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Developer: Griptonite Games
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: Out now
ESRB: T for Teen
Like a ninja from out of seemingly nowhere, the Shinobi series sees its first release in over seven years on the Nintendo 3DS. It also returns to its roots by favoring side-scrolling over the 3D worlds of the last two entries. Despite being a well-received series, I have never picked up a Shinobi title before this one. My avoidance towards it is mostly because the games can be notoriously difficult. Is this game right for newcomers to the series, or is it too hard and should be left for the old fans?
In Shinobi, you take the role of the ninja Jiro Musashi (the father of Joe, the famous ninja of previous Shinobi games). What little story there is doesn“t really matter (and to be frank, it“s confusing anyway) – you“re going to be playing for the frantic platforming action. You have an array of ninja equipment and moves at your disposal and you“re going to be wanting to use every last thing such as your trusty katana, kunai, magic, and parrying.
Even during the beginning stages, you“re going to be wanting to have some fast reflexes, knowledge of your attacks and defense, and be expectant of whatever may be lurking at the sides and top of your screen. In later stages, enemies will start to become especially overwhelming with their shurikens and whatnot pretty much filling up the whole screen.
This game is hard. Even on beginner and normal modes, you're going to have a tough time getting through certain spots and bosses. Thankfully, beginner mode does offer infinite lives to help those new to games like Shinobi. Included is also a very hard mode that boasts that nobody will be able to complete it unless they are a real ninja. In this mode, you're only granted 1 extra life, 3 continues, no auto-saving, and even more challenges spread throughout the game. If you're able to beat the game on this mode, you are a god amongst men.
Unfortunately, multitudes of spastic enemies aren“t just what makes this game difficult. The controls do feel a bit stiff and in this kind of game, it makes a major difference. With complicated wall-jumping and such over bottomless pits, these controls could mean many irritating deaths.
The graphics for Shinobi are okay, but like the story, they aren“t going to be the focus. Level design takes priority anyway and you“ll have the pleasure of going through awesome renditions of feudal Japan and a future of mechanical machinery. The 3D effects are sparse and minimal with some objects popping out slightly. Even though there are some problems with double images when the 3D is turned on, it“s still pleasant to look at.
There are also cutscenes in Shinobi with simplistic and minimal animation, but they“re beautiful and work out perfectly. The only voicing done is from a narrator reading some inspiring (and sometimes cheesy) quotes that will pop up from time to time during these scenes. The only negativity about these cutscenes is that they are unskippable and may be forced to watch them repeatedly with how often you“re going to be dying.
The music for Shinobi is great and fits the game perfectly. The main theme that plays on the main menu is simply awe-inspiring and gets you pumped and ready to begin your adventure. A neat little note about the music is that Norihiko Hibino of Metal Gear Solid fame composes it.
Some cool little extra features put into the game include unlockable concept art, music, cheats and more. There are even achievements like those for PS3 and Xbox 360 games in Shinobi for those who are fans of that. With the extras this game provides, you“ll be pouring even more time into it and get your money“s worth.
Shinobi is really a game made for fans of the series, although it seems to be a good entry point to those new to it and seeking to get into some ninja action. Despite the game kicking your butt nonstop, there's nothing like the feeling of overcoming the intense obstacles in it.
+ Pure and intense side-scrolling, platforming action
+ Fun extras like achievements and unlockables
- Stiff controls can lead to many infuriating deaths
- Unnecessarily and mercilessly hard at some points
Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10)
Fans of Shinobi and other similar series should consider picking this up, but be somewhat wary if you“re not used to fast-paced, butt-kicking action.
The Grand Theft Auto series is undoubtedly a very popular one. In the many different installments developed, players have been hijacking cars and causing havoc for years, especially with the popularity of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Now, we“re getting a brand new entry added to this awesome series from Rockstar.
With the recent announcement of Grand Theft Auto V, many fans are speculating over the various possibilities the game could present. One of the big areas of discussion is who the protagonist of this game might be. Rockstar has done a fabulous job already representing different races, ethnicities, and nationalities. Furthermore, while it's mostly talk of someone that has already appeared in previous Grand Theft Auto installments, those who do offer their own ideas of someone that is new to the series rarely suggest a female protagonist over a male one.
Look at all those handsome menâ€¦ Butâ€¦ where are the ladies?
Getting to the point, what the Grand Theft Auto series desperately needs is a female protagonist. After over ten years of the series, I believe we are exceedingly overdue for a woman to take the reins. Not just an over-sexualized gal who barely wears anything, either, but someone who“s strong and kicks an extreme amount of butt. We see men as the main characters in games such as Grand Theft Auto all the time (not to mention movies, television, and books). A woman“s impact and view into the crime world of the Grand Theft Auto series could present something fresh for players. The dramatic change from a male to female protagonist could be great if necessary and deep thought is put into place.
It's even difficult to find female protagonists in any game that exude these qualities. While Lara Croft and Bayonetta are big name ladies and do get the job done well, they obviously put out as much fanservice as possible. While the way they are presented isn't necessarily wrong, it's less than ideal. Moreover, let“s face it: do we really want another typical woman like that to play as? Samus from the Metroid series, on the other hand, is an excellent way of having a woman being portrayed in video games (well, maybe not in Metroid: Other M, but that's a topic for another day). Other women that I picture in mind include Jade from Beyond Good & Evil and Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII.
These ladies know how to get stuff done.
Now getting back to the topic at handâ€¦ Gamers may be scared to even try out a game that has only a female protagonist. It“s happened before with games in the past such as Final Fantasy X-2 and Wet. Not to mention the way our society is driven: growing up with stories about men rescuing the damsel-in-distress and therefore saving the day. Developers like Rockstar realize this and it“s probably why they haven“t tried it yet. However, if they play their cards right and put careful thought into how this could all work out, gamers will put aside the fact that the character that they are playing as is female and appreciate that she is just as strong and adamant as the characters Rockstar has created before.
With Grand Theft Auto being a big-name series, it could possibly even lead the game industry in a new and different direction with how female protagonists are handled and trying to insert them as lead characters more often. Not to mention possibly bringing some more female gamers into trying out the Grand Theft Auto series.
While this is a fake screenshot, at least someone else out there desires a female protagonist enough to make it in the first place.
While I would love for it to happen in the upcoming release of Grand Theft Auto V, it most likely won“t happen (and if it does, I will most certainly be much more excited and more apt to pick the game up!). It may be a while before Rockstar does put a lady as the main character of a Grand Theft Auto game, unfortunately. Hopefully, fans of the series share my thoughts and will become vocal and noticeable enough to catch Rockstar“s attention so that this may be a plausible future.
Images courtesy of:
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: July 3, 2012 (out now)
ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older
The Final Fantasy series has not only graced us with memorable characters and stories, but also breathtakingly beautiful music. Terra“s Theme, To Zanarkand, Aerith“s Theme, and The Man with the Machine Gun are just few of many. So, why not make a Final Fantasy rhythm game? And that“s just what Square-Enix did when they brought out Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. It doesn“t disappoint at all, either.
Right off the bat, Theatrhythm asserts itself as a creative and unique sort of rhythm game. Not only will you be tapping and sliding your stylus to Final Fantasy tunes, but you“ll also be leveling up characters, honing their stats and abilities, and collecting items and collectables. In a broad sense, it“s an RPG/rhythm-game hybrid.
There are three modes for you to play in: series, challenge, and Chaos Shrine. Series mode allows you to play five songs from a Final Fantasy title in a row. Challenge mode lets you choose a single song to play through. Both series and challenge modes have three difficulty settings: basic, expert, and ultimate. Basic is pretty, wellâ€¦ basic. Those familiar with rhythm games will have absolutely no problem perfecting all the songs in this mode. Expert is a lot more challenging than basic, but ultimate is where the real fun is. It“s so fast-paced and will get your adrenaline pumping. You have to be a real rhythm game master in order to 100% all the songs on ultimate – or get all critical on each song, if you want to push it up a notch. The only annoying thing is that expert and ultimate modes are not available from the start.
The third mode, Chaos Shrine, is where you“ll be spending a lot of your time if you“re interested in farming for rare items and shards (which are needed to unlock new characters). With Chaos Shrine, you receive â€œDark Notesâ€, which consist of two songs. Every single Dark Note is randomly generated, so the amount of possible combinations for songs, scores, difficulty, bosses, and items is practically endless. The main problem I have with Chaos Shrine, however, is that there are only 20 songs (out of 70 or so that Theatrhythm has) that it uses. So, I hope you like hearing Fight with Seymour, Eternal Wind, and Mambo de Chocobo over and over again. Regardless, the random generation within Dark Notes still makes Chaos Shrine fun.
The selection of songs chosen to be included in the base game of Theatrhythm is pretty nice. Most of the classics you know and love are in there ready to be played countless times. Of course, some of your favorites are probably missing and were made into DLC instead. Each song is only a dollar, but if you wanted all the ones currently availableâ€¦ it would be a little over $40 altogether. It“s a pretty steep price, but diehard Final Fantasy fans have had no trouble paying the money for all those songs. I“ve not bought any yet myself, but if I did have 40 bucks magically appear in my wallet right now, there might be a small chance I would put that towards some eShop cards to buy some sweet Theatrhythm tracks. And hey, with how much I“ve fallen in love with the game, it would be totally worth it.
I also really enjoyed the wide variety of characters that are available to use. Not only are there 13 at your disposal right at the very beginning, but there“s another 13+ to unlock as you gather more shards throughout your playthrough. And they“re all so cute in Theatrhythm“s art style! Though I won“t spoil who you can get, I am somewhat disappointed Fran, Balthier, or Rikku weren“t implemented as playable characters. And as much as I dislike paid DLC, I would totally buy more characters to use in the game.
I briefly mentioned that Theatrhythm has collectables. The main one is an album to collect cards in (called CollectaCards). There are 81 unique CollectaCards, however, if you want a 100% complete album, you“ll need 10 of each. When you collect four of one card, it will turn into a holofoil. And with seven of one card, it will turn into a super shiny platinum. Thankfully, you get plenty of CollectaCards throughout the game whenever you finish a song (especially in Chaos Shrine), so the feat of completing your album isn“t as difficult as it sounds.
There are also unlockable videos to watch in theatre mode and songs to listen to in the music player. That“s self-explanatory, though. The last mode in the museum is records. Records includes your total play time, total number of chains, character usage, and so on. There are also trophies for you to achieve. There are 64 total trophies, and some are quite difficult, so those are sure to keep any completionist busy for a while.
There“s so much to keep you occupied and entertained in Theatrhythm that you“ll be playing for hours on end. The replayability is sky-high! Not to mention it“s perfect for playing in short bursts. Theatrhythm was one of the most delightful gaming experiences of the year for me, and still is, since I“m aiming to unlock and achieve as much as I can. The game has also helped me rekindle a love for Final Fantasy. Now I want to go and play the games I haven“t touched or finished, like Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy VI (oh, if only I had the time!).
I“m sure I“ve made my point now about how much I love Theatrhythm. It“s a 100% must buy for any other Final Fantasy fans out there. And even if you don“t enjoy playing the main games in the series, but adore the music and you“re a fan of rhythm games, get it anyway! You“ll love it, I promise.
+ Mash-up of rhythm game and RPG aspects is unique, refreshing, and extraordinarily fun
+ More than 70 classic Final Fantasy songs to play, with over 40 to buy as DLC
+ Over 13 Final Fantasy characters to unlock, as well as other collectables
+ The chibi art style is adorable
- Expert and ultimate modes for songs not available from the start
- Chaos Shrine only uses 20 of Theatrhythm“s playable songs
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a dream come true for Final Fantasy fans and rhythm game enthusiasts. If you“re either or both, there“s absolutely no reason not to pick this game up.
Developer: Marvelous Interactive
Platform: DS, 3DS
Release Date: Out now
ESRB: E for Everyone
This review is based on the 3DS version of the game.
Being a fan of Harvest Moon since Save the Homeland on the PS2, it made me excited to see the series get its first installment on the 3DS. This time, it boasts a thrilling new feature: being able to live in one of two towns (hence the title of the game). Does the game present itself well enough with all its new additions? Will it all warrant a playthrough over other Harvest Moon games you might“ve been skipping out on?
Before the actual game even starts, you are greeted by a cheery, upbeat FMV opening sequence. Something like this is not usually seen in a Harvest Moon game, so it“s a bit impressive. The story, like one for any other Harvest Moon game, is incredibly simple. You crash your horse cart and are found by the mayors of two neighboring rival towns. They give you the option of living in Bluebell (a European-centric town that focuses on livestock) or in Konohana (an Asian-centric town that focuses on crops). Regardless of your choice, you can raise livestock and crops and interact with the villagers in both towns, as well as the ability to change residencies between either town (at a cost). It is soon that you realize that the goal of the game is to get the mayors to befriend each other and reunite the two towns.
In The Tale of Two Towns, your main objective is farming, of course. Along with cows, chickens, and sheep, new animals to add to your barn are brought into this installation, such as alpacas. Raising crops is pretty much the same as in any other Harvest Moon title: dig a hole, plant your seeds, and water until they“re ready to harvest. There are new bonuses in this game, however, such as creating trenches to ease your amount of watering and being able to water twice a day to reduce the amount of time needed for a crop to mature.
Other features new to the Harvest Moon series that are present in The Tale of Two Towns include a request system, hand fishing, and bug/creature catching. All of these make the game much more pleasurable and apt to keep your attention longer, as well as put more money in your pocket and make the townsfolk appreciate you more.
Of course, you have the option of taking a bachelor or bachelorette“s hand in marriage, of which there is a wide variety to choose. It“s almost hard to choose just one, though! Another new addition to The Tale of Two Towns is being able to take your potential husband or wife on dates, which helps increase their relationship with you. When you two lovebirds do get married, you“ll also be able to have a baby.
Throughout the game, you“ll get to experience the game“s beautiful mountain environment, as well as the unique architecture for both towns from which they derive their culture. The music is equally as fun and wonderful and I often find myself having it stuck in my head long after playing. The game looks and sounds splendid, but because the 3DS version is basically a port of the DS version, it does not take full advantage of the system“s graphical prowess.
Speaking of which, it“s important to denote the differences between the DS and 3DS versions. The 3DS version does have enhanced graphics that will pop out slightly when the 3D is turned on, however, it quickly loses its charm and there“s no real point in keeping the 3D turned on (not to mention NPCs“ portraits will look slightly blurry). The 3DS“s wider top screen proves advantageous over the smaller DS screen. Other 3DS-specific features include a special animal petting minigame and Street Pass.
The Tale of Two Towns is not without its faults, however, of which there are quite a few. For some reason, the game will be restrictive on what you name your character/animals/etc. Even seemingly harmless names will sometimes be blocked. The off-putting saving system, which only allows you to save before going to bed and ending the day, will sometimes become infuriating for those who are prone to wanting to save often and does not bode well with the 3DS version“s tendency to freeze. The 3DS version also unfortunately suffers from some slowdown issues.
With these thoughts in mind, it is more worth it to pick up the DS version of The Tale of Two Towns over the 3DS version, especially with its lower price tag. Despite some shortcomings, you will enjoy either version of this fresh and innovating installment of the Harvest Moon series (especially when there“s alpacas involved!).
+ Freedom to embrace game“s challenging portions, or simply keep things basic and easy
+ New features keep things fresh
+ Cute graphics/art style and fun music
- Freezing and slowdown issues in the 3DS version paired with restrictive saving system will frustrate many
- Loses luster after marrying and completing â€œstorylineâ€
- Restrictions on naming characters/animals/etc.
Overall Score: 7 (out of 10)
Fans of the farming simulation genre should definitely have a place for this on their shelf.