Tag Archives: 2005

Zoo Keeper [Nintendo DS] – Review

Zoo Keeper

Zoo Keeper is a game that has intrigued me since the early days of the Nintendo DS. In North America, it was the first game to release outside of the system’s launch window. A launch window that was a veritable drought – after the system’s November 21, 2004 launch, there weren’t any releases until this January 18, 2005 title. Even then, I don’t recall there being an actual noteworthy release until June 14, 2005 – Kirby: Canvas Curse. My curiosity in this game shouldn’t be construed as a belief in its quality either; after ten years of thinking about it, I refrained from hyping myself up for it which was a good call, as it’s merely a basic match-three puzzle game.

You crazy lion.
You crazy lion.

There are a handful of modes available to play, each a variation on the familiar match-three gameplay present in many like puzzle games. The quest mode in particular is quite ingenuitive. It’s not a beefy affair however, nor is there a lengthy distraction present. The drive for high scores or killing time would have to be one’s long-range motivator with this game. Fortunately, the underlying gameplay is solid and enjoyable. Bearing in mind that this released a year or two before the dawn of the App Store, this was a predecessor of sorts to the touch-controlled match-three games that are a deluge now. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly progressive in what it is – it’s just a basic, solid puzzle game that incorporated touch controls well.

The scoring in quest mode was unlike anything I've seen.
The scoring in quest mode was unlike anything I’ve seen.

It’s worth noting that I have played an Android version of Zoo Keeper in my ten year quest to experience this version. A year or so ago I downloaded a multiplayer focused version and had little more than a passing session with it. That says nothing of its quality and perhaps everything with my desire to abstain and experience the Nintendo DS game fresh. Ironically, I wound up not spending too much time with it either – no more than a few hours. Again, that says nothing of its quality. As I mentioned before, it’s a basic puzzle game that plays well. It may have curried more favor with me before my exposure to the match-three hell (heaven?) that is mobile gaming. It has a cute art style too.

Random Game #42 – Advent Rising [Xbox]

Advent Rising

Arguably, video games had their strongest hold on me when I was in high school. It was the middle of the 2000s before the disappearance of practically all video game magazines in the United States. My friends and I were glued to them almost more than the games themselves. For us, it was hard to ignore Advent Rising, even if none of us had an Xbox, nor had the ability or the desire to get one. Particularly, Game Informer’s cover story comes to mind, along with EGM and Play’s coverage. When I finally played it a couple of years ago, I was able to experience the lackluster sci-fi epic myself. The story was undoubtedly the high point, and I did eke some enjoyment out of the combat, but it was a mediocre affair overall. I’m glad to have played it but feel no need to return to it.

Advent Rising was the sole game GlyphX Games developed. It wasn’t their sole output however. Curiously, it appears they also designed many box arts in the late 1990s/early 2000s. When the studio floundered, key personnel went on to form Chair Entertainment and they’ve produced many noteworthy titles since. The game was published by Majesco and is perhaps most infamously known for the million dollar contest that never materialized. It was released on the Xbox and PC in North America on May 31, 2005.

Random Game #37 – Gran Turismo 4 [PlayStation 2]

Gran Turismo 4

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 the first brand new game I purchased for the PlayStation 2. I can still remember so clearly walking into the newly opened GameStop in my town and picking this game up. It had to have been six months to a year after release as it was about thirty dollars, if memory serves. This was the first “major” simulation racing game I played. I was enveloped in the experience as a result and spent so much time playing, unlocking car after car. That was one of the things that kept me hooked. Since I grew up on Pokémon, I can dig collecting, and Gran Turismo is one of those series where there’s an immense amount of cars to collect. I didn’t fully complete it, and I daydream about returning to it, almost instead of trying my hand at one of its sequels. This will remain a collection of some of my fondest PS2 memories.

Gran Turismo 4 was developed by Polyphony Digital and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was released for the PlayStation 2 in North America on February 22, 2005, following the original December 28, 2004 Japanese release. As is the case with every title in the series currently, its development was overseen by Kazunori Yamauchi. Also, in keeping with tradition, this game was subject to many delays. That being said, no one can dispute the quality of the final product.

Random Game #25 – Metroid Prime Pinball [Nintendo DS]

Metroid Prime Pinball

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.

Wow, here’s a game I’ve actually played and completed! I’m not a digital pinball connoisseur or anything, but I thought this game was pretty good. Coincidentally, the series was well-suited to a pinball adaptation. There were many aspects that took advantage of the fact that it was a digital pinball game, such as having to gun down enemies. It was difficult to complete, due in part to the precision required and the inherent reliance on luck. This was also one of the few games to utilize the Nintendo DS Rumble Pak. In fact, the Rumble Pak launched as a pack-in with this game.

Metroid Prime Pinball was developed by Fuse Studios (now known as Silverball Studios) and published by Nintendo in North America on October 24, 2005.

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 #18 – Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow [Nintendo DS]

Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow

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 game is the sequel to one of my favorite games – Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. That game introduced me to the Castlevania series and I was instantly hooked. This game saw the series make the transition to the Nintendo DS while retaining the majority of what made the previous games critical favorites. The phenomenally well-animated 2D graphics, the “MetroidVania” gameplay, the thick RPG elements, this game had a lot going on for a convert like me. One thing that didn’t make the transition was the art style. Instead of Ayami Kojima’s distinctive gothic anime stylings, a more generic anime styling was in place. Despite that shortcoming, the overall package continued to the bolster the strength of these handheld Castlevania games and proved to be an early must-own game for the Nintendo DS.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow was developed and published by Konami. It was released in North America on October 4, 2005. Koji Igarashi produced it while Michiru Yamane tagteamed the soundtrack with Masahiko Kimura. As mentioned, Ayami Kojima was absent from this project due to her focus of Curse of Darkness.

Random Game #8 – Midway Arcade Treasures 3 [PlayStation 2]

Midway Arcade Treasures 3When 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.

The Midway Arcade Treasures series was a great batch of compilations. The three releases on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube compiled around 60 arcade games spanning 20 years. The third game differed from the previous two as it focused on a single genre – racing games. A majority of the games didn’t resonate with me as they were classic top-down racers. I can appreciate them, and enjoy them in multiplayer, but my focus was honed in on two titles – Hydro Thunder and Offroad Thunder.  These two 1999 releases were the epitome of what arcade racing games were at that point – flashy, fast, and fun. Completely unlike Race Drivin’

Midway Arcade Treasures 3 was released in North America on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox on September 26, 2005 and on the GameCube exactly one month later – October 26, 2005. The individual games were primarily developed by Atari Games and Midway Games, although there are some other studios in the mix. The ports were handled by Digital Eclipse and the game was published by Midway.

Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness [GameCube] – Review

The 2005 follow-up to Colosseum might be indistinguishable to the layman.
The 2005 follow-up to Colosseum might be indistinguishable to the layman.

Unsurprising to me, Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is nigh-indistinguishable from its predecessor. The 2005 follow-up to Pokémon Colosseum takes place five years later and still features Orre as a backdrop. The morally bankrupt Cipher has made a return and they’ve begun foisting their Shadow Pokémon on the land again. Snagging Pokémon remains the major conceit of the game, although there are a scant few wild Pokémon. Double battles are also the primary method of battling, which, in itself is different from the mainline games. This is essentially the same game as Colosseum, which was solid, but not great, and will appeal only to those Pokémaniacs, like myself.

The game's ultimate Pokemon was the shadow Lugia, codenamed XD001.
The game’s ultimate Pokemon was the shadow Lugia, codenamed XD001.

As mentioned, Cipher is making a return in the land of Orre, albeit, under different leadership. They still intend to conquer the world through the use of Shadow Pokémon, but there are those willing to confront them. The nameless (in my case, Sherbet), silent protagonist is simply a shell for the player to experience the goings-on of Orre. His allies are diverse, and mostly new faces, but as was the case with Colosseum, the narrative is very light, and the characters, mostly forgettable. Except for Mirror B…

The player receives the snagging machine that Wes used five years ago and with that, the game takes on the form of its predecessor, verbatim. Double battles still make up 95% of the battles, and I was still a big fan. In conjunction with the great 3D renderings of the Pokémon, the battles were hands down my favorite part. Perhaps in an effort to differentiate itself, or, at the very least, build a common tie to the mainline games, there are wild Pokémon to catch. And, there are, literally, twelve to catch. To do so, bait is left at one of three designated areas and then, when one comes snacking, the player is alerted. I found it to be an insignificant, basically pointless, addition.

One positive facet of this game is the density of the snaggable Pokémon. This game and its predecessor are unique due to the limited palette of Pokémon to compose a party. Colosseum had a little over 40, while this title features more than 80. They’re mostly from the first generation, which may make this title more favorable if one began with the original Game Boy games. Even though it took me six more hours to complete the story, time flew by since my party and collection was consistently changing. Also, purifying the Shadow Pokémon was way easier/streamlined in comparison to Colosseum. You don’t even know!

Purifying Shadow Pokemon was much easier in this game.
Purifying Shadow Pokemon was much easier in this game.

As a whole Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness bears more than a similarity to Pokémon Coloseum – it’s barely anything more but that game! With the only major differentiating feature being a new roster of Pokémon, this game is definitely for the Pokémaniacs only. Both it and Colosseum are interesting takes on the tried-and-true formula on the mainline games, and truthfully, at least one of them would be worth giving a shot. Thanks to nothing more than the larger roster of snaggable Pokémon, I’d probably give this game the edge.

Pac-Pix [Nintendo DS] – Review

Pac-PixPac-Pix was one of the earliest games released for the Nintendo DS. In fact, it was one of the first tech demos shown for the ugly-as-hell DS prototype at E3 2004. The core mechanic of drawing Pac-Man to chomp on ghosts has always intrigued me, but at the time, I was more drawn to Pac ‘n Roll due to its polygonal graphics. It wasn’t until this past week that I finally picked up a copy of Pac-Pix and devoted a few hours to completing it. I was happy to discover that its primary gimmick was well-implemented, despite some annoyances.

Each new gesture was accompanied by a tutorial.
Each new gesture was accompanied by a tutorial.

Reigning as one of the most identifiable characters in all of video games, drawing Pac-Man was a simple task. Personally, that meant it was a simple task that often resulted in a malformed Pac-Man as I’m no artist. Nonetheless, the game was forgiving. As long as the circle had a divot missing (representing his mouth) Pac-Man would form and chomp away in a straight line. Drawing walls allowed him to ricochet around and stay in play. In the later stages, the ability to draw arrows and bombs was added to increase the depth of mechanics, as well as the difficulty.

Composed of twelve stages, the game only took me a few hours to complete. However, the final few stages were very difficult. On the top screen in these later stages, many ghosts and switches resided. Hitting them to drop them down or activate a flame or door required ever more precision on my part. Perhaps the precision required made me a little sloppy, but many times my drawings wouldn’t be recognized and therefore, wouldn’t come to life. This grew frustrating and made me question the quality of the game’s recognition abilities. I was able to overcome though so they weren’t completely busted, just annoying on the harder stages.

That bomb is sure to destroy those four containers.
That bomb is sure to destroy those four containers.

Even today, nine years after its 2005 release, I think Pac-Pix is one of the more unique games on the Nintendo DS. It’s a simple game with little to its mechanics, but they are well-implemented. A second book was unlocked after beating the game, and it seems to be a repeat of the first book, with tougher enemies. All told, it’d be easy to spend a day with the game and not return to it, but it’s a fun diversion that makes interesting use of the DS.

Pokemon Emerald [GBA] – Review

This wasn't the first, nor the last, of the Pokemon games to feature a reflective box.
This wasn’t the first, nor the last, of the Pokemon games to feature a reflective box.

Classically, the mainline Pokémon games come in threes. The first two launch together while the third, usually an enhanced amalgamation of the previous two, releases about a year later. Pokémon Emerald is the enhanced remake of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire – the first two Pokémon games on the Game Boy Advance. I adored Ruby when it released in my freshman year of high school. I clocked well over 200 hours with it before moving on. After retiring LeafGreen and Colosseum, I was interested in starting Emerald and returning to Hoenn as it had been ten years since I last saw it.

Double Battles were introduced with this generation.
Double Battles were introduced with this generation.

Returning to Hoenn brought back many memories. As I crisscrossed the expansive island, I remembered specific towns, routes, and completing specific objectives. Not everything was familiar though. I couldn’t remember some of the smaller story beats. The series is host to light and airy narratives though, so this wasn’t a surprise. Whereas players were confronted with Team Aqua or Team Magma in Ruby and Sapphire, players had to contend with both in Emerald. These groups aren’t necessarily evil like Team Rocket, but their goals of enacting massive changes to Hoenn’s ecosystem were potentially world ending.

The Battle Frontier was heavily marketed as the defining feature of Emerald when it released back in the middle of 2005. Personally, the battle facilities that have been introduced in the series haven’t appealed to me too much. This one hasn’t stolen too much of my time either. I appreciate being able to win harder to find evolutionary items and spotlighting the various battle styles is fantastic, but I’ve never put too much time into these. I’m more of a breeder than a fighter. The Battle Frontier is massive though and there is plenty there to entertain diehard fighters.

Really, those are the major differences between Ruby and Sapphire and Emerald. Perhaps the most notable of the minor alterations was Game Freak’s adjustments of wild Pokémon locations and the ability to capture both Groudon and Kyogre. Oh, and the Pokémon battles featured minor amounts of animation, like Crystal did prior. This generation was host to many new additions. Prime among them were double battles, contests, weather, the ability to dive, and many, many other novelties and mechanics.

This awesome building was one of the attractions at the Battle Frontier.

This awesome building was one of the attractions at the Battle Frontier.

Pokémon Emerald is the first enhanced remake in the series that I’ve completed (discounting LeafGreen and HeartGold, I guess). All in all, the additions and alterations make this the most feature packed between Ruby, Sapphire, and it, but it doesn’t make those games obsolete. I would find it grueling to play this immediately after playing one of those, so if you’re attempting a series playthrough as I am, pick one. The major changes may seem minor, but a comprehensive changelog of all changes would be immense. An older Pokémon game like this isn’t for everybody though, so only Pokémaniacs need apply. I fit the bill too! It’d been forever since I journeyed across Hoenn and it was a pleasant return.