Thursday, November 24, 2011

Retro Hunt: Front Porch of the South

A few weeks ago, LordRyuujin and I went to a fairly new flea market called Front Porch of the South. Upon seeing the name you would think it would be just a bunch of southern antiques (farm tractors, beer bottles, a pitchfork) and you'd be wrongly discriminating us. Its a typical consign flea market with private booths open to the public. Not a bad place. Here's the results....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Second Look @ Tony Hawk RIDE

I have had this game for less than a week, and I've already broken the skateboard controller.

This game is an absolute waste of time, money, and effort.
When you create a peripheral, its supposed to work. Plain and simple. But when that peripheral can't recognize one motion from another, then you have wasted everything. If there ever was a failed experiment in new ways to play video games, its the skateboard controller. I think we can all blame this for being the tipping point in the "too many add-ons" argument for video games these days.

To be bluntly honest: it doesn't work. During my less than 20 minutes playing around with the game, I didn't make it through the training before breaking the board. I was able to do more just by turning the board in my hands than by standing on it and attempting what it was trying to train me to do. The motion sensors in the skateboard are either too sensitive or do not respond at all. Attempting to do an ollie will be split between accomplishing the jump, entering a manual, doing a flip trick, or nothing at all. While it is a sturdy piece of plastic, its too small for anyone over 5 ft tall and you'll find yourself sliding over a carpeted surface.

The game itself is just bland with the environments being unnoticeable. They're frustrating to navigate since there is no way to slow your character down aside from running into a wall. The graphics look as though they came from the previous generation and there's just a general sentiment of grabbing thin air in a desperate attempt to keep the dying early 00's skateboarding craze going.

I'm not pissed that the game doesn't work, I'm pissed that I'll never have that $15 again because I can't return a broken product. $15 of my own money wasted. I thought "well, it was cheap enough, I'll buy it again one day." Then I came to my senses. Never again.

Never again, Tony Hawk.

If you're looking to collect peripherals, sure. Go for it and buy it. Its cheap enough now.
But if you were expecting a good game and were waiting for it to be cheap: now's the time to use that money to buy Elder Scrolls Oblivion, DiRT, Forza 3, Halo Reach,  Mass Effect 2, or any other game for that matter.

There are far better games that you can spend your money on. In fact, you could even buy a REAL skateboard and learn to ride that. It would be a better experience than attempting to play this game.

Keep Playing Anything But This.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Random Blog: Fighting Games (And My Problem Thereof)

 (As always, pictures taken from

A few years ago I posted a blog on several gaming communities titled 2D Fighters (and my problem thereof). To date this has been the single most viewed blog I've ever had with over 1200 views on GameTrailers. The topic of fighting games is a big one and in most cases one that rarely brings out flamers unless you proclaim one game is better than another. Pretty much all fans of fighting games can agree that they take skill, timing, knowledge of character combos, hit detection, and a little bit of luck.
All of these are things that I don't have yet I still like to play them.

Every now and then I dig out Street Fighter Anniversary Collection and play 3rd Strike when my cousin's kids come over. I'm trying to teach them to play Ryu/Ken but they can't get the hang of the quarter-circle.

I'll give you a minute to pick yourself off of the ground from laughing so hard about that one: they don't know how to do the quarter-circle.

Better? Okay.

In the blog mentioned I talk about how I was hooked on fighting games for a while. I played through Guilty Gear X2 #Reload on the Xbox and broke several controllers because of I-No. To this day I have never bothered to try and beat her again. I went through the Dead or Alive series on Xbox with very few problems and was just underwhelmed with how easy it was to win while button-mashing. I'll give the DoA series kudos for fluid fighting controls and being able to smoothly stream combos together, but aside from that its shallow on story and mainly caters to pervs because of the jiggle physics. But I digress, I'm not here to review games.

Since writing that blog I've found:
Soul Blade on PS1
Soul Calibur on Dreamcast
Soul Calibur 3 on PS2
Street Figher Alpha on PS1
Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max on PSP
Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition on Genesis
Super SF2 on SNES
Street Fighter IV on PC
Capcom vs SNK 2 EO on Xbox
Art of Fighting on SNES
King of Fighters '95 on GameBoy
King of Fighters R-2 on Neo Geo Pocket Color
King of Fighters XI on PS2 (which was stolen)
I reacquired TMNT Tournament Fighters and its still impossible to beat even one match
Killer Instinct on GameBoy
Primal Rage on GB and SNES
Fighter's History on SNES

As you can see my fighting game collection has increased quite a bit and some of them I'm amazed that I've found. I'm still looking for whatever fighting games I can and since recently getting a job Amazon and Ebay have opened up new doors. But while all of these games are great, they each do their own thing and do them well. I just have one major gripe  with all of them: I'm playing them alone.
On some rare occasions I can get together with some friends and play some Marvel vs Capcom 3, but unless its my cousin's kids who can't throw fireballs or being unable to win while being verbally abused by a "friend," I just can't find anyone to play with. I know there's always playing online but more people use the Xbox 360 and I have no money to spend on a gold account, on top of that it leaves out all the classic fighting games. I'm one of the few who prefers to have friends around when we're beating the crap out of each other.

On one hand I can hone my skills against the AI by playing offline but sooner or later I just grow tired of it and by the time that happens no one plays the game anymore. I'm not competitive so I don't really care about getting good enough for tournaments or playing online for hours.
Its all a dilemma: I love fighting games because of the skill, even though I lack it on most of them. I hate the fact that no one ever wants to play 1-on-1 with me because they think I already know all the moves to every character when I don't.

I recently bought Street Fighter IV on PC because it came with a DVD, it was cheap and it was a better option than the Sonic Mega Collection I was originally going to get for the DS (Sorry SEGA). It took over 10 minutes to install and when I hopped on I went right to the arcade but was immediately challenged by someone. After the fourth time that happened I figured out how to turn the auto-accept off and could play the arcade mode in peace. After that I only played two matches online and only won one round. It was good but my lack of experience coupled with slow connections of other players means its tough for me (not to mention that there were only 4 or 5 other people playing).
I've heard of people disconnecting because they started losing a match and I could easily disconnect by pressing a single key on my laptop but I promised myself I wouldn't do that. I played 2 hours of the arcade and got hellbent frustrated with how difficult it gets even on the easiest setting.

Which brings me to another problem I have with fighting games: the difficulty in arcade modes. I've said before and I'll always stand by it that I am not an expert at fighting games. Some of them, Street Fighter in particular, are known for increasing the difficulty with each match as you progress in the Arcade mode. I can understand and appreciate challenge, but when the AI knows exactly when to block after I throw what would have been a 6 hit combo at them, it starts to get more than a little ridiculous.

Another problem is the behemoth of Street Fighter, or more so Capcom itself. They've created a giant with the series and it seems that most reviewers always try to compare a new fighting game to anything SF-related. With Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition soon coming out along with Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom AND Street Fighter x Tekken (additionally Tekken x Street Fighter due out next year), it seems impossible for any other series to hold a candle to the biggest fighting franchise in history.
I'll just come out and say it: I prefer King of Fighters. For the past few games they've gone through the Ash Crimson saga and are now on a new "storyline" in the game universe. The action is more fast-paced and the fighting system has changed little over the years. It doesn't need to change because its stable as it is.
Capcom also has a problem with DLC and being greedy. They've been releasing high-priced DLC not just for Street Fighter but for their other games as well as releasing new versions of SF, even after claiming they wouldn't do that. And yet people keep buying them.

I may forever be terrible at fighting games and I'm sure there are more controllers to be broken in my future, but I'll keep playing them. I enjoy the challenge of some fighting games even without other people. The fast-paced action of some of them is a good eye opener and keeps me on my toes with a good adrenaline rush. While it is up to me to push myself to get better, I'd rather play with other people more often than I do. I just bought SFIV on the PC and I have two PC controllers, I guess I can always trick my brother into playing against me.

 Keep Playing.

Want to see a HUGE list of fighting games from all consoles, all generations, and all styles? Check out Fighters by clicking the banner above.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dreamcast 12th Anniversary!

Its that time of year again, where we look back on one of the most successful failures in video gaming history. A system, that even to this day, has games still being made for it. A pioneer console of the online network, MMORPG, DLC, and ease-of-creation with Windows CE. While everyone was waiting patiently for a PS2, there were some loyal DC owners and Sega fans that refused to give in and let their system die. When Sega finally folded, they still couldn't get the DCs off of the shelf. Sony was putting that much harm into them and since then Sega seems to have been unable to get almost anything right. (I'm looking at you, green-eyed Sonic...)
I'm short on words, time, and attention span and since I've already posted in the past about Remembering the DC, I also talked about the underground homebrew scene, gave some facts, etc. Last year I gave mini-reviews of my (then current) DC game collection. Lately and honestly I haven't felt drawn to write anything new in the way of blogs but I can think of a few things to say about the newest games that I've gathered as well as a few questions to ask.
Yes, its a repeat of last year unfortunately, but with this job I now have its hard to stay away from Amazon and the classic game sellers so the only DC action I've had lately is used games that take a week to get to me.
*I'd like to point out that as I started writing this, I ordered Jet Grind Radio and Phantasy Star Online v2 from Amazon. JGR arrived a couple days ago and I was able to throw a few sentences together about the overall game. PSO arrived today (9-9-11) and I'm going to do a full retro review of the game later on. Its in my DC right now. Offline, of course.*

Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future is best described as a "dolphin simulator" game. You need to suspend disbelief when trying to understand the storyline: Dolphins and humans live together in peace and have come to a greater understanding of the universe. But an alien race wants to disrupt that peace by causing... something. Who knows. You're Ecco once again and its mostly a repeat of the first game. When you get to that point of "How high in the sky can you jump?" things go incredibly wrong. A warp hole opens up and everything gets sucked into it. Now you're on a quest to fix everything cause YOU screwed it up!
The gameplay is incredibly smooth and there's full circular motion when moving around the open areas. The problems come by way of uninspired quests, confusing pathways, and enemies that are more annoying than troublesome.
The graphics are bright and you can expect to see a loooot of blue. They're very tight with light refractions and shadows abundant. Unless you look for things, like flat textures on background objects, you'll be impressed the whole way through.
The music is ambient and flows with the game; increasing at the right moments when the action ramps up. The sound effects are dulled in water while things like echolocation and responses are clear.
Its an adventure game worthy of a Dreamcast lovers collection but it might not keep someone glued to their seat due to the confusing pathways and unclear objectives at some points.

Evolution: The World of Sacred Device is a hard game for me to appreciate. The storyline isn't appealing: you're the son of an infamous treasure hunter who did something and now owes the treasure hunter guild a lot of money and blah blah blah. Maybe I'm just not a fan of child-RPGs but I can't seem to stay interested in any of it.
The combat consists of placing your three characters either front, middle, or back of the action. The healer preferably behind it all. You choose your action, you attack, you get attacked, you need to level up extremely high to beat a single boss. Aside from the character placement mechanic,  the rest of the action is pretty cookie cutter.
The graphics aren't all that impressive either with dull surfaces, cartoonish action, and bland character models. No real flash or flare to it. I know that's not what it takes to make a great game but you'd think they would at least have some polish.
Maybe I'm too harsh on it but I can say that after only about 45 minutes total playtime I won't be returning to it. With Dreamcast hoarders becoming more common these days I'll still keep it in my collection.

As of writing this I actually just received Jet Grind Radio in the mail yesterday (9-8-11) and have only played about an hour of it, but from that hour I can definitely say that this game has STYLE. The cell-shaded graphics were unique for the time and made the game look and play smoothly. You play as one of three members of the gang "the GG's" and tag your way across Tokyo fighting off other gangs and the relentless police. I played the "sequel," Jet Set Radio Future, before this one and I have to say that JSRF has smoother controls, faster gameplay and a different and larger city. But I digress, Jet Grind Radio is a must-have for anyone. It's a unique game in that it isn't a sports title at all; its about artistic expression and Sega has created and nailed it with that in mind. 
The main downfalls of the game are the controls and camera. Sometimes the controls just don't feel accurate enough and they take some getting used to. Meanwhile the camera is the biggest problem. Using L-trigger, it refocuses behind your character, when all along it should just be set that way.
The music is the main draw-in with a funky beat that plays all throughout and really sets the atmosphere. The inclusion of the soundtrack player in the garage menu is an awesome afterthought. You don't have to load up a level and wait to hear that one good song.
The graphics are also one of the main selling points. The cell-shading keeps the game running at a smooth pace and never causes clutter. Its always interesting to turn a corner and see what's there. Although despite being the middle of Japan, the streets are quite devoid of people, which can be good so you don't have to worry about running into people when attempting to flee from the police.
Its a classic Dreamcast game that deserves to be remade or have several sequels already. Its unique, atmospheric, and with a lot of hidden tags and pathways, its worth it to play again to hunt down everything.

Have you ever played the first Project Gotham Racing on the original Xbox? Then you've played this. Metropolis Street Racer is the predecessor to PGR and in reality, PGR is just the graphical upgrade of MSR. Same tracks from all the same locations. Does that make it a bad game? No way. Never.
The graphics are tight and really shows off what the Dreamcast is capable of with each locale resembling the real world area in great detail. Car models are rendered perfectly and are the best I've seen in a DC game.
But its not about the graphics, its all about style and how you drive. Wanna be reckless? Prepare to lose Kudos, style points that are used to unlock new cars and tracks. Proper braking and acceleration, drifting cleanly around corners, overtaking cars without colliding, and passing between checkpoints without hitting walls is what its all about.
The sound effects have a depth that other racers, and games, just didn't have at the time: clear engine sounds, tires screeching, cars crunching. The soundtrack features unlicensed music but its not bad at all.
Its an arcade racer with a heavy emphasis on sim driving. One other game that comes to mind that attempted to pull the same thing off is Enthusia on the PS2. Where Enthusia was too focused on an odds system, PGR almost does the same with its Kudos. In spite of that fact, its another must-have in a collector's.... collection.

It takes balls to take on one of sim racing's most prolific racing series, Gran Turismo, and Sega went all out to try and take it on. Sega GT works well, for the most part. While it doesn't really do anything ground-breaking or exciting, it is a solid racer and one that goes in-depth enough for a gearhead to enjoy. All others might not care to try out the overly precise controls and generally bland presentation. There are license classes that must be done in order to get to the higher levels (just like in GT) and while some of them can be easily done for those who are used to sim racers, some are just ridiculously hard and will leave you with only tenths of a second to complete.
The graphics are tight for the most part and the car models are excellently detailed. The tracks are unique but there aren't a lot of them, and you'll be racing the same small-time races several times over in order to get enough money for either a tournament race or upgrades. 
I can't really recall the sound right now but I do know that its not worth talking about.
As far as sim racers go, Sega GT is a weak link but still a must-have for DC owners, sim racing fans, and collectors alike. But if you really want to try out Sega GT, there is a better sequel on the original Xbox that was a pack-in title, a double disc that includes, go figure, Jet Set Radio Future.

Take all of the classic Sega games you know and love, port them to the Dreamcast, give them sloppy controls and HORRIBLE midi sounds, and you've got a poor excuse for a Dreamcast game. If you play it on mute and re-learn your controls by using either the overly-sensitive control stick or the bad d-pad, it could be good. But if you don't care to do that, stick with the original Genesis games or one of the newer collections and give this one a definite pass.

Have you ever played SSX? Well this isn't it. Its a boring and uninspired racing game that features hoverboards, generic characters, overly futuristic but bland locales, and a trick system that doesn't want you to succeed. As misleading as the name is, the game isn't about tricks, its about getting through the 2-minute twisting tracks the fastest while getting a small score from tricks and not crashing. If you're looking to hunt down a full collection of Dreamcast games, then by all means go for it. But if you want only good games to show off, definitely never give this a second glance.

Its freakin' Unreal Tournament, on the Dreamcast, and its compatible with the DC mouse and keyboard. What more could you ask for? Its a perfect replacement to the PC version since its directly ported over.
While there aren't as many maps (there are a couple of DC exclusive ones) as the PC version it doesn't pull punches in the amount of action that takes place. Mods, tournament ladders, and characters are all here. The same insane action that an FPS-arena fan craves. It's a must-have for any Dreamcast owner.  I also own the PS2 version and I can definitely say that, without a doubt, the PS2 version is the weakest while the DC hits all the right body parts. Now you can yell "HEADSHOT" when playing on your Dreamcast.

Believe it or not, Rockstar was experimenting with open world games even on the DC. Wild Metal is a perfect example of how NOT to do it. You choose from a small assortment of tanks that differ in firepower, speed, and armor and take it to the battlefield... a very barren battlefield. Why are you fighting an overly accurate enemy AI AND poor controls at the same time? Who knows. Rockstar definitely missed the mark with this one and while the terrain is open its just very bland. There's not much to see besides powerups, enemies, and more desert. Wild Metal is in the same lines as Trickstyle: you can do without it if you're going to play these games for real, but its okay to have in a collection.

So here's a couple of questions for you all...
What is your favorite game, THE killer app that everyone must own, for the Dreamcast?
If you've never owned a DC, why?
If the DC had succeeded how do you think the gaming scene would be different today?

Keep Playing Your Dreamcast.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sonic Fan Film Teaser Trailer

From Eddie Lebron, the mind that brought us the live-action Mega Man fan film. Finally, my childhood hero of the SatAM cartoons makes the jump to the real world.

And yes, that is Jaleel White as Sonic.

And I nerdgasmed.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

E3 pre-show! Warning: heavy linkage.

Also: my birthday's tomorrow! I'll be a quarter-century old.

Another year, another E3. I know this is starting to sound like one of the first blogs I wrote on this site and that's for a good reason: E3 2011 looks to be the year of sequels, remakes, and ports. I seriously think the games industry is running out of new ideas for new IPs.

The news is fresh from Konami's press conference: HD remakes of the original Metal Gear Solid games, Resident Evil, and Zone of the Enders. Woop-de-doo. Someone might be wondering why I'm so critical of Metal Gear Solid and I can hear the fanboys getting mad right now. Allow me to clarify why I dislike the whole MGS universe: fanboys. Because of the outrageous nature that some fanboys go through, it makes me want to have nothing to do with any of it. From what I've gathered, the MGS universe is a convoluted story centered around Solid Snake... no wait Big Boss... no wait Old Snake... Raiden?! It can't make up its mind who it wants to follow and if its not one specific character the fanboys go nuts and reject the game at first, then suddenly its Game of the Year material. Fanboys are raving lunatics.

Dedicated? No, I just call it freakin' weird.

However I will give Konami a little bit of kudos for announcing the next Contra, but not a lot for not revealing it. For all we know it could be an FPS Contra that old-school fanboys will get mad about. I'm starting to sense a pattern here....
Along with all of this, Konami is developing a multi-platform engine called the Fox Engine. Really? Fox? As in Kojima's company's moniker? I've had enough. Moving on.

Hot on the trails of the "exciting" Konami news is from the Sony camp. Yes they still exist despite recent circumstances. Not only are they getting the MGS remakes, but they're porting all of the digital download PSP releases, those that were on the PSN, to the NGP, or PSVita as some people are claiming. On top of that, they'll be bringing some new games to their Android-powered device, the Xperia Play. While the BFBC2 sounds good to me, I'm going to stick around and see what the NGP (or PSVita) has to offer. Plus I just bought an Android phone, I'm broke right now.
The NGP will also be getting an Uncharted sequel this year. And I know a lot of people are complaining about the motion controls with the NGP and all I hear is whining about using the back touchpad to climb up a rope. Get over it. Its a new way to play a game and it could be one of your favorites. STOP being so critical over something you haven't even played yet!

A little story happening with Microsoft is that CD Projekt is bringing The Witcher 2 to Xbox 360. So what does this little morsel have to do with all of this? Its a port. Enough said. Moving on.

THQ is headed back to the octagon for UFC Undisputed 3.

I'm just going to run down the list of sequel games that are being shown off this year:
Batman Arkham City
Saints Row: The Third
The Darkness II
Darksiders II
Serious Sam 3: BFE
Call of Juarez: The Cartel
Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm (while not exactly a sequel, it is still a continuation of the StarCraft universe)
Silent Hill: Book of Memories
Mass Effect 3 (with rumored Kinect support)
Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition (even though they said they wouldn't do any more releases of SFIV)
Rayman Origins
Twisted Metal (reboot)
Gears of War 3
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (its a sequel)
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (ITS JUST A REMAKE, and some of you will pay $50 for a game you've bought 3 or 4 times before. SAME GAME.)
Tomb Raider (reboot)
Prey 2
Halo: Combat Evolved HD remake (very possible
Forza 4
Duke Nukem Forever
Madden 12 (you saw that one coming)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Driver: San Francisco
Splinter Cell 3DS (rumored)
Guild Wars 2
Ninja Gaiden 3
Red Faction: Armageddon
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3
Battlefield 3
Carmageddon: Reincarnation
Resistance 3
Sniper: Ghost Warrior (PS3 port)
FEAR 3Alice: Madness Returns
Metro: Last Light
Worms Ultimate Mayhem (rated in Australia)
Trackmania 2
Dragon Age 3
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Tales of Xillia (Tales of... series)
Diablo 3
Final Fantasy V
Might & Magic Heroes 6
Professor Layton
WWE 12
Blizzard DotA

And I'm sure there are a couple of games I missed.
Meanwhile there are three games I'm reluctant to call sequels: Sonic Generations, Age of Empires Online, and Aliens Colonial Marines. While the first two are new games in their respective franchises, I expect them to be more of the same-old same-old that we've played in the past. Aliens:CM has been in and out of development for a long while. I'm not entirely sure if its a sequel to the lackluster Aliens vs Predator game or not.

So, that's the sequels. Let's see how many original IPs are showing up in the next year:

From Dust
Heroes of Ruin
Dead Island
*Hawken (still in development, they need to find a publisher)

Yep. After 30 mins of searching you can count on one hand the big name IPs that you can expect to see soon. I know there are a few more but, like I said, after 30 minutes I gave up searching.

Seriously. People complain about their being no new IPs for games but they'll buy sequels and remakes left and right.
Its your own faults.
Some of the sequels I'm looking forward to, yes, but its the remakes and the thought that there are very little new ideas being made that disappoints me. I'm sure each of those games will do something their predecessor(s) never did but at their cores, they'll be the same.

Keep Playing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga

 (All images are taken from, even though the community is traitorous.)

Divinity 2 Main Theme

Divinity II is an action-RPG set in a world that shares many ideas from medieval and fantasy stories that you would come to expect from a mass-produced fantasy novel found in a bookstore: dragons, knights, guilds, magic, swords, etc. It's cliched, but its done well. A bit of humor every now and then with a few references to pop culture, such as Power Rangers (it must be seen to be believed) means the game doesn't take itself too seriously without breaking the 4th wall.

The game takes you through the world of Rivelon as either a Hunter, Warrior, or Mage/Priest. Skills from these different classes can be combined to give you an upper hand in a fight. Want a Ranger that summons undead? You can do it. Want to customize skills for a paladin? It can be done. Actions are mapped to the face buttons and d-pad so attacks and healing items can be changed on the fly. About halfway through Ego Draconis, you can transform into a dragon. Flying is chaotic in some areas, with so many projectiles coming at you that you have no choice but to constantly move. Mind-reading is a skill gained at the beginning of the game and is useful for discovering a lot of secrets. Each time you read a mind it comes at a cost of experience points. Useful information, secrets, and sometimes stat and skill upgrades can come from mind-reading. The difficulty levels range from Casual, practically a walk in the park, to Nightmare, a level that requires planning an attention before rushing into a fight. The NPCs can be bland with backstories only being mentioned for a few of them. In my opinion, Damian is the best villain I've seen: he's arrogant, his voice is cocky, he knows he can't be touched and never misses a chance to rub it in. Others, such as Morgana that you meet in the beginning of the game, are never heard from again.

The story is typical and, unfortunately, somewhat predictable at points. You play a soldier who has been trained to become a Dragon Slayer, those who hunt dragons. Before a ritual is complete, one of the minor villains gets into your head, making you become "one with the dragon." From there you play both sides of the fence, trying to hold off your former-brothers-in-arms while discovering your true potential as a Dragon Knight and hunting down the games main villain and his army. Unfortunately again, you never encounter him in a fight, this leaves the possibility of a sequel in the open. But that remains to be seen.

The Flames of Vengeance takes place in Aleroth, which at first seems to be a bunch of back-and-forth fetch quests similar to the start of Ego Draconis. The city itself takes on a vibe different from the large open areas traversed in Ego Draconis. There is supposed to be a lot of life but with the current situation the streets are abandoned, giving it a hollow feeling.

The graphics are tight with very few glitches in the main areas. The redesigned portions of the game have many unconnected rocks and walls, some that seem hastily put together. Villages and forests are bright while dungeons, mines and lairs are darkened, which pulls off a nicely claustrophobic feeling. NPC animation can be very puppet-like, actions are scripted and repeated when talking to people. Traveling among places brings about a change in color tone, some areas may have a green brightness to them while others, particularly near an enemy hideout, will be red and shadowy. In Flames of Vengeance, the city of Aleroth is nicely detailed with a lot of areas that you want to explore.

The sound design is grade A, the orchestral soundtrack gives a sense of an epic tale. The music ramps up in intensity at the onset of a battle: the clash of metal, the yell of enemies, the explosions of a magic missile. The voice acting is superb and with many talented actors you never get bored of the conversations, however some of the NPCs can sound air-headed at times.

For achievement junkies, one playthrough is all it takes to earn 100%, but you may want to replay this game a couple of times since you might miss out on a quest. There are no multiple endings to Ego Draconis but thankfully the Flames of Vengeance sequel wraps up the story nicely. Once ED is finished, the game seamlessly starts FoV.

It should be noted that the Dragon Knight Saga is a re-release of the Divinity 2 game. The first standalone game, Ego Draconis released in 2009, was overlooked by most and received an average of 7/10 from gaming review sites. Aside from a few updated graphics shaders, a closer camera, redesigned menus, added DLC and Flames of Vengeance “sequel,” the main part of the game is the same, right down to the achievements. The load times, however, are dramatically increased even with the game installed. The addition of the art book and soundtrack CD are great incentives to buy the game soon. The art book is short and small but shows off the details of the game that you might not notice. The soundtrack is best described as atmospheric, relaxing, and captivating. If you were let down by the original game, Dragon Knight Saga is worth getting to complete the experience. For those who are unsure, try the demo first. Decide for yourself if you want to spend $40 on an action-RPG that does everything by the book and does it well.

Keep Playing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nintendo's Next Console: What I Think (UPDATED)

In case those of you who have missed the news (or rumors, rather) about Nintendo's next console, there's a lot of speculation about what's been codenamed "Project Cafe." Many are saying it will be more powerful than the PS3, others are suggesting that if this is true, then Nintendo will be trying to win back the "hardcore" audience. After having guaranteed success with the Wii, many people might be drawn back to the company itself.

What I'm interested in are the controllers: what will Nintendo do this time around? Will it be motion controllers again or something beyond, something similar to Kinect? Or will they go back to regular old button mashers? From the mockups I've seen, particularly the one from IGN, it interests me. You can read the whole article here.

Able to stream games from the controller? That would make it its own handheld, and Nintendo has saturated the market with those. (On a different note: RIP Nintendo DS Lite.)
But I instead imagine something similar to this: 

Nintendo has never been about pressure sensitivity, so that could be put on the back burner for right now. As for control sticks, a screen that size (minus the black borders of the iPhone) would be able to display two of them along with 4 buttons. Nix the d-pad or have the ability to switch between the displayed right thumbstick to a d-pad in-game. Shoulder buttons can, of course, go on top of the controller.

Now about the system, if this thing is a powerhouse that some sites are claiming, I take it Nintendo isn't going to be doing backwards compatibility. They're also saying it'll either be the size of an SNES or an original Xbox.

I was highly impressed when Nintendo first announced the Wii years ago, I was planning on getting one eventually. But then the whole pile of slushware games came out, Nintendo was putting their approval on virtual toys and I realized that that's all the Wii has become: a toy. There are a few games worth playing on the console but the small amount of them makes it not worth buying. I'll keep my eyes, ears and mind open to Project Cafe in the meantime.

UPDATE: It's been confirmed by multiple sources that Nintendo will have a playable version of Project Cafe ready at this year's E3 in June. It seems that the Big Three console developers always have leaked information, which leads me to believe that its intentionally leaked for hype purposes.Speaking of hype, I was highly impressed with Nintendo when they revealed the Wii only to be let down by the millions of slushware titles that got approved by Nintendo, so I never bought one. I'm being cautious on this new console until more news is revealed, and possibly new IPs while they're at it.

Keep Playing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Second Look @ Grind Session (PS1)

(Images taken from Moby Games and IGN)

When a game refuses to follow the button presses of the player and instead decides what's best for it, it makes for a really terrible game. Playing a game should be fun, not tedious. Its hard NOT to compare this game to the Pro Skater series but it is easy to pick it apart piece by piece and quickly discover what went wrong. I remember being impressed by the demo for this game on a Playstation Underground demo disc years ago. Today, after just one hour of play time, I realize that this game has shattered my good thoughts of it. The game can't even be edgy when it comes to skateboarding, a sport known for having some hardcore people. Amidst the skating craze of the early 00's it should have been easy to tap into the culture.

Grind Session follows its own rules and ends up alienating the player multiple times through inaccurate or incomplete button presses, terrible physics and gravity, broken skating lines, mediocre tricks and skaters, and a meager amount of time to do things in. Remember breaking the objects in the first Pro Skater? Well that happens in pretty much every level here. There's little to no imagination to the entire game.
By advancing through, your chosen professional or created skater earns respect. Although how the words "Grind Session" and "respect" can be said in the same sentence is beyond me. The game physics, possibly 50% of the time, won't allow you to complete a line because you'll fall off a rail or not jump high enough.
Tricks are unlocked by earning enough respect to complete a level. They range from simple combinations to double d-pad presses for the more complicated ones. Something similar to the special tricks in the Pro Skater series. When enough tricks are successfully landed, your skater goes into “Possession” mode, which allows them to spin faster. Grind Session's spinning is done only by left and right on the d-pad, which means you need to press carefully if you're wanting to spin a trick after pressing up or down on the d-pad. Its just convoluted.
You won't be able to count how many times a trick WILL NOT go through. Apparently the game has a hard time processing what should be two flips or grabs in a row. As for the grinding, the best way to describe it would be "broken." Holding down the grind button makes you stay on the rail while releasing it to set up for the next trick causes your skater to jump off. A few times you'll hit a line perfectly, only to come off and bail while landing even with your wheels pointed forward. Why? I don't know.

There's one thing the game almost does right: creating a female skater, something not seen in Pro Skater 2 until 2x. Unfortunately, the create-a-skater options are limited to two variations of a male and female model. Each one looking like someone you'd find pushing mongo around a California boardwalk. One thing that begs to be mentioned is that there are more hidden/unlockable skaters than there are professionals. Personally, aside from Daewon Song, I've never heard of any of the other pros, or have heard anything about them since this game.

The graphics are terrible in the fact that it could have been done better. We've SEEN it done better in the first Pro Skater, and this game came out after Pro Skater 2!
Skating around should be fun, right? Nope, not here. Most of the levels are huddled together and there's very little room to do extravagant things in, much less room to get a good line going. The level designs are terrible and bland. Nothing interesting to see.
More than a few times will the camera screw with you whether on a jump or in general since there's no free-looking. You have to stop the skater either with the circle button (what's wrong with pressing down?) or L2. Holding down L2 to look around in 'Skater's Eye' mode wastes precious time.

The sound is bland: a grunt from the skater, a metallic sound while grinding, a cash registering 'dinging,' it does little to draw you in. There are very few environmental sounds and the cardboard cutout crowd cheering during competitions gives you a feeling of "no one really cares."
The music is varied, at least, and is ALMOST the saving grace for the whole game. Artists like Jurassic 5, Black Flag, and a few others give it a nice diversity, but it repeats so often you get sick of it in the first hour.

Its a game that's meant to be taken or leaven as is. I, for one, would rather leave it, in a trash pile. Oddly enough the developer, Shaba Games, went on to develop Pro Skater 3 for the PS1 which wasn't a bad game at all. Grind Session was up against a giant of a game in the arcade skating genre, and when measured beside it its simple manual trick just couldn't compare to the Hawk's 900.

Monday, February 7, 2011

200 Miles of Wasted Time

My friend and I go on a journey through the backroads of Alabama for flea market hunting, only to find... two games. Google maps + GPS = lies! All lies!
*Just realized the outro card got cut off. I don't know why but It says "Next trip, we're staying in Georgia. Athens, baby! Thanks for watching."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Retro Hunting Failures and Crossroads

Last week I posted a video about my own flea market retro hunting adventure. I went with my family and came away with what I initially thought was a good haul, but after second-guessing, I reasoned it wasn't all that great. Here's the video for those of you who haven't seen it.
My friend, Lady_Fi, caught the retro hunting bug and wanted to go with me yesterday to a flea market in the next state, the same one I went to last week. This time I was strapped for cash and couldn't buy much.

We walked around for a few minutes but only found the occasional sports game. My friend picked up Billy Hatcher and Viewtiful Joe though. We headed over to the infamous reseller's table and found out the ugly truth....

(This next part, I don't intend to sully her name, whatever it may be, but I intend to post as a warning to anyone going to Lee County Flea Market: if you see a woman at a table with a lot of games on it, just walk away.)
This woman is a sniper. She showed us the original Genesis and said she had just picked it up that morning, meaning from someone else' table. And she's a definite reseller. Someone out to make a profit off of the idiots. And let me just say: this part of Alabama isn't exactly a shining star. My friend is looking for an NES and I asked the lady how much she had one for.

She said $100.

I'll let that sink in for you....
Meanwhile, here are some search results from ebay :

$100 for an NES.
Not in the box and probably not with controllers.
I would give her $20 and a slap in the face. Prices on ebay are $50+ cheaper. She preys on those who aren't knowledgeable about gaming prices and she doesn't know anything about the games themselves. She's like an independent GameSlop: making money off of people who don't know that better stores exist.
I asked to see her original Game Boy games and she had them priced at $10 and above, and the selection was absolute crap! My friend found Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers on Genesis for $13 but we walked away from the table with nothing and saved ourselves some cash. Later in the day we made our way to Play N Trade and found MMPR for $5.

I filmed it, and its goofy, but its really bad. So bad that I can't salvage it. So bad that I won't try to piece something together. So bad that not even putting a FantomenK song in the background will save it. This video will go in File 13 and maybe in the future I'll do bloopers and use that as a starting point.

The Short-And-To-The-Point of it all:
The original idea of it came from the Retro Hunters. They inspired me to go out to a flea market and look for games. However, these games are often overpriced, overabundant, sports games, or scraps. I can get a better deal at Play N Trade (I say PNT because its the only retro store near me. We don't have a GameCrazy or Gamerz Exchange or GameAttack *cough*franchise, Craig*cough*). I have a list made out of retro games that I want to acquire but it has put me at a crossroads:
Is it all about flea market hunting, or about getting the retro games I want?
Do I shell out $40 for Super Metroid at a flea market, or get six games for $40 at a corporate store?
Support the little guys or give money to the giants?
Its a tough call but its my list and I'm not picky about how I get the games. Play N Trade, which is an underdog when compared to GameSlop, has been good to me and I intend to keep the games I collect for a long while, not just play and throw back like a fish...
That was an Alabama analogy, wasn't it? The place is starting to affect me.

The next planned flea market outing is in late March/early April. I have to save up money again and Valentine's Day isn't helping. In the meantime, I have several games to play that are on the backburner, and even more still that I've never beaten (Mass Effect NG+, O_O).
Keep Playing.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Own Retro hunt

After seeing the Retro Hunter's videos, I caught the bug and wanted to go to a nearby flea market and do a little hunting of my own. After the cold winds, dirt, and lack of food, I realize I may have came up empty-handed after all.