Being four weeks removed from E3 seems like an eternity. All the glitz and glamour of the show is now just a fading memory, and everyone who attended the show are back into the swing of things. Well, we hope. While the summer is usually known for a slow period of releases, titles such as Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising and Megaman Network Transmission might just change that notion. For now, the staff is quite content catching up with older titles to knock down what is known as the "Pile of Shame"
Bahn - Speed Kings (Xbox)
I originally was planning to discuss Brute Force, Microsoft's recent third-person shooter release. Over the past past two weeks, the feedback that I received from the local GameStop consumers here in Waterford made me adequately curious. (Though let's get one thing straight - regardless how impressive Brute Force has been proclaimed to be, we all know this is a far cry from the spiritual successor that is Halo 2).
Instead, I "stumbled" across Speed Kings, the newest racing sensation from Acclaim. Essentially, it's a cross between Burnout and Road Rash (you remember that classic EA gem, BEFORE it was diluted to crap?) Suffice it to say, it's a marriage made in heaven.
Avid racing fans with a thirst for action will not be disappointed. The gameplay truly lives up to the title's namesake. The primary premise of the game puts you up against CPU opponents in a no-holds barred race to the finish line. During the course of the race, you can also take on secondary objectives, known as Respect Challenges which allow you to earn points towards unlocking special bikes equipped with enhanced attributes.
In the brief amount of time that I've spent playing the game, I am adequately impressed. Players can choose from up to 22 various bikes based on production and custom real world models. You can also customize the color and style of your gear, all of which is endorsed by Alpinestars and Shoel.
The action is so fast and furious that you'll be begging for seat belts. You'll literally need sharp reflexes and nerves of steel as you scream throughout crowded city streets, highways and other challenging areas. It's recommended that you take a stop at the License Mode to hone your skills and learn the fundamentals of the game.
Trust me, you'll need them!
No matter where your racing prowess stands, you're going to crash a lot in this game. You'll experience a variety of painful, wild crash sequences reminscient to the ones featured in theBurnout series. Climax has went the extra mile by incorporating destructible enviroments and a real-time damage system to reflect the incurred damage to your vehicle. Aside from maintaining the integrity of your vehicle, you'll also need to be on the watch from the local law enforcement who will do everything they can to get you busted.
Speed Kings features 3 single-player modes, in addition to 5 multiplayer modes which supports the Xbox system link feature (something that I'd like to experience first-hand). As you progress throughout the game, additional stages, bikes and other goodies can be unlocked. For example, players can eventually unlock the option to enable/disable traffic. Though I can't imagine why, it's the one essential element that makes this game so exciting.
It goes without saying that I'll be back shortly with a full hands-on review. In the meantime - get out there and give this game a whirl.
Reno - Multiple Titles
Soul Calibur 2 (GC/Arcade)
Aside from my playtime with the game at E3, I've also had to continue playing the game to keep in tournament form. We recently had a tournament in Toronto with some new players show up, including one from New York City who is staying in the SARS-infested wasteland for the summer. As always, the competition is getting increasingly tougher as more people pick up the import versions of the game in order to practice up. It'll be quite the sight when everyone in the Toronto community is so good that no one will be able to underestimate anyone. Folks, you can't get this kind of competition at home. If you've been wanting to wait for the console version, I suggest going out and playing a couple of rounds in the arcade, you may just end up making a few new friends.
This game absolutely owns me. When I first played it with the Dual Shock 2 controller, it was a fun game. Then I went from Normal mode to Brutal mode and it's been kicking my ass. Then I had the wacky idea of using my arcade stick with the game, but it didn't work. It's a shame too, since my arcade stick is layed out with Square, Triangle and Circle all in one line. It would've made the game a mix between Amplitude and Beatmania. I've been playing the game sporadically online as well, but the veterans have been kicking my ass all over the place. Guess I just need some more practice.
The Adventures of Cookie and Cream (PS2)
I remember reading a review of this game in Next Gen magazine, thinking it was a pretty nifty little title. Unfortunately I never had the money to buy it, but thanks to the good graces of Agetec's David Silveria, I was able to get a copy. The concept of the game is awesome, with each analog stick controlling both Cookie and Cream, your two characters in the game. By solving various puzzles you have to get both of them across the goal line at the end of each level. Just about every puzzle in the game requires you to use a great deal of co-operation between the two characters, and with the time limit it can be a very tense game. While it looks like something that's made for kids, the challenge that this game provides near the end is pretty intimidating. This is a definite rental for anyone who hasn't tried it out yet.
Haohmaru - Multiple Titles
Europa Universalis II (Mac)
Courtesy of MacPlay, I received this title a few days ago and have been negotiating its fairly steep learning curve. It's a historical RTS/War game that serves up a host of scenarios in different time periods covering a multitude of empires, wannabe empires and fledgling states that could've become empires. Diplomacy, economy, warfare, infrastructure all with a time limit, this game can be best described as Civilization III with a host of options and scenarios with a definite time limit. You're awarded points for accomplishing certain things (be it conquering, inventions, culture, etc...) and you also have the option to accept missions with a certain risk/reward depending on the nature of the mission. In other words, if you conquer "X" country and hold it for 5 years you're awarded 30 points - however, if you fail you lose 19 points. So, if you feel that you're trailing in the game you can opt for these risky maneuvers to catch up to your opponents. My only initial difficulties with this title are that loading a save game crashed the program (not the OS, just the game) and that the RTS aspects of the game aren't really necessary - there are so many aspects of the title to micro manage that you don't have enough time to spend with each city or colony to do them justice. Even on its slowest setting it's very fast.
Nice little shareware title that I downloaded from versiontracker.com. iConquer is much like an updated version of the board game Risk that allows you to play against a host of computer opponents or multiplayer against opponents via the internet. There are additional maps created by fans of the game as well as the game's author(s), Kavasoft, and detailed instructions on how you can create your own maps and characters. @$12.99 for the shareware fee, it's well worth it - even if the computer's AI is a bit soft.
Masters - Multiple Titles
Soul Calibur 2 (GC)
Yeah, after playing it at E3, I had to import it, and it was well worth it. It's mostly English-friendly and what isn't as pretty easy to figure out. Link rules, as does the entire rest of the game, and with the Freeloader thing available now, there's no reason for anyone not to have SC2 already. I haven't played enough of the game as I would like to, or any games this week for that matter, but the little time I've had has been well spent. And by the way, the Cube controller isn't that bad to play SC2 with, so stop whining.
Final Fantasy Origins
I have to review this game like a week ago, but time hasn't permitted me to get as much of it done as I'd like to. It's nostalgia gaming, and there's nothing wrong with that, even though this game would have been better served to be on the GBA. That's all I'm going to say about it, since I have a review to do, and I have to give everyone a reason to look at it.
Ren - Multiple Titles
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)
Wow, I love this game. I forgot how much fun 2-D sidescrollers can be. The graphics are great, the music is amazing, and there's loads of replay value. Aria of Sorrow is the type of game that you can really get into. For example, I'd be playing it at work and suddenly shriek out, "ARGH! GIVE ME YOUR SOUL!" That may have scared a few customers away. At any rate, I really can't find anything negative to say about the latest installment in the Castlevania series. Oh how I love you, Konami.
WarioWare, Inc. (GBA)
This is quite possibly the most insane game I've ever played, and I like it. WarioWare is perfect for people with short attention spans. Most of its minigames are absolutely bizarre, and the majority of the player's precious time is spent simply trying to figure out HOW to play each game. It's crazy, it's fun, and well worth the money.
taloony - Multiple Titles
Shenmue 2 (Dreamcast)
I borrowed this over a year ago from a friend of mine, fully intending to get to it as soon as I finished the first game (last March). I even converted my save file back in October as incentive to play, but still put it off. Anyway, I finally popped it in last week, and I'm loving it. It has its issues (the plodding pace of various "guides" springs to mind), but for the most part seems to be a sold game. Come on Yuji, send us some Shenmue 3 love soon, will you?
Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals (SNES)
I've heard quite a bit about this game, most of it good. Well, I'm only four or five hours into it at the moment, but "good" is not the word I would use. Graphically this wasn't a powerhouse even back in the day, and the plot so far is horrible (though some rather interesting things have happened recently). The puzzles are nice though, and I can only imagine that they'll get harder as I progress, so I'll be doing my best to stay with it.
Teddman - Multiple Titles
Metroid Prime (GC)
Finally got around to finishing this one. Fantastic
final section-- the three last bosses were truly
memorable and came more or less one right after
another. And yet overall I found Metroid was one of
those games that is mostly frustrating and laborious
while you're playing it, but later you think back on
it fondly and tend to gloss over the painful parts.
You know, kind of like High School? While I'm glad I
played through Metroid Prime, I'm not so eager to dive
into the sequel if it's more of the same. That's
saying a lot for this Metroid fan who has played every
game in the series. The first-person Metroid
experiment turned out far better than anyone
expected... But next time I want the 2.5D or 3rd
person next-generation game that longtime Metroid fans
demand. And where's my screw attack?!
Mr. Mosquito (PS2)
Sony Computer Entertainment managed to take a
cute-looking mosquito and make his struggle to suck
blood from unsuspecting members of the Yamada family
sympathetic. Can't say I'll hesitate to slap dead the
next one that buzzes by my ear in real-life though.
This game is a lot of fun in short doses. In each
room (read: level) of the house, you target a family
member, find their weak point, and then attack and
suck away to fill up a pre-set amount of blood tanks.
There are little secrets to find in each room (like
extra hidden blood tanks), and battles that occur with
the humans if you're not subtle enough at your work.
The controls are pretty clunky (why does Mr. Mosquito
control like something out of Ace Combat?), but the
game is charming in a first-generation PS2 way. And
it's got that certain Japanese quirkiness to it...
For instance, the level where you have to bite the
teenage daughter before she finishes her bath! Guess
where the target point is?
Strider 2 (PSOne)
Yeah, it's an older game but it's new to me! 2.5D
ACTION ROCKS! I love this little 2-disc set from
Capcom, which includes both the new Strider sequel and
a perfect translation of the arcade original. When it
was released in 2000, some critics downgraded the
games for being short and allowing you unlimited
continues that pick up in exactly the spot you die.
Those are both welcome features if you ask me! The
games can get extremely hard in sections--I would
never have seen the end of Strider 1 without that
forgiving continue option. Just a pair of nice breezy
action games when you want something pick-up & play
without a huge time commitment. Fantastic art as
well; bring on Strider 3!
Pro-Tip: Make sure you finish Strider 1 and then save
from the options menu before playing Strider 2 - it
unlocks a new "Stage 00" that is one of the best in
ˇ ˇ ˇTNL Staff