Friday, September 29, 2000

Far Cry PC review 9.0

Where to start, where to start? Well, first let me tell you that I am a huge FPS (first-person shooter) fan, whether it's mindless fragfests like Serious Sam or stealth-oriented action like Deus Ex or the Thief series. I've been waiting for the "next big thing" in FPS for quite some time, namely Half-Life 2, but I think the next big thing has arrived sooner than expected, and its name is Far Cry.

Using the supercool Crytek engine, Ubisoft has created a game that features sensational graphics, terrific AI, decent plot, and unusual locales, namely the Caribbean. Where this game stands out is its graphics engine, which lets you see for miles and offers an unparalleled setting ever seen in a computer game. But be warned: don't expect to just walk into huts on the sand and start blasting away at mercenaries. These guys are good, calling for cover and flanking you every chance they get. You'll have to think about how you're going to approach each mission, and even then, you'll be required to make quick adjustments, thanks to the assault jeep that just showed up right behind you or the gunship that is raining missles from the sky. No two missions are alike, as the AI learns as they go, adjusting to your moves and reacting accordingly. Terrific stuff.

The voices are a little over-the-top, which absolutely fits this very over-the-top game. The standard "mad scientist creates some monsters from human DNA" plot is a bit trite, but the presentation of the entire game makes up for it, with engaging cut scenes and terrific direction to your next objective. Overall, though, sounds lend a distinct feel to the game, as the birds chirp when you're outside on the island and waves lap against the shore, or your pinned underneath a palm tree with a chopper armed to the teeth sending death from above, the whup-whup-whup filling your ears as the world goes black.

Real-world weapons are at your disposal four at a time, and they do the job very nicely. Crouching and arming yourself with an MP90 in the islands has never been so much fun. And you can drive many, if not all, of the vehicles in the game, including jeeps, assault trucks, gunboats, and even hangliders, which is a nice change of pace from the usual duck-cover-shoot tasks involved with each mission.

Each mission is very well defined, but by no means is this game linear. You can get to the endpoint any way you want. If you want to take the whole guerilla army on headfirst, go right ahead. If you want to sneak around and shoot them from underneath the huts, you can do that too. Ubisoft has put the entire game in your hands, and it makes for some truly exciting, innovative gameplay. Some people will have a problem with the difficulty level and overall problems with getting it running at decent speed on a minimally equipped system, but look past this. Also, the auto-save system is a little annoying (no quick saves), forcing you to go through the same mission until you get it right and it reaches the next auto-save point.

Not since Half Life has a game been so immersive, so unique, and so rewarding in its gameplay. Far Cry presents PC gamers with a tough challenge that shouldn't be missed.

1.4 patch
Radeon HD 5970
Core 2 Quad Q9550
64-bit Windows 7.

Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Deus Ex: Human Revolution | 9.3

The original Deus Ex(DX) hit the market back in 2000 and with its combination of a Cyberpunk atmosphere and fusion of RPG and FPS elements, became a hit title that eventually won game of the year amongst many other awards. The game was ahead of its time in a way, similar to how Blade Runner (the movie) was ahead of its time for back in the 1980's. With this new release, DX: HR, does the game fall into mediocrity or does DX continue to be a a beautiful melody of various gameplays in an immerse environment?.... A few technical details aside, I would say this game easily marks a new generation in the Deus Ex line and could just be one of the best SP based campaign game released in 2011.

And a whole lot of it! This game is massive and the cyberpunk vision of the future is captured beautifully. DX:HR I feel, tends to be a blend of FPS meets Stealth meets Espionage meets Social. You play as Adam Jensen who is a security officer for an Augmentation company. After an attack leaves him so badly wounded he needs heavy body augmentation the game begins. Who plotted the attack? Why? Terrorism? Self-Sabotage? The conspiracy runs deep and it is your job to figure out it! At your disposal is a very immerse and game changing set of mechanics that shapes how you play the game, yet adapts to your play-style. Need to get to the 5th floor and hack a terminal.. no problem go in guns blazing...or maybe stealth past the guards taking them out one at a time... or maybe break in through a vent system...or combine all 3! Not only can you approach objectives and quests from various methods, but there often are quite a few options available to you. You don't always need to take that grate on the left. You could hack the janitor's closet and steal the keycard and just walk right in on the objective. Maybe there is a guard wandering who has a keycard also, or someone wrote it in an email message that you found when hacking terminals. The variety is just huge and never gets old! To top it all off you can upgrade Mr. Jensen to better suit your play-style

As you complete objectives, side quests, or basically do anything you gain XP. Shoot a mob you get XP, stealth him instead XP, Avoid combat all together get XP! Hacking amounts to bonus XP as hacking is more of a mini-game than a mandatory tool in this game, but I found it worth my time to hack. It was fun and provided some interesting bits of information that paid off in the long run. Anyhow, the XP you gain is used to level up Jensen, and as you level you gain the ability to further boost the level of mods you have. What is so beautiful about this the upgrades compliment your play-style. You are not forced to pick upgrades you do not want, however I rarely found that I picked something that felt like a waste. It is a solid system that gives you the freedom to play as you want for the most part.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is not the flashiest of games. It isn't the latest and greatest game engine that might choke your PS3/360 or stress your video card until it explodes. The game still looks very good though. It captures a cyberpunk / blade runner style atmosphere very well and uses a darker color pallet which makes for a slightly darker vision of the future. Character animations can seem a little stiff or awkward at times, but do remember people are walking around with augmentations so the body movements might seem a bit unnatural for a reason. On the PS3 version the Frame-rate dropped from time to time, especially during one or two intense cut-scenes but it wasn't that bad. There was similar frame-rate issues on the 360 but occurring in different areas spots so the drop is probably relating to how the system is handling the engine itself. Graphically, the PS3 vs the 360 have differences but not enough to sway me to one or the other. It really depends on what you are looking at, at the time you are comparing. Sometimes PS3 looked better, sometimes 360. PS3 lighting was better in some spots, yet the 360 had better coloring in others.

In short... The Graphics, while not the best, are very good and despite the PS3 and 360 having some frame-rate issues, either system is a perfect option for this game; each boasting pros and cons over the other.

The music for this game is awesome! The style of music chosen fits the environment and setting of the game perfectly, going well with the cyberpunk theme. It helps immerse you into the game which is a big plus. Voice acting however is a sub-par as often the same voice actor played multiple characters and didn't even change their voice. You may even find multiple characters who say the same line of text. I'm not surprised by this though as the original Deus Ex had some of the Worst-yet best! voice acting of any game I played. .... Storyline wise, while I honestly have not completed the game at this point (the game is LONG!), the storyline is great! Everything you do has influences on the game, and the storyline is very deep and balanced. It is full of plot twists and surprises that had me hooked.

While this game lacks multiplayer, you are getting your $'s worth here. The game easily has 25+hrs of gameplay, more like 30-40 hrs if you factor in side quests and taking your time to really immerse yourself. Not only does this game boast a huge amount of varied gameplay, but I could easily see myself picking it up and doing it all over again! The variety in gameplay is just that amazing. You stealthed your way into the building for Mission 6, replay it and try going Rambo. You might find new items or bits of information, or even slightly influence events of that mission. Deus Ex reminds me a little of Mass Effect in this sense. Every new gameplay can be filled with little bits and pieces you may of missed, or simply did not see in a previous playthrough; plus there are multiple endings to this game which only tempt you to try alternative paths and methods.

Normally I integrate my Con's into each section, but Deus-Ex is the kind of game that you need to see the entire picture. The game can clock it easily +25hrs and has such a wide variety of elements to it things were bound to go wrong in some spots. This comes in the form of frame-rate problems(see graphics), boss encounters, and AI problems. Frame-rate has been covered but Boss Encounters were a disappointment simply because there is only one real way to fight them. RAMBO style! If you specialized in hacking that won't help you during the fight. The illusion of choice is removed here and you are forced into a play style you might not enjoy. This isn't a major problem but for someone who didn't specialize in guns, since the game is forgiving, it feels like bosses were rushed in rather than fully thought out. AI problems well, it was to be expected. Sometimes enemies just become stupid and forget you are there or have such obvious pathing it makes you wonder how they were even hired to be guards. Despite their AI problems however they seem to have eagle eye vision when it comes to accuracy with guns (which makes for a good challenge!)

OVERALL ... 93% (9.3 / A)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a product of its sums. Individually each part of the game, from the shooter, to the stealth to the social aspects 'could have' been done better. Instead each element was created specifically to balance the other and what you end up with is a game that has multiple play-styles, gameplay which caters to the needs of the player, immerse storyline and environment, and a wide variety of methods to tackle the problem; so much so alternative play-throughs are a must! DX: HR has technical issues, but when a single game can easily surpass 25-30hrs and contain such variety, a few problems might slip through the cracks or be inevitable.

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together | 9.5

I loved FFT when I first played it why back in the early PS era. When I learned that there was a predecessor based on the great Ogre Battle SNES game, I tried to track it down, but it was a limited release even in remakes it seems; I never found it until this version.
I understand that there's been some updates here, a bit with graphics and the skills system was added, along with some other gameplay changes. As said, I've never played the original, but somehow this game exceeded my expectations. I've been playing obsessively since I got it, and if you are at all a fan of the genre I recommend it without reservation.

Compared with FFT, there is slightly less emphasis on building the perfect unit, and more on the best army. Battle sizes can be larger (ranging from 6 to 12 units on the playes team at a time), and some classes have abilities that rely on positioning moreso than in Tactics--such as knights restricting enemy movement, thieves getting a bonus to attack from behind (well beyond what others get), certain auras that benefit nearby units, etc. But as other people have pointed out, you can't take the best abilities from different classes and merge them (much--in a couple cases like Dragoons with Rampart Aura I could use a skill learned elsewhere, but these are exceptions). I wouldn't say FFT or TO is better in terms of gameplay, but the focus changes a bit and it is refreshing.

I don't find that all the classes play the same, either--use a rogue like you would a knight and you won't have them around for long. Rogues need to dart in when the get a chance and then run back behind the knights who have the skills to stop pursuit. There are some similar classes, though.

The difficulty of this game is just right. Most of the time I'm not sure if I will win a battle--I need a stroke of luck or expenditure of precious resources to get by without anyone losing any hearts from a guy (three strikes and a unit is gone for good) or even needed to restart. Fortunately the turn order listing and chariot tarot replay makes this difficulty forgiving if you need to take an informed risk or make a mistake--I back up a turn if I didn't know an obstacle would block my spell, for instance. And any random battle can be fled without penalty.

The story is great also. Disgaea's comic story never caught my attention for a moment. Better Tactics Ogre that risks losing me in it's machinations than Disgaea's gonzo anime antics that don't make a lick of sense. I also think it is superior to FFT in that the enemies stay more or less human forces, rather than the too common demonic forces. There's demons & monsters to fight here, don't get me wrong, but the plots are driven by humans with conflicting visions and goals rather than being possessed puppets of evil forces. And while I haven't yet finished the game (chapter 4 so far), I'm already looking forward to seeing how the divergent paths will play out in subsequent play-throughs.

Finally, the cons-- The graphics are dated, obviously. Think of it as a board game rather than a video game if you need to, its worth looking past the SNES era sprites.
The menu navigation hasn't bothered me much, so I think that's over blown, though there certainly is a lot of button pushing.
And I agree that the crafting system is poor; basically it is a time sink. It would have been better to force you to choose how to add your rare components than make most parts purchasable but give a risk of failure. But the gear you can craft isn't essential so if it bugs you you can skip it.

Crysis PC review | 9.0

FAR CRY was one of the best FPS games ever sold. It created such a following that can only be compared to that of UNREAL and the original HALF-LIFE. CRYTEK, the developer of both FAR CRY and CRYSIS, clearly did not rest on its laurels. CRYSIS is an *EVEN BETTER GAME* in many aspects.
And toping FAR CRY is NOT an easy task...

Graphically the game is GORGEOUS! (Both DX10 and DX9 compatible). Moving in the jungle is just unbelievable: the natural foliage, the game of light and shadow, the clear flowing water...The weapons are exceptionally well designed (familiar shapes but mostly futuristic) and their muzzle flashes add to the game realism. Replenishing your ammo is almost never a problem, provided you are frugal with your snipper bullets. A nice cross-genre touch: most weapons are enhanceable with targeting-lasers, sniper-sights and silencers.
The "weapon" you will enjoy more is, of course, the nanite-muscle-suit, a kind of augmenting exoskeleton that serves as both armor and turning you into a super-human. Throwing your enemies over the tree tops can be really fun - and their limp movements and shouted insults are totally realistic! Speaking of realism, wait to reach the zero-gravity levels: the weapons' kick will propel you backwards - as it should! And, very important, all these great graphics with steep yet not exorbitant system requirements! CRYSIS is much more stable than, say, FEAR-PERSEUS MANDATE or BIOSHOCK, although graphically clearly superior.

The sound has also been well worked on. There are a number of moments where sound clues are the warning you will get. The sound of an enemy crawling towards you is not a good omen...So get rid of those old headphones and plug in a good set of speakers.

The levels are beautifully designed and the AI PHENOMENAL! I had a group of enemies flank me as I was engaged with their comrade who was left as bait! Shoot an enemy from cover only to watch him seek cover as well - until he or one of his comrades spot your position!
Overall, the gameplay controls is very similar to that of FAR CRY (and most FPS nowadays). I do have to point out that movement is precise and effective. Running is fast whereas crouching is stealthy. For longer distances, vehicles become available.
The game also sports a multiplayer - although it may require lowering the video specs to avoid lagging.

Now, this game (being an EA release) sports ...SecuROM. I just use the No DVD patch 1.2 to make playable as I did Mass Effect 1 & 2. Usually I subtract at least two stars from games burdening us with such dangerous security routines. However, I liked the game so much I felt torn - and decided to make an exception. So, if you are boycotting SecuROM games, be warned, otherwise:


patch v1.2
Core 2 Quad 9550
Radeon HD 5970
64-bit Windows 7

Neverwinter Nights 2 Gold | 10

Just Right
Time Spent:
40 to 100 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Instant classic"

I played the original NWN and was sorely disappointed. I could never get past the first chapter, because I found the whole thing exceedingly boring, and I got lost from sheer lack of directions in the expansion packs. NWN2 fixed that, in several ways.

The first is with the characters you encounter. The people actually seem more real, and you can build relationships with your companions based on your actions. The characters have more depth to them, and have backstory and quests to go with them.

The second is the plot. Apparently, it's quite typical of adventure games, but I wouldn't really know. I enjoyed the plot, and unraveling the mystery. Parts of the first chapter were a little tedious, but were still fun (at least on the first play through). This is particularly true of MotB, which has a truly epic plot and even better characters.

Third, you can now control all of the player characters. Instead of only being able to give suggestions, you can equip them the way you wish and tell them exactly what to do. I've found that by tweaking the AI slightly, you can get a party that doesn't need turn by turn guidance, but figuring out just what you want can take a while.

Playback value varies, because it depends on how thoroughly you did everything the first time. There are two sides to choose from in the beginning, so I suppose you could play through it twice to see how each one plays out, but other than going back and finding little things, there's not a whole lot to get the second time around. If you enjoy playing with different characters, however, and don't mind the same plot over again, it is a wonderful replay.

Challenge will vary depending on the person and how well you level. For NWN2, I played the first time and missed several side quests, and was about five levels below recommended. This made playing hell, even on the easiest level. On the other hand, if you do it right, you can blow right through most of it.

There are a few cons to the NWN2 as well. You are "herded" a lot more. There is less space to wreak havoc than in the original. There's much more guidance, and you have to follow along the main plot or not continue with the game. There are enough side quests and different things you can do that it doesn't really matter, and you still get to make choices, but the basic plot and events will stay the same regardless. I rather liked this, because it means you don't get lost wondering what to do nearly as often. Some of the quests are rather annoying, and quite a bit tedious, but only one or two stand out in particular. I didn't notice the problems with the camera in NWN2, but I had a hard time adjusting to the change in MotB. However, it is possible to tweak the camera until you find what you're comfortable with.

I patched mine to latest version. This RPG comes out with patches frequently.

Thursday, September 21, 2000

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift | 9.0

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is the update and continuation of last years masterpiece, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, this little gem was crafted by the brilliant minds at Arc System Works. Fans of the original or fans of the Guilty Gear series will no doubt want to purchase this, if for nothing else at least for the story mode, you have never experienced a deeper or more complex story in a fighting game

You will get a lot for your $40, newly added Tutorial Mode, Challenge Mode and Legion Mode from the portable version are present. The tutorial is a great place to learn the basics if you are new to BlazBlue and it is the best way to learn the advanced techniques as well. The new challenge mode is pretty much like challenge mode in SFIV and SSFIV. There are 10 challenges per character, each challenge is comprised of several different tasks though, once you get to the advanced combos for a character of your liking it could take you a very long time to clear the challenges. These games are easy enough to play at a casual level but it will take a lot of patience and skill to hang with some of the people you will meet online.

There are 3 new characters right off the bat, Tsubaki is a Valkyrie of sorts, fights with sword and shield and has a drive attack that charges her moves for added strength, she is a very simple character to use and I would recommend her to newcomers. Hazama, better known to veterans as Terumi, is another story. Hazama is tricky but unbelievably good, his drive attack sends chains out at his opponent both for attacks and to rapidly close the distance between players. He is fast, dangerous and unpredictable...and also serves as the final boss of arcade and Story mode for most characters. Lambda replaces Nu as the Murakumo unit in this game, hardly any difference. The true form of Noel Vermillion is also a playable character but I have yet to unlock her. As of now there are at least 3 more characters planned as DLC. Makoto, a...foxie lady (excuse the pun if you get it) that uses tonfa, I have only seen clips of her and have no idea how she plays. Valkenhayn, Rachel's butler and one of the Six Heroes, will join and I can almost guarantee that he will play like Slayer from Guilty Gear. Platina (Sena and Luna) is another future character, due to her split personality I expect her to be like A.B.A. from Guilty Gear.

All characters have a robust, branching Story Mode that will take you many hours to complete. The story picks up right after Calamity Trigger's True End, there is a brief summary for those that didn't play the original. Japanese and English audio are present and accounted for, thank goodness. Online returns of course, you can once again save and upload replays of your best matches if you so choose. There are a few new stages, a few new songs and sadly, a new announcer...not nearly as funny when she says Rebel 1, Action! The character portraits have all been redrawn and they look AWESOME, more like Guilty Gear art and less like anime. The sprites seem improved too, at least Ragna and Hakumen seem to have a few more frames of animation and slight color differences, all welcome changes. The gameplay is top notch, if you like high flying, air dashing combo-laden madness then BlazBlue is 100% for you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker | 10

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker is a fine addition to the franchise. It tells the untold story of the creation of Outer Heaven as well as the back story of Naked Snake (Big Boss). This is the direct sequel to MGS3: Snake Eater and MGS: Portable Ops and it completes it rather well. Hideo Kojima both directed and produced this game so I was very excited to see what he could do with it. This game combines all the elements of previous MGS games such as the camouflage system from MGS3, the gameplay mechanics of MGS4, and the system of Portable Ops. But what Peace Walker accomplishes is not gameplay alone, but storytelling. The trilogy of Metal Gear Solid 1,2 & 4 goes through the philosophies of modern warfare and human instrumantality. But the trilogy of Big Boss's story is a more emotional and personal philosophy of how a man goes through war and can overcome himself. The story of Peace Walker revolves around Big Boss as he encounters a tape which contains his dead mentor's (The Boss) voice on it, but she is still alive. As well as encountering that mysterious tape, Big Boss also must stop a nuclear warhead from launching, which is a typical story for Metal Gear.

The story itself is good. The sound is what makes this game very special. For a PSP game, this is really an unbelievable milestone. The musical score is great but I feel that they could've done a bit better. The voice acting is up to standard with previous Metal Gear games with the returning voices of David Hayter with his signature Snake voice, as well as Christopher Randolph as Huey (no spoilers). Sometimes I feel that the voice acting was a bit rushed but the quality of it can make a nit-picker like me to look pass it. For a PSP game, this is probably the best sounding PSP game of all time.

The gameplay in this game is the least to say, very very difficult. I found myself having to repeat various missions because of little mistakes I made. I'm not saying the game requires the player to be perfect but, it does require a lot of stratgy and planning. Since there is only one difficulty setting you don't come to expect this game to be very easy. Although the game doesn't emphasize running and gunning, you can do that it you will but I suggest stealth. This game requires a lot of patience and if you don't have that, than you will be punished throughout the game. The game emphasizes Co-Op, and believe me you will need it because the boss battles are crucial. Although I haven't done co-op yet, I am starting to need it. I am about half done with the game and its only getting harder. Among main missions, there are extra ops which are similar to VR Missions which can help level up weapons as well as pass the time when you don't feel like going straight into the story. The game has a very deep operations system which is basically controlling Outer Heaven, you get to capture people like Pokemon and sort them out to what their specialties are. You can also deploy teams to do missions that destory enemies, capture more troops and receive items as well as parts to building your own METAL GEAR, haha yea I said it, you get to build Metal Gear ZEKE which will be seen in the original Metal Gear game if you know the chronological story. I highly recommend this game to the PSP owners who have been craving for a good game, and Metal Gear fans NEED this game in their collection. Just be aware of the difficulty of this game, its a game thats worth playing and worth your time.

Graphics - This has the best graphics I have ever seen on thee PSP! While still having an Amazing Framerate! 10/10

Story - The story picks up right after the event of MGS3 and MPO. It answers alot of Unanswered questions as well. 9.5/10

Gameplay - The Gameplay in this game is Amazing! Its so much fun and they have added so many weapons and other stuff it makes it even better! 10/10

Controls - The controls will take some getting used to. But its well worth it and it dosnt take to long at all to warm up to. 8/10

Replay Value - There is so much to do in this game its Crazy! I am still shocked Kojima managed to fit this massive game onto this tiny thing! I would say the story would take about 15-30 hours and to 100% it would easily take 50-60 hours and this is not including CO-OP and Multi player. 10/10

Side Note - You may have heard rumors of this game being to difficult. Well thats a lie this game has challenging bosses but they are so fun even the most aggravated gamers wont brake somthing after dying (LOL!). The bosses will take some practice (I had to retry most of them twice). But its well worth it!

Overall - Overall this game is a masterpiece!! I would recommend it to anybody (Especially MGS fans)! I would buy a PSP for this one game its that good! So if you haven't gotten this game get it! Overall score 9.9/10

Sunday, September 17, 2000

Batman: Arkham City | 9.0

Anybody who has played Batman: Arkham Asylum and loved it knows precisely why it was such an amazing game. Take one part Matrix: Path of Neo for epic, super-human martial arts beat-em up; ad in another part Splinter Cell style sneaking around in dark environments for tense moments that test skill and patience; throw in some cool gadgetry to help you along the way like in Ape Escape; mix it in with amazing graphics, superb voice actors, and arguably the greatest super-hero ever and you had Batman: Arkahm Asylum.

So, how much more can such an already amazing game offer us if given a sequel? Apparently, a whole lot more.

If you can believe it, the intro to Arkham City is even better and more pulse-pounding than the intro to the first. You start off, not as Batman, but as Bruce Wayne, who is lobbying against Arkham City. I won't give anything away about what soon happens to our seemingly mild-mannered aristocrat, but I will say this...laying the beat down on some thugs as the boy-billionaire is one of coolest experiences I've had in gaming.

Soon afterwards, you suit up. Now you are Batman, but this isn't a self-contained island you're dealing with anymore. This is a no man's land. Pouncing on an unsuspecting group of baddies isn't as simple as it used to be; there are always more goons lurking around the corners, ready to jump into the fray like a vicious pack of wolves. More than once you'll find yourself overwhelmed and having to flee a fight while the stinging insults of said goons follow in your wake. Take my advice and just let it go. Survival is the name of the game.

If you've been watching Youtube then you've no doubt seen Batman's new flight mechanics. These are as fun in practice as they are to watch, although there is a learning curve to gliding effectively. There's also a pesky helicopter searching for you at all times. These guys are Tyger, Hugo Strange's own henchmen. Avoiding the helicopter can be tricky, but also fun.

As you'd expect, Arkham City plays almost exactly like the first one with a few tweaks and upgrades. Batman starts off with most of the same gadgets he had at the end of the first, including the grapple gun, the cryptographic sequencer and the remote batarang. He also has several new moves for melee situations. Batman must've been taking lessons from Chuck Norris because his martial arts are better and flashier than ever. He now has the ability to perform a counter-attack against two or more assailants at a time instead of just one. He has a new punch combo attack where he repeatedly thrusts with each press of the button. As Batman lays down an 18 punch combo on a single guy, or gigantic goon, I can't help but think of Kenshiro! "The one-hundred crack fist of the North Star! You're already dead!" Oh, but...this is Batman so minus the brutal killing of your foes. Let's just say he's more like Donkey Kong when beating up some Tikis.

The new combat moves make the game as fun as ever but also makes NOT using them an exercise in restraint. As stated before, enemies can show up when you least suspect and they sometimes pack heat. This will undoubtedly force all of us to use our brains even more when devising effective plans of attack. To aid in stealthy takedowns are a new set of "predator moves" where Batman can use far more takedowns from different hiding positions than he had previously. Again, a new set of moves and abilities to augment the ones we had before in Arkham Asylum. It's almost like the first game just laid the foundation and the sequel built onto it!

In addition to the main story mission are additional side missions that will pop up along the way. These may have you saving random inmates from other, worse inmates, to working with Bane to dispose of drums of Titan chemicals (Titan once more plays into the game's story) to solving mysteries planted by the Riddler. (By now we've all heard the "Riddler is Jigsaw!" equations made by everyone so I won't bore you with that. I don't even like Saw). You may want to hold off on the missions that involve Zaasz making you run across Arkham City to answer telephones until you've unlocked some flying upgrades. Certain henchmen will be highlighted in green. These are henchmen you can interrogate to acquire more info about the various crime lords they are working under. Taking them out last to initiate interrogation is a tough and not always fun exercise that we will nevertheless do in order to gain more precious XPs.

This game has a dark look and feel that pulls you in. Jumping across rooftops as the Batman is a whole `nother experience from doing it as Spiderman. The dingy, grungy look of the city, the background music and ambience. All of these together invade your subconscious until you feel alive with primal, survival instincts. I can't even describe it, really. You feel like a predator, but also like the prey. You're always walking a narrow line between seeming invincibility, and utter helplessness. This game puts you in a place all of us have been our whole lives without always realizing. When we dreamed we were running from danger, or dreamed we were conquering obstacles to achieve glory. This is just a personal opinion, of course, but I'd swear I've seen this in my dreams. Maybe I was just dreaming of being the Batman. This is as close as any of us will likely get.

The villains look fantastic. Mr. Freeze, interestingly enough, has a huge suit that reminds me of the Mr. Freeze suit from Batman and Robin. I apologize for even bringing THAT movie up, but the suit in that movie was still cool looking. Mr. Freeze looks menacing and sounds awesome with the voice talents of Maurice LaMarche (the guy who was Brain in Pinky and the Brain and about a million different voices in Futurama!) Penguin looks viscious and cruel and is twice as ruthless, no doubt to overcome his own size. Twoface looks somewhere between The Animated Series version and the Dark Knight version. Then there's the unexpected appearance of Solomon Grundy who looks like a nightmarish Frankenstein's monster and who is even bigger than Killer Croc!

In summation, Arkahm City is anther step forward for an already revolutionary game franchise. There are the usual shortcomings, however. You may find yourself wandering around, not knowing what to do until you trigger the right event to move the game forward. Figuring out some of the new controls may be a chore even to veteran players. And the boss fights still feel like, well, boss fights. Run around, dodge attacks and wait for the inevitable weak point to expose itself. Standard video game stuff, really. Of course, that's just all part of the experience. If it was too easy we wouldn't enjoy it as much, would we?

There's no reason for anyone who liked Arkahm Asylum to not like this one. If you didn't like the first one then I don't know how I could recommend this to you. It's the same game, just much bigger. If you don't like sandbox sandbox games and prefer something linear you can still focues on just the main mission. On the whole it's the same game, just with more stuff. That may be good news to some and bad news for others. For fans of the first, it definitely delivers. We finally got the new Batman Game, now just three more weeks til Skyrim!

Some people may compare this game's story, not unjustly, to Escape from NewYork. Maybe they're just nitpicking, though. Even if that's the case, there are still plenty of twists and turns to keep players genuinely surprised right up until they get to of the end main mission.
I'm afraid I can't comment much on DLC since they have it in such a way that different people get different things. I've heard after a certain point, though, we'll all be able to download the same content...for a price.

Red Dead Redemption | 10

This being probably the best game I've ever played, I thought I'd say a few things. I loved the story, most movie scripts aren't written as well, the gameplay and graphics were equally impressive. I honestly enjoyed every second of this game, mostly because of the free-roam style. There is the option of taking a stage coach to avoid the long horse rides to the next missions, I took advantage of this once. In most games if there is a way of skipping the drive or ride to the destination, I almost always do so. With Red Dead Redemption, the ride is what I enjoyed most, although the missions were extremely enjoyable, the things you can accomplish on the way were just as fun, if not more fun. In the amazing world of RDR, you can hunt and skin a number of different wild animals including deer, rabbits, bobcats, grizzly bears, armadillos, a number of different types of birds and much more, all depending on the area you're in. I often found myself forgetting about the next objective and just hunting down as many animals as I could find lol. There is even a store you can sell the skins, meat and the other things you cut off or out of the animals you've hunted.

The missions are very entertaining and original, I enjoyed every single one. In RDR it's not all about shootin' and killin' the bad guys. Though it is that, among other things, throughout the game you're asked to help#most of which you can choose not to# simple farmers and civilians, which is equally as fun as the killin'. These objectives vary from domesticating horses to capturing prisoners who've escaped their transporter, which you can choose to kill or hog-tie and return to the lawman. The actual objectives needed to progress in the game are unique in their own right, they depend on the character from whom they were given. About half of the time you'll be asked to kill so-and-so, which usually isn't alone. But the other half consists of aiding in escapes, blowing up convoys of enemy wagons and other important events. No matter what you find yourself involved in, I promise you will have fun with it.

And if you're not interested in any missions, hunting or doing simple favors, you can go have a shot at the bar, play poker, black jack, horse shoes, five finger fillet or arm wrestle. I'm sure I'm missing a lot of things with this review, that said, the possibilities are endless. I give this game 10/10, if you've enjoyed the GTA's, COD's, MOH's, basically any first or 3rd person shooter's, or anything with a story, this game blows everything out of the water in my opinion. It's definitely worth buying, but if you're not wanting to spend $60 on a game, it's more than worth a rent and any late fee's you might accumulate when you lose yourself in this one. Hope this helps and I didn't sound too dorky, take care guys.

graphics 10
gameplay 10
sound 10
replay 10

Xenosaga Episode III | 9.0

Having played through the trilogy I feel that somewhere along the way the direction was lost. Xenosaga episode I introduced a vast and promising universe full of interesting concepts and characters and the promise of an in depth and interesting story. The first installment introduced everything from Realian rights, to discrimination; you even knew that the Seraphim Sisters were a popular girl group, giving you a feel of the setting that the game was to take place in. Sadly the universe that was introduced in the first installment has been methodically chipped away so that by episode III it has become the size of a person and that person is Shion Uzuki. A fair ninety percent of the game is focused on her and her far reaching effects on the world. The atmosphere of Xenosaga episode III was, I believe, supposed to have an apocalyptic feel, however, the impact of that was lost on me from seeing something that allegedly involves the fate of the entire universe from one person's point of view. There is too much going on in XSE III to be focused on one person for so long. Not only that it seems like an incredible waste to introduce so many interesting characters in episodes I and II only to shove them aside to focus on one and then to not only neglect characters that could have added an extra layer to the story but to introduce new characters who contribute nothing to the plot. I spent a majority of the game waiting for something plot wise to suck me in before finally admitting to myself that it wasn't going to happen. "Plot twists", revelations, and explanations are given in such a rapid succession that instead of being amazed at what I had found out I usually ended up rolling my eyes and muttering so what or asking do you really expect me to believe that?

It's a solid game even though the direction and execution of the story makes it fall short of what I expected it to be. My disappointment with it however still doesn't allow me to label it a bad game because it isn't which is why I have given it four stars. The battle system was fun and engaging to the point where I actually looked forward to getting into battles and the graphics were gorgeous. I have to admit that this is one of the most visually pleasing games that I've played all year. The dialogue however, is a mixed bag between thought provoking and unintentionally hilarious. While I was underwhelmed with the story it's still interesting enough so that if you're a fan of story driven rpgs that this is definitely something that you would want to look into, if you aren't already an initiate into the series.

Xenosaga does have a rather engaging storyline, but it didn't live up to the expectations that I formed upon playing episode I and even II. Perhaps my expectations were too high or perhaps I was led to expect something that never developed. Personally I felt as if it wasn't worth playing three games to get such an ambiguous and unsatisfying ending. I've played three games and not once have I ever gotten anything that even remotely felt like completion at the end of any of them. This doesn't however mean that I hate the game, but I wasn't impressed with it either. The writing, pacing, and direction felt too uneven, as if it was the result of a round robin with multiple people changing and adding to what had already been stated than as if it was a consistent campaign. Before any die hard fans get up in arms and decide that I didn't understand the story, let me assure them that I did. I just didn't care for the direction that was taken when there were so many other directions that the game could have gone in and left a more fitting conclusion than what was presented.

The Longest Journey | 9.5

Absolutely beautiful and surreal. Like so many woven dreams and breathtaking vistas and grand accomplishments... this game is everything I hoped it would be from the time I first spotted the box to the final credits. There is also no false advertisement in the title, as this is an extremely long journey. After dozens and dozens of diverse characters and locations and victories, you realize you have three discs of game left to go through. I played this game for months, though not always at the computer. I would get stuck on a particularly devious puzzle or plot point and wouldn't play for a while, but found myself brainstorming possible solutions all the time. There are many hours of dialogue and monologue (April tends to talk to herself about whatever is on her mind, which are often the same questions you find yourself asking) and most of it has some comic relief, usually from April's understandable cynacism (she does see and hear some very strange things).

If you want an awesome adventure game that will stretch the limits of your imagination and that will take for-freakin'-ever to finish, I highly recommend this game, although you'd probably love it regardless.

- Some of the puzzles are entirely based on "hunt the pixel" -- success hinges on finding the one tiny pixel that's hidden behind something else. I want puzzles to require intelligence and flexibility on my part, not keen eyesight and infinite patience in moving the mouse over the screen.

The game *was* good. The voice acting was excellent, the graphics were pretty, and the characters were engaging. The story was also very good (though some threads never got resolved, which was annoying).

Saturday, September 16, 2000

Xenosaga Episode II

Alot of reviews have been given for this game as "REALLY BAD." I'm one of those people who lets things slide. I'm a big RPG gamer. If you're just looking for fighting in a game. Stay away from this one. This needs alot of role playing consciousness. It has a FANTASTIC storyline (surperior to alot of other RPGs), but the game should have been a movie if you ask me. This game goes back to the past, alot of flashing back and forth and alot of surprises. On "The Trio" as I would say. Jr. Albedo and Gaignun. Don't worry about other characters. They're not as important here. But don't let that get you down.

It summerizes everytime I turn the game on to back where I left off, (loading from memory card) so that should help people who dooesn't game much. I couldn't understand why people wouldn't get the storyline if the UMN at the beginning of the game allows a feature to review what has already happened. I'm guessing people are giving irks about that.

I would probably complain about the voice actors and battle system, alot of people would probably say the same thing. I do not mind KOS-MOS' voice actor as much as Shion and chaos. chaos (Yes no caps) is too stoic for me, after playing Xenosaga I (over and over in order to get his character down, hey he's not human!), I'd say he doesn't add much to the action in the beginning where all the cool fight scenes are. The beginning of this game, IS AWESOME. Yes AWESOME. (Voice actors killed it.)

Shion, I would say, is a mess, her attitudes and momentum throws me off everytime a new situation becomes bad. How can she sound so perky all the time? I would definately go with the voice actor in Xenosaga I if I were to choose between the two. And the old voice actors are wonderful as always, Albedo, Jr., Gaignun, and Captain Matthews. Yar they're the same.

The battle system, yes it's a pain. You're not actually fighting. You spend most of your time "stocking up" and letting your enemies rag doll you most of the time. Stocks are like AP in Xenosaga I, except you can only add one stock each turn, or use an ether "Stock 1" to add a stock to another character. After you attain a certain amount of stocks you are presented a number of combo options. The more stocks, the better combo. It becomes an issue because I would have to run around and train in the same area in order to get enough levels or TM points (in order to get Medica All, it becomes valuable, trust me.) I was hoping that this game system would take a tiny bit from Final Fantasy X (because you can to switch characters in battle) however, unlike FFX, this only allows share of spoils (TM points EXP etc.) to the remaining three characters standing in battle. It becomes a real disadvantage if you have characters that have some abilities, but not others. (Medica, Revert, Refresh, etc. although they all have the same abilities to learn, such as Psycho Pocket.) I would suggest picking three main characters and if you do have a strategy guide, ignore the character reccomendations. I chose to maintain Jr., KOS-MOS, MOMO, or Ziggy. (Robotics addict.) Unlike Xenosaga I, tech attacks are only avalible with doubles. So say you have KOS-MOS and Shion, if you have the key for the ability Double X-Buster with a boost and a certain amount of stocks, you can do a tech a attack. Once per battle.

Also, alot of people are confused about "break zones." It's hard to explain in words, there are tutorials in the game. But it's something so that you think you'll always have to rely on combos. It's like suppose you have an enemy with a break zone of B, A.
On your controller there's a:

O which represents "A" or "B" (Some characters such as Shion and MOMO have only B as combos so you press O all throughout for a "B")
Triangle which represents "C"
Square which represents "B"

Those buttons represent letters. Characters have combos accordingly to the buttons you press. So you attack with Square and O. Then their zone is broken. You give more heavy damage by following the character with O buttons for "break bonus" this just means you successfuly broken through their break zone and you are currantly giving more than average damage.
This all comes down to your characters. Characters have different combos. It's much more simple to play it rather than explain it. There's more to it though. Battle slots are still there, and a few more quirks.

A few notes:
Jr. - A bit weak. He doesn't have a lot of enemies that has a weakness for him. But I use alot of skill upgrades so that he gets to make quick work of Albedo.
KOS-MOS - She's super strong against Gnosis. (Fitting of course.)
MOMO - She's a super valuable asset. I use her ALOT. Her ether bow kills.
Ziggy - He's good against anything. Like bosses.

Another battle system irk is the "Move" command. I use that command to do efficient back shots. But the stupid thing is that if I move to the other side, my character is facing his/her back towards the enemy. Then I'll have to wait next term to attack in order to make her face the enemy. (Confusing ya.)

Speaking of areas, the maps are smaller compared to other games I played, so there's fewer enemies to bash. A bit convienient but gets tiresome if you're trying to get treasures around the block. The UMN encephalon has changed. Now you don't have to worry about exiting through a plate. Just start menu and exit. But I really hate knowing that two disks can only contain about 30 maps. It goes by fast. I mean, really fast. Before the first disk was over I was halfway through the stradegy guide. (And I don't usually buy stradegy guides.) The only things that are making the game longer are the GS campaigns, I'd totally reccommend that you do it or else you won't get all the nifty stuff that would make gameplay a bit more "exhilerating." Like double tech attacks and all those other cool items. (Believe or not I haven't used any item in the game yet, not even a Med Kit.) I'm a thrifty person, knowing that there is no currency = no shops. And I hate the puzzles in this game. It gets on your nerves eventually. Even little tiny puzzles.

The maps are beautifully rendered. One thing I'm ticked off about is that there's no radar. You just have to wait to be ambushed unless you memorize every quirk in the area (which doesn't take a lot since you eventually visit the maps over and over.) Sometimes you can't even smash the traps before the enemy ambushes you.

Although I can't say the same for the characters, even though it's become all realistic, it's become too femme for me. KOS-MOS' new design throws me off, and that's why I put the bathing suit on her for battle, Shion is also a bit femme for me. But I would totally think guy gamers would fall for them eh.

I would also say the same for the guys, they grown cuter, but I still am not pleased with the new character design after I played it.

E.S.s I almost forgot about that. (I was reading other reviews.) Piloting the E.S. is like the A.G.W.S. only more bulky and cooler. The thing that pissed me off for the E.S. is that it's slow on the maps. No matter which E.S. you chose, Dinah, Zebulan, Asher. It's slow. Pathetically slower than the human lead characters. I would love it if they had more abilities and hope that they STOP STOCKING UP. I almost died because half-way I did not have Zebulan (that's the only E.S. that can use ether = heal). But I love the E.S. Much more detailed and beautiful things than the A.G.W.S.

Music is a bit more techy. Very techy. I don't like most of the soundtrack. Gives me a headache. I love orchestra, but that's me. (like Chrono Cross, FFX, and Xenosaga I etc.)

Three stars, it's not the living saga, there's not a "true game" thing going on. Not enough for me to play over and over. If you're into SCI-Fi storyline, random philosophies, techy mechas. (Like me) This game would probably love you. But not as much for me. (And I ain't no star wars fan but I'm loyal enough to keep Xenosaga as my favorite RPGs)

Friday, September 15, 2000

Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies | 9.0

I rented this game and ended up finishing it in maybe 7 or 8 hours of gameplay. (in normal mode) This may seem short but only because I Just HAD to see what the next mission was like and basically played it straight through. Now that I've completed it I still can't put it down, because once complete you can "continue" your career and fly the missions over again, but with your new, much improved hardware. Destroying targets in missions earns you cash which you can use to buy new planes. (21 I think?) Just because you've completed all 18 missions doesn't mean you can afford all the planes though, far from it. I held out for several missions until I could afford the mid-grade F-15, but there are many more after that. (you have to resist buying every plane you can afford and save up for the really sweet rides) I went through a few missions a second time until I could afford the awesome F-15 Advance. (WOW) There are tons of other real world planes, many F22 & F16 variants, the F117 (stealth fighter) and several Warsaw Pact planes, (Migs and stuff) and last but not least, that loveable, tank-busting A10 Warthog. All of them perform/appear different enough to warrant purchase, and I sorta have that "gotta catch 'em all" feeling. I also read somewhere about unlocking alternate paint schemes. Sheesh! The missions themselves are nicely varied as is the terrain/environment. The radio chatter and military style pre-mission briefing add alot of tension and atmosphere and the storyline is pretty cool too. Obviously, I plan on adding this one to my collection permanently and would recommend you do the same.

Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht | 8.5

Graphics: For the most part the graphics are excellent. During battles they easily top FFX's battle graphics, as the tons of deathblows and ethers you can do all look gorgeous and have all kinds of cool effects and particles like feathers blowing around them etc. Animation is smooth as is the framerate. Cutscenes are also superbly directed, and definitely help move the story ahead. All in all, an absolutely beautiful looking game.

Sound - The music is great for the most part but there just isn't much of it. If you take out the hollywood type action cut-scene music, you could probally fit the music on to 1 cd, it almost feels like it's only about 1/6 of the amount of tracks that say Xenogears had. Also one thing that bugs alot of people, is the for 80% of the gameplay section (running around and dungeons) there is no music because Mitsuda thought it's more realistic to only hear sound effects, and that it makes the music have more of an 'impact' when you do hear it. But what is there is very nice.

Gameplay - The first five hours of this game is a intro movie, you really get no gameplay during it, and you mainly just watch cutscenes and nothing much happens right away. This isn't bad, it's just the game has a slightly slow beginning so be prepared and know that the game does open up. But remember, the Xeno series is like this. If you've played Xenogears you'll know what I mean. But, once the game really starts moving, the gameplay is very good. The battle system is one of my favorites I've ever played, the character management and development between Deathblows/skills/stats/equipment/AGWS is my #1 favorite character management system in any rpg in the last 10 years, it's very complex and really allows you to make the characters the way you want them. Luckily the game makes a save when you beat it which is only for loading into ep2 next year, so if your characters make it through ep1 alive then you can use the one's you've built up in ep2 probaly. Also the game has several mini-games which are completely seperate from the game itself. At save points you can use an item that just takes you into a different game, and you can't win anything to actually use in the real game. Also the AGWS are in the game. While your characters can Boost (Extremely important), heal (likewise), and attack for major damage starting around 1/2 through, your gears cannot do anything other than attack and guard. Their attacks do around a 1/3 of what any of your characters can do outside of AGWS's, and even there hp is only about 2x your character hp, and none of the bosses require you to use them since only 4 people of the 6 can even use AGWS's, the developers couldn't force you to use AGWS's since your party might not have them. Also there are only around 6 AGWS's (3 playable from the start, 2 buyable, 1 another character in the game uses) in the game, and only 1 really looks like a 'gear' . But this doesn't take away from the gameplay as there more of just an extra for fans. Also there are a good amount of side-quests and hidden scenes spread around the game.

The game's story does not stand on it's own period. Until the last 10% of the game, I thought it was turning into possibly one of the best rpg/anime/movie/novel stories ever. But then you realize at the last 10%, 'oh wait, there just going to end it there aren't they', and they do. Several of the characters in the main party do not even get more than 1 scene of development in the whole game, 1 character doesn't even get a single scene of character development, he's just 'there' for now. But I really loved the bits of story in the game as there are told with style (think Xenogears and the last 2eps of Eva), very artsy at times and cool. But the story has not even started. Expect to see lots of flashbacks and symbolism that makes no sense at this point. There isn't even enough story in the game to make theories yet. But again, this game is the first part of an on going Xenosaga series so expect the story to unfold during the upcoming sequals. The game took me about 47 hours including 4 hours of just non-stop leveling up in the middle which made the rest of the game pretty easy for me. The game does have a higher difficulty than say the FF series, but it's not the hardest rpg I've played. If you do all the side-quest stuff and get all the secrets I'd say the game will take you about 50 hours, plus the time if you want to play the mini-games. All in all, a great game and one of the better RPG's I've ever played and a series that is gearing up for an absolute epic adventure.

Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Resistance 3 | 9.0

I am not one for horror movies, scary movies, FPS shooters that feature zombies in game after game (I'm looking at you Call of Duty) or that sort of thing, so after I got my PS3 I never found myself that compelled to pick up either Resistance FoM or Resistance 2. However, reading the previews and watching the trailers for Resistance 3, I found myself very much interested. Having played a great amount of Resistance 3 single and multiplayer I can report that I am very glad I picked this one up.

This game is not as beautiful or graphically amazing as Killzone 3. However it does look quite good. The textures, the lighting especially make this game look incredible. From an artistic standpoint, this game looks just simply incredible. The guns look detailed, the textures are deep, the character models are quite good but the environments are what will capture your attention the most.

Because the environments are so beautiful and captivating, the game does a phenomenal job putting you into a role as one of the last survivors on earth. You can really buy into the idea that you're at the end of a war that has gone terrible. The music, the graphics, the sound effects all effectively present what happens.

Most notable about this game is that it gives a shout-out to older FPS games by allowing you to hold more than 2 weapons, in fact you can hold as many as you like on your weapon wheel. You also must gather health packs to revive. It reminds me of the first FPS I played which was Star Wars: Dark Forces. This is a good thing. I hate having to drop weapons on the ground to pick up a new one, the simple weapon wheel system (like Assassins Creed) works well. It is a pleasure to switch weapons to make the tactics you need available to get the upper hand. A shotgun is an excellent weapon when you're being surrounded by zombie alien hordes, but a sniper rifle is most effective at distance. The bulls-eye allows you to hone in on enemies even when they're moving and you're firing elsewhere, which is helpful for grasshopper aliens. The augment (shooting through walls) gun is effective particularly to find out where enemies are hiding.

The music and sound effects are sensational and help add to the atmosphere and feeling of the entire game. The music is well composed and sometimes the silence is more dramatic and intense than the music itself.

The multiplayer is quite buggy particularly here within the first week, but considering the beta and two giant updates to R3, I wonder why it is so full of errors. Much like any other modern FPS, multiplayer supports a leveling up system as well as a class system. As you level up you may create your own class and you can choose your own combination of guns, power-ups, grenades and so forth. Any upgrades your purchase for one class is available to all other classes (unlike KZ3) which is good. Besides the glitches in multiplayer, the game feels a little off balanced because certain players with upgraded guns & power-ups particularly in combination really over-run other players at lower levels. However, I find this to be a similar problem to various FPS multiplayer leveling up systems. It simply takes so long to accumulate the points to purchase new abilities, guns, powers, and so forth.

Overall, this FPS is a phenomenal addition to your PS3 game collection especially if you enjoy First Person Shooters. The single player is dark, gritty and creepy and the multiplayer despite its flaws is a fun sensational experience.

The more hours I put into the campaign and multiplayer the more I have come to appreciate the art design of the game. While perhaps R3 doesn't do anything that other FPS haven't done before, it does them well, it does them with a great post-apocalyptic style and great level design. One complaint I have is that there are a few levels where the game encourages you to be stealthy, but the game doesn't always give you the tools to do so. It does a good job trying to creep you out with aliens in abandoned-post alien-end of the world as we know it places all across America. Its' story is grim and though you don't know the main characters you care about what happens to them.

Final Fantasy X-2 | 10

Final Fantasy X-2 is a brand new world in the beloved series. While it is based on, and set in, FFX's world of Spira and containing the core characters of Yuna & Rikku, and a plethora of the supporting characters seen previously, it as much different as it is similar.

Some 2 years have passed since Yuna, Wakka, Sir Auron, Rikku, Kimahri & our lost dream (and Yuna's love,) Tidus defeated Sin to bring the eternal calm. For anyone that hasn't played and beaten X, it's a good idea to pick up a copy and play it through first simply because X-2 doesn't give you a lot of backstory, instead alludes to things and moves forward.

Yuna is now a Sphere Hunter with the Gullwings and travels with her cousin Rikku and a brash new character, the Gothic female Paine. Rikku arrived on the Isle of Besaid and gave Yuna a sphere containing a video of someone that looks like Tidus trapped for trying to use some kind of weapon. I can't elaborate more or I would spoil most of the adventure. So, Y. P. R. (as they call themselves) are hunting every sphere in Spira trying to find out just who this is. Along the way, they are constantly hounded by the Leblanc Syndicate (another Sphere Hunter group) and the rise of New Yevon. If X's tagline was "This is my story," (meaning Tidus,) than the tagline for X-2 is appropriate as "This is Yuna's story." In fact, it is a deep story as I have come to find out and far moreso than the brief synopsis by Square-Enix. (This is a good thing.)

The same source code was used for many of different area's seen in FFX, but have been tweaked and updated to bring the world of Spira 2 years forward. Some area's look exactly the same, however, with new people and places to explore. Graphically, FF X-2 is better looking and superior to X because of these added elements.

Graphics II:
The character models are sharp and gorgeous. The speech to mouth movement has been overhauled and plays out smoothly. You'll notice the incredible graphics while in battle and especially while changing dressspheres.

This is where X-2 differs so much from FFX. Instead of the linear world of moving from place to place, you now have a beautiful airship to roam wherever you want to, when ever you want to. In short, you can play this game any way you want too as there's no preset way to go. The world map has returned and with your airship you pick where you want to go instead of waiting until deep into the game to acquire the ship (as was the case in previous FF titles.) Also, instead of one defined mini-game, like Blitzball & Tetra Master, there are many (sorta like the things you could do at the Gold Saucer in FFVII.)

Gameplay II:
Ah, the battle scheme. It is easy, and it is tough. ATB, "Active Time Battle," seen in Final Fantasy IX has returned and you can change job classes in the middle of battle. Be careful however, changing classes in a tough fight could leave your party vanquished. Gone is the usual fight stance and style where one party stays on one side and the fiend on the other. X-2 presents the battle in a realistic form. You may surround the fiends once, or they may surround you. Also, I can't leave out the mentioning of the "Chain Attack," a cool feature done in other games and now bringing a great strategy to FF's turn-based battle system. (You'll notice in X-2, that it doesn't as heavily rely on turn-based as previous FF's and could be an Action RPG like Summoner 2 if was loosened any further.) Again, a good thing.

The voice acting is suberb by the same cast as the original. The music is upbeat and lively and bear's no, and I mean NO, resemblence to Nobuo Uematsu's awesome scores and themes. This may be the games only drawback and is sorely missed, at least by me.

X-2 is presented as a game in itself with ties to X. The mission-based gameplay, free roaming world and familiar meetings make the game an incredible RPG. Square-Enix has outdone itself. Don't expect to be replaying FFX, this is a forward-driven, exceptional new chapter as much as a sequel.

I have left a lot out in this review, simply because to divulge too much would be to give away spoilers. There is something at every turn in the game that is new and connecting the 2 games.

Thursday, September 7, 2000

Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete | 8.0

The story of Eternal Blue is pure classic. It's the simple story of a brash adventurer who falls for an enigmatic girl with a mission. Quite simple, but monolithic nonetheless. Unlike many current RPGs, the simple charm of the love story is not buried under reams of dross. Yes, an epic adventure unfolds, but Eternal Blue never loses sight of its greatest strengths: its characters, simple romance, and a sense of lighthearted adventure. Working Designs knows what they are doing: their script is witty and proficient, underscoring unique personalities and heightening the emotional impact of any given scene. The villains are more interesting this time around, the plot hardly ever runs off track, and there's a few plot twists you'll never expect.

For those who didn't experience this wonderful story in the Sega CD days, you owe it to yourself to play it through. It ranks among the greatest stories ever, and in many ways is surpasses the original telling (which had too much humor for its own good).

The graphics are very 16-bit, so the game lacks graphical titillation. (The Gonzo-made (Last Exile, Full Metal Panic fame) FMV is gorgeous, though.) The gameplay, likewise, is archaic, and actually a step down from the Sega CD original. The magic system, which was one of the greatest merits of the original, has been simplified to the point of mindlessness, which is ridiculous and dumb. Actually, the gameplay seems more tiring than I remembered, the dungeons being particularly exhausting. The game is a little tougher though, which creates a sense of urgency not often associated with many RPGs these days.

While the gameplay hasn't aged well, the story is as timeless as they come, and that makes the game worth playing.

All the extras are a nice treat as well. I personally found the "Making Of Lunar 2" CD very interesting, and while I have no use for the amulet or the character standees, they are nice bonuses. The map is a nifty keepsake, and the full soundtrack is great. I don't listen to the soundtrack, because I don't really enjoy the Lunar music outside the context of the game, but I appreciate the gesture, and there are still several good tunes included (Lemina's theme is fookin' catchy). Hopefully other publishers will include soundtracks with their games in the future.

No doubt, Game Arts is porting it to PSP

I must say Working Designs has done it again! Lunar 2 is definitely a classic game that no household should do without. I've played Lunar SSS Complete and that game was a definite masterpiece. The storyline was excellent, the characters were well drawn, the music soundtrack of the game was brilliant, and most importantly the game play itself was top notch. . The packaging of the game was a great idea and the artwork of the casing was really cool. I must say Lunar 2 is a must have type game. For those who played Lunar SSS...your gonna love this game just as much as you loved the previous title. For those that hasn't played Lunar're in for a good treat. I personally recommend this game to everyone. I feel this game will blow away the minds of those who don't even like RPGs.

Wednesday, September 6, 2000

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete | 9.0

Lunar Silver Star Story first debuted on the Sega CD. While the Sega CD system didn't last very long, Lunar did manage to get quite a following. Unfortunately, because the Sega CD user base wasn't large, Lunar was overlooked by several gamers. The game had a release on the very short lived Sega Saturn, but again, never reached audiences. In 1999 Lunar finally reached a large audience. The Playstation. With several changes and updates from the original Sega CD version to make the story more complete and satisfying.

Lunar Silver Star Story Complete concerns itself with Alex. He one day dreams of being a Dragonmaster. Just like his hero, Dyne. He figures he'll just have to keep dreaming, though. Until his friend Ramus has a plan to go into the White Dragon cave and get a hold of the White Dragon Diamond. Finally, a chance for Alex to go on an adventure. But it ends up becoming much bigger than he ever dreamed.

For the most part, Lunar Silver Star Story has a cliched overly done storyline. Despite that, however, it is one of the best in the genre because it has a fantastic cast of characters who are all well developed, a good sense of humor, one of the best villains in video game history as well as a very emotional story. All these things make you forget the cliched storyline and make it something enjoyable and memorable. The story also has a few really great looking anime cinematics and some incredibly good voice acting to help flesh out the humor and wit. It also helps that the dialog is extremely well written. Put simply, the story is presented very well.

The gameplay is dated, but that's to be expected for a game originally released in 1992. Lunar has a straightforward combat system. It's the simple turn based fare you've seen in dozens of RPGs. You'll select an action for every character to do and then watch the battle play out as your enemies and you take turns. Every character can either attack, use special techniques unique to only them use items and run away, etc. Battles are contact based. That doesn't mean enemies will simply let you waltz by. Many enemies upon seeing you will give chase.

Lunar is by no means a complicated game. Every character gains magic through levels (save for Alex who will get a few spells from meeting certain objectives in the story) and has their own unique magic. For example, Nash is the only character who can cast Thunder Magic. There are a few tidbits to the battle system that help flesh it out and keep it from being overly repetitive. For one, characters who use staves can use them to cast spells that they otherwise might not be able to cast. There's also a huge emphasis on strategy here. Lunar is not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. Especially up against the bosses. You'll find you have to move your characters all over the field and heal every turn to keep yourself a float. To make matters even more difficult, you only have a limited number of items you can carry and on top of that, items at the market are quite expensive and monsters don't drop a lot of money. So even though battles are contact based, it's probably best to fight as many as you can. The only major problem with Lunar's battle system is that battles aren't quick. Even normal battles can last for several minutes because of having to heal yourself constantly. For the most part, though, the trip through the game is very rewarding.

Visually, Lunar is a very colorful, artistic looking, smooth running game. It doesn't push the Playstation to its limits, but it does manage to be a good game nonetheless. The artistic design is incredibly well done, though. So are the character portraits and animated cutscenes. It's actually a very beautiful looking game, but it looks like a smooth over sixteen bit game too. Luckily, this won't bother most gamers.

It sounds pretty good. As mentioned before, the voice acting is some of the best in the industry. Many of the tunes are quite catchy (particularly the world map and battle themes). They're short tracks, though, so they loop real soon, which makes much of the music quite repetitive. In the long run, though, you're getting quite a bit.

Lunar Silver Star Story Complete originally came with a lot of extras. A soundtrack CD filled with the best tracks, a cloth map, a making of CD and a hardcover instruction booklet that even included a sample of the strategy guide made by Working Designs themselves. It's quite the collector's item to have.

Lunar Silver Star Story Complete is a fantastic RPG that despite being released on the Playstation, was still fairly overlooked. It does, however, retain a strong audience. A fine game where the effort of the creators really shows through fantastic writing, a well crafted story and some of the most well developed characters to grace the genre.

Tuesday, September 5, 2000

The Curse of Monkey Island | 9.0

This is a game that any true adventure lover MUST add to their collection. It keeps things alive with witty jokes, puns, and overall silliness but doesn't get too annoying. The puzzles you must solve are at about a medium difficulty throughout the game and don't really get any harder or easier. Once you solve the first few you can expect the rest to be about the same. I never play adventure games more than once because I already know the solutions, but I must admit I've played this a couple of times already and I'll probably play it some more. It's like reading a funny comic strip with brain teasers! This game supplies HOURS of enjoyment. I consider it a must have. The Curse of Monkey Island is, in my opinion, the best of the Monkey island series. This game has very good graphics, puzzles and plot. A must have for adventure games fans.The intuitive point-and-click controls make it a snap to control Guybrush and the hilarious yet challenging puzzles, great voices, and wonderful acting make this a highly engrossing game.

Monday, September 4, 2000

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 | 8.5

Worse story (one step back), but better gameplay, and graphics (two steps forward) Thanks for bringing it state-side!

This game will mostly appeal to those who enjoy the MegaTen series. As a sequel, it's game-play is almost just like it's predecessors, which is a good thing for those who don't like major changes when it comes to sequels.

You start off as a high school student ( in the manga his name is Souji Seta ) who just transferred from the big city to a small town called Inaba, due to his parents partaking in oversea jobs, thus forcing him to move in with his uncle and younger cousin, Kojima and Nanako.

Later on, a heavy fog sets in the area of Inaba and during one of your classes, your school is dismissed due to an emergency, which ends up being mysterious murder of an announcer woman. Her body was discovered nearby, mutilated and hanging on a TV antenna on the roof of someone's house (Must suck to be the owner of the house). The police investigators are at a lost as they can't seem to figure out how she died or if someone had murdered her, this is because her death was most likely done by a supernatural cause, but the police won't believe that.. They never do. But they gradually run into more murder/homicide cases and all of them show up when it's "foggy" out. Are these cases somehow related with the mysterious fog? ...Maybe. The cases are also somehow related to Television, as a rumor about watching the TV with the screen blank at mid-night on a rainy day, a person will show up on screen ( This is called " the Midnight Channel" ), but you'll get more info on that when you actually play the game. This also has some sort of connection to the murders.

You'll eventually get to the good stuff when you suddenly start to awake to your Persona ( A living entity inside you, or your other self which is a being that basically gives you all your powers in the game. Sadly you don't get to have an Evoker this time, this means no more shooting yourself in the head with a toy gun. Instead, you''ll be breaking Tarot cards that appear out of no where.. ) and at one point you'll have the ability to strangely go into your TV ( Or any TV, but you'll only be using one through out the entire game ). On the other side of the TV is an entirely different world infested with monster-like creatures called Shadows ( Brings back memories of Tartarus from PE3 ) and it's basically up to you and your friends to explore the TV world and find any ways to solve the murder cases and prevent anymore people from dying mysteriously.

Anyways, for game-play:

Battles: You encounter battles the same way as always, as you wander around the TV world there are various forms of shadows lurking about. Either you get to the shadow blob things first by giving them a good whack to the head with whatever weapon you have, or they get you ( this effects being ambushed or having the upper hand with a preemptive attack.) Battles are fought basically the same as in PE3. For those who aren't familiar with previous Persona titles, it's basically turn-based, you have your attack, guard, and special skills. You still have your Rush and all that good stuff, nothing different, also ( I don't remember if you can do this or not in PE3 since I never tried until now) you can chose your party to act on their own (via computer) or you can chose to manually control them, but you'll have to switch battle tactics in order to do that, the default party tactics are always on computer and it's a big help to switch them to manual since they aren't exactly your smartest fighters. It's highly suggested that you take your time and try to NOT avoid battles, since if you're not at a good enough level by the time your get ahead in the game and face a boss, you'll be sorry. )': If you balance out your leveling the game should flow smoothly, but being lazy will end up leaving you frustrated. The battles may get a little repetitive, but all RPGs are like that. Once you get the hang of things (Like getting the enemy's weaknesses down and etc, which will make battles come out easy as pie ) it'll eventually grow on you.

One little nice adjustment in battles is that when you hit an enemy with it's weakness and knock it down ( like a fire element attack if it's weak against fire), and you hit it AGAIN with it's weakness, it'll stun the enemy or make them dizzy, so basically the first weakness strike will knock them down and the second will make them dizzy. Unlike in the previous game, if you hit them with their weakness it'll knock them down, but if you hit them again it'll wake them up out of their stunned/knock-down state...which made no sense whatsoever.

Character Interactivity: Okay here, you actually have to interact with your friends and family ( being a angsty loner won't get you anywhere!).

Most interactivity will launch character sequences and you get to see your character's relationship with other people develop over time ( the more, the better, especially since it effects how strong your Persona is). You have these things called social links, which is basically a link or special bond to certain people you interact with. When you converse or hang out with your friends, saying the right things or making the right choices will make them like your more, thus getting enough points for that, you can level-up these social links which will make your Personas stronger.

The social links are exactly the same as the ones in PE3, the only real difference is that every time you level-up a social link, it doesn't give you this big dramatic sequence where your Persona talks to you in your head and tells you that your bond with x Arcana has strengthened and blah blah blah.. Instead this level-up image with the corresponding Tarot card pops up and says LEVEL UP along with a bar that shows you how much you've leveled that social link until it's maxed out. Also, leveling your social links with party-members will get them to learn new passive abilities like helping you out during battle by snapping you out of rage, or taking a fatal blown for you if your character's about to take a lethal hit. Another new addition is that when you max out social links with your party members, their Persona gets reborn into another Persona. Kind of like a big upgrade.

Music and Sound: .. It's actually pretty good! I already have a lot of the tracks stuck in my head as most of them are pretty catchy. Most voices are bearable, if not good. I'm personally fond of the main character's voice and his friend, Yosuke, great voice actors. ( Voiced by Yuri L. AND Johnny B., those guys voiced a TON of games together... Tales of The Abyss (Luke and Guy) and .Hack//G.U ( Haseo and Kuhn) anyone? Johnny's also voiced Nero from DMC4 and Ichigo from Bleach lol.)

Graphics: The graphics have improved compared to the previous game, plus there seems to be a lot more character animation while you're in 3D and it's fun to watch. You still have your awesome 2D anime cut scenes, and those always look good.

Set-Backs?: The only thing major here is that when you go into the TV to "Save" people, you have to save them before a fog comes ( The weather channel on TV will be a big help, so be sure to check every now and then ) else you'll get a Game Over and will have to start over from the week prior. Of course, they give you PLENTY of time, and it's easy to tell when the fog comes because they only come after 2-3 or days of rain.

Other Parts Of Gameplay: You also have other stats in the game you can raise, which are very essential in gaining new acquaintances and earning your social links. This time your set of stats are Knowledge, Diligence, Understanding, Courage, and Expression. You can raise any of these through all sorts methods, such as getting the right answers in class, studying, or participating in part-time jobs (which can also earn you money ). Of course, a lot of cases in the game, you'll need to use your brain. There are times where you'll have to think like a detective and break everything down into the facts ( I personally thought it was fun, especially when you get it right! ). Also, the questions you get asked in class are mostly trivial, some or most, you may have absolutely no idea what the answers are as the questions are very difficult but some are easy ( I'm in highschool , but all of the questions are REAL, not a bunch of bologna they threw together just to make you mad. You might have to result to using the internet to find your answers, of course, you'll learn something new afterwards ( I learned..A lot of things. Like, in Japan, a robber would most likely break into your house at 8 in the morning or that the Egyptians used eyeliner as a type of replant.. )

Other than that, the game is overall, entertaining ( a lot of the scenes in the game are amusing ) of course everyone has their different tastes in games. I'd suggest this game to any MegaTen fan or RPG gamer. Those who are more for action RPGs might not like this game since this game takes a lot of patience and strategy. Plus they talk A LOT ( lots of reading, but it's not wise to skim through them. )

Sunday, September 3, 2000

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 review | 8.0

During the 90+ hours that I played Persona 3, I indulged in the game far too much to be considered healthy. Every day that I played it, I woke up, went straight to my console, and played it until the sun went down (or in many cases, the sun came up!) I guess because of this, you could say I was suffering from the "Apathy Syndrome" that keeps being broughout up through-out Persona 3.

That being said, Persona 3 features some of the most addictive and enjoyable game play that Atlus has created thus far. It features a streamlined version of the Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne combat system. It also has a very wacky and amusing "real life" school simulator, and of course, the always compelling fusion system to keep the player determined to create the "ultimate" demon (or Persona, in this case.)

The game play overall is a standard turn based RPG dungeon crawler. Unlike the past few SMT titles however, there are no random encounters. All of the monsters can be seen on the map, and in turn, you can hit them to cause a surprise attack. Vice versa, they can also hit you, and (usually) cause an ambush. This little addition to the "SMT game play" is very much welcomed, as it helps eliminate the much tired cliché of having to wait for a battle when "leveling up" or having to kill off monster after monster when you're just trying to get to a save point. As mentioned above, the combat engine itself is a streamlined version of the "press turn icon system." The player is given one turn, but they can theoretically have unlimited turns by either landing a critical hit or exposing the enemies weakness (which results in an extra turn.) Best of all, the player can execute a massive damage attack where all of the party members assault the enemy if the player manages to land a critical blow or expose the weakness of ALL the enemies in battle (and this works for bosses too!). As one may not suspect, critical hits are very common, and the ability to exploit enemy weaknesses is also very common among most enemies. Suffice to say, the combat in SMT: Persona 3 is arguably the most enjoyable part of the game. It is somewhat easy, but at the same time, it is also very fast paced and action filled.

The only drawback to the improved combat engine however is that aside from the protagonist, all of the party members in the battle party are controlled by AI. They can be "directed" via using tactical commands, but unfortunately, the AI for the party members is surprisingly weak. Even though they are smart enough to heal when someone else is hurt, or exploit enemy weaknesses when they are discovered, they tend to do things that many times, are just plain illogical. An example would be the party member exploiting the weakness of an enemy. Since the whole enemy party consists of the same monster, it would be logical to exploit the rest of their weaknesses in order to end the battle faster. Rather, the party member will just continue to attack the same enemy and blow their extra turn. While this can be avoided with using some tactics, the tactics are somewhat of a nuisance to constantly be turning on and off. Thus, battles can end up taking longer than they should, mainly due to the player having to find ways to compensate for the weak party AI.

There is also a minor problem with the dungeon crawling. While the game does something interesting, and features predominantly only ONE dungeon (but it is a dozy, a 250+ floor tower), the crawling is a tad redundant. The dungeon floors only change appearance after every 20-50 floors. They also use the same monster graphic (aside from bosses), which seems a little lazy on the part of Atlus. On the plus side however, many of the dungeon's floors are randomly generated, which could lead to potential replay value. Still, the random generation sometimes leads to irritatingly huge floors, which can turn a reasonable 20-30 minute exploration into a 2 hour exploration if the player is unfortunate enough to get a string of "bad floors". Thankfully, the game generously allows for numerous save points and teleportation terminals, but some of the terminals are very far spaced out. As a result, it is not advised to play Persona 3 if you do not have very much time on your hands.

Aside from the combat and dungeon crawling, much of the game takes place in the "real world". During the time in the real world, the game flows like the days of the year. The player can only do a certain number of things each day, and they naturally, cannot regain days. So certain things that are missed or not explored will end up being permanently lost until the next "cycle". In order to encourage playing in this "real world" however, the game makes it so that in order to create many of the stronger "Personas" in the game, the player has to create social relationships with many of the games NPCs. Doing so unlocks different personas, based on the personality of an NPC. This approach is also surprisingly interesting, and the player will most likely find themselves trying to budget their time in order to obtain the maximum social relationship with a specific NPC in order to gain a desired persona.

The graphics of the game are decent, although "different" when compared to previous SMT and Persona games. The most shocking part of them is that series "brain" Kazuma Kaneko is absent, thus his trademark artwork and character design is not present. In his place however is an artist who is equally talented, and he does Kazuma justice. In fact, much of the game features wonderful artwork, so the absence of Kaneko is not the most damaging fact (although one would have to wonder if he would have had more influence on the game's story if he did do the artwork.) Aside from Kaneko, the graphics of the game are almost all done in a "dirty" but still detailed 3D style (and some cell shading ), with the exception of the 2D anime style "talking heads" shown during conversations, and the anime cut scenes. The anime scenes are a little disappointing however, as they are drawn in a more "sloppy and wacky" style than the more stylized and consistent drawings found through out the game. Overall, the graphics are not on par with other last generation PS2 games such as FF12, but they get the job done.

The game also features a very eccentric soundtrack, which is somewhat of a mash up of pop music, "pop" music and the classic SMT techno-industrial music that we have come to love. This music however can grow irritating, mainly due to the fact that the songs are over-used throughout the game or the songs are simply just not LONG enough and they turn into redundant loops. By the end of the game, I found the soundtrack to be mostly dull and tired as opposed to fresh and interesting when I first started playing. This was rather a disappointment since most of the previous SMT games seemed to feature more varied (and longer) songs.

Last but not least, Persona 3 is also somewhat disappointing in the storyline department. While the story is for all intents and purposes, GOOD, it is less thought provoking than the previous 3 Persona titles. This can hamper replay value, as someone will most likely "get" the whole story after one play rather than having to replay it to gain more understanding. There also seems to very weak continuity in the game with the previous Persona games, which is disappointing since the game has been stated to take place in the same universe and timeline as the previous Persona games. The game is also decidedly less dark and grim compared to previous Persona titles, which is interesting considering the dark atmosphere of the majority of SMT-related titles that have come out on the PS2.

Also, the pacing of the storyline in Persona 3 is a tad slow. While it is understandable that it is fleshed out over the "year" the game takes place in, some of the conversations and events in the game feel like "filler" or "incomplete" events. Also, many of them are overly-lengthy, which like the dungeon, can lead to obscenely long amounts of time spent reading the text and listening to the voice acting (which is very good!)

All negatives aside, Persona 3 is a gem. It isn't for everyone (and that's come to be expected with SMT titles.) It features lots of fast and fun dungeon battles, plenty of controversial images (wait till you see how the Personas are summoned), tons of voice acting and a very good story. It is disappointing that the game has so many short comings, but it is still one of the definite best RPGs of 2007.

Saturday, September 2, 2000

Final Fantasy X | 10

I believe that Final Fantasy X is the last game from Square that is really, awesomely good. It was all downhill after they joined Enix, in my opinion (I hope Final Fantasy XIII redeems them). Even FF12 was only average, to me. Anyway, this game is fantastic. Why? Well, let's find out!

Graphics (score 10/10): The graphics are really excellent for the PS2. I believe this game boasts the second-best graphics on the PS2, next to Final Fantasy XII. Although FFXII has the technically better graphics, FFX has much more creative and unique environments, so it's more graphically impressive to me. I guess it's kind of the difference between staring at a shimmering forest made out of crystalline trees and filled with iridescent swirls of light versus a big field filled with...grass...and just grass. So, FFX makes very good use of the graphical capabilities that it does have.

Music (score 10/10): Excellent, just excellent. The music is really quite beautiful, with my favorite song being "To Zanarkand". I even went and bought the soundtrack. And yes, I even like the song "Otherworld", which I've heard some people hated. Now, as for the voice acting... I thought it was great. Why do so many people hate on the voice acting for this game? I really can't figure it out. Other than the scene where Tidus and Yuna engage in fake laughter (it's cringe-worthy, trust me, but at least it doesn't last very long), the voice acting is top notch. I really found no faults with it. If you want to hear truly awful voice acting, listen to some scenes from the first Grandia game (on a side note, I got slaughtered with unhelpful votes for my review on that game; go figure).

Characters (score 10/10): Characterizations are excellent; everyone has a distinct personality and is well-portrayed. I know that everyone likes to complain about Tidus being a "crybaby" and whatnot, but I don't really think that's the case. To me, he's a realistic protagonist. With Final Fantasy 7 and 8, you had protagonists who were already used to battle, and who already had military training. It makes sense that they were used to dealing with stress (whether they actually handled that stress well is arguable, though, but that just makes them that much more interesting as protagonists). Tidus is just an average guy who is suddenly thrown into extraordinary events. In this light, I think his reactions (and subsequent narrations) are very realistic and appropriate for his character. I mean, he was living the good life before (he was a star athlete and living well, for the most part); why wouldn't he be unhappy about getting thrown into a world, which, through his eyes, must've seemed very inferior to what he just came from?! In fact, if he had immediately adopted a hung-ho, "this is so much fun" attitude, I would have found it very questionable. That being said, if he had been excessively whiney, it would've been annoying, but I don't really think that he is. As for the other characters, they all have subtle nuanced personalities, with the standout character being Yuna. So much of the story has to do with her, and she is extremely well developed. I love the fact that this game actually gives us a female character who is quiet, mature, and actually wears clothing that covers her breasts. Seriously, I get so sick of game developers thinking that all female characters must show cleavage, so it's awesome that Yuna actually has a real personality and isn't just eye candy. Not that eye candy is always bad or anything, it's just that I like to have some variety. I really love Yuna though because she is such a strong character without being a stereotypical gun-toting bad-ass female. She simply has a strong will and is dedicated to her morals and beliefs without being closed-minded. To me, she embodies what a "strong female character" should be rather than what Hollywood thinks that term means (ex. Large busted, cleavage exposing woman who wields guns). Once again, I have nothing against seeing that kind of portrayal once in a while, but there needs to be other kinds of heroines too. Too bad they ruin the good thing that they have going here in X-2, the sequel (see my review of that if you want to see how they screw over these fine characters). Whew, enough of my soap box. Overall, I think the characters are excellent, and yes, I even loved Tidus.

Story (score 10/10): This game's story is just awesome. It's one of the best RPG stories ever told, in my opinion. At its core, it's about a group of people coming to question the things that they have always believed in. I really enjoyed the themes of questioning traditional power structures and religious doctrine that is in place in the world of Spira, as well as themes of sacrifice, death, and hope. I don't know if the developers intended this, but you could almost interpret this story to be critique of real-world religions. The game even deals with the idea of prejudice in it's portrayal of the Al-Bhed. On top of these fine thematic elements, the plot keeps you engaged with various twists, culminating with the biggest twist of all at the end of the game. I'm not going to spoil that just in case you haven't played this game, but suffice it to say, it was so emotionally gripping that I actually cried at the end. Well, the story is awesome. What more can I say?

Battle System (score 10/10): The battle system is pretty unique compared to previous Final Fantasy games. Of course, I'm not talking about the turn-based fights; they're pretty similar. I'm talking about the ability to switch party members in the middle of battle. In previous FFs, you pretty much picked a party of three people and stuck to them, never using any other characters. In FFX, they actively discourage this by making each party member have very specific strengths and weaknesses, and having a variety of enemies that require everyone's skills. The fact that you need to switch people mid-battle to accommodate for different enemy types means that you really need to use everyone equally. This is a nice change of pace from the older games, although I still like doing it the old way equally well too.

Gameplay (score 10/10): This is a bit of a catch-all category for me. Let's see...FFX is very well paced in difficulty level, the controls and camera angle are good, and there's a wealth of interesting sidequests to take part in. Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. My only small complaint would be that I wish there was a way to skip cut scenes. It's annoying to have to sit through a long cut scene again when you have to re-do a boss battle. Other than that, no complaints at all.

Overall (score 10/10): NOTE this score is not an average; it's my subjective overall score. FFX is a fine and excellent game. In my opinion, FFX is one of the best RPGs out there, and definitely should be added your collection if you're an RPG fan. And for its (currently) cheap price, you can't afford to pass this one up!