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Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

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Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 CoverOne of my favorite activities in college was brainstorming ideas with my roommates. When bored, we would gather in the living room, get out the whiteboard, and come up with some imaginative business idea or a get-rich-quick scheme or an outline of a blockbuster screenplay. The ambitiousness of our outlandish dreams was matched only by our enthusiasm to start making them a reality.

Then, after disagreeing for a few hours about what the title should be for our Atlantis-set romantic comedy, we'd give up and play Smash Bros. For the record, though, I still think "Mermaid for Each Other" is just brilliant.

I get the feeling that Fatshark, the small Swedish developer given the reigns to Bionic Commando after its previous steward was dissolved, had similarly lofty goals and equally tragic work ethic for the series' first 2-D sequel. The result is Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, a sequel that I suspect was conceived with a drive to do it big but produced with a reluctance to do it at all.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

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Golden sun Dark Dawn CoverThe Golden Sun series and I go back to 2001 when the original Golden Sun was released. I played through the game slowly, and forced myself to finish it when Golden Sun: The Lost Age was on the cusp of its release. This was one of those rare titles that let you import data from its prequel via a very (very) long code. This code contained all your party’s information, ready to continue on in their next adventure.

I spent more time inputting that code than actually playing The Lost Age, and that was that, I forgot about Golden Sun from 2003 until 2010 when Nintendo announced Golden Sun: Dark Dawn at E3. Since my progress had stalled for months on Dragon Quest IX and I was finished with Infinite Space, I decided to pick it up when the game was released in late November.

The reviews have been pretty solid for Dark Dawn and I’m sure sales are swift (almost every Nintendo published title is successful), but how would my return to Weyard fare? It’s been seven long years and my interest in the series is minimal. Here’s my full review of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn for the Nintendo DS.

For those interested, we also have a first hour review of Dark Dawn written by a huge Golden Sun fan, Jonathan Ramundi.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

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Final Fantasy Crystal Bearers Cover"Some of this game is fun...is that enough for me to keep playing?"

Ever had that feeling? Maybe you trudged through an RPG with a terrible battle system just because you liked a few of the characters. Perhaps you put up with a broken sports game just because the presentation was TV-true. Or maybe you played any of the open-world Spider-Man games recently, swinging joyously through the boxy Manhattan skyline, full of texture pop-in and framerate dips.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is kind of like that. Except where the fun elements of these previous examples are woven into the overall progression of the game, FFCCTCB never actually shines the spotlight on its best feature throughout the otherwise lackluster adventure, leaving it merely as a side attraction.

I was hoping the game would improve after its first hour, and it did...but was it too little, too late?

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!

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Mario vs Donkey Kong Mini Land Mayhem CoverI've been on a puzzle kick lately. I attribute that to playing the 60 hour epic Infinite Space and having to take just as many hours coming down from that high. What I love about the Nintendo DS is its instant on/off and games like Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming or Picross 3D are perfect for jumping in and out quickly. Next up on my list of puzzlers to try was Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!, the fourth game in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series that began on the Game Boy Advance.

I actually thought that this was the second Mario vs. Donkey Kong game, believing that the DSiWare game, Minis March Again, was the first. Surprise surprise, there were two previous: Mario vs. Donkey Kong on the GBA and March of the Minis on the DS. I think I missed out on all these due to me not reading Nintendo Power for a few years, how else do you hear about these curious yet under-the-radar kind of games?

Mini-Land Mayhem pits, just like the name says, Mario against Donkey Kong in an epic struggle to rescue Pauline, Mario's original crush. Mario doesn't feel like getting his hands dirty though (being a plumber and all), so he sends a bunch of robot mini Marios to do his bidding. But they're dumb, like Lemmings, and simply walk in a straight line until they hit something and then turn around. They'll climb the first ladder they run into or trod up stairs, but that's about it.

Can Nintendo really publish four titles with this basic premise in the span of just six years? (haha, of course they can, they're Nintendo) Here's my full review of my first experience with the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series in Mini-Land Mayhem.

LEGO Rock Band DS

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Lego Rock Band ds CoverRock Band 3 is due out very soon and I just read that there will be a Nintendo DS port of the game. Unlike Guitar Hero: On Tour, there will be no bonus peripherals used to control the game, just the regular buttons. If this sounds odd to you, well, the experience is already available! Harkening all the way back to Harmonix's first game, Frequency, released in 2001.

After Frequency and Ampltude grew a cult following, the rhythm music game world exploded with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. No more would we press mere buttons on a controller, but now we will press buttons on a plastic guitar (not hating, I love the Rock Band series)! I thought we would never see the classic button pressing gameplay ever again, but gaming history likes to repeat itself, and I recently discovered that Harmonix has brought it back with Rock Band: Unplugged and LEGO Rock Band DS.

Seeing as I don't own a PSP, I sat down to the odd combination of LEGO and Rock Band. Released about a year ago alongside its PS3/Wii/Xbox 360 big brothers, the DS version was hampered with a smaller soundtrack and no downloadable content, but it is available on the go. And of course, if you're a fan of Frequency and Amplitude, then it might be time to return home.

Gears of War 2

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Gears of War 2 CoverThere's a bit of a parallel with the games I've been playing lately. Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Gears of War 2 are both sequels to games released this generation, and at first glance, appear to be essentially re-releases of the first game with a new shine. Where the parallels end though is that while Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a ton of new features, Gears of War 2... does not.

I'm honestly surprised, a bit blown away actually, by how little Epic Games bothered to improve on the original Gears of War game. Gears of War 2 supposedly added five weapons, but only one really stands out. There might also be some new enemies, but as they're all so butt ugly and A.I.-dumb it doesn't really matter. There are a bunch of new locations, but everything is still all brown and gray with some city levels and underground levels.

Gears of War 2 is really just Gears of War 1.1.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth

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ace Attorney Investigations Miles Edgeworth CoverThis game was a long time coming, but the true evolution of the Ace Attorney series has arrived with Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth.  After four games of playing as a defense attorney, we finally experience what it's like to play as a prosecutor, particularly fan favorite Miles Edgeworth.  Miles has been a staple of the series but mostly as an antagonist turned sort-of-friend, but now we get to take direct control of him in a series of cases surrounding a smuggling ring and a great thief.

I've played all the previous games in the series and reviewed the last two on this site, Trials and Tribulations and Apollo Justice.  While the games themselves are really long and haven't really evolved gameplay wise over the last five years, I'm still continually drawn to them year in and year out.  They just have this great charm to them that not only stems from great original writing, but also the best translations in the business.  A ton of effort goes into these games' stories and characters, and it shows.

So here's my review of Miles Edgeworth, in what could be the last game in the Ace Attorney series since the team has apparently moved on to a new game called Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.  I truly hope we see more from the Phoenix Wright universe one day though.

Mass Effect Galaxy

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Mass Effect Galaxy Cover

It can be frustrating when your current favorite series releases a spin-off on a platform you don't own; this has happened to me before with Metal Gear Acid on the PSP, and now it happens again with Mass Effect Galaxy on the iPhone. Considering the game only costs three dollars, the barrier to playing is either cough up $200 for an iPod Touch or try to find someone who will give up their Precious for a few hours. I managed to convince someone of the latter, and the portable action RPG is finally in my hands.

Mass Effect Galaxy is an iPhone spin-off of the popular space epic series released in June. It introduces two brand new characters, Jacob Taylor and Miranda Lawson, who are the new major squad members in Mass Effect 2. The gameplay is top-down action similar to the run-and-gun games of old but features the extensive dialogue system from the console big brother. Much like the novels, Galaxy is meant as a bonus for those of us who are looking for any kind of hit we can get while we wait for the sequel to arrive in January. Here's my review of Mass Effect Galaxy on the iPhone.

Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon

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Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon CoverRune Factory is the "Harvest Moon with swords." This is still the craziest thing I have ever heard and I just beat the stinking game! If you would have told me 10 years ago that the Harvest Moon game I loved would one day feature swords and magic and monsters and bosses, I would have thought that was pretty crazy. Of course, the series has evolved a lot since that first game and Rune Factory is just the latest one off that Natsume has been experimenting with the last few years. I think they were successful with a fantasy Harvest Moon though, but there are some problems. Let's just get right into the good and the bad.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations

Full Review

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations CoverPhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations (longest game title ever?) is the final game in the Phoenix Wright trilogy, a series of defense attorney games for the Nintendo DS. If you are unfamiliar with the series, you will probably be stunned by the following description: You play as the young attorney, Phoenix Wright, in a justice system where your clients are presumed guilty until proven innocent. You are accompanied by a young woman who can channel dead spirits and murder cases are brought to court the day after the crime was committed. And finally, finger pointing and yelling "OBJECTION!" is your most powerful court room ally.

Ace Attorney games are broken up into two types of gameplay: the first is the actual court room, where you will argue with the prosecutor and cross-examine the incessantly lying witnesses until they crack. The second gameplay type is the on-site investigation. Phoenix Wright himself will head out to the scene of the crime (though often crimes follow him almost like he's Angela Lansbury) and perform investigations, interview witnesses and suspects, and gather evidence. If you haven't figured it out already, this game has a LOT of text. This game is so demanding on your A button I thought mine would fall out by the end. Trials and Tribulations is driven by its story, and it assumes you have played the other two when it comes to the characters and events. You don't need to have completed the previous games to beat Phoenix Wright 3, but it will be a much more satisfying experience if you have.

My category reviews should describe the game well, so read on for the scores which are out of 10.

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