Now that the Viewtiful one has landed, things are going to be a lot more peaceful around here... we hope. For the Canadians on the staff, there's nothing like a long weekend to break out the games. For the Americans... well, you get your chance to relax on a lazy Monday afternoon with your games next month. Things have been picking up on the site as we near the end of the year, and we're hoping that we get just enough time to play all of the titles we want. For those of us who have more than one console, that may be a big task, but somehow it'll get done. Of course, it won't be without any loss of sleep. And a loss of a social life.
∑ ∑ ∑ TNL Staff
Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)
If you haven't read up on our hands-on preview of this excellent title, it'd be a good idea to do so right now! Right now I'm half way through the game, and despite being a little campy, it's been an enjoyable experience. The battle system is really good, even though it's a return to the old ATB system. I enjoy the dressphere idea, but I think that there's way too many of them, and not all of them are really effective. In fact, I'm finding myself sticking to the same four classes since the beginning of the game. I've had Paine switch classes exactly once, while both Rikku and Yuna have gone through two classes each. Other than this minor detail, I'm having a great time. Especially with the lesbian massage mini-game. Oooh yeah.
Viewtiful Joe (GameCube)
This is yet another title that I've written about on TNL. It seems that the only games that I actually play are the ones I write about, pretty sad, eh? Even if that is true, I don't mind, not with games like Viewtiful Joe to keep me company. Anyone who has picked up the import or the U.S. copy will agree with me: this game kicks an insane amount of booty. I'm still stuck on the 5th level of the game, but I really couldn't care less about that. I'm just having so much fun playing this game that I don't even care if I actually finish it or not.
Bomberman Generations (GameCube)
I haven't touched this game in months...well, not since I reviewed it several months ago. However, it's unlikely that my girlfriend will be rushing to pick up a controller to play CVS2 (and I need to get away from that game anyways) so this certainly makes for a great game we can both enjoy. We played through each of the various multiplayer levels -- Coin Battle ended up being the most enjoyable while Reversi Attack was the least. Basically, the rule behind coin battle is to pick up as many coins as possible within before time expires. Naturally, you'll need to strategically (and safely) deploy bombs throughout the play field, while ensuring that you don't get yourself blown up in the process. That of course is easier said then done, and suffice it to say, both of us had our fair share of deaths to the computer (mainly the Blue Bomber...curse him). Playing Bomberman Generation has actually got me all psyched now for the upcoming installment -- Bomberman Jetters. And believe it or not, I actually want to get Mario Party 4 and 5. Yep, I am becoming a sucker for multiplayer games...hm, so why haven't I picked up Super Monkey Ball yet?
Billy Hatcher and The Giant Egg (GameCube)
Yuji Naka's latest installment came under an abundant degree of skepticism as if gamers expected it to be some sort of marketing stink bomb. Fortunately Billy Hatcher proved that it's anything but dull and unappealing. In fact, it's downright adorable (or at the very least, charming and amusing). It all began one day when the Morning Land, a peaceful land inhabited by chickens, were attacked by a evil league of Black Crows. Seeking to engulf the world in darkness, the Crows seized all of the Chicken Elders, sealing them within golden eggs. With the Chicken Elders now in captivity, the Morning Land would never see the dawn of day again and soon the hearts of the human world would turn to evil. Now, it's up to Billy and his friends to stop both worlds from eternal night before it's too late.
Unlike Sonic though, Billy Hatcher feels more geared towards a slightly younger audience. In fact, I'd expect that most of the more, mature gaming demographic would likely pass it over at a cursory glance. However, those who are able to look beyond it's outer shell will discover a truly remarkable game packed inside.
Billy Hatcher introduces a fundamentally new approach to the quintessential platforming schematic. Empowered by a legendary chicken suit, all of your basic attacks, power-up acquisitions and such are contingent to using eggs in the game (but I am sure you knew that by now). It took some time for me to get adjustment to the mechanics (jumping and unleashing combo attacks for instance). So far, I've reached the fourth world (I am not entirely certain how many there are in total and frankly -- I don't want to know just yet). I've heard reports of a Sonic-style attack or something and I am extremely curious how that works (again, I don't want to read up on that either, I'd rather be surprised). There's still a few more things that I'd like to discover and unlock (such as the mini-games which work in conjunction with the GBA) and the multiplayer mode. I'll be reporting back shortly with a full-hands on review (possibly when I've successfully completed my guide for IGN). In the mean time, check out this great movie of Billy Hatcher!
Ghost Masters (PC)
Hereís an interesting PC game wherein youíre job (mostly) is to scare people. Scare them so much, in fact, that they flee so far away that you canít see them. Houses, boats, police stations and more venues from which to scare. Youíll have a host of haunters to choose from, each with varying strengths and properties. Each is tied to a Fetter, a specific object or locale where the ghost can haunt from, and strategically placed or moved depending on where or who youíre haunting. There are puzzles to free trapped ghosts who you can later recruit (if you ďsaveĒ them) for use and levels can take a surprisingly long time to complete. Iím about half way through the game and itís quite fun.
Swingerz Golf (GameCube)
Yep, Iím back here again. Iím going to finish this sucker if it takes me another year. Iím on the fourth round of courses and the winds are howling, the rain is falling, and the competitors are very difficult. I can only imagine how much harder itís going to get. Iím finishing between 3rd and 11th place, consistently, on these courses and (dammit) I want to finish first.
Conflict Zone (GameCube)
Lotís of macho BS happening in this (old) game thatís a bit rough around the edges. I havenít gone through all that much of it yet, but itís visually wanting and feels ďmanufacturedĒ. Thereís much better stuff in the genre out there and this one is going to be a struggle to play.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)
Iíve spent quite a bit of time in Ivalice and I must say that Iíve enjoyed my stay. This is a great strategy-RPG and a great title for the traveling gamer. You can sit down and invest hours at a time, or you can play in much shorter bursts, thanks to the mission-based gameplay.
The law system is both entertaining and annoying. In one battle I moved Marche in for the final kill and finished him off. Mission complete. Then the referee jumps into action and I quickly realize that 30 minutes of my life have just been wasted. Red card. Marche goes to jail and itís game over for me.
After that, my GBA got a few hours of rest, while I tried to regain my patience.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)
My FFTA save file now reads 36 hours. I cannot emphasize enough how addictive this game is. Even if you aren't busy advancing the plot, there are tons of missions to keep you occupied for many, many hours. My main team so far consists of a Hunter, an Animist, a Ninja, a Red Mage (those things are the best), and an Assassin. The gameplay is fun and only rarely frustrating. The plot's decent so far, too.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2)
I had a very short opportunity to give another tactical RPG a try. Disgaea looks like a very entertaining game, with great vocals and an amusing script. The battles are odd, to say the least. Never before have I been able to throw an ally or an enemy in an RPG. The character customization system is a fun addition, too. Sadly, I've had very little time to play Disgaea since purchasing it. Maybe I'll play more of this one after finishing FFTA. I can only handle so many strategy RPGs at once.
This week brings a special all Sega Dreamcast edition of the Gamer Report for me. The theme is "B-games that I picked up for pennies during the great Dreamcast liquidation sales of 2001, and am just getting around to playing now."
Demolition Racer: No Exit (Dreamcast)
Easily the best of the three games I'm going to discuss here, Demolition Racer: No Exit has quickly become one of my favorite racers of all time, period. Infogrames and PitBull Syndicate did such a bang-up job (no pun intended) with this arcade style crash'em up... It's just so fun because the gameplay is perfectly balanced. Success in this game is not purely about speed, and it's not simply a matter of destroying everything that crosses your path. Finishing in first place alone won't win you any trophies in Demolition Racer - you have to smash into as many cars as possible along the way too.
The system at work is deceptively simple: You get a certain amount of points for each of the fifteen competing cars you crash into, depending on how much damage you inflict, where you make impact, and if you destroy the car completely. The total amount of points you accrue in three laps are then multiplied by a value that increases as you get closer to finishing in 1st place. So a car that absolutely crushes all competition can still fare well by coming in at fifth or sixth place, while the leader of the pack may still lose overall if he doesn't dent enough fenders for points on his way to the finish line. The ultimate goal is to smash most of your opponents up good AND come in first.
Add in the fact that your car can also be destroyed (resulting in a forfeit of the race), and things get deep. At times you'll actually want to slow down so that opponents' cars can catch up to you (allowing you to smash them for points), but at other times you will be dodging all contact, desperate to preserve a narrow lead or snag a roadside repair power-up before an enemy car detonates your smoldering, heavily-damaged vehicle.
There are a wealth of modes besides the main racing league too. Arena League is the classic destruction-derby style competition, where the last man standing prevails. But similar rules apply: Flee from the action like a coward, and being the last car alive won't net you enough points to win the heat. This game really forces you to inflict vehicular violence to advance, and I love that. Other unlockable mini-games include Car Football, Car Pong, a light-gun compatible car-shooting game (seriously), a wealth of multiplayer options, and tons of extra arenas, cars, and race tracks.
Demolition Racer: No Exit has crashed right into my Top Ten Racers of All-Time list. It's really that good. Just don't pick up the original Playstation version... PitBull Syndicate added so much extra content for the Dreamcast revision that its predecessor pales in comparison. Only on DC!
Razor Freestyle Scooter (Dreamcast)
Hey, it was five bucks at Best Buy. In that context, this was a rather enjoyable little Tony Hawk's Pro Skater clone, provided your expectations aren't too high. THPS veterans will be able to jump right in and thrash that scooter around the park, as the control scheme is virtually identical. Graphics and gameplay are clean and appealing enough, but the main issue with Razor Freestyle is that it's too short. Only four courses? Those levels are actually designed much better than I had expected, but that's just not enough content for a five dollar game! (sarcasm)
Still, the title does have its charm. The wild tricks are unique (do people really do these outrageous stunts on scooters in real life, I wonder) and I couldn't help laughing each time the little tykes went crashing when I fumbled an aerial--every character has their own distinct childish scream as they fall to the concrete. It's a bit disturbing, actually. The bonus ramp levels suspended up in the clouds are pretty cool. You have to collect a number of tokens within a time limit to rescue playable kid characters from the clutches of an evil robot. Bet you can't do that in Tony Hawk.
Maken X (Dreamcast)
I think I'm done with this one. It was an OK first person shooter for the opening few levels, but soon it gets frustrating and there are no in-level checkpoints or save opportunities! Inexcusable. The enemy AI is nonexistent, and the developers make that problem worse by drawing attention to it... Why did they feel the need to include puzzles in which you need to lure enemies into specific locations, thereby triggering floor panels that will unlock the room's exit? Bleh. It'd be easier to lead a horse down stairs.
That's too bad, because the graphics are not bad for a Dreamcast game, and some of the combat and concepts at work are cool. I like "brainjacking" my foes to take over their bodies, and the idea that you play as a sword's spirit is original. Even the aspect of seven different possible endings makes me curious as to how the vague, weird, poorly-translated, terribly voice-acted yet slightly intriguing story is going to play out depending on who I brainjack. But the sloppy execution is killing this game for me. You can't look around freely while moving, for one thing. And nonstop hand-to-hand combat in a FPS gets old after awhile too. Couldn't they let you brainjack somebody with a gun once in awhile?