It was just a few years ago that I was a Japanese RPG freak. In just one holiday, I asked for and received Persona 3 FES, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, and Rogue Galaxy. Three of the biggest JRPGs to land at the end of the PS2 lifespan. You know how much of those games I've played since? About 30 hours of Persona 3, the first hour of Rogue Galaxy, and I haven't even touched Valkyrie Profile 2; I blame it all on the games themselves.
If I were to make an exhaustive list of my all-time favorite games, it would undoubtedly be topped by Chrono Trigger, closely followed by Suikoden II and Final Fantasy VI, with Final Fantasy X somewhere up there too. All Japanese RPGs, and all very good games for varying reasons. I spent my college years playing more from what used to be my favorite genre, and watched my roommate play a ton of them including the original Valkyrie Profile, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, my copy of Xenogears, and pretty much the entire Xenosaga trilogy.
Maybe I was already burned out on the genre when I heard about how great Persona 3 was; how it was the ultimate JRPG and that a re-release of the game was going to put it into my budget again. By the time I started playing it, I even had Persona 4 in my possession already (which I also haven't touched). I knew without a doubt I was going to love this game.
Note: This post evolved from a rant on Persona 3 into a rant review on Persona 3, so while it's designated as a full review, I have not beaten either Persona 3 FES or Odin Sphere. No final scores will be given for obvious reasons.
The iPhone App Store is flooded with games, some of them very good, most of them bad, but there's just an oversaturation of everything. Only the lowest common denominator crap rises to the top (unless it's Plants vs. Zombies, that game is awesome) and tons of gems are drowned by a sea of Sally Spa clones.
One of my close friends, Rory Johnson, is an iPhone game developer, and he just released his second game: Bad Cube. Early last year he released Circle Challenge, more of a personal challenge than anything else, and I finally got the chance to talk about it at the end of last year. It's a fun, free time waster where the object is to just draw circles. A simple concept, but it helped Rory learn the ropes of Objective C and the App Store.
Bad Cube is definitely a game, and a fun, challenging one at that. It's in 3D, features the shooting of hexahedron objects, and kicked my butt many times. I had the pleasure of watching the game mature from the "look! a 3D cube!" stage to the "look! a 3D cube that I can shoot!" stage, and it was entertaining to say the least.
I've been delaying writing my review for Mass Effect 2
for a while now. It was my most anticipated game in years, and I
bought it the day it came out and finished it a few long nights later.
I pored over 40 hours into my first playthrough of the game, longer
than even my first run of the original. This was going to be my
defining game of 2010, my Game of the Year.
It's two months later now and I've played it more since I beat it, but
I still haven't compiled all my thoughts on it. Half of me wants to
write the best review possible for one of the best games ever, and the
other half of me wants to make sure it really was one of the best games
I'll start with my conclusion though: I loved it. It's a beyond excellent game that takes the series and the genre into new territories. Mass Effect 2 tries something new at every bend and seemingly succeeds at them all. I had built up an incredible amount of hype for the game, and I can honestly say it surpassed my expectations. BioWare, my hat goes off to you.
A little more introduction though: Mass Effect 2 was released in late January of 2010 for the Xbox 360 and Windows. It's the direct sequel to Mass Effect which was released in late 2007. The game was published by EA and is its flagship product for its downloadable content scheme. The free-with-a-new-purchase Cerberus Network has provided us with plenty of free and paid for DLC since the game was released, and more is on the way. It's BioWare's second big AAA title in about as many months with Dragon Age: Origins coming last November. Everything seems to be going right for them.
So you can tell I enjoyed the game already, but read on to see exactly why. Here's my full review of Mass Effect 2.
This is a first for us, but this is our second full review of The Legend
of Zelda: Spirit Tracks on the First Hour. Paul first reviewed the game in
early February and praised it for its stellar action and improved
controls over Phantom Hourglass. He did note some
issues with the train in the game, and while most of my opinions will
echo his, I would like to get my thoughts down before I move on to other
This is Nintendo's second attempt at going for an entirely stylus-driven Zelda experience. I'm actually still a bit shocked that this works. It's not perfect, but it is definitely not substantially worse than playing a console Zelda game, and in some ways works better than the old 2D games. Paul said he noticed improvements in the control, but either it's been so long since I played Phantom Hourglass that I didn't notice, or... they didn't make any improvements. I'm guessing the former as I was rarely frustrated with the game control-wise.
Just like to quickly mention how awesome it is that we got two Legend of Zelda games on the Nintendo DS, especially considering it was nearly three years after the system debuted that Phantom Hourglass finally landed. It'd be great to see a third, but I imagine Nintendo will be refocusing their efforts on the DSi or 3DS at this point. Hey, you can always hire Capcom to make more portable iterations.
I received Borderlands from my brother-in-law for Christmas, but didn't have the opportunity to play it until my other brother-in-law was over to visit and asked to play it. I watched him play while trying out the new Miles Edgeworth game, but Borderlands really grabbed my attention.
He chose to play as a berserker, and after the initial bus ride cutscene, he was on Pandora and kicking butt. The game was very open but it always seemed like he had something to do. There were a couple of quest givers, he was leveling up, finding new guns, shooting more and more enemies. He played for about two hours and had taken out the game's first boss after a few attempts, and then it was my turn to give it a go.
I can't believe I left this game on my shelf for so long, it's... awesome. I haven't played a game like it since World of Warcraft. The open world feels big and intimidating, but it's one of those perfect examples of sandbox non-linearity with just the right amount of linear guidance. The quests keep coming and I just kept leveling up. There were skill points to earn and bigger and better guns to collect. I'm already hooked.
I loved Super Mario 64. It was the first game I ever played on what is
one of my favorite consoles, and my memories of the game have stuck
with me to this day. The running, the jumping, the exploration of huge
levels, it was incredible. Mario made the best transition to 3D ever,
well, until Ocarina of Time
came around. The next 3D Mario iteration was Super Mario Sunshine,
which I was less then enthused about. I'm not sure if it was the water
pack gimmick or what, but I was never convinced that it would be worth
playing. Nintendo has finally delivered its third true 3D Mario game
(well, two and a half years ago) with Super Mario Galaxy. While it is almost unrecognizable in terms of what a Mario game should be like, it plays just like Mario 64 did 14 years ago: awesomely.
Galaxy's gimmick is that instead of featuring one giant, flat plane, each world is made up of small, Little Prince-like planets and objects. Gravity and physics are now Mario's biggest friend and foe, as you're constantly being challenged in new ways to jump and explore. I love games like Braid and Portal that challenge me to think and play different, Super Mario Galaxy joins that elite group, in my opinion.
Mario Galaxy 2 is due in less than two months, and it'll probably be
the first Wii game I buy at launch in over three years. I'd love to
have a first hour review of that game at launch (hint, hint, Nintendo),
but I've got a first hour review of this game also on the back burner.
Here's my full review of Super Mario Galaxy. I collected all 120 stars
in the game which took me about 25-30 hours.
Another year, another sports game. Gamers hear this every few months when the newest Madden is coming out, or the next iteration in a 2K series, or even for the Tiger Woods series. Sure, you updated the roster, but what did you really spend the last 12 months on? That is the eternal question for series with annual updates, and it's always one someone is forced to answer.
For 2K Sports' MLB series, 2009 was a rough year. The series was switching developers and reactions from the fanbase was generally bad. With Sony's rival series, The Show, growing stronger and stronger with every iteration, it was not a good year to take two steps back. 2K and Visual Concepts desperately needed to show that they still worth the MLB license they paid for: 2K10 needed to be the Comeback Player of the Year. If you believe Metacritic, they have definitely improved. 2K9 has a metascore of 64 with a user score of only 5.2, whereas 2K10 has a metascore of 76 but even more importantly, a user score of 8.0. The MLB 2K series seems to be back on the right track.
But I never played a previous iteration of the series, let alone 2K9, so I'm coming into this season as a rookie. I'm still expecting a lot though, my favorite baseball games are more arcadey, like Base Wars or the Ken Griffey Jr. series. Those games were just pure fun and the gameplay was great not because it was great baseball, but because it was a great video game. MLB 2K10, however, is realistic and trying to not let you realize that it is a video game. Quite a bit different than what I'm used to.
So here's my full review of MLB 2K10, this was a review copy provided to me by 2K Games. You can see read my "first hour review" of the game that actually follows me through about the first 10 hours of the game.
While I love baseball, I don't play a lot of baseball games anymore. The last baseball game I played was MVP Baseball 2005 from EA, and before that it was Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr. I also grew up playing the Bases Loaded series and Base Wars on the NES along with a smattering of sims on the PC such as Earl Weaver Baseball. An erratic and interesting history, to say the least.
So when 2K Sports offered me a review copy of their newest baseball iteration: Major League Baseball 2K10, I jumped at it. I really have very little idea how the baseball genre has evolved over the years, but I like the direction 2K10 is taking it. MLB 2K09 was generally panned by reviewers and let Sony's The Show really grab the spotlight. So developers Visual Concepts really had a lot to prove with 2K10, and while I'm not totally sold on the entire game yet, I do like the My Player mode.
My Player mode is new to MLB 2K10, and let's you create a baseball player and guide him from AA baseball in the minor leagues to the Major Leagues and maybe eventually election into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It's curious that this feature is just being added to the series since The Show has featured this since the series was introduced in 2006, but I'm really glad it's there because it is all I've been playing. My Player mode only let's you play as the character you created, so games move quicker and you really feel like you're part of a team effort.
This isn't going to be a typical first hour review where I play 60 minutes and describe the action, but instead I'm going to describe my experience of trying to make the Major Leagues. The road to the Show (sorry, can't help it) does take a few hours, but it is a unique and fun experience to someone who's picking up their first baseball video game in a while.