Archive for the ‘Features’ Category.

DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue – Snowy Mountain Dungeon DLC Review

DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue‘s Snowy Mountain Dungeon DLC adds, as one might expect, a dungeon with a snowy mountain theme. Continue reading ‘DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue – Snowy Mountain Dungeon DLC Review’ »

DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue – Staff Review

Having moved from a fantasy to a more modern era, DeathSpank will find a number of new challenges in DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue as he tracks down and battles with the other corrupt Thong bearers. Continue reading ‘DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue – Staff Review’ »

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep – Staff Review

If you had told me ten years ago that one of my most anticipated games of the year would be a Kingdom Hearts game, I’d say you were crazy.  This world is full of many ridiculous things, but a collaboration between Squaresoft and Disney?!  That was possibly the silliest thing I’d ever heard of.  And my wife wanted it.  After watching her play for a bit, I saw that the game had an intriguing story, and I quickly became immersed in the world of keyblades and Heartless.  Like so many other people, I was amazed at the complexity of the story, and I have eagerly waited for each subsequent game to mete out a little bit more of the lore that gets expanded upon with each new game.  Birth by Sleep takes us ten years before the original Kingdom Hearts, and it might just be the best game in the series yet. Continue reading ‘Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep – Staff Review’ »

Cladun: This is an RPG – Staff Review

Cladun: This is an RPG is a game with very clear goals. An action RPG dungeon crawler with an old-school aesthetic, Cladun is designed to be played in short bursts, and very little else. The game’s largest issues arise from the inconsistent application of these old-school elements and a certain lack of a consistent overarching theme to the game. Though Cladun’s combat system is a fairly basic, some might say rigid affair, its sub-systems are surprisingly complex, a fact which does cause some problems in a game meant to be played in small servings. Overall, Cladun is a solid game, but it never quite reaches the point at which it transcends the conventions and cliches that the story makes fun of. Continue reading ‘Cladun: This is an RPG – Staff Review’ »

Persona 3 Portable – Staff Review

Following the port-heavy schedule for the PSP, Persona 3 Portable builds on what was already a great game, adding new features, more combat options, and a huge whack of new plot in the form of new Social Links. Unfortunately, not all the alterations really work, as there has been some excessive tinkering with the game’s balance, and the technical limitations of the handheld platform have resulted in an oversimplified interface that causes some serious issues with suspension of disbelief. The end result is a game which feels a bit overworked, but has the potential to provide an excellent experience. Continue reading ‘Persona 3 Portable – Staff Review’ »

Alpha Protocol – Staff Review

Choice is a popular gaming buzzword, typically code for “you can save the village or burn it down.” Rare is the game that gets a handle on the important part of choice, that being consequences; your actions mattering in the long run. Enter Alpha Protocol, Obsidian’s espionage-themed action RPG that boldly declares choice to be your weapon in the murky depths of modern geopolitics. Let’s make one thing very clear at the onset: there is something genuinely compelling about how the story here unfolds, and in that Obsidian has definitely succeeded where so many others failed. However, the cost appears to be a sense of identity, as if the game got so wrapped up in varying sources of spy fiction that it never really decided what it wanted to be. Continue reading ‘Alpha Protocol – Staff Review’ »

Fallout New Vegas – Developer Interview

I sat down with Jason Fader, technical producer for Fallout New Vegas to ask him some questions about the upcoming game. Continue reading ‘Fallout New Vegas – Developer Interview’ »

Deus Ex: Human Revolution E3 Live Demo Impression

In the closing hours of E3, Roku and I got a close look at a live demo of the mythical Deus Ex: Human Revolution. For this ardent Deus Ex fan, what followed would answer a lot – and I do mean a lot – of questions, and raise almost as many. Fair warning: for a pre-alpha version, the game looked remarkably intact, so this impression may spoil some of the full game. Continue reading ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution E3 Live Demo Impression’ »

Kingdom Hearts Interview with Nomura

John Boske and I had the pleasure of being invited to a round table interview with Tetsuya Nomura about the upcoming Kingdom Hearts games. Continue reading ‘Kingdom Hearts Interview with Nomura’ »

3D Dot Game Heroes – Staff Review

When I was a young boy in kindergarten, my parents bought me a brand new Nintendo Entertainment System. I used to sit in bed thinking about what games would look like in the future. I imagined that games would take your picture, and instead of Mario’s head, you’d see your own. With games like the arcade version of Mario Kart, that became a reality. I also thought that games would be in 3D, but at the time, I couldn’t even imagine that today’s graphics would be such detailed models with hundreds or thousands of polygons. I envisioned pixels, stacked on top of one another building a world. As the years went by, I chalked that fantasy up to boyhood dreaming and to the silly thoughts of a five-year-old. Now with 3D Dot Game Heroes, I’ve found that I wasn’t the only one to have this idea.
Continue reading ‘3D Dot Game Heroes – Staff Review’ »

Resonance of Fate – Staff Review

Far in the future, the world has decayed. Toxins have poisoned the air and water, and the Earth’s axis has warped. Unable to adapt to these changes, humans were slowly dying out as a species. Those lucky enough to survive created Basel, a giant machine beneath the earth designed to repair the environment, while also doubling as the only area able to sustain human life. It is here that Resonance of Fate takes place.

Continue reading ‘Resonance of Fate – Staff Review’ »

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (Wii) – Staff Review

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love exists in a strange realm of intersections. It lies between dating sim and tactical mecha combat sim, between long-established Japanese tradition and familiar New York iconography, between the storytelling constructs we know as “video games” and “anime.” Like the Zen master, or the pathetic fanboy trying to get the “harem” ending, it strives to achieve balance in all things.

No discipline is flawless. At one level or another, we are all human, defective, stained with the deepest seeds of doubt and regret, shame and anger. But we can try, dammit. We can try. And this game, despite some technical flaws, tries. Dammit.

Continue reading ‘Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (Wii) – Staff Review’ »

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey – Staff Review

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, the most recent addition to the rather scant roll of the series’ mainline continuity, is a game with significance for the series as a whole. As the central pillar of the Shin Megami Tensei series, the mainline entries have always been fairly old school dungeon crawling affairs, considerably darker than the numerous side stories that have spun off of them. It has been a major point of curiosity to see which direction Atlus would take the series: outward into the younger, more upbeat world of spinoffs such as Persona and Devil Survivor, or back inwards, towards the darker, more chaotic entries of the early series. Interestingly, Strange Journey seems content to pick its own path, taking to heart many of the upgrades the series has seen in interaction and depth of character, while maintaining the disturbing, often sharply critical edge the older Shin Megami Tensei games had. The end result doesn’t quite have the same bite as Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, but Strange Journey‘s excellent story, solid character customization scheme, and exceptional dungeon design mark it as an excellent game in its own right. Continue reading ‘Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey – Staff Review’ »

Divinity II: Ego Draconis – Staff Review

Dragon Slayers, Dragons, and Dragon Knights are all key players in the battle for the world, with Damian as the vengeful antagonist. Divinity II: Ego Draconis‘s storyline follows a newly trained Dragon Slayer, though the process isn’t entirely complete and interrupted with the appearance of a Dragon Knight. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s plenty of questing and exploration on the side as well, and the life of a Dragon Slayer is unlikely to be dull. Continue reading ‘Divinity II: Ego Draconis – Staff Review’ »

Final Fantasy XIII – Staff Review

Since its announcement in 2006, fans of the series have eagerly anticipated Final Fantasy XIII. It was arguably one of the biggest stories to come out of E3 that year, and considering all of the announcements that year, that’s saying something.  And then in 2008, Microsoft finally dropped the bombshell that people had been expecting for years; Final Fantasy XIII was coming to PS3 and 360.  The net result has been four years of almost nonstop hype, which made the wait for the game all the longer.  So now, the question remains; was it worth the wait?  I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that it was. Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy XIII – Staff Review’ »

Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver – Staff Review

Over the years there have been signs and portents of a remake of Pokemon Gold and Silver, fan favorites in the series due to its sheer size and the fact that it was the first game to expand the Pokemon universe beyond the confines of the Kanto region. The final result, Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver, is every bit as fully featured and chock-full of Pokemon goodness as the originals, but unfortunately, they also carry over some of the less desireable quirks of Gold and Silver. Most serious of these are bothersome balance issues, and a plot which is flat even by Pokemon standards. On the whole, HG/SS isn’t a bad game, and makes some definite strides in the areas of sound and visuals, but it probably won’t be of much interest to anyone but fans of the series. Continue reading ‘Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver – Staff Review’ »

Blurring the Line: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Call of Pripyat – Staff Review

The Zone is a harsh mistress, as all who’ve followed the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games can attest. GSC Game World’s adventure-heavy shooters borrowed from both the real Exclusion Zone and works of related science fiction to present a unique, beautiful, and deadly environment. The games featured their own hazards to the player: technical instability, a steep difficulty curve, and unforgiving gunplay. With Call of Pripyat, however, GSC has pulled off the impossible and delivered a stable, well balanced, and surprisingly complete entry into the series. Though still far short of perfection, Pripyat‘s take on the Zone is fascinating and rewarding in ways that few other games are. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Call of Pripyat – Staff Review’ »

Blurring the Line: Bioshock 2 – Staff Review

If you played it to completion, the safe money says you’re not forgetting Bioshock anytime soon. 2K’s recent entry into the hybrid role-playing/shooter genre is sometimes a victim of its own hype, but it never lacks for imagination and proves a fun, engaging journey all the same. Bioshock 2 brings us back to the crumbling city of Rapture, evolving the gameplay in all the right places. Sadly, the plot never quite has the legs to stand on its own, and it seems to keep forgetting that the story of Rapture – and its extremist founder Andrew Ryan – is the more interesting one. Continue reading ‘Blurring the Line: Bioshock 2 – Staff Review’ »

Final Fantasy XIII – Staff Import Review

Final Fantasy XIII has been a long time coming, and there’s little doubt that some people are going in with certain expectations. The fact that it’s also the first main series Final Fantasy game for the current generation likely only adds to this. To the extent that it’s possible, one has to put that aside and focus on the game for what it is rather than thinking about the rest of the series. Final Fantasy XIII is rather unlike anything else in the series anyway. Of course, it certainly has its fair share of staples such as chocobos, cactuars, and tonberries in the game, but the gameplay emphasis is very different. Exploration is all but ignored for the most part, and dungeons are the game’s clear focus. Towns are almost non-existent and functionally replaced by shops that can be accessed from save points while inns are rendered obsolete by auto-healing. Bits of story are delivered at very specific intervals, and the pace is carefully controlled to a large degree by a number of design decisions such as most dungeons being purposely linear. Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy XIII – Staff Import Review’ »

Star Ocean: The Last Hope International – Staff Review

Fourteen years ago, developer tri-Ace released Star Ocean for the Super Famicom. Touting “Space is an ocean of stars” as a tagline, it achieved a cult following among RPG fans and put the dev on the map. Many years, several releases and ports later, we arrive at a re-release of the fourth installment, Star Ocean: The Last Hope International, which delivers an experience largely in line with the rest of the series. Continue reading ‘Star Ocean: The Last Hope International – Staff Review’ »