Hardware Review: HKS Racing Controller

As a huge fan of racing games, it’s understandable that I wanted to give the HKS Racing Controller a try. I used to love experimenting with controllers that had unique designs, such as the mammoth Barracuda controller for the original Playstation. While most controllers and gamepads that I’ve tried out over the years have been forgettable for the most part, the HKS Racing Controller stands out as one worth a test drive.

The shape of the HKS Racing Controller is identical to a standard PS3 Sixaxis controller, so what makes it different? Well, the D-Pad is now located where the right analog stick used to be, and the right analog stick has moved to the left side of the controller. The original left stick, which has been swapped out for a sort of diagional wheel-like disc and is located where the D-Pad used to be. The X and square buttons have also been replaced with pedals. That’s right, pedals.

If my description is confusing anyone, then this picture should make things more clear.

Pretty snazzy, huh? What isn’t clear in the picture is what the digital display is in the middle, which I’ll explain. It apparently tells you how hard you are accelerating or braking, but I haven’t paid much attention to the display because, when I’m racing, the last place I’m going to be looking is at my hands rather than the TV screen. It’s still a cool addition though. Nobody should ever object to having a digital display on their controller!

There are two switches on the back of the controller. One switch changes the configuration of the controls while the other one allows you to use L2 and R2 for braking and accelerating. These switches are probably great for some people, but after playing with the controller using the default settings, I really can’t imagine altering the control scheme at all.

How does the diagional “wheel” feel for driving? In all honesty, it’s the best anyone’s going to get without buying a wheel. The controller’s steering wheel reacts with excellent precision, and performing various driving maneuvers are executed with silky smooth accuracy and control. Never before have I been able to overtake or weave in such a fluid manner. You really do feel like you’re controlling your vehicle, not just telling it where to go.

The pedals are just as impressive. I found that pressing and holding down the pedals rather than the buttons on the standard Sixaxis was much easier on my fingers than I could have ever anticipated. Unlike with the Sixaxis’ buttons, you do not have to hold the pedals down tightly to achieve satisfactory results. There is a bit of feedback to the pedals and you really to have to use a bit of effort to push them in all the way, but this is the way it should be. Overall, the pedals felt great and gently pressing them down was very relaxing in comparison to the buttons on the Sixaxis controller. Your fingers are definitely less likely to get sore after extended periods of play with this controller.

The surface of the controller also feels fantastic. The plastic is definitely a higher quality than what we get with the Sixaxis and, as a result, the HKS Racing Controller is extremely unlikely to become clammy after long periods of play, or when passing the controller around in a room full of several players. It feels smooth and retains a dry texture the entire time you are using it.

The only problem I have with the controller is that it is not cordless. Still, the wire is at least ten feet long, so unless you play your Playstation 3 from across the entire room, you shouldn’t have any issues at all with the cord.

So, is the controller worth it? In one word, definitely. Gamers who want a little more control and precision when playing racing games but do not want to lay down a few hundred dollars for an actual racing wheel may want to invest in this affordable controller instead. In terms of effectiveness, the HKS Racing Controller probably sits somewhere between a racing wheel and the Sixaxis, but with the steering precision of a wheel and the small size of a Sixaxis controller, how can you possibly go wrong for fifty bucks? Overall, this is a mighty fine controller.

Hardware Rating: B+

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Crystal Defenders (Review)

“A surprisingly pleasantly tower defense game that can roll with the best of them.”

It’s difficult for any tower defense game aspiring to be the “next big thing” to really make it on the scene anymore thanks to PopCap’s Plants vs Zombies. Crystal Defenders, by Square-Enix, is one of those rare tower defense games that is not only very enjoyable, but is good enough to challenge the behemoth that is Plants vs Zombies.

Crystal Defenders is a Final Fantasy themed tower defense game that takes place on fairly large maps which require the player to place various different units down to deter the oncoming waves of monsters. The objective is to prevent the monsters from reaching your crystals at the end of the path. Each map is essentially just a long road that the monsters walk. They never attack you directly, but the threat of them snatching your crystals is always very real. If you lose all twenty crystals, it’s game over.

The selection of units appears limited when you first play, but you quickly get used to it. There are six classes to choose from most of the time and the most common are soldier, black mage, archer, white monk, thief, and time mage. Soldiers are the brute force of your army and essentially just hit hard – really hard! Black mages thrust fire spells at oncoming monsters and, along with the long range archers, are able to hit airborne monsters. White monks are average fighters who do not hit as hard as soldiers, but they have the ability to hit several monsters at once. Thieves cannot attack, but if a monster dies within their line of sight, you will get a huge cash bonus. Time mages, of course, possess weak attacks and the ability to slow monsters down.

There are various summons as well, each consuming five crystals when called, making them very risky to use. One summon, Phoenix, pumps up the attack and abilities of your army for the duration of the attack wave, while the Ramuh summon unleashes a devastating lightning attack across the entire map that will deliver lethal damage to all living monsters. Both sound very useful but, as I said, they consume five crystals when summoned. The whole point of the game is to protect the crystals, so really the only time to use one of these summons is when you believe that five or more monsters will reach the end, since most monsters steal one crystal each.

With each kill, you are awarded gold which goes towards leveling up your units. Once you are several waves in, it becomes apparent that the key to success isn’t placing many units but leveling up the ones you have already deployed instead.

The gameplay is simple and never gets too complicated, but it is extremely strategic and, when you clear a wave of monsters that seems particularly difficult or frustrating, you get a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Winning in Crystal Defenders really does feel extremely rewarding due to it’s ruthless nature, which is much more than I can say for the casual-friendly Plants vs Zombies.

The graphics are pretty basic and look like late PS1 or early PS2 graphics. The entire map and all units are 2D sprites, but since this is Square-Enix you just know that the graphics have to be at the very least decent looking. They’re not overglorified, but they do the job and are in some ways mildly cute.

Crystal Defenders’ music is very impressive, though. It sounds a lot like the music from Final Fantasy Tactics, which is no bad thing at all. The music may seem like a bit too much for a tower defense game at times, but that does not hurt the game or the music at all. Crystal Defenders is a real joy to listen to, believe me.

Overall, Crystal Defenders is a fantastic tower defense game and I feel that it is impossible for me to choose between this and Plants vs Zombies as the better tower defense game. If you’re a fan of old school tower defense games, or like Plants vs Zombies but want something a little rougher, then this is the game for you.

Crystal Defenders is available on the 360, PSP, Playstation 3, Wii, and most mobile phones. Since pretty much everyone owns at least one of those platforms, there really is no excuse to miss this game if tower defense is your thing. Check it out.

Final Score

8.6/10

Back to the Future: The Game (Review)

“A love letter to the fans of the Back to the Future trilogy which should not be missed.”

I was never really a fan of point and click adventure games. I’m not sure if I can offer a valid reason as to why, so I’ll just go ahead and say that the genre as a whole isn’t my cup of tea and I rarely ever like adventure games in even the slightest amount. The only exception, ever, was Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. That game strayed a bit from the typical adventure formula, so it may not even count.

However, I can now say that there is a point and click adventure game that I feel I really and truly enjoy. Back to the Future.

Based on the amazing film trilogy from the late 1980s and early 1990s, Back to the Future: Episode 1 is the first of five stories that will ultimately make up the full game itself and is, in a way, Back to the Future 4.

The game picks up a few months after the end of Back to the Future 3. Doc Brown has been gone for some time and his belongings and property are to be sold off. When the DeLorean unexpectedly shows up outside of the Doc’s house, Marty is practically forced to investigate.

After using the time traveling DeLorean, Marty is taken back to the year 1931 where he finds out that Doc Brown has been imprisoned and is linked to burning down Hill Valley’s speakeasy. The rest of the episode deals with Marty trying to bust the Doc out.

Overall, Episode 1 is fairly short, and most people should be able to get through it in about two and a half to three hours. Considering that there are several more episodes to play through in the coming months, this isn’t such a big deal and I imagine that the full game, complete with all five episodes, will run about as long as most games out there today.

The graphics in Back to the Future aren’t really pushing any boundaries as they aim for a cartoon-like presentation. I found the graphics to be a little off-putting initially, but they quickly grew on me and I ended up liking the graphical style quite a bit. The graphics aren’t bad at all, they’re just done in a different style than we’re used to.

The sounds of the game are pretty decent. Music is mostly in the background and not too distracting, and actual sound effects also take a backseat in favour of the voice acting. The voices are definitely the high point of the game’s sound department. A few actors from the film series lend their voice to the game, the most notable being Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown who does an absolutely awesome job in the role considering he hasn’t had to voice Doc Brown so much in well over a decade. Michael J. Fox unfortunately does not voice Marty, but the guy they got to play Marty (AJ LoCascio) sounds so much like Fox in the films that it is almost scary.

Since the environment is fully 3D and the player has to hold down the mouse and move it around to tell Marty where to go, I found the controls to be a little awkward. I never really seemed to adjust to them, and they are perhaps the greatest strike against the game in my opinion. In this day and age, poor controls are almost impossible to find in a game, so it baffles me that Back to the Future seems to have a control scheme that feels like it was lifted straight out of a ten year old game.

For fans of the Back to the Future series, there are a lot of references and little hidden goodies that the player will spot as they play. Those who are not overly familiar with the film or even the setting won’t notice too much, and will probably just chug through the game.

Overall, this is a very fun adventure game that feels like a love letter to the fans of Back to the Future. If you’re a fan of the movies, then you’ll most certainly have a lot of fun with this game. However, if the franchise doesn’t really appeal to you, then this game may not be your cup of tea solely because the game practically relies on the player knowing the characters and the setting. People who haven’t watched the movies or bothered to remember finer details will probably have absolutely no idea that Kid Tannen is the father of Biff Tannen, the fellow who bothered Marty’s father in high school.

So, if you like the Back to the Future series, then this is definitely a game that you should play! If you’re not, then check out the movies before playing this game.

Final Score

8.5/10

 

Mortal Kombat Rebirth Receives Green Light

Remember that Mortal Kombat Rebirth trailer that spread like wildfire across the internet last summer?

The trailer was a reimagination of Mortal Kombat by director Kevin Tancharoen that he had put together to pitch to Warner Bros. in hope of the studio giving him the green light to make a new Mortal Kombat film in the Rebirth style.

For months, nothing was ever really heard regarding Mortal Kombat Rebirth until a few days ago when it was revealed that Rebirth will be a ten part web series rather than a full motion picture.

Rebirth will be distributed by the Warner Bros. studio, so the project will certainly have proper funding. Tancharoen will of course direct, as he was the mastermind behind this all along. Michael Jai White, who appeared as Jax in the Rebirth trailer, will reprise the role for the web series. No news yet if Lateef Crowder, Ian Anthony Dale, Richard Dorton, James Lew, Matt Mullins, or Jeri Ryan will return.

Shooting for Mortal Kombat Rebirth begins in February. The location is Vancouver, British Columbia. If anyone is in the area, see if you can sneak a few glimpses!

Most Requested Marvel Vs Capcom 3 DLC Characters

Click here for my Super Marvel vs Capcom 3 roster predictions.

After digging through the forum communities at Capcom Unity, GameFAQs, and Shoryuken for several days, I was able to compile each of their “request DLC characters” topics into a single handy list. In their topics, they asked users to vote for three Capcom characters and three Marvel characters that they would like to see added to Marvel Vs Capcom 3 as DLC.

The list I made from combining the topics from the three sites contains votes from HUNDREDS of users. With so many possible characters for hundreds of people to choose from (over 300 were named), every single one in this top 25 should be viewed as a fan favourite, or as a character that should receive careful consideration from Capcom to join Jill and Shuma-Gorath on the DLC roster.

Below are the top 25 requested characters according to the results of all three sites combined as of January 10, 2010.

Keep in mind that the three sites are still continuing their DLC request topics for another 10 to 15 days each. I would imagine that the final results from all sites are likely to be mostly the same as what’s below, only with higher numbers.

Feb. 20, 2011 Update: It’s been several weeks and the numbers below have risen substantially, with the highest voted characters having about 1600 votes. I won’t bother tallying them up again, since I am aware that the results would not change significantly from 1st to 15th. While the number of votes listed below are outdated, the positions of the characters are not.



It’s a bit of a shock that Street Fighter’s supreme bad dude fills in the last slot of the top 25 requested character list. Many folks online have been hoping dearly for more Capcom villains, since the Marvel side has a substantial amount. It makes some sense that everyone’s favourite dictator is so low though. After all, his moveset isn’t really fitting for the Marvel Vs Capcom sort of gameplay.


Back in the 1990s when the X-Men animated cartoon aired each Saturday, Rogue was a pretty big deal and she was probably on the minds of a lot of little boys who were just entering puberty. In this day and age, Rogue’s relevance is much lower, but she is still a fan favourite. She was an enjoyable character in Marvel Vs Capcom 2, so it makes sense to see that some fans want her back.


Street Fighter’s sex appeal. Marvel Vs Capcom 3 looks like it will probably have enough female characters aimed to give teen boys dirty thoughts, and with Street Fighter’s leading lady Chun-Li already on the roster, Cammy’s inclusion seems pretty unlikely. Still, she would fit the gameplay of Marvel Vs Capcom 3 very well. It seems that a few dozen people already knew this, though.


Originally presumed to be in the game’s final roster, it is looking extremely unlikely that Frank West will appear in Marvel Vs Capcom 3 as anything other than DLC. Considering the fact that Capcom seems to think that western gamers are obsessed with Frank, it is unusual that he has been relegated to being nothing more than a character who people wish make it in as DLC. What a crumby way to treat a guy who has covered wars, Capcom.


I personally know nothing about this Marvel character, and I don’t really want to either. The fact that people want her in astounds me. What is the appeal? There’s nothing I can really say about this character, so next up is…


The prime villain of the Mega Man X series. A lot of fans want Sigma in since Capcom’s side lacks villains and Sigma can easily fit into a game like this. Sigma has appeared in pretty much every Mega Man X game there is, and has had countless different bodies and forms. There is so much possibility to work with here, and Capcom would probably be doing the game a huge favour by including this versatile Maverick villain.


Marvel Vs Capcom 3 needs more giant muscle-freaks. The Hulk fits the bill and Haggar is deemed such a character by crazed fans, but those two are not enough. The seventy two people who said “Juggernaut!” know very well that this game needs another mammoth character, and Juggernaut would do nicely. He was pretty fun in the previous Marvel Vs Capcom game. This brute works great in fighting games such as this. Capcom should definitely consider adding him.


Unfortunately I do not know much about Iron Fist, though my feelings towards him are definitely better than how I feel about Squirrel Girl. Iron Fist has an interesting design and I can definitely see a character like this working in Marvel Vs Capcom 3. He seems to have a solid fanbase, and adding this character should definitely please the Marvel readers.


Bass.EXE comes from the Mega Man Battle Network games. I checked them out once and felt incredibly underwhelmed, and I don’t think that I got a chance to see this character in action. Still, the original Bass from classic Mega Man was a great character, so I don’t see how this incarnation of him could be any worse, especially since he received a good number of votes.


Here’s a name that not many people mentioned for the longest time when discussing Marvel Vs Capcom 3’s roster or DLC characters. However, all that changed when a fake reveal picture of Green Goblin as a character emerged on Facebook. Since then, he has been on the tongues of many people. It’s not hard to imagine why, since Green Goblin is by far Spider-Man’s greatest rival ever. Green Goblin would be a solid addition to the cast.


One of the protagonists from Cyberbots, Jin is a Marvel Vs Capcom veteran after being a playable character in the first two games. He has a tremendously solid fanbase, and very few people seem to outright dislike the character. Jin is extremely off the wall and a blast to play as. Also, “BLOOOODIAAAA!” His exclusion is a puzzling one, as he was a very original character. Hopefully Capcom will bring Jin back to his fans.


The most requested Darkstalkers character after Felicia and Morrigan, who are both in the game. With Hsien-Ko expected to be announced soon, it makes Jon Talbain’s exclusion very painful. While a lot of people call him a “generic werewolf” and other things, it is impossible to overlook how his quick fighting style would fit the Marvel Vs Capcom gameplay brilliantly.


And now we break 100 votes per character with another veteran character, Captain Commando! Once upon a time, this guy was Capcom’s mascot. When he was added to Marvel Vs Capcom, he earned a brand new fanbase. I consider myself among those fans, and mained Captain Commando in the previous two Marvel Vs Capcoms. His exclusion has me incredibly bummed out. I’m glad that 100 people want him in. The 101st voter was me, you see.


After being added to the Vs series once again in Marvel Vs Capcom 2, Cyclops quickly re-established himself as a fantastic character in a fighting game. His optic blast was great for punishing new players, as well as those who just can’t close gaps. Considering that Cyclops is essentially the leader of the X-Men and has many fans, his exclusion is very peculiar.


The Marvel character I would like to see added the most! Ms. Marvel has a whole slew of interesting powers and has a very attractive design without looking overly slutty. Marvel could probably do with one or two more female characters on their side of the roster to counter Capcom’s large number of females. Ms. Marvel would be a great choice to balance the roster out.


I know of Dr. Strange and have seen him many times in the media and in pictures, but I’ve never really checked him out at all. Therefore I don’t know as much as I would like to about this character, but I am aware that he has tons of fans. I don’t even follow Dr. Strange and I recognize him, so he’s pretty iconic. Adding an iconic face to the roster would be a smart move.


Pretty much the same as Dr. Strange. An iconic character that I know very little about. I didn’t even watch the supposedly horrendous Nicholas Cage movie. I would imagine that Ghost Rider would be a little difficult to implement though, due to his bike.


The protagonist from the successful PS2 action game God Hand, Gene is a character that many fans are clammering for. Before I saw quite a few people suggest this guy for the roster, I had no idea who he was, and I thought “God Hand” was just a character in the PS1 fighter Ehrgeiz. Well, I was definitely wrong on that one. After checking out a few God Hand videos and such, I can see why a few people would want this guy in.


Surely a face that is familiar to those who have played Devil May Cry. I, unfortunately, never have. That may sound surprising, but I mostly skipped over the PS2 in favour of the Gamecube (don’t shoot me, please). I’m sure that Vergil must be pretty awesome though, since he is from the action packed Devil May Cry series.


To be honest, and even though I voted for her myself, I’m surprised to see Psylocke make it so high and I had no idea that she was so popular. I don’t really read comics and always thought that Psylocke was just one of those random underdog characters. After trying Psylocke out in Marvel Vs Capcom 2, I grew to love her fighting style and her moveset. In my eyes, she would definitely be a welcome addition to the third installment.


It looks like, after two Vs games with classic Mega Man, fans have gotten sick of him. X has been requested almost non-stop since the game was announced. It seems that everyone wants X in over classic Mega Man. I suppose I can understand why, as X’s power-ups are much more varied and interesting. His default armor also has many more interesting powers that classic Mega Man does not have. From a gameplay perspective, X would be vastly superior to classic Mega Man.


I want to understand this Phoenix Wright craze, I honestly do. Niitsuma stated that Phoenix Wright wasn’t in because there is nothing to base a moveset on for him. He literally does not fit this sort of game at all. What is he going to do, smack people with briefcases? Shout “Objection!” speech bubbles that float around and damage opponents? The fact that Marvel’s Phoenix is also acts as a strke against Wright since their names are so similar.


One of the most iconic Spider-Man villains and a fan favourite veteran from the past two Marvel Vs Capcom games. Venom has always been a huge blast to play as, and his incredibly unpredictable moveset that can punish players from across the screen has always been full of awesome attacks. The only reason why I think Venom may never appear in Marvel Vs Capcom 3 is the fact that he is always drastically changing shape. That’s gotta take a toll on the RAM.


The most requested Marvel character, and for good reason. Gambit has appeared in more Capcom fighting games than you can shake a stick at, and was incredibly fun to use in the previous Marvel Vs Capcom games. As one of my main characters, his exclusion makes me feel pretty upset. Still, with so many people begging for him to be DLC, there is still hope for everyone’s favourite Cajun!


And here he is. Come on, everyone probably saw this coming, right? Strider Hiryu’s popularity reached incredible heights with the original Marvel Vs Capcom. I instantly took a liking to the versatile moveset and awesome hyper combos that came along with Hiryu. Out of all the characters on this list, his exclusion from Marvel Vs Capcom 3 is the biggest shocker since after Ryu, Spider-Man and Wolverine, Hiryu is the face of Marvel Vs Capcom. What gives, Capcom?


And here’s another little treat. Characters that I didn’t include in the top 25 and the number of votes they received. I ignored all votes from Akuma, Hsien-Ko, Sentinel, and Taskmaster since they are presumed to be the final four characters and are expected to be revealed this month sometime. None of those four characters even received enough votes to make it into the following list anyway. I assume that they didn’t receive many votes because people feel pretty sure about their probable inclusions.

26th: Silver Surfer (56 votes)
27th: Emma Frost (56 votes)
28th: Thanos (49 votes)
29th: B.B. Hood (48 votes)
30th: Daredevil (44 votes)
31st: Mega Man.EXE (44 votes)
32nd: Carnage (32 votes)
33rd: Mega Man (42 votes)
34th: Date Masamune (41 votes)
35th: Juri (41 votes)
36th: Blade (39 votes)
37th: Chuck Greene (38 votes)
38th: Jedah (38 votes)
39th: Dr. Wily (37 votes)
40th: Nightcrawler (37 votes)
41st: Dr. Octopus (36 votes)
42nd: Roll (32 votes)
43rd: Cable (31 votes)
44th: Nico Minoru (31 votes)
45th: Namor (30 votes)
46th: Tessa (29 votes)
47th: Ryu (Breath of Fire) (28 votes)
48th: Howard the Duck (27 votes)
49th: Regina (27 votes)
50th: Moon Knight (26 votes)

So what does this list tell us?
It tells us that Capcom had better add Strider Hiryu unless they want to deal with rioting fans! The amount of support behind Hiryu for DLC is really incredible. It’s also apparent that there is a lot of respect for the other MvC1 vets, Captain Commando and Jin Saotome. The low number of votes for Roll should, hopefully, be a sign to Capcom that we just don’t want her in the Vs games anymore.

The bottom line? Add Strider Hiryu as DLC. Licensing issues be damned, it must be done!