Few gaming series have changed as much as Castlevania. What started off as an action platformer evolved into an exploration focused action RPG with the release of Symphony of the Night, a genre which has been dubbed “Metroidvania.” This style for the series wouldn’t be seen again for several years until it hit the most unlikely of platforms: the Game Boy Advance. Handheld gaming rekindled interest in the series, and since Circle of the Moon in 2001, six handheld Castlevania titles have been released. Dawn of Sorrow is the first one for the DS, and is a direct sequel to the final GBA Castlevania game. Since these games are rather short and focus heavily on post game content and speed runs, I’ve decided to do a half hour review. This has nothing to do with the fact that Dragon Quest IX comes out this week and I’d rather play that than write. Nothing at all!
When most people think of Dragon Ball, they think of energy blasts, non-stop fights against aliens, and dozens of episodes where the only thing happening is veins bulging. But once upon a time, Dragon Ball was a simple kung fu adventure show starring a kid with a monkey tail that was loosely-kinda-sorta-maybe based off of the classic Chinese tale “Journey to the West.” Dragon Ball: Origins takes us back to this simpler time before Goku was a demigod and every other thing wanted to blow up Earth, and delivers a solid adventure for old and new fans.
In April, Capcom shocked the world by announcing the sequel we all wanted but never thought we’d see: Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The Vs. Capcom series is always filled with surprises: another recent one is releasing Tatsunoko vs. Capcom in the America, which many thought would be a licensing nightmare. Capcom has crossed paths and punches with four companies: comic book titan Marvel, legendary Japanese animation studio Tatsunoko, fighting game rival SNK, and even Namco in a Japanese-only RPG. But what other companies should Capcom square off against? Here are five that I’d like to see. Keep in mind, I hope for all of these to be fighting games (sorry Namco x Capcom).
The “Pokemon fad” died about ten years ago, but the franchise is still as strong as ever as Diamond and Pearl sold over 17 million copies worldwide. In order to satiate the appetite of rabid Pokemon fans anxiously awaiting the next generation of games (which were recently announced as Black and White), Nintendo decided to remake the second generation games, Gold and Silver. Pokemon has changed a lot in the ten years since the release of Gold and Silver, but fortunately Nintendo has added every single innovation into the remake, along with a few new ones.
Dragon Quest is one of the most popular gaming franchises in Japan, but it has always been in the shadow of other RPG series like Final Fantasy over here in the west. Square-Enix decided to see if they can rekindle some interest in the series putting the series on the DS, with remakes of IV and V already released, and VI and IX coming within the year in the States. While all eyes are on IX, let’s look back at the first Dragon Quest remake for the Nintendo DS, Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen. Originally released on the NES, and then remade for the PlayStation, the DS version brings us new features, a new translation, touched up graphics, and two-screen goodness.
The Mario & Luigi series has become one of the more interesting handheld exclusive franchises. Although heavily inspired by the console Mario RPG games, it has managed to make a name for itself with its unique battle system and comical dialogue. The series debuted on the Game Boy Advance with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and continued on the DS with Partners in Time, which many regarded as inferior to the previous title. Developer AlphaDream brings us another entry with an off the wall premise and putting Bowser in the role of co-protagonist. First hour of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story incoming:
Phantasy Star is back with Phantasy Star 0, the sequel to the console based Phantasy Star Online series. However, this time Sega managed to pack in a complete online experience on the Nintendo DS, allowing four players to connect together and fight in its science fiction/fantasy setting. Phantasy Star 0 was released in November and features not only a full fledged online game, but also an offline story mode for when your friends aren't around.
Grant has chosen to keep his first hour review limited to the offline mode, it is probably a toss up whether a new player will play online or offline anyway.
Greg's note: In high school, I had a few friends who were obsessed with Phantasy Star Online on the GameCube. They would come over to my house and just sit on a television all night playing it, though never online. It was the oddest thing and I always wondered why they would play a game called Phantasy Star Online exclusively off. Either way, it was entertaining watching them get wiped out by a boss but mostly everyone was just bored to tears as they discussed drop rates and their latest swords. One of my friends who did play online actually bought the giant GameCube controller keyboard, where a typical controller was mutilated and had 108 keys stuck between the thumstick and buttons. Awkward
Here's Grant's first hour review of Phantasy Star 0 (or Phantasy Star Zero for you 0/O impaired readers like me).
EA and Bioware are pushing Dragon Age as the next big fantasy franchise. Even the name of the core game should give you a hint. They are practically calling the main game "Dragon Age: The First One." In addition to two novels and a tabletop RPG, EA 2D developed the flash title Dragon Age Journeys, and episodic adventure that can unlock items in Dragon Age: Origins. The first chapter is free, but gamers will have to pay for subsequent chapters. I knock out the first hour of the first chapter, "The Deep Roads."
The most talked about DS game at this year’s E3 wasn’t another installment in a popular and established franchise, but instead a strikingly original title from the creators of the Drawn to Life series, 5th Cell. In the same spirit as their million-seller, Scribblenauts relies heavily on the creativity of the player. Armed with tens of thousands of words, you must solve puzzles that range from moving a cow off the road to saving people from a horde of hungry zombies. If you can think it, you can do it.
Players control the rooster hat-wearing Maxwell, a kid that always has a smirk and curiously wear shorts with long sleeves. Maxwell is thrown into hundreds of levels with one simple goal: find and obtain an object called a starite. In order to do this, the player must summon objects by writing them via a mini-keyboard or by spelling them out (trust me, it’s easier to just use the keyboard). Objects will then appear in the level to help, or in some cases, hurt you. The game boats tens of thousands of objects, and 5th Cell has done a remarkable job including pretty much everything you can think of. Practical objects like bridges, ladders, and boxes are in the game, but it also has every kind of obscure animal, vehicle, or instrument you can think of. The game is also filled with a lot of bizarre and nerdy objects such as internet memes (lol wut is a personal favorite), Lovecraftian monsters, mythological creatures, giant robots and everything in between. Is a helibackpack a real thing? It doesn’t matter, it’s in the game and can be quite useful.
Scribblenauts is the much-hyped puzzle game from developers 5th Cell that garnered a lot of awards and attention after this year’s E3. 5th Cell are the creators of Drawn to Life, a game that managed to sell over a million copies and put them on the map. Scribblenauts is a game that promises thousands of items that interact with each other in realistic and unique ways, allowing gamers to come up with their own innovative ideas when it comes to solving a level. The first hour of this game will vary heavily for anyone playing the game, as it’s possible to spend hours just on the menu screen.
Editor's Note: Grant begged to review this game, and he gets his reward. About three months back I previewed the game, comparing it to 5th Cell's predecessor, Drawn to Life. While I was less than pleased with that game, Scribblenauts seemed to be on its way to fixing all of its (many) problems. Let's see if the first hour of Scribblenauts starts off in the right direction.