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Christopher Haygood

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  1. Christopher Haygood

    Review: Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Tecmo Koei Platform: Wii U Release Date: November 18, 2012 ESRB: T for Teen A retail copy was supplied by the publisher for this review Tecmo Koei sure loves its Warriors franchise, and whether you agree or not, it has its high points. Warriors Orochi 3 was the best game of the Orochi series – which brings characters from both the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors series together to fight hundreds of enemies who love to stand around while you kill them – and one of the best Warriors games in general, which surely number in the hundreds of thousands by now (even Koei has probably lost count). This port for the Wii U contains more content than previous releases … but at what cost? A hydra has attacked the land, killing all of mankind“s forces except three generals, who decide to get even by socking science in the mouth and going back in time. In this way, they plan to rescue the fallen generals of the past, recruit them in their army, and launch a retaliation (or pretaliation?) against the opposing forces in the key battles that led to defeat. If you feel like pretending you“ve never been exposed to the gameplay of a Warriors game, I“ll humor you: due to rampant fool overpopulation, it“s your job to eradicate fools in prodigious quantities, using one of a wide variety of characters, their weapons, and special moves. There's some tedium in this style of gameplay, to be sure, but the amount of unlockable generals keeps it from getting too bad. In Orochi 3, the cast of playable characters is beyond massive; with over 130 to seek out and recruit, the roster can make you wonder if you“re playing a video game or reading War and Peace. Most of these characters are from previous Warriors titles, while some are borrowed from other Tecmo games, such as Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden, Bladestorm, and others. The big addition to this installment is Duel Mode, a one-on-one fighter in which each player chooses three characters to switch out when needed. Players earn Battle Points as they land attacks, which can then be spent on activating special cards in story mode for added bonuses. Duel Mode is surprisingly fun, and feels like a throwback to two-player games of yore like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Golden Axe. Aside from this new mode, Hyper also contains two new characters (on top of the two included characters from the Japan-only PSP release): Ninja Gaiden“s Momiji, and Shennong, the legendary emperor of Chinese mythology. Unfortunately, if you“ve already played Orochi Warriors 3, this is all the Wii U version has to get "hyper" about. This apparent rush job takes little advantage of the Wii U“s hardware capabilities; to prevent total processing failure during the times when the screen is packed, hordes of enemies and even some bosses will occasionally blink in and out as if they are victims of Spontaneous Ghost Syndrome. The framerate also takes a blow in this version, and although slowdown issues are nothing new in the Warriors games, it's particularly jarring in Hyper, and one gets the impression that this problem could be remedied if only more time was spent in the transition. During the more sizable encounters, it“s like someone dropped this game's source code in a giant vat of peanut butter and molasses and then glued it onto a Wii U disc using that stuff they put on flypaper. These extreme cases of The Slows usually only last a few seconds, but it's enough to frustrate any gamers except those possessing the most Zen-like patience. The visuals are a tiny bit uglier than the original, as well, but they're adequate, and the cutscenes are still beautiful. The Wii U controller“s button layout makes extended button-mashing a comfortable endeavor, but the gamepad“s screen does little to boost the experience; while it“s nice to be able to turn off the TV and play the game in bed, on a trampoline, or while practicing for a Rockettes audition, and although the gamepad can be used in local co-op instead of having two players jumbled together on the same screen, the mini-map is far too “mini” on the smaller screen and is rendered nearly useless. While the game's still there and more-or-less as playable as the PS3 and 360 versions, there's not enough new material here to warrant purchasing Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper if you've already played those previous versions. Newcomers, however, will still be treated to one of the highlights of the Warriors series. Just keep in mind that it loses some of its luster in this hand-me-down version. Pros: + The core gameplay of the original remains intact + New Duel Mode is entertaining Cons: - Slowdown gets particularly extreme in this version - Characters blink in and out at a distracting rate - There's a fairly lackluster amount of new content Overall Score: 6.0 (Out of 10) Decent Although Duel Mode is a welcome addition to this version, slowdown mars the game and keeps it from being a must-purchase, especially for those who have played it on other consoles.
  2. This year saw the opening of a video games exhibit in the museum in the Smithsonian and the promise of one in the Museum of Modern Art next March, as well as a video game whose score was nominated for a friggin“ Grammy. Video game culture is evolving, and the Pangaea that was once the entirety of “video games” has broken off into a number of continents. Point-and-click adventures, top-down arcade bloodbaths, rhythm RPGs – it seems like no genre is off limits in this new, hopeful era of gaming, ruled by passion and creativity. In no particular order, here are some of my personal highlights of what I truly hope is a gaming renaissance. Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Official GP Review Theatrhythm makes my list not only because it“s an extremely addictive and unique game, combining RPG elements with rhythm-based gameplay in an experience that lasts far longer than the initial run through (I“ve put in over 55 hours so far); I“m also including it because it“s the best Final Fantasy game released in recent memory, a fact that is as sad as it is indicative of the gaming culture shift we are witnessing. Formulaic gameplay might have worked for a while, but with so many creative titles on the market, it wouldn“t be a stretch to say that shallow cookie-cutter sequels (like, ahem, Final Fantasy XIII-2) won“t keep the attention of the new gaming crowd, whose attentions are constantly threatened by a rainbow-like barrage of great new properties. Hotline Miami Official GP Review While larger studios were preoccupied with crafting storylines, characters, special effects, and whatever else in their attempts to distract us from what was often the same old experience, smaller groups have demonstrated a natural talent for proving the adage that "less is more." Hotline Miami, made by a couple of guys and a handful of composers, has you infiltrating buildings and strategically wasting goons in short bursts (by shooting them, throwing pipes at them, or my favorite, knocking them out by timing the opening of doors just right) using only the WASD keys and mouse, in a top-down perspective reminiscent of the first Grand Theft Auto. It“s laughably simple, and yet this game emanates with blood-soaked charm and an arcade-style addictive quality that will keep you entertained far longer than most of the big-budget titles that came out this year. The Walking Dead If there“s anything that represents the point of this list, it“s this: an adventure game based on a popular comic that features a riveting story, multi-dimensional character relationships, and choices that affect the game in ways that range from the subtle to the devastating. More important, though, is that The Walking Dead is possibly revitalizing the entire point-and-click adventure genre, a category that has been pretty much dead itself to the larger gaming populace since the days of Grim Fandango. I don“t know what it means when a low-budget indie game can make this kind of impact on the industry, but it“s surprising, exciting, and likely to inspire a whole new wave of would-be game designers to work with the archaic game genre of their choice. Journey Official GP Review As you traverse through a mountainous desert landscape with your partner – an anonymous online player with whom you can“t communicate save for a wordless shout – you get the sensation an early explorer must have felt after docking his ship at an unknown island for the first time. Stunning landscapes, emotionally-charged co-op gameplay, and an evocative, Grammy-nominated soundtrack all come together to produce something far bigger than the sum of its parts. It seems like an insult to call this a “game.” This is humanity, programmed and interpreted. Borderlands 2 And yet, amidst this paradigm shift into more minimalistic and avant-garde attitudes, there remains the knowledge that a game may not have to do something entirely unprecedented as long as it does a phenomenal job of pulling you into it and keeping you there. Also, that a big budget can still be used to kick entire truckloads of ass. Borderlands 2 isn“t just about the millions of guns you can acquire, or the constant barrage of tasks and rewards, or about the unique, colorful characters or well-written dialogue or the sheer hilarity of playing it for even half an hour. It“s about how all of these things conflate into an unequivocally magnificent experience.
  3. Christopher Haygood

    Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

    Developer: Indies zero Publisher: Square Enix Platform: Nintendo 3DS Release Date: Out Now ESRB: E10+ There“s been some debate as to how Square Enix has recently been treating its flagship series, Final Fantasy, these days. As in, whether or not the company is grinding the name into the ground like a stilettoed heel crushing a cigarette butt into the sidewalk. It“s under this massive shadow of doubt that Theatrhythm Final Fantasy has hit the market, so is this bizarre title a mere gimmicky attempt to remind us of Square“s former glory, or…or…well, what is it, really? For starters, it's a rhythm game featuring Final Fantasy music. Now uncock that eyebrow and listen, because it's far cooler than you might be imagining. The game“s music spans the Final Fantasy series from I to XIII, meaning the bulk of it comes from the mind of the brilliant Nobuo Uematsu, with a few choice tracks from other talented composers as well. If you“ve played games like Elite Beat Agents, Theatrhythm“s gameplay won“t feel too foreign: you tap, hold, and slash at the bottom screen to correspond to the symbols on the top screen. Theatrhythm“s gameplay is deeper than that, however. There are three types of stages: Battle Music Stages (BMS) that involve fighting enemies to battle themes, Field Music Stages (FMS), which contain more relaxing world map music, and Event Music Stages (EMS), levels that play cutscene montages from the various games in the background. Each type of stage plays differently and has different goals to complete. You can play all the songs from one game in a row in Series Mode, play specific songs in Challenge Mode, or attempt difficult special stages known as “Dark Notes” in the Chaos Shrine. The game has you pick a party of four characters – title characters from the various games, all of whom have different skills and stats, and all of whom look ridiculously cute – who level up as you complete stages. Theatrhythm“s brilliance lies not so much in its level design but in its usage of these RPG elements. For instance, in every FMS stage, in which the object is to traverse as far across the plains as possible; a character with high agility and luck stats will guarantee that you accumulate more items as you go along, as well as reach farther areas where stronger bosses lie. In the battle sequences, characters with high magic and attack stats will tear through enemies to reach the boss of the stage, and characters with high HP will keep you alive if you start messing up too badly. And it takes more strategy than simply getting four random characters up to level 99. Around midway through the Dark Notes in the Chaos Shrine, you“ll have to choose party members, skills, and items very carefully if you want even a chance at beating the bosses. Luckily there are tons of characters to unlock, all with their own unique stats and abilities to help overcome the obstacles, which continue to get more and more obstacle-y as you play. New characters aren“t the only extras in the game; there are unlockable stages, collectable cards, attainable trophies, and a theater and music player to fill with movies and songs. Extras are obtained through “Rhythmia,” an aggregate score you keep building up through the game, and it“s always fun to see what you get when your Rhythmia hits certain amounts. All this should be enough to keep any gamer occupied for eons, and that“s not even mentioning the levels that can be purchased as DLC. Theatrhythm isn“t without its moments of frustration though. Oddly, the Chaos Shrine repeats certain songs often while omitting other songs altogether; Final Fantasy III“s catchy battle theme is surprisingly absent here, while Final Fantasy V“s obnoxious “Mambo de Chocobo” seems to make an appearance on every other Dark Note. There are also a few songs with vaguely-defined tempos that prove difficult to predict unless you know the tracks like the back of your hand. And there“s always the possibility that the adorable art style will turn away gamers used to the "visual kei" style of modern Final Fantasy titles. Still, these few diminutive drawbacks do virtually nothing to reduce the playability of Theatrhythm. What seems at first to be a cute rhythm game turns out to have an impressive amount of depth. Final Fantasy fans will get dozens of hours out of this title, and rhythm game enthusiasts will find much to respect in its original take on the genre. Wherever Square Enix takes the illustrious franchise (and prospects don“t look good), Theatrhythm Final Fantasy serves as a perfect homage to a series whose magic has survived in many of us, even through its darkest notes. Pros: + Over 70 of the best tracks from a series highly renowned for its music + Tons of unlockable content + RPG elements that have a large effect on the gameplay Cons: - Songs repeat with odd frequency in the Chaos Shrine - Certain tracks just don“t seem right for a rhythm game Overall Score: 8.5 (Out of 10) Great A fun and original take on the rhythm genre, and a must for fans of Final Fantasy“s outstanding musical oeuvre.
  4. Christopher Haygood

    Yakuza: Dead Souls Review

    Developer: Studio Yakuza Publisher: Sega Platform: Playstation 3 Release Date: Out now ESRB: M for Mature In the past few years, zombie games have swarmed throughout the market like a horde of... well, the obvious. Now Sega has given us a zombified spinoff of its popular Yakuza series, but does this oddity make it worth revisiting a genre that's become tired to the point of being obnoxious? Yakuza: Dead Souls is a sandbox zombie game in which various characters from previous Yakuza titles, such as the cyclopian psychopath Goro Majima and the gun-armed Ryuji Goda, are thrown together and introduced to sudden zombies. Our mafioso main characters are given a bunch of guns and a zillion bullets and sent out to drive back Tokyo's undead infestation, teaming up with new characters and amassing newer, stronger guns along the way. If traditional weapons aren't your deal, you always have the option of beating up zombies with things like sofas and milk crates in order to avenge humanity. It's not much of a concept, but as we shall soon see, the idea is much lazier than its execution. Dead Souls marks a departure from traditional Yakuza gameplay in that it is primarily a shooter rather than a brawler, which is unfortunate, as the shooting is average at best. Although purging the zombie menace like a grain harvester through a field of wheat is fun at first, it becomes repetitive a little too early in, and control issues soon become obvious. It can be very awkward moving the characters around within the oddly cramped environments, and the auto-aim system eliminates much of the potential challenge; one simply needs to face a group of targets and fire away, and the character will automatically lock on to the nearest enemy. Conversely, this makes things infuriating during certain boss battles and other situations that require hitting a specific target among a sea of zombies. My biggest complaint about the game is its abominable amount of backtracking. You'll have to return to the same areas multiple times, making it seem like you're making no progress in liberating the city from the zombie menace. Tokyo is a big and sometimes confusing place, and so much backtracking does instill a sense of familiarity after a while, but it would be nice to have a faster means of transportation, or better yet, to not have to return to the same areas over and over. If you think this sounds like an already-existing franchise from Capcom, there“s not a lot here to convince you that Yakuza: Dead Souls isn“t just Dead Rising Japan. Both have hordes of unrelenting undead, both have protagonists in slick suits, both have killing zombies with bicycles. Yakuza does have a few things over other zombie titles, however: for one thing, it boasts a high amount of upgrades that are unlockable via an RPG-style level-up system. The more enemies you destroy, the more you can learn new moves, carry more items, use heavier weapons, and become an all-around stronger undead-killing underworlder. If the gameplay can get repetitive, the level-up system makes up for it, and these upgrades keep the game from getting stale. Mediocre gunplay and extreme instances of deja vu aside, Dead Souls has another thing that many similar games don't: personality. This is not a "horror game," it is a Yakuza game with horror elements, which is to say there is plenty of Japanese wackiness and fun distractions to experience. The already outlandish characters can shop, sing at karaoke bars, chat it up with hostesses, play pachinko, and partake in many other time-wasting activities as Tokyo falls apart from the zombie scourge. The city is also rife with sidequests, and although many of them are of the standard "go here, shoot things" fare, a few quests are silly or interesting enough to stand out. These things all help to significantly flesh out a 10 or 15-hour game to twice that length. The dialogue and cinematics are often hilarious, and the fact that the game never manages to take itself too seriously makes it very accessible and easy to enjoy. The combined effect is a fairly mindless, very fun game that is by no means typical of the genre. Yakuza: Dead Souls not a deep, intricate game, but it is a fun arcade-style romp that feels a little like Resident Evil meets Streets of Rage, and the level-up system is pleasantly engrossing. While little of this would entice true zombie enthusiasts (and if that's how you describe yourself, I implore you to reconsider), fans of Japanese culture, the Yakuza series, and anyone who can still appreciate a simple, fun game will not regret this purchase. Pros: + Fun arcade-style gameplay + Lots of upgrades + Enough personality to distinguish it from similar titles Cons: - Shooting is imprecise and problematic - Too much backtracking Overall: 7.0 (Out of 10) Good The Japanese flavor makes this game a fresh foray for fans of zombie games, and this is a no-brainer for enthusiasts of the Yakuza franchise.
  5. Playing Snake Eater 3D. Having a hard time taking Naked Snake seriously, seeing how he looks like a battle-hardened Kevin Pereira.

    1. Show previous comments  1 more
    2. Christopher Haygood

      Christopher Haygood

      Oh god, I just realized... "Big Boss." "Metal Gear." "Solid Snake." "SNAKE EATER"



    3. barrel


      In non-sexual innuendo related news, how do you like it, did you play the original on PS2? Is the frame-rate really a problem?

    4. Christopher Haygood

      Christopher Haygood

      I'll be posting a review of it pretty soon, so I won't say too much about it until then, but the frame-rate is definitely something I'll be tackling. Not literally tackling, though. I don't know how I would do that.

  6. Christopher Haygood

    Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review

    Developer: Square Enix Publisher: Square Enix Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3 Release Date: January 31, 2012 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game. Square Enix gets it: a lot of us don't like Final Fantasy XIII. And with its disjointed storyline, linear gameplay, bland environments, and repetitive auto-battle system, there's been a lot to complain about. They've addressed XIII's problems in its sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2, by adding all the things the first game lacked, like towns, exploration, side quests — things typically found in most good JRPGs. So it's all good now, right? Everything's fixed? Not quite. The story of XIII-2 takes place three years after the characters from XIII stopped Cocoon from crashing into the planet, Fang and Vanille having transformed into Ragnarok in order to prevent this catastrophe. However, this also had the unintended consequences of crystalizing them and sending Lightning to Valhalla. Cocoon“s survivors have taken residence on Gran Pulse, with Lightning“s sister Serah living in New Bodhum as a teacher. Snow leaves Serah to find Lightning and mysteriously disappears, and one year later, monsters descend upon the seaside village. At this time, a mysterious man named Noel is transported to the town, and he and Serah set out on a quest through time and space to find out what's causing these disasters, fix the time paradoxes behind them, and bring an end to whoever's responsible. For those unfamiliar with the prequel's auto-battle system, fighting is carried out, for the most part, automatically. Strategy comes into play in the form of a Paradigm system, which involves assigning specific roles to your characters (Ravager, Medic, Commando, etc.) that dictate the abilities they use. Up to six paradigms can be stored and switched to mid-battle, but I rarely ever used more than two: one for straight-up offense, and one that incorporated healing and assisting abilities. In fact, 90% of these battles consisted of me tapping the A button twice every ten seconds until everything was dead, which got mind-numbing after the first half hour, and at the five-hour mark I realized my brain was in fact dissolving. I do have to offer praise for one feature of the battle system though, and that is the inclusion of monster crystals, which contain the souls of monsters you defeat in battle and can be used to summon the monsters to fight on your team, Pokemon-style. The ability to train a cactuar and have it on my party was my favorite part of the game, which is both awesome and kind of sad. What makes the auto-battle system worse is that the difficulty imbalance from the previous game is still present: battles range from depressingly easy (99% of the game) to unfairly difficult (two or three bosses). There is no warning leading up to these spikes in challenge, and the difficulty reverts to its standard "Easiest Thing in the World" mode shortly after, leading me to believe that Square Enix added this disparity just to force you to grind for hours and bolster the play time of a relatively short RPG. In fact, dull, time-sucking parts like this comprise a hefty portion of the game. One city, for instance, is completely overrun by monsters that are so easy it's probably impossible to lose to them, yet you're forced to fight a 30- to 60-second battle against them every five steps for no discernible reason. Another area has you rotating floating rooms in order to make a path, leading to a long stretch of gameplay so monotonous it almost had me in tears. In no way does this add anything to the experience: Square Enix simply stuffed the game full of pointless gameplay, presumably while laughing at us behind their giant mountains of cash. One of XIII's biggest flaws was its lack of opportunities for exploring due to its egregious linearity. This is something Square Enix claims to have fixed. To assist in this newfound freedom, Noel and Serah are accompanied by their Moogle companion Mog, which is literally the worst thing that has ever existed. This thing is the Jar Jar Binks of Final Fantasy XIII-2, except Jar Jar Binks was somehow cooler. But I digress. Mog helps you out by alerting you to nearby items, uncovering hidden ones, and letting you throw him at items that are out of reach (which is not nearly as satisfying as it should be). Most of what you“ll find is disappointing, though, especially considering how unnecessary the majority of items are throughout most of the game. I only changed weapons twice for both characters, and each of these weapons I easily purchased from the game's only shop. At least the first game had an in-depth weapon customization aspect. Potions and the like are almost completely useless as well, and once a member of your party learns Raise, you might not use more than ten items for the rest of the game, making item-collecting little more than an exercise in virtual hoarding. Unlike in the first game, you can choose the areas you visit via the Historia Crux, which lets you travel through gates using discovered artifacts. You have a neat little option to close and reopen gates you've already accessed in order to replay events and unlock alternate plot routes, which is nice if you happen to enjoy the game enough to do so. Another flaw Square Enix claims to have changed is XIII's lack of towns. And yes, there are towns in this game, and yes, these towns are full of people. But remember when speaking to NPCs used to mean receiving new information on where to go or what to do or at least finding out an interesting tidbit? Now, every NPC seems bent on regurgitating all the information you already learned from the game“s many prolonged cutscenes. I never once spoke to anyone who said anything of any importance. Not once. For those keeping score at home, this makes Fans: 0, God of Disappointment: 1,026. I would like to take a break from complaining to mention the shining point in this game: the visuals, as is to be expected, are magnificent. If you ever want a glimpse of how an otaku views Japan through his/her sad, myopic vision, you only need to check out this game“s shimmering surfaces, wondrous water effects, and masterful movie sequences. Things only get better during the game's sparse-but-exciting Cinematic Action scenes (think Resident Evil 4), during which pressing buttons influences the direction a scene takes. These are always a delight to watch, and I only wish there were more. This is one area where Square Enix definitely delivers. The same standard of quality is not present in the music, however. I hope you like lots and lots of stringed instruments, pretentious piano pieces, and an unsettling amount of English-translated J-Pop, because that“s almost all you“ll get out of this soundtrack. The music starts out promising and ends on a high note, but it's all obscured by the music in between, which is so clichéit gave me crippling indigestion. There are even a few curiously-chosen death metal tracks that just boggle the imagination — for instance, riding on an inbred-looking red-and-white chocobo cues the hard rock version of bowel cancer (sample lyrics: You“re loco if you think you“re gonna hide this chocobo/Everybody“s gonna wanna ride your chocobo/It“s choco-loco style in a choco-rodeo/Gonna ride him straight through— OH GOD MY BRAIN IS BLEEDING). There was a time when Final Fantasy music stood out above the rest. That time has passed. Which brings me to the story. Throw everything you thought you knew about time-travel out the window. That Ray Bradbury tale, A Sound of Thunder, in which stepping on a single butterfly alters the entire course of history? Nah. This is Final Fantasy, and it don“t take kindly to logic and reason in these parts. This is a world in which you can pretty much stomp all up and down the time-space continuum and resolve everything by fighting a boss or two. Which is fine in a video game, I guess. Or it would be, if Square Enix didn“t expect you to treat this concept like it was written by H.G. freaking Wells. The truth is, this story is ridiculous, directionless and shallow, and is further marred by characters more unlovable than Al Qaeda. Seriously, these people in no way respond to situations like human beings should. A man travels 700 years back in time and the characters barely bat an eyelash. They speak to an ominous Grim Reaper-like entity called the Arbiter of Time like he“s just some cranky hot dog vendor. One of the characters literally says at one point something along the lines of “… And so I started traveling through time, and then this happened,” like it“s the punch line of some surreal joke. Characters yell at each other for no reason. Characters whine and cry without provocation. It“s like the entire script was written by a grounded fifteen-year-old. And don't even get me started on the dialogue: the game's instruction manual is more captivating than this ear-violating script. Nearly every line is either a reiteration of something that has already been covered, mindless chatter, or a piece of the soppy pseudo-poetry that Square Enix games revel in. I would bet anything that if you took all instances of the words “future” and “hope” and replaced them with “hot sauce” and “chili,” the story would be at least ten times more compelling. “We have to save the hot sauce!” “Things may seem desperate, but we still have our chili!” “With hot sauce on our side, we can create the chili we want!” And yet, judging by the background music, and the characters' expressions and movements, we're supposed to care what happens to these stiff, robotic non-humans. I don't want to go on a 2,000-word rant about the story alone, but listen: a good story is important in a 30-hour RPG. A little more thought should go into it than "It's like Chrono Trigger, but without all the interesting stuff." Just saying. I may sound harsh, but as video games become more and more accepted as a legitimate art form, they should be held to higher standards. As a game, this is merely an annoying sequel with mediocre gameplay, but what Square Enix is doing to this once illustrious franchise feels like a personal injury. This is a game no one needed, and very few wanted, and it doesn't even deliver. And here's the kicker: if the hasty cliffhanger ending says anything, there will almost certainly be a Final Fantasy XIII-3. Sigh. Pros: + It“s very, very, very, very, very, very pretty + New monster-raising portion is fairly involving + A few of the boss battles are outstanding Cons: - Ridiculous storyline starring unlovable characters - An auto-battle system that takes even less gameplay out of the game than its predecessor's did - Dull, unrewarding exploration - Arbitrary difficulty level Overall: 5.0 (Out of 10) Average Play if you're a fan of shallow-but-pretty Japanese things, and buy only if you must own every Final Fantasy-related thing in existence.
  7. Final Fantasy XIII-2 review coming soon. It's going to be messy. Readers in the first three rows are advised to wear splatter-proof clothing.

    1. Show previous comments  5 more
    2. Christopher Haygood

      Christopher Haygood

      You'd better stop that Lightning-quick, or you'll be Dajhing my fist! You heard what I Cid.




      And there goes my dignity.

    3. barrel


      *claps*. That was enough for me. But seriously, looking forward to the review, I am curious about how your views on the game were.


    4. John Kidman

      John Kidman

      Did you get the Collector's edition or Vanille version? :)

  8. Christopher Haygood

    The Nintendo 3DS Friend Code Thread

    Added you, Jared. I too will go through and add everyone else when I get a chance.
  9. Christopher Haygood

    The Nintendo 3DS Friend Code Thread

    Mine. Christopher Haygood: 1633-4512-7755
  10. Christopher Haygood

    Review: Zen Pinball 3D

    Developer: Zen Studios Publisher: Zen Studios Platform: Nintendo 3DS Release Date: Out Now ESRB: E 10+ Zen Pinball 3D is a title for the 3DS“s eShop, and a re-release of a game that has been out for PS3 since 2009. Now that it's been miniaturized and 3D'd, is it still worth checking out? You may be surprised by what this itty iteration has to offer. The game includes four boards: Excalibur, a medieval-themed stage; El Dorado, a booby-trapped ancient ruin; Shaman, a jungle full of dark magic and insinuated cannibalism; and Earth Defense, a last stand against an army of alien invaders and their giant robot pal. If these boards sound familiar, it's because you've played them all on the original Zen Pinball. If you haven't, you're in for a treat: every board is richly detailed and stuffed to the breaking point with little “adventures” to play out. The Excalibur board, for instance, features a duel with a knight, a jousting tournament, a battle featuring a gang of robbers attacking the castle, the crafting of a magic potion, a siege against a tyrant”s fortress, the chasing of a wild beast, and a number of separate tales involving the Knights of the Round Table. Each board also contains four achievement-style trophies that are unlocked as certain prerequisites are met. As one might expect, the boards' multiple layers look especially magnificent in 3D. It's disappointing then, that there are so few stages to choose from, but this feeling is alleviated by the stages' relentless tendency to be amazing, not to mention some DLC on the way that makes this minor letdown destined to be short-lived. Zen Studios has done a marvelous job making the whole game as realistic – albeit ostentatious – as a typical pinball machine, fully equipped with light flashes, pinball noises, tilting, etc. The ball physics are about as realistic as you“ll get without shelling out a couple thousand dollars on a machine. The diminutive size of the 3DS“s screen may pose problems for some when it comes to making out smaller details of the board, but I personally never had any issues with it. An especially nice touch is a dot-matrix board on the bottom screen that constantly displays retro-style animations of the events happening on the boards, as well as the current score. The only problem is that the score board will also give you directions on what to do next, and it can be difficult to read them while simultaneously keeping an eye on the ball. There is a “table guide” option in the menu containing information on how to trigger the various events, but if you“re not into memorizing pages of information, there will be a lot of trial and error before you start making the real high scores. Speaking of which, the online and local scoring systems in this game made me realize how much I miss high scores in general. The highest worldwide scores are soul-crushingly high, yet some impetus drives me to try and try and try (always in vain) to topple them all. It's a very addicting experience. The bottom screen tells you when you climb past one of the top ten "local" high scores, and this can lead to a feeling of power so great that you're likely to have an intervention held for you if you spend too much time playing, especially if you share a 3DS with someone particularly competitive. For such people, there is a multiplayer mode, but unfortunately it's of the "You lost, hand it over" variety. For a system like the 3DS, there really should be no reason not to include simultaneous play between more than one person, in which every player could see every other player's high current score. Maybe I'm spoiled by online multiplayer, but "pass and play" just doesn't cut it these days. Thankfully, the lackluster multiplayer and deficient number of boards do nothing to diminish the fact that this is still a very charming title. Are there even any really significant drawbacks to it? Well … maybe, depending on your point of view. This is, after all, pinball. There“s a reason you don“t see these colossal, flamboyant machines in every arcade around the country: it“s just not everybody“s bag. Perhaps it“s because there“s so little in the way of gameplay – just two buttons and Earth“s gravity to work with – or perhaps it“s so easy to feel cheated when you“re racking up jackpot after jackpot and then, with no real way to deter it, the ball falls right between the middle of the flippers, putting a heartbreaking end to your streak, or worse, the game. The outlanes, too, have enough power to render even the most enthusiastic gamer into a shriveled wad of despondency, and although the boards often have ways of temporarily cancelling out this menace, the worst experiences of the game easily come from those losses that are just out of your control. However, this is not a review of pinball, it“s a review of Zen Pinball 3D, and if you“re looking for a faithful rendition of classic pinball gameplay with enough virtual embellishment to appease even fans of not standing up and banging on a box of machinery, you won“t do better than this. The Zen Pinball series is probably the best set of pinball games out there at the moment, and at $6.99, the price for this incarnation is definitely worth the countless hours you“ll put in trying to beat the frightening worldwide top scores. Pros: + Four rich, detailed boards with tons of little “adventures” to accomplish + Highly addictive online and local ranking system + Looks fantastic in 3D Cons: - Only four initial boards - Disappointing multiplayer mode - Sometimes losses are JUST NOT FAIR Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great This will delight any 3DS-equipped pinball wizard or casual gamer looking for something to play in short bursts.
  11. Christopher Haygood

    Mario Kart 7 Review

    Developer: Nintendo EAD, Retro Studios Publisher: Nintendo Platform: Nintendo 3DS Release Date: December 4, 2011 ESRB: E for Everyone Let“s forget for a moment how strange it is that Mario would invite everyone he knows, even his arch-nemesis, to race go-karts with him. The important thing is that it“s worked so far for twenty years in games that have spanned six consoles and made countless millions of dollars. With the recent launch of the 3DS, a new Mario Kart game was sure to follow. Does Mario Kart 7 crash and burn, or is it a (some other lame racing-based cliche)? For those who somehow, in the past twenty years, haven“t experienced any of the six previous incarnations of Nintendo“s plethoric racer, the gist is simple: you pick a Nintendo character, you try to beat other Nintendo characters in a go-kart race, you get hit by a blue shell at the last second, you say words that make God cry. There are four cups of new tracks, with four tracks each, and four cups of retro tracks from previous games, all spanning across three difficulty levels: 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. The game starts with only 8 playable characters, but 9 more can be unlocked, including – God help us – Miis. (But let“s ignore that last bit or I“ll end up giving the game a zero.) Coins scattered across the tracks can also be collected for speed boosts and new racing parts. This, by the way, is an excellent feature; unlocking new parts is always exciting, and the end result is a cornucopia of kart combinations that add much depth and customization. As far as items go, the usual suspects are back (banana peels, stars, the forever-guilty and heinous blue shells) as well as some new artillery, such as the Fire Flower, which allows you to shoot unlimited, fairly weak fireballs for a limited time, the Tanooki Tail, which can be whipped around to deflect incoming weapons or foes, and the Lucky 7, which provide a player seven random items. These weapons are a little lackluster, to be honest; the most interesting one is the Tanooki Tail, but effective use of it requires precise timing, and it stays in the held item box until its time is up, so if you have no need for it you can't even grab another item to replace it. These items aren't exactly useless, but they're nothing amazing. The usual racing tricks are back – drifting around turns to gain a boost, hopping at just the right time on a ramp to rocket forward upon landing – making skill very important in winning a race. Unfortunately, the somewhat infamous item imbalance inherent in the Mario Kart series still lingers like the smell of gasoline on a post-race jumpsuit. Nintendo“s incessant attempts to level the playing field with overpowered weapons make it far too easy to climb from last place to first, and just as easy to plummet from the top to the bottom. Even if you“ve been in the lead for an entire race, a couple of unlucky Blue Shells can easily cost you the six to eight seconds needed to send you back to fifth place. The good news is that "snaking," that egregious boosting maneuver so prevalent in Mario Kart DS“s online mode that led to record lap times and killed the fun for countless online players, can no longer be used consistently enough to exploit the gameplay of Mario Kart 7. So hey, at least there“s that. Aside from the new weapons, there are a few gameplay additions making their debut. For one thing, a gyroscope mode is available. Choosing it shifts the player“s perspective to first-person (a first in a Mario Kart title) and turns are made by moving the 3DS in that direction. It“s a fun experience that“s surprisingly well-executed, but as with Star Fox 64 3D“s similar gyroscopic mode, most people won“t keep it on for too long, at least with the 3D mode turned on. Luckily, the motion controls can be disabled while simultaneously keeping the first-person view, and viewing the tracks from this perspective is a very fresh experience. Another change is the addition of submarine and hang glider modes, allowing you to drive underwater and fly through the air during certain portions of the tracks. These modes don“t revolutionize the game, but they add extra depth to the overall gameplay that certainly enhances it. Flying high in the air and being able to scour the landscape below is particularly enjoyable, and although the submarine mode basically just amounts to driving at a slower pace, the newer tracks utilize it well. These tracks, by the way, are gorgeous and well-designed, with a few big hitters being Neo Bowser City (a futuristic Blade Runner-type area), Maka Wuhu (an island track featuring one long course rather than multiple laps), and the most breathtaking incarnation of Rainbow Road we've seen so far. There are a few less-inspired ones, but no one with any respect for the series will be outright disappointed. The biggest improvement to Mario Kart 7 is unequivocally the multiplayer. This is the first 3DS title to really utilize the platform“s online capabilities, allowing up to eight players at once to participate in a single race or battle. It“s a little cumbersome to race online against specific people, but a Community feature makes up for it by allowing you to form code-protected groups of players to race against and tons of customization to make races interesting. Local multiplayer lacks the Community feature, but utilizes the StreetPass function to swap ghost data and view the VR stats and profile of racers you pass by. The sheer ease and accessibility of MK7“s multiplayer is one of the game“s shining features, and it“s a pleasantly addicting one that keeps replay value at a vertigo-inducing high. While it“s a shame that the series“ incessant item imbalance keeps it from being a perfect racing game, Mario Kart 7 contains a tried-and-true recipe with extra tweaks to keep it fresh, and it“s highly worth checking out. Moreover, its well-executed multiplayer mode makes it the definitive handheld racer at the moment, and one that shows off the benefits of owning a 3DS. It certainly doesn“t bite anyone“s dust, but rather (another lame racing cliche, probably containing the phrase “photo finish”). Pros: + Gorgeous tracks + Beefed-up multiplayer mode + Air and water capabilities that add extra depth to the races + Loads of unlockables Cons: - Items make it too easy to go from first place to last and vice versa - New items are pretty weak this time around Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic For fans of racing games and fun multiplayer experiences, this is a must-own title.
  12. Christopher Haygood

    Rayman Origins Review

    Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier Publisher: Ubisoft Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS Release Date: November 15, 2011 (consoles), February 22, 2012 (Vita), February 20, 2012 (3DS) ESRB: E for Everyone This review is based on the Wii version of the game. The Rayman series started in 1995 and introduced Rayman, a blonde, limbless monstrosity, as a two-dimensional platforming hero (younger readers: before there was 3D, there was something called 2D. It all gets rather complicated and it's best just to ask your grandparents about it). It“s been a while since we“ve experienced an original side-scrolling Rayman game — what with the nauseating amount of Raving Rabbids entries plaguing the series over the years — but now, finally, we have one. Oh boy, do we ever. On the surface, this is a game that doesn“t take itself seriously in the slightest. The main conflict revolves around an old granny from the underworld being so annoyed by the afternoon snoring of Rayman and his friends that she sends an army of unholy minions to show them what for. In the retaliation, these minions — the Darktoons — imprison the Electoons inhabiting the land, capture the magic Nymphs, and plunge the Glade of Dreams into chaos. This ends up so disturbing the Bubble Dreamer that he accidentally allows Rayman's arch-nemesis to escape the Land of the Livid Dead. Without so much as one word of dialogue, Rayman, his pal Globox, and the Teensies embark on a slap-happy quest throughout the Glade of Dreams to stop the evil, aptly-named Mr. Dark from wreaking havoc on the Glade. (Yes, it felt just as silly to type that as it did for you to read it.) With a ridiculous premise, cartoonish graphics, buxom fairies, and the absurdest of foes, this seems like some concoction Ubisoft threw together on a lark. But if you believe this for even one second, you're the butt of one of 2011's greatest jokes. The gameplay is standard for a platformer — Rayman and friends can jump, dash, and, later in the game, swim, hover, run up walls and slap things senseless. Whenever an enemy is defeated it becomes "bubblized," and attacking it a second time before it floats off screen garners you additional Lums: bug-like creatures whose adamant collection leads to the rescue of Electoons. Each level contains a number of Electoons to free, either by collecting Lums or finding hidden areas within the stages, and saving them allows one to progress further into the game as well as unlock bonus stages. Despite some slight awkwardness in areas where the platforms are smaller, the controls are tight, fluid and responsive. The game gets difficult later on, but never frustratingly so: rather, it“s that pleasant, Castlevania style of difficulty that requires trial-and-error to get through a section, and causes the player immense satisfaction upon doing so. Multiplayer feels a lot like it does in Super Mario Bros. Wii, a game that perfected four-player platforming co-op. When one player gets hit and is on the ropes, the others can burst their bubblized comrade in order to keep them within the realm of the living. Multiple players on the screen at once, all racing to defeat enemies and collect Lums and possibly slap each other stupid, creates a scene of madcap hilarity that can bring a whole living room of people to hysterical tears faster than any comedy film. The graphics are mouth-watering, and I don“t mean that strictly figuratively; there's a good chance your controller will be covered in saliva by the end of World 1. This is the first game to incorporate Ubisoft's UbiArt Framework graphics engine, and the luscious hand-drawn visuals of Origins can act as a testament to its efficacy. Every stage is full of vibrant enemies, colorful, eye-popping backgrounds, dazzling effects, and a style that would tickle even the most callous observer. Gliding listlessly through abyssal seas full of luminous creatures and dark crevices, frantically climbing the debris of a collapsing steampunk-style sky palace, and leaping over boiling vats of chicken tortilla soup in a Mexican kitchen have never looked this good. As with nearly everything else in this game, the music is strange, ridiculous, and outstanding. Every track fits like a detached, floating glove, from the bizarre mariachi belting during a tour through a dragon's fire-coated intestinal tract, to the endearing, hillbilly-like forest music, fully equipped with Jew's harps and dueling banjos, to the lethargic, ambient crooning during some of the most enchanting underwater stages in the history of the platforming genre. Aside from being unforgettable, the soundtrack is as fun as anything else in the game, and it's impossible to overstate the positive impact this has on the work as a whole. After maybe an hour or two into the game, I started to feel something I don't feel often. I think the word is "giddiness." It dawned on me that I had been having more fun every minute than I had the minute before, and that I was nowhere near ready for even the shortest break. Although the stages can be lengthy, some indomitable urge pushed me to begin the next stage as soon as I completed the previous one. This, it turns out, is largely due to the level design, which is so perfect that some stages must have been crafted on a golden computer by Nobel Prize-winning physicists using constructive criticism from Zeus. The way everything in a particular section is interconnected in just the right way to fully utilize the complete repertoire of your moves is astounding. Perhaps no levels demonstrate the expertise of the designers more effectively than those that have you chasing down a fleeing treasure chest, where halting for even one second can lead to a lost life, and jumps and platforms and vines go together so tightly that merely running through the course is like watching thousands of dominoes fall in an elaborate pattern. I literally laughed out loud dozens of times throughout the course of this adventure, but rarely were they laughs of humor: rather, they were laughs of pure delight. And those are the deepest and most satisfying laughs of all. There's no way around it: Rayman Origins is a masterpiece, a rare platforming gem as masterful in level design as Super Mario Bros. 3, as aesthetically pleasing as Limbo, and containing all the whimsical, unapologetic fun of...well, a Rayman game. This is not only one of the best games of 2011, but one of the greatest platformers I've ever played. It helped me remember why I love video games. I think it cured my cold and put money in my wallet while I wasn't looking. I don't think I need to go on with this nonsense: check out Rayman Origins and remember what it feels like to experience pure, unadulterated fun at once. Pros: + Level design as tight and elegant as a unified theory + Tear-jerking art style + Excellent soundtrack + Solid controls + A direct focus on fun, something many of today's games seem to lack Cons: - The controls feel a bit clumsy when the platforms are smaller Overall Score: 9.5 (Out of 10) Fantastic Are you still here? Go out and play this game already!