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Found 667 results

  1. Leah

    Shinobi Review

    Publisher: Sega 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. Pros: + Pure and intense side-scrolling, platforming action + Fun extras like achievements and unlockables Cons: - Stiff controls can lead to many infuriating deaths - Unnecessarily and mercilessly hard at some points Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10) Good 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.
  2. Leah

    Shinobi 3

    From the album: Leah's Review Images

    © sega

  3. Leah

    Shinobi 2

    From the album: Leah's Review Images

    © sega

  4. Leah

    Shinobi 1

    From the album: Leah's Review Images

    © sega

  5. From the album: Leah's Review Images

    © natsume

  6. From the album: Leah's Review Images

    © natsume

  7. From the album: Leah's Review Images

    © natsume

  8. Publisher: Natsume 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!). Pros: + 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 Cons: - Freezing and slowdown issues in the 3DS version paired with restrictive saving system will frustrate many - Loses luster after marrying and completing “storyline†- Restrictions on naming characters/animals/etc. Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Fans of the farming simulation genre should definitely have a place for this on their shelf.
  9. Jason Clement

    Mutant Mudds Review

    Developer: Renegade Kid Publisher: Renegade Kid Platform: 3DS eShop Release Date: Out Now ESRB: E There's no doubt that Nintendo's eShop service for the 3DS started out a bit slow, but over the holidays it has pumped out some great original content, starting with Pushmo and continuing on with Mighty Switch Force, VVVVVV, and Zen Pinball 3D. I'm happy to say that Renegade Kid's first endeavor on the eShop, Mutant Mudds, carries on the streak of great games. In what seems to be an all-but forgotten genre nowadays, the game features a young boy with glasses named Max as he fights against the titular Mutant Mudds in a brand new platformer that harkens back to the good ol' 8-bit days of the NES. So grab your super soaker and read on below to hear about one of the most interesting new original games this year so far. Mutant Mudds hits the ground running from the first moments of the first level. With only the most simplistic of instructions (signboards that you tell you what a certain button does as you pass by), the game is almost a return to the old style of NES games that left players to their own devices as far as how the game is played. Fortunately, there isn't too much to the controls; mostly moving left or right, jumping (and hovering with Max's water-based jetpack), and shooting blobs of water at enemies. However, don't think that the simple controls are indicative of the game being easy- far from. In fact, Mutant Mudds is one of the most punishingly difficult games I've played in some time. I don't know if I'd rank it alongside the likes of Super Meat Boy, but again, it really does reflect the 8-bit days where games were genuinely challenging. Much of the challenge comes with timed jumps and your ability to defeat the different breeds of "mutant Mudds," which can range from a standard floating Mudd to ones that shoot projectiles or even ones that carry a sword and shield. Each level is designed with these factors in mind, so you may come across a narrow corridor with a few Mudds to dispatch first, or you may have to make a jump to a small platform with a Mudd on it, so either you'll have to position yourself in a way that you'll have just enough room to land while still not touching the Mudd or you'll have to defeat it first. You'll also make use of a special platform in order to traverse between the foreground and the background as you make your way through each level. While these platforming conventions offer a great challenge for most, I actually started to grow a little tired of them a little more than halfway through the game. For all of the interesting layouts in its levels though, Mutant Mudds feels like it's missing something. There are a few "power-ups" that you'll have access to after collecting a certain number of the many numerous medals scattered about each level and you'll need to go back and make use of all of the power-ups in order to access the game's secret levels, but it just doesn't seem like enough to really give the game enough variety. In fact, the game only has four or five main enemies or so, and a few lesser ones that are meant to serve as nothing more than obstacles. Once you learn each enemy's attack pattern, it slowly becomes monotonous in having to deal with them; there are only so many times I can jump over a sword and shield-armed Mudd, only to shoot it three times in the back to defeat it. And while the different power-ups do have their use throughout levels, they simply don't change up the gameplay enough to really give it some pizazz; you're simply relegated to a jetpack that let's you reach greater heights, a jetpack that let's you hover longer, and a special water gun that breaks orange walls. That's it. So when there's only one way method of defeating enemies, it can get a little monotonous. On the flipside, developer Renegade Kid put most of the emphasis on the actual platforming itself, thus many of the levels are built around Maxwell's jetpack and how skillfully you use it. It works well for the most part, but I wish there were some more ideas built in to each world. In contrast, VVVVVV's different levels introduced entirely new gameplay concepts that worked well and made the game continually interesting; it would have been nice to see a similar treatment used in this game. Visually though, the game has a very nice and clean esthetic to it, with 8-bit-like pixelated graphics that really pop (especially when the screen's brightness is turned up to max). In addition, the transitions from foreground to middleground to background are handled very well, with no noise or degrading of the sprites themselves. Maxwell might appear a little small on the background, but he's still very much visible enough to see what's going on, and the fact that foreground objects and enemies often obscure what is going on in the background makes for an interesting challenge at times. Also, some of the music in the soundtrack is very good, reminding me of early Mega Man games and Capcom's other 8-bit hits. Overall, Mutant Mudds still offers some of the best value out of all the eShop games despite some of its shortcomings. I clocked in at almost six hours when I was done with the game, so there's definitely a bit of content to play through. With 40 different levels to play through, challenging gameplay, and some rockin' 8-bit tunes, Mutant Mudds is still worth playing if you're a fan of platformers (especially if you loved the NES games of the late 80's and early 90's); it's just a shame that the game never evolves beyond basic platforming. Pros: + Interesting level designs; later levels are very challenging + Visuals have a very attractive 8-bit look to them. + Music is catchy Cons: - Game feels a little repetitive in design in certain parts - Not a whole lot of variety throughout the game Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Mutant Mudds is an admirable attempt at a new IP by Renegade Kid even if it falls short a little. If you're looking for something new and challenging to download off the eShop, I'd recommend giving it a try.
  10. Marshall Henderson

    Resident Evil: Revelations Review

    Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom Platform: Nintendo 3DS Release Date: Feburary 7, 2012 ESRB: M for Mature Resident Evil has a tendency to use off-series games to fill in the gaps of time left in the numbered games. Specifically, it has a tendency to fill in gaps where nobody had any particular questions. The most recent endeavor into that field is Resident Evil: Revelations. Fortunately for everyone involved, with the move to the 3DS, plus some of that good old fashioned Resident Evil magic, Revelations proves that even that mortar between the bricks of the series can be pretty darn awesome. Resident Evil: Revelations takes place between the fourth and fifth games in the numbered series. The story follows fan-favorite Jill Valentine, partnered with new character Parker Luciani, while the two look for Chris Redfield and Jessica Sherawat, who disappeared during an investigation. While looking on a ship named the Queen Zenobia, what do you know, those B.O.W.'s that replaced zombies are all over the place. In standard Resident Evil fashion, players are introduced to some intrigue, betrayal, and no small amount of twists while the cast of the game searches tirelessly for the answers behind all the goings-on. At its core, Revelations is a great compromise between what the series once was and what the series is. Combat has been smoothed over to a point where it's actually manageable, and, dare I say, even fun at times. While this causes the horror element in the series to take yet another hit in the name of action, it keeps the flow of the game up really well. The movement isn't as tank-like as it has been in the past, but feels more like an old station wagon or something to that effect, where players can't really expect to turn on a dime, but it doesn't wholly cripple one's ability to do battle with multiple enemies, which is a pretty common occurrence in the game. Simply put, the combat is easily one of the most solid parts of my entire experience with the game. Not far off from that, however, is the aesthetic of the game. Character models look excellent, with the texture of clothing, hair, and equipment being frankly extremely impressive for a handheld. A lot of set designs are a little flat, but the lighting in the areas and the other parts of the design work out to make it look surprisingly good. Enemies follow the same sort of design that most of the B.O.W.-type enemies from the series took, being gross, twisted monstrosities that look excellent in the game. This is another title for the 3DS to tout its 3D with, as any amount of time with it (including an ability to enhance the 3D in-game) feels a lot more natural than it does with many other games. Depth of field in a lot of areas may not necessarily make them better rooms or anything, but it looks good, and accomplishes what the 3D was seemingly meant to. Well, maybe not looks good as it was all grungy and B.O.W.-filled, but it was yuckers in the best way it could be. This doesn't translate to the pre-rendered cutscenes, but those still look alright as well. The attractiveness of Revelations does come at a cost, though, as, even with the 3DS focusing exclusively on playing the game, I had gotten some lag when dealing with going through some doors. It wasn't necessarily disruptive to gameplay, but on a console, that is always an unsettling situation. Characters are the lifeblood of the plot in Revelations, and we see the recurrence of the personalities of the familiar characters in the game, along with an occasionally seen display of some pretty superior acting chops by their respective voices. Namely, Jill seems to nail it for a lot of the scenes, and really secures herself as one of my favorite characters in the series through this game. Their personalities show a fidelity to the source material while showing a degree of growth over all the time that players have spent with the characters. As for the new people involved, Parker and some of the non-playable characters have shown to have equally as superb voice acting skills. There are some characters, such as Jessica, who have some pretty bad voice acting, but it isn't terribly distracting, so it is forgivable in the context. There are definitely some cheesy bits that come up, but overall, the new characters are well-done and, more importantly, engaging. They mesh well with characters like Chris and Jill, making for quite a well-constructed cast. The story may be pretty normal fare for a Resident Evil game, but the characters make it quite a joy to navigate. An important part of Revelations is that it's on a handheld system. This isn't always the easiest delivery method for a game so anchored in the story, but Capcom rose to the challenge in spades. In order to tell a full story, Revelations will skip from character to character in some occasions, as well as breaking up parts of the story with cutscenes in order to give solid stopping points in the story. Each segment is generally around 10 to 20 minutes long, so it's very good for pick-up-and-play, and loading the game will give players a recap of what happened in the story last time, just in case the small details have been forgotten. It would be nice, though, if the "what happened last time" wouldn't always play when players go from episode to episode, as, you know, that's the part we just played, so we probably remember. It is skippable, so it's probably a nitpicky inconvenience, but it can be a little annoying. Along the main campaign, there are also Raid Missions. Raid Missions allow players to, either solo or with other people, play through areas in order to reach the goal at the end. Actions throughout will grant players experience and items to be used in future playthroughs, as well as currency to buy different items. It's somewhat reminiscent of Resident Evil 5, in that players can get together to run these missions to unlock other characters and such. This is sort of the crux of a lot of handhelds; while running a campaign over and over can appeal to some people, a lot of people want a game mode to use to interact with others or to just play for a few minutes. Overall, the Raid Mode is a bonus with nearly no drawbacks whatsoever. Really, the only downside that I saw with the online mode here was that there didn't seem to be any particular way to communicate with one's partner, so it wasn't that much different than playing with a particularly sophisticated (well... depending on the other person) AI. Resident Evil: Revelations is a credit to its series, to its system, and to anyone with the fortune to play it. There are several issues with the game, but definitely nothing game-breaking. Anyone who enjoyed the last few Resident Evil games, and is looking to fill out his or her 3DS library, Resident Evil: Revelations is definitely a solid place to put one's money. The kooky in that Resident Evil-style story and well-written characters complement each other in a way that shows that Capcom is really quite comfortable with the series by this point. Like the various viruses in the series that plague mankind, Resident Evil: Revelations is strong, hardy, and probably won't be stopped any time soon. Pros: + Well-written characters + Gameplay that fits on the 3DS very well + Graphically superior game, especially for a handheld + Excellent pick-up-and-playability Cons: - Occasionally spotty voice acting is magnified next to some really good voice acting - Sometimes laggy on 3DS hardware - Online gameplay seems to have no communication options Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Resident Evil: Revelations may not be perfect, but it is definitely a worthy selection for the library of fans of the series and of the genre.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Developer: Grounding Inc. Publisher: Nintendo Platform: 3DS eShop ESRB: T for Teen Release Date: Out now Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword might not grab your attention at first when you catch a glimpse of it on the 3DS eShop or see it being mentioned lately on gaming sites. It might seem like too much of a generic Japanese-centric adventure. But is that the case, or does Sakura Samurai actually go out of its way to make itself a unique game? In Sakura Samurai, you are a samurai, of course, set on a mission to rescue the Cherry Blossom Princess from an evil entity keeping her hostage. Unfortunately, this doesn“t help the game“s generic image that I was talking about, but you“re not going to be worrying much about the story in this game. On the other hand, the Japanese imagery in this game is presented beautifully with crisp graphics and art style. What Sakura Samurai prides itself on is its gameplay. It“s best described as a Punch-Out!! style game, except with ancient Japanese warriors and katanas. You must take note of the enemies“ attack patterns and dodge at the right moment. It is then that you“ll go in for the hit. You“re also able to move freely if you wish, though it“s going to feel slightly restricted (not that it“s a problem; you“re not going to want to move much, anyway). It seems very simple in the beginning, but as you progress throughout the game, it gets very difficult (in a good way that you“ll be enjoying figuring out how to tackle enemies). The battle system is great and fun to master, but it“s not without its flaws. From the manual, “During battle, your camera will move to focus on your enemies. This is called being ”locked on.“ The camera will move from enemy to enemy until it zeroes in on the one who is going to attack you next.†It makes sense, but it“s very annoying when you actually play. The later stages have more enemies, so this moving from enemy to enemy takes a long time and happens often throughout a battle. It even happens when you“re focusing on that one enemy that went in to attack you. You end up getting used to it, though. Sakura Samurai isn“t just battling, either. Much to my surprise, I encountered a little village while traversing through the map (in fact, there“s three in total across the entire map). These villages have a shop for restocking your inventory, a blacksmith for improving your katana, an inn for recovering your health and saving, and street challenges. These little villages definitely add a bit of life to the game. Let“s focus on the street challenges specifically. These are different minigames that offer you either much-needed gold or prizes and are quite fun on their own, regardless. Most, if not all, of the games require your best reflexes and timing. This can make them quite tough, especially as you start to get to the later street challenges, but it“s a great feeling to master them. Though let me tell you something now – get used to abusing saving and restarting. Something I found a bit mean was that a street challenge will “shut down†after three attempts at playing it (whether you win or not). Thankfully, you“ll be able to play again for simply going out and beating a battle stage. Other extras included in Sakura Samurai itself are a hard mode after beating the game once, a rock garden, and 30-, 50-, and 100-thug battle challenges. The rock garden is dependent on the steps your 3DS accumulates- the more you get, the more the sakura trees in the garden will grow. In addition, the thug challenges are exactly like they sound and can be very addictive and a treat to those looking for a challenge. It“s really fantastic seeing the game fleshed out with additions such as these. It should be said that as a downloadable game for your 3DS, it“s a must-buy. I would even go as far as to say that I would love to see this game or a sequel of sorts as a full-fledged game in the future. If the story, battle system, and whatnot were ironed out and expanded with even more extras added, the resulting game would be incredible. Nonetheless, Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword is a great game on its own, especially to those fans of Punch-Out!! and similar games. Pros: + Great battle system that you“ll enjoy getting into and mastering + Tons of extras that definitely flesh out the game + Fun minigames to farm gold and items Cons: - Some minor issues with battle system - Generic story of “save the princess†Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Another gem to hit the 3DS eShop; you“ll definitely want to add this to your library if you“re a fan of action or Japanese-centric games.