We got your princess right here.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Counter-Counter Review: Def Jam Fight For NY
Posted by Anthony :: 4:21 PM

Shocker Dan posted a response to my review, this is the response to the response. Try saying that 5 times fast...

I was thinking as a sequel to Def Jam Vendetta, which I did like. But as a sequel to that game, it's a horrible, horrible "wrestling" or even "wrestling-style" game. The game turned more into a street fighter, and as such, I suppose it was pretty good. I would issue a word of warning that if you're going into DJFFNY expecting a worthy sequel to the wrestling in DJV, run away. :)

I think that would be the very first thing I'd tell a person about this game as a sequel: It's not. :)

Seriously, story wise it's a great sequel, but it's not even funny how they've gone and changed the dynamic of the game. I found that in the first game, the wrestling ring was fun, but become constricting after a while. It's great to see AKI using a diverse array of locals, including a few rings.

My other issues with the game were that the finishers would get very close to, but not completely finishing off your opponents far too often. I felt cheated during most matches because I would hit the finisher and then not actually finish the guy off. I wouldn't really be all that annoyed with it if it didn't seem to happen an inordinate number of times. Did you have a similar experience?

I did feel surprised once or twice early on when I found my finisher alone wasn't going to cut it. But I got used to it as I went on, and started to realize how brilliant it was that hitting a finisher WOULDN'T guarrantee you a win. That adds a level of challenge to the fights, that one move won't be the end all.

Also, as a kickboxer, you're pretty much limited to strikes and grabs, through which you strike more. Which is fine, but it doesn't put a lot of variety or spin into what you can do. Am I correct in that the only expansion you can get moves-wise comes when you learn another style? Every extra move I'd purchased was just another finisher. Other issue was that the fights seemed a bit cheap and random- sometimes I'd completely kill a guy who had just completely killed me.

The only new moves you can choose from (i.e. purchase) are the Blazin' moves. When you buy a new style, that style's moves are mixed in with your current ones automatically. I actually thought that was a step down from the last game, that you couldn't choose your basic moves and switch them around.

On the plus side, the game is totally immersive and well-written. The create-a-wrestler thing you go through at the beginning was a stroke of genius (your character commits or is accused of committing a crime, and your facial features and body type are determined by the description "you" give the police about the guy, up to and including the voice.). The finishers are absolutely devastating, as well, and well done with lighting effects and graphics (which is why it annoyed me when the guy would just get up afterward with a tiny sliver of health left). I don't really want to play it again, and I think I should before I give it a score, but I'll definitely recommend that you rent before you buy, just to see if it's something you'll dig.

In heavy agreement with the above. The police sketch activity, and the story line as a whole, was very interesting. I actually wanted to watch the cutscenes in this one, unlike other games.

Thanks for the reply Dan.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Speaking of Breaking records...
Posted by Daryl :: 8:23 AM

Microsoft announced a couple of days ago that it has already officially pre-sold more than 1.5 MILLION units of Halo 2 in North America, which will generate more sales in a 24-hour launch period than any single Hollywood blockbuster ever.

Think about that. More sales than any movie in history has EVER grossed. EVER. And that's just the AMERICAN sales - factor in the also very large number of Canadian sales, and now you're just getting stupid. Talk about hype

Speaking of hype - when does it become too much? The problem with hype is that people's expectations get jacked up to the point that they become unrealistic. And now, we're dealing with the biggest hype ever for a video game, bar none.

Now, being the Halo whore that I am, I have absolutely no worries that Halo 2 will live up to the hype. But how high is the possibility that many will be overly critical simply becuase the hype for this game is completely unmatched by any other in the history of video games? On the flip side, how many gamers will automatically assume that reviews are BEING overly critical simply because their Halo love is boundless? It'll be interesting to find out. But don't get me wrong - Halo 2 is gonna own you whether you like it our not. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fable Breaks US XBox Record
Posted by Shocker :: 7:59 PM

Microsoft announced today that Fable, which already had the fastest-selling first week of any Xbox title, now grabs the record for biggest-selling first month of any Xbox title in the United States. Even further, the Xbox-exclusive RPG was the best-selling console title, across all platforms, for September. Yeah, we call that a hit.

Source: IGN

I dunno. The XBox has had 3 big run-out-and-get-it titles: Halo, Brute Force and now Fable. I wonder if it's more a sign of a drought of really great console exclusives (or really well-hyped console exclusives). I can't even remember hearing KOTOR setting any single-month records, and it seems, from the hour I played Fable so far, to be a better game than either of the last two.

I'll get to Fable more extensively in a bit. But at the moment, it's totally jobbing to Paper Mario right now.

- Dan

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Review: X-Men Legends (X-Box)
Posted by Chris :: 9:33 PM

(How apropos that I review this on the X-Box, huh?)

So, needless to say all the prior attempts to recreate the feel of the X-Men have been quite unsuccessful. The bad games greatly outweigh the good games, which are few and far between. I still remember owning the original X-Men game for the NES. Now that was a fun game.

As the game begins, we discover that a young Mutant named Alison Crestmere is being taken away the local Authorities for allegedly being a Mutant. Although she really is a Mutant and the Authorities, well, they ain't who they say they are. A little squiggly-flabbedy-doo and Officer reveals herself to be Mystique, who along with Blob attempt to kidnap young Alison. Enter Wolverine. And then the fun begins...

X-Men Legends is a "dungeon crawler" type RPG Scroller in the vein of Baldur's Gate and Champions of Norrath. Or what I like to call a Button Masher RPG. Now, I hate RPGs with a freaking PASSION. Can't stand'em. I for one like to actually be in control of my destiny instead of watching spells being cast that may or may not be hit. That's what I like about X-Men Legends. It's essentially a side scroller with XP. You have a group of four X-Men, and you can choose from many X-Favs as Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue, Beast, Gambit, Nightcrawler and more. You can easily control any member in your group with a touch of the D-Pad. There are even many, many combos you can pull off by having two members attach the same enemy. One of my favs is the "Toss into a Blast" type combos. Each member has their own strengths and weaknesses that can be used to your advantage and certain stages you need specific X-Men to progress in the level. This can be quite frustrating sometimes though, especially if you don't have that X-Man in your group. So you gotta backtrack to a "X-traction Point" to switch members. I will say that another very annoying part of gameplay is that because you have four similar dressed X-Men on the screen at one time, in the heat of battle, it's very easy to lose track of the character you're controlling. Especially when fighting several enemies at once or a boss. You'd think that they'd have some kind of indicator under your X-Man you're controlling. Well, they do. Thing is, so do the other 3 X-Men. WTF. The Story mode also comes in Co-Op Flavor, which is pretty delicious. Especially if you like to be lazy and sit back and watch all them do the dirty work.

Like I said, this is quite the button masher, so the controls aren't that hard to pick up. You have your standard punch/swipe button, kick, and jump. There are also certain button combinations you can pull off for combos. You also have your mutant powers you can use with any button + L Trigger, but those you upgrade via your XP. There are also signature Extreme Powers that you can use to completely wipe out eveything in your path. From Jean's Phoenix Force to Cyclops' insane looking Optic Blast, these moves are very impressive looking. However those require X-treme Tokens that are hidden through out the levels in the destructable environments.

Oh man, the Destructable Environments. You name it, you can destroy it. Walls, cars, trees, anything. And you can also toss your enemies through said objects. There's no better feeling than tossing a baddie through a park bench. Also while you progress in the X-Men Story mode, you get little side plot featuring Alison who is learning how to control her Mutant powers. This means you get to explore Xavier's School for the Gifted, learning many things along the way. Including using the Danger Room where she hones in on her skills and eventually joins your party.

I really enjoy the Cel Shaded graphics in XML. it gives the game a real comic book feel. While not as nice looking as other cel shaded games such as Viewtful Joe and others, it's still quite nice. It's a different look at the X-Men, while not as hard edged, but still not cartoony. X-Men Legends also features some nice voiceover work by some of the biggest names in the voiceover industry. It's nice to see Patrick Stewart reprise his role of Prof. Charles Xavier from the movies. Some of the voices are great, like Logan, Nightcrawler, and Alison, but with the good comes the bad. Cyclops and Storm are prime examples of the bad side of tracks. Just dreadful.

So for X-Men fanboys, I'd say that this game is a definate winner. There are little touches thrown in althoughout the game that'll make you say "Hey! That's cool." Which is really all you can ask for, really. I'd recommend this for RPG fans as well, even though this isn't a standard RPG. The Button Mashy aspect might turn some off, but if that's the case, you obviously hate fun. So if you don't like that, it might be a rental just to try it out.

Pros: X-Men Fanboys Rejoice! A good X-Men game that we can be proud of! Great story mode and for the most part, great Action RPG Gameplay.

Cons: It's a bit button mashy, and you can really sometimes get lost in all the chaos. And stay away from baaaad voice acting.

I give X-Men Legends a...

Out Of 5.


The Greatest High #1
Posted by Ariel :: 6:29 PM

I was thinking about doing a series of articles on some of the most fun moments I've ever had playing video games, and examining why they were so much fun. By doing this, not only will I get to share some great moments from my video gaming past, but I might be able to shed some light on what makes video games so much fun.

The first one I'd like to share is one of my favorites. It's the greatest comback I've ever had. I'm sure many of you have played X-Men vs Street Fighter. It's a great fighting game. Well, one day, me, Dan (who's been my best friend for years), and another friend of our were enjoying playing against each other in this arcade game. Well, Dan was currently having a bad game and ended up with a Wolverine that was one blocked punch away from dying and our other friend's team of Ken and Ryu with half a life bar each to go. Since I was faving our friend next, I asked Dan if he'd let me finish off his game for him. Dan, ever being the honest realists, knew that he was done, so he let me take the controls. And so it began.

I charged and backed off, jumped around, ducked under and attacked. I landed one hit, a combo, a juggle. Our friends attacks kept wiffing and I kept avoiding. Our friend started getting frustrated, so he charged with his Ken and I met him with a Berserker Barrage X. This knocked his Ken down to a dangerous level, so he switched out. I dodged back and then jumped forward, accurately predicting his Hadoken salvo. I strung attacks on the way down, dashed, hit a few more that ended with a launcher and then followed him into the air. He recovered and dashed back, sending some more fireballs my way. I superjump straight up to avoid them, but forgot about his super meter. He used Ryu's Shinkuu Hadoken and planned on having me land on it and lose.

There are several moments when playing video games or in sports, actually in all manner of active competition where you get "into the zone": that special mix of concentration, exhilaration, and adrenaline that causes the entire world to slow down and brings on a clearness of thought and an ehanced creativity that never seems possible otherwise. Well in this moment I knew that if I landed in the path of Ryu's super, I was going to lose. I help forward on the control stick but my momentum would not carry me past the beam of death. I could feel Dan's look of dissapointment. Our friend cried out in victory. Dan knew I was done. Our friend knew I was done. Even part of me knew I was done.

Suddenly, something clicked and I realized that I had found a way to save myself. I did something then that I had never done before. I dodge his attack by using Wolverine's Drill Claw while in the air and moved enough to the right that I landed behind Ryu. Immediately I used the last of my super meter to hit a final Weapon X and finish him off. Baiting my friend, I dodged at the last second, as Ken came in and our friend immediately went for the kill with a Shinryuken. I combo'd him on the ground once he landed and finished him off with a berserker barrage. I had won. Both me and Dan exploded in celebration as our friend cried out in anguish and disbelief. For years he's never been able to live that loss down.

Most of us will never be great athletes. We will never have the chance to dig deep and make that last swing, that last run, take that last shot, or make that last pass. But with video games, each of us can come face to face with a seemingly impossible task and overcome it. I'm not athletically gifted enough to make any team (except POSSIBLY a Karate tourney team) but I have used my intelligence, creativity, reflexes and instinct to achieve some dramatic and exhilirating moments. This was one of them. I'm not skilled enough as a writer to convey the sheer emotion that this victory brought about. Almost everyone fantasizes about experiencing a moment of glory. Video games give us the chance to live one.


Review: Def Jam Fight For NY (PS2)
Posted by Anthony :: 5:12 PM

Review: Def Jam Fight For New York (PS2)

Rated: M for Mature
Released: 09/20/04
Retail Price: $49.99

Note: This review is for the PS2 version of this game. Def Jam Fight For New York is available for all 3 home consoles.

EA Games returns with the sequel to last year’s sleeper hit Def Jam Vendetta, with Def Jam Fight For New York. Over 50 hip-hop artists, and various other musicians and actors, flesh out one of the most diverse rosters in fight gaming history. While last year’s entry into the EA Sports BIG line-up was primarily a wrestling title, this game is much more focused on the many fighting styles your character can acquire. The matches have been taken out of the wrestling rings (for the most part), and onto the club floors. The result: one of the most enjoyable fighting games of the year.

Background: D-Mobb, the main antagonist of the first Def Jam game, has escaped police custody, and is back on the streets. This time around, he serves as your ally, in the fight to control New York City. Your opponent: Crow (voiced by Snoop Dogg), and his gang of fighters. Battle in the various locals to win clubs for your group. It all ends with a climatic showdown, against Crow himself.

Modes in this year’s edition have expanded somewhat. There are still the old standards for fighting games (Story Mode, Exhibition), which include Tag Team and 4-way Battle Royals. But there some new inventive contests you can try your hand at. Inferno match let’s you set your opponent on fire, and Demolition match has you trying to beat up your opponent’s car to win. Both of these modes have to be unlocked though, which adds incentive to the Story mode.

The story mode of the game entails you to create your own character, who will become D-Mobb’s right-hand man. At first, all you can create about your fighter is his facial features. But as you win matches, you will earn cash, and attribute points. You can use cash in the shopping centre, to customize your fighter to the hilt. Shops include:

-SUS, A clothing store (featuring lines such as Ecko, Sean John, and Zoo York),
-Stingray’s Barber Shop, for all the latest styles in cuts,
-Jacob & CO, jewelry store where you can buy ‘Bling Bling’ to your heart’s content,
-Manny’s Tattoos, borrowing from the newest feature in GTA San Andreas.
-Stapleton Athletics, featuring trainer Henry Rollins (more on this later)

The great thing about customizing your character with these stores, is that it’s not just a visual treat. The better your man is dressed, the more the crowd will react to him and cheer him. This means you’ll be able to build up momentum easier, and make a faster trail to your Blazin’ move. As you win matches, more new items will be unlocked in these shops.

As said before, Def Jam Fight For NY is much more of a fighting game then it’s predecessor. Rings are found in only a handful of levels. Caged rings also appear as well. The majority of the matches are fought in an open environment, with only a human ring holding you back. These environments are extremely interactive, as anything and everything can be used. Even the crowd is interactive, as double team moves can be pulled off with them. Weapons have entered the fray, as a timely shot can bring a quick end to the match.

The fighting mechanics have received a slight overall this year. Each fighter has their own style to work with, ranging from kickboxing, to submissions, to wrestling. You can also acquire more than one style, to flesh out your moveset. This would mean, in the example of wrestling/submision, that one attack grapple would bring you a piledriver, while the other brings a viscous arm-bar. Also, this means that gameplay is much faster this time around. This will leave little time for thoughtful decisions on which moves to use, one of the negatives of the game. But still, these styles add a ton of depth to the game, making this game more than just a mindless button-masher.

The makers of this game are AKI, known for their amazing series of N64 wrestling games. The learning curve is just right. It’s definitely not a pick-up-and-play title, but it’s not a ridiculously hard system either. You can use either a weak, or strong strike or grapple. But keep in mind that if it’s still early in the match, or your opponent is not hurt, the chances of hitting a strong move are slim to none. This adds a level of strategy as well, because now you have to make sure your opponent is weak enough to go for the kill. In short: this is not your average fighter.

Graphics in this game are extremely well done. Each fighter has incredible detail, it’s scary how much the rappers in this game look like their real-life counterparts. The environments are nicely done, with attention to details. The lighting in the club levels really give off an underground feel to the whole game. There is blood in the game, but it’s not over-the-top crimson masks like you would see in pro wrestling. Instead, the blood and cuts are much more realistic here. Fighters bleed from the mouth and nose (especially visible during the after-match taunts), and blood splatters all over the floor. This game is a visual treat.

But one negative from the graphics is the camera angle. The human wall at the bottom of the screen will often block the view of your characters. And in 4-man matches, the camera zooms out to capture all the fighters in the screen. Unfortunately, this also means the fighters become almost specs on your screen. It can become difficult to keep track of where your fighter is in the arena.

Of course, sound is this game’s highlight. The soundtrack is filled to the brim with hip-hop & rap tracks, featuring many of the artists in the game. You can also customize which songs you want to listen to, and how often. The sound effects in the game help bring home the impact of the moves, from the bones snapping to the bodies slamming onto the floor. Artists such as Snoop Dogg, Method Man & Redman, and actors like Omar Epps lend their voice talents to their characters. The script is well written, and provides interesting cut-scenes between fights.

Overall: Def Jam Fight For New York is a worthy sequel to it’s predecessor. The addition of interactive environments, the expanded shop section, and the different fighting styles create a satisfyingly deep playing experience. The only things keeping this game from a perfect score is the blinding-fast gameplay, and a sometimes-annoying camera angle. Other than that, this game is a must-buy.

Of course, readers (and fellow reviewers :)) may disagree with me, so post your opinions in the comments section.


WWE Sues Jakks Pacific & THQ
Posted by Anthony :: 2:17 PM


World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Files Suit Against Jakks Pacific, Inc., THQ, Inc. and Related Defendants
STAMFORD, Conn., October 19, 2004 --World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (“WWE”) today filed a fourteen count complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Jakks Pacific, Inc. (“Jakks”), two foreign subsidiaries of Jakks, THQ, Inc. (“THQ”), a joint venture involving Jakks and THQ, Stanley Shenker & Associates, Inc. (“SSAI”) and Bell Licensing, LLC. The suit also names as defendants certain individuals employed by the corporate defendants, including specifically Jack Friedman, Stephen Berman and Joel Bennett, the three highest-ranking executives of Jakks, and Stanley Shenker and James Bell.

To summarize all this legal jibber-jabber: When the WWE (then WWF) video game license was up for grabs in 1998, it appears that the WWE's director of Licensing, and an independent licensing agent, cooked up a scheme with Jakks Pacific in order to get the license, which invloved bribes and kick-backs. They later teamed up with THQ, as they were the ones who had the resources to actually make the games (THQ had just come off the WCW license).

Now, remember that this is all alleged, nothing has been proven yet in court. But this could mean a huge shake-up in the gaming world if things go WWE's way in court. WWE is looking to void their license with both parities.

Another option would be to void the license, and strike a new one, this time without Jakks Pacific invloved.

SmackDown Vs. RAW for the PS2 will still be released, on November 2nd in North America.



News: Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas
Posted by JayGo :: 1:53 PM

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has become the latest big name title to fall victim to the determined efforts of the piracy scene as the PS2 Rockstar opus leaked onto illegal download channels today.

The news follows just a week after a French language version of Halo 2 suffered the same fate, although in that case the leak was an unprecedented 26 days ahead of its release. However, it will be of little consolation to Rockstar that its biggest game in two years has just six more days to go until its US debut, and nine days before its European release.
It'll be a shock if a big game manages to come out now without being leaked. Anyway, let this serve as a warning for those of you looking forward to GTA:SA.. avoid the message boards for a week or so, else you'll get spoilt.


A Quick Note
Posted by Shocker :: 11:18 AM

As an addendum to rule #4, please indicate whether you recommend to buy or rent in your review scores in the future. Thanks. :)

- Dan


Please allow me to introduce myself . . .
Posted by DrHogie :: 11:15 AM

Sorry for being a bit late with the introduction, but as anyone who knows me from ITVR, I'm always a bit slow. I'm DrHogie, and I hope to be contributing regularly to Another Castle. As a matter of fact, I . .

Huh? Qualifications? Dammit, Dan didn't say anything about qualifications. Well, currently hooked up at my house I have an Atari 2600, TI-99/4A, NES, SNES, N64, Dreamcast, PS2, GC (with GB Player) and 2 GBA SPs. My greatest gaming achievements would have to be: Winning the StarFox tournament at Jasper, AL (still have the cheesy flight jacket), My 39-game win streak at MK2 at the local arcade, and my Dallas Cowboys winning the Inaugural AA33 Tecmo Super Bowl III Season. As far as stuff I'm currently playing, that would have to be Katamari Damacy, Silent Hill 4, Midway Arcade Treasures 2, and some Sims 2 and Animal Crossing here and there.

Anyway, as I was saying: I plan to have reviews up within the next week or two on Katamari Damacy and Midway Arcade Treasures 2. I also plan to write AC's first Hardware Review for Pelican's System Selector Pro.

Thanks for having me Dan -- and I'm looking forward to writing for AC.



News: Super Monkey Ball Deluxe
Posted by JayGo :: 8:09 AM

SEGA Europe Ltd today announced the development of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which will bring SEGA's popular arcade series to PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system and Microsoft Xbox consumers for the first time. The new title will feature 300 stages (114 from Super Monkey Ball, 140 from Super Monkey Ball 2, and 46 Deluxe-exclusive boards), and will be available in spring 2005.

In addition to new stages, Super Monkey Ball Deluxe will offer a new Challenge mode, integrating varying skill settings (Beginner, Advanced, and Expert) into one fluid ramp up, rather than breaking them out as independent gameplay sections. There will also be additional stages in the story mode. All twelve of the party games from Super Monkey Ball 1 & 2 are also to be included along with 6 new games, which is effectively two-and-a-half retails games on one disc!
So, this'll be my cue to sell both my current Monkey Ball games for the Gamecube, will it? I do have concerns about how well the game will adapt to the analogue sticks of the Xbox and PS2, however.. the GC pad seemed almost perfectly designed for Monkey Ball, and the slightly stiffer sticks on the other pads might cause problems.

Oh, and of course the Gamecube owners get treated badly again, and don't seem to get the improved version of their own game. Did you expect something different? This is the company who took two years to release Animal Crossing in Britain, after all.

No, I will never drop that grudge.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Review: WWE Day Of Reckoning (NGC)
Posted by Shocker :: 9:21 PM

ITVR, the site we all originate from, at least initially, was a wrestling site. We've all known each other for about 3 years now, and it's sort of moved beyond being just about wrestling to being a community of friends who get together and talk about whatever. But in the back of all that is still what brought us to the dance initially - the wrestling.

Personally, I don't watch wrestling anymore. I used to be very into it, and have a huge box of tapes to show for it. As far as my wrestling game credentials go, I played a lot of Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy on the N64, as well as spending a whooooooooooole lot more time on TNM7 than anyone should. But my absolute favorite game in the history of wrestling games is Fire Pro D on the Dreamcast. Reason being that the engine was versatile enough to accomidate just about every style, from lucha libre to American pro-style to Japanese strong-style to mixed martial arts, etc. But the venerable series has been, as far as American consoles are concerned, Japan only. I've had to make do with the games we are given here.

What I'm working toward is basically that what I want out of a wrestling game is versatility. The versatility to be able to run different match styles with different sorts of wrestlers and have the result be... different! In that respect, WWE Day Of Reckoning fails the test. Don't get me wrong, the game has a lot going for it, but it's still mired in the relative simplicity of its American design.

DOR has a great engine in many respects. It uses a combination of No Mercy, and what I was told was the engine in Wrestlemania X-9 (NGC). It's got some improvements over the No Mercy engine in terms of the grapple: pressing A [and a direction] close enough to your opponent performs a grapple move. It doesn't perform the actual grapple- rather, it just does the move, assuming it is not countered. Pressing and holding A performs a hard grapple. In this grapple, you can perform pre-selected strikes with B or your hardest grapple attacks. This simplicity in the lower grapples, and allowance of striking in the upper grapples allows the game to flow more like a real wrestling match, where it looks more like performers performing moves. Countering works very well too, using L to counter grapples and R to counter strikes. It also chains counters pretty well. Each wrestler also has a diagram of their bodies showing where they've taken damage and how much, ala Giant Gram 2000 (DC). This is useful for setting up submissions or just tailoring offense to a certain area of the body. Crowd meter as well, just like No Mercy, and their Charisma attribute determines how much the crowd responds to them. Unlike No Mercy, however, a wrestler doesn't gain access to special moves by pumping up the crowd, they get them by performing moves and filling up a secondary meter. When that meter is full, you gain a special (you can have up to 3 stored). Specials are accessed and performed by pressing A+B. There is also a "Momentum Shift" which can be used when your wrestler is in danger. Pressing A+B in that instance performs a designated move and puts you at red-hot with the crowd, and puts your opponent in danger.

In the single player arena, you have a ton of options, from regular matches, where you can decide the length and type to tag and tornado matches and a variety of special match types (Hell in the Cell, Cage, Bra and Panties, even). I can't remember what all was there, but not much seemed to be missing. There's also a ShopZone, for buying new clothes, moves, arenas, etc with cash you earn from the Story Mode (more on that below). There's also a tutorial mode that I didn't use, but I imagine would be somewhat useful (except also more on discovering the engine below). Disappointing to many was the choice and number of wrestlers in the game. There were noticable absences. I didn't notice them because I only played with created wrestlers and haven't watched the product in quite some time.

The Create-A-Wrestler (CAW) mode is also outstanding, if a little daunting. There can be a line there that can be crossed, but I won't hold its scope against it, because for my purposes, I just wanted to create my guy and get out there (you are required to play though the Story Mode with a CAW). Thus, foregoing facial options, both of my test wrestlers were (masked) luchadores: Leyenda and Legend. Leyenda was made as a tribute to El Hijo Del Santo, quite possibly the most famous Mexican wrestler alive today. Legend was made in tribute to Vader, a huge hulking giant who pulverized opponents and generally won by KO. I was pleased to be able to assign the Camel Clutch as Leyenda's finisher - No Mercy forced the finisher to be a strong grapple move. In fact, the game allows you to set something like 11 finishers, one for almost every position. I have a feeling this flexibility was written in to accomidate the wide variety of finishers employed by the wrestlers availible in the game. One thing it does not allow you to do is set more than one finisher per position. I feel this was an oversight, and something that was written around in some of the licensed WWE wrestlers. This example is strained from the halls of my terrible memory, but I remember something like needing to grapple from the rear to reach Booker T's Book End finisher, because his front standing finisher was designated as the Scissor Kick. This also severely limited finisher options off the top rope and in the front grapple positions for Leyenda and Legend respectively.

There are a decent number of options for outfitting your CAW, but like Fire Pro D, it's a little difficult to figure out how it all comes together in the end. You end up with scenarios where the Top Pants only go down to the knee, and you have to link that up with knee pads and Lower Pants in order to complete a pair of pants. It's a little extra annoyance that I'd rather not deal with, but I recognize it's potential versatility in the end. I also didn't spend a lot of time monkeying around with the Entrance options, but it seemed pretty versatile. In leiu of wanting to bother with all of that, you can choose to go through it quickly, basically choosing a template for an entrance and editing music and the entrance video, for instance.

Another word on templates: the game has a lot of them - one for every active wrestler in the game (in other words, you can turn your wrestler into HHH or Ric Flair by selecting their move template), and some for wrestlers out of the WWE, so you can create your own unlicensed Stone Cold Steve Austin and Brock Lesnar. It's a nice feature, especially if you know what kind of wrestler you want, and only want to make a few minor tweaks.

The CAW mode was also instructional on showing me how the engine worked. There are apparently combos you can string together by successive presses of B, and B+Left Analog stick. Additionally, there appear to be a vast number of options for when a wrestler is down. However, I'd argue there are too many options. Not really realizing what I was doing, Leyenda initially had three different attacks, all of varying length, counterability and power, one for opponent face down at the head, middle and feet. Combine that with face up and you've got a total of 6 different ways to essentially stomp on your opponent. You can also perform different grapples from each of those positions (2 in each, IIRC). This is too much. It literally is. I like complexity, but I really hate pulling off the wrong attack because the collision detection can't tell if I'm at the guy's midsection or his head or his feet. Additionally, attacks you're trying to aim at their legs sometimes hit their midsection, head, etc.

Let's talk about the collision detection for a second: It's pretty decent overall, though I have some gripes with it. For starters, some moves completely whiff. They just don't seem to work at all. Leyenda had a flying kick in his running attack that I have yet to see hit anyone, and Legend had a giant clothesline that never hit anyone either. These are frustrating because they're the exact sort of thing the computer will hit on you in a heartbeat. I am a firm believer that the game should be a lot smarter in deciding who you actually intend to hit when you interfere. It's "neat" that you can jump in and knock your partner, his opponent and the referee down with one attack, but come on! How often does that happen in wrestling? Developers need to implement something that pretty much assumes that if an opponent has my partner in an abdominal stretch in the middle of the ring, my dropkick of ultimate doom isn't really meant to knock the crap out of everyone. There are some spacing issues that fit in here as well: the game is poorly designed in the sense that it's sometimes impossible to run toward the ropes when you intend to (he'll jump out of the ring), or to run toward ropes far from you, because as soon as you let go of Y, they stop running. But if you hold onto Y, they jump out of the ring. It takes out the speed aspect that makes playing as a luchador more routine than it should be. The distance you jump from the top rope seems to be standard, no matter what type of character you're playing. The game also does not hold the opponent on the ground for you when you go up the ropes as it did in No Mercy (unless I made that up). So expect to get stranded there.

The story mode is straight forward. I didn't play through all of it, because frankly I got bored, because the goal is always the same: Win. Go out and win every match. Don't lose. If you lose, you start over immediately. There's no consequence or relation to reality. Again, I'm a big dork. I totally admit it. I enjoyed the fact that if you hold the analog stick in No Mercy, your guy will stay down. It's a wrestling term called "Selling". Another wrestling term is "Fake", because that's what wrestling is. And you don't always win in wrestling. In fact, interesting avenues open if you lose, which is what happened in No Mercy's story mode. I played through Story Mode twice, first as Leyenda and secondly as Legend. It appears the only choice you ever make is Smackdown or Raw. Even when it appears as though you might have a choice, a wrestler pipes in during dialogue and makes your choice for you. As far as the Raw/Smackdown thing, the storylines are exactly the same either way. If you go to Raw, you will be aligned with Evolution. If you go to Smackdown, you're in the New Ministry.

As you go through the story mode, you're introduced to various match types, and some terrible AI. You start at WWE Developmental, meet Matt Hardy as he's "working at getting back into shape", try to make it onto Heat and go to Smackdown or Raw. Later on, he attacks, you, you fight him and must win. There is not a lot of room for any real feuds to get into, so you're pretty much just rushing through the game as fast as possible. Except for all the speed bumps. These speed bumps include the match where Rhyno MUST win a tag match, even though his AI is so retarded that it'll stand there waiting to Gore the guy for the entirety of its special move period. Or the cage match, which is just horrendous (it's the same jam-the-A-button thing in No Mercy, except on enough E to have burned its brain out). The game encourages button mashing all over the place. You have to mash A to get up, to get out of submissions and rest holds, to win test-of-strength contests, you have to mash A as fast as possible and with consistency to get out of the cages.

Graphics are very good, especially when the full lighting effects are on during the intros. The disc also comes loaded with a lot of licensed WWE themes, as well as some Nu Metal songs that sound very WWE-ish that I've never heard of. For the GameCube, this is fine, but I prefer wrestling games on a format where I can add my own music in (my custom-burned Fire Pro D CD with Jushin Lyger, Satanico, Shocker, Kawada and Negro Casas' music on it, for instance), but these are generic enough that you can usually fit them to a particular CAW.

Again, coming from the perspective of someone who has loved wrestling with a passion, as well as has been totally disinterested in the product, this isn't the game that's going to hook me back into the product. It's also not going to make me forget Fire Pro. However, for a kid, or for someone who's totally into the WWE and either has never seen other kinds of wrestling, or doesn't care for/about them, you're going to find a good amount of stuff to like in this game. In a world without Fire Pro and No Mercy, this game would probably set standards, because what it does well (grapple system, CAW, match options) it does very well. However, the story mode, collision detection, wrestler selection and AI are all subpar. Therefore, I have to rule it

- Dan


Review: Fable (XBox)
Posted by Ariel :: 9:20 PM

Legend or Myth
Now talk about hype! 3 or 5 years in the making! THE BEST RPG EVER MADE as the claim for the project that created this game! For every choice, a consequence. Well, let's get down into the nitty gritty, shall we.

Fable the game is not Fable the hype. I don't think any game ever matches up to the hype. Except for possibly Halo, but I digress. If you judge the game from the lofty expectations set forth by the marketing and hype machine then this game is almost a complete failure. Judge this game by the standards you would judge any other game by and it is.....slightly above average, overall.

So, I will not put the hype here and decry how this game does not live up to these expectations. That would be a painful and fruitless excercise. Instead I will judge the game on its own merits and my own standards for a good video game.

The first thing I'm going to tell you about this game is that it is FUN. capital F U N, FUN. The controls are easy to learn and even easier to use. The combat system is also a blast to use and all your skills are easily at your disposal. The RPG system boils down to three main elements: Melee, Skill, and Magic. Melee dictates your strength, toughness and health. As its name implies you can get a lot of melee experience by engaging in close quarter combat with your melee weapon of choice. Skill contols your speed, your archery skill, and your ability to haggle and be stealthy. Skill experience can be earned by shooting enemies, getting good prices on items you sell, and being sneaky. Magic is pretty self explanatory. You also get general experience for genera combat engagement.

I figured if you hadn't played Fable yet that aspect of gameplay you should know before you read reviews and try to make heads or tails of it. The marketing tag line is : "For every choice, a consequence." It's true, for every choice you make in the game there is a consequence. The problem is that there are no permanent consequences for your actions. I've gone on a ramapage in 2 separate towns, killing almost every living soul. Once the towns where repopulated most people ran in fear of me, but the guards didn't try to stop me from coming in, and the fines you are assesed for wrong-doing eventually go away. But the programmers did an excellent job of encoding responses from the game for almost everything you can possibly do.

The best example in the game of "For every choice, a consequence" is actually the main character himself. You don't have a choice over your characters look at the beginning of the game, but afterwards, you can make changes to your hearts content. I've had long hair and short, bald and spiked in a mohawk, a regular beard, long beard, goatee and the whiskers of an ancient Chinese monk. I've also sported a large variety of tattos, over all parts of my body, and you can mixmatch outfits to create your own style (my favorite outift was a combination of three different suits). You age as you increase in level (a bit too quickly for my taste) to keep the gaining of experience a bit more realistic.

One thing that truly struck me was how much your playstyle determined your appearance. The three aspects of leveling altered the way you looked thusly: More melee meant more muscle mass, more skill meant a more lean appearance, and more magic meant a receding hairline and glowing palms. These three will regulate each other so a character that has high melee stats and high skill stats will be ripped but still be pretty lean. and if you specialize in melee you'll just become massive. Your proficiency at combat also came to be shown through the scars you may accumulate throughout the game. That's right, scars. If you take a massive hit in combat, you can be sure it'll show up in the game. Different attacks will also leave different scars. A sword will leave a pretty clean swipe (and an aesthetically pleasing scar for the most part) while bludgening weapons will leave something a bit more jagged and unappealing. Magic sometimes leaves a bit of scorching behind and a claw swipe will leave parallel cuts. One of my characters has three fines scars running across his face from his first battle, while another has several deep scars on his back from a run-in with a mob of enemies. Eat too much and you'll gain weight, which you can then run off.

The graphics are great and fit the game very well. The music is absolutely outstanding, and the interface is also good. Loading times between different areas aren't excessive and the music will keep you from really noticing how long it takes sometimes. The atmosphere of the game is incredible and you will really get sucked into the world of Albion. Everything that speaks in the game will have dialogue, and you won't have to read a bunch of prompts to hear what they have to say. You can also communicate with others through the use of an expression system that allows you to express your intents and ideas to others. There is actually an economic system in the game that runs under the rule of supply and demand and can be exploited to ure advatage (if you are wise enough, or have the determination for such things). You can get married and engage in relations with your mate (censored completely however) and become well known and revered or feared, depending on your actions and predisposition.

The flaws of this game boil down to: It's short. It's not as open-ended as some other RPGs. It's short. There are a few glitches in the game. And it's short. The game is actually very linear, as far as the main story is concerned, although you can digress from it in between each quest that moves the plot forward, once you're in quest that's all you can do. The quests are similiar to some of the things you had to do in Phantasy Star Online: Save so and so, defeat these guys, help these people out. Heroic, to be sure, but never anything you can sort of stumble onto. While every choice you can make has a consequence, the game, at times, doesn't allow you to make just any choice. And the split between good and evil is not that great as far as the story goes. In my extensive playing I've also noticed a few graphical glitches every now and then as well as some gameplay ones that I'm sure the designers did not intend to be in the game (and for a game that was in development for as long as this one that is somewhat disappointing). Oh, did I also mention that the game was short? You can easily complete the game, if you avoid any extranous activities, and after playing for an hour to absolutely MASTER the controls, in about 8-10 hours. Even if you do a lot of extraneous things you can still complete alot of the game in about 14-16 hours. If they had made some randomly generated quests you could, literally, play this game forever, but alas, once you've completed all the quests, you can look forward to just roaming around pretty aimlessly.

Some people will love this game, some will not like it (Traditional RPG fans, you may want to stay away), and others will not want to buy but rent instead (due to the length). My recommendation is rent first and if you love it, buy it. But I highly recommend giving this game a shot. My final score:

It's a good game with flaws (I considered giving it a 3.0) but it is also unbelievably fun to play. Very much a short but sweet game. And that's Fable for you. Now, comments away!


All Our Reviews Are Belong To You
Posted by Daryl :: 9:15 PM

Hi, I'm Daryl. Or BrewGuy. Depends who's asking. Either way, I'm happy to be here in this lovely creation by Mr. Shocker Dan.

Games are a big hobby of mine, and have been since...well, quite a while. I may not be the best gamer in the world, but I certainly know how to enjoy playing, and that's all you really need. I'm pretty optimistic with my reviews (especially if that game has "Halo" in the title), so perhaps take my reviews with a grain of salt - but I promise I'll do my best to point out the good points and the bad points of the game. Hope you enjoy it!



My thumbs!! My thuuuumbs!!!
Posted by Ariel :: 7:28 PM

Salutations. My alias is the Saint and I'll be one of your reviewers for this bold experiment. I've been playing video games for years and years (as has everyone here I believe) and I've had my share of agonizing hardships, ecstatic elations, blistered thumbs and all-out fun with the many video games I've played. I will strive my best to add the the integrity and enthusiasm of this group. I own an X-Box (a king among gaming systems) and Nintendo probably owns part of my soul by now (I share a name with their icon for goodness sakes!). I love fighting games, action-adventures, stealth strategy games (MGS and Splinter Cell), FPSs and real-time RPGs (think KOTOR and Fable ). I'd like to get the dibs on Halo 2 (since I already own a copy and will play it from dawn to dusk most likely) but we'll see how it goes. One thing I do have is Fable, which I'll put up shortly.


Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start
Posted by Chris :: 7:20 PM

Hello, I'm Christopher S. Dempsey. You may remember me from such wonderful Internet Establishments as In This Very Ring and My Own Blog.

I'm excited to be here at this new exciting gaming blog on the Internets. It's the epitome of excitement. We're the wave of the future!



Canuck Crazy...
Posted by Anthony :: 2:52 PM

Hi all. This is FMW. You may know me from here: http://thoughtsofun.blogspot.com

If not, then it's better for all of us. :)

I'm the latest addition to this wacky new idea called a Video Game blog. I'll hopefully be bringing previews/reviews on a semi-regular basis. First up is Def Jam Fight For New York (PS2).

This is a great idea for people to express their love for video games, thanks to Dan, Brew, and assorted others for the jump-start.


If this is 'Another Castle'...
Posted by JayGo :: 1:51 PM

...then which one of us is the princess?

Hi there, I'm Matthew (or JayGo, whichever). I'm AC's British reviewer, and will be reviewing all the hott new releases in this part of the world, such as Animal Crossing and Donkey Konga. So expect my thoughts on Halo 2 some time in 2007.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Getting this party started
Posted by Shocker :: 11:13 PM

Welcome to Another Castle, the officially unofficial ITVR video game review blog. I am Shocker Dan and will be steering this rickety bucket of bolts as we hurtle through blogspace.

What is the purpose of this blog? Well, there are a lot of people on ITVR who are passionate about games and gaming. Many of us hold gaming as an art form. Even those who don't, and there is reasonable room for disagreement, can still agree that they are worth a serious and critical eye. As a person who has been through several rental services, both online and off, I have played so many games that would only be classified as "average" it's gone far beyond being a surprise anymore. The fact is that there are a lot of games out there that are just, well, "okay". Yet a glace at GamePro or GameFAQs or IGN or EGM would lead you to believe that even that average game deserves a 7.0/10 or a 4.0/5. There is a fundamental lack of integrity with the review process that I want to hopefully fix here, a lack created either by pressure from game companies, expectations from readers or poor reviewers.

This is our mission statement at AC, that our reviews will be fair not only to our own standards, but to the standards of all 5 of us and anyone else who wishes to comment. Every contributor to AC is allowed to post a review of whatever they want, but every other member's allowed to call that member on the carpet for that review, whether it be by comment, for a short disagreement, or by a separate counter-review that shows the game from a different light. Since we all know each other, and have a good idea for our gaming preferences, we can likely easily get to the heart of what an outside reader wants to know. For example, JayGo (Matt), really hates Mechassault. I really loved the game, and yes, we've argued about it ad nauseum. But the dividing issue, which, and JayGo will correct me if I'm wrong, was whether it was an effective arcade game or whether it had should have been more of a simulation. Each of us had valid points and an outsider looking in was better able to get a grasp for what the game was.

Rule number 2 is "No ditto reviews". Yes, Halo 2 is coming out soon. You know who gets to post the first review? The first person who posts the review. :) We don't need 5 reviews of the exact same game saying the exact same thing. It's an exercise at seeing a lot of the same number to the reader. However, any contributor or commentator is allowed to, of course, add to the review by pointing out things missed. Just don't retread old ground. (Also note that a counter-review generally can't give the same score, for obvious reasons.)

Rule number 3: 2.5 is average. No, really. It's really, honestly, truly average. I know there's been a lot of inflation going on, leading to ridiculous statements like "There's a lot of difference between 98 and 100 and 78 and 80", and that in general, even in places who say 5 or 2.5 is average, that 7 or 4 (respectively) is generally average. But seriously, here, 2.5 = average. If your review seems to hint the game is average, and you give it a higher score, you'll have to justify that. :)

While I'm at it, here are the scores:











Rule the 4th: Reviews will cover all aspects of the game, including graphics, controls, online play /multiplayer (if the reviewer is able), sounds, etc. But overshadowing all of this is of course gameplay. I can't force you to write your reviews in any specific way, but I still urge you to make the bulk of your review about the gameplay and what elements of it lead to your review.

Rule 5: Any post related to video games is permissible, including news, or informing us you've got a certain (perhaps rare?) game that you're planning on reviewing, etc.

Rule #6: You may send any contributions to... ;)

Anyway, that's enough rules. The overriding point of this is to have fun with this, because obviously the medium is for fun and enjoyment. I hope that you guys enjoy this blog and that it develops into something. Till then, game on.

- Dan

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