Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate 3DS Case Now Available For Pre-order

There have been Monster Hunter releases on the PSP, Wii, and with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate coming in March for the 3DS/WiiU, Capcom have created a nifty case to go with it. While most cases seem to be more than a little prone to cracking if dropped, this one is aluminum and will be sold for $15.95. It can be pre-ordered here. There's also a 3DS XL version.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Temple Run 2

If you have anything that starts with an "i" and fits in your hand, it's very likely that you own Temple Run. It's easy, addicting, fun, and free, so if you don't there's no reason for you not to. It is one of the most popular games on iOS, and if you're looking for some more unknown free games, you can look here. But this isn't about Temple Run, it's about its aptly named sequel, Temple Run 2. The question is, is it worthy enough to delete the original, or am I just wasting my time?

The first thing that's noticeable (and probably expected) is the graphical improvement. The 3D characters are a little more fleshed out (though you will not be able to play as the football player this time), and the environments are more detailed and varied. This boost in aesthetics means that some of the older models may not be able to run this, so double check if you're running on a dated piece of hardware. For most people though, the improved looks are beneficial rather than hurtful.

The next thing that you'll want to notice is the changes in gameplay. They're not huge, but they couldn't just make a reskinned Temple Run and tell people it's a sequel. New additions to the fast-paced formula include ziplines and minecarts, plus an altered take on the power-ups (you hit a button once you collect it, it's not automatic anymore) which adds a wee bit o' strategy to the mix.

These are all well and good but there is one thing that bothers me. In the original, everything can be bought with the coins you earn in your runs, and the prices weren't so ridiculously high that you had to use real money. Yeah, you could spend a few bucks if you were a little impatient and just needed to buy the Asian chick, but besides that you could earn the upgrades through repeated plays, which was easy because of the addiction that has gripped millions.

That system is still here in Temple Run 2, with a slight twist: little green gems. These upgrade your powerups much quicker than coins, and can revive you after you inevitably fail. You need to buy these, however, and that ruins it a bit. It takes away some of the dignity of getting an absurdly high score, because if you pay for these things you can kind of cheat your way into another million or two. Despite this, Temple Run 2 is still an improvement over the original, which was probably expected. The best thing about it is that it's still free, and still fun, and if you were doubting it or debating whether or not to get it, there's not much reason for you not to.

Find it on iTunes | Google Play

Developer: Imangi Studios

Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: Dead Space

Dead Space is typically a well known survival horror game among consoles such as the XBox 360 and the PS3.  I have played the Dead Space series before, so when I was browsing the Google Play store and found Dead Space, I decided to pick it up, just to see if it held out well.  The good news is that this is an excellent game that takes the basic Dead Space formula and makes it work well for a mobile platform.  The bad news is that the iOS version has more features than the Android version, but a lack of a Survival mode as well as no addition of the Heavy Pulse Rifle are minor things to gripe about.

So, the game plays out like your typical Dead Space game.  You play from a third person perspective and navigate through various levels, each one with puzzles and enemies.  However, in this game, you are not playing as the series main protagonist, Issac Clarke.  Instead, you play as a character who goes by the name of Vandal.  You never see his face, and his voice is masked via a voice synthesizer.  This choice does two things.  The first of which is that since you are no longer playing as the console version's main character, you can now safely say that this Dead Space is its own game.  The second thing is that the character can be either gender; that character could be you.

Is the game scary?  To be honest, I cannot really answer that.  You see, I am the type of person who does not scare very easily.  So, something that is scary for the average person would make me not even flinch.  If anything, I can say that the game has a few jump scares here and there, but those are so far from each other that the horror aspect of the game is not as prominent as the action portions.  However, take that assessment of the horror portions with a grain of salt.

This ended up being more of an action game.  The survival bits are loosely thrown in, and rarely will you ever find yourself out of ammo.  You can easily beat the game with just your starting weapons alone, so long as you take the time to find the power nodes to upgrade your gear.  Stasis constantly regenerates, which makes the ability abusive at times.  You even get a pretty decent melee weapon, called the Plasma Saw, which is basically a get out of my face type of weapon.  It doesn't pack a powerful punch, but it is usually enough to turn around a conflict, and buy yourself a little bit of time.  Mix that new saw with the stasis, and you have a pretty potent method of dealing with enemies if you ever run out of ammo.

Now, it sounds like I am being harsh on the game, and comparing it too much to the Dead Space games on consoles, but do not get me wrong.  The game is still great for what it is.  It is simple to control and most importantly, fun to play, which is important when designing a game for mobile phones.  It is not the most perfect Dead Space game, but it does what it does well.  The only downside I can think of this game is that the lack of the Survival mode that the iOS devices enjoy so much does limit the replay-ability of this game.

 iTunes | Google Play

Developer: EA

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Great iOS Ports

As more and more companies start to cash in on the rapidly evolving smartphone game environment, we're starting to see games from different generations be ported over to the iOS market. These are met with varying degrees of success, but some of these old games could make great additions to your mobile game library.
GRAND THEFT AUTO: CHINATOWN WARS- This one just makes sense. Since this website is dedicated to portable gaming, you should have this or at least wanted to have this on one of your portable gaming devices. There are ports of some console GTAs, such as GTA III and Vice City, but the controls are expectedly weird. However, in Chinatown Wars, the game was already designed for touch controls and a small screen, making a port just plain logical. The game is great, by the way, packed with the gripping, dark, and comical storylines that Rockstar is known for, along with hours of side objectives to find hidden throughout the sizable world of Liberty City. The drug-dealing mechanic, not found on consoles GTAs, is one of my favorite parts, along with the new method to lose your wanted level. Chinatown Wars is one of, if not the most critically-acclaimed portable games, so if you're on here you should make an attempt to own it.
SID MEIER'S PIRATES!- I can't be the only one who wishes there were more pirate games, can I? Well this revamped classic is probably the best on that limited market, in terms of playing like a pirate. Sail around the Caribbean with yer scurvy crew of landlubbers, save a barmaid from an abusive relationship, and woo the beautiful governor's daughter with your impressive dancing skills. Throw in buried treasure and a long-lasting plot for revenge and you have the life of a pirate right in your pocket. The only complaint I have is that the swipes in the sword-fighting minigame are sometimes misread, which can lead to some frustration. This only became a problem for me in the harder difficulties, but if you can overcome this and share my wish of being a friggin' pirate then look no further.
CHRONO TRIGGER- This classic RPG is considered by some to be one of the best games of all time. Certainly when you consider the size and quality of other SNES games, Chrono Trigger is head and shoulders above the rest. A long and intriguing story, detailed environments, a wide array of different items, and multiple endings made this a stand-out game at the time, and luckily it has aged very well. It may take awhile to figure out the controls in battle, but once you get the hang of it you'll pump hours into this whether it's your first time playing this or you're just looking for a hefty dose of nostalgia. It's a great way to shorten your list of must-play classic games; I know I still have pretty much every Zelda game to go.
WORLD OF GOO- Seriously, what console can't you play this game on? The wide availability of this indie puzzler means you have no excuse to not play it, because it is the ideal indie game. Gorgeous art, fun gameplay, pretty music, and cute sounds and writing are all packed into this game, along with an excellent replayability system: any surplus gooballs can be used to make the largest tower possible, and your scores are shared around the world. The touch screen also makes your iPod or iPhone one of the better platforms to play this little masterpiece, so you really don't have a choice.
FOOTBALL MANAGER HANDHELD 2012/2013- I admit that Football Manager is not for everyone. If you're looking for a game where you actually play soccer/football, I recommend the excellent FIFA 13. But if you love tinkering with some obscure English team, buying a teenage Belgian striker and have him become the top scorer while you rise through the ranks and eventually finish runners-up in the Champions League, look no further. The unbelievable depth that made the PC version famous is now available in the palm of your hands, and can become extremely addicting. Like the PC version, a new game comes out every year, but I've been playing FM2012 for so long, (a whopping 4 days and 2 hours according to a handy in-game stat) that I refuse to upgrade to the newer 2013 version so I don't have to start over my career. If you do get it, beware: you may not come back the same.
KING OF DRAGON PASS- The classic choose-your-own-adventure game with a strategic twist is now available on your mobile device! Tons of replayability is packed into this game as your different choices lead to different scenarios and endings. Manage your clan, make friends and enemies with your neighbors, fight trolls, and intimidate the infamous Duck People into giving you food. The choice is yours.
SPY FOX: DRY CEREAL- If your childhood had a lack of Humongous Entertainment games, I offer my most sincere condolences. Putt-Putt, Freddi Fish, Spy Fox, Pajama Sam, and Backyard Sports dominated my youthful gaming experience, and now some are available on your iPhone and iPad. I pick this one as it is, in my opinion, the best out of the bunch, but if you have a little one I recommend getting as many as you can. For those that are unfamiliar, you control the aptly named Spy Fox in a point-and-click adventure to get milk back from an evil goat so kids can stop eating gross dry cereal. Multiple playthroughs give you different endings and scenarios, and you can play Go Fish with an obese pig. If I haven't convinced you yet I don't know what will.

Review: Wario Ware: Touched!

As I pointed out before, Wario Ware: Mega MicroGames was more of a failed idea and less of a revolutionary step in game design. This being said, Nintendo R&D1 probably realised that this game was more of a prototype than anything as other companies copied the grandiose expansion of the mini-game collection sub-series because of how the series expanded. The game's first sequel was Mega Party Games which was also the most conventional as it reused all of the mini games form the original. The biggest innovation was that Mega Party Games struck upon one of the most unusual ideas for a multiplayer mode which would later be expanded in the Wii version to a much greater effect (I still have NO idea why multiplayer mode needs to be unlocked). After this all the subsequent Wario Ware games innovated not through mechanics but by methods of control. Twisted was the best of these by having a rotation sensor inside the game which contains some of the most genius use of the flash card since Drill Dozer's rumble pack. The Wii game was one of the first on the system and made good use of it and the same can be said for the  Wario Ware: Touched on the DS.

All Wario Ware games use same formula that has made the series so successful. The Touched installment is no different, having a large amount of mini-games broken down into randomised chunks. Unlike the previous entries in the series where the games were categorised thematically, they are also divided by the method of control, with Dr Crygor's missions involving spinning the stylus in a circle,  and Mike's games making use of the microphone, the DS's most underused feature.

This solves my biggest complaint with the original game, in which all the games' control schemes started to blend together. This wouldn't usually be a problem but in a game where figuring out how the controls work in a brief period of time is the main gimmick, it devolves into being shallow and repetitive. This happens in this game as well but the repetition  is confined to each character's stages, and is usually short enough that it doesn't really bother you.

The mini-games themselves are standard Wario Ware fare. The games contain all the zaniness of their predecessors and the 9-18 Bolt games are great nostalgia trips in their own right and have been the highlight of each entry into the series. The most surprising part of the game is the hub world. Unlike a clear map from the original this game gives an open field with each character and an array of toys to play with. These range from diversions such as a bubble blower you control with the DS's microphone to full mini-games like a paper plane simulator.
Add in an amusing story story that helps to gel all of the stages together and you have an enjoyable game. It's still a very flawed concept, one that has been since surpassed by the Rhythm Tengoku series but this game has more of a motivation to continue with it other than the prospect of new mini games. And that's all the series really needs, incentive. Considering how the series is heading there's probably going to be a Wii U version close to release but for now Touched remains the best in the series for exploiting new hardware.

Find Wario Ware: Touched on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2005-02-14
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Here's Why The New Pokemon Games Are Called X And Y

You've seen the trailers, you've heard the theories, but let's really take a step back for a moment and evaluate just exactly why the newest Pokemon games coming out for the Nintendo 3DS are called X and Y. Now the most common theory has been that X, Y, and presumably the third game being Z, are the 3D axis. This may be true, but it is quite likely the name actually has a double meaning. Not only do  the letters X and Y have to do with the axis, but they have another meaning as well. No, not algebra, chromosomes. The XX and XY chromosomes are fairly well known as they should be considering we would not be able to reproduce without them. This is not just a blind statement though.

Think about it, chromosomes have to do with genes and DNA. In Black/White 2, Team Plasma were splicing the genes of Zekrom/Reshiram and fusing them with Kyurem. This means gene splicing is nothing new to the Pokemon series. Not only that, but in the Japanese logos for Pokemon X and Y, if you look in the top middle of the Japanese text, you will see a rainbow colored shape with lines going through it, most likely representing a strand of DNA. So there you have it, the name is most likely a double meaning, not only the 3D axis, but also chromosomes and gene splicing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What? Pokemon is Evolving!

Nobody press B, this looks incredible. Finally the core series looks to be breaking away from the tried and true format that caused some fans to skip out on some of the latest titles. Pokemon X and Y are set to be released internationally this October. Here's the official English trailer:

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Nvidia Shield

The Nvidia Shield is an Android portable gaming platform set for release in Q2 of 2013, there haven't been any exclusive titles announced yet, but the games will only be available on the "Nvidia TegraZone" and the Google appstore.

It runs on Tegra 4, a 72-core processor. It also has a heat sink, can play 4K video and drive 4K TV sets. It's said to be the most powerful handheld gaming console to date, with the ability to stream games straight from your PC onto the device with the help of a router, similar to the WiiU. And with a 5-inch 720p multitouch screen, it's looking to be one of the most exciting announcements this year.

A few other details:
  • Micro SD Support
  • USB Support
  • Audio Out
  • HDMI Out
  • Local Wireless Multiplayer
  • Battery Lasts 5-10 Hours Gaming, or 24 Hours of HD video
There hasn't been a price or storage capacity announced as of yet, but we do know it'll be in the second quarter of this year. Which still feels like a long time away considering how excited I am to get my hands on this bad-boy.

The controller slightly resembles
the "Duke" from the original Xbox.

*All gameplay images provided by ""

Aaron Eades.

Twitter: @Aaroneadez

Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: Persona 4 Golden

What is Persona 4 Golden? Well it's not only the best Vita game you can buy, but one of the best games you can buy period. Everything about Persona 4 exudes quality and care, from the story, combat and style, to the translation, voice acting and added content. Even if you've already played Persona 4, there's plenty here to warrant a purchase.

For those not familiar, the story starts with the  main character (Charlie Tunoku in my case) waking up to meet a  bizarre-looking man in a limousine named "Igor," who tells him that his life is about to change. He then wakes up to realize that it was a dream, and gets off the train at Yasoinaba, where he'll spend the next year living with his uncle Dojima. Shortly after his arrival he meets Chie Satonaka, Yukiko Amagi and Yosuke Hanamura, who tell him about a mysterious "Midnight Channel," a channel that will appear if you look into a turned-off TV, while it's raining at midnight, and show you your soul-mate.  Once Charlie gets home he decides to try the Midnight channel, and sees a girl from his school, then gets sucked into his TV, which leads to a TV world. He then tries to tell his friends, who don't believe him, who then all get sucked into the TV world with him, where they meet Teddie, a mysterious bear that looks like a mascot costume, who shows them the way out of the TV world. Once they return to the normal world a few days pass, and the girl Charlie saw on the Midnight Channel turns up dead, so Charlie and Yosuke begin investigating the connection between the murders and the TV world. It might all sound pretty crazy, but that's because it is. It's insane and extremely well written, brilliantly mixing crazy Japanese story-telling with a legitimately emotional tale of self-acceptance.

The characters learn to accept themselves in the TV world by facing "Shadow" versions of themselves, that speak the truths they don't want to admit, even to themselves. That's where the combat comes in, Persona 4  has one of the most satisfying combat systems of any RPG. While it is still a standard Turn-based combat system, Persona 4 does enough different with the formula to make it distinct and very enjoyable. Each character can use physical attacks and magic. Magic is made possible because of their "Personas", who fight along side them against the Shadows of the TV world. The Persona is the manifest of a person's soul. Each character obtains their Persona after facing their personal shadow-selves inside the TV world, and every Persona has its own strengths and weaknesses which directly transfer to the character controlling that Persona. Let's say I equip Charlie with a Persona that's strong against Ice attacks, but weak to Fire. Charlie is then weak to Fire attacks and strong against Ice. Taking full advantage of weaknesses is the majority of the gameplay here, since when fighting enemies, your primary goal is to get a knock-down by hitting them with whatever type of magic they're weak against. If you hit every enemy with their weakness, then you'll get to do an "All-Out-Attack", where every character on screen rushes at every knocked-down enemy dealing a ton of damage. A feature new to Golden   lets certain pairs of characters do special team attacks, as well as allow for the "Navigator" character to join in on the all-out attacks. One issue with this system is that the only way to remember what enemy is weak to what type of magic, is to actually remember. The game does have an in-game log of each weakness that you've figured out, but once you leave a dungeon you lose that data. Luckily the enemies are all really distinct and memorable, so I didn't run into a ton of issues, but it still could have been fixed rather easily.

Speaking of problems and fixing, Persona 4 Golden fixes my biggest issue with the original Persona 4: fusing. The fusion process has been very divisive in every iteration of the franchise, being nigh  impregnable  to the average person. Sure you could slap together a couple Persona's and do pretty well, but there was so much to remember in order to get the most out of each fusion that I eventually stopped trying to do so in my original playthrough. And while most of that is still present in Golden, it has also been markedly streamlined.  In P4 Vanilla, when fusing two Personas you were able to pass on a few randomly-selected skills, meaning if you wanted one certain configuration of skills on your fused Persona, then you'd have to repeatedly select the fusion and hope for it to show up. In Golden you are also now allowed to manually select what skills you want to pass on.  You're also now able to teach skills to Persona's through the new "Skill-Card" system. With this you can teach any skill to any Persona. I was able to go through most of the game with a Persona that had all the main magic types, meaning I was prepared to handle almost any situation alone, allowing the rest of my team to play support. Adding these skill-cards makes the combat a great deal more strategic than before, allowing Charlie (Remember, Charlie is the name of my Main character. I only bring it up because I have confused people by calling him that in the past, and refuse to call him by any other name) to take any role far easier than in the Vanilla P4.

But solving murders and wandering around a TV-world fighting Shadows isn't all Charlie and the gang get up to; you attend school, explore Inaba, and hangout with friends. All of these might sound like filler or fluff between story segments, but they're pretty much half of the actual gameplay. While in school you'll get the chance to increase your Intelligence and other traits, which determine what dialog options you can choose. If you want to come straight out and show interest in a girl, then you'll need to have a high "Bravery" rating. If you're about to take a test and your intelligence is low, then you won't get as high a grade, locking out other dialog and S-link options. If someone needs your help with a personal issue, then you'll need a higher "Expression" rating. These attributes come into play often in when doing "S-Links."  The S-link system is essentially a watered-down Dating-Sim, and while that's not everyone's cup of tea, the characters and stories are all well written enough that they're all worth seeing through to the end. But you won't be able to just go through each character's story straight away, since you have to get to know them by hanging out with them first, a process which is sped up by having a Persona of the same "Arcana" as them. If you're hanging out with Yosuke and you don't have a Persona of the same Arcana (Magician,) then you won't become as close as fast.

Each character's mini-story is broken up into 10 segments; each segment grows by 1 level each time you go through a meaningful story scene. How this translates to gameplay is that the level of your relationship with each Arcana determines how much experience a Persona of that Arcana will receive upon being fused. For example, if I'm level 10 with Yosuke and fuse a Magician Arcana Persona, then I'll gain more experience being that high of a level with the corresponding Arcana than if I wasn't. It is a little annoying to have to remember to carry around whatever type of Persona corresponds to whoever you might be hanging out with, especially since you can only carry a limited number of Persona's at a time. That number does grow as you level up, but it's still annoying that you have to keep track.

It might sound like I'm just explaining the basic mechanics of the game, and that's because I am. That's what Persona 4 is, and all of it is great. Everything Persona 4 does is executed fantastically, even with the few issues. But all of it is only built upon in Golden. I can't really say much else about it other than to explain the basic mechanics in an attempt to try and get people to play this game, because it is amazing. And Persona 4 Golden is the definitive version, with added S-Links, characters, events, costumes, dungeons, Personas, Arcanas, and the additional epilogue after you get the true ending which is alone worth the purchase. There's so much new content here that's all paced in a way that keeps you from feeling like it's just the same game.
Persona 4 deserves the praise it gets. It's one of my favorite, and one of the best games I have ever had the  privilege to play. It's weird, dark, emotional, silly, and overall fantastic. Golden is the definitive version, but even if you don't have a Vita, you should play Persona 4 on the PS2.

Find Persona 4 Golden on ebay | Amazon

Released: 11/20/2010
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus