We got your princess right here.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Review: ESPN NBA 2k5 (PS2/XBox/GameCube)
Posted by Shocker :: 3:05 PM

Special Guest Reviewer, Omar.

Over the last few years the 2K5 series has been more simulation centered than EA’s Live series, with this year being no exception, but this year the team at Visual Concepts has taken an extreme leap. Everything in this game is true to NBA basketball, and it would take an experienced fan to truly grasp many of the things that are going on in each and every game. Every player performs exactly to their true life counterpart, even Vince Carter going down with an ankle injury in the middle of the game, only to not return :).

While on offense, you have 4 set plays to pick from, (which can be changed in the coaching menu) or you can go for some Kobe-like freelancing. Since everyone performs like it’s a real game, you have to play like it too. As an example, if you took the Raptors against the Pacers, chances are Carter would have to go off in the 30-40 point range for Toronto to even have a chance, which plays out wonderfully in the game. Handling the ball is an extreme priority this year also, bring up the rock lazily and the defender will poke it away and take it to the hoop for a dunk. Running plays is a thing of beauty, like a perfect pick and roll with Parker and Duncan, or if you’re skilled enough Kenny Anderson and Toine.

The defense has been improved this year also, with a slightly reconfigured button scheme. You have to watch what angle you’re swiping at the ball since and bad angle will result in a foul, yet swiping when the ball handler has the rock in front of you usually will result in a steal. Rebounding is a little difficult since the AI seems to have a jump on boxing you out.

24/7 Mode is back, which is probably the closest thing we’re going to get to a basketball RPG. You create a character and compete in different challenges to build up the stats of our character. Only thing is, if you don’t play for a few days your guys stats go down. Also, different challenges are available at different times of the day.

My only gripes with the game are the horrible menu style for Franchise mode (I haven’t even bothered to start a franchise up yet once I toyed around with the menu), and some rare clipping issues which result in a playing going right through his defender, yet the defender gets called for a foul.

Final Score:

- Dan, for Omar.

Omar adds "At $20, I'd say buy."


Review: The Bard's Tale (XBox/PS2)
Posted by Shocker :: 3:45 AM

So, where've the reviews been this week? I apologize to you guys. I wanted to review the Suffering (XBox), but it just wasn't my kind of game... I probably wouldn't have given it a fair score because I just couldn't get into it. So on Sunday Night, took both Street Fighter: AC and The Suffering back to Blockbuster; one of my new acquisitions is InXile's "The Bard's Tale".

Now, I don't think I'd ever heard about the game before. The thing that attracted me was the game's premise, "A quest for coin and cleavage." Well FINALLY, someone makes a game about my life. It also promised better AI and a lack of meaningless subquests. I'm in.

The whole premise of The Bard's Tale is that you're basically a cross between your Warrior in Baldur's Gate and the Necromancer in Diablo II. You summon creatures to help you fight, culminating in being able to summon a giant army. Which was excellent, because I wan't about to play a game about some singing fruit... The guys at InXile realized that. This guy's got a great edge to him.

The game's hilarious. The name InXile sounded familiar to me because they are a group created from the guy who started Interplay. Prior to the game releasing, they threw up a fake press release claiming they were considering "leaking" the game early and then acting indignant about it like the creators of Half-Life 2, GTA: San Andreas and Halo 2 (with the not-so-subtle implication that their game belongs in that echelon). Tough talk, and funny because Google tells me some sites bit on it. So the guys have spunk. That shows in their character. While he doesn't really have a name, per se, he still has plenty of personality. Dude's an agressive womanizer, which comes up about 15 seconds into the game, as he summons a rat and pretends to kill it to get into the good graces of a busty barmaid.

The Bard's Tale plays out mostly through cutscenes, narrated by a "standard" narrator, who sometimes interacts with The Bard. Some of the scenes are interactive, allowing the Bard the make decisions about how he deals with the characters (and is perceived by the world). Ply the right words to the Barmaid and you can expect a night of womanly pleasures, slip up and you're spending the night alone. This plays out in missions as well. Using a sharp tongue can send you on pointless fetch quests in order to advance the storyline.

The guys at Interplay are responsible for Baldur's Gate - and this game plays (and looks) almost exactly like Baldur's Gate. However, since it's not D&D licensed, it's got a couple of differences: character creation is fairly straightforward, with their own customized stats. "Feats" are more like abilities here, and don't have to be leveled up, they are just added. For instance, the ability to hit critical strikes or the ability to use a flail (which can't be blocked by creatures).

However, combat is plagued with all of the annoyances I found in BG - some people like it, but I just found it really boring. Especially because I was weaned on click-happy Diablo, which Baldur's Gate always seemed to be in the vein of. In and of itself, it's not too bad, but the game employs a lot of "cheap" tactics - Bugbears popping out of nowhere to smash into you before you can block or respond, giant wolves knocking you down and gnawing on you before you can respond, etc. Even though the premise of the game is to summon creatures to attack and, presumably, defend for you, initially the game is unbalanced in that respect. Your first creature, an electric spider, has low health and, despite the promise of better AI, doesn't always leap forward to defend you (or draw fire), nor does its routine change if you're wielding a bow (BTW, what is up with the bow in BG and, subsequently in this game? I know it's more realistic than Diablo, but for a game where you're playing by yourself, without someone ahead of you to block, it's extremely ineffective).

Overall the balance in this game seems to trend toward the kind of game that's difficult as hell for a spellcaster initially, but breaks about midway through. Unfortunately, there's no other kind of class you can be. By necessity, you have to be a Bard, and the game is single-player only. While the game's story is extremely tailored for this, the gameplay itself doesn't follow suit. At least it's by the same developers and creators of Baldur's Gate, otherwise a clone of this kind would be completely intolerable. As it stands, the game is flawed, and a bit outdated, and Baldur's Gate really isn't my kind of thing. On a final note, I ran into a couple of bugs in the game, including one where I fell through the floor into a blue screen of standing-around. Rent it for the jabs at the entire RPG genre, but I don't recommend a buy.

- Dan

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Console Christmas Challenge
Posted by DrHogie :: 2:27 PM

Here's the challenge:

A friend asks you to get him a console hookup for a Christmas gift. The gift is going to a friend who has no consoles, but will enjoy playing games. The friend is open to all types of gaming. So you're given $250USD in tax-free spending. With this money, you have to buy a console, any accessories, and games. The object is to get the baddest gaming collection possible.

The Rules:
--$250 to spend.
--All items must be bought online.
--Neither sales tax nor shipping counts towards your $250 total.
--Links to the games/deals in question would be very helpful.
--Refurbished and used games are allowed.

As far as the games go, the two priorities are bang for the buck and a really fun library of games. We will assume for this that the friend in quesiton will be playing single-player and/or online multiplater, with the occasional gathering of friends.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

News: Kameo
Posted by JayGo :: 1:24 PM

Prepare to be shocked by the most shocking news ever to send you into a state of shock. And quite possibly, awe.
Here's one you didn't see coming! After a lot of thought and discussion, Rare and Microsoft Game Studios have decided to push back the launch of Kameo: Elements of Power in order to incorporate several changes and new features (some minor, some not so minor).

We realise this is frustrating in the short term to all those of you avidly following the game's progress and itching to bust some Troll heads, and we can only apologise for keeping you in suspense, but rest assured that every last one of these new developments is designed to enhance and expand the overall experience.
Gosh, Microsoft, that multi-million dollar investment seems so wise now, doesn't it? And I say this as one of the people who liked Grabbed By The Ghoulies. They've delivered one game, we're still waiting on Kameo and Conker, and Perfect Dark Zero may or may not exist. I know Microsoft don't exactly have to be careful with their money, but really.

Somewhere, Nintendo are patting themselves on the back over that one.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

News: Microsoft Releases new XBox Crystal Pack
Posted by Daryl :: 10:28 AM

Microsoft has released a new, crystal version of the XBox for $250 US. It comes with one crystal controller, Fable, Crimson Skies, and a 2-month subscription to XBox Live; a pretty good start for a new XBox player. Damn, that thing looks sweet. Figures it comes out after I trade in my busted XBox for a new one.

Details available at http://www.xbox.com/en-CA/Hardware/crystalpack.htm .


News: Nobuo Uematsu and Square Part Ways
Posted by DrHogie :: 8:53 AM

From Slashdot who gets it from Gamespot: (link to Gamespot):

According to Gamespot, Nobuo Uematsu and Square will be seperating. Nobuo was the person responsible for the mostly awe-inspiring music for the Final Fantasy games. The report indicates that he will be moving to a company called "Smile Please". While this was first thought to be a rumor it was later announced on Uematsu 's fansite that it is true. He states that it isn't "quitting", but more of a graduation. There are hints in this article saying he will still do work for Square, but at his own pace. The good news is that he still plans to write more music for video games, perform more concerts, and produce the second Black Mages Album.

As a longtime fan of the music of Final Fantasy, this saddens me. The music in Final Fantasy 4 and 6 was simply astounding and Uematsu's scores from the other games were sensational as well. I hope this means he will be doing work for Square still -- but the "at his own pace" doesn't sound very reassuring.

Monday, November 01, 2004

News: Sony PSP
Posted by JayGo :: 10:11 AM

More news from Sony now, who appear to have decided to do Nintendo's negative publicity for them..
Question marks over the 'real-world' battery life of the PSP remained today, following comments made by Sony Computer Entertainment's Ken Kutaragi in a recent interview with Impress PC Watch which add weight to fears that the handheld console's lithium battery is currently ill-equipped to handle the more graphically intensive games for more than a couple of hours.

Tellingly, Kutaragi admitted: "A puzzle game will last longer, but Ridge Racer will probably be shorter than that." An interesting comment that is a logical, but obvious observation that any game that maxes the PSP's capabilities out will cost the battery life dear. Anyone expecting game which constantly stream data off the disc, such as Grand Theft Auto or Sony's own The Getaway will most likely be disappointed, with Sony keen to ensure all games pass stringent battery life tests before being released.
The article goes on to say that the battery life shall be improved in future iterations of the PSP.. which begs the question of quite what the point of being an 'early adopter' is. You pay more, get a worse product, and barely get to play the games you bought the thing for. Well, I'm sold. On the Nintendo DS, at least. If you haven't got the battery power to keep such a high powered machine running for a long time yet, then maybe that's an indication that you shouldn't be releasing it yet..?

Still. Wonder what they'll call the improved second version of the PSP. The PSP Advance? The PSP SP?


News: Resident Evil 4
Posted by JayGo :: 10:01 AM

If Blogger eats my text again this time, I'll scream. Much like the Resident Evil fans who went out and bought a Gamecube, I guess...
A PlayStation 2 version of the hugely-anticipated Resident Evil 4 will be released in Japan at the end of 2005, Capcom has confirmed, ending the long-term exclusivity arrangement it had previously signed with Nintendo. The move could also pave the way for long overdue ports of other previously GameCube-exclusive titles Resident Evil Zero and the well-received remake of Resident Evil.

Capcom will certainly be aware of the benefits of cross platform releases, with SEGA having enjoyed huge success with Sonic Heroes this year, with the firm announcing its first European million-seller in years. Capcom will no doubt realise the same fruits are on offer if it can finally co-ordinate its Resident Evil release strategy once and for all.
First Monkey Ball, now this. Is there such a thing as a third-party exclusive left for the Gamecube? Sure, it's still getting the games.. but it looks like the success of the last year or two of the life of the console will be solely reliant on Nintendo games alone. I mean, not a bad company to have exclusively, but still. The Legend Of Zelda can only take you so far. They'll need more.

Hmm. What sports hasn't Mario played already? I guess Super Mario Power Hockey isn't too far off...

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Review: Donkey Konga (Nintendo Gamecube)
Posted by Chris :: 6:56 PM

Oh, "Konga" I get it. It's a pun. Clever, Nintendo.

Now usually I despise the DDR-esque type games. (*ducks from Josh*) Mainly because I can't stand the techno-y bullshit music that accompanies them, plus I don't like to sweat when I play video games. Add to the fact that I'm a clumsy motherfucker, and you have a sad night of falling on my ass and having 12 year old Asian girls pwn me. So pretty much like every Saturday night out, then.

But Donkey Konga, this is a whole new beast here. Why, you may ask? I get to beat on shit! One of my most favoritest pasttimes. Now I've had people tell me that I should have been a drummer. It just comes naturally to me. I'm very good at keeping rhythm with my hands, so now Nintendo has given me an opportunity to experiance DDR-esque gameplay without the humiliation and degradation.

As in all Rhythm Based Games, DK has specific drum cues for each button on the controller. But in this case, instead of a controller you have... wait for it... a KONGA DRUM. Word. This thing is very cool. Using the Konga Drum, you have four different notes to hit. The left and right (yellow and red, respectively. Brother.) notes, the double (pink, as you hit both left and right together) and the kicker dynamic of the game, the clap note. That's right, you get to clap along with the music. Aww yeah. There's also a colored bar that calls for you to hit the appropriate note as many times as fast as you can to get more coins. I'll go over the coins in a minute. For each note you can either get a Great, OK, Bad, and a Miss. You can Combo your Goods and OKs together for some long combos, but miss a note or hit a Bad note and your combo is dead in the water.

DK is broken up into 6 different modes of play. The meat of the game is Street Performance, where players drum away at different songs in order to gain coins to purchase things like mini-games and extra drum beats in the DK Town. Street Performance has 3 Difficulty levels. Monkey, Chimp, and Gorilla. Money = Somewhat Challenging. Chimp = Hard. Gorilla = OH HEY'L NAW. But the Gorilla difficulty songs you have to purchase in the DK Town. Also available are Monkey, Chimp, and Gorilla Jam, which is essentially the same as the others, but with one catch. You'll had to have the other levels beats memorized. Yeah, I tried this one time and one time only. The other modes are Challenge, where you try to pass as many songs as you can in a row. Jam Session, where you can play any of the games songs you like. Battle, where you battle with a friend in Multiplayer, DK Town and Ape Arcade, where you go to play your purchased mini games. The Mini Games are ok, at best, but they're nothing more than a glorified Hit-The-Gopher-With-a-Mallet style game and others.

Now, a game like this would live or die depending on it's song selection. Drab songs do not a fun game make. Fortunately, Donkey Konga has a very interesting selection of songs to choose from. Some I didn't even see coming, really. The song list is as follows:

Diddy's Ditzies
Campfire Medley
Pokemon Theme
Kirby Right Back at Ya
We Will Rock You
Like Wow
Wild Thing
I think I Love You
Louie Louie
The Locomotion
Shining Star
All the Small Things
Rock This Town
You Can't Hurry Love
Right Here Right Now
Dancing in The Street
Rock Lobster
Stupid Cupid
The Impression That I Get
What I like About You
Whip It
Busy Child
Para los Romberos
Sing Sing Sing with a Swing
Oye Como Va
On the Road Again
Hungarian Dance #5 in G MInor
Turkish March
DK Rap
The Legend of Zelda Theme
Mario Bros Theme
Donkey Konga Theme

Each song has a Bongos Rating ranging from 1-10 Bongos. And when a song has an 8 Bongo Rating on Monkey Level, you can damn well bet that it's gonna be fucking hard. Unfortunately, however, the songs are not performed by the original artists, leaving a nasty Kidz Bop taste in my mouth. But I can overlook that on the majority of the songs. All The Small Things still sucks though, no matter who sings it.

Pros: Fun fun fun, especially if you're a drummer-type person like me. Some catchy tunes and the Nintendo Tunes are greatness. The learning curve is pretty easy, too.

Cons: HARD HARD HARD, especially if you're a un-coordinated klutz like me. Kidz Bop style songs which will irritate the hell out of you. Did I mention sometimes frustratingly hard?

Personally, I had a freaking blast playing this game. One of the most fun games I've ever played, really and very addictive. But as a objective score I give Donkey Konga a...

Out of 5.

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