time traveling

Retro City Rampage

First Hour Review

Retro City Rampage CoverLadies and gentlemen, we are experiencing a full-blown Easter Egg epidemic. In just the last month, Dishonored re-enacted a scene from PC classic Thief: The Dark Project. The newest World of Warcraft expansion contains homages to everything from Battletoads to Harvest Moon to Star Fox.

There are even veritable egg trails: Torchlight II pays homage to Borderlands 2 which references Dark Souls. If this trend continues, it won’t be long until we have a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon on our hands, counting references back to either “Cake is a lie” or “Arrow in the knee.”

And Retro City Rampage isn’t helping matters. Released last week on PlayStation Network and Steam (and coming soon for XBLA and WiiWare), this Grand Theft Auto “demake” touches on dozens of classic NES-era videogames, if not hundreds. The launch trailer alone portends a never-ending assault of sly winks, like a pirate blinking War and Peace in morse code.

Shinobi

Half-Hour Handheld

Shinobi 3ds CoverNintendo takes a lot of crap for its reluctance to provide even rudimentary online features, and rightfully so. But I have to admit, I'm a big fan of the Virtual Console service on Wii and 3DS. The convenience of having Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64 all in the same tiny system was too much for me to ignore: I happily bought them all even while their systems and cartridges were mere feet away from my TV.

It's more rewarding, though, to discover classics that I missed out on as a kid. One such game was Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master. Though I owned a Genesis as a kid, all I ever played were Sonic games. Cutting through the excellent ninja sidescroller via the Wii's emulation service, I felt as though I'd rectified a childhood oversight.

Retro revivals are all the rage, and Shinobi's getting in on the action on 3DS. The new game is a prequel, simply called "Shinobi" in accordance with the entertainment industry's efforts to confound posterity by recycling the same titles over and over again. Judging from the low poly character models, I actually suspect Shinobi 3DS actually began development on Nintendo's last generation DS and was hastily upgraded. But hey, it's not the visuals that matter to me, it's the tough-but-fair sidescrolling action. Let's see if that's still intact.

Radiant Historia or: How I learned to enjoy Japanese RPGs again

Full Review

Radiant Historia CoverA year ago I vented how Persona 3 and Odin Sphere had destroyed my love for Japanese RPGs, one of my favorite video game genres growing up. I might have been a bit dramatic about the situation, but the two games left such bad tastes in my mouth I had to take a break from the genre. This lasted about six months before I ventured back into the land of turn-based rising sun with Sega’s Infinite Space, a game that has all the trappings of crappy JRPGs but turned out to be pretty great in the end.

Since then I’ve beaten Golden Sun 3: Dark Dawn, Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled, and Radiant Historia. It’s been a mixed bag and a reminder that I’m not back in love with the genre, but one game in particular pretty much brought me back into the fold: Atlus’ newest Nintendo DS title, Radiant Historia.

Released in February, Radiant Historia chewed up more portable gaming time than anything I’ve played in recent memory. The idea that a 50 hour game should be imposing to someone with limited gaming time like myself didn’t matter, I plowed through it and the game was worth every minute. Here’s my review of Radiant Historia.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Movie Review

Prince of Persia Sands of Time Movie PosterHere we go with another video game adaptation, this time with Disney’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Released last year, it is based on the Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Windows game of the same name from way back in 2003. Creator of the series, Jordan Mechner, actually wrote the film, so we at least have a bit of pedigree here.

I don’t really ever feel the need to watch movies based on video games, so I’m usually seeking them out on purpose to rip on them. The Sands of Time is no exception, and while I fully expected the movie to suck, I was surprised to find that it was actually not terrible, but still not a very good “adaptation” of a series I’m very familiar with.

The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal in all his shirtless manliness, plus Gemma Arterton as the damsel and Ben Kingsley in yet another video game movie after Bloodrayne. I’m not a big film nerd, but even I recognize that Kingsley is a pretty good actor that takes a ton of bad roles. I question his sanity.

Here’s my thoughts on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Radiant Historia

First Hour Review

Radiant Historia CoverRadiant Historia hasn’t been on my radar for very long, but ever since I learned about it a month ago, I have been very excited to play it. As a Japanese RPG from Atlus, the game already has the pedigree, but the story is what really grabbed me. Radiant Historia is a time traveling game where your goal is to correct the timeline and save your homeland. Yes, this sounds a bit like Chrono Trigger, and you wouldn’t be totally wrong comparing them, but Radiant Historia has its own unique twists to offer up.

The game’s timeline is presented like you’re navigating a large skill tree, with decisions made creating forks in the fabric of time. You can revisit these forks and make different decisions, and even learn skills and information in a dead-end timeline to return to the correct route and proceed. This sounded just like the game I’ve been wanting to play for a long time.

Released yesterday, Radiant Historia has been getting some great early reviews. I was able to get my hands on it to present my impressions as quick as possible. Here’s the first hour of Radiant Historia.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Full Review

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective CoverI've been anticipating Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective for a while now. As a big fan (but totally burned out) of the Ace Attorney series, I was excited for Phoenix Wright's creator's next vision. It's an odd one, that's for sure, but holds on to the humor, great cast of characters, and overwhelming charm that made the Ace Attorney series so great.

In Ghost Trick, you unsurprisingly play as a ghost. The idea is you can manipulate objects from the ghostly dimension to save people's lives and ultimately, find out who you are and why you were killed. The Phoenix Wright-like mystery is present throughout the game and many of the questions aren't answered until the last action is taken, but it's a fun and original ride all the way there.

Phantom Detective shouldn't be a game that can be explained easily, but its first half-hour managed to do a pretty bang-up job. Check that out for an early walkthrough of all the concepts and in-depth gameplay elements the game explains to you quickly and efficiently.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Half-Hour Handheld

Ghost Trick Phantom Detective CoverI'm a huge fan of the Ace Attorney series, but after the fifth and latest game, Miles Edgeworth, I feel that the series is in dire need for a reboot. We may get that later this year in the bizarre pairing of Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, but my wish might have come even earlier with Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. Created by the original Phoenix Wright lead, Shu Takumi, Ghost Trick seems to be where the creative juices are being funneled into now.

Released last week outside of Japan on the Nintendo DS, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective replaces the Ace Attorney game we usually see released around this time of year. Buzz was high for this game, but after watching a few videos, I had no idea what to expect out of this title. The main character is dead, there are timed puzzles to save people from dying, and you can possess objects a la The Haunting: Starring Polterguy or Geist. It all just seemed so... weird.

But I trust the Ace Attorney developers, so I'm going to give Ghost Trick a half-hour of my time to see if it's worth playing. Here are those first 30 minutes with Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.

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