Rock Band Unplugged Review

Final Verdict: 5/5 Stars
The Good: Great port while staying true to the Rock Band experience. Good song list. Fun, hectic, gameplay.
The Bad: Poor load times. Some minor frame rate issues.  

      Ok, so I received an advance copy from Sony and thought I would throw up this blog until I can write a real review. I have logged about 15-20 hours and just completed the world tour. So let me get this out of the way: This game is freaking awesome. Granted I was a huge fan of frequency and have fond memories of that game, but I remember one thing... that game was really hard. I guess RBU takes a page out that book. The learning curve is steep! I have played tons of rhythm/music games so I assumed it would be safe to jump into the world tour on expert and I was quickly humbled by the warm up songs. I was forced to play through the majority of the world tour on hard until I finally had some confidence on my ability to play. So lets get onto the gameplay:
   So this game doesn't play like Rock Band... well, you still have the world tour mode, similar to the 360/PS3 version of RB1 and 2, but the actual gameplay is just like Frequency/Amplitude. For those of you who didn't play that game it works like this: You control all four instruments by switching back and forth. You have to clear small sections (you must get 100%) to lock the instrument in something like an auto play mode. This way you can switch to another instrument and not worry. Now do this for all four instruments at once and you can appreciate the difficulty and sheer insanity that actually makes this game totally awesome. You still are playing note charts that look exactly like what you find in RB, and in fact the game is skinned and looks exactly like RB. You play with up, left, triangle, square (defualt controls that is) which correspond to the green, red, yellow, and blue notes. You switch tracks with the shoulder buttons and deploy overdrive with the x or down arrow. Learning how to switch and manage your instruments is all the fun of this game, it is a total rush. Now for the technical side:

   So load times sucks, its a PSP game, get used to it. It isn't something that completely breaks up the game play, but it takes a while to load up the set. The frame rate is fine most of the time, but I have noticed a few laggy moments when overdrive is first engaged and there are tons of notes flying by. Another problem is that it can be very hard the hit chords (actually what is hard is hitting both buttons without accidently hitting one a split second ahead). Also, it can be a bit hard to put up with the fast parts, (most notably, the drum sections in "Less Talk More Rock") and sometimes it can be hard to tell if it is a chord or just fast notes. Luckily there are orange lines to let you know the notes are chords (for all instruments, not just drums). You can customize your controls all you want, I haven't messed with it personally, though I am sure it might be helpful. My major complaint is that there isn't a breakneck speed mode like in RB2. I guess I am spoiled.

    The verdict? This game is totally awesome. The shortcomings are easily forgotten when you five star your first song and get that good feeling of mastering four instruments simultaneously. The song list is a bit short (compared to RB2 that is) but it is still a solid set, not to mention DLC is forthcoming. If you have a PSP, like music, like puzzles, or just like good games, you need to check this out. It is a refreshing take on a classic formula and it is a great way to port the Rock Band experience to a portable system. Guitar Hero take note, this is how to port a music game to a portable system.


PSP rental service on the way

     I just took a survey today for Sony as recommended PSP user. The bulk of the survey dealt with a "unnamed PSP rental service". The survey broke down into several categories for content in different proposed "memberships" which included:
Subscription period: Plans ranged from weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi annually, and annually.
Monthly fee: after locking in on a period, monthly fees ranged from $5 a month to $15. (Total yearly cost never exceeded 49.99 for a year plan)
Number of rentals a month: This ranged from 1 to unlimited rentals a month.
Number of new games released a month: This ranged from a disappointing 0 to as high as 20+ a month.
Availability for rental: This ranged from "Day of release" (implying it would be available to rent same day the game could be bought either in store or online) to "12 months after release"

    Though the survey didn't have actual fixed numbers, it did imply 3 types of memberships. It followed the trend of:
1.) A yearly membership (usually around $40-$50 for the year) that allowed unlimited downloads but games tended to be at least one month after release.
2.) A 3 month or 6 month membership (monthly fees averaging $10-12) these would have a limited number of rentals, usually 5-10, but most games would be recent, ranging from day of release to 3 months after release.
3.) A monthly membership (though usually the cheapest, if you had it for a year it was the most expensive, much live xbox live gold being cheaper to buy a year and a month) This membership offered a very limited number of downloads, usually topping out at 5 a month and didn't recieve newer games and possibly no new releases in that month.

     The survey also clearly stated that you would have to go online with your psp to authenticate your games every time your membership renewed. It also claimed that a massive update to the number of titles was on the way.  It also implied retail copies of PSP games would still be available in UMD form (unlike what Patapon 2 did).

    The survey closed with several questions about storage space and the importance of "gaming on the go". Nothing was mentioned about a hard drive, but there was a lot of inphasis on the lack of storage on the PSP.

    This survey dealt only with the PSP and there was no mention of the PS3 or charging for Playstation Network.

    Nothing was set in stone, but seeing as the main focus of the survey was this "unnamed PSP rental service" I would expect to hear about this service along side the reveal of the new PSP (currently known as PSP Go!) at Sony's press conference at E3.


Square tees up: another swing and a miss

So Infinite Undiscovery is still sitting on my shelf collecting dust and here I went and got another lack luster 360 RPG by Square. The Last Remnant is unique and quite possibly great, but all the technical flaws make it hard to watch and play. I am going to grind my way through this game because, unlike Infinite Undiscovery, there is a decent story and great battle mechanics. I want to review this right now and give it a dissapointing 2/5 stars, but I know this game deserves a 3/5.

All in all, im upset with Square, this is another dissapointing title to hit the 360. It is like they dont even know how a 360 works. The game feels rushed, its a shame too. With a nice coat of polish, this game could have been great instead of just ok.


Left 4 Dead = insomnia

   I would talk about how amazing everything is in Left 4 Dead, but at this point the awesomeness should be obvious. I was actually not sold at all on this game and was about to write it off as another generic shooter... then I played the demo. Needless to say, trying to beat that demo on expert with any 3 friends I could track down online has proven to be more important than sleep lately. Check out the demo and ramp up the difficulty, its not fun until your shrieking with fear as hordes of zombies meet you at every turn or when a smoker pulls you away when you thought everything was finally OK. I am very excited for the final product, no idea how I will manage to beat the full campaign on expert, but I will damn well try.


Suddenly I care about Mirror's Edge

    So while ignoring my work I happened to find the demo for Mirror's Edge on the Playstation Store and figured it was worth checking out. Beyond an artistic perspective, I never really saw what was so amazing about the game and it looked flat out unplayable. Oh, I saw the light. The game has been compared to Assassin's Creed many times and this game puts Assassin's Creed to shame as far as the free-running aspect. The controls are tricky and it takes time to get used to, but once you can run through a course at full speed you see the true intention of the game. It handles simply wonderfully and the pace is very fast. If you haven't tried the demo, try it now because this game wasn't even on my radar and now I am trying to find the spare cash to pick this one up when it hits the shelves on November 13th.


Games I have been playing 9/22/08

I have been rather busy lately, but I did manage to play some games as I dislike missing any good releases. So here is a quick breakdown of the games I have been playing:

Spore (PC)
First Impression: 4/5 Stars
Final Verdict: Undecided
I broke down and got this despite my laptop having the power to run the game beyond minimum settings, so I am ignoring graphical issues and frame rate issues. I will admit I did enjoy the game a whole lot and even played it 16 hours straight after installing. Though in retrospect, the creature creator is the most fun I had in the game and beyond the creature phase the game-play no longer shines. I enjoyed the simplistic game-play of the early stages but the space stage was rather complex. I liked the game, but the hype seemed to die all too quick. I might settle down with the game one more time to review it, but right now, I am satisfied knowing I have the game on my shelf for a rainy day.

Tales of Vesperia (Xbox 360)
First Impression: 4/5 Stars
Final Verdict: Undecided
I am a huge fan of this game and series so I am just stating that from the start. To be honest, the last two entries in the franchise has failed to live up to Symphonia but I see Vesperia as a worthy successor. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, proving that artistic graphics can be good graphics. The story though some-what lame and predictable is told through a wide variety of voiced scenes and skits boasting a great cast of voice actors. Though this game can be short for an RPG, I still have about 40 hours clocked and I believe I am only 2/3's of the way done. I am not about to give out an easy 5/5, but this game proves RPGs can exist in the modern age of gaming and still maintain the flavor of the golden age of RPGs without having to re-invent the genre.

Infinite Undiscovery (Xbox 360)
First Impression: 2/5 Stars
Final Verdict: Undecided
First off, I got a kick out of seeing my roomate's review of this game pop up on the blog (CuChulain). This game was very hard to play coming off of Tales of Vesperia. It has excellent visuals but thats about all the game has going for it. The voice acting was horrid and everything about the game seems rough and unfinished. I will admit I have not played enough of this game to even begin reviewing it, but from the little I played I was extremely underwhelmed. Tri-Ace, you can do so much better...

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360)
First Impression: 4/5 Stars
Final Verdict: 3/5 Stars
I have finished the game, two runs, one on apprentice, one of sith lord. I will admit, the demo sold me and I still think the first level is still the best. The force powers are a lot of fun, but the game soon takes care of that by making almost every opponent immune to the force making you utterly worthless. I don't want to talk too much as I will most likely be posting a review in the near future. All I will say is this game could have been amazing and I want to love it so much more, but there is so much working against this game that should have been resolved before shipping.

Yggdra Union (PSP)
First Impression: 3/5 Stars
Final Verdict: 3/5 Stars
I am a big fan of RPGs and Strategy RPGs even more so. The simple, yet deep, gameplay can be very addicting. You can chalk up this game as another good SRPG and good addition to the PSP library. The interesting battle system will have you coming back for more despite the weak story and mediocre voice acting. Review is already posted so check that one out if your are interested. If you like SRPGs or just RPGs in general, check it out if you need some love for your PSP.

That about wraps up all the games I have been playing for about the last month or so. I might flesh out some full reviews, but for now I think these impressions speak well enough for my take on all these games.


Operation Darkness: first impressions

    So I have spent my free time for the last few days playing Operation Darkness for the Xbox 360 basically because I figured it was worth a shot. I played the demo when it was first released and found the game fun, but extremely hard to play and that holds true to the final retail version of the game. I have logged roughly 15 hours in the game thus far and completed the first 8 campaign missions. The story is alright, nothing amazing, but enough to make you want to keep playing. The voice acting... I don't want to say bad, but it is definitely not good. The graphics are rather poor, it would have been better suited on the PS2 in my opinion. After all this, why am I still playing it? The honest answer is that the game is fun to play, but this comes from a fan of strategy RPGs. The character development is also just enough to keep it interesting and borderline entertaining to play. I might review the game if I finish it, but the truth is, I rented it and would not recommend paying the 60 some dollars for the game. For the typical gamer it is a definite pass, and for the hardcore SRPG fans I would suggest checking out the demo before buying. If I were rating it now it would get a 2/5 stars, but for some reason I just keep playing so maybe I just might change my mind.