Tag Archives: 2003

Random Game #41 – P.N. 03 [GameCube]

P.N. 03

When I think of Sam’s Club, I tend to look back fondly on my middle school/high school gaming habits. With the plethora of $13 games I added to my collection, I experienced some of the best low sellers of that period. One of those titles was P.N. 03 – a futuristic character-action game from Shinji Mikami. It was set in a clean science-fiction environment, looked stunning, but played tepidly. Much of the game is lost to me now, but I do remember it being poorly received. In fact, I remember not being that big of a fan, although I played through the entirety of it, and played more to unlock additional costumes for Vanessa Z. Schneider. I’m willing to pop it in again, but I’m afraid I’ll be greeted with stilted combat that hasn’t aged well.

P.N. 03 was developed by Capcom Production Studio 4, and naturally, published by Capcom. It was spearheaded by Shinji Mikami and was one of the “Capcom Five.” In fact, this was the sole game of the lot that remained exclusive to the GameCube. Thankfully, this game turned out to be more of a testing ground for Mikami’s ideas; ideas that went on to create the brilliant Vanquish. P.N. 03 was originally released in Japan on March 27, 2003 and was released in North America on September 9, 2003.

Advertisements

Random Game #34 – Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu [GameCube]

Batman Rise of Sin Tzu

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.

I played a little bit of, and wrote about this game a couple of years ago. I think my introductory paragraph sums up my thoughts on the game perfectly. “The most notable aspect of Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is that it marked a first for the Batman franchise: the first time a major character was debuted in a video game. It has been nine years since the game’s release though, and I’m not aware of the villain Sin Tzu gaining much traction; I mean, I’ve only ever heard of him in the context of this video game, albeit, I’m not especially well versed in the Batman universe. Debuting in a mediocre beat ‘em up probably didn’t help his chances at stardom though.”

Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu was developed by Ubisoft Montreal. The studio is massive (over 2,600 employees!) and has remained incredibly prolific in the wake of the release of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell in 2002. This game was, naturally, published by Ubisoft. It original released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox on October 16, 2003 in North America. The Game Boy Advance and GameCube versions subsequently launched on October 27, 2003 and November 11, 2003, respectively. The game also had special editions on the home consoles. The PS2 and Xbox versions came with an action figure while the GameCube release had a lithograph (read: small poster), which I have.

Random Game #32 – Panzer Dragoon Orta [Xbox]

Panzer Dragoon Orta

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.

My experience with the Panzer Dragoon series is limited. When my friend purchased a Saturn a year or two ago, Panzer Dragoon was one of the first games he got. We played a small chunk of it and enjoyed it. Other than that, I’ve fawned over Panzer Dragoon Saga on eBay and daydreamed about finding a copy at a garage sale. I’ve always been interested in the series, and when I purchased this game early last year, I finally granted myself the best opportunity to play one of the games. What I remember most about this game was reading the strategy guide in a period Tips & Tricks magazine. It seemed like there was a lot of unlockables and a lot of various requirements. A game I’ll need to check out.

Panzer Dragoon Orta was developed by Smilebit and released exclusively on the Xbox. It was published by Sega; originally on December 19, 2002 in Japan with the North American released happening January 14, 2003. All previous games had been developed by Team Andromeda, which was folded together with a few other companies to form Smilebit. Despite this, it was the first (and last, I suppose) game to feature no involvement from Yukio Futatsugi, the director for the previous games. He has since made Crimson Dragon on the Xbox One.

Random Game #20 – Prince of Persia Trilogy [PlayStation 3]

Prince of Persia Trilogy

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.

This was a memorable purchase for me. While in St. Louis for Sonic Boom 2013, my friend and visited many video game retailers, with a focus on the mom and pop game shops in the various suburbs. However, I acquired this at a Toys ‘R’ Us alongside Eternal Sonata for the Xbox 360. As is usually the case, I haven’t played this yet, but I really do want to! I can recall reading Game Informer’s review of The Sands of Time while riding the backseat of my parent’s car. I thought it looked so cool, and so did they. I was less interested in the sequels, although they were well received too.

The Prince of Persia Trilogy contains the PS2 versions of The Sands of Time, Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones, all originally developed by Ubisoft Montreal. The HD ports were handled by Ubisoft Sofia. This collection was originally released for the PS2, exclusively in Europe on October 27, 2006, but the PS3 version was released in North America on April 19, 2011 – 5 months after its European release. These HD remakes are also available individually on PSN.

Random Game #11 – R: Racing Evolution [GameCube]

R Racing EvolutionWhen 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.

Like Super Monkey Ball 2, R: Racing Evolution was another game that I acquired through the local Sam’s Club bargain bin. It’s a simulation racing game from Namco and is a spin-off from their Ridge Racer series. Compared to the more hardcore console simulation games from the generation in question, this game is a little lacking. At the time, Gran Turismo 4 and Forza Motorsport hadn’t released yet, but Gran Turismo 3 was the de facto standard. For owners of the Xbox or GameCube though, this was arguably the next best example. This game had something neither of those series did though and that’s a story. It followed the unexpected racing career of Rena Hayami and I can still remember how cool it was to hear the team manager patch in to her during the races.

The game was developed and published by Namco. It was released in North America on December 9, 2003 (nearly 11 years to the date!) and was available for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube. The Player’s Choice rerelease on the GameCube includes Pac-Man Vs. so that’s cool.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence [PlayStation 2] – Review

Ayami Kojima, the artist for this and many other Castlevania games is self-taught. What talent!
Ayami Kojima, the artist for this and many other Castlevania games is self-taught. What talent!

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence was released on this day eleven years ago. It marked the franchise’s return to 3D, after a pair of reportedly underwhelming N64 titles. This title also marked Koji Igarashi’s first attempt at doing so, after helming many lauded 2D Castlevanias (Circle of the Moon not among them). It didn’t surprise me when I found this game to be very similar to the GBA and DS games that I adore. The formula of those games was transposed into the 3D action-adventure genre, although at least one key gameplay element was omitted, making for a less addicting game.

But you're Death. Aren't you already dead?
But you’re Death. Aren’t you already dead?

On top of that, the combat system implemented here lacked much depth. This didn’t bother me too much, although it also didn’t encourage me to explore the full repertoire of the game’s protagonist. But, that leads to one of the facets that drew me into this game and the franchise in the first place – the stories and settings. The Gothic settings and character designs are second to none in the video game realm. This game serves as the chronological origin for the franchise so it’s a key game in that regard, and even with a small cast of characters, I found it to be entertaining and worth my while. It only took me six hours to complete, after all.

As I mentioned, the formula that the 2D Castlevanias are known for was completely lifted and applied to the 3D action-adventure genre, with a few exceptions… That formula – the “Metroidvania” formula – is often noted for its extreme backtracking tied to character development. Neither of those elements was on display in this game, much. There was a fair dose of backtracking, but this was generally confined to each unique area. Character development also wasn’t a focus.

The HUD would display much information. It wasn't overly crowded though.
The HUD would display much information. It wasn’t overly crowded though.

The castle that the protagonist was exploring served as a hub to about six other remote sections. There wasn’t much tying these stages together, besides a foreboding sense of trouble. Even the association puzzles that I infrequently came across didn’t cross boundaries. Character development of abilities wasn’t a hindrance to my exploration either, so this was somewhat unique among the more recent entries in the franchise. Exploration was limited, and very straightforward. Thankfully, the castle itself was basically a character; granted one with dissociative identity disorder.

Composed of about six distinct areas, the castle was diverse, but always atmospheric. The Ghostly Theatre, the Anti-Souls Mysteries Lab, the Garden Forgotten by Time, you might intuit their ominousness from their names. When they weren’t recycling the same hallway or large room that hosted a group of enemies, they were fun to examine. Especially when coupled with Michiru Yamane’s fantastic soundtrack. The Castlevania games are host to some of the best video game music, and this one didn’t disappoint. In fact, there were a handful of songs that I had to download to listen on their own.

Guarding was crucial to this game. It negated all physical damage dealt.
Guarding was crucial to this game. It negated all physical damage dealt.

The game’s combat lacked much ambition, especially in comparison to some of its contemporaries, namely Devil May Cry. The basic combat centered on light and heavy combos with the franchise’s traditional whip. Also at my disposal was a small amount of magical buffs and the classic sub-weapons from the original Castlevania. I was content to mash the heavy attack button through the entirety of my playthrough, and this was very effective. It didn’t have to charge up much and the increased damage dealt was always worth the effort.

I refrained from using magical buffs, as I only had access to one until I was near completion. Plus, I didn’t find the one I had too helpful. On the flip side, the sub-weapons were a highlight. Four of the five were directly from the original Castlevania, but they were more than a nostalgic throwback. They provided many opportunities to deal ranged damage, and each had many variations. These variations were fun to experiment with and allowed me the opportunity to explore that aspect of the combat system, unlike the lackluster whip combos that were gradually learned.

On the whole, the game's difficulty curve was fair. Maybe a little easy, but there were some tough spots too.
On the whole, the game’s difficulty curve was fair. Maybe a little easy, but there were some tough spots too.

What made this game less addicting than its handheld brethren was the omission of any role-playing elements. I’m specifically thinking of Aria of Sorrow, where the player character could level up and equip a plethora of weapons. There was nothing like that in Lament of Innocence – and the infrequent health/heart boosts don’t count; nor do the three other whips. Instead, any sort of character development was done strictly though the combat system, which as I mentioned, lacked depth outside of the sub-weapons. RPG elements were commonplace in the franchise at this point, so I have to wonder if their omission had to do with the transition to 3D or a focus on simplicity for the origin story?

Lament of Innocence serves as the origins for the franchise, or it did before Lords of Shadow. I believe that’s another “universe” however. Taking place in 1094, the game sets up the eternal struggle between the Belmont family line and Dracula. The amount of exposition was minimal on the whole, with lots at the beginning and end, but little in the middle. The cast of characters was also small, but each is given much screen time as a result. I have nothing but praises for the narrative, definitely a highlight, and well worth experiencing for fans of the franchise.

The cross was one of the sub-weapons.
The cross was one of the sub-weapons.

Most of the narrative was told through dialogue between Leon Belmont and Rinaldo Gandalfi. The former was the protagonist, obviously, while the later aided those who sought to defeat Walter Barnhard, the vampire antagonist. Leon entered Walter’s immense castle in an attempt to rescue his betrothed, Sara Trantoul. It initially seems as though Walter captured Sara to draw a foe into his castle – to hunt Leon, more or less – but in a twist, it’s revealed that he was being used by a surprising character, forcing the Belmont family into a future of vampire hunting.

Well, now you've done it Leon.
Well, now you’ve done it Leon.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence proved to be a solid effort at transitioning the franchise into 3D, again. I was disappointed by some of the gameplay elements, but enjoyed others. The combat system on the whole was a little dull, although the sub-weapons were a nostalgic callback, and fun to experiment with. Exploration was also a little dull, despite the castle’s diverse composition. The lack of much RPG influence was perhaps my biggest knock against this game, but I still enjoyed my time with it. Perhaps due most of all to the well told story and mysterious cast of characters. Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is a worthwhile adventure for fans of the franchise or genre, but it’s not the best of either.

Auto Modellista [GameCube] – Review

The Dodge Viper!

Being an avid fan of Nintendo, especially during the GameCube years, I was turned on to cel-shaded games via The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Since then, I’ve had a fondness for the cartoony graphical style used in games as far-ranging as cartoon tie-ins and the uber-violent affairs of Suda51. Auto Modellista was an arcade-style racing game from the time period that I also had a fondness for, primarily because of its art style. Underneath however, was an informative racing game that enabled me to understand crucial racing concepts.

Auto Modellista originally appeared on the PlayStation 2 in 2002. Developed by Capcom Production Studio 1, the game was part of an initiative to support the PlayStation 2’s online capabilities. The other games from this group (Resident Evil: Outbreak and Monster Hunter) outperformed it, and is perhaps why this game was later ported to the GameCube and Xbox. The GameCube was the only version to lack online play, which it might as well now. Despite it including a split screen mode for two, I strictly played solo.

Auto Modellista - Mazda 6

The Garage Life mode is the primary single player mode. Freely using up to thirty cars, I completed individual races and series’ to unlock further challenges, new cars, and customization parts – even for my garage! The customization was light – most every car’s exterior could be customized in areas (bonnet, side, rear, spoiler, etc.) and most had three options. Performance upgrades were unlocked and also very limited, although they were beneficial and necessary to winning. I made sure to focus on events that awarded these first and I breezed through the game in a few hours.

The courses were divided up amongst the familiar circuit design and more unique hill courses. These upward or downward winding courses were set against the backdrop of the Japanese hillside and featured ludicrous amounts of sharp turns. These sections might as well have been a scene from Initial D! They were one of my highlights from the game, particularly due to their uniqueness. With less than a dozen tracks, they didn’t have much competition. Speaking of, the opponent AI wasn’t much to deal with either. The difficulty stemmed more from the performance upgrades and whether I had them or not.

One element of the Garage Life mode that I appreciated the most back in the day was the extensive information the game passed on to me via emails. With every type of car I used, I’d be flooded with emails describing it and the best way to handle the car. The same held true when I received performance upgrades or competed on a new track for the first time. This was the first racing game I played that taught me how to corner and also how to corner in a specific car setup. It was helpful when I later graduated to Gran Turismo 4!

Auto Modellista - WRX

My recent replay of Auto Modellista wound up being a brief sojourn through my memories of not only the game but the video game industry when it was released. I feel it’s indicative of the then growing popularity of cel-shaded graphics and the move towards online play. Despite those elements of the game, at its core, it’s a typical arcade racer with an extra dose of customization and simulation style information. However, it’ll always be remembered for being that cel-shaded racing game.