Category: Games

Ultimate Spiderman

What is unique about Ultimate Spider-Man, us that it allows players to take on the role of super hero Spider-Man and the love to be hated super villain Venom. It does so using an original storyline made especially for the game that follow the tale the comic books have told. Interestingly, and perhaps disappointingly the combat system used in the game is no where near as deep as the one used in it predecessors, that means no combos. Eeck!

Reasons for this could span Treyarch not having the time to implement a better system then before or perhaps it just wanted to make the title a little easier to play for younger player. Whatever its reason this is the first of many disappointing moments I had while playing USM. The next reason I had for been less than happy with the games was the story mode, first off it is extremely short and only lasts a few hours (it may even been beatable in one sitting if you have the time and put you mind to it).

He needs his own game. Who am I talking about? It is Venom of course. I had much more fun than a spider can while playing around with this guy. Off course it is much more fun to be the bad guy but playing as Venom defines this phrase as you suck in bystanders which ups you health and whip and slap them with you tentacles.

Of course this is not all good ol’ Venom can do. He can also throw cars around at ease and scale tall building in almost single bound. Almost all of Venom mission revolve around causing a much mayhem as you can and end then this is much more fun than playing with a certain restricted red and blue clad spider we all know and love.

The missions in USM seem like there pulled straight from a lets build a free-roaming game book. If you want to start a mission you look down at you radar and see a colored marker and you run and swing with all your heart towards it. Once you complete this mission you open up another one and then when you beat that one; well you get the picture! Some story modes also opened up by beating some of the city patrol requirements.

Once a few mission are done you may then run into a boss battle which are undoubtedly the best new addition to the Spider-Man series of games. The boss battles are fantastic and are some of the most exciting moment you will have in a game. They start of with an exhilarating chase which will take you over many parts of the city as you try to keep up with your foe.

Each boss battle will lead to you having to do different things. Some may have you rescuing pedestrians (by playing a mini game) as you try and keep up with the super-villain while others will lead you through trapped alleys and dodging obstacles. When you finally catch the villain you end up fighting a straight up old school fight to the death, if you notice any weakness in enemies (each one of them as a different weak point) you have to exploit it as much as you can till you take him down.

As with all of these new free-roaming titles there is a hell of a lot more to do than just play the story mode in Spider-Man this is no different. First of there are 60 races for you to take part in along with this there are 36 combat tours. Then there is a few side quests in which Spidey may have to take part in.

If you have played Spider-Man 2 then you will probably remember all those guys hanging of buildings for no reason well now they are back again and can be rescued if you feel like it, you can also stop robberies, halt attempted break ins and beat up a guy who tries to mug people and participate in a chase a car. None of these all side missions do much to further the game main story but can be entertaining if you get tired propelling the story mode forward. It has to be said though that much more could be done to flesh out this area of the game as it can get old very, very quick.

Visually UMS looks fantastic and embraces the style that’s been seenin the comic book over the last few decades to its fullest extent. It totally disregards the style seen in the last two game and jumps straight onto the cel-shading bandwagon. If you have read any of the comic books ever then you will be right at home right of the bat when the game first loads. The game does the best it can it immerse the game in the fantastic world of Spider-Man from the, till now unused comic book perspective.

Each of the character models, particularly the main characters all look great in their new guise as does all of New York in its cel-shaded form. In terms of audio them game does a good job the music and sound effect suit the game well but the Voice acting can get a bit iffy at time, at some point it is OK and at other time it seem like the people were rushing through it just to get out of the studio. It is a definite mixed bag if there ever was one. Once more with feeling guys.


City of Villains

City of Heroes became famous for its encompassing costume generator and City of Villains is even bigger in this aspect. All the options from City of Heroes are intact and there has been added a multitude of new options – somehow it’s just more fun to create a mean bad-ass super villain than some boy scout of a hero. Though it’s possible to auto-generate costumes a lot of players put a lot of effort into creating unique villains/heroes with thorough background stories for obvious reasons. The developers at Cryptic have hit the villain theme spot on. Among other things you have the opportunity of creating monsters and the selection of chains, leather and masks far surpasses any SM-shop you can think of.

City of Villains has five new archetypes (the equivalent of races in other RPGs) with respective primary and secondary abilities, clearly illustrating that the developer has had good time to learn from its experiences. The five different types of characters must be played using different strategies and they generally feel less dependent on one another which corresponds well with the individualistic life of a super villain. The five archetypes are:

  • Brute: A close combat tank who gets stronger the more he/she fights. Your own attacks as well as those of your enemies increase your fury which enables you to do more damage (think of The Hulk). This is the type of super villain that is best suited for playing alone.
  • Corruptor: Very similar to the blaster-type from City of Heroes, but its secondary group of powers contains mostly buffs and debuffs.
  • Dominator: This type is a mix between the Controller and the Defender from City of Heroes. The Dominator gets the Controller ability to control and hold enemies and he also gets the Defender’s secondary ability of attacking. The Dominator is best played with groups.
  • Master Mind: The most unique type of the game and very popular among players. As a Master Mind you get your own obedient minions that you control in battle. Simply put; it’s great fun.
  • Stalker: The focus with this type is stealth and ambushes. Stalkers are very challenging to play but are capable of doing tremendous amounts of damage with some very dirty attacks.

Rogue Isles is no place for a holiday

As opposed to City of Heroes, City of Villains doesn’t take place in a metropolis but on Rogue Isles; a group of islands way out in the Atlantic Ocean ruled by Lord Recluse. As a rookie villain your first task is to break out of the huge prison in Paragon City and prove that you’ve got what it takes.

Upon completing the first couple of missions an Arachnos (the organization of Recluse) pilot will fly you to Mercy Island which will be your first destination on your way to becoming the ultimate super villain.

City of Villains is mostly based on instanced missions – missions that you have for yourself that is. But you can also hunt various low-life criminals on the islands for experience points. The missions are far more dynamic than in City of Heroes unexpected things happen more often than not. It is also you who are the active part and it’s most often you who have to kidnap that scientist for devious purposes as opposed to City of Heroes where you had to rescue his butt. There have been obvious design upgrades and missions are no longer far from each other, saving you a lot of tedious travel time. Furthermore, a good deal of the missions are shorter which speeds up gameplay considerably.

A lot of effort clearly went into creating interesting stories for the players to be part of. You’ll be rewarded with summary of your exploits if you complete a series of missions tied together in one story. The badges from City of Heroes are also present here and are still the source of much fun – you’ll meet certain contacts from time to time who will not even bother to talk to you until you have earned a certain medal. The biggest news are the newspaper missions, however. You’ll have access to these once you reach the Port Oakland zone when you are around level six or seven. By shifting through the pages of a newspaper you’ll find pointers to all sorts of missions that never seem to run out.

Just like coming home

It’s currently possible to reach level 40 in City of Villains and experienced players should be able to reach this level fairly quickly. The game is definitely one of the easiest RPGs to get into as a newbie, and if you’re already familiar with City of Heroes this game will fit like a glove.

A lot of the concepts from City of Heroes are also present here. It is once again possible to attain a cape for your costume when you reach level 20. But as opposed to previously where you just had to beat up some small time crooks, you now have to go all the way to Paragon City and kick the butt of a hero.

The gameplay in City of Villains calls for a different approach when playing in groups. Whereas the heroes complement each other perfectly the villains are individualists and that fact requires that you use some good offensive tactics rather than supporting your allies. There are also no characters than can attack on their own without putting themselves in serious jeopardy.

City of Villains also adds a number of new enemies. Among the heroes’ ranks we find the Longbow group for instance that often stick their nose into the affairs on Rogue Isles. And among the villains there is a never ending supply of new opponents. You’ll face everything from human snakes, monsters made of garbage and angry mine workers (throwing dynamite). Unfortunately the first five levels are way too uniform. You get the same contacts and missions every time you start up a new character and this gets kind of boring. The developer has promised to add more beginning missions in the future though.

New PvP options

It would be a sin to have a superhero and super villain game without options for the two factions to clash with each other so PvP (Player vs. Player) has been a central focus for the developers at Cryptic. Besides the regular battles in the arena as we know them from City of Heroes you can also fight for the opportunity to use soldiers from the various factions by defeating enough of them. That way you can command the Lost Bosses and fight the soldiers of your opponent.

While this certainly befits the concept of being a super villain, I don’t understand Cryptic’s decision to make this an option in City of Heroes as well, so that you can run gladiator fights. It just doesn’t fit in with being a hero.

Three PvP zones where the two games can duke it out currently exist that are very different from each other. In Bloody Bay heroes and villains fight and compete to gather six meteorite fragments which will, when combined, grant a temporary ability to summon a mean pet. This is the most entertaining of the three PvP zones in my opinion. Siren’s Call is a larger scale operation where the Arachnos try to invade Paragon City from the seaside and villains, heroes and NPCs clash in epic battles. And finally there’s Warburg where the game is totally free. It’s everyone for themselves but you can attempt to complete the special mission that culminates in the launch of a nuclear missile.

Bases R’ Us

City of Heroes was criticised for being too shallow and focusing only on combat. There was no looting, crafting or skills, but City of Villains makes up for two of these drawbacks. As a new thing it’s now possible to create a base for your super group and you need to pay for it with prestige points that are attained alongside your experience points and your infamy (the ingame currency).

You can either buy new items or craft them yourself. You can install anything from mini hospitals to mission computers that will grant you access to special super group missions but the ultimate goal is to acquire some Items of Power. They can give the entire group permanent bonuses such as an XP bonus for instance, and they also open op for the last type of PvP – Base Raids. Here, another group will attack your base and the object is to fend them off or else you’ll lose an Item of Power.

Building a base is tremendously expensive and therefore it’s a good idea to point out some architects in your group that’ll ensure that your hard earned prestige points aren’t wasted.

Base building, crafting and base raids make City of Villains (and City of Heroes which have had these features added in the latest update) a much deeper game and make for a more competitive approach to super groups.


Standard Playing Cards

A playing card is easily recognized by the two symbols on the face of the card in the upper-left and lower-right corners — a ‘suit’ and an ‘identifier’.

A deck of 52 cards is divided evenly into four ‘suits’ — Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades. This allows you to have a flush, cards all of the same suit (Cribbage, Poker). This also allows trick-taking games that use a trump suit and that require playing a card ‘with the suit that was lead’ (Bridge, Euchre, Five-Hundred, Pinochle, Whist). This also allows games where you have to play a card with the suit that was last played (Crazy Eights).

Each of the four suits has 13 cards that are marked with the same 13 ‘identifiers’ or ids — 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. So for each id, there are exactly four cards, one for each suit. This allows you to have two cards that match (Concentration, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, War), two-or-more-of-a-kind (Cribbage, Go Fish, Poker), three-or-more-of-a-kind (Canasta, Gin Rummy, Rummy), and special combinations of matching cards such as a full-house, a pair plus three-of-a-kind (Poker).

Four of the ids are ‘letters’ which represent special cards — three face-cards (‘J’ = Jack, ‘Q’ = Queen, and ‘K’ = King) and an Ace (‘A’ = Ace). This allows you to have special scoring for these special cards (Hearts, Michigan, Pinochle, Tripoli). Each face-card has a double picture of the King, Queen, or Jack so that there is always a right-side-up picture on the upper half of the card. The Ace has a suit at the center.

Nine of the ids are ‘numbers’. This allows you to add the number value of the cards. Face-cards and aces can be included by assigning a value such as 10 for face-cards and 1 or 11 for Aces (Blackjack, Cribbage). In addition to the two suit symbols, a number of suits symbols equal to the id number are printed on each number card.

The suits have two ‘colors’ that divide a deck of cards evenly in two — Black (Clubs, Spades) and Red (Diamonds, Hearts). This allows you to link cards from two suits with the same color such as using the Jacks of one color as high trump cards (Euchre, Five Hundred).

Each of the 13 ids is part of a ‘sequence’ of ids — usually from ‘A’ (high) to ‘2’ (low). This allows you to have a straight, five cards in sequence (Poker), or a run, three or more cards in sequence (Cribbage). If these cards also have the same suit, you can have a straight-flush (Poker) or a single-suit run (Gin Rummy, Rummy). You can also lay down cards of a given suit in sequence (Fan Tan, Michigan).

The ids are also called ‘ranks’ because each id has a rank when compared to any other id — again the highest id is often ‘A’ and the lowest ‘2’. This allows you to have the high-card take a trick (Bridge, Euchre, Five Hundred, Hearts, Pinochle, Whist). This also allows you to have comparison games where a high-rank card takes a low-rank card, and cards of equal rank lead to war (War), and a high-rank pair beats a low-rank pair (Poker).

In addition to the regular cards, a deck of cards may also contain two Jokers. These cards have the word ‘Joker’ in the upper-left and lower-right corners. This allows you to add a wild card or two to games (Canasta, Five Hundred, Poker).

All cards in a deck of cards have identical backs containing anything from a solid color to a complex design. This allows you to see the value of your own cards but not your opponent’s cards (most games). This also allows you to play games in which you try to remember the location of face-down cards (Concentration). And this allows you to play games where a participant can look at cards, and then lay them face-down so that others cannot see them (Texas Holdum’ Poker).

And the suits and identifiers and face-card pictures and backs are all printed on card stock with a plastic coating or on plastic. This makes the cards durable and allows you to play plenty of card games, alone or with friends (Blackjack, Bridge, Canasta, Concentration, Crazy Eights, Cribbage, Euchre, Fan Tan, Five-Hundred, Gin Rummy, Go Fish, Hearts, Michigan, Old Maid, Pinochle, Poker, Tripoli, War, Whist).


Need for Speed Rivals

NFS Rivals is without doubt a very addictive game. Every career is divided into chapters and every chapter allows you to move through the cop or racer ranks by completing several to do list of objectives. But it is also a tradeoff since the Redview’s winding roads allow you to have some truly operatic chases that go on for many miles. The roads are best suited for drifting as well as pushing fast cars to their limits, for instance Hot Pursuit, rather than hiding like it is done in the Most Wanted.

Every stretch of the road has its own challenges, including time trials and standard races, different cars to shut down as well as records to smash. It is a fantastically pretty game that can be played on your PC or next-gen console. The cars look really brilliant, close to photorealistic. Weather effects are also impressive. Sun, rain, snow and the time of the day usually have an effect on the look of the game. The game will be more fun once you get master its weapons, unlock more of its cars and also become well acquainted with the map. The garage has many high-powered cars ranging from Ferraris to Aston Martins. Handling them is fun, accessible and responsive. Even if you are a newcomer, you can still be able to slide tight corners with just a little practice.


Case for Shenmue

In the late 1990’s, Yu Suzuki set out to advance video games yet again, Shenmue was originally in development for Sega’s brilliant, yet much maligned Saturn console, but focus shifted onto the next generation hardware and the numerous possibilities that it would offer them. Coining the term F.R.E.E. (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment), Suzuki set out to deliver a level of freedom unheard of in video games, a fully realised world of day/night cycles, realistic weather, complex AI and full voice acting for even non-playable characters. A world that would simulate other aspects of reality too, from playing games to working a day job. Shenmue was never going to be something that you played, but rather lived, and in that respect, it was a glorious success.

Whilst at its core, the story is a fairly simple tale of revenge ripped straight out of a kung-fu film, but this is also part of its inherent charm and beauty, ably assisted by the incredible Virtua Fighter style combat mechanics and stunning quick time events, Shenmue set the unassailable standard by which all other open world games should be judged. RPGs have always offered character progression, it’s key to the genre, but none have ever felt as personal as this, it wasn’t just the character of Ryo Hazuki that got stronger as the game progressed, it was the player too. They almost literally stepped into the protagonist’s shoes to make it their quest for revenge, their journey, and that is why the untimely cliff-hanger ending of the second game has been so colossally devastating for anyone touched by this masterpiece.

The case for a HD re-master of the Shenmue series is an open and shut case to me, not only is it a vital piece of gaming history, but it is a work of undeniable beauty and power, and it is only through the markets of the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade that there can be any hope to be found for the re-emergence of these gaming classics, but also for a future for the series. For too long, they have survived on the fringes of the gaming industry, residing under “cult”, but now it is time for them to earn their place in the spotlight for the right reasons.

The install base of the Dreamcast amounted to around just 10 million users, but between the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, there are more than 170 million consoles shipped across the globe, there are a huge volume of gamers eagerly awaiting the arrival of something that will demand their attention, and this it. Whilst the fan base clamour for a third entry into the series to complete the tale of Ryo Hazuki (or at least extend it), a more likely option for Sega is to opt for the more cost effective HD versions of both Shenmue and Shenmue 2, not only will these delight fans both old and new, but it will give us hope. Hope of a future for a series once seen as dead in the water, hope that one day, we may yet find ourselves with the opportunity to complete our epic journey and hope for an industry that has found itself devoid of any creativity. Shenmue came as a breath of fresh air once, and it can be again.

In the many years since, I have yet to experience anything quite like Shenmue, it is something so unique and rare that I have opted to conclude this with a quote that might surmise why it should be remade better than I ever could, so as Virginia Woolf wrote in The Waves, “These moments of escape are not to be despised. They come too seldom”. And indeed they do.


Dragon Age Inquisition

Story

Dragon Age Inquisition places us in the middle of a battle between the mages and the Templars in which there’s no clear winner. However, in the beginning of the game a large explosion takes place and opens a rift that spawns demons, and this changes the course of things immensely. We play the role of an inquisitor that tries to destroy the rift and all the smaller ones that appear throughout the land, in an effort to bring peace once again to the wonderful world of Thedas. Of course, there are lots of twists and turns as you progress but overall Dragon Age Inquisition manages to provide you with a wonderful story that will keep you glued to the screen.

Gameplay

Unlike Dragon Age 2, Inquisition allows us to explore a massive game world that does have a lot of inspiration from the previous game, but which also manages to bring a plethora of new stuff as well. First of all, we have the dragons which are much more detailed and harder to defeat, in fact they are so large that you will need to attack different parts of the body, each one with its own health bar. Battling a dragon is one of the hardest, yet the most rewarding things you can do in Dragon Age Inquisition, and this truly tests your skill like never before.

But this isn’t all you do in Dragon Age Inquisition. You get to explore the Hinterlands as well as numerous other regions of Thedas, and these are filled with quests. Thankfully, the quests are varied and they allow you to go through the region in a natural way, something that helps the overall experience a lot.

We found character creation to be very interesting as well, in fact you can choose from 4 different races, each one with its ups and downs that can be felt as you play. However, what makes Dragon Age Inquisition really worth it is the combat. Although the previous game didn’t have the tactical cam, now this has made a triumphant return and as such you have the opportunity to use it whenever you see fit, although you can disable it too.

Combat is refreshing and quite strategic, especially when you battle the bosses, because you need to carefully plan the next move if you want to succeed. This is a very important thing, because without planning it would be impossible to defeat the enemies with large health bars such as bosses or dragons for example.

If you explore the land you can create camps where you can upgrade your items, craft new ones and so on. Camps also allow you to travel faster, so by creating camps you will have an even better opportunity to survive in the harsh environment. Camps are also great for creating military attacks, espionage or commerce.

On top of that, if you want, you can import saves from the previous game, and this will impact the story. Although it isn’t necessary, this is definitely a thing that is most welcome in this regard, especially if you are a fan of the series.

You get 8 companions during the game and even though you can use 3 at a time, each one of them has an interesting story and they are so nicely done that you will find yourself switching between them often just to find out more about them and their story. However, adding different types of characters in your party is essential, because you want their abilities to compliment yours if you want to get the best results!

Graphics and sounds

Dragon Age Inquisition is one of the best looking RPGs to date. The massive game world is nicely portrayed and it simply shines, not to mention that the character design is also stellar and even the animations work great. Everything blends seamlessly in order to provide a one of a kind place to explore. Also, we need to mention the fact that you can now, once more, see the blood remaining on the character clothing, which is a trademark of the Dragon Age series.

When it comes to sounds, there’s not that much to say other than the fact that the soundtrack is filled with epic music that always keeps you pumped with adrenalin. Also, the voice acting is amazing, with each character being portrayed in a natural way!

Conclusion

Dragon Age Inquisition manages to combine all the best RPG ideas and features into a single game, and thus it offers us one of the best RPG experiences that we played in years. With a massive game world, lots of quests as well as impressive character customization and companions you can relate to, Dragon Age Inquisition is a game in which you can easily pour in hundreds of hours and never regret even a single second!


Final Fantasy 3

Centuries have passed and a rational world now exists with Espers living only in myths, until one frozen solid since the ancient wars is unearthed. Suddenly, there are reports of magical attacks on civilians. Imperial Commandos launch raids using magic powered MagiTek weapons. Magic is obviously alive and the world is in danger again. Who or what is behind the rediscovery and redeployment of this legendary power? What chaotic plans exists that will wreak havoc on this orderly world?

Final Fantasy III is one of what many consider to be the classics for RPG genre games. Released as Final Fantasy III for the SNES in 1994, it is actually the 6th installment of the immensely popular Final Fantasy series produced by Squaresoft. The game takes place about 1000 years following the ending of a great war called “The War of the Magi” which removed magic from the face of the world.

It is a typical turn based RPG with the player having control of over 15 playable characters each one with his or her own strengths and weaknesses and different fighting styles and stories to tell. The main character is a young half-human, half-Esper girl whom is trying to find her place in a world torn asunder by war. The main villain in the story is one of the most colorful villains in the Final Fantasy series, a rather funny clown named Kefka.

Joining forces with him are a few other military style villains with lesser roles and even a few NPCs who get involved. There are many plot twists that include cut scenes involving characters that allow the player to have a “real-time” feel with the story. The characters have “expressions” that while being very basic, convey the general theme of each scene to the player. In my opinion, this game is perfect for the player who wants to see some of the best the SNES had to offer in terms of RPGs.

Gameplay

As far as games for the SNES go, there are only 1 or 2 other games as engrossing as Final Fantasy III. All of the elements that make the other games in the series enjoyable are here. The player can rename all of the characters in the game including the ever present summons (called Espers in FFIII).

There are a multitude of side quests in the game that vary in difficulty from easy to difficult in terms of time and involvement to complete, and the level of commitment necessary to complete the game can vary between 25 hours. To just finish the core storyline of the game, can be up to 100 hours give or take. This is if you want to obtain what is called a “complete” gaming experience meaning gathering all of the most powerful weapons, armor, and magic, and also leveling characters up to maximum levels.

The only reason the game is not getting a 10 rating in this department is the fact that while leveling characters is not a problem in the beginning and middle of the game, once a character reaches the higher levels (above 60) it becomes a very time consuming, tedious process to level up the character sometimes taking hours upon hours to raise a character just one level. This I would say is the main common problem with RPGs of this era. But, if you do not mind that sort of monotony, this game is for you.

The characters in Final Fantasy 3 offer a host of clever individual attacks. Each character has his or her own special talents and the player can choose to utilize each character’s talents or can just ignore them. An essential part of each Final Fantasy is magic, and this game is no exception. There are a multitude of magics available to the player to use, each one learned from equipping certain Espers.

The longer an Esper is equipped, the more magic is obtained from the Esper and once the learning curve for the Esper reaches 100%, all of the magic available from that Esper is learned. Some magic is able to be learned from two to four Espers, while other magic may only be learned from one specific Esper. This makes Esper use a conscionable thought process. The player must plan their use of Espers in order to learn the needed spells.

Graphics

Again, I am comparing this to other SNES games. This game is 2-D. Plain and simple. It features a 3/4 overhead view 90% of the time and also features an overworld which has since been all but removed from most RPGs. The graphics were considered state of the art in 1994 when this game was released. There are rich color textures and some very good use of the Mode-7 graphics capabilities of the SNES in both scaling and rotation which are show cased especially when the characters use the airship for transportation.

As far as actual graphic renderings are concerned, the game is 2-D, so if you are expecting to see walking, talking, fully rendered 3-D you are out of luck. In scenes where the graphics are made to be inflated or close up, they become pixilated the larger they become. These problems aside, the graphics for its day, when compared to other games out at the time, were considered to be very quite advanced.

Sound Quality

Here’s where the game shines. The score is enormous! Created by the world-renowned Nobuo Uematsu, there are at least 100 different songs in the game (including renditions of the main theme) and also includes a scene with one of the earliest examples of voiced “singing” in video games. The songs feature 128 note polyphony and a beautifully detailed musical story. Because the game’s dialogue is text based, the music allows the player to get involved on a more emotional level with this game and the characters than many other games out at the time.

There is a great combination of deep bass, singing strings, and synthesized keyboards to keep the listener enthralled and engaged throughout the game. There are very few songs that last less than five minutes without repeating so the player never really gets the boring monotonous feeling that usually accompanies games from the SNES.

Replay Value

There are very few games that can be left to sit for years on a shelf and then picked up and played again with the same level of commitment and enjoyment as Final Fantasy III. The game is just as much fun the every other time through as it was the first time through. As a matter of fact, with all of the side quests and obtainable items, weapons, armor, and magic, the game could possibly be one of the hardest RPG’s created for the SNES to obtain a “perfect” or 100 percent complete game. There are always ways to expand the difficulty of the game and make each play through a unique experience.

Concept

Not exactly the most cutting edge in gaming, this game has the very familiar “fight the monsters and gain levels before fighting the final boss and saving the world” theme. While the Action RPG gamer will find this game very repetitive, the fan of the Turn Based style RPG gamer will love it.

Having a female as the main character in the game is a concept that was not used very much prior to Final Fantasy III. This seemed to be a risky idea but Square pulled it off flawlessly. Also, with all of the other characters in the game, the stories unfold rather nicely for each character. This adds to the depth of the game as well as the entertainment concept.

Overall

If you are a fan of the Final Fantasy series, a collector of vintage games, or a person who is interested in getting involved in the series but is worried about the complexity of the newer Final Fantasy titles, this game is for you. Final Fantasy III is great for the “old-school” player and the “newbie” alike. It has a great story, great sound, and WILL take over your life for a few days if you let it. The characters are original, have many different abilities to use, and have emotions that make playing this game really great.


Mario Kart 8

Starting out, you have the option to use either the Wii U’s gamepad tilt controls or the classic analog and buttons. Being a purist, I had to stick with the traditional controls. I found that the tilt controls seemed more or less twitchy so I figured I should just stick with what I understood. Before the game started, of course you had to pick your character. Personally, I can’t play a Mario Kart game and not be Mario.

When the game has loaded the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s gorgeous. I can confidently say that this game is easily the best looking Wii U game to date. It had incredibly vivid colors, the environments looked alive and characters seemed almost like something out of a Pixar movie. Even the items seemed to get an overhaul- I never thought that green turtle shells could look so beautiful.

But visuals don’t mean anything if the gameplay isn’t there. And for the most part it is. There were a lot of features that weren’t available during the E3 demo. For example, in Mario Kart 7 you can collect coins on the track to give your kart a boost but in the E3 build the coins were there but they didn’t provide anything.

What there was one of Mario Kart 8‘s new features: anti-gravity sections. On certain parts on the track, your kart will transform its wheels to jet engines that will grip the track as you go upside down and side to side. It was a neat feature and it looked cool but it didn’t really add anything to the gameplay. Then again, I only saw a couple of tracks and this game was just announced this month. I hope Nintendo really goes buck wild with this feature because I could totally see it becoming something really fun and different. It’s just a shame that during the E3 build it was rarely showed off.

Despite the new features, the gameplay remained basically the same. It’s still the old Mario Kart. You’ll get better items if you’re lagging behind, and you’ll probably only get a banana or a green turtle shell if you’re in first place. It’s almost as if you’re rewarded if you decide to stay in the back until the last lap of the race. I feel like they really need to change this up somehow.

Basically, if you’ve ever played a Mario Kart game in your life, you’ve played Mario Kart 8. It’s unfortunate but true. I mean, if you absolutely love Mario Kart, then you’ll have a great time. Everyone else might get bored with the limited gameplay. Granted, this is a very early look at the game and there’s sure to be more features added but for right now it’s basically Mario Kart 7.5.

It’s no secret that the Wii U isn’t exactly performing admirably. What seems to be the case is that the games just aren’t there. I’m very confident this game will be a system seller, and hopefully down the line Nintendo will add downloadable content to the game post launch. I think what they will need to do is add more tracks, karts and characters to keep people interested. That’s one of the main problems with the Mario Kart franchise; it just gets stale after too long. They have a golden opportunity with the next console generation to completely change that.

Sure, it has always been undeniably fun but it’s never been a game to keep you occupied. It’s like candy: it’s nice to have once in awhile but you don’t want to keep eating it, when something like Zelda or an actual Mario game is a better main course. I’m hoping with the next iteration of Mario Kart that they’ll add more depth and unlockables to keep the player coming back. If Nintendo would take their time with the Mario Kart games maybe we’ll have a more absorbing title. I’m very optimistic about Mario Kart 8 and most likely it’ll be a must have for any Wii U owners regardless of how hollow the series might be.


LittleBigPlanet 3

LittleBigPlanet was really cool when it first came out in 2008 because it had three “layers” so to speak. Your sackthing could switch between these layers to move through the side-scrolling level. It was a nice way to upgrade the age old way of playing a 2D video game. Another one of LBP’s strengths is the art value, integrating textures and combining art styles within stickers and level props. What they’ve done in this version of the game is added a secondary layer that your character can jump to or use other items to slide into, so essentially you have two main pathways with 2-3 layers in each (or maybe just two, I’m only onto the second act or so in the game). I like the way this adds depth to an already interesting series of levels.

They’ve also added some interesting new angles of gameplay – whether you’re picking up a totally different character to run through a level at an aerial view, or building a race car and racing another character, there’s a slew of new ways to play the game. Inside the game. It’s just miraculous.

The game interface differs slightly in this version as well. You still have your “Popit” where your stickers and personalization tools are kept, as well as where your explody-sackthing-tool resides. What they’ve added on the nary-used circle and triangle buttons are two new menus, a quest tracker and a tool-keeper. In past games for tools, you would typically run over a platform to pick up the tool and it would disappear within the level once you don’t need it anymore. In LBP3, you can access all your tools at any given time, which adds to the puzzle-solving aspect of the game, and convenience for level building later on. One less platform to account for, and if I remember correctly you would have a limited radius in which you could use the tool as well. The quest tracker reminds me of World of Warcraft in the way that you can highlight a quest and it will give you a pointer on the side of your screen to direct you to where the quest’s next step is located. Either way, both of these little menus were a nice update to the game and made sense to be where they are.

So one thing I appreciated about the last game was the fun they had with the names – Larry Da Vinci or Dr. Higginbotham. The new game certainly does not disappoint with the play-on-phrase names like Papal Mache, Newton or Marlon Random. While most kids who are playing won’t make some of the connections, the older crowd can appreciate the nuances.

But let’s not forget about the 3 new playable characters in the game – Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop. I’ve currently only unlocked the first two, but they’re a blast to play with. Oddsock is adorable and fast, his strengths being to run up walls and wall jump. Toggle can literally “toggle” between a larger or smaller self, able to break through walls or run into small spaces, launch himself through different layers and be an overall badass. Swoop is a bird, so I’m gonna take a guess that he can fly through other levels, which could be pretty OP depending on how they handle it.

Something that I was pretty unhappy with in LBP2 was the story mode – or lack thereof. I blew through the story mode within a week or so of buying it, and I was left wanting so much more. I understand the game is geared towards more of a “create-it-yourself” crowd, where the community levels are often better than the actual story mode levels, but I enjoy the unlockables and the perfecting of the game, so the fact that there wasn’t too terribly much to go back to made me fairly disappointed.

LBP3 does not disappoint. I’ve already put in roughly 6-8 hours of gameplay and I already find myself wanting to go back to levels for things I’ve missed, but there’s still so much story line ahead of me as well. The levels are also set up a little differently, where they have “storybooks” of levels. A main world that will take you to levels inside it as you unlock them or find them through discovery. Even in this main world you can pick up prize bubbles.

Something else I’m looking forward to is the other “modes” they have going on in this game. From what I’ve gathered (I’ve only really dabbled in story mode thus far), they’ve created a mode encouraging people to play through levels by using the building tools to keep moving through. If that’s the case, I think that’s a great integration of what the second cool part of this game is, which I tend to not touch because I don’t have any amazing level-ideas. I’ll let you know if I’m totally off the mark.

Trying to find a game that makes you want to play with others, I personally think is hard. With any of the new Mario franchises (Kart, Super Smash, or World) you find characters you’re familiar with, and worlds or enemies that have been recreated time and time again to save the princess (I think? She wants to be saved – right?) LittleBigPlanet has a great way of getting others involved, so much so that I want to grab my husband or someone to come and play with me while I play through any and every level. The teamwork is interesting – I’ve found that this game overall is a bit more challenging than the last with boss fights and level complexity, which lends itself to longer game play and more interesting replay value. The same goes for the x2, x3 or x4 player puzzles, bridging on something that more Portal 2-esque within reason. The new tools that you’re given in this game make the puzzles something to think about instead of a straightforward one person jump on a switch and another stand on a platform.

So at this point I’ve gotten 4/5 of the new sack-toys in my arsenal. Props to the interface of the game making them easy to access too. I think the tools in this game so far are pretty hilarious (the pumpinator – it blows and sucks!), but also very clever (the illuminator – shine light on something seemingly flat to make it come to life). I really like that there are levels I’m playing through and seeing the icons for other tools that I didn’t have at the time, so I’m even more encouraged to go back and see how I can get those prize bubbles. It’s like when you finally get double jump in some game and can reach all the spots you couldn’t before hand. So satisfying.


Gin Rummy Plus

To begin with, the game play in Gin Rummy Plus is pretty good, and it looks fantastic. Card games are a dime a dozen, so the only thing that really separates them are graphics and extras.

Peak Games has done a fine job on the graphics part. The look is fantastic, the animations are smooth, and the user interface is very intuitive and learned in seconds.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it with this one. Even after connecting with Facebook, the “leaders” and “friends” buttons are non-functional, giving you a nice little “coming soon” balloon.

This is disappointing, especially the friends option. One of the selling points to games like this (e.g. Words With Friends, What’s the Phrase?, Dice With Buddies/Yahtzee With Friends) is the ability to play against people you know. As of now, this option does not exist… In fact, I would prefer it if they hadn’t even put the button in there to show users and upcoming feature, instead letting the game stand as it is.

As it is, it is a fine game. As I’ve already said, the graphics are very nice, the animations are smooth, and the matchmaking with strangers seems adequate. The turn timer is a bit annoying, as not much time is left for the player to think strategy without forfeiting the entire turn if you don’t discard in time. A turn timer is needed in a multiplayer game, of course, to keep things moving along, and on three missed turns in a row the player forfeits the game, so you won’t be stuck when playing an unresponsive opponents. A few more seconds would be nice, that’s all.

Another shortcoming (though one many, many developers choose to ignore – not that that is an excuse) is the lack of a play vs. CPU option. It never ceases to amaze me how many game developers refuse to put this feature in their games, when it appears it would be fairly easy to do (or maybe not – I’m a gamer, not a programmer… but then I’m giving a gamer’s perspective here, not a developer’s).