Here are my Nintendo 3DS impressions

March 16, 2011

A user on NeoGaf posted that the Best Buy in his area just put a new 3DS demo unit on display.  Out of curiosity, I went to my local best buy to see if there was a 3DS display there and lo and behold, there was!  Seeing as I have heard a lot of conflicting reports about the device from, “The 3D effect is amazing!” to “I got headaches and nausea from playing it.”, I decided to try it out before I entertained spending $250 on the handheld.  Here are some of my impressions.

First off, the 3DS’ Aqua Blue color is more green than it looks in all of the PR shots that have been floating around. It really reminds me of my first car….a 1991 Chevrolet Camaro, which leaves me wondering what color to get.  Even though the display unit showed Now Playing: Super SFIV, I could only play Pilotwings.  When I tried turning the 3DS off, it’d load back to the main screen of the Pilotwings demo.

3D…it’s soooo real!

The 3D itself is the real deal. The effect is more about you looking through a window than it is about things popping out at you. The first thing I noticed while playing is just how good the slide pad feels. The analog sensitivy on it is perfect and it felt completely natural. The slide pad on the 3DS puts the PSP’s analog nub to shame by comparison.

I had the 3D slider on full and it felt fine to me although I could see where it could mess with your eyes. I’ve heard 3DS impressions that state that the amount of 3D you’d need varies by game. After I was done I didn’t have any headaches or nausea or anything like that although I did have some minor adverse effects.  The best way I can describe how I felt after playing it for a few minutes is that I got that same feeling you get when you ride on an elevator…you know that kind of off balance feeling?  I had that sensation for a minute or two afterwards, no big deal.  I can see a scenario where my eyes and brain would get used to the effect to the point that I would probably no longer get that same sensation after extended time with the device.

It’s about playing games….right?

Pilotwings itself was not bad, but hardly a system seller. While it was fun to fly around…there wasn’t anything (other than the 3D effect) that really felt special about it.  With that said, I really liked the 3D effect it used and it did add a layer (albeit a small one) of immersion.  In the demo, you had the choice between doing simple missions such as fly through the green rings (Superman64 style!) in an airplane, land on the target using a jet pack, or fly around the lighthouse and take pictures of it using a hand glider.  You could even select a free roam option to fly around with no rules, although that got boring rather quickly.  The controls felt very responsive and as I stated previously, the slide pad felt great.

The graphics in Pilotwings are on par with the Gamecube which is fine by me. I didn’t expect NGP-like graphics and despite the 3D effect, the colors didn’t feel washed out.  I didn’t notice any drops in frame rate between 3D and non-3D although I have to admit that the game looked kind of plain in comparison with the 3D off.  Still, the graphics weren’t that bad and leaves me looking forward to what developers can do with the system when they come to grips with the 3D.

I’m still undecided whether or not I’ll grab this game as a launch title or not yet, that might be a game time decision.
Parting Thoughts

All in all I liked the 3DS. Although Pilotwings wasn’t a show stopper it did give me confidence that the 3DS can be a great system.  Will I buy one at launch?  I already had a pre-order in on Amazon just so I can have a spot reserved in case I decided to buy one and I think I will keep that pre-order.  Although the launch lineup only offers a few good games, there’s a few titles that I’m really interested to play in the near future (hello Zelda: Ocarina of Time).  Like every other Nintendo console from the last few years, what developers do with the tech will determine just how far portable 3D gaming will go.


LTTP: My Thoughts on Dead Space

February 13, 2011

I had originally picked up Dead Space two years ago.  I enjoyed it just fine, but apparently it didn’t hold my interest well enough because I got to Chapter 9 and then moved on to a different game and never looked back…until now.

I will admit, it took Dead Space 2 coming out to make me revisit this game but I’m really glad I did.  Something about it clicked more with me this time around and a game I thought was simply good was a lot better to me the second time around.  The best thing about Dead Space is the setting and ambience that the game sets up for you.  Not only do you genuinely feel like you are on different levels of a space ship, but you also have this sense of dread that something is going to kill you around every corner.

In my opinion Dead Space did a lot of things right that were completely lost on Resident Evil 5.  It’s as if RE5 didn’t want to completely shed its roots so it had the same control scheme from Resident Evil 4.  The explanation given for this was that you couldn’t fully create tense situations without the player having to think about the controls.  Dead Space not only proved this wrong, but also showed Resident Evil 5 that putting emphasis on action doesn’t necessarily have to strip away the feeling of isolation, survival, or fear.

The story in Dead Space is fairly minimalistic with the option for it to be expanded upon by the numerous tie ins that are involved with the franchise.  You can get the gist of the story simply by playing the game and if you really want a deeper experience with the universe, you have a choice of novels, comics, and movies to choose from.  I kind of liked this approach because it gave me the choice to get as involved as I wanted with the story.  The game does a good job of giving you a basic premise of the high points of the universe by including text, video, and audio logs.  This minimilast approach even creeped its way into the ending as well which was actually to the game’s benefit.  You can tell that everything that Isaac had gone through deeply affected him.  He looked completely broken by the end of the game and all of that  was conveyed by a single cutscene.

The gameplay doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it simply creates a damn good wheel for you to play with.  Dismemberment is the name of the game, and all of the weapons are built for the task.  Speaking of the weapons, I like how a lot of the game’s contriances are explained away by story.  For example, each of the weapons in the game are actually mining tools.  Even the reason why the game is nothing more than someone giving you a laundry list of shit to do is explained away by making you an engineer with the sole responsibility to get the ship up and running again.  That explanation is good enough for me.  The fact that the game is really good helps in that regard.

You can upgrade your weapons, health, armor etc via in game stores.  It’s a bit of an obvious approach but I think it worked rather well for this game.  The node system really made you explore every corner of the Ishimura in order to find extra power nodes to upgrade your character.

So what does Dead Space do wrong?  Well for starters, I think the game had a lack of set pieces to keep the pace going.  I think to a degree, you are supposed to be slow and methodical with your approach but it seemed like the pacing was a bit too slow at times.  Not only that, but there were a few areas that got really annoying, the main one being the asteroid cannon bit.  Luckily I was able to hang on just long enough to get through that part after a few tries but it left a cheap taste in my mouth.

Not only that, but the new game+ in this game is a bit misguided.  Although it does give you extra credits, power nodes, and a new suit of armor for completing the game and then replaying it, it shoots itself in the foot by only letting you take advantage of the extras on the same difficulty level.  This really makes having New Game+ in this game sort of pointless.

Overall I had a great time with Dead Space.  The game’s graphics, sound, and overall ambience are all aces even two years later.  I wouldn’t say the game is a classic example of survival-horror, but considering what’s been posing as Survival Horror since the days that Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, and Resident Evil were prominent games in the genre, I will gladly take it.  There’s enough jumps and scares to still creep you the hell out with the lights off and the sound turned up loud.

My 2010 Game of the Year Awards

January 3, 2011

Best Xbox 360 Game

Honorable Mention: Alan Wake

Mass Effect 2 took almost every negative from Mass Effect 1 and turned it into a positive. Bioware created a fully realized sci fi universe here that’s as deep and interesting as any universe before it.

Best PS3 Game

Honorable Mention: Heavy Rain

God of War III sports one of the most amazing openings to any game I’ve played. Although the ending left fans polarized, the brutal gameplay, visual fidelity, and cool boss battles make this one of my favorites from last year.

Best Downloadable Game

Honorable Mention: Shank

This was a tough choice for me because to be honest, I didn’t play a whole lot of downloadable games, but Guardian of Light’s fun coop really helped it edge it out over Shank.

Best Wii Game

Honorable Mention: Donkey Kong Country Returns

This was a toss up for me.  You can pretty much flip a coin as to which game was my favorite.  Ultimately, it’s amazing what Super Mario Galaxy 2 does in a 3D space, so that nudges it over Donkey Kong Country.  Between SMG2, Kirby, and DK, 2010 was an awesome year for Nintendo platformers and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Best PSP Game

Honorable Mention: God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Easily the best PSP MGS game to date, Peace Walker looked and played more like a full blown console release than a limited portable game.

Best DS Game

Adjectives, that’s all you need to know.  Super Scribblenauts also added an actual face button control scheme and more of a puzzle oriented gameplay structure.  All of these improvements basically took away most complaints gamers had about the first game.

2010 Game of the Year

Honorable Mention: Mass Effect 2

It was hard to choose between ME2 and RDR, but ultimate I chose RDR because it went from a game I only got because I was talked into it (for the multiplayer), to being one of the best experiences I had with a game last year. The characters, gameplay, and awesome ending really set it apart from most games of 2010.

Other fun choices:

Best Graphics: God of War 3
Best Artistic Design: Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Best Action Game: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
Best Fighting Game: Super Street Fighter IV
Best Adventure Game: Back To The Future Episode 1
Best Music Game: Rockband 3
Best Platforming Game: Donkey Kong Country Returns
Best Racing Game: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Best RPG: Fallout: New Vegas
Best Shooter: N/A
Best Sports: NBA 2K11
Best Score: Red Dead Redemption
Best Voice Acting: Mass Effect 2
Best Story: Red Dead Redemption
Best Online Multiplayer Game: NHL 11

Disney Epic Mickey Impressions

November 30, 2010

I’ve been playing the game and thought to post some of my impressions.  Keep in mind that these impressions are based on one hour of play time.

Graphics: I really dig the art style that they went with here. It has a Tim Burton-like quality I wasn’t really expecting.  More than anything I really like Epic Mickey’s unconventional color palette. Junction Point went with colors that you wouldn’t typically expect in a game starring Mickey Mouse.  The use of purples and neon blues and greens really add to the darker-than-usual-for-a-Disney game atmosphere.

Sound: Really digging the music. There is some of it that sounds vintage Disney and other bits of it that sound original. I’m enjoying most of it so far, but I’m really early to judge for sure.

One thing I’m really disappointed with is the lack of voice acting. It would have been awesome to hear Mickey Mouse actually voice his lines during the cutscenes! They are pretty damn cool and would have added a lot to it IMO, especially considering that the subtitles go pretty fast, guaranteeing that my 8 year old son might not be able to keep up with it. All you get is Rare like sounds that emote what they are feeling.

Gameplay: I can definitely see where the complaints about the camera are coming from. I’m honestly not having a REALLY hard time with the camera, but I really wish that they would have gone the route of Metroid Prime Trilogy and had the camera pan around as you aimed the reticule around the edges of the screen. I find myself doing this instinctively at times and it would have helped with aiming the camera up and down since it’s a little on the uncomfortable side to reach and press up and down on the Wii Remote’s D-pad (which acts like an analog stick).  Using the D-pad as an analog stick does take a little getting used to.

Centering the camera makes up for some of the issues of using the D-pad to turn the camera.  I’ve always thought that Super Mario Sunshine and Kingdom Hearts had the worst camera implementation in these types of games and Epic Mickey hasn’t reached those depths of frustration yet.  More than anything, looking up and down is what becomes a bit of a chore as I’m getting accustomed to things.

Now that the camera woes are out of the way, I have to say that I really dig the gameplay thus far and I’m just scratching the surface. The jump mechanic feels good to me which is vital in an action/platformer and the Paint vs. Thinner mechanic is simple to use and fun. So far so good.  You have quests that you can do as well as collectibles that you can obtain.  Seems like there are some pretty cool extras that range from collectible pins that can be acquired by exploring areas using the Paint/Thinner mechanic, E-Tickets (not sure what these are for yet but they are the equivalent to collecting coins in Mario thus far) and film reels that seem to unlock animated shorts (I unlocked Mickey and the Beanstalk but haven’t checked to see if it’s the actual animated short or not).

I also did one of the side scrolling levels which was super simple, but fun. It helps to break up the pace of the game and it was really cool to see a 2D level themed after one of Mickey’s cartoon shorts.

Overall: I’m having a lot of fun with it, but I’m way too early to say anything definitively one way or another. I can say though that the game is a lot of fun so far and I’m looking forward to playing more.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 Review

November 5, 2010

The first game in this series got mixed reviews, but I was part of the few that really enjoyed it.  The thought of Darth Vader having a secret apprentice seemed really neat and I thought it was a great way to extend Star Wars canon.  You’d think then that a sequel with refinements to the game play and graphics would make for a better game.   Well after beating the game I have to say the experience left me with an empty feeling.

First off, there isn’t nearly as many locales as in the first one.  One of the things I enjoyed about TFU1 is that there was a feeling of variety in the locales so when those locales repeated towards the end, you didn’t mind as much.  In TFU2, you truly only have 3-4 locales, which is ridiculous to me.  This game doesn’t have the sense of adventure that the original had and doesn’t even have more than two boss fights total.  Adding insult to injury, the Darth Vader fight was way too long (this is not a spoiler) and was a one trick pony boss fight, forcing you to do the same thing over and over with little variety to break up monotony.

The game does offer an upgrade system, but Star Killer is so overpowered right off the bat that it makes upgrading your abilities a bit unnecessary.  I suggest you at least play the game on Hard difficulty so you can have some semblance of a challenge.  I appreciated that you didn’t have to unlock all of the same abilities you had when you beat TFU1, but they should have adjusted enemy difficulty accordingly.

As many have already pointed out in reviews and impressions, the game is way too short…about half the length of the first game.  A 5-6 hour play time wouldn’t be a problem if the game play variety was there but it simply wasn’t.  Games like Batman Arkham Asylum and Uncharted 2 have raised the bar of what we expect from third person character action games and TFU2 just doesn’t live up to its potential.  Heavenly Sword for PS3 had a similar play time to this game but felt like a complete experience in comparison.

To round things out, the story just sort of ends right in the middle of a plot point.  Who thought it was a good idea to end it at that point in the story?  Perhaps if there was a more fleshed out story before that point it would have made sense and felt more like a cliff hanger, but that simply wasn’t the case.  TFU1 introduced a conflicted Jedi, Maris Brood that is still out there somewhere in the Star Wars universe.  Why they would create that hanging plot thread only to not explore it in this game is beyond me.  A lot of wasted potential there in my opinion.

That’s just the thing too, this series does have so much potential!  The game play really is a blast and if only they were able to have more set pieces and variety in level design and a more fleshed out story, it could have been great.  As awesome as the game play was though, they failed to make an awesome game around it.  If you are interested in this game, I say rent or wait for a price drop.  Not sure if it’s worth $60.

Overall Rating: 6.5

The 10 Minute Review: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

October 22, 2010

Overall, I found Enslaved to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  The physical performances by the digital actors were really impressive and the voice acting was top notch.  Andy Serkis delivers a good performance as Monkey and Lindsey Shaw shows great chemistry with him as Trip.  The game play was basic albiet mindelss fun.  While there are some upgradable moves via the game’s upgrade system, it’s fairly bare bones for this style of game and doesn’t hold a candle to games in the same genre such as Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and God of War III in that department.

Where the game does shine is in its presentation and story telling, which was all top notch.  Ninja Theory did a good job of making you care about the characters and how their story was going to progress.  I thought the ending was pretty good and wasn’t what I expected, which I suppose is a good thing.

I would like to see Ninja Theory create DLC to flesh out the world they created here and perhaps give more insight into what happened in the Epilogue.

I don’t know if it would be worth paying full price simply because the game play is fairly simple and you can blow through it in 8 hours or so but it’s most definitely worth playing.  I say wait until a price drop or perhaps rent it.  Either way you’ll definitely have an entertaining and enjoyable experience with it.

Game-toberfest! What are you picking up?

October 3, 2010

So many October games, such little time!  With Fall now in full swing, Publishers are starting to release their fall lineup of games.  October is pretty damn stacked.  Here is a list of some of the ones that I find notable:

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

NBA 2K11

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Fallout: New Vegas

Fable III


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II


So which one of these will you be buying/renting?  Here is my list:

I love me some third person action games, so this one looked right up my alley.  Not only that, but seeing as I’ve never been a huge Castlevania guy, I figured a reboot of the series is a great place to start.  I’ve got this one pre-ordered.

I really enjoyed Heavenly Sword, so I’ve been waiting to see what Ninja Theory was going to make next.  Although I’d love to support them, I’ll be renting this game instead of buying.  An 8-10 hour experience is nice, but if I do buy a third game this month It’ll be…

This game is looking like it’s going to be the best of the series yet.  Can’t wait to play through the Jordan stuff.  Remember that “3rd  game” comment?  The second game I’ll probably be picking up this month (contingent on how bad my wallet is hurting) will be…

I really enjoyed the first game of this series despite its flaws so I’m curious to see how much more improved this will be seeing as Lucasarts had a full 2 year development cycle on the game.  Let’s hope it turns out as good as I’m anticipating.