Lack of blogs and reviews...

You may have noticed i haven't really been active on GS at all - in Unions, System Wars, blogging or user reviews. Inversely: my time spent going through my backlog of games have increased, tremendously.

I don't know when i'll start resuming reviews but for now i've just rated the games i've completed. If anyone would like to read my review of a particular game in my recently rated games list, don't hesitate to ask - i'll consider wirting it.

Anyway, here's a "small" update on game related things;

Guilty Gear was an excellent price of £5, about the price of a simple takeaway meal.
I have opened all but Trauma Center at the moment.
Played through RE: UC co op - very good game within its genre.
Ghost Squad completed single and co op - Average. Worth picking up on the cheap.
Link's Crossbow Training, yet to finish all missions - Good value with 'gun', challenging.
Metroid Prime 3 - Stunning environments, some aspects were underwhelming.
Playing through Okami right now - simply beautiful.
Finally fiinished Sub Space Emissary in Super Smash Bros Brawl...*uh hum*...
Half Life 2: Episode 2 was excellent, it's right up there with HL2.
Completed Luigi's Mansion in around 2 days (between work, sleep) - Very good, but very short.
I'm also playing through Resident Evil Zero on the GC. Very good so far...

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2 New games i got in the last 2 days: Mario Kart Wii and Boom Blox.

Mario Kart Wii was very good, i've only played through 3 cups in 50CC, all with just the steering wheel. I've yet to try online, Wiimote + Nunchuck, Gamecube Controller.
I haven't tried Boom Blox yet, i'll give it a go once i've done these 2 things - complete Final Fantasy IV DS (very almost there), and Bioshock PC (just about nearing the end).

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Gaming Blog 23-09-08_Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations (DS)

There is one franchise that has me captivated on the NDS this generation and that is Phoenix Wright. Granted, the games were originally on the GBA, but the additions made possible by the NDS make the games worth playing all over again. What was it that kept me hooked on the series? I think it's all down to the characters' development and personalities, the quality of the script, the unique gameplay mechanics and above all, the humour. First, i'll say that the second Phoenix Wright was a slight disappointment after the stellar first game - mostly stemming from my expectations that it will continue and expand on evidence manipulation and mini-puzzles rather than the quirk that was the psychelock. With this in mind, my expectations for Trials and Tribulations (3rd in the series) were somewhat held down. Does it warrant my worries though? Actually, no...

While the game takes place after the second game, it does flashback to before the first game when Mia Fey was still alive - a perfect opportunity to tell more about her past in respect to the Fey heritage. Actually, the entire game revolves around the Fey family; the chapters answer questions regarding the Fey traditions, family bonds, the spirit channeling powers while also pulling in a mysterious prosecutor who turns out to be so relevant to the livelihoods of the main characters. If you're new to the Phoenix Wright franchise, then this isn't really the best place to start. The game can be played by new players but the bulk of the enjoyment comes from the humour and development of the beloved characters from start to finish.

For those who've played the previous games, the game almost looks identical to the previous games. While animation is excellent, a lot of it is recycled. The exceptions come about with new characters, each with their own movements and music themes. The familiar music and sound effects are also heavily recycled, although they do do a great job - you have to be wearing earphones to appreciate the audio. As always, you can shout into the microphone for raising objections or pressing the witnesses - if you can brave the outburst in front of others.

So if the gameplay is exactly the same and that even a lot of the animations and sounds are recycled, what is it that makes this game a stand-out title? While the game still does not feature those small puzzles I liked from the first game, the script is just so good to the point that it makes those small details forgivable. Trials and Tribulations tie up the loose ends from both the first and second game and enriches the history of some familiar characters. In this respect, the game oozes fan-service of the best kind - you even control Miles Edgeworth (both friend and adversary in the first game) at one point. The other negative to point out is that sometimes it's not entirely obvious when to present evidence while fully knowing the contradictions behind it - the game can be picky and this sort of ups the difficulty. To say it in other words, you do know the contradiction in the testimony but you might eventually resort to a guide to progress because it was that specific part of the testimony with that specific evidence.

After completing the game and reflecting on my experience, I'd have to say that the creation of the series is masterful. People argue whether video games are not just mere entertainment, that they are not mere toys and that they are also an art form. My personal opinion on the matter is that videogames are a business, yet it can bring forth entertainment AND art to the player. Are videogames at the same level as movies? No, in fact, I think it's higher - or at least, have the potential to be much higher. A movie may impact a viewer emotionally through a story but the movie will still be limited by the natural disconnect of viewer and footage. A videogame can tell the exact same story through the exact same footage - the difference however, is that the viewer can be affected in a much more substantial way due to interaction. Simply due to interaction, a story/experience is capable of changing in a way that will grow the bond between videogame and player. What has this to do with Phoenix Wright? Well, I mentioned that videogames have the 'potential' to be on a higher plane than movies; Phoenix Wright achieves that level of storytelling at least as good as movies and novels, and it does so with so much enthusiasm through the animations of the characters. If someone were to compare scripts between the mediums, Phoenix Wright or Ace Attorney is a fitting profile to use. The series stands out in my mind simply for achieving that level in this still-growing industry. Well, enough about that, lets finish up this review -

To sum up Trials and Tribulations, this is almost on par in being as good as the first game. This is a must buy for fans of the series, and although new players can get into it starting from this game, I highly recommend them not to. The nature of how you connect with the characters like a good novel lends itself to be best experienced from beginning to end - like the beginning to end of Phoenix Wright's career as an attorney at law. Fittingly put, this 3rd game in the series is actually a sort of finale because the next game from Capcom is called Apollo Justice, the name of the new protagonist in a much younger generation. I'm not sad about it that much because this 3rd outing was scripted so well, the sense of closure was there.

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Gaming Blog 16-09-08_No More Heroes (Wii) Review

No More Heroes is a game which has rode on the hype built from the previous Suda 51 game, Killer 7. While Killer 7 is renowned for having styIe over substance, Suda Goichi has managed to throw the game title well into the cult end of the audience while gaining praise for delivering on some unique gaming experiences. Killer 7 was criticised for certain design choices, No More Heroes pulls a very similar stunt but has now struck a great balance between fun, styIe and substance. Suda 51, also known as Suda Goichi (Goichi is 51 in Japanese) has once again drawn this new title in cel-shading graphics.

There is actually more to the story than the game really dwells on. As the game puts it, 'gamers these days have no attention at all' - and the opening cutscene is kept short and direct. Travis, the protagonist, meets a 'hot chick' in a bar one night. In a drunken state, he accepts her offer to solve all his troubles. Travis then buys a beam saber in an internet auction and sets out to kill some tough guy under the "chick's" orders. All it boils down to, is to become the number 1 assassin. If he does reach no 1, Sylvia promises to 'do it' with him. At this point, you'll be thinking, WTH? and WTH? is probably the best summation of this game - in the good way . Even if the game doesn't dwell too much into the details; the script, dialogue, settings, and the characters show much, much more in the game world of Santa Monica.

NMH is first and foremost a 3rd person action game. Still, playing the game is split between 2 very different gameplays. One is open world in which you travel from location to location, the other is in 'linear-corridor' combat - a build up of waves of enemies until you reach a boss. While the open world is full of odd pop-ups, full of texture pop-ins, riddled with awkward physics, lacking any real sense of interaction, lacking in population/life, you may begin to question if there's something wrong with the game or was the game really finished? No, it's not just your copy of the game or a problem with your specific Wii, the game IS like that. . In some ways, the open world may just have been better if it was menu-driven but upon further reflection, it is rather charming in it's quirky Suda 51-sense. Am I making sense? Well, the game allows you to ride your very unique motorcycle in a very cool fashion although the controls can feel a tad awkward. The side missions contrast the underground assassination jobs. Picking up coconuts after knocking them off trees or mowing some guy's lawn, or working at a petrol station are only fun the first time round. Thankfully, completing these odd jobs unlock the more fun but seedier jobs.

Thankfully, the game really comes into it's own in terms of the combat and the bosses. After saving up enough money from side jobs and assassination jobs, you deposit your money to the 'association' which organises the ranked assassin fights. You go back to your motel room, get the location details through letter or through your fax machine and then make your way towards the chosen battleground - this scenario is repeated between each ranked fight and so there is some repetition to go through. Combat does not involve motion-controlled-swinging-beam-saber as one would have guessed. In fact, to hit, you press A. Depending on how you tilt/hold your Wiimote, you can change between a high and low stance to vary your attacks. Locking onto enemies with the Z button will make you automatically block attacks. When an enemy is nearly dead, you can execute a finishing move which requires you to swing the Wiimote in the prompted direction. If you so require, you can daze enemies with a punch/kick with the B button. Holding B will execute a strong melee attack. There are advantages to using this attack to work your way through enemy blocks and also to unleash some wrestling moves (executed by some very nice nun-chuk/Wiimote motion sensing). If you down an enemy, you can kill them instantly with a finishing move by pressing A while standing above them. Pressing the D-pad directions, left, right and down will make Travis dodge by rolling in said direction. You also have to keep an eye on the battery power of your saber, without power your saber is useless. Just press '1' and then shake your Wiimote to recharge it, . Did i mention the roulette? Well, once you take out an enemy, a roulette will start rolling and if you get 3 matching icons, you'll enter 'dark-side mode'. While you're in this mode, you suddenly become much stronger through a variety of ways: shooting power-balls, instant execution moves, slowing down time etc. By the time you've read up to here, you're probably wearing this face: ? and shouting WTH!? It's totally understandable but please continue reading before thinking this is all too ridiculous! Once you get to grips with how to play the game fairly quickly, the game does one thing extremely well - and that is FUN. No matter how much the game will spit in the face of 'serious business' and 'realism', the game is really fun. Dispatching hordes of enemies and finishing them off with some satisfying swings of the Wiimote doesn't get old even after completing the game 2 times over. The cut-scenes are well-made with excellent voice acting and is something which makes you anticipate what's ahead; this is where most of the production value is to be found, a stark contrast to what you're treated to in the bulk of the gameplay. What I haven't mentioned yet is that the game always pulls up a surprise round the corner and will probably leave you smirking (that is, if you've been gaming for a long time and has become so accustomed to 'how things should be in games').

While I've talked down on the visuals (I've yet to talk about the horrible jagged lines you'll see, especially on a high resolution screen), it feels as though the game is intentionally being so. The mini-map is crude and full of pixels, and i don't mean in terms of the pixels in the 480P resolution, i'm talking about huge pixels as though you're seeing it on a Game & Watch stretched out onto a TV. Even the start menu is full of these abnormally large pixels. These retro touches serve their purposes but seem to be an excuse to not put some more effort into the presentation. The music comprises of remixed versions of the same No More Heroes theme but with a scattering of more unique tracks - the remixes aren't exactly all brilliant but it does one job really well and that is to suck you into the pace of NMH and make you want to live out Travis' battles and experience through the entire game. Other than the music, the sound effects aren't exactly special. Generic enemy sound generic, fighting sounds are how you'd imagine them to be, the exceptions come about with retro beeps (and they do invoke a sense of nostalgia).

When it comes to replay value, there is not much, but more than most games within its genre. I completed the game 2 times to watch the 2 endings available (satisfying, I have to add), both times in different difficulties. The easiest setting is in 'sweet', 'mild' and 'bitter' being more difficult: seeing as your strength and abilities are retained from your 1st play-through, my experience of the latter difficulties weren't substantially hard - it was more of a walk in the park with the exception of a boss or two. The collectibles (concept art, t-shirts, wrestling masks) are a nice addition too so your repeat plays don't feel too much like a waste. And if you liked the 'random' scrolling shooter game, you can play it over and over from your room - despite having unlimited continues, there's breathing space for the adept players to shine and feel satisfied.

All in all, Suda 51 has managed to pull of a fun game despite pushing technical issues to one side. You'd think texture pop-ins, pop-ups, little to no anti-aliasing and a very bland overworld would be unforgiveable sins of gaming, but NMH pulls it off. The rather weak presentation which is mostly masked by the retro effects don't affect the gameplay all that much. In fact, these decisions seem almost intentional, shouting out to everybody that it really doesn't matter to the point that it affects gameplay - taking gaming down to the base of interaction and the pure joy of it. Whether people accept this or not is another topic for discussion elsewhere - what I think most people would agree on is that NMH has an all-round fun combat system which is exploited well in spectacular boss fights. Extra kudos are to be awarded to games which invoke unique emotions while being ultimately. NMH does it and I have to recommend the game knowing the mixed feelings people may have are things to be experienced at least once.

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Gaming Blog 05-08-08_Taiko NoTatsujin DS:Touch De Dokopon! Review

 
While the NDS is enjoying a sleuth of music/rhythm games such as Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! (or the Western equivalent - Elite Beat Agents) and the more recent, and well-marketed, Rock Band On Tour, there is one more music title lurking in the background known as "Taiko No Tatsujin DS: Touch De Dokopon!". TaikoDS is a portable translation of the much-loved arcade game Taiko No Tatsujin which features the unnervingly large, 'japanese Taiko drums'. While the arcade version is played standing up, can recognise drum hits to the side and on top of the drum skin, and also doubles up with a 2 player mode, just how well does the portable version stack up in recreating that fun arcade experience? It is also quite evident from the name alone that this game is only available in japanese. But because the NDS allows region-free gaming (so a japanese game will work on an american or european NDS) the question is, "is it import-friendly?" - It's a music game, yes it is.


Wait till the red/blue beats reach the line and then tap!

There is no specific story to this game and so non-japanese gamers aren't missing out. The tutorial it provides is self-explanatory with good visual instructions and you can start drumming and tapping the on-screen Taiko in seconds. At most, import gamers will miss out on the 'unlockables' which you access in your 'Room' (text heavy). You also have to take notice of the middle bottom button in the song-selection screen to adjust difficulty levels - also handy for replay value. TaikoDS is as intuitive as tapping a table with a pen in tune with a beat, simply due to the touch screen capabilities of the DS, although if you wanted to, you can just press the buttons and shoulder triggers - but where is the fun in that? The 2D visuals are nice, clean and cartoony and has it's own japanese-quirky charm. With the cute Taiko mascot beckoning you on, you have to drum and tap in time with the red and blue beats moving across from right to left. Hit 75% of the notes and you pass, hit all of them and you are rewarded with a gold crown.


Keep at the game long enough and you'll have a stack of silver/gols crowns.


Unlock presents as you progress but just try reading these messages...

The song list has a lot of variety: there are some childrens' songs, some cla-ssical, some techno, some japanese Pop here and there, and even the Mario theme is included. Beginners playing on 'easy', will get to grips with the game and won't find it too easy. Long time rhythm game players will plough through 'easy', and find good challenge in 'medium', 'difficult', is obviously difficult and beating this level will actually unlock a harder mode which i'd find nigh on impossible! Regardless, people of all skill levels can find a good balance with the songs and difficulty options. By the time i was playing on difficult, i'd questioned whether i had to resort to double DS pens! There is one other thing when it comes to difficulty though, is that the game allows you to play with buttons instead of tapping and is an easier way to play the game - i'd choose tapping over buttons though as a way to remain faithful to the 'Taiko-drumming spirit' ( ).


Get enough crowns and you'll be rewarded with a cutscene.

The game also allows multiplayer via Wi Fi and is perfect for those competitions between fellow Taiko players - unfortunately, multiplayer requires each player owning a copy of the game. There is much replay value in this game considering you can go over every song in every difficulty aiming for that Gold crown, that is, if you can bear hearing the same songs over and over again. I almost forgot to mention that the sound is of bad quality through the NDS speakers, but plug in some earphones (or into your PC speakers if you want) and it'll sound great. The game is very accessible: almost all ages can play, requires no previous experience with any game, and even for those who don't understand japanese can play it. Venturing through the menus, you can also customise your mascot in a variety of colours, outfits and accessories, all of which is unlocked as you complete the game. Trying to fill out your inventory is rewarding and is something that makes you want to try and be a completionist. While the game does well in trying to recreate the physical arcade experience, i'm a little disappointed: the game can be played easier by just using buttons and the tactile hitting of a drum is just not quite the same. Due to size of the small touch screen, you can often mistakenly hit in/out of the drum as you focus on the timing shown on the top screen. Despite these negativities Taiko No Tatsujin DS: Touch De Dokopon! is one really fun, and portable rhythm game.


Here's the 'room'. Like my pimped up Taiko guy?
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