Friday, November 19, 2004

Tis the Season Part 3

Here I am back again with part 3 of my 4 part Xmas special. This time I'll be taking a look at 5 games for the Game Boy Advance and PC that you should consider pestering your loved ones into getting you for Christmas.

The GBA Xmas Season Top 5

5. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap - out now
For once, lucky Europeans will be able to play Link's latest adventure months before fans in the US! I haven't had the chance to play the game yet, but from all I've seen and read it seems to continue the tradition of excellent gameplay from previous titles, with a much needed injection of originality due to the inclusion of many new items and the fact that you can shrink to tiny size with the aid of the titular Minish Cap.

4. Mario vs Donkey Kong - 19/11/04
Part platformer, part puzzle game, MvsDK features tons of tricky levels and shows that when it comes to gameplay, yet again Nintendo are the masters.

3. Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls - 03/12/04
The two games that started the huge Square-Enix series are together on one cart, with improved graphics, sound and new areas to explore. If you already own Final Fantasy Orgins for the PS1, then don't bother because this is exactly the same, but otherwise, you can have hours of quality RPG on your handheld!

2. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga - out now
Okay, so it came out last year, but if you haven't played it, then this is the ideal time. Equally as brilliant as Paper Mario 2, but with the added benefit of being portable. GBA games don't get much finer than this.

1. Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green
Another quality RPG offering. Pokemon might not be to everyone's taste, but you do enjoy it (and there's no shame in it) then these reworkings of the original classics will be right up your street.

Import Corner
This time the Yankies get Metal Slug Advance and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories before the year is out, whereas we have to wait until next year. I'm really looking forward to the new Kingdom Hearts game personally, it's visually one of the finest games available for the GBA.
Sad thought - this Christmas could be the last "big" Christmas for the GBA, as the DS is likely to steal a lot of its thunder over the next year. Nintendo say that the GBA isn't going to be phased out, but I'm not convinced.

The PC Xmas Season Top 5.

You'll have to bear with me here, as I'm really not much of a PC gamer. These are the games that appeal to me most, though.

5. Half-Life 2 - out now?
If there's one game that's been more eagerly awaited over the last few years than Halo 2, then this is it. Early reports say that it doens't dissapoint either, unlike the Master Chief's new game. The Source engine that powers everything is amazing, and the game is polished like no other, but is it really worth buying a brand new PC just to be able to play it? Almost.

4. The Sims 2 - out now
The Sims are back in full 3D with many more things to do. I love games like Rollercoaster Tycoon etc, but in this one there doesn't seem to be much of an overall goal, so I think eventually I might get bored of it. Of course, that's where the expansion packs come in.

3. Medal of Honor Pacific Assault - 19/11/04
Can the new Medal of Honor redeem the series and steal back some of the glory that was captured by the likes of Call of Duty? I don't know. Go by the game and tell me!

2. Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed - out now
The orignal MMORPG sounded more than a bit dull but now you can pilot starfighters, freighters and many other vechicles things sound much more interesting. I still haven't got the time or money to spend playing it though.

1. Platypus - out now
One of the most enjoyable PC games I've played this year, Platypus was put together by just one man and features fantastic claymation graphics. It's a classic 2D horizontal shoot 'em up, featuring some excellent retro music by Chris Abbott (of Back In Time fame). Go download the demo from, and then buy the full version!

Import Corner
Nothing much to say here - I told you I don't know much about PC games, sorry!

I'll be back again with Part 4 - focusing on retro and budget titles for those of you with cash flow problems around the Christmas period!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Do not adjust your set

Normal service will be resumed when I regain some energy, as I've just had a rather nasty bug for the last few days and I'm still recovering. Hopefully tommorow things will be back to normal, and then I shall try and regain some of the lost ground over the weekend. I've had no indication that anyone actually reads this blog, so it's not as if anyone is really missing out anyway.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Tis the Season Part 2

Wotcha! It's time for Part 2 of my Christmas gaming special. This time, I'm going to cover both the Xbox and PS2. In Part 3, I will take a look at the GBA and PC scene, and finally in Part 4 I will look at the "alternative" gaming Christmas, which means Retro and preowned titles (ideal if you're a bit hard up for cash).

The Xbox Christmas Season Top 5

5. Halo 2 - 11/11/04

Bungie's big budget sequel will be a no-brainer for most people, but not everyone can afford to pick it up on release day, and will be relying on friends or relatives to see them right on Xmas day. Expect the air to be filled with the sounds of multiplayer battles on Christmas Day, and many days after that.

4. FlatOut - 05/11/04

If you've been missing an orgy of vehicular carnage since Destruction Derby when the PS1 launched, you'd do well to check out FlatOut. There's a variety of game modes, including races where two teams go in opposite directions around the track, and mini games where your drive is thrown violently through the windscreen. These include a giant game of darts and the high jump!

3. Prince of Persia: Warrior Within - 26/11/04

Also in the Gamecube section. The original was overlooked when it was first released on the PS2, but fared much better when it eventually came out on the Gamecube and Xbox a few months later. This time Ubisoft aren't making the same mistake, and the sequel is being released across all formats at the same time. The game is much darker than the original - whether that's a good or bad thing remains to be seen.

2. Goldeneye: Rogue Agent - 26/11/04

I must admit, I haven't been terribly impressed with any of EA's Bond offerings so far, but I'm always willing to give them another chance. The chances of Goldeneye living up to the greatness of the N64 game by the same name are pretty remote, but I could be pleasantly surprised.

1. Fable - out now

It's been out for quite a while already but if you haven't played it yet then it's well worth a look. It's a hack and slash RPG with plenty of humour, and your decisions can completely change your character and determine his look, and whether your good or evil. The actual game is more linear than you'd think, but it's still fascinating to see how your character develops.

Import Corner

Might one suggest Sonic Mega Collection Plus or Call of Duty: Finest Hour for Sir/Madam's delectation? The first one is a sugar sweet collection of platforming classics, while the latter is a rich roulade of blood and bullets set in, you guessed it, World War II.

Santa will definitely be coming down the chimney when he checks out this little lot (he'll probably have to change his underwear!).

The PlayStation 2 Christmas Season Top 5

5. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - out now

This is officially Sony's Big Gun in the battle against Halo 2, and it's almost a match for the Master Chief. I've already played over 20 hours worth since buying the game last week, and I've not even begun to exhaust all the possibilities in the first city alone. Pool, track racing, gang wars, betting, racing down a huge mountain, parachuting, hauling cargo around the state and much much more than you ever thought the PS2 is capable of. Completely essential!

4. Jak 3 - 26/11/04

I've always been a fan of Naughty Dog's platform/shoot 'em up series, and Jak 3 looks like it's going to take the series out with a bang. If you have kids that are too young to enjoy GTA, then the Jak games are a very good alternative. This time Jak, Daxter and Pecker have been cast out into the Wasteland, and must find a way back into Haven City to try and save the population from yet another nefarious scheme!

3. Sega Superstars - out now

Christmas is an ideal time to whip out your EyeToy (no innuendo implied) and enjoy some party game madness. Sega Superstars contains 12 different games each based on a gaming classic, such as Sonic, Samba de Amigo, Virtua Fighter, Puyo Puyo, Space Channel 5, or my current favourite, Nights Into Dreams.

2. Killzone - 26/11/04

For me the jury is still out as to whether this is the Halo beater everyone is making it out to be, but it certainly looks impressive at the moment. The market is being saturated with FPS's at the moment, but when they're all of such high quality who cares?

1. Dancing Stage Fusion - 05/11/04

Another excuse to look like a total tit in front of your friends, the latest version of the dance mat game also incorporates EyeToy moves at the same time, guaranteeing that you will be completely and utterly exhausted!

Import Corner

The americans get the decidedly dodgy lessie wrestling game Rumble Roses in time for Christmas, but personally I'm much more jealous of the fact that they get Growlanser Generations and we don't. I loved Arc the Lad Collection, which was the previous release from Working Designs, and Growlanser looks just as promising, with all sorts of bonus goodies chucked in (which is a WD tradition).

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Hidden Gems Volume 9

Firstly, apologies for not having posted for so long. It's not entirely my fault, honest! I came on twice on Friday to try and post the weekly release list, but the servers must have been down so I couldn't get access.

This week I plan to post up another part to my Tis The Season strand, as well as actually getting this weeks new release up in time! With that out of the way, let's get on with this weeks Hidden Gem...

I recently got a chance to play a little game on the PS2 by the name of Gitaroo Man, and boy am I glad I did. I've long been a fan of rhythm action games, from Parappa the Rapper, Space Channel 5, Rez and more besides. If I had to compare Gitaroo Man to any of these, it would have to be Parappa, but it's much better than that game. It has a similar off the wall Japanese sense of humour, and vaguely similar graphics and art style, but it's much more fun to play and it will take you longer to finish.

The idea of the plot is that you are the last in the line of beings that are able to wield the Gitaroo, a guitar shaped weapon. Aliens have obtained all the Gitaroos except yours, and you must protect it from them by beating 10 of their best warriors. By day, your character is a rather sad individual, unlucky in love, lacking in self confidence and bullied by his "friends". When his talking dog gives him the Gitaroo however, he's transformed into Gitaroo Man, the superhero charged with saving the universe!

Basically each song is made up of several parts - Charge, Battle and Final. In the Charge phase, you play along as best you can in order to build up energy in your electric guitar/weapon hybrid, and you can't actually be hurt here. In the Battle phase, you take turns attacking and defending whichever enemy you're battling against, and here mistakes will cost you energy. If you manage to survive this phase, you enter the Final, and a bit of good playing here is enough to see of your opposition.

The guitar playing itself is deceptively simple, but can get very tough indeed after the first few songs. In the Charge and the attacking part of the Battle phase, you will see a dot in the middle and a wavy line protruding from it. You have to move the left analogue stick in the same direction as the line and keep it on there. While doing this, you also have to press and hold the circle button as indicated. Later, when you're defending, a barrage of button symbols head towards your dot in the middle and you have to press them as they reach the dot. It can get very tough very quickly, which is one of the main drawbacks of the game as you will probably have to try some of the songs dozens of times before you succeed.

It's worth practicing until you get it right however as the completely bonkers story, settings and graphics will keep you entertained from start to finish. The music styles are suprisingly different from one track to the next considering they all involve guitar, and vary from Rock, J-Pop, Reggae and many others. There are about 10 different stages altogether, and two different difficulty levels.

Gitaroo Man should be fairly easy to find in the shops, both preowned and new. For a new copy, your likely to have to spend around £15, and a little bit less for a preowned copy. If you like this sort of game I heartily suggest you give it a try, it's up there with the best the genre has to offer.