Tag Archives: 2002

Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest [GameCube] – Review

Cubivore - GameCube - North American Cover

An ecological game with a sense of humor, Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest is endearing in a loveably bizarre way, despite frequent battles against an unanticipated foe: the camera.

Developed by Saru Brunei with assistance from Intelligent Systems, it was originally intended to release on the Nintendo 64DD before winding up on the GameCube. Nintendo published it in Japan in early 2002 but opted to forgo a western release, prompting Atlus to localize it for North America, where it launched on November 5, 2002. Continue reading Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest [GameCube] – Review

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Random Game #6 – Super Monkey Ball 2 [GameCube]

Super Monkey Ball 2When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

During the sixth generation of video game consoles, the Sam’s Club in my town gave budget games a good name. Every time my family made a shopping trip there, I tagged along in the hopes of picking up a GameCube game for about $13. One of those games was Super Monkey Ball 2. It’s a weird game from a unique series. Most of the games task players with tilting stages, aiming to navigate monkeys in Wayne Coyne styled hamster balls to an end goal. The game had a fast pace to it, in part because nearly every stage needed to be completed within a minute – a holdover of the series’ arcade origins. I played much of it back in the day, but it grew too difficult for me at the time. Yet another game I need to return to.

Super Monkey Ball 2 was developed by Amusement Vision. It was published by Sega on August 25, 2002 exclusively on the GameCube. Like its predecessor, it was headed up by Toshihiro Nagoshi – a man with an impressive resume at Sega, one that offered him the opportunity of becoming their chief creative officer and a member of the board of directors.

Random Game #2 – Turok: Evolution [GameCube]

Now how could a teenage boy resist that cover?
Now how could a teenage boy resist that cover?

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

Turok: Evolution was one of the first games I got hyped for. It was released soon after I started paying attention to video games and to the teenager that I was, it seemed too cool. A first-person shooter set in a dinosaur world? How could I have not been interested? Looking back now, I remember the campaign’s diversity and different environments the most. The multiplayer saw more than its share at my house too, although it played second fiddle to the likes of TimeSplitters 2 and Super Smash Bros. Melee. This was a favorite of mine back then and I have nothing but good memories of it.

Turok: Evolution was developed by Acclaim Studios Austin (formerly known as Iguana Entertainment) and published in North America by Acclaim for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube on August 31, 2002. A PC port was released exclusively in Europe on October 24, 2003. Lastly, a Game Boy Advance version was developed by RFX Interactive and published on August 26, 2002.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem [GameCube] – Review

Eternal Darkness Sanity's RequiemSilicon Knights has come to be known for many things, mostly negative. One of the reasons they became so notorious though, was due to their former success. Without question, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was one of the studio’s highest highs. A survival horror game, published by Nintendo for the GameCube, the game met high praises upon its release in 2002, and is still fondly recalled. I recently played through the game, and while enjoyable, I didn’t become a rabid fan. For all of its uniqueness, the game feels pretty dated twelve years after its release.

Alex discovering the Tome of Eternal Darkness in her grandfather's secret study.
Alex discovering the Tome of Eternal Darkness in her grandfather’s secret study.

The game’s primary protagonist is Alex Roivas. Her grandfather was just murdered and she’s now the last of the family. Edward dealt heavily in the occult and as Alex searches for answers to his murder, she becomes embroiled in a struggle between good and evil that dates back at least two-thousand years. Center to her quest is the Tome of Eternal Darkness. As Alex discovers pages to the Tome, scattered about Edward’s mansion, she is taken back in time and relives the struggles of her ancestors as they work to prevent the revival of evil ancients. This facilitates an interesting storytelling mechanic and a wide cast of characters.

I don’t care who you are, time travel is always interesting. Personally, I think of it in context of futuristic science-fiction, so its usage in the game was something different. Alex’s reading of the Tome was translated into individual sections of the game, where I controlled characters as diverse as a Roman centurion, a Cambodian slave, and a World War I soldier. Those characters, as well as many more filled out the game. The environments were as varied as the characters themselves. This is an astonishing fact as there were only a handful of settings. The locales were revisited through the ages, and while they were mostly identical, they remained fresh by virtue of the aging process and the period pieces I’d obtain and use in them; unlike say, Devil May Cry 4.

Hugs and kisses!
Hugs and kisses!

As the game dealt with many time periods and characters, the items and weapons I’d come across naturally fit the setting. Generally, each character gained access to multiple weapons, with the majority of them being swords. These highlighted the inventive combat system well. I had the ability to target different portions of an enemy’s body – head, torso, or upper appendages. I almost always went for the head as it was the quickest way to deal with an enemy or cope with a crowd, although striking appendages was helpful in many circumstances too. Besides swords, I came across many guns and long range weapons. In my experience with the game, these were useful against only one enemy and one boss. Don’t get me wrong, I could use them on anything, I just didn’t find them effective. Ammunition wasn’t an issue, unlike other survival horror games of this period.

Finishing enemies boosted a character's sanity.
Finishing enemies boosted a character’s sanity.

Another aspect that differentiated this game from its peers was its distinct lack of tank controls. No matter the character, I was able to freely move them about. Coupling this with what I perceive as an enhanced focus on combat because of the targeting system and lack of inventory/ammo management, and this game skews more towards the action spectrum of action-adventure. However, like games of this ilk, there are plenty of items to find and puzzles to solve. Or…, association puzzles, as I’ll call them. These are what I found in the Mansion games and Juggernaut. Through exploration, I’d stumble across something I could interact with, generally nonworking; for instance, a telescope missing a handle. Eventually, I’d find the handle, and putting them together, I’d be able to advance the story.

These types of “puzzles” were never too difficult, although this game stumped me more than once. Or, it stumped my friend and me, as we played cooperatively. Yes, more than once we flat out got stuck and had to source GameFAQs. In these few instances, the solutions were obvious, but for whatever reason, we didn’t crack the game’s logic. An example: playing an archaeologist in Cambodia circa the 1980s, we roamed the entirety of an ancient ruin not knowing what to do. We had examined a handful of spider webs earlier, which spurred the archaeologist to think they might be obscuring something, but we believed that a nonstarter. We thought this because it was clear there was nothing behind them when they were examined. WRONG. In his inventory, he had a brush that we used earlier to clear away dirt. When used on the spider webs, an important item was discovered, allowing us to progress. There were a few other instances of this, and it was extremely demoralizing.

The writing in the game - the story and descriptions - was so good. Very atmospheric and dark.
The writing in the game – the story and descriptions – was so good. Very atmospheric and dark.

My time with Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem started strong. An impressive narrative wrapped around an inventive storytelling mechanic and large cast of characters served well to draw me in. The unique combat system and strong playability were nothing to scoff at, especially considering its peers. However, the weak puzzles and sometimes confusing internal logic required to progress grew tepid. AND, there are sanity effects that I didn’t even mention! Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by them because I always kept my sanity meter high. By the end of it, I was more jazzed than ever to see how the story culminated, but I was ready to finish playing the game. It’s still a very impressive game. But, it was more impressive twelve years ago, just like Silicon Knights.

Beach Spikers: Virtua Beach Volleyball [GameCube] – Review

Now this is a fantastic game!
Now this is a fantastic game!

One of the facets that draws me towards collecting video games, or as some might simply put it, buying a lot of video games, is finding superb games that have been more or less forgotten. Finding a hidden gem in the bargain bin makes me feel like a connoisseur of the medium. Even if I don’t play all of today’s “instant classics” I feel I’m doing my part by shining a spotlight on the good, perhaps overlooked, games of yesterday. One such game is Beach Spikers: Virtua Beach Volleyball for the GameCube.

Originally released into Japanese and European arcades in 2001, it was ported to the GameCube a year later. Sega AM2, whose games I continuously find myself playing and writing about – Power Drift and Shenmue recently – developed this game as well. In short, it’s a fast-paced simulation of two-on-two beach volleyball. There are a few modes that can eat up some of your free time, but the one that’s most important is multiplayer.

Serves and spikes implemented a power meter, as well as directional input.
Serves and spikes implemented a power meter, as well as directional input.

Enjoyable with up to three friends locally, the multiplayer proved to get raucous quickly. The game takes the bump, set, spike formula of volleyball and presents players with an intuitive user-interface and simple controls that make it easy to grasp. Couple that with the fast-paced flow of the game, and it can wind up growing on you. Speaking personally, it only took my friend and I a few matches to get hooked. After a few hours, we had learned the ins and outs of all the ways to receive and attack the ball to keep volleys going for a long time. We found it to be so enjoyable, we had to force ourselves to quit, hours after midnight this past Friday.

The multiplayer is definitely the draw in my mind, but there’s a brief diversion in the single player modes. The world tour is the primary draw and in it, I was able to customize a team and take them through eight rounds of tournaments. My partner started off unable to assist in any way, but as we lost and lost I earned experience to put into her various abilities. By the final tournament, I was the weakest link on the team! I wish this mode could’ve been played cooperatively; it’d eliminate the teambuilding element, but it’d also eliminate working with a brain-dead partner. There’s an arcade mode that I haven’t dabbled in yet, as well as a tutorial mode that further cemented what my friend and I had discerned on our own through hours of play.

I can't imagine how rowdy four player matches could get.
I can’t imagine how rowdy four player matches could get.

Discovering games like Beach Spikers: Virtua Beach Volleyball has made collecting video games an enjoyable hobby for me. It’s even better when I find a gem that can be enjoyed with others, such as this one. The fast-paced action and intuitive adaptation of the sport will make this a go-to game for my multiplayer sessions. Which is the game’s main draw, as there’s little reason to play solo other than unlocking costume parts that harken back to Sega’s past. Regardless, this is an older game that’s worth a look for fans of local multiplayer.

Shenmue II [Xbox] – Review

The box art itself is epic!
The box art itself is epic!

I could go into excruciating detail about the narrative and highlight all of the major plot points of Shenmue II, but I won’t. Actually, I can’t say that I won’t because I did and I’m just not publishing it. What I wrote was a two page article that read more like a set of game notes. I dove fairly deep into explaining the three major sections of the game and even then, I barely scratched the surface. What you as someone who is unfamiliar with this game needs to know is that Shenmue II is narratively rich, yet ultimately unfulfilling. Narratively speaking, that is. It’s still a joy to play.

In short, the game picks up directly where the original left off. Ryo Hazuki has travelled to Hong Kong to exact revenge on the mysterious Chinese man who murdered his father. Ryo investigates the Wan Chai and Kowloon areas of Hong Kong in a similar manner as he did in Yokosuka. He follows up on leads by asking residents, gets into street fights and other scuffles, and finds odd jobs to pay his bills. All this eventually culminates in a trip to a remote village where an event that has been foreshadowed since the beginning occurs. The beginning of this sequence had my friend and I sit straight up as we knew what would follow was very important. However, eleven years after its original American release, the cliffhanger ending is still unresolved and the current stopping point for this ill-fated trilogy.

The various quarters of Wan Chai and Kowloon are each large and distinct.
The various quarters of Wan Chai and Kowloon are each large and distinct.

As I mentioned, the structure of the game is identical to its predecessor, although elements have been improved. The primary emphasis was still on investigation and completing odd tasks and I found their resolutions very rewarding. Brawls and QTEs were still a large part too, but they seemed less prevalent. I find it peculiar that the fighting system appears to have such depth and yet it was hardly utilized. This made it a little tough for my friend and me towards the end as the rising action and climax consists of dozens of easy and tough fights. Needless to say, we relied very heavily on simple punches and combos.

And what a climax! These last few hours were simultaneously tumultuous to play and epic to witness. Kicked off by a stressful quest to raise money, my friend and I spent a solid hour gambling and resetting the game when things didn’t go our way. This was followed up by a convoluted trek through 18 floors of a massive 40 floor building. The dozens of fights Ryo had provided closure for the events that took place in Kowloon and they eventually led to a climactic scene where Ryo caught up with Lan Di. Although nothing transpired between the two, he now knows that Ryo is after him. Afterwards, the chance encounter that had my friend and I sit at attention was drawn out, torturous, and a great opportunity for two characters to become acquainted before finding out their destinies lie with each other.

The cast of characters is ridiculous. So many interesting individuals.
The cast of characters is ridiculous. So many interesting individuals.

I’m doing it again. I’m trying to delve into the narrative and I just need to stop. There’s a reason this series has such a zealous fan base. Shenmue and Shenmue II are fantastic examples of the narrative-driven single player video game. An epic coming of age tale coupled with exploration, investigation, and action. The blend of gameplay elements kept the game fresh and despite a few tumultuous sequences and the occasional camera or control issues, Shenmue II was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The passion of Yu Suzuki and his development team shines through in this game as it did in the original. Now, what about Shenmue III?

Activision Anthology [PS2] – Review

"Pulling Mussels (From the Shell" by Squeeze is my favorite track from the tubular 1980s soundtrack.
“Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)” by Squeeze is my favorite track from the tubular 1980s soundtrack.

Released on November 25, 2002 in North America, this compilation collects the majority of Activision’s output on the Atari 2600 and a little more. There are other versions of this game out there on various platforms and truth be told, the PC version appears to be the most complete, but hey, this is what I have. The Wikipedia entry for this game has a wonderful breakdown of what each version includes by the way.

Activision Anthology is nearly over the hill with a list of games that almost numbers fifty. Although many are rather simplistic – requiring the player to learn to uncomplicated mechanics and progressively improve their score – that doesn’t mean these games aren’t worth playing. This simplicity is these games’ selling point. Understanding the mechanics of these games comes quickly, but having a fantastic session and lighting up the scoreboard is something that requires practice.

With the passage of time though, Activision’s games grew more complicated and some, like Pitfall!, revolve more around the experience of a single player. Though sparse here, these games offer a break from the monotony of shooting waves of advancing enemies. Should this offering wear thin after a sojourn with each title, multiplayer should reinvigorate one’s time with Activision Anthology.

Although they're not much to look at, it's games like Demon Attack that'll keep you trying for a better score.
Although they’re not much to look at, it’s games like Demon Attack that’ll keep you trying for a better score.

One thing the PS2 game has going for it that perhaps not every version does is top-notch presentation. Barking Lizards Technologies and Contraband Entertainment really knocked it out of the park. Be it through these companies or someone at Activision, it’s clear that there was a real affection for Activision’s output in this era. Rather than a list of games to choose from, the “main menu” is instead stylized after a room as it might look in the 1980s. Situated inside are the Atari 2600, a rack of cartridges, and an old stereo among other goodies.

Hands down, the coolest feature has to be the ability to unlock patches for high scores or other criteria. After achieving a specific goal, a player back in the early 1980s could submit photographic proof to Activision in return for a patch signaling the accomplishment. These patches are quite the collector’s item today and spotlight a cool appreciation program from the past. Also spotlighting the past are the cheesy, premise-based commercials that can also be unlocked; these are definitely worth viewing.

Sega's Bonanza Bros. must've been inspired by Keystone Kapers, Activision's cops and robbers game.
Sega’s Bonanza Bros. must’ve been inspired by Keystone Kapers, Activision’s cops and robbers game.

The wealth of games to play, not to mention the numerous unlockables have kept me satiated longer than anticipated, and I don’t have a particular fondness for the Atari 2600! After a week or so, I’m still playing some of these games trying to beat personal best scores and to experience new enemies and stage designs. That’s the bread and butter of this package. Despite the wonderful presentation, the games are the reason to pick Activision Anthology up.