Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3: V Generation - PS Vita Review

The latest Hyperdimension game for the Vita makes the most of the handheld and series

Farming Simulator 15 - PC Review

Down on the farm - again. This simulator provides plenty to do for fans of the series

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Xbox One Review

The latest in the Witcher series does almost everything well - a definite Game of the Year contender


This shooter gets almost everything right, throwing lots at you but making it fun

Big Pharma - PC Preview

A fun simulation game with some social commentary to share as well

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dissidia Final Fantasy game review for the PSP

So after beating Crisis Core for my PSP, I found myself wondering which game to play next. I admit that of my systems, my PSP is probably the most underutilized overall. We don’t travel a lot and I’ve got plenty of other good distractions around the house. However, I’ve recently been making an effort to pick it up and roll out a bit of playtime on it lately, and while Crisis Core certainly repaid me for my time (review here if you’re interested) – I had about a dozen unplayed options to consider. I wound up choosing Dissidia Final Fantasy next.

This was a game that like Crisis Core, was looking to do something a bit outside of the turn-based RPG realm that the Final Fantasy series was so well-known for. In fact, what Dissidia turns out to be is a one-on-one fighting game, using main heroes and villains from the first 10 Final Fantasy titles. This gave me a bit of pause, but then the experiment that was Crisis Core turned out quite well, so I thought this one merited a chance as well.

Graphics – 8:

Not as many great cut scenes as Crisis Core, but what was there sure looked good. The character models all look good. The game moves smoothly and I never noticed any slowdown or tearing from the visuals. All in all, the PSP acquits itself nicely on this game. My biggest complaint is actually the same one I had for Crisis Core in that the camera sometimes felt a bit clunky in its choice of angles.

Sound and Music – 8:

The sounds do the job, though there was not much amazing on that front. There was voice acting for all of the characters and cut scenes between levels. With so many characters the quality was bound to fluctuate with some of the characters being represented better than others. The music was a standout for me. Having played almost all of the prior games that inspired these characters and stadiums, there were a few fights in particular (Jecht, Sephiroth) that were just fun to hear.

Gamplay – 9:

The combat is not terribly complicated, but pulling off moves is easy and the large areas feel great – though some are more fun to navigate than others. The menu’s pretty overwhelming at first, but once you familiarize yourself with it, the interface is pretty solid. Combat is designed around an interesting mechanic – bravery and damage. Bravery is a sort of teeter-totter between you and your enemy. If you perform bravery attacks, your opponent’s goes down and yours goes up. However, the only way to win the fight is to do enough damage (hence, the damage attacks) to drain the opponent’s hitpoints. It is an odd sort of two-layered system, but essentially the bravery feeds your damage-dealing capability. It sounds more complicated than it is once you see it in action, and it adds an interesting layer of depth that really helps the game’s combat to succeed.

Intangibles – 9.5:

There is so much to do here. Loads of characters to take through storylines. A chess-like battlefield representing each level that begs to be replayed over and over (I generally go through each storyline 3 times before moving onto a new one), items to unlock and purchase, new skills to master, summons to find… and the game even has a constantly running calendar in the background that keeps track of the real date and time. Why? Because playing on certain games and in certain amounts can yield bonus to your experience, item, skill and gold earnings.

Overall – 9:

Probably my favorite PSP game to date, trumping Crisis Core by a bit. Crisis Core had a more engaging storyline, but there’s just so much to do in this game. And the battles in Dissidia remind me of the missions in Crisis Core – they’re short, bite-sized pieces of action perfect for the handheld medium in my opinion. Sure, with it’s callback to prior Final Fantasy games, Dissidia is a bit of a fan service game – but when it’s put together so well, I can’t find anything wrong with that.

Bayonetta - 360 game review and new blog look!

First off, I’d like to thank my wife for the cool new layout on my blog. She’s had a good deal more practice with the Blogger layouts than I have and when I grumbled about a few things, she knew exactly where to go so things like wider columns and easier to read article boxes hopefully make things a bit easier on the eyes – let me know if there’s something specific you do or don’t like – I’m more than willing to tweak it. So… moving on – Bayonetta.

This is a game I heard about on and off for awhile before it came out, and I saw that it got some really good scores from most of the review sites and some decent ones from players on the same sites rating the game. I got the game cheap from a friend and just never really got around to playing it. I dig the occasional action game, but this was one that always looked a bit cool if over the top. I finally gave it a pretty good going over recently, figured now was the time to write about it.

Graphics – 8.5:

The game is pretty, I’ll give it that. There’s some very cool animations, plenty to see and look around at, the art style is cool as well. Perhaps the biggest gripe I could levy at this game is how most of the storyboard scenes go. For a game that is so alive and full of animation, the cut scenes are just filmstrip stills with some voiceover. It’s all highly stylized visually, which is inline with the rest of the game, but the game itself always seems to have some sort of activity taking place, so these motionless moments feel a bit out of place to me.

Sound and Music – 7:

The music is not bad in and of itself – but it seldom seems to fit the game in my opinion. The oddly upbeat music reminded me of something from an anime cartoon. Again, not necessarily bad, and the game is fairly over-the-top in its storyline and presentation, but it never quite sat ‘right’ with me. Voice work was fine, if a bit campy at times, but it told the story. Sound effects were good and there were some quality chorus type effects (it is a game where you fight angels and such ‘divine’ creatures so that part fits well enough).

Gameplay – 9:

One of the game’s strongest points. Combat is fast, fluid and most importantly – fun. You string together combos while jumping in the air, slashing your sword, using a shotgun strapped to your ankle, switch techniques and lay into them with rapid fire pistols and as crazy as all of that sounds – it is pretty cool most of the time. I also have to give props toward some of the more epic set pieces. I’m not sure if it falls under gameplay, or graphics or what – but some of the boss encounters are really entertaining and have a crazy sort of epic scale to them that has to be seen in action to be fully appreciated.

Intangibles – 8.5:

The game’s fun, so that’s key. It’s a little campy and over-the-top. I like my storylines and delivery of said storylines so maybe this irked me a bit more than it will others, but it was at least creative. Also, there’s plenty of things to buy and discover, and you can easily replay prior levels if you are worried you missed something or just want to experience something again, so there’s definitely some replay value to be had. There are also several different difficulty settings as well.

Overall – 8.25:

This was a good game. It was somewhat long as an action title and there was plenty to do and do again. It was very stylized and overall the game looks really good and handles even better. Overall, if you like high action games like Devil May Cry, this is similar enough you’ll probably like it quite a bit as well. There are some caveats I think I should cover however.

First, I’m reviewing the 360 version. I’ve heard that the PS3 version is a port that some viewed as being rather inferior, especially graphically. Additionally the game is rated M, and it earned that rating. Religious themes, gore and violence, strong language, partial nudity and suggestive themes – it is not for your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle loving 10 year old kids.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tech Support and internet in games

So a slightly odd weekend on my part. Friday night our internet went out around Midnight. I tried to power cycle the gear a few times – nothing came of it so I left it off for the night. Still not working come morning. Spent about 3 hours on the phone with tech support before they decided that my modem was probably the issue, but they couldn’t schedule a visit until Wed, so we should just trade the modem in ourselves at a shop on Monday. Blah.

Then, I get told by my daughter that something odd happened with the Wii when she tried to use it before me in the morning. I fire it up and find that the system has been reformatted and somehow a parental code put in place afterward. Likely both done by accident by my daughter, but a pain. Of course, looking up the phone number for Nintendo online was a bit of a challenge that morning as well since I was still without internet. Bummer.

Bit later I tried my PS3 and tried to save a new season on a baseball game, and it tells me I’m out of hard drive space. Huh? I had nearly 13 gigs a week ago. Nothing immediately jumps out at me as wrong, but I am in fact down around 75mbs is all. Eventually, I get internet again by smacking the modem down on the computer center out of frustration – and suddenly there were full lights and connectivity again. We’re so trading that modem in tomorrow. But, now I had the chance to look up other support numbers.

Sony’s was really no help. Basically the tech said that I must have too much stuff on there. I go through what’s on there – a handful of demos, some themes, some game saves – he’s stumped and basically says I have to reformat or send it in. Yeeeah. So after I get off of the phone with him, I spent the next hour and change going through every single bit of data on my hard drive to find that some associated file with the ModNation Racers demo has become corrupt and shows as 12.5gigs used. Deleted that, and the world of Playstation was again sane. Next up was the Wii… here, the tech support was solid. I’ve really only ever had to contact Nintendo for help 3 times ever:

- Once when my daughter jammed a DS game in so hard/at a bad angle that the connection pins in the cartridge slot bent. They had us send it in and fixed it for free even though the issue was not covered by warrenty.

- Once when I had trouble getting my downloaded Super Mario Bros. for my Wii to display. Turns out the default Wii setting is 480i and not 480p – my TV couldn’t handle it on that when it worked on other things. Changing the setting however fixed it and the tech got it within 30 seconds.

- Getting the Parental Controls unlocked on my system after my daughter’s morning mishap with the Wii. The guy was completely nice and solved the problem in less than a minute for me.

So my first set of observations? Wii tech support is quite good, cable and ps3? Not so much.

My other observation? How much online connectivity affects your gaming. I had been logging a bunch of time into Demon’s Souls lately – but the experience is nowhere the same offline. Next up, my baseball game took forever to load each time as it tried to connect to online services each time I started it. On a similar note, my son’s been staying with his Grandpa the last couple of weeks, and he has been trying to play Little Big Planet and a few other games online. Some things work, most games won’t if he’s online. It’ll try to force an update that won’t work. He can play online with me, he can send me messages, he can play some updated games online – but he can’t actually install the updates because of my uncle’s router security settings. It’s a bit frustrating for him I suspect, since he can usually just fire it up and play from home with no problem.

It’s amazing what a major part of gaming our online connectivity has become. Most of the time it just runs behind the scenes. Other times you’ll boot the game and get a message that the EA servers are not available and you’ll realize that you’re not getting the living scrolling updates of sports events at the bottom – or even be able to play the game if you don’t log out first. Overall these innovations are quite cool – especially when implemented as well as those in Demon’s Souls is – but it’s a service we tend to take for granted – until it’s gone for a couple of days.