Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I won't make any promises about when exactly you can expect to see these articles but I hope to get them all done and dusted with the next week or so.
Before I go, I recently discovered the wonders of RetroGaming Radio, a monthly web based show hosted by Shane R. Monroe. While my opinions differ quite strongly in certain areas (he loathes turn-based console RPG's, whereas I absolutely love them as I'm sure you can tell), on many other topics we are on the same wavelength. He also has a new project on the way which is very exciting - Dual Screen Radio. a new show devoted to the amazing Nintendo DS. I'm really looking forward to it!
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
GBA Game of the Year - Riviera: The Promised Land
A great little RPG which combined plenty of humour with an interesting battle system and some of the best graphics on Nintendo's diminutive handheld. It didn't get a release in Europe and there were only fairly limited quantities on sale in the US, so it might be quite hard to come by now, but it's worth picking up if you can find it.
Runner up - Racing Gears Advance
Not many people are aware if this little game but way back in January of last year it was constantly in the GBA slot of my DS. Imagine a game like Micro Machines or Mashed on the GBA and you'd be on the mark. This is the ideal sort of game for a handheld.
DS Game of the Year - Mario Kart DS
Without doubt this is absolutely the best game on the DS so far. Every thing you could ever possible want from a Mario Kart title and more (who would've expected the Mission mode?). The Wi-Fi Internet mode is the icing on a particularly scrummy cake and combined with the regular multiplayer mode ensure that this game will be a favourite for a long time to come.
Runner up - Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
Another inventive and witty entry in the Mario RPG series. The DS has been starved of quality RPG's since it was released by now Mario & Luigi are here to keep players entertained for at least 20 hours of quality gameplay.
PSP Game of the Year - Ridge Racer
I'm possibly a little biased here - Ridge Racer has long been a favourite series of mine, but these are my awards so never mind. The classic RR gameplay was given a boost (pun intended) with the addition of a Nitrous gauge, and many of the best tracks from past games were dusted off and given a thorough going for this PSP "best of" update.
Runner up - Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion
It took a while for a decent RPG to appear on the PSP, just like with the DS, but finally Legend of Heroes was released back in November. It has a less than perfect localisation, but that hasn't prevented me from enjoying the story and all it's many twists and turns. It's refreshing to play a game where many different characters drop in and out of the story, rather thing joing with the protagonist and following them all the way around the world.
Gamecube Game of the Year - Resident Evil 4
I've been partial a bit of Resident Evil for a long time now, but even I was starting to tire of the clumsy controls and cliched formula. Capcom took a long hard look at the series and finally gave gamers RE 4. No one could have predicted just how good this game would be. Every chapter is crammed full of inventive and exciting set pieces and the amazing soundtrack makes sure you are constantly on the edge of your seat, all the while holding your breath.
Runner up - Batallion Wars
When it was announced that British developer Kuju games was making a Gamecube version of the Advance Wars series and changing it from a turn based strategy game into a third person action game, fans of the series were horrified. After all, Kuju's track record has been average at best (Reign of Fire, Lotus Challenge and War Hammer: Fire Warrior were all less than amazing). Nonetheless, the managed to deliver a very solid and fun little shooter which even reminds me of Halo at times (the chatter of the troops, and the vehicles). Well worth checking out.
PlayStation 2 Game of the Year - Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.
This game is amazing, spellbinding. I knew Level 5 were adept at getting the most out of the PS2 hardware from past experience with Dark Chronicle, but I never imagined anyone could cram a game that's this long, with such brilliant graphics, a stunning orchestral score and fantastic gameplay, on to one single DVD ROM.
Runner up - Shadow of the Colossus
This also achieves things that I never thought possible on the aging PS2 hardware, but sometimes the cracks show through. The frame rate can get quite unstable when the action hots up which prevented me from ever getting completely immersed in the game. Still one of the most beautiful things I have seen all year though.
Xbox Game of the Year - Jade Empire
Runner up - Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
It's sad that this game never sold as many copies as it deserved to, as it was well worth it. A western style game set in the bizarre Oddworld, featuring the same sense of humour from the Abe and Munch games. I saw a pre owned copy for Â£10 the other day, and if you should comeacrosss a cheap copy you should snap it up.
PC Game of the Year - The Movies
This is the best game Peter Molyneux and his team have delivered since Theme Hospital came out all those years ago from Bullfrog. It can get rather tough after a while as you a juggling stars and directors throwing petty tantrums with trying to make the best films you can and managing not to go bankrupt. The movie making aspect has seen a huge community build up already, where you can upload and download home made films for your own entertainment.
Runner up - Sacred Gold
This is an action RPG in the Diablo mould, with plenty of character classes to choose from, some very nice graphics and a verylengthyy quest to work your way through. This Gold edition also includes the Underworld expansion disk which adds about another 15 hours of gameplay.
Overall Game of the Year - Resident Evil 4 - Gamecube
It was a close call but for me, the best game of 2005 was Resident Evil 4. It's now also available on the PS2 with even more content.
Runner up - Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King - PlayStation 2
I very nearly decided to place these two games the other way around, but in the end RE4 had more innovative touches (DQVIII is verytraditionall at heart, but that has a lot to do with why it's so good).
Come back tomorrow for part 2, where I list my worst games of the year, my mostdisappointingg delay, best hidden gem and best retro game.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Where found: In Gamestation, as part of there "Â£20 if bought with anything else in store" offer.
Developer: Quantic Dream. Publisher: Atari. Genre: Adventure.
A few years back, when the Dreamcast was still a relatively new format, a developer by the name of Quantic Dream created a rather ambitious adventure game by the name of Omikron: The Nomad Soul. It's most notable feature was that it contained the music and tlikewiseise of David Bowie, and despite not quite living up to the promise it was (and still is) a decent game and would be well worth checking out if you found it pre owned for about Â£5.
Nothing has been heard of Quantic Dream for quite some time, until now, with the release of Fahrenheit (or The Indigo Prophecy as it is known in the US). I first became aware of this game around last July when the Next Gen Videos E3 DVD box set was released. The director, David Cage, talked viewers through the opening part of the game, which shows a man in a tracommittingting a brutal murder in the toilets of a New York diner, only to come to and realise horrificrifc act he'd just done. This is where players take control of Lucas Kane, the game's main character and the catalyst of the story. You have to quickly decide whether to clean up after yourself, or just get out of there as fast as you can. You must make sure the cop in the diner doesn't catch you though. The game takes a stylistic leaf out of 24's book, with split screens showing what's happening simultaneously at once. It works really well, and really builds up the tension and atmosphere in the game.
Another factor which is always very important for the general atmosphere of a game is the soundtrack, and Fahrenheit gets top marks in this respect. The haunting style of film composer Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, A Very Long Engagement) can be heard in the main theme of the game. Unfortunately, he only composed a couple of tunes and they get re-used all the way through the game, so by the end the impact is lessened somewhat. There is also an array of licensed tunes - not your usual stuff either, a surprisingly eclectic mix of classic funk and dance tracks, and some pretty average "rock" from a new band called... oh er... I forget their name they're that memorable. Anyway, apart from the naff rock, the soundtrack is very competent. Voice acting is generally top quality too, which is quite important when you're going for a moody, atmospheric tone for much of the game and your characters have to sound believable. Not that there isn't any humour in the game, there's quite a few little jokes to make you chuckle along the way.
Graphically, Fahrenheit is by no means the best I've ever seen on the PS2, but it isn't bad either. Animation, lip synching, the afore-mentioned split screen effects and particle effects for weather all help to uphold the believe that your taking part in a Hollywood film (or, *shudder* an Interactive Movie). Some of the textures looked a little drab and low detail sometimes and the characters have a rather chunky look to them though, so it loses a few marks there.
Now I'm afraid I must get on to the negative comments. The controls, while quite "innovative" are often quite horrible and a real struggle to use. The method of choosing whconversationtion tree to go down or what object to look at by pushing the right stick in various directions works fine, but the camera can be really annoying. Many times the camera angle shifted on me and I ended up walking in a different direction than the one I was trying to go in. You can hold down the L1 or R1 buttons to rotate the camera (in theory) but I found it would just shift back to where it was as soon as I let the button go, which is less than ideal.
Then we come to the story. I loved the first half and the whole mystery surrounding the murder. The other controllable characters (that's right, Lucas isn't the only one) are likeable and well crafted. But then the whole story tends to go up its own arse in the second half and it's almost as if the director was trying to create the gaming equivalent of The Matrix trilogy. If by that you meapretentiousious, over hyped, ludicrous pile of drivel then you'd be right (I'm not to keen on The Matrix, apart from the first film, as you can tell). There is also something else that happens in the story that really annoyed me, but I won't mention it here as it's a major spoiler. Check after the pictures if you have completed the game already and see if you agree with me.
Finally, the game doesn't really pose much of a challenge and is fairly short. It would probably only take you a few evenings of effort to complete the game. While there are a few diverging paths you can take and a few different endings, the game is nowhere near as free as openingeing chapter might lead you to believe.
All these thiconspirepire together and detract from the good things about the game. If you're looking for a good adventure for the PS2 or Xbox there isn't really much else on offer, so this is worth a look. If you are a PC owner though you have much more choice and there are many better games available. If I had paid full price for the game I would have been very upset, but as it is it only cost Â£20, which I still think is a bit too much. Maybe in a year or two, when it has gone down to Â£10, would it really be worth the money. As it is, if you like the sound of Fahrenheit, I would suggest that you rent it.
The RetroModern Gaming Score: 7 out of 10.
The opening chapters are probably the best part of the game.
There are various mini games and action sequences, but most of them boil down to a simple "Simon says" style. Fun once maybe, but gets rather old on repeated plays.
Near the end of the game, Lucas and Carla (the female cop that's been on his trail most of the game) decide to call a truce and try to work together to find out what's really going on. Seemingly moments after agreeing to work together, they are shagging in the back of a derelict train! I found this very far fetched, out of keeping with the character that they'd portrayed for Carla for most of the game, and rather gratuitous. Plus the fact that Lucas was actually dead when they did in, which would make Carla a necrophiliac. Eww.
Monday, January 09, 2006
An otherwise dull and dreary Monday morning was brightened up earlier today by a belated birthday present from my work colleagues - a GAME Gift Card with Â£10 on it. This is the second Gift Card I have been given, but I'm not complaining. I plan to start putting a small amount of money aside each month until I have enough for one of the next generation consoles. I'm not entirely sure which one yet, although I am a big fan of Nintendo so the Revolution would be the preferred choice. It all depends on how long it takes to save up enough money, and when the Revolution is actually released.
I am now going to detail all of the game related birthday and Christmas presents I received, along with all the games I bought with money I was given, or my Christmas pay. This is a good indication of what I am likely to be writing about soon, but I doubt I will get around to writing about all of them.
Moto GP 3 - Xbox - from my best friend Kim. It has my name in the credits - yay!
Popolocrois - PSP - I am really looking forward to playing this properly. Just as soon as I'm finished with Legends of Heroes I shall get started. This was from my mum.
Final Fantasy I & 2: Dawn on Souls - GBA - from my brother Kevyn. I've been meaning to play the games that started the whole FF saga for quite some time, and this year I plan to do just that.
Advance Wars Dual Strike - DS - also from my mum.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap - GBA - another one from Kevyn. This was one of the finest games to be released last Christmas season and now I finally own my own copy, which leavesTwilightt Princess as the only Zelda game I don't own (apart from the crappy Philips CDi ones).
December pay purchases:
Dragon Quest VIII - PS2 - This is it, the big one, the one game that has sucked up most of my time lately. I'm almost 50 hours into it and probably only about halfway done with it. It never gets old. Definitely a contender for my Game of 2005 (more on that later in the week).
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time - DS - from what I've seen of this so far it's just as smart and funny as the original was on the GBA, but controlling four characters at the same time can mess with the mind somewhat.
Birthday money and Xmas money purchases:
Capcom Classics Collection Volume 1 - 20 or so retro classics from one of the mostconsistentlyy good companies in the business. At last, an arcade perfect console port of Final Fight. Also including are 3 versions of Street Fighter 2, and many many others. No Strider though, which is a shame. Oh well, roll on Volume 2!
Taito Legends Volume 1 - A similar deal to that above, only with Taito games instead of Capcom, obviously. Worth it for Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands and The New Zealand Story alone, but the others are worth a look too. I can't wait for Volume 2, which will have over 40 gamesincludingg Elevator Action Returns.
Ratchet & Clank 3 - I always seem to be one step behind with the Ratchet series, but this year that's actually a good thing as I don't really like the direction that Ratchet: Deadlocked has headed into. It also means that R&C was only Â£20 as part of the Platinum range. It's as polished as ever with absolutely tons of stuff to do.
Sonic Rush - DS - this is definitely a return to form for Sonic, as the series goes back to its 2D roots and puts the emphasis back on speed rather than frustratinplatformrm puzzles. The Altitude Limit stage is a real bugger though - I usually get there with about 15 lives, and lose them all.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - DS - I haven't really had time to try this out yet, but I've been meaning to play a Castlevania game ever since Castlevania IV on the SNES. These days they follow the Metroid formula, but that's no bad thing really.
Xenosaga: Episode 2 - PS2. Part 2 of Namco's epic RPG series. Apparently the series has been shortened down to 3 episodes rather than the 6 originally planned. These multi-game series never seem to be able to last can they? Still, at least Xenosaga will get a proper ending, unlike Shenmue.
Jak X: Combat Racing - PS2. Despite the extremely negative review in GamesTM I decided to buy Jak X and I'm actually really enjoying it so far. It does take time to warm up but after you've tuned youvehiclele up a fair bit the game becomes less frustrating. I'm not that keen on the mulitplayer mode, but then I've been spoiled lately with having not one but twscreenssn to myself in the sublime Wi-Fi mode of Mario Kart DS.
Fahrenheit - PS2. I completed this adventure game yesterday, and I plan to post up a review tomorrow. There's nothing else really like it on the PS2 at the moment, and that alone is enough to make it worth a look. It's by no means perfect though. Find out why tomorrow.
Finally, I just want to mention that I have entered the Wifikarts.co.uk League. This is a Mario Kart DS league that will be going on for 9 weeks. All I hope for is that I don't finish last in my group, although that really depends on how many "snakers" there are". The user name I am entered under is Wibblefish, so wish me luck! Also, if you have a DS with Mario Kart DS and access to a Wi-Fi connection, why not enter yourself? There's still a few days left.