Reviews of video game related television shows, movies, books, and soundtracks. Plus, reviews of downloadable content, our Half-Hour Handheld featurette, and video reviews.
As much as Nintendo frustrates me with their recent localization decisions, they have their triumphs as well. Releasing Sin & Punishment on the Virtual Console outside of Japan was a victory, effortless as it might have been. Rhythm Tengoku was a niche hit on the Game Boy Advance, but its DS follow-up had even Beyonce singing its praises. And when Nintendo finally brought its Famicom Wars and Fire Emblem strategy games to the west on the GBA, gamers outside of Japan suddenly had two new franchises to thank the Big N for.
And they're not the only ones: Julian Gollop, creator of the X-COM: UFO Defense series, is a big fan of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem. He said as much in a refreshingly candid interview about his newest game, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, a 3DS launch title that Gollop was inspired to create after experiencing Nintendo's strategy duo.
I've had only brief experiences with the strategy genre as it exists on PC, where Gollop's games mostly reside. And I've played maybe ten minutes of a Ghost Recon game. But I am a big fan of games like Advance Wars: Dual Strike and Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. And though I'm eager to see what Nintendo has in store for those franchises in the future, I know what I'll be getting: more of the same. On the other hand, Gollop's take on turn-based tactics might introduce some fresh elements to the formula. Let's see if any of those show up within the game's first thirty minutes.
The island from Lost is its own character. It's mysterious, malevolent, and seemingly sentient. It's more than just a setting, interacting with each of the show's characters as much as any other person stranded there.
Nintendo wants WuHu Island to be like that. Well, sort of. Not the evil part, of course. Where the island from Lost is a place full of peril, pitfalls, and plotholes, WuHu Island is familiar, comfortable, and friendly. It is supposed to be like a favorite character, an entity that the player reminisces with every time they meet. That's why it's already shown up in three different casual Nintendo titles (Wii Fit, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Fit Plus).
Make that four, as Nintendo brings Mii back to WuHu island, this time exclusively for airborne activities in Pilotwings Resort. Pilotwings is no stranger to acting as the "tech demo" launch title for new visual splendor; the original SNES game introduced the world to Mode 7 Mapping while its Nintendo 64 sequel showed off the new system's polygonal graphics from a birds' eye view.
This will be my second visit to WuHu Island, after the WiiMotion+ showcase that was Wii Sports Resort. There was a certain charm to staging the various activities around the island, full of recognizable landmarks and curiosities. However, it could just as easily be argued that this is all laziness on Nintendo's part, recycling assets they created years ago across a number of games. Will a half-hour at WuHu Island rekindle warm memories of jet skis and archery or has this vacation hotspot gone cold?
I read RuneScape: Betrayal at Falador a few months ago and enjoyed it for what it was: light-fantasy action with a pretty decent cast of characters in a world I was totally unfamiliar with. T.S. Church managed to bring me up to speed quickly on a large, established world filled with kingdoms, monarchs, and gods.
Church has readied RuneScape: Return to Canifis for release next week, and it is not only a better book than its predecessor, it actually makes for a pretty darn good fantasy read. Here is my review of T.S. Church’s new novel, RuneScape: Return to Canifis.
RuneScape: Return to Canifis was provided to me by the publisher, Titan Books.
Mass Effect 3 is coming out this year, that just feels weird to write. This means not only will I get to play the finale to one of my favorite game series of all time in about eight months, but that Mass Effect 2 related reviews and articles will just feel terribly stale. Okay, to mostly everyone they already feel totally outdated, and I understand; who wants to read about year old downloadable content? Who knows, but I like writing about it.
Normandy Crash Site was a zero day DLC available for Mass Effect 2, and is free for everyone who is a member of the Cerberus Network (which is required if you want to buy any downloadable content). It's mostly fan service for fans of the first Mass Effect, but it also serves up a surprising amount of emotion for its small package, especially to someone like me who put over 100 hours into the original.
I hope to cover the rest of Mass Effect 2's major downloadable content over the coming months, including Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker. I won't be reviewing (or buying, for that matter) the weapon or armor packs. I'm sorry, those are just lame. I also plan to re-read the first Mass Effect book for a review and read the third novel for the first time. My review of Mass Effect: Ascension has been available for a while. I have also covered Mass Effect 2's first paid for DLC, Kasumi's Stolen Memory.
Here 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.
Many video game series get their own novelizations now, they range from mindless junk to interesting filler in between games, but for the devoted fan of a series they can be a nice escape to revisit their favorite world. With the influx of manga reaching our shores, we've also received a small sampling of the popular Japanese style comic. I always like to think that the more content the better, at least that indicates that someone who makes decisions cares, or at least thinks they can make more money on the franchise.
Enter the Ace Attorney series, probably more well known as the Phoenix Wright vehicle, though he's become less and less the focus as the games tumble by. I've played all five games in the series, but North America received the great Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective last month instead of the newest Miles Edgeworth game which was released February 3rd in Japan. It may be until later this year until we see that localized.
But we do have official Phoenix Wright manga to tide us over until then! I received Official Casebook Vol. 1 for Christmas and read it over the past week or so. While thicker than most mangas, it is still a quick read. Here's my short review of The Phoenix Wright Files.
I'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.
I’m one of those people who enjoys reading novels set in familiar video game worlds. Growing up, I read Castlevania books starring some flavor of Belmont, and even remember finishing a Bionic Commando novella at some point (which, undoubtedly, did not end in Hitler’s head exploding). More recently, I’ve been enjoying the Mass Effect fiction that does a tremendous job adding to the already rich universe found in the video games.
But when I was asked to read a RuneScape novel, I wondered if maybe I was crossing the line of reading video game books. I’ve never played RuneScape, I’ve never even thought about playing RuneScape, and before I did some research, I found that everything I thought I knew about RuneScape was wrong.
I tried to limit my research though to just the facts about the game itself, and not the game world. If RuneScape: Betrayal at Falador was meant to be read by both fans of the game and readers who might not be familiar with the series, then it should serve as both fan-service and as a great introduction to the RuneScape universe. But really, there have been over 130 MILLION registered RuneScape players, there’s apparently no lack of market.
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors... what an awful title. I'm not even sure if that is the right title, just look at its cover. Anyways, you're probably wondering what the heck 999 is exactly. Well, it's basically Saw meets Hotel Dusk. A point and click visual novel with bombs implanted into stomachs that will explode if puzzles are not solved quickly enough. Yes, this game really was released and has the Nintendo Seal of Approval on it. And yes, it's rated M for Mature.
I don't really know why I chose to try 999 out, I haven't exactly had great luck with visual novels *cough* Lux-Pain *gag* Hotel Dusk *puke*, but the whole premise was just too intriguing to pass up. I figured I would give it a half-hour of my time to see if it was worth it to go on.
999 was developed by Chunsoft, creators of very popular visual and sound novels in Japan, including 428: Fūsa Sareta Shibuya de, one of the not-so-elusive 40/40 Famitsu scored games. They also handle the Shiren the Wanderer series and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, so they're not exactly slackers. As for 999, well, I'm going to give my opinion on its first half-hour right now.
If you pay attention to the development timeline, there are some clues
you can pick out that may hint at a flawed final product. If the game changes platforms mid-way through development, that should send up a warning signal. If it does so more than once, that's probably an impending disappointment. If some lead developer leaves the team shortly before it's finished, that's another. And the developing company goes under before the game hits the shelves, that's something worth considering as well.
But the easiest way to spot a troubled game is by the dearth of information preceding its release. Goldeneye 007 for the Wii was heralded as the second coming of the N64 classic at this year's E3. On the other hand, its Nintendo DS counterpart was quietly announced alongside it at E3 and unceremoniously released on the same day last week. I made an extra effort to look for details of and screenshots from the Nintendo DS game, but had a very tough time finding anything of substance.
Curious, but with low expectations, I rented the spy-sized DS game card from GameFly. I mean, it's still Goldeneye, right? And the Wii version seems to have plenty of polish, so why shouldn't its DS counterpart? I've spent thirty minutes with the game. Is it an undercover success or a dirty little secret?