Final Fantasy VII (Review)

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Boy, am I ever starting to feel old. It’s hard to believe that it has been sixteen years since Final Fantasy VII was released. What’s less hard to believe is that the game has been given a brand new release on Steam so many years later because, hey, Final Fantasy games stand the test of time perhaps greater than almost any other franchise out there. So, to celebrate the return of Final Fantasy VII on Steam, I’m going to review the game for those who haven’t played the game. Yes, there are still people in this day and age who haven’t played this massive game! Continue reading

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Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (Review)

Before I even begin to get into my review for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, I feel the need to say that I don’t read comics, nor do I follow anything that happens in the Marvel universe. A lot of the hijinks that the superheroes get themselves into are unknown to me, so please forgive me for not going into much depth with the characters in this review. With that out of the way, let’s get on with the review!

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (MUA2) is the latest superhero action RPG churned out by Activision and various developer studios (different studios made different ports). In MUA2, players assume control over several Marvel heroes and anti-heroes in their quest to combat an issue that forces all mutant superheroes to register with the government.

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About 60-90 minutes into MUA2, a sequence of events occurs that brings about this whole registration act that forces all mutant heroes to register with the government or be deemed criminals. Two iconic characters are at odds with one another over the issue, however. Captain America is against the mutant registration act, refusing to adhere to it due to several reasons that he deems immoral. Taking the side of the government is Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man. Up until the point in the game where these two are at odds, everything is just dandy in hero land. However, after it becomes evident that these two iconic heroes do not see eye to eye on the issue, the player has to pick which side they want to be one, Anti-Registration or Pro-Registration. Which side you choose determines what your headquarters are, what missions you will temporarily be assigned to, and what characters will be available to you.

In terms of characters, it is worth noting that there is a lot of variety in MUA2. While certain characters will only join you if you’re for or against the registration act, you will still always have tons of heroes to choose from. Captain America, Deadpool, Gambit, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, Venom, Wolverine, and a dozen other characters will be able to travel with you. Since you must always have a team of four heroes, there are a lot of cool possibilities and I imagine that comic fans will be able to make some great dream teams.

For those who aren’t familiar with the gameplay, even though I’m reviewing this game several months after it’s release, I’ll go over how MUA2 works. As I mentioned above, you have a squad of four heroes at all times. The game is divided into several mission arcs in which you guide your heroes through fairly linear levels obliterating foes, defeating bosses, and performing tasks that progress the story.

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The gameplay is deemed action RPG. I get the action part pretty well, but this game is too linear to be considered an RPG, with the whole RPG element being nothing more than dialogue options in conversations and where you want to allocate skill points that your heroes earn when they level up. I will admit that yes, it’s fair to label the game an RPG, but the action part of the game takes center stage.

Attacks are mapped to the X and circle buttons, while square serves as a pick-up/throw button. Trademark superhero moves can be performed by holding a shoulder button (I played on the PS3, so it was R2) and then pressing either X, circle, square, or triangle. The player can switch to any character in their squad whenever they want by pressing any button on the d-pad.

Missions are insanely action packed, and I found gameplay to be kind of like Diablo only with four Marvel superheroes instead of one fantasy inspired character class. There are many waves of enemies in each mission, and they’ll often come at you in very large waves that initially look a little overwhelming. Fortunately, special attacks easily dispatch most foes, and fusion attacks (which is when two characters join their powers together for an attack) will prove to be absolutely devastating to almost any enemy that will challenge the player aside from boss characters. Some fusion attacks are very cool, like when you pair Ms. Marvel and Wolverine together. The pair will use their respective powers to unleash a devastating AoE attack that will decimate any enemy within range. Some characters do not really “match” with others however, and you will just get a sort of generic fusion attack when pairing incompatible heroes together. The gameplay is fast and hectic, so if that’s your cup of tea then this is definitely a game you’ll enjoy.

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The graphics are surprisingly nice for a console action RPG title. While environments are fairly detailed and nice to look at, it’s the character models that really seal the deal for me. Each and every hero is packed full of detail, which is really impressive since the camera is usually zoomed out fairly far from them. Deadpool, Iron Man and Spider-Man in particular look really outstanding. Unfortunately a lot of NPCs aren’t crafted quite as well, with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Maria Hill being a prime example of this.

In terms of sound, MUA2 does a fairly good job. Most of the music tracks are very fitting of the locales you will visit, and it’s worth noting that while some tracks aren’t very exceptional, there really isn’t any bad music in this game at all. Sound effects are pretty good as well, though it can be a little difficult to distinguish one sound from another in the heat of battle, due to the insane amount of sound effects being generated by your four man team as well as from the enemy forces that can number over one dozen most of the time. Voices are very good in this game, with heroes such as Captain America or Wolverine really stealing the show. A few characters could have probably done with better voices though, because I felt a little underwhelmed by Deadpool and Ms. Marvel. Deadpool’s humour seemed too forced and Ms. Marvel’s voice actress just didn’t have enough “oomph” for such a powerful and prominent female figure in the Marvel universe.

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With all the good out of the way, I’ll comment on the few bad points I have with this game. First is the camera. Despite being able to control it and rotate it around, it can still find itself in odd locations and won’t always provide you with the best view of the action. Second nitpick is the ingame menu that allows you to swap heroes and distribute skill points. It’s a pretty clunky menu, and I find that it’s slow to navigate and just overall feels fairly sluggish. MUA2’s menu is one of the very rare ones that feels like a console menu that was meant for the PC.

As a whole, MUA2 is remarkably solid. The story is interesting and the gameplay is a blast. Considering that you can play cooperatively with a friend or online, it adds even more to MUA2’s already outstanding gameplay. The entire package is well above average and, while not great, really is a lot of fun to play. Anyone who enjoys action RPGs or even just Marvel comic books will most likely find a lot to enjoy in MUA2.

Final Score

8.2/10

Flying Hamster (Review)

“An excessively crazy and cute side scrolling shooter that anyone can pick up and enjoy.”

While poking around the Playstation Store’s Minis section for something to play on my PSP, I happened across a curious sounding title. Flying Hamster. I read the description and realized that the game was side scrolling shooter, like Gradius or R-Type. Considering the fact that the player assumed the role of a hamster, I just had to check the game out to see what it was like. Well, after playing the game quite frequently on my PSP, I can say that it’s a pretty fantastic shooter.

In Flying Hamster, you play as a hamster who is constantly trying to rescue his girlfriend hamster from the clutches of evil. Just before the start of each level, the protagonist’s girlfriend is captured by the boss of the next level. It’s all done in a really adorably cartoon-like anime style that you can’t help but chuckle over. The game’s cuteness is so over the top that it is absurd. That does not mean that the game is just a cute little romp for kiddies, no. While the presentation of the game may be very sugar coated, there is a very dark sense of humour in this game. In the first level, cows that use their udders as machine guns attack the player, and in the following level that is set in the desert, penguins with parasols try to shoot down the player with pistols. Yes, you read that right… Penguins in the desert.

The joy of Flying Hamster is that it makes practically no sense at all. The game is just mindless fun, and it plays like something straight out of 1990. If the graphics were a little lower quality, this game could easily pass as something straight out of the Super Nintendo’s library. That is in no way a bad thing, since the Super Nintendo had a healthy amount of fun shooters. Flying Hamster is perhaps even more enjoyable than any shooter on the SNES. The game’s insane levels of quirkiness help it along quite a lot, but the gameplay is also extremely solid. Controls are very fluid and precise, so missing your targets or failing to avoid incoming projectiles will always be your own fault.

Flying Hamster is divided up into roughly half a dozen stages which are all themed. Throughout the stages, the player will have to dodge all sorts of zig-zagging enemies and projectiles while shooting down obstacles and stage bosses. The bosses are pretty fun in this game and definitely make you smile. The bosses start out moderately easy with a giant owl that shoots homing lasers from it’s eyes, but the game will quickly ramp up the difficulty slightly, though the game never becomes as difficult as other games in the genre. I think most of the reason for this game being fairly easy is the fact that you are able to take three hits before dying instead of just one, and the powerups are pretty darn powerful.

My two favourite power-ups are the beer and the fire. The beer will make the player squirt little dabs of beer, but when it is charged up, prepare for projectile vomit-like streams of beer! It’s a prett gross (but hilarious sight) and, fortunately, it’s strong as hell too. The fire is in the same boat as the beer. If you fire it without charging it, you’ll just shoot off weak little shots, but when the fire attack is charged, our little hamster spews a steady stream of fire that obliterates everything in it’s way! There are many other power-ups to collect, such as homing bees and boomerange bananas. All of them are pretty silly and should put a smirk on your face.

The presentation is what really sells this game, though. The graphics are ridiculously cute (just look at the screenshots in the review) and the music is so light-hearted and fun. It really is impossible not to be captivated by this charming little game. I had a recent play session of the game where I hooked my PSP up to my TV and everyone in the room got a kick out of all of the hilarious and silly things happening on the screen.

I honestly cannot give this game a low score or not recommend it to anyone. It’s such a lot of fun to play, and the crazy presentation of the game even appeals to people who don’t like side scrolling shooters. For only a few bucks on the Playstation Store (as well as on the iPhone App Store), you really can’t go wrong with having this game in the palm of your hands.

Final Score

9/10

WackyLands Boss (Review)

“A game that finally lets us fulfill our boyhood fantasies of being fifty feet tall and capable of destroying farming villages.”

WackyLands Boss is a game with an extremely simple premise. In this quirky little game, you are supposed to play as the bad guy. You see, you get to control a character known as “The Boss” which is a essentially a giant ogre that is capable of tearing through the ranks of the “heroes” who come at your boss in waves upon waves in an effort to bring it down.

The gameplay is moderately enjoyable, hovering somewhere around the average mark. You move your boss left and right through stages, using various light and heavy attacks along with a few special attacks that you can perform when your rage bar fills up, which does so whenever you take damage.

I found WackyLands Boss to be fairly fun to play, because it was interesting to be able to play as a screen filling giant for once. I wasn’t really able to connect with the game’s supposed story however, which just involves destroying the countryside merely because you’re one bad dude. The story indicates that heroes are out to stop you, but instead you will just find lots and lots of identical looking characters with identical sound effects rushing at you, and none of them are any bit difficult to dispatch. Even the bosses are frighteningly easy.

The sound really isn’t worth mentioning a whole lot. All sound effects are incredibly generic, and the cries and screams from the heroes you kill or set on fire can be simply annoying at times. The music is pretty low key and just feels like background noise most of the time. The music doesn’t sound bad or anything, it just isn’t immersive at all.

The graphics are without a doubt the best part of this game. Your “boss” is more often than not very goofy looking or even downright cute depending on how you customize it. In between levels, you are able to customize it’s face or buy clothes and weapons for it. There are lots of hilarious combinations that you can make with the eyes and mouth, and I got quite a kick out of making my guy look absolutely thrilled and happy as he squashed knights and set archers on fire.

WackyLands Boss is not a revolutionary game at all, but it has some interesting ideas that aren’t implemented nearly often enough in games these days. The gameplay is pretty decent and certainly has some charm, though it can get repetitive very quickly and can suffer from being far too easy of a game.

Final Score

7.6/10

Mortal Kombat Unchained (Review)

“The ideal package for anyone craving a Mortal Kombat experience on the go.”

At the time of this writing, the new Mortal Kombat on the 360 and PS3 is approximately a year away. In the meantime, MK fans will surely need something to spend their time on, right? While Mortal Kombat vs DC may be a good choice, there are those who do not have a 360 or PS3. This is where the PSP comes in.

Unchained is essentially Mortal Kombat Deception on the go. While this game even predates Mortal Kombat Armageddon, remember that Unchained is the only MK title on the PSP. So despite being a few years old, is it worth your money even today? In short, maybe.

As I mentioned, Unchained is just Mortal Kombat Deception, only with a few bells and whistles. Before I talk about what is new in Unchained, I’ll talk about what is carried over from Deception.

First off is the core fighting system. It has not been altered or downgraded at all for the PSP, so fans should be happy knowing that they are getting the full Mortal Kombat experience. Characters look fairly good and aren’t far off from what we saw on the Gamecube, PS2, and XBox several years ago. This is quite impressive considering that the game features thirty characters on top of the various game modes present.

Konquest mode, which was a boring and slightly unpleasant experience in Deception, is even worse in Unchained. I commend Midway for packing the full Konquest mode into a little PSP fighter, but it’s clear that they had to downgrade the mode quite a bit. The visuals are nothing short of ugly as they resemble graphics from the early 32 bit era. Collision detection is very suspicious as well, as I found myself trying to reach coins and treasure chests only to hit invisible walls where there shouldn’t be any. I would then find out that the invisible walls belonged to nearby trees or support columns that were barely even on the screen. Konquest mode also features a camera that is essentially impossible to work with. You use the L and R buttons to rotate the camera, which you will have to do almost consistently as the camera obscures your character or gets stuck on random objects littering the environment. The camera actually got itself stuck on a tree when I was playing. It was bizarre to have myself running down a straight path only to then have the camera jerk far to the right. I couldn’t see what I was doing, and it wasn’t even pointing anywhere near my character. Fortunately rotating the character restored the camera angle, but this still shouldn’t have happened in the first place and is slightly inexcusable.

The actual fighting mechanics are exactly the same as they were in the console version. Unfortunately, it is a little harder to execute many moves and combos properly on the PSP, and I frequently found myself blocking or switching fighting styles accidentally. You see, the L button switches your fighting style and the R button blocks. My fingers have a habit of venturing towards the top of the PSP and resting there, so it should be quite obvious what happened whenever I would be fighting. I would frequently try to execute a combo only to have my finger accidentally press the L button and switch my fighting style, ruining whatever I was trying to execute.

The controls are also just as clunky as ever, which seems to be a Mortal Kombat tradition. Armageddon seemed to improve the core gameplay of the 3D games tremendously, but unfortunately Unchained doesn’t have anything to do with Armageddon. Deception’s gameplay was certainly an improvement over Deadly Alliance, but playing this game today, after enjoying BlazBlue, Street Fighter 4 and Tekken 6, I cannot help but cringe at the unresponsive controls and sluggish movements of the characters. If you adapt to how Unchained plays then you will certainly be able to do well, but just getting to the point where you want to succeed in this game may be the difficult part.

Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat remain fully intact and are fun little diversions to sink your teeth into. Despite being a blatant rip-off of Puzzle Fighter, I quite enjoy Puzzle Kombat and it is perhaps my favourite part of the game. Chess Kombat is fun to play once or twice, but it loses it’s appeal pretty quickly.

The currency system and Krypt are still fully intact. Unfortunately I cannot stand the currency system in this game, as there are several different kinds of coins that you can obtain. Armageddon had one universal coin that you could use to unlock everything. Deception/Unchained instead decided to use five or six different coloured coins (onyx, sapphire, platinum, etc.) which you randomly obtained by fighting and playing Konquest mode. In the Krypt, you unlock things by spending a certain number of coins on whatever coffin you wish to open. Considering the fact that there are hundreds of coffins which all require different coins, things get a little ridiculous. Since all characters are unlocked from the start, there really isn’t a lot to look forward to in the Krypt, and unlocking things just becomes a boring chore very quickly.

So, what’s new in Unchained? There are a few additional characters and a new game mode. In terms of characters, Goro and Shao Kahn join the cast from the Gamecube port of Deception, while Blaze, Frost, Jax, and Kitana return from Deadly Alliance. This is the only version of Deception to feature the four from Deadly Alliance, so it’s quite a nice game to have. Pretending that Armageddon never existed, it’s fun to see fights between Frost and Sub-Zero, or Kitana and Mileena. I’m a little bummed out that Johnny Cage and Sonya weren’t able to return from Deadly Alliance, but I am just completely puzzled by the fact that Midway decided to omit Quan Chi and Shang Tsung from Unchained.

The new game mode happens to be one that Mortal Kombat should have had since the beginning, and it is Endurance Mode. This is essentially a survival mode in which you fight an endless wave of AI fighters. I have always enjoyed survival modes, especially in Tekken, because it’s fun to see how far I can get before an opponent finally defeats me.

So aside from a few new characters and a survival mode, there is nothing else new in Unchained. Konquest mode on the other hand has been butchered significantly, downgrading the visuals to an almost uncomfortable level and screwing the camera system up so badly that it hinders your gameplay experience. However, the core fighting system is still intact and is certainly enjoyable if you are a devoted Mortal Kombat fan. If you’ve ever wanted Mortal Kombat on the go and need something to slug away at until the promising Mortal Kombat 9 arrives next year, look no further than Mortal Kombat Unchained.

Final Score

7.3/10

Tekken 6 (Review)

“Despite a few minor shortcomings, this is the best Tekken to date.”

So it has taken me half a year to finally cave and review Tekken 6. This is odd considering I picked this game up on launch and that I like it very much. This may be a good thing however, as I am reviewing Tekken 6 after clocking dozens of hours in it.

First off, what is Tekken? It is a fighting game series by Namco that has enjoyed considerable success and is, without a doubt, the most respected 3D fighter. Tekken may not be able to garner as much respect as Street Fighter, but it isn’t far off.

The Tekken games all revolve around the King of Iron Fist Tournament and the Mishima family members behind it. Originally started by Heihachi Mishima, control over the tournament and the Mishima Zaibatsu (the “family business” of sorts) has bounced around between himself, his son Kazuya Mishima, and his grandson Jin Kazama throughout the course of the series.

In Tekken 6, it is Jin Kazama who controls the Mishima Zaibatsu and is the one behind the King of Iron Fist Tournament 6. Typically the one behind the tournament is usually a bad guy, and given how Jin was the series protagonist from Tekken 3 onward, some may be confused as to why Jin is hosting the tournament in Tekken 6. Jin has his reasons for doing so, and I won’t get into them since they are quite spoiler heavy.

To find out what’s going on with Jin, players will have to play through the Scenario Campaign mode. This is a beat ’em up sort of game mode and plays like a heavily upgraded Tekken Force. In Scenario Campaign, players will play through a few dozen stages, fighting notable Tekken characters at the end of each stage as bosses and uncovering more about the game’s story after beating each stage boss.

Scenario Campaign primarily follows the adventure of two new characters, Alisa Bosconovitch and Lars Alexandersson. The game will encourage the player to use Lars as their character, though once you beat a stage boss they will become playable in Scenario Campaign. Lars then becomes sort of “optional” for Scenario Campaign, but all cutscenes will still feature him as well as Alisa.

I found Scenario Campaign to be very tedious. It wasn’t overly difficult (except for the optional secret stages) and I never died too many times. What made Scenario Campaign tedious was the fact that, overall, it wasn’t really a lot of fun. It didn’t do anything very interesting and the gameplay was mediocre at best. Despite the fact that your character controls exactly as they do in the standard fighting game modes, camera issues and hordes of AI enemies will make pulling off certain moves difficult. The only incentive to playing through Scenario Campaign, besides uncovering the story, is item collecting. At random, fallen foes will drop treasure chests which contain items for character customization. Beating stages will also grant you bonus currency that you an use to unlock new items.

Scenario Campaign really throws a lot of these items and coins at you, making it the best way to unlock items. While you may receive nearly 200,000 coins for beating a two or three minute stage in Scenario Campaign, a fight of any length outside of this game mode will regularly only net you between 2000 and 5000 coins. This makes fighting, the main focus of the Tekken games, become an unviable way to unlock game content.

Speaking of the actual fighting, I think that I should move on and talk about that. Simply put, it’s great. Tekken 6 has the best fighting mechanics in the entire series. Juggles have become more lethal, health bars have been extended, and “rage” power-up has been introduced when players are almost defeated. The changes to the juggle system, as well as bouncing becoming more prominent, has led to many people criticizing Tekken 6 and saying that all players have to do to win is juggle the opponent, since they last longer and inflict more damage now. This is just nonsense spouted by people who took the game’s features out of context. You will so rarely have trouble avoiding being juggled or beaten senseless that it isn’t an issue. I’ve had a few rounds with friends that have been a little unexplainably one sided, but this happens so rarely that it just doesn’t impact the enjoyment that we get out of this game.

Before I forget, Tekken 6 introduces an impressive six new characters to the roster, bringing the total number of selectable characters in Tekken 6 to an amazing forty characters, a huge number for a fighting game.

The new characters are probably the best crew of newcomers since Tekken 3, which was notable for introducing Jin Kazama, Ling Xiaoyu, Hwoarang, and Eddy Gordo to the series. Tekken 6 does an equally impressive job with it’s cast of fighting misfits. Alisa, Bob, Lars, Leo, Miguel, and Zafina make up the cast of newcomers.

Alisa, mentioned earlier, is a cyborg creation made by Doctor Bosconvitch and created in the image of his daughter. Alisa is a very speedy character with several bizarre attacks which make her very unpredictable to fight against.

Bob is an overweight American who likes to fight. He is essentially a fat version of Paul in that regard, though he plays entirely different from his fellow countryman. Bob is surprisingly fast and graceful, and is sure to beat down players who underestimate him simply because of his appearance.

Lars is apparently the new poster boy for Tekken, acting as the main protagonist in this game. Lars is Heihachi’s illegitimate son who rebels against the Mishima family, intending to bring it down. He plays like a standard Mishima, but with much more flair.

Leo looks like a gender confused Rock Howard from King of Fighters. Leo is called both female and male ingame, so this can make things a little confusing. However, after using Leo once, you will be able to draw your own conclusions as to which gender this character is. Fortunately, Leo is quite beginner friendly and can kick quite a bit of ass.

Miguel is a Spanish brawler with no defined fighting style, instead opting to just beat his opponents until they can’t move any longer. Miguel is probably my favourite new character. He has a very badass look and his moves look just plain painful as he smashes opponents in really brutal ways. Stick with Miguel and learn his moves, and you will be rewarded greatly.

Zafina is weird. I could just leave it at that, but I’ll explain a little. Zafina is Tekken’s new sex appeal icon, quickly (and thankfully) demoting Lili who was introduced in Dark Resurrection. She is a Middle Eastern (or perhaps North African) assassin who fights using animal themed stances such as Mantis and Tarantula, as well as a third stance called Scarecrow. In these stances, particularly Tarantula, Zafina will bend her body in very peculiar ways and become incredibly unpredictable. I haven’t been so confused by a character since Eddy Gordo’s floppy introduction in Tekken 3.

So Tekken 6 is a great game, but what are it’s flaws? There are four, and I’m going to go over them.

Flaw #1. Character rankings work the same in Tekken 6 as they did in the previous game, meaning you will start at beginner before progressing through the kyu ranks until you hit 1st dan. Unlike Tekken 5, this is the highest rank you can reach offline. If you want to progress through the rest of the dan ranks and go even higher, you will have to play online.

Flaw #2. The second player cannot use custom costumes made in the character customization. In offline versus and team match, this can be a little annoying and, when player two selects and uses a default costumed character only to face off against player one’s Eddy Gordo with an afro and pink clothes, they just might feel a little left out. I count this as a very significant flaw because it only favours the first player and shows that Namco neglected putting much effort into local multiplayer, instead opting to make online fighting the main draw.

Flaw #3. The final boss, Azazel, is borderline ridiculous. I really enjoy difficult bosses, but only when they are legitimately difficult. Azazel’s abilities and tactics are questionable at best, and if you fight the beast without using boring and cheap tactics, then you’ll likely find yourself becoming frustrated.

Flaw #4. The graphics. Tekken 6 was originally released in arcades a whooping two years before seeing a console release. In this time span, Tekken 6 went from being a visually amazing fighter to, well, a mediocre looking one. To Tekken 6’s credit, the game does look great in motion due to the animations and stage lighting being absolutely fantastic, but the graphics are overall on the dated side.

These four flaws are actually fairly small. Character rankings really don’t even matter, the lack of 2P customization is nearly forgotten after extensive play sessions, Azazel is rarely fought, and the graphics never dip below average.

Overall, it’s an incredibly solid package and definitely my favourite fighter this generation. There’s lots to do and plenty of unlockables, and the fighting is so intense and rewarding that it never gets old. Tekken 6 is as good as the series gets, making other noteworthy entries in the franchise appear average. Tekken 6 is a Tekken like no other. If you have any interest in Tekken, then this game is a must purchase.

Final Score

9.4/10