December 22, 2011
Seeing as how The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword requires the Wii MotionPlus add-on or a Wii Remote Plus, it makes sense that Nintendo would also sell Skyward Sword bundled with one. What’s great about the bundled Wii Remote Plus is that it isn’t a stock vanilla controller, it’s gold and emblazoned with Triforce insignia. It looks nice and the form factor matches that of a normal Wii Remote which is good; the Wii Motion`Plus accessory adds a few inches to a standard controller. Too bad there wasn’t a matching gold nunchuk though.
Also with the bundle, and with every copy of the game I believe, is a soundtrack CD celebrating the series’ 25th anniversary. About half are medleys or symphonic movements with the rest being specific songs from the series. The medleys combine many games while the symphonic movements hone in on one game in particular, either The Wind Waker or Twilight Princess. At first I liked the songs better because they were easy to identify and they weren’t such a time investment, but after listening to the CD for a few days, the longer tracks grew on me. They were all done with a symphony too, real instruments!
The bundle was a good value at seventy dollars when it originally came out, a little less so for me since I already had a Wii MotionPlus, but I had to get that Zelda memorabilia! Now it seems to be going for at least one hundred dollars on the internet and that’s ridiculous. Unless you’re just hurting to get the special Wii Remote Plus, I’d hold off on the bundle because it’s the only unique thing in it.
December 21, 2011
When I think of a category of games and attempt to decide which is best, I end up with what the first was and what the best was since then. Whatever game did something first receives a lot of weight because it initiated a concept or formula. Everything to come in that game’s wake can improve upon concepts and formulas however and excel past the original in many ways, but the original always holds a special place. Keeping with this idea, I believe The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the best 3D Zelda game since Ocarina of Time.
Why do I feel that way about Skyward Sword, the most recent game in the series? It seems like during the development of Twilight Princess the developers had Ocarina of Time forefront in their mind and the goal of being bigger and better. Twilight Princess is definitely a fantastic game but thanks to the visual style, it felt very similar to Ocarina of Time and not necessarily a step forward for the series. I feel during Skyward Sword’s development, the developers now had the idea of doing something new within the familiar Zelda format. I believe this can be attributed to the inclusion of enhanced motion controls.
Because of the inclusion requirement of the Wii MotionPlus, enemies and puzzles seem fresh. There are many familiar enemies but defeating them requires evaluation. Common enemies like the goblins could block my attacks so I couldn’t just wail on them. There are a ton of new enemies that require special methods to defeat too. Puzzles were devised around the 1:1 movements that the controller would pick up and they were fulfilling. My movements weren’t picked up exactly 100% of the time and when this happened, it was annoying.
With the developers having to develop around the new functions, it brought the concept of doing something new to other areas of the game, like the soundtrack. It’s performed by an actual orchestra for the first time in the series, and it sounds good! I heard some very unusual songs (that I enjoyed) throughout dungeons. Overall, it helped to set the mood when exploring and matched the tone of touching moments, and there were a lot of touching moments between Link and Zelda.
In Skyward Sword, Link and Zelda are just normal kids. Well, normal kids who then realize that they were chosen by the deity Hylia to save the world. The game’s introduction sets up their relationship as well as the relationships between their neighbors. They felt like normal kids instead of a princess and a hero destined to save her. The quest was enthralling, although a little tedious to always chase after items that are in multiple pieces. It makes sense to have checks and balances but at some point you’d think all these supreme beings would realize all I’ve gone through and say “yeah, you’ve proved yourself already, here you go”. In the end, there was a lot of interesting information dropped on me about the historical chain of events relating to Skyward Sword and the series in general and the last couple of hours were packed with memorable moments for the Zelda fan.
One thing that helped to make Skyward Sword feel fresh was the visuals and the setting. As I mentioned in my first impressions of the game, Skyward Sword features an interesting art style that looks fantastic on the less than stellar powerhouse that is the Nintendo Wii. Skyward Sword isn’t set in traditional Hyrule though. Instead, Skyloft, a floating island in the sky acts as Link’s home base. With many shops and residents with side quests, I had plenty of reasons to return throughout the quest. In the sky were a handful of other floating islands and it was a large overworld, but it took too long to get places and there wasn’t really a lot to do. To get to the ground though, where all the dungeons were, I’d have to fall through holes in the clouds.
Getting to the dungeons required traversal of many other obstacles including forests, oceans of sands, and volcanoes. Getting to the actual dungeons were challenges in themselves. The surface areas were not entirely accessible from the beginning and I returned to and uncovered much more about them with each return.
Skyward Sword is a much fresher Zelda experience than Twilight Princess was. It’s still a Zelda game through and through with a similar format and story but it shines brighter because of what it requires. Combat and puzzle solving has been reinvigorated thanks to the 1:1 movements. The surrounding elements feel fresh and are enthralling too. Skyward Sword is a fantastic Zelda game and a fantastic game in general, worthy of being placed together with any recent release.
November 25, 2011
The Legend of Zelda is probably my favorite video game series. Nearly every game in the series has a blend of exploration, combat, and puzzles that I find fulfilling. I’ve played nearly every game bearing the name so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when the newest, Skyward Sword, was released this Sunday, I was at my local GameStop as soon as they opened. I’ve played it for nearly eight hours and wanted to write about what I’ve done so far.
This time around Link is a knight in training at an academy. Rather than a princess, Zelda is a fellow student who admires Link. They live in Skyloft, which happens to rest on a floating island, in the sky. Skyloft is home to many people and there is a bazaar with a handful of shops. There are other floating islands as well and traveling to them on Link’s bird reminds me of sailing in The Wind Waker.
For the first hour and a half I learned about the world around Link and took part in the Wing Ceremony, a contest proving one’s ability as a knight. Soon after this, Link learns that he and Zelda are destined for great things. While celebrating Link’s victory, Zelda was wrapped up in a tornado and fell to the surface. I heard many rumors of the surface as no one seemed to know what was down there. With some aid from an ancient goddess that everyone worships, Link headed to the surface.
I’ve completed one temple so far and I’m at the entrance to the second. To get to the first temple I had to navigate Link through some woods which were full of enemies, and a few helpful creatures called Kikwis. There’s one aspect of the art style that really shines in colorful locations like the woods and it’s the way scenery looks from a distance. The game looks cartoony, although it’s not cel-shaded. I’ve heard others describe it as painterly and I agree. When looking at something that’s far away, objects begin to blend together and look like a blotchy watercolor painting; it’s really cool to see.
The first puzzle in the first temple stumped me for a good while. It revolved around using Link’s sword in a specific way that’s only possible with motion controls, which play a large part in the game. Skyward Sword utilizes Wii MotionPlus which makes the motion controls more accurate than would be with a normal Wiimote. Nearly every enemy I’ve run into has required me to attack them in a specific way. The combat is a lot tougher than it’s ever been before, but it’s also more fun because each enemy is a puzzle and requires me to act as though I’m swinging a sword.
What I’ve had the most fun doing so far is completing side quests and exploring. As soon as the opportunity arose, I began flying to other islands and meeting new people. I’ve met many other people besides those on Skyloft and opened up a minigame and some sidequests so far. After completing the first temple, I was able to complete some sidequests back on Skyloft and received some rewards. I’ve been finding treasures like crazy and I’ve bought a lot of upgrades, aiding me greatly.
One thing that bugs me about Skyward Sword so far is the controls for falling. I’ve had to fall for long distances many times now and I can’t quite get the hang of the controls. Other than that minor complaint I’m enjoying Skyward Sword. I really like the less realistic art style, I’m having fun fighting enemies and solving puzzles with the motion controls, I’m digging the exploration and rewards, and I’m just glad to play another Zelda game.
May 24, 2011
Having spent so much time with Animal Crossing on the GameCube during my formative years, it’s a game I’ll always have a soft spot for. But besides just blind love for the series because of this, the games appeal to the part of my psyche that enjoys a mundane routine and the drive to complete item lists.
Animal Crossing: City Folk has been a part of my daily routine since I began playing it in March. Composing this review was tough; I could have listed off flaws and make note of the minor improvements that it has made on its predecessors, but that would only be useful for those who have played the previous games. And if you’ve played the previous games and enjoyed them, chances are, you played City Folk when it came out in 2008. And pending you didn’t like the previous Animal Crossing games, guess what? Animal Crossing: City Folk is more of the same, for better or worse.
Animal Crossing: City Folkbegins opens up the same way the previous games did. You, the player is moving into a new town to set up roots and experience life. You are broke however and this requires some help from the local storekeeper, Tom Nook. He lets you have a house in town, with the expectation that you’ll pay him back. From here, the primary objective is to pay off your house, all the while increasing its size and your debt.
From the middle of March until a week or two ago, I had played the game for at least an hour each day. I felt compelled to play, compelled to find the fossils buried around town that day, to see if any events were happening, and to just make a little more money towards my debt. Once I neared my final payments however, I really lost the motivation to get on. I’d like to check back in at the beginning of every month and holidays, but I’m not sure that’ll happen.
I could continue playing City Folk as I have these past two months, all I’d need to do is set up goals. For instance I could donate to the town fund and see what that reaps. Or I could attempt to have my town be graded as perfect. But after so much time with City Folk I’m ready for a break. And if my playtime with the previous games is any indication, I’ll be back at it just like I was from mid-March to mid-May at some point in the future.
But what is it that drew me to the game every day? At this point in the article, you, the reader would say it was paying off my debt, but that would only be true on the surface. It’s what I did to pay off my debt that kept me coming back, it was my routine.
My daily routine consisted of running errands. I’d go fossil hunting, search for the magical rock that spat out money, sell fruit and seashells, see what new items Tom Nook had for sale, water any withering flowers, talk with neighbors, fish and hunt for new insects. Rarer would be the days that I’d visit the city or play online with a friend. What drew me to City Folk every day was errand running; I had a second life that I had to attend to and it became a part of my actual routine, up there with eating breakfast and brushing my teeth.
I loved Animal Crossing: City Folk. My description of the game might make it sound boring, which it sort of is, but it’s the mundane routine I had set up that kept me coming back to the game for two months straight.
May 10, 2011
In the early nineties, due to the increased space of compact discs, a new feature was being added to video games, full motion video. That craze ran its course in little time showing that it took more than actual video footage to make a game good, but playing games from this era can often times be humorous. Mad Dog McCree is arguably one of the most popular games that used real video, and Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack on the Nintendo Wii collects the entire Mad Dog McCree series. The package includes Mad Dog McCree, Mad Dog II: the Lost Gold, and The Last Bounty Hunter. They were all developed by American Laser Games and were originally released as arcade games in the early nineties. Digital Leisure, who now owns the American Laser Games catalog of titles, ported the games to the Wii and the Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Packwas published by Majesco in 2009.
In Mad Dog McCree, Mad Dog McCree himself has kidnapped a mayor’s daughter and his gang of bandits are running amok in the old west town. An older prospector filled my friend and I in and gave us some advice on where to begin. After this conversation, we were able to pick where we wanted to go, the saloon, the sheriff’s office, etc. In the saloon for instance, the bartender waved us over and told us that the group nearby was Mad Dog’s men and we soon had a shoot out with the bunch. We could shoot them beforehand, but nothing would happen. We had to wait for them to get up and the game to register that they could be killed then and that’s a severe downside of FMV, especially when you know who to shoot. Also, whenever enemies are popping out behind cover, the game hitches for a split second as the footage is being cut of the scene with no one to the scene of that enemy popping out. I don’t really consider that too terrible, I mean it gave us a little heads up to start searching and that’s just how FMV games have to operate, although it was more jarring in Mad Dog II: the Lost Gold when there’d be animals on screen in one spot but then just appear somewhere else instantly.
Mad Dog II: the Lost Gold also had an interesting mechanic that gave my friend and I a choice on how to complete the game. In Mad Dog II, we were again on the trail of Mad Dog McCree, attempting to take him out, but this time with the added bonus of getting his treasure. After some introduction, we had the choice of three characters to lead us to Mad Dog McCree. Each one took us through some unique action sequences, but they all led to the final battle with Mad Dog McCree. The final scene in Mad Dog II was lengthy and challenging. We were led to a small town that was full of Mad Dog’s men. The sequence took a couple of minutes and strewn throughout were civilians who we had to avoid. Quick thought, if I was a civilian and I knew there was a deadly battle raging outside, I probably wouldn’t pop my head out of a window and yell don’t shoot. During this lengthy showdown, there was a part that had my friend and I stumped. We were able to continuously get to a section of the town, and then we’d get shot and we couldn’t find out by whom. We tried for fifteen minutes but to no avail. We finally got on YouTube and found that the enemy was in a door way, in the very back of the scene, barely noticeable.
The last game in the compilation, The Last Bounty Hunter, ditches Mad Dog McCree. Instead, my friend and I were the last, um, bounty hunters and were tasked by a Union Army official during the Civil War to track down some outlaws that have been causing trouble. They could be attempted in any order and we had the option to bring them in dead or alive; alive if we shot their gun instead of them, which is harder said than done. This game was probably the most humorous as each outlaw had a unique personality and the actors who played them overacted. But that’s one of the things that’s great about these games, it seems like every actor overacts and it’s funny to watch with a pal and commentate on how awful they are.
These games don’t take a lot of effort to beat, they are practically built on trial and error, and while I usually don’t find that enjoyable, I was able to persist with these games if only to see the overacting. My friend and I were determined to beat all the games in one sitting and it took us an hour or two, searching YouTube included. The actual game part is okay, staring at a screen, waiting for an enemy to pop up isn’t the most thrilling action video games have to offer, but having someone else with you, taking out the bad guys, watching explosions in slow motion, and chastising the acting is worth tracking down the Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack for the Wii.
July 17, 2010
Like many others, I hold The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in high regard. I didn’t play it when it was initially released; I received it when I preordered The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and I bet many others’ first experience with The Legend of Zelda was through this method. It was around this time that I was beginning to get into video games, and those games were a big part of it. To say I was looking forward to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess would be an understatement; I remember getting hyped about it with friends but when it came out, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I didn’t finish it then but have come back to it and experienced it all the way through and while it is all around extremely competent and fun game, I still came away somewhat disappointed. A lot of this stems from it feeling too similar to past Zelda titles.
Early on the dungeons advance similar to Ocarina of Time; forest dungeon, fire dungeon and then water dungeon, even the towns are similar; these places are designed in new ways and remain interesting to explore but it seems lazy. After this period however, the game starts to feel different and many of the later dungeons were interesting, both aesthetically and the way they played out. The items are similar as well, but I don’t fault this aspect of the game, wanting one hundred percent different items I feel would be asking too much. Many of the previous items have been slightly altered which changes up their use, both for puzzles and attacking, and there are a few totally new items that are interesting to use, however briefly. One of the things that I like about Zelda games is their mixture of puzzle solving and action and Twilight Princess didn’t disappoint.
Throughout the game is an equal need for brain and brawn. In later parts of the game, I got stumped quite a bit on puzzles and would nearly give up. Then through what must’ve been some sort of divine intervention, something would click and I would figure it out, and that provided a great sense of accomplishment. Adding to the sense of accomplishment was the element of exploration. While traveling throughout Hyrule, I came across many things that I didn’t know how to interact with at that time. So I’d have a notepad handy and take notes. Once I realized what I had to do, I’d return and get whatever it was; this sort of backtracking and tab keeping is very appealing to me. The sword fighting and action in general stays on par with past 3D Zelda titles, but there is little advancement. Perhaps my biggest complaint in regards to Twilight Princess feeling similar is its story.
For me, story is a major part of the experience, I want to follow along and see the story the developers have crafted but Twilight Princess is almost laughably similar to past games, namely Ocarina of Time. Many of the key elements I already know from playing past games, so it’s like a refresher throughout the game. There are plenty of things that separate it from past games, such as the ability to turn into a wolf when traversing the Twilight Realm, but the overarching story doesn’t seem new. That being said, the cutscenes are extremely well done and a joy to watch as they do convey a lot of information, but a lack of voice acting is a major hindrance. The characters in the game are crafted excellently, with unique personalities and an interesting look, and having voices would make them seem more fleshed out.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a great game and I had fun throughout the adventure, but I still can’t help but feel disappointed. Twilight Princess feels like a compilation of what the developers thought were the best parts of past Zelda games and this sense of familiarity turned me off. Much has been said of Japanese game design lagging behind that of western developers (that the Japanese are very conservative) and in many ways Twilight Princess is the perfect example of that.
February 22, 2010
So I bought MadWorld off of Amazon for cheap and thought it was a steal. I’d always been interested in the game but not enough to pay full price for it, sorry Platinum Games and Sega.
MadWorld is a game unlike any other due to its art style. The game’s look is very reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Sin City and the game overall is influenced by comics. Having not read anything about the game, my guess is the decision for this art style was to cope for the Wii’s graphical power among wanting it to stick out and I really dig it, except that most everything blends together and it can be distracting at times trying to figure out where one thing ends and another begins. Of course that’s not a problem when blood starts spewing over everything, which it does often. This is without a doubt the goriest game I’ve ever played but it didn’t have a negative effect on me like a more realistic game would’ve.
What’s the reason for all this gore? Well, a game show is being staged and it’s being run by people who bet on
contestants. The contestants must survive on an isolated island that has had a virus spread across it. They can’t only survive though; they need to kill the others in outrageous fashion to score points, which is how you progress. You play as Jack Cayman, a mysterious man who is on the island. You get sponsored early on and it’s apparent that Jack has other motives for being here. Jack stabs people with road signs, throws them in spike laden dumpsters and an assortment of other gruesome acts, many including his prosthetic chainsaw arm. Early on I found the story to be the least of my concerns but as the game moved on, it’s what began to draw me in as it got more complex.
Structurally the game doesn’t change much. Each level is a confined map that opens up more and more as you get more points. Throughout the levels are all sorts of objects to inflict death with and halfway through each level, a “Bloodbath Challenge” opens up which tasks you with killing people in a single creative way for a limited amount of time. These break up the pace and most of them are very fun, and they’re all playable in a multiplayer mode. At the end of a level you fight a boss which, like the levels, adheres to a singular structure. You attack the boss some and get the opportunity to do a cinematic, motion-based super attack and then repeat. There are two motorcycle missions but these got old before they were finished. The levels get boring with a repetitive nature to them, but like I said the Bloodbath Challenges provide a nice break in between them and the boss battles are quite fun.
The soundtrack was enjoyable although the developers seemed split on a singular direction to take it audibly. Solemn music fills the menus and cutscenes which is a stark contrast to the obscene rap/rock soundtrack that takes place during levels. Although thinking about it now both types fit the setting well; the dual settings of an island with a bleak outlook to the over the top death game show. Easily one of my favorite parts of the game were the commentators, providing quips about the on-screen action, often in vulgar and funny ways and the voice acting in general I liked.
MadWorld was a cool game. The art style was striking, the story became more interesting as the game progressed and the voice work and soundtrack were well done and added to the over the top setting. There were many interesting and fun gameplay moments, specifically the Bloodbath Challenges and boss fights, but the repetitive nature of the game grew old fast.