the more we did, the more fun she had with it. And not only that, but having her playing really is helpful. I'm a decent but not great gamer and Galaxy 2 is definitely more difficult than the first Galaxy game. There were levels I definitely would have struggled with had she not been playing. She enjoys helping and doesn't have to worry about getting frustrated by dying.

The second player can do a few things.
1. Pointing at the screen and collecting star bits, in the same manner as player one would. This is helpful because it means I can focus more on the platforming and not as much the collection aspect, which again is helpful on harder levels.
2. Pointing at the screen and pressing A to collect coins, 1 up mushrooms, etc. This can be really useful to collect things in areas that are not easy to get to. Also very useful on stages with coins that require speed collecting, which we find very fun.
3. Pointing at enemies and pressing A to freeze or kill enemies. She can either kill smaller enemies or freeze bigger ones in place, like chain chomps or firebars. Very useful on difficult levels, I'd have trouble avoiding all of the enemies without her help.

Again, the two player mode isn't meant for two gamers but it's a great fit for one gamer and one non/semi-gamer. The game as a whole is a blast and all Wii owners should play it.

graphics 10
gameplay 10
sound 10
replay 10

Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Tales of Vesperia | 8.5

I am writing a review about a game that I believe is truly exceptional.

Let me start off by saying that if you have been looking for an old-school role-playing game, this is the game for you. This game features boss battles, monster battles, spells, dungeon crawls, small towns complete with an inn, a tavern, a general store that sells equipment and towns people with plenty of random things to say that add nothing to the story what-so-ever. Most of all, this game features a compelling story and a lot of dialogue for your reading pleasure. In My opinion, this is the best RPG I have played since Lunar series (PS1 and Sega CD) and Final Fantasy 7. I believe that these days, the only company people trust with RPGs is Squaresoft's Final Fantasy series and while I too play those games for a good story, a lot of times, I feel bogged down with all of the customization that must be done in order to truly experience the game. If you are like that, rejoice, for in this game, while there is some customization that can be done, it is not needed to fully enjoy the game. Just continuously equip the armor and weapons in the next town and be on your way, just like it used to be.

If you're looking for an original story, you won't really find that here. This is the classic story of the troublesome angsty youth with a chip on his shoulder and no known job or schooling who starts doing a remedial task that takes him away on a journey against a seemingly invincible foe. And what journey would be complete without a clueless love interest and band of comrades to help the main character discover his personal identity? Even though this story has been done to death, to me, this story was a breath of fresh air compared to the complex tales that many games attempt to wave which leave you concentrating more on the back story and the world's politics than on the main characters themselves.

Now let's talk sound, the voice actors are great. I would say a good portion of the text in this game is spoken and the voice actors do a good job of adding personality to a 2D character. I also appreciate that it doesn't sound like one person did all the voice acting. The music is perfect as well and though you won't recognize any of the songs, each one sounds familiar and won't sound repetitive even if it starts over. Another added touch that you won't notice unless you focus on it, is the sound of people walking. When you walk across a bridge, it clanks and as soon as your character steps onto the grass on the other side, it sounds different, instead of constantly sounding like you are walking on some kind of metallic surface no matter where you are.

OK, now we come to the graphics. This game has beautiful backgrounds, colorful and memorable monsters, unique characters and beautiful areas (towns, dungeons, caves etc.). The game uses Cel-shading which, if you are not familiar, makes all the characters look like they are in a controllable cartoon. The beautiful thing is, the cut scene characters look just like the characters you play with, so you know how in Final Fantasy games every so often they switch to the ridiculous CG shots? None of that here. While some might see that as a setback, I believe it really helps keep the story in perspective and makes you feel like you are in control of the whole story and not just a majority of it.

The battle system is not turn based at all and reminded me a lot of old Playstation games like Star Ocean or Grandia, where your characters are free to roam around the battle ground and you must move them to the enemy and press the "attack" button to attack. There is magic, but the battle system is best understood by playing the game for yourself. Or, if you would rather, you can play with a friend. No longer are your friends forced to sit around and watch you go through the story by yourself. In this game 2-4 players can play together (provided you have enough controllers). I believe they can only participate in battles with you, but I am not sure as I have yet to play the game with a friend.

All in all, this game is destined to be a classic. Not just for the 360, but for video games as a whole. In this player's eyes, it is an instant classic. A departure from all the ridiculously complex RPGs to a more simple time, when games were more about the story and characters and going on a journey.

Sunday, October 8, 2000

Half-life 2 PC | 10

I thought HALF LIFE 2 was the best game ever so when buying this I had high expectations, and I am glad to tell you all that I was not disappointed. This has to be the best value in gaming that I have ever seen.

I already own HALF LIFE 2 and HALF LIFE 2: EPISODE ONE so I initially wasn't that keen in buying the ORANGE BOX set (because these two games are in the ORANGE BOX). However when I logged on to my STEAM account, to buy PORTAL, EPISODE 2 and TEAM FORTRESS 2 separately, this would have nearly trebled the price, so buying the ORANGE BOX is the cheaper option, even though you get more with the ORANGE BOX! Valve works in mysterious ways...

Plus, if you already own HALF LIFE 2 or EPISODE ONE then STEAM will let you give them to a friend!

I bought my copy from amazon.co.uk and for value it ended up that I paid five pounds (around 9 dollars?) for each game, which is unbelievable value when you consider that some mediocre console game costs up to 40 pounds.

Here are the games in the ORANGE BOX:

HALF LIFE 2 - arguably the best game ever made! I won't review it as I think that most people who will but the OB will already own it or at least be aware of its reputation.

EPISODE ONE: The next chapter from HALF LIFE 2.Very short game (around 4 to 5 hours). To me, this part is the weakest in the three made so far(HALF LIFE 2, this and HALF LIFE: EPISODE 2). The game offers little new from the original and even the environments and bad guys are the same. However it is still a great game.

EPISODE TWO: A whole lot better than EPISODE ONE. The environments are different, this being in lush forests and underground caves with new monsters (radioactive spiders that spew radioactive mush at you). The graphics are really superb and seem to be improved on the already fantastic looking EPISODE ONE. You begin to realise why VALVE had taken so long in bringing this game out.

The game is short as well, but I think a bit longer than EPISODE ONE. The script is quite impressive for a game (gives a lot of Hollywood movies a run for their money) and the characters are so familiar and believable that you have empathy for them, similar to characters in a favourite movie. This game is the main reason why I bought the OB and I was not disappointed in the least. One of the highlights is a Rourke's Drift like siege and antlions are coming in every direction. In this game you work with others more.

PORTAL: This is a strange game, and to be frank I have never seen anything like it! It is basically a puzzle game, and whilst it is fun and compelling it also has far reaching effects on gaming. The physics and complexity in making a game like this shows how serious games have become in the past few years. Portal is about a hand held device that creates holes in walls and then you create another hole in a wall somewhere else, and this lets you, the character, to walk through the first `portal' and exit the second `portal'. The child like female-electronic voice, a sort of HAL with the added craziness, adds to the quirkiness of the game. The puzzles get steadily harder and harder. I think this is a game will either love or hate but when you first play it is definitely something totally new and fresh.

TEAM FORTRESS 2 - a multiplayer game that is fun, fast and simple. The graphics are very cartoonish (in a good way) and it basically two teams (red and blue) with each team achieving a task to win the round. Players can be sniper, medic, engineer or even a spy, among others. The game is very addictive and because it is an online multiplayer this game has the most repay value of all the games in the ORANGE BOX.

STEAM gets a lot of bad credit from fans of HALF LIFE but I have never had any problems, well, I had one problem: if you are new to STEAM you may get an email/IM chat through STEAM by another user pretending to be from STEAM. He/she may say that your account is being used somewhere else (you need a STEAM account to play these games) and that STEAM requires your password and username to verify your account. DO NOT give your details to anyone as STEAM would never ask for them themselves! This is not very relevant to the actual game review but it is the only problem with STEAM that I have accounted (so far!)

You do need a fairly modern set-up pc to play all the games in the ORANGE BOX. It recommends at least 512mb RAM and 128mb graphics card. Though to be honest, at least a 1 GIG of RAM is needed and a 256mb card to enjoy the games. Games are to be enjoyed not played with sufferance as it takes he fun out of the games.

Saturday, October 7, 2000

Virtua Fighter 5 | 8.5

I have loved the Virtua Fighter series more than any other fighting game since I first played the original Virtua Fighter in arcades. For just $20 it seemed like a great deal (and it was). As another reviewer mentioned, it's definitely worth having for the affordable price tag.

That being said, this game fell a little bit short of my expectations. This is going to sound very strange, but the graphics are both better and worse than Virtua Fighter 4. They're better in the sense that the game is hi-res, fits my widescreen LCD, and is more detailed. However, as they say, the devil is in the details; it seems that the game has lost of visual quality and finesse when it was reworked for the new graphical format. A lot of the character models look worse and in many instances cheesy. The rings and backdrop are gorgeous, but they too seem to have suffered aesthetically. It really seems like the developers tried to "overdo" the graphics and ended up creating a game that looks worse than VF4; it is a little more flashy (or dare I say gaudy) and a little less realistic. Some people will like this. In any case, play them both and you will see what I'm talking about.

As for the content, I have mixed feelings about the new characters. I think Eileen is great and totally worth her weight in the game (she probably doesn't weigh that much, though), but "El Blaze" is one of the most retarded things ever to be found in the entire series. Having a lucha libre character is actually a decent idea, and the end result could have been very nice, but for some reason it just didn't work out here. Every time El Blaze appears in the game, you will cringe. I also thought that Brad and the blue guy were stupid characters when they were introduced, but even they are better than El Blaze. In fact, Brad actually seems better in VF5 than he did in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution. If you ask me, the creators of VF are doing a poor job attempting to integrate more "Western" style fighters; many of these recent additions are bland and uninteresting, and they probably don't correspond very well to actual martial arts trends in the Western world (not to say that the game is supposed to be realistic, but it does have better realism than practically all other fighters).

Which reminds me--if you've never played the VF series before and are just looking for a fighting game, you might appreciate the game's relative amount of realism.

This game appears to include all of the great features that were introduced in VF4:Evolution. You can skip the monotonous Arcade mode and go for the Quest mode, which lets you fight more varied opponents for rank and prizes such as character customizations. Unfortunately, I daresay that VF4:E does these better than VF5 does.

Overall it's a great buy and a solid PS3 title to keep on your shelf. I'm still convinced that Virtua Fighter is the best fighting game on any platform (sorry, Soul Calibur), so if you want a fighting game for the PS3, this is it (Tekken fans, prepare to launch your rebuttal).

IF you have a PS2, then get Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution instead; you'll save some money, and I honestly believe it is a better game than VF5 and possibly the best fighting game I've ever played. It's fair to say that VF5 is just VF4:Evolution with updated graphics (and alas, if only they had just done that!). If you are playing on an HD display (eg widescreen LCD), then definitely choose VF5.

Friday, October 6, 2000

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction | 8.0

I have been playing this game for a very long time and im still finding more and more things to do that i have never done before! If u have never played this game then you need to try it! When u do try Diablo 2 make sure you at least know a little about this game trust me it is awesome! there are thousands of items to use Swords, Shields, Armor, boots, belts etc. but don't just believe me try it for yourself there are also SETS to collect that make your character look really good and give a serious boost in every ability. there are 8 different characters but you can make many different "specialty" for your character! like for an assassin you can make pure martial arts assassin, for sorcerer you can make pure fire or ice OR lightning! There are sooo many different ways to go about creating your character but don't choose just one make many characters if you like. you can also play online for no extra charge and have others help you out in your game as u also can help them! you can trade items or gold if you'd like many things and friends to find! my account on D2 is listed as my name so contact me if you need some help or just want to know the ropes :)

The player can level up so much in Act 5 where its always worth it next to the cow level of course. Everybody knows that. I don't think anything important has changed since 2008 when I last logged into Battlenet. Diablo 2 was in its mainstream twilight hours. This is THE game that high schoolers play now-a-days. It is the only game that I played in high school in 2000 and even in 2009, high schoolers continue the legacy to my knowledge.

-20 points for terrible graphics and only impressive gameplay. It's not on the same level Halo 3, Metroid Prime 3 or MGS4.

Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Diablo II | 8.0

he original "Diablo" came along at a time when the CRPG market was in dire straits. The game breathed fresh life into the genre and created an unparalleled accessibility that made it very easy to pick up play. Using the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" formula, the sequel follows along the lines of the original, and expands it into a bigger and better game.

For starters, there are 5 available classes to play with. The fierce Amazon, who excels in javelin and ranged weapons, the melee-specialist Barbarian, the Sorceress, who excels in flinging destructive spells, the undead-raising Necromancer and the holy Paladin. All of the 5 classes have drastically different playing styles, and there is no skill sharing here. Every class is meticulously detailed in every aspect of their skills available, to provide a unique gameplay experience.

The story follows on from the prequel, and is intriguing, if rather sparse at times. The hero who killed Diablo in the first game, which you played as, is now possessed by the evil demon thanks to the soul shard embedded within him. Ironically the hero wanted to imprison Diablo within the shard, and then use his own body as a prison for the shard, but now the Lord Of Terror has overpowered the hero's will and taken control of his once noble body, and sets forth to release his brothers and open the gates of hell for the final time. Your job is to hunt down Diablo and playing as one of the 5 classes, you journey across 4 Acts, all of which are extremely detailed and well thought out in terms of difficulty balance. Act One alone is as big as the entire original game! The distances you can cover are truly humongous. There is a sense of restriction however, because there are pesky barriers set up to quarantine you within the zones. So there is no sightseeing here, you are given a path, and you've got to follow it in order to get the job done. The quests given are interesting and very fun, but the real shame is that there is so few of them. A couple more per Act wouldn't have hurt.

But the essence of "Diablo II" is very much in its practical side. Tinkering with your characters' stats and hunting for items dropped by the monsters is the main attraction. There are literally thousands of items in the game, from magical rings, to rare axes, to the golden unique items, all of which are there for you to play dress up with. Set items are the rarest of them all, and if the set is completed by finding all the pieces (e.g. Death's Hand Sash, Death's Hand Boots...) then you get a very nice bonus. The amount of different monsters you can slay is truly astounding. All kinds of evil critters and denizens of hell make an appearance here, from vicious giant vultures, to lurking sea snakes, and of course - zombies! And lots of zombies too, since this is very much a hack and slash game, you will be clicking and clicking as you trudge through the millions of minions the game throws at you. It does get tedious sometimes, which is the only real letdown of the game's design. There isn't really enough depth to the story to make up for the sheer amount of clicking you have to do. The variance in areas does help, as does the motivation to get better loot, but other than that, "Diablo II" is just a giant slashfest. The Bosses you face at the end of each Act do have to get special mention however. They are extremely challenging and very neat to go up against.

The graphics are attractive, and they were considered very good for its time. Of course, now the 2D backdrops and limited animations are considered dated. The graphics do not detract from the ambience however, all of the monsters have plenty of color, and weather kicks in every now and then. Your character isn't very complex in the animation department I must admit. After all, how many different ways can a Barbarian swing a sword? The different skills do look cool however, like the Sorceress' blaze, where she leaves a trail of fire in her wake.

The music is rather bland, if suitable for the atmosphere. There are dark overtones here with an emphasis on the instrumental side of music. The desert flutes and jungle drums are nice, but the dungeons could have used a little more flair. The monster sounds are amusing, and the voice acting is top notch, as can be expected from Blizzard. The cinematic FMV's (full motion videos) that play between the conclusion of each Act are nothing short of stunning, and truly blew me away. Blizzard set their bar with "Starcraft" and then jumped it themselves with the new standard of cutscenes in "Diablo II".

The multiplayer offering is solid, with Blizzard's Battle.net service providing a stable online gaming experience. Competitive ladders, duels, and just causal playing are all catered for with the ever popular Battle.net. You won't have to look far for a game to join, the lobbies are teeming with life even now. Online characters are created for Battle.net only and stored separately from your singleplayer characters, to prevent any funny business.

The replay value of this game is astonishing. Considering the 20+ hours it takes to complete it the first time, not to mention the Nightmare and Hell modes, which are unlocked after completing Normal mode, there is a lot of playing to do here. Nightmare and Hell modes offer new items, and harder monsters. It is essentially playing through the game a second time, with much tougher monsters, and much better loot. The concept is brilliant, and of course you will be itching to try the other classes as well to see how they fare. Let me warn you though, this game is very addictive, even in singleplayer. Online, that's a whole other level of cyber-crack. The intense competition for items and the jockeying for positions on the ladders are what kept the game alive for this long.

If you are looking for an action RPG that has longevity, without a deep story line and dialogue to bog you down, then this is your game. Those out there who are all about stats and equipment, and competitive gaming need look no further than "Diablo II". Blizzard is known for their excellent pedigree, and they don't disappoint. "Diablo II" improves upon the original in every aspect, and provides the most bang for your buck out of any classic RPG out there. Do yourself a favor and pick this up from a bargain bin. Putting it down again, now that's another story.

Graphics 3.0 out of 10
Sound 9 out of 10
Gameplay 8.0 out of 10
replay value 9.5 out of 10
Average 8.0 out of 20

Monday, October 2, 2000

Monkey Island: Special Edition PC | 8.0

In a sense, I don't really feel like Monkey Island needs much promotion from me, because adventure gaming was such a huge part of computer game history, and Monkey Island was perhaps the finest example of adventure gaming. When I heard the game was being redesigned with modern graphics, sound and voice work, I was thrilled. Monkey Island was a darn near perfect game, and for that reason alone, I knew the redesign deserved those first three stars. In Monkey Island, you play Guybrush Threepwood; a scrawney little guy who wants to be a fearsome pirate; winning swordfights, hunting treasure and stealing from the rich.

Well, as it turns out, being a pirate is a rather tough business, with some strict job requirements, and after his job interview with the head pirates, Guybrush sets out to prove his worth. Armed with a mastery of insults and the ability to hold his breath for ten minutes, Guybrush Threepwood must learn swordplay, thievery and treasure-huntery even before the end of the game's first chapter (of four,) and then things really pick up.

The evil ghost pirate Lechuck is roaming the islands with his dread pirate crew, scaring all the other pirates into landlubber-hood, and Guybrush will need to travel to Monkey Island if he wants to do something about it. There's also the beautiful Governor Marley to worry about. She seems like more than a mere damsel in distress, of course, but what's her real role in Guybrush's adventure, and what are Lechuck's plans for her?

This stuff is even funnier than it sounds.

Of course, all of that only has to do with the game's storyline. The gameplay may turn some gamers off, since the game uses a point-and-click interface, with much less jumping, slashing, shooting and killing than modern gamers are used to. The majority of the gameplay consists of wandering around, looking at things, pushing them, pulling them, talking to them, picking them up and using them to solve logic puzzles. This is the backbone of the Monkey Island gameplay, and while it may not appeal to the mainstream crowd, there are a great many people who enjoy being able to complete challenges on sheer brainpower alone, and not having to worry about being ambushed by enemies every five seconds. For those who like games that provoke them to thought, rather than violence, Monkey Island is the cream of the crop.

The original Secret of Monkey Island was made using midi music and early VGA graphics. It didn't even have any voice acting. Because of this, it makes perfect sense for the game to be re-made with updated graphics and sound, and this is more or less what was done. I found some design choices baffling, but at least if you prefer the original version to the updated one, you can switch back with a single keystroke.

The graphics and sound of the updated version are of an unquestionably superior quality. The music is very well-done, and the voice acting is pretty nice. The man who plays Guybrush does a good job as always, and some very professional voice actors played other roles, such as Rob Paulson as the ghost Bob, one of the Fetuccini brothers, and a couple of others. That kind of voice talent is almost guaranteed to not sound like they're reading from a script. In fact, the only issue I had with any of the revised sound was that Governor Marley's original actress (from Monkey Island 3) didn't reprise her role, and the woman who does play her doesn't sound British enough, in my opinion.

In graphics, however, this game makes some design decisions that I couldn't really agree with. For one thing, the decision was apparently made to shift the art style of the original from relatively-realistic to the cartoon look of later games; something I never really felt was right for Monkey Island. Monkey Island 3 was fantastic, of course, but I feel it succeeded in spite of the cartoon graphics, rather than benefitting from them.

To their credit, most of the characters still generally carry the same mood and feel that they did in the original; especially in their close-up portraits, the only exceptions, oddly-enough, being Guybrush and the Governor, who look like relatively-bland cartoon characters, rather than innocently-boyish and enchantingly beautiful in a cunning sort of way, respectively, so the damage done by the art shift is minimized most effectively. I just don't feel the shift needed to happen at all.

The third change was to the interface. The interface, originally, was for a sentence-line interface with selectable verbs (push, pull, pick up, etc...) to be at the bottom of the screen, along with a scrollable inventory, while the action goes on at the top. This has been changed to a pair of subscreens for verbs and inventory, which isn't all that hard to navigate, if you're willing to use the keyboard. I admit, this element of the game felt somewhat forced, and a littly clumsy. In practice, it certainly didn't play out as smoothly as the original interface, and I found myself wondering why this change was made, so I looked it up.

Apparently, the interface change was made, because the game designers were unhappy with "the interface taking up half the screen." Fair enough. This gives them the opportunity to use the other half of the screen to show the gamers more scenery in the Monkey Island world, right?

Not exactly. Instead of adding anything where the old interface used to be, the remake has re-done the graphics of Monkey Island, then just centered it, so that it feels like you're watching the game in widescreen format, and there's no fullscreen format to switch to. That might fly for movies that were originally released that way, but in a video game, it really feels like there aught to be something going on in those large, black bars. Personally, I would have put a sentence line interface on the top, and the inventory on the bottom, but I wasn't in charge of the project.
For example, an options screen under the main menu, full of check-boxes, reading things like "Voices on/off," "Music old/new," "Graphics old/new," and "Interface old/new." I only bring this up because I was sort of hoping for it, and because if this feature had been included, I'd always play the game with the first two options on, and the last two off.

In short, as a game, Monkey Island is stellar. As a remake, it's merely good. For this reason, I give it 80%. I was a little disappointed, but not much. In general, I had a good time playing it, and I'll most likely play it again. Many of the lines carry a special wit and humor to them when spoken aloud, so I feel that this remake did add something to the series that wasn't there before, and if it didn't completely fulfill its potential, then at least it gave today's generation the chance to experience one of the greatest video game classics of all time. I think that's a very good thing, so overall, well done.