Archive for the ‘Game Reviews’ Category

Final Fantasy 4: The After Years (WiiWare)

June 6, 2009

Sorry for my lateness. I have been incredibly lazy, recently. Some of it came from playing Final Fantasy 7 for hours at a time just to try to get to the next part of the game. That, and I’ve been playing some Spyro the Dragon. Anyway, I will talk about a game that came out recently, because I think some people are curious of whether or not this game is on par with the original.

Ok, first thing I want to push out of the way is how the story is broken up. The portion of the game with Ceodore, the son of Cecil and Rosa, comes with downloading the game. Additional portions of the storyline that revolve around other characters cost 300 Wii points each, with the exception of the final downloadable story, which might be the grand finale. That portion is worth 800 points, the same amount as the game, itself. Currently, only one other story is available: Rydia.

As for how the game flows, I’d say it feels much like the original Final Fantasy 4. One thing I noticed, though, is that Ceodore levelled up quite quickly, and by the time I was done with his segment, he was in his mid-30s. I guess it slows down as the story progresses, though, but I’m not certain. Many, if not all, monsters return in this game. You may notice that the difficulty rises a bit faster in this game. This can be even more noticeable in Rydia’s portion of the game. Also, you will gain a sizable party pretty quickly, so before long, you’ll have four characters to use. Some of those characters, however, play a minor role in the game.

The graphics borrow from the Game Boy Advance version of the game. This time, non-battle character sprites are now 16 x 32 pixels, as opposed to 16 x 16 pixels. In other words, you’ll notice that the characters are twice as tall. However, during flashbacks, the characters will use their original 16 x 16 size. Personally, I say that the game looks beautiful, despite the size change.

As far as the storyline goes, my personal opinion is that a game’s story is good when the player is eager to unravel a mystery within the game. In Ceodore’s case, there is the mystery of the hooded man. That character kept me wondering who he is, and I played a lot of the game in one sitting for that reason. Of course, there are other mysteries, but I won’t reveal them here. So basically, I found the story very entertaining.

Next, I want to talk about gameplay features exclusive to this game. First off is the moon feature. Certain actions are doubled in power or halved depending on the moon’s phase. And, on at least one occasion, a moon-phase-specific event is available, and I don’t mean those relating to the storyline. So, unless the game says otherwise, you may want to choose when you want to enter a dungeon. Like, if you want to pack on attack power, wait until the moon is in its waning phase. Another new feature is the Band command. When you select this feature, you can pair up with one or more characters to use a powerful joint attack. Right now, I’m not sure if the chance of discovering a new Band is 100% successful, so I’ll need to play a bit more to find out.

I highly recommend this game to anyone who has played the original Final Fantasy 4 for SNES, GBA, or DS. The game is split up into portions, making the price reasonable. It has a lot of nostalgic moments, but the feel is fresh.

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Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce (PSP)

May 17, 2009
Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce

Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce

So, this week, I will cover a very interesting spinoff of the Dynasty Warriors franchise. The game’s character setup is based off of Dynasty Warriors 6, but the gameplay is unlike anything you’ve seen in previous Dynasty Warriors games. I will cover as much as I can about this new Dynasty Warriors game, and I hope that you find this game as fun as I have.

First off, let me cover the character setup. As I mentioned before, the characters are based off of Dynasty Warriors 6. That means that Liu Bei has his twin swords, Guan Ping has a pike, and Lu Bu has his cross pikes and his black armor. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Each character has a sub weapon. Unlike the main weapon, whose type cannot be changed, you can change the character’s sub weapon to be anything you can buy from the Blacksmith, though the ability to equip a weapon of a certain strength requires a higher skill level with that weapon type, which can be increased as the weapon is used. So basically, since Ma Chao has a “Great Sword” as a main weapon, I can equip Guan Ping with a great sword as a sub weapon for nostalgic purposes. Because the game’s characters are based off of Dynasty Warriors 6, the following 7 from DW5 will still be absent: Jiang Wei, Xing Cai, Pang De, Da Qiao, Meng Huo, Zhu Rong, and Zuo Ci. Lastly, each character has his own Musou Awakening form, much like a “Super Saiyan” form from the Dragonball Z series, that gives the character one more jump and rush, increased stats, the ability to use the musou attack, and, as far as I know, a new weapon ability. For example, Cao Pi’s Longsword can generate shockwaves during Awakening form. Also, I want to note Cao Ren’s Awakening form. If he’s known as Mega Man in Dynasty Warriors 6, then I dub this form: Mega Ren X. 😛

Next, I will talk about the gameplay. The levels are split up into small areas, as opposed to one big area. I think that this is needed, because if the levels were one giant area, the officers would all head your way, and you’ll get nowhere before you’re surrounded by enemy officers who will be pounding you until the cows come home. There are not nearly as many enemies in Strikeforce’s maps than in other Warriors games, and there is much emphasis on fighting against other officers and giant weapons. Instead of K.O. counts, there are points. Although I don’t know much about the point system, I do know that each hit on an enemy is one point, and each KO on a non-officer enemy is 10 points. Every 10 points is one experience point. Aside from your main objective, there are also either one or two bonus objectives, which give you more points and spoils. Unless stated otherwise, the game will allow 3 lives, meaning that you can die twice before finally losing. There are crates and jars throughout the levels, as well. The crates hold spoils, and the jars hold either health or fury-replenishing items. Enemies also drop spoils when defeated. Finally, I will talk about the giant weapons. These weapons are in the form of monsters, and although there aren’t many of them in the game, there are definitely enough of them. They have VERY large amounts of health, and their attacks are often unavoidable.

Zhao Yun and his allies fight the giant weapon, Bi Xie, along with Lu Bu and his allied officers.

Zhao Yun and his allies fight the giant weapon, Bi Xie, along with Lu Bu and his allied officers.

Also to note is the town, which acts as your central hub. You can choose stages and change your character here, as well as buy new weapons from the Blacksmith, new orbs, which you can equip on your weapons, from the Workshop, new Chi abilities from the Academy, and various items from the Market. You can also exchange certain spoils for others at the Exchange. I personally don’t use it much, but I recommend to check it from time to time to check for rare spoils. Lastly, there is the Storehouse, where all your spoils are kept, as well as items you may have bought or earned. The old man in the town provides tips for you. Much of the time, when you return from a mission, you’ll find a girl, who will either talk to you or give you an item, an officer who will give you his card, used to upgrade your facilities, or a panda, who will give you a spoil in exchange for an item.

The game’s difficulty starts out pretty easy, but it quickly climbs. It was the only Dynasty Warriors game where I actually needed to level-grind to get past a certain mission. Even after reaching a very high level, you’ll will never be overleveled against some of the toughest challenges in the game.

As for my thoughts about the game, I must say that it is addicting. For a spinoff, I really enjoyed this game, and I loved how Koei executed the battles in the air. Even though I disagreed with Dynasty Warriors 6’s character setup, that same setup, ironically, made the game more flexible, allowing characters to be customized even more. I could have a Zhao Yun who is an expert swordsman if I wanted to. I could even make Xiao Qiao wield a massive Cudgel. But then, that would be silly. 😛 There are many, many kinds of orbs and Chi abilities to equip, so the combinations are nearly endless. Personally, I try to make sure my character gets a lot of jumps and rushes. Rushes help a lot against enemy officers, so that you can string together nice combos. In short, if you are a Dynasty Warriors fan, I definitely recommend you pick this game up. I enjoyed it that much.

Sonic Storybook Series

April 24, 2009

At first, I planned to cover Sonic and the Black Knight. However, I felt like I wanted to mention Sonic and the Secret Rings, as well. So, I decided to mesh them into one blog and talk about them both.

First off, the gameplay for both games is quite similar. In both games, you are running through a level, though the game, rather than the player, steers Sonic. Your only options as far as controls are concerned are forward and backward and strafing from side to side. In my opinion, I think this was a pretty good idea, considering the level layout. If the controls were  completely manual, the player could get lost. So, the game focuses more of “Race to the finish!” than actual exploration of the level. More levels appear as you complete them. Some are required missions, while most of them are optional. Lastly, there’s the gimmick part of the game, which I will talk about next.

In Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic gets to use a special ring that gives him different abilities. You can also level up that ring in order to equip more at one time. This was one of my favorite features of Sonic and the Secret Rings. A customizable Sonic allowed me to achieve Golds more easily than I could before. On the other hand, Sonic and the Black Knight uses a sword that plays a strong role in combat, though this can be a burden on Sonic fans, as he, most of the time, has to stop and and attack enemies, rather than slice right through them. It wasn’t easy using the Wii Remote to swing the sword, either, as there can be a delayed reaction, costing you either time or rings or both. The sword, like the ring, is customizable, but to a much smaller extent. The sword you use earns new abilities as you earn more stars. There are also three different modes of play for Sonic. The first one, which you start with, balances speed and swordplay. The other two either emphasize one or the other. All three modes of play give Sonic different abilities to unlock. Sonic, himself, can also level up in rank as he gains followers for completing levels. However, this only benefits the item identification system, rather than Sonic’s actual skills, as it increases ID points to use at the end of the level. Both games use a special meter to execute special moves. Sonic and the Secret Rings boasts Time Break and Speed Break moves. Time Break slows down time for Sonic, and Speed Break makes Sonic insanely fast. Sonic and the Black Knight doesn’t really have names for their moves. One move acts like Speed Break. Another move is a lock-on move that sends Sonic to the closest opponent in an effort to launch a critical hit. Lastly, unlike Sonic and the Secret Rings, at some point in the game, you will be able to use other characters to go through the levels, though many of those levels are Sonic-only. They can earn new weapons with different abilities by obtaining certain items that, when used at the blacksmith’s shop, can be combined to form a new sword.

Now, it’s time to talk about the levels, themselves. Sonic and the Secret Rings’s levels are nicely varied, environment-wise, while Sonic and the Black Knight’s levels are a bit less-varied, due to the fact that Sonic is roaming through the countryside and not through specific chapters. So, Sonic and the Black Knight can get a little monotonous. Also, I want to add that sometimes, there are simply too many enemies in Sonic and the Black Knight, considering the emphasis on swordplay, that while you’re attacking one enemy, another might attack you.

Though I probably should not talk about this, regarding spoiler reasons, I want to talk about the final forms, as well. Both games end in a similar way, as far as final battles go, but both games take slightly different directions on reaching them. In Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic had to go search for the remaining rings to unlock the final battle. In Sonic and the Black Knight, the storyline pretty much forces you into the final battle. As for comparing forms, in Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic becomes Darkspine Sonic, whose spines look a bit like Knuckles, as well as a white line down the center. Sonic’s pupils disappear, and his attitude changes from heroic to rude and arrogant. However, considering the rings Sonic absorbed contained feelings, it’s only natural that Sonic would end up that way, and in the end, I thought he was pretty cool. In Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic uses the power of the swords to obtain Excalibur and golden armor. His most well-known name for this form is Excalibur Sonic. His attitude does not change, however. As far as abilities go, Darkspine Sonic does gain the ability to gather energy for his Break meter by spinning. However, Excalibur Sonic does not gain any new abilities, really. Both of them do have one ability in common: flying.

Lastly, I’ll talk about the controls. When people think of Sonic and the Secret Rings, the first thing that often comes to mind are the awful controls. However, I believe that despite the fact that you tilt the Wii Remote to run forward and backward and stuff, the game still had great potential. The rest of the game was undermined by the bad controls. In Sonic and the Black Knight, the controls are much better. In this case, the control stick is used to move Sonic. However, if Sonic and the Secret Rings ever had the same control scheme as Sonic and the Black Knight, I would choose Sonic and the Secret Rings over it.

I think Sega should continue the storybook series for Sonic. Not only do they have the potential to become good Sonic games, but they also introduce a different super form of Sonic other than the usual Super Sonic. I think hunting for the required items to become super (such as the secret rings) should return, as well as Secret Rings’s ability system. However, the final boss strategy may need to differ a bit more. I found Black Knight’s final boss fight to be a bit too similar to Secret Rings’s. I wonder what the next storybook Sonic might be. Sonic and the Three Kingdoms? Sonic and the Demon King? (Cookies for those who get both references) Nah. Maybe the next Storybook Sonic would be based on Greek mythology. Imagine Sonic fighting a Hydra! I’d love to see that!