We got your princess right here.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Review: Street Fighter: Anniversary Collection (PS2)
Posted by Ariel :: 9:20 PM

The Past Fights for the Future

Ever since about 1991 or so, when Street Fighter 2 first came out, I've been playing Street Fighter and its many iterations almost non-stop since then. I've even played 3 different bootleg versions of the game (with the completely broken moves that only someone on crack could've come up with), Played through Championship, Turbo, and Super editions (although I never found an arcade with Super Turbo, so I don't have any experience with that) through the entire alpha series (American AND Japanese versions) as well as the long-awaited Street Fighter 3 series. I can recall, from memory, the movelist of almost every single character ever featured in a game (and yet, I have a lot of trouble memorizing phone numbers) and can even recall changes made to a character if they appeared over different editions. Both me and Dan have invested about 400-500 hours (in actual playtime) into Soul Calibur and Soul Calibur 2, but I alone have invested about, 3000-4500 hours into Street Fighter. I know I was one of several people who almost busted a nut when this game was announced.

Now, with that history in mind I proceed to review the compilation of one of the most revolutionary game franchises of our time. I will not grade the compilation based on the gameplay. That would simply not be fair to a game that has had 13 years to age. Instead I will judge it by the completeness and accuracy of the compilation and how it represents the gameplay of the original games. I will start with Street Fighter 2 Hyper Edition.

Street Fighter 2 Hyper Edition is every SF2 fanboy's dream. You can enter single-player or versus mode and select from your character from every edition of SF2 (original, Champhionship, Turbo, Super, Super Turbo) and battle against another character from another edition of Street Fighter. The character select system is very easy to use. You first select what edition of the game you want ot select your character from and then choose the character. If you pick Normal edition, although the icons of Fei Long, Dee Jay, Balrog, etc. are still there you won't be able to even highlight them. With the Super-only characters it's the same story if you don't choose Super or Super Turbo characters. I thought this was an excellent way to select a character and keep it simple and easy to use. I can only cringe at the thought of a 64 icon character select screen with 5 different versions of the original 8 to choose from.

Now, selecting a character can be a very daunting task for those that didn't grow up playing Street Fighter, but, truth be told, this game isn't meant for that person. It's meant for the older SF fans who waited year after year after year after year for SF3 to finally come out. For the fan that knows the Akuma code. When the Raging Demon first appeared, what the Raging Demon is, Who the hell Sheng Long is, when the Shoryuken lost complete invulnerability, that the attack buttons are called Jab, Strong, Fierce, Short, Forward, Roundhouse, and what Down, R, Up, L, Y, B does. Normally I would count that against a game but this is a compilation of that game. You'll need that knowledge to navigate through the nuances of a game that includes the evolutions of a game over 4 years.

There is a training mode that is pretty standard for Capcom games (doesn't mean it's not good, it's excellent, but they use the exact same format for all their fighting games) except for the glaring omission of a command list, which would have been imminently useful for those attempting to get into the game without the massive amounts of prior experience one would need. It also inlcudes the entire Street Fighter 2 animated movie, of which there were 3 versions: PG, PG-13, and R rated. unfortunately the one on the disc is the PG movie. Which, if you've never seen it, is the best Street Fighter movie, hands down. I do greatly enjoy the fact that it is in the game, although the quality is high-end VHS at best (They probably hit the memory limit of the PS game discs). Which also exlplains another gripe about the game. The music. Although it includes all the classic SF songs, it doesn't contain the SSF2T soundtrack, which was the best SF soundtrack at the time. The Super Turbo soundtrack was Capcom's first abandonment of MIDI's and synthesizers and it's first (and extremely effective) use of real instruments. The Super Turbo soundtrack is one of my favorite soundtracks to just sit back and listen to. Unfortunately, it is not present here. However, due to my very limited Super Turbo experience, this is not a big a flaw for me as it was for Dan.

The biggest flaw, to my mind, of the game is the fact that the Alpha series is completely ignored. When I first heard that they were compiling all the old SF games into one I began to marvel at the possibility of pitting Sakura against Old-School Chun-Li or Charlie versus Guile, or the Alpha Bison against the Turbo Bison. Custom Combos against Super Turbo super moves. Unfortunately that is not so. Which is a true knock against a game designed for hardcore SF gamers.

Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike is another great console port of a Capcom arcade game. The SF3 series continues with changes to the game that make each edition of it seem like a true sequel. There are even more characters in this game, with the addition of 4 new characters to the Street Fighter repertiore (including a Guile-like one, yay!) and the unexpected return of an old favorite: Chun-Li! The game stil looks as gorgeous as ever, and the fighting system still continues it's evolution. Taunts, EX moves, Selectable Supers, and the bold Parry System all come back. The single player mode now has an interesting twist in that it will let you select from one of two characters to fight before each stage of the tournament. That way you can avoid those characters that give you the most trouble, although sticking to one path has its own rewards as well. The existing characters also get new or tweaked moves to play with along with some that get new supers to select from. Akuma is also now a regularly selectable character (no need to use a code to access him like in 2nd Impact). Unfortunately the training mode is also bereft of a command list in order to learn the moves of the new characters (of course, there is always gamefaqs) but the game is VERY customizable. You can even extend the window of opportunity to execute a parry, even down to specific parries (in the air, while crouching, while standing, etc)!

If you liked the other SF3 games you will enjoy this one, although I am personally tired of being graded in Capcom games. If I win I win, that's all that matters. Only Dan Hibiki worries about fighting with style. Do you really want to be Dan Hibiki?

I think, in the end, that this game could not help but disappoint. To create a compilation of Street Fighter games and make them one game was probably an impossible task, and everyone will find flaws in it. That is the price you pay for creating a game for your most loyal of fans. They will easily see the flaws within, the promises unkept, the desires unfulfilled. But, for what it is, it is a fantastic game, and Street Fighter itself cannot help but be fun. The X-Box version will purportedly have On-Line Play so that will definately raise its rating by .5, as long as the system is not terrible to use. But for now, I have to give this game a

Street Fighter fans should definately buy, everyone else rent it.

- Ariel

First, lemmie state my credentials in the realm of Street Fighter 2: The first time I'd ever played Street Fighter 2 was at the Redondo Beach Pier when I was, what, 12? Even then, sucking at it as anyone new to the game does, I understood how great the game was and what it could be. I watched it go through successful and endless iterations, culminating in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, a game which I purchased for my old 486 DX (DX!) 50. Back when I only had 4 megabytes of RAM, each match took approximately 2 minutes to load. Nevertheless, I played hours and hours - getting frustrated, losing to T. Hawk especially, going to heat up dinner between matches... The day I upgraded to 8 megabytes, so the game started in about 15 seconds, was a great day indeed.

NOW, I have to say, after those 10 years, I am not terribly sure the game has aged that well. I mean, I'm not going to convince anyone who's a diehard SF2 fan that the game's outdated - and in many respects, it can never be. But I think in comparison to the far superior (in terms of modern mechanics) Street Fighter 3, the game suffers a bit in comparison.

Ariel already outlined all the features this game has in it, so I won't go over them again. I will just say that failing to include the remixed/redone tunes from SSF2T's PC iteration is a gross oversight. As well, the AI in the game is ridiculously hard. I now remember the bane of my childhood - Zangief on supersteroids. It's amazingly accurate, but it also seems eerily prescient and extremely unforgiving, even on the easier settings. And through my time playing through single player, I can't really recall ever seeing the computer not play a Super Turbo iteration of their character (perhaps because that was the only AI routine they put into the game?).

Regardless, for anyone looking for a good old school fighter knows what this game is about. The features you get in the Street Fighter 2 mode are oustanding (being able to combine and fight against different versions of every character). However, to get the full benefit out of this, you need to be a fairly large Street Fighter nerd (knowing which version of Ryu has the first-frames invincible Shoryuken, or which version of Zangief first introduced his fireball-swatting move). I really don't like that they didn't include OG Street Fighter 3 or Second Impact versions of the second game. As Ariel mentioned the snubbing of Alpha is mindboggling. Finally, where's my awesome remixed SSF2T music?

I like it, but unless you're a total hardcore SF nut, wait for it to drop in price.

- Dan


On the horizon
Posted by Shocker :: 1:41 AM

Coming up later this week, reviews for Midway's The Suffering (XBox/PS2), Capcom's Street Figher: Anniversary Collection (PS2, XBox later), perhaps Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA), and I think Donkey Konga (GameCube) and ESPN NBA Basketball 2k5 (PS2/XBox/GameCube), the latter to be provided by a guest reviewer as soon as he figures out what he wants to give it. :) Also, there is rumor of a Katamari Damacy (PS2) review, done by Josh, meaning it'll be here.... December?

As far as the week's biggest release, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, PC Later, XBox likely), I know at least two or three of us are working through the game. Just initial impressions based on about a half hour of play, it's fantastic. As solid as GTA Vice City, but a much more significant improvement and accomplishment. I am looking forward at getting more time to get into it.

Next week's biggest release seems to be Smackdown vs. Raw (PS2), the 6th (?) installment in the Smackdown series, also the first ever online wrestling game. After that, next Tuesday is the Halo 2 release date. Yes, yes, I know. Anyway, get your San Andreas in before that drops.

But for now, homework awaits (Even at this late hour).

Go play Paper Mario.

- Dan

Thursday, October 28, 2004

News: Nintendo Ships Retro Series 2 for the GBA
Posted by Chris :: 9:28 PM

Nintendo of America has shipped the second series of Classic NES for Game Boy Advance. Each game is a direct port of the original version, except for a multiplayer feature in Dr. Mario. The games are sold individually for $19.99 each. The new lineup:

Dr. Mario®: A massive virus outbreak can only be solved in one way: Throw a bunch of pills at the problem. When you're unwinding after shopping for luxury cars with a friend, compete head-to-head using a Game Boy® Advance Wireless Adapter or the Game Boy® Advance Game Link® cable.

Metroid®: The original side-scrolling adventure featuring badass bounty-hunting babe Samus Aran. She can bring home the bacon and disintegrate it with her Plasma Beam.

Zelda II™: The Adventure of Link®: You swing a sword and rescue a princess. Put simply, Link could buy and sell you.

Castlevania®: Mummies, bats and zombies try to prevent you from undoing a curse in this classic adventure from Konami. Think of it as a rough day on the trading floor, except you have a magic whip.

Well, Dr. Mario is gonna be a definate pick up for me, but if you wanna get Metroid, Metroid: Zero Mission is right there. It's got the Original, plus an updated version, which is great. I never was a big Castlevania fan, admittedly. Y'know, I do think it'd be much easier to put like several of these games on one cart. You know they can do it, and who wouldn't die to have say SMB1, 2, and 3 on one cart? I know I would. Dead, I say.

Also Zelda II sucked. Yeah, I seddit.

(News: Planet Gamecube)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

News: Super Princess Peach
Posted by JayGo :: 3:37 PM

Time for some news in keeping with the site design, I guess!
Nintendo has cleared its throat in front of Famitsu, to announce a brand new DS title. Joining other cast members from Mario’s extended family (Wario, Luigi etc), Princess Peach is the latest character to get her own touch-screen enabled outing.

Super Princess Peach will be a 2D scrolling action game (featuring Princess Peach). She will also be armed with an umbrella with which to attack oncoming enemies. Putting two and two together, we can comfortably suggest that the player will use the stylus to swipe, stab and control the umbrella.
So, despite all the 3D abilities of the DS, it looks as though it's going to attempt to continue the GBA tradition of fine 2D games. Which is fine. Wish they'd been slightly more imaginative with that name, though.. is everything going to continue to be 'Super'?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Posted by Shocker :: 1:37 PM

Due to life's occasional buttfuckery, Mario Monday was derailed a short 15 minutes before I posted the review. So sad. I lost internet access at home, so in the interim, I also managed to sit myself in front of Mortal Kombat: Deception long enough to try to review it. That's also below.

- Dan


Review: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GameCube)
Posted by Shocker :: 1:36 PM

From time to time, I get to thinking "Maybe I don't like RPGs". This usually comes around the time a new Final Fantasy game comes out. Since they seem to be the current standard people judge RPGs by, games I like, such as Zelda, get squeezed out (into somewhat-more-nebulous "action RPG" category). I also think maybe it's the turn-based combat, but as a guy who has, unfortunately, played up to an entire hour of Dungeons and Dragons and has lived to tell, no, not really. Besides, KOTOR had TBC and it was awesome. So what is it?

The answer to that is a definitive "Who knows?" Some games get you. Some games don't. But when RPGs get me, they get me bad. There's something about the storylines, the characters, getting invested in seeing them through their quest that's not a part of the more impersonal action/adventure genre - Even in action RPGs, you're generally immersed in an interactive world where you talk to people, solve puzzles by gaining information and travel to fantastic worlds. The last RPG to "get me" was Skies of Arcadia (DC), which I'd put off until about 2 years after the system died. I loved it so much, I lugged my DC around with me so I could play it wherever I found a TV that took RCA inputs. I just had to beat it.

So yeah, I guess I do like RPGs. And Paper Mario was the first time I've been overwhelmingly addicted to a video game since Skies of Arcadia.

Paper Mario is an excellent blend of platforming and RPG elements, along with superlative design to combine both. RPG fans will find something to like: turn based combat, HP/Mana/EXP system, a party system, and plenty of people to talk to. Action fans will enjoy the platforming elements - getting to blow away walls and jumping puzzles, as well as finally being able to smash a few bricks every now and again. As a sequel to Paper Mario (N64), and a somewhat distant sequel to the Square-Nintendo collab Super Mario RPG (SNES), it combines elements from both games, using their innovations to create an awesome gaming experience.

Let me get one thing out of the way first: The story is paint-by-numbers. Princess is captured, Mario must save Princess by collecting the 7 Crystal Stars, and taking them to the Thousand-Year Door. Of course, these 7 Crystal Stars aren't just laying around, they're in 7 different lands that Mario must travel to. But, if the RPG genre is about any old Japanese (?) pearl of wisdom, it's not the destination, it's the journey.

Getting there is all the fun in Paper Mario. I don't think I've ever seen a game with a so-so storyline poke fun at itself, but Paper Mario does. Regularly (Just talk to Luigi). The characters are ... strange. As you play through it, you'll never guess some of the people you'll be hooking up with to be your partners later on in the game. The combat, rather than being a turn based roll of the dice, actually engages you to improve your performance. The graphics are superb, the music not over-grand. The puzzles are fun, varied and interesting, and the game is chock full of sidequests that can eat up your days.

Paper Mario asks you to use platforming elements to interact with the world. By pressing B, Mario uses his (always equipped) hammer, and a makes him jump. As you find enemies in the game, you can either walk into them to start up the combat, or you can fight your way in by smashing them with your hammer or jumping on them to engage a "first strike" (more on that when I discuss combat). The genius here is the blending of those aspects - utilizing your hammer and jumping skills to solve puzzles and begin combat: it makes sense, yet many RPGs, to the annoyance of action gamers, don't take advantage of it.

The combat is an expansion of the best turn-based combat I'd ever played back on the SNES: You select the move you want to use, the enemy you want to attack, just like in any standard RPG. But carefully timing your button presses as you're attacking your enemy - pressing A right before you hit him - allows you to perform an Action Command, doing extra damage to them. Paper Mario expands on that, and it's, on a whole, the most engaging turn based RPG combat system I've ever seen.

Firstly, as mentioned above, you can execute a "first strike" by attacking your opponent in the game world before they attack you. Using your hammer will cause Mario to run out and hammer his opponent - jumping on them sends him into a jumping attack. This is, at times, critical to getting through a battle, because you can get a crucial strike in to destroy or weaken an opponent who would otherwise take two turns to defeat. Once the first strike phase is done, it's Mario and his partner's turn to attack. Stats in the game are broken up into Heart Points (HP), Flower Points (the equivalent of Mana, FP) and Badge Points (BP). When Mario's HP goes to 0, the game ends. Mario's attacks, unlike in Mario RPG, are limited to jumping and hammer attacks. The balance is Jumping attacks can hit ground and air opponents, Hammer attacks can only hit ground-level opponents. However, many enemies can't be jumped on, such as Pihrana Plants, Cleftors (rocky creatures with spikes over them) and Spinys. Additionally, each player has a very simple set of internal statistics: Attack and Defense. Attack is equal to the amount of damage you can do, Defense is the amount of damage you can deflect. Early enemies like Koopas have defense of 1, but their defense is dropped to 0 by jumping on them (at which point they're completely vulnerable).

Defeating enemies earns Star Points (EXP), 100 Star Points levels Mario up. After each level he can choose to raise his HP, or FP by 5, or his Badge Points by 3. After you find each Crystal Star, you gain access to special abilities, each one costing a certain amount of special points. New to this game is the crowd aspect. Every fight you have is fought on a stage in front of a crowd made up of various friends and enemies. Unlike almost everything else in the game, the crowd aspect is not immediately intuitive. When you start, you only have a crowd of a few, and gaining admirers is more difficult. But once you gain your first Crystal Star, you see that making the crowd cheer on, by executing Action Commands and performing "stylishly", the crowd renews your special points at a higher rate the better you perform. In an improvement over Super Mario RPG, instead of having Guard Actions (pressing A at the proper time to reduce damage), Mario can also perform counter moves by pressing B at an even more precise time. In later battles, where your success depends on hitting every action command and countering crucial strikes, you'll begin to realize how much better this system is than hoping you get a critical strike. Additionally since each move in the game requires your interaction, you're never just cycling through predetermined attacks by pressing A over and over again. You're deciding your attacks and carefully timing them to get the most damage out of them. Every time.

The game's graphical style is wonderful. There are some who might disagree with me, but, well, they're wrong. :) The game uses 2D, sprite-looking characters to interact with the 3D world. Everyone is "made of paper": they appear flat, and when they turn around, it flips them all the way around. This is initially a weird quirk, but it pays off: Mario gains skills such as being able to flip so he's paper-thin toward the screen to fit through tiny slits, like bars, or the separation between buildings. He can roll up, and roll under small openings, scrunch himself up and spring around or transform into a paper airplane or paper boat. Additionally, the less-taxing 2D element allows the developers to cram an INSANE amount of enemies onto the screen at once - a fact you'll find about 10 minutes into the game when you're attacked by 100 enemies at once. Later on, having a hundred or two hundred characters on screen is not uncommon, whether they're in the audience or you're fighting against all of them. It's so refreshing to see a game that wants to attempt something grand be able to pull it off- and this game is one of those who can do that. Smashing through hundreds of Dry Bones is as fun as anything. Watching a furious battle between 101 little Puni's and their 101 archrivals is one of the most chaotic scenes one will see in a video game. And when the game decides to throw around its 3D backbone, the contrast between the 2D characters you're used to looking at, and some of the huge, sweeping architecture really provides a beautiful contrast without trying to overwhelm you with vastness or pre-rendered cutscenes.

The environments are beautiful. The towns range from bright and green, to dark and purple - you'll play through beautiful black-and-white styled forests and desert isles. The way it integrates 2D elements is also amazing: If you see an item or distant locale in the background, there is a pipe around somewhere that will let you warp into the background of the stage while the camera stays fixed - Imagine one of those shooting galleries, where the duck is initially really close and then is way in the background. Excellent platforming element as well as design.

One low spot for the game, and one thing Nintendo MUST fix already is their unwillingness or inability to integrate full voice support in these games. There is almost no audible dialogue in the game - everything is done in text. Compounding this is the "silent hero" treatment that you'll find in both this game and Zelda, where everyone around the main character is talking, and he is mostly watching. This isn't to say that Mario doesn't make decisions, but there's literally, beyond making those choices, no dialogue written for him. It just doesn't make sense, and needs to be fixed.

The other music in the game is fabulous, though. Very RPG, and still very old-school and Nintendo. Additionally, alerts in the game are signaled by classic old-school Mario theme music, such as music from Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3.

The real charm of the game comes from its intuitiveness, style and humor. The game is flat-out hilarious. The translation team did a great job converting the game to the American audience. There are Mario references, movie referenes and geek references all over the game. As soon as I heard some kid tell me that his GBA really "ROCKS MY SOCKS!!!" I knew I was playing a great game. And if you ever need a laugh, every Bowser cutscene will make you cry.

Overall, I spent about 60 awesome hours with this game, running through every world and doing plenty of extra quests. I didn't complete or see everything there was to see, but suffice to say, Paper Mario will lead you through a pretty vast journey. Like most RPGs, however, I don't expect anyone to find a ton of replay value from it.

Paper Mario is likely the best RPG on the Gamecube right now, and will likely remain so. If you didn't catch Paper Mario on the N64, but did play Mario RPG, you'll feel right at home and really dig the new innovations. You may be a little less up on the game if you did play the 64 version, as this one borrows a lot of elements from its predecessor. The story and non-existent voicework, however, are the only downpoints on an otherwise absolutely engaging and fun experience. This is the most fun I've had with a game all year, and a solid addition to your Gamecube library. Just like Skies of Arcadia, another great game with a couple of unfortunate gaping flaws (in that game, it was the random enemies), I'll err towards the side of caution and score it

And eagerly await the sequel!

- Dan


Review: Mortal Kombat: Deception (XBox)
Posted by Shocker :: 1:27 PM


Realtime? It's when I write down what I'm thinking as I play it. Yes, it's kind of tired, but I don't think it's ever been done for Video Games. Plus, I already wrote two full reviews tonight, and I'm not really expecting to play this too long (Yes, I am assuming it's going to suck before I start playing it. Reason: It's probably going to suck. Expect professionalism, however). This game is most likely going to suck.

12:20: Skip intros, ah ha, Arcade mode. Good ol' Arcade mode.

12:21: What the hell did they do to Sub-Zero? Anyway, after looking through the fighters assembled (12 selectable initially, 12 more to be unlocked), I have chosen Kobra. Why? HellifIknow.

12:24: After first match, some notes: punching on people in this game can be really fun. Unfortunately, it invites comparisons to games like Dead or Alive and Virtua Fighter and Tekken. These are not comparisons this game wants to make.

12:25: WHAT THE FUCK, why did ERMAC just pull out an Axe on me? AN AXE? (Why the fuck is ERMAC in this game?)

12:27: After playing with the buttons I have discovered that Kobra has a weapon as well! A pair of sticks! It's not quite an axe, but it'll do, pig.

12:29: Further playing around reveals that playing with these sticks is actually kind of fun. However, it doesn't make any of what's going on on the screen make any more sense. It also invites comparisons to Soul Calibur. This is not a comparison this game wants to make.

12:30: I have lost my first match to Mileena, and have now picked Sub-Zero.

12:33: I have lost my second match to Mileena. Where the FUCK did Sub-Zero's moves go?

12:34: I have picked, after much consternation, Scorpion. I have also taken out his sword. It is scary how much this game looks like a 3D version of Time Killers. This is not a comparison this game wants to make.

12:37: I have lost my third match to Mileena. I am picking Baraka, the only guy who should actually have sharp, pointy things.

12:40: I have beaten Mileena. What, bich?

12:43: I beat some chick known as Ashrah. When it came time to finish her, she broke into a million bits. Then the game noted she committed Hari-Kari. Oh come on already, Jesus.

12:47: I have lost to (quite possibly the most ridiculous looking character in the game, and that's saying something) Bo' Rai Cho. I will not Kontinue.

12:48: Okay, here's the deal: The problem with the combat in this game is the exact reason that Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus (XBox) failed and why games like DOA and VF have succeeded: those games are intuitive. This game is really, really not. For a hand to hand fighter, the best one can hope for is that their offense flows into some sort of cohesive form. For a game sporting at least 2 fighting styles per character, plus an entire weapon style, that still isn't happening. Moves are still performed like the game is in 2D: Down, Left + X = Move. Well, the problem is in 3D, left and down (especially down) aren't really explicitly defined. Does "Down" mean duck, does it mean as you're moving down? Does it mean as you're holding down? Do you hit down and the button at the same time? Effective fighting games fill up all of these slots with moves that flow well, and create the fighting style from that. They don't say "Well, a 'Choy Lee Fut' fighting style has these 20 moves" and then proceed to cram them onto the joypad in any which order. They also make use of the fact that just about every button on the PS2 and XBox is analog and allow for pressure-sensitive attacks. This game does absolutely none of that. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. CHESS AWAITS!

12:55: So instead of king/queen/bishop/knight/rook/pawn (I guess chess names, while not chess itself, is for pussies), we have Leader/Champion/Sorcerer/Shifter/Grunt. I'm not exactly sure which piece we've lost, but who cares. Chess isn't a perfectly balanced game or anything.

12:57: I have always wanted to play a game of battlechess where you actually fought out the positions for the squares in a good fighting game. Unfortunately, I'm stuck doing it here. *sigh* This bites. I'm actively trying to lose, now.

1:00: Hey, I saw my first fatality! A black guy named Darrius (not Jax!) just ripped my arms off, and then beat me with them, and decapitated me. I guess black Kombatants have the market on ripping arms off, or something. That's how it's goin' down in tha hood.

1:01: Into puzzle mode. Can this be fun, please?

1:03: No, no it can't. Let me give you a brief rundown: pieces come down from ceiling. Slowly. Every time a piece falls, a two giant-head fighters punch and kick each other at the bottom of the screen. Since the match goes on for 5 minutes, they're both basically wailing away at each other for that entire time. Meanwhile, you're stuck playing this boring ass game. I'll recap the puzzle game itself quickly too: think of Dr. Mario, without the viruses.

1:06: Oh hell, I just realized there is a Konquest mode. WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO KONTINUE? In order to Kontinue on to Konquest Mode, I need to enter a Kode. WTF? I don't have a Kode!

1:07: Okay, Profiles, create a profile. Well this is nifty, they want me to create a 6 button passkode to access my profile. As if this game wasn't konvoluted enough, now I need to remember a locker kombination to get to my profile. Instead of, say, just selecting the damn thing. Even XBox's parental controls don't make you remember a 6 button code. Anyway, my Kode is "XXXXXX". Please don't steal it!

1:09: Hey, that was actually kind of a nifty intro. Decent cutscene to start my Konquest. I am now a young apprentice named Shujinko! This... is not good voice acting.

1:14: There's something hilarious about me sucker punching a guy in the face until he bleeds, and then him telling me "Korrect!" as he bleeds off a pint.

1:16: Oh no. Oh no. Oh no oh no. There are RPG elements in this. This cannot be good.

1:18: Solved a villager's dental problem by punching him. And received money for this. I am not making this up.

1:21: Apparently during my delivery of dental services, I punched and killed an old woman. And I apparently run like the Flash.

1:24: The breakdown of our once peaceful society is komplete. I have now punched and killed every person capable of being punched and killed. I have also, apparently, annoyed a lot of other people by punching them a lot. Before my mind dekays, I am putting an end to this.

1:26: I have ditched the Konquest mode and the noble path of ol' ironfist Shujinko and have moved into The Krypt, which is of no value to me, as I have no Koins, so I kannot open any Koffins (you think I'm making some of this up, I know you do). In leiu of that, I have decided to count the number of Koffins present - 380. Yep. Unless I miskounted.

1:30: I am embarassed for having played this. The fact that my internet access is down is, I swear, the only reason why I continued with it. The Mortal Kombat series really, really needs an overhaul- starting from this awful engine they're running with now, and ending with deciding what the hell it wants to be: A cheesy, 3D version of Time Killers, or a serious, mature fighting game that respects the players' intelligence. I give it a point for having the nuts to try and screw with Chess. Otherwise, what we have here is pure krap.

- Dan

Monday, October 25, 2004

Review: Mario vs. Donkey Kong (GBA)
Posted by Shocker :: 8:02 PM

So say you're Donkey Kong. You get your start as a villain in a game titled after you, in which you just can't seem to squash this incorrigible hammer-wielding plumber, foiling you at every turn. So instead of slipping further into the dark side, you give up that life, pledge a life of Good, and, with the help of your family, pilot a successful 3-game series on the Super Nintendo and a decent sequel on the Nintendo 64.

That was years ago.

Now you're sitting at home, watching TV. Sure, you've got all the bananas you can eat for the rest of your life. You've got royalty checks coming in monthly. But the one thing you don't have is any work. Now you're flipping through channels and you see it. It's that plumber. The same one who beat you to start his career. And he's still going strong. Marketing up the wazoo. So you snap. You run to the Mario Toy Company, steal every mini-Mario you can find and dash off into the night.

Who can blame you?

Well, that plumber can. This is the story for Mario vs. Donkey Kong, a decidedly weird game published for the Game Boy Advance. Piloting Mario, you chase Donkey Kong through 6 varied worlds to recover the stolen mini-Marios and defeat him in direct combat. Styled as a strategy/puzzle style game, it makes use of platforming elements to give it real character.

Each world in Mario vs. DK is broken up into 8 stages - 6 "2 part" stages, 1 "Mini-Mario" stage and 1 boss fight. The 2 part stages have you first trying to retrieve a key (and bringing the key to the door of the stage), then making your way through a larger stage to pick up a mini-Mario. By far, this makes up the bulk of the game, and generally, it's pretty fun and challenging. Each 2 part level begins with a short introduction to tell you about what gameplay mechanics you might be using. This can range from a move that Mario has in his arsenal, to a way to manipulate switches in the game to move the key about. The game relies on relatively simple gameplay mechanics: red, blue and yellow switches (red kills blue, blue kills red, yellow kills either and is killed by both), as well as conveyor belts, moving platforms, donut blocks (the ones that fall if you stand on them), and crumbling floors, to name a few. In addition, you'll have to avoid, use or defeat classic Mario enemies (shy guys, boos, etc).

These elements blend nicely to create a very smooth experience, and, once you master Mario's moves (of which he has many), you'll be running through each stage with style. Stages are made even more difficult by the addition of three packages you can collect in each stage, enabling you to possibly gain more lives playing simple mini-games at the end of each level.

The Mini-Mario stages are.. Well, frustrating. With seemingly short time limits, you have to navigate 6 AI controlled mini-Marios through a mini-platform maze by hitting switches that will keep them from being killed by spikes, thwomps and enemies. This would be fine, except it's generally confusing what path they're supposed to take, and they must collect letters to form "TOY" before you can get them out of there. The number of Mini-Marios you save determines how much life you'll have in the boss fight.

The boss fight stages are reminiscent of boss battles in Super Mario Bros 2 mixed with Donkey Kong - DK on the top, throwing out evil things, Mario picking them up and throwing them at Kong. Mario can have up to 6 life points, while Kong always has 4.

The graphics are done in the style of Donkey Kong Country - pre-rendered 3D style animation. They look decent, although you can barely make out the Mini-Mario shapes among a jumble of pixels. Personally, I would have preferred they do something a bit more colorful, since the game is silly (in premise). Plus, brightening up the game would allow the player to more easily see what is going on. Sound is good - The game has more voicework in it than all of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door on the NGC. Plus, you get all of Mario's jumping noises that sound like they were ripped straight from Mario 64. The music is decent, but not noteworthy.

The game does a nice job paying homage to the Mario series. Aside from Mario's dialogue at the beginning of the game's excellent cinemas (for the GBA), Mario's moves are ripped straight out of Mario Sunshine/64. The first time you hit a backflip, you'll feel right at home. The second stage is styled like Donkey Kong Jr., complete with vines and fruit you can knock down onto enemies (in some cases where you have to). The game also features the original Donkey Kong hammer that you can use to clear out enemies (in some cases, you have to, as well).

So what's the downside? Well, while I think the game is pretty good, I'd never buy it. Why? For everything the game has going for it, it's just a slightly better-than-average puzzler. I played through the whole game in almost 4 hours, and got hung up maybe twice. Moreover, the controls, while fluid, which I like, are also imprecise, which I don't like. On the small screen, you're not going to be able to discern terribly well when you're a sprite away from falling onto spikes or in safe territory. Like EA's FIFA 2002, trading a bit of precision for style can be great - except when precision is required. For all the precise moves you have to make in this game, you're never quite sure it'll come together in the end - whether Mario will overjump, or whether he'll under jump; whether he can reach a certain platform with a move you're about to try.

Somewhat true to the genre, it's fairly linear - meaning there's only one way to get through most stages, so should your intuition lead you astray, you're going to be starting over. It also has that whole strategy "One stage just being your daddy" thing going on, which is never all that fun. The time element adds an extra constraint, though, by pressing L+R, you can pause the clock and move the screen to gander at the stage. It's a nice feature, and one that I probably should have used more.

Overall, though, for such a short adventure (6 worlds), and frustrating controls, I'd recommend renting it. If you never rent for your GBA, then I wouldn't recommend a buy. It's a fun game, and very weird, but it's probably not one I'd add to my personal collection. I give Mario vs. Donkey Kong

- Dan


Today is.....
Posted by Shocker :: 11:22 AM


Coming up later today are reviews for 2 Mario games, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Mario vs. Donkey Kong, and possibly other stuff by other people.


Think about your favorite game - now, if you could have been heading that design team, what would you have done to change or improve the game? Would you have done anything, why or why not?

Question's open to AC posters and the general public. Reply in comments here!

- Dan

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