December 2002

There is a steady argument in the video
game world about tennis games. Which is the best? Many argue
that the Dreamcast produced the best tennis game in Virtua Tennis,
which featured real life movements, lifelike graphics, and great
sound. I heavily disagree, given a certain Nintendo 64 game released
during the system’s final heyday.

I’d argue that Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64
was the best tennis game EVER! Of course, I’m said to be a Mario
franchise worshipper, but I played tennis in high school and I appreciate
the movements capable in this game. Using the famous analog stick,
you can just feel yourself being on the court. It’s amazing how
you can make your player do a 360 in just a moment with the controls.
Also adding to the realism is the nasty computer looking at your
movements. If you hesitate a move one way, the computer will fire
a shot the other way.

The game is based on Mario characters. The opening sequence features
a video on the Mario brothers arguing with Wario, only to have a
BRAND NEW character debut in this game named Waluigi, and
evil version of Luigi. Of course, he’s not to evil, as he’s too
tall to hit sinking topspin shots when you do play against him.

I do, however, dislike the game’s choice of how you beat this
game. You have a singles tournament and a doubles tournament, in
which you go through the usual Mario Kart like Mushroom Cup, Flower
Cup, and Star Cup to win. It’s easy to beat, given that the computer
isn’t on its top level of play, the famous Intense mode. Winning
the Doubles and Singles tournaments will unlock 2 characters, Shyguy
and Donkey Kong Jr.

That’s it. For someone playing this game on their own, that’s
all there is to accomplish. If they want to find some great replay
value, they’ll have to have the drive within themselves to find
something to do. I beat all of the ring sections and then challenged
myself to beat all of the players when set on Intense mode. Intense
mode is the highest difficulty setting for a computer player, and
let me tell you, Intense is the best word for it. The computer can
sense any slight movement you make before they hit the ball, and
you’ll experience long volleys in this mode. Beating every character
in Intense mode is quite a challenge.

Well, I guess there are plenty of courts to unlock when using
certain players, but that will only take maybe an hour with every
character to do.

This game is best played with multiple players. The Ring battle
royale is a fantastic thing, especially with 4 controllers attached
to the console. I’m not too crazy about the Bowser Castle tennis
court, which has a ridiculous use of Mario Kart weapons and a moving
court that can get annoying.

To argue that it’s the best tennis game is rather easy. For every
court, there’s a different surface on each that can greatly affect
gameplay. Some courts cater to the players with weak power, some
courts favor power players. T
he shots you can choose from are slice,
topspin, smash, dropshot, or lob. There’s an art to each shot, as
positioning is of great importance and timing on hitting the shot
is as well. You have other features like if you’re close to the
net and someone fires a hard shot at you, you WILL get hit with
the ball. Also stuff like jumping for a high shot, diving for a
out of reach shot, and some very real like serving really make this
game have a great tennis feel.

CONCLUSION: I love this game. Of course, I enjoy
the sport of tennis. The simple fact that the game consists of Mario
characters is meaningless, as the game’s developers were going to
make this style of game with Mario characters or not. The movement
of the players and their abilities to hit the ball makes this game
the most real feeling tennis game around, at least through the controller.
Now if the graphics had realism, that would be another story.

TITO STATS(0 to 5 scale)
Graphics: 3.5
Sound: 4.0
Control: 5.0
Challenge: 3.0, but 4.0 for Intense mode
Fun Factor: 4.5

Soda: Hey Everyone. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the guest columns we run from time to time. People keep asking who these guest writers are and how we select them. I thought it might be nice to give you an intro to some of them. Panama Pretzel is a friend of ours that we have known for forever. As you will probably be able to tell by this article he is an absolute Xbox nut. It’s odd that he is though because he’s also obsessed with Macintosh computers. Panama is an interesting character, you can push his buttons and get him to freak out over pretty much everything. We’re hoping that his energy and ability to spazz out over nothing will carry over into his articles and it will give our readers something to laugh about every now and then. Let me know what you think about our guest writers, feedback is always appreciated.

Ok, those of you who love anything that has to do with WWII or anything that is military related will get a kick out of this game! Let me first tell you that everyone should own at least one copy of this freaking game. For those of you who have played Medal of Honor then you know what I mean by everyone having a copy. This game freaking rules! Many of you might have already played this game on your PC’s. Since this game has like fifty expansions on PC you may not get the longevity you might be seeking from it on Xbox. But don’t be disappointed, there are plenty of missions and levels that you will give you the chance to kill many Huns. The levels are pretty intense as you progress in the game… obviously!!! The graphics are pretty cool, its no Halo but it will do.

The story line is very accurate to actual battles and events that took place in WWII. The weapons to choose from are really cool. Killing the Krauts with a Thompson, B.A.R or bazooka doesn’t make a difference because your blowing them off the screen anyways.

Throughout the missions you find that the dialogue from the Nazis is pretty funny. The missions take you the landing on D-Day (Saving Private Ryan), to being a stowaway on a German u-boat (U-571), parachuting from an airplane for Operation Market Garden (Band of Brothers), to sniping massive Germans from left to right and pilfering German planes. The game play is quite entertaining; throughout every mission you have certain objectives to accomplish.

You are Lt. Jimmy Patterson, an all around soldier who is skilled in demolition, sniping, recon, full frontal assaults, spying and many other tactics that will come in handy throughout the game. You also come in contact with spies that have infiltrated nazi lines, British soldiers, American troopers, many civilians that get in the way and of course the freaking Krauts.

This game is great, it’s on all platforms so make sure if you have an Xbox I suggest buying it on Xbox. The reasons why to buy it on Xbox are simple… multiplayer! The multiplayer is ok, the reason I say its ok is because when you are playing with four people the speed of the game becomes slower, the locations you play at become smaller and darker and the weapons you use become very limited. Its kind of like playing License to Kill on Golden Eye. If there are any first person shooter fans out there or if you like wasting Nazis off your screen then I suggest buying this game. Out!

Kingdom Hearts

December 18, 2002

Let me start off by telling you that I had no clue this game was even in production. It wasn’t until Pickle brought it home and started playing it that I had even heard of it. So Dots and I walk upstairs to check it out with Pickle. Now Dots is a HUGE fan of the Disney world, so naturally her first reaction is “Buy it. We need to play that game.” So we head out to the store and with what limited funds I had at the time, we bought Kingdom Hearts. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. If you don’t know anything about the game, let me summarize it for you:

Kingdom Hearts is the story of Sora, a 14-year old boy whose world is shattered when a violent storm hits his island-paradise home, and is separated from his two closest friends, Riku, a 15-year old boy, and Kairi, a 14-year old girl. The storm scatters the three to different and unknown worlds.

At the same time, there’s turmoil in Disney Castle. King Mickey is missing, and Count Wizard Donald and Captain Goofy set out to find him.

On their travels they meet Sora, on his own search for his lost friends. The three were told of ominous creatures known as the Heartless – beings without hearts derived from an unknown dimension, and as it turns out, the ones responsible for the devastating storm. The Disney villains, enticed by the power of darkness, manipulate the Heartless to help them gather the princesses of heart, who are needed to open a mysterious final door.

Upon discovering the link between the Heartless, the storm and the disappearance of King Mickey, Sora, Donald and Goofy join forces and help familiar Disney heroes to save their worlds from the Heartless.

With more than 100 Disney characters — such as Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Jafar, Ariel, Peter Pan and tons more; the voice talents of Haley Joel Osment, David Ghallagher and Sean Astin, to name a few; guest appearances from past ”Final Fantasy” characters and the top notch gameplay and storyline from Squaresoft, Kingdom Hearts is a revolutionary adventure role-play game that will leave your adrenaline rushing and your heart pumping! It’ll take magic spells, wits and a cast of hundreds in multiple diverse lands to solve the riddle of the Heartless. Do you have what it takes?

Ok, so that wasn’t a summary, it was taken from the Squaresoft site. Whatever, you know what it is about now. So Dots and I start out playing, she was actually playing in the beginning, but I stole the controller from her at some point. In the beginning, you see a very impressive FMV and when the game finally starts you are presented with 3 abilities: Magic, Strength (Warrior), and Defense. At this point, you choose 1 ability and give up 1… this choice sets your character’s abilities up for the game. There are numerous FAQs about what those do and whatnot… so I won’t explain it. Jump forward past the choices etc… as that is not the only choice you make to determine your course in this game.

Let me briefly pause and explain to you folks that I am not an RPG fan. I know I know, but Cone, this IS an RPG. Ya, I get that. It’s not that I don’t like RPGs, but I have a rather distaste for turn based games. Maybe its due to my short attention span or even my inability to strategize, but I just prefer things to be real time.

Getting back to the game… My initial thoughts of this game were overall good. I was very impressed graphically in regards to the FMVs and the in game graphics. The sounds was about average. I don’t have a full surround sound system anymore so my judgement comes from plain ol stereo sound. The game is good, very good, but it needed something to hook me into it. I needed to feel as though I couldn’t go a single day without immersing myself into this Disney world that had been so finely crafted. It didn’t take long for that to happen. The story that Kingdom Heats tells is fascinating, and on par with the average RPG story. Keep in mind that I don’t play many RPGs… The hook came about 1/4 of the way into the game… when I finally figured out that I had tons of magic, items, and weapons that I hadn’t been using. Well crap! The game suddenly got way easier as I equipped the numerous items I had been toting around and not using. Now I was hooked and determined to hit level 100 and discover every secret in the game. I was also trying my best to catch Goofy in experience points, which you will find out is pointless as he seems to get points for everything you kill. Needless to say, I spent many hours just killing enemies, collecting items, and avoiding making any progress in the game.

My main complaints about the game were really with the idea of the “locking system” in which you automatically or manually target enemies and/or objects in order to attack and cast magic onto them. I experimented with Auto and Manual… my conclusion is this. The manual locking on takes a little extra skill to do properly, especially if there are numerous enemies around, and if the enemy you are locked on to moves then your camera view moves with him. Aha! There we have it. Sporadic camera movement that almost feels like the camera is slinging wildly around like some of those gravity based Flash movies you have seen (you know what I am talking about!). So I decided the Auto locking was the way to go and I learned to move Sora and attack in such a way that you kind of swing the camera around behind you . You get the hang of controlling the camera and locking onto enemies after about the 2nd world.

Aside from the camera, which I got used to, this game is superb. It has been a long time since I have been into a game like I am into Kingdom Hearts. If you are into turn based RPGs, you may not totally be into it, but if you enjoy real time action ala Dynasty Warriors 3, then you should definitely give this game a try. For the record, I am Level 100, have unlocked all the secrets, and have the Ultima Weapon. I have also logged 70 hours on that game and 25 on another.

Update: It has now been a good 3 weeks since I beat Kingdom Hearts and I haven’t touched the game since then. I have heard a lot of rumble about a possible sequel to this game, but not until 2005 at the earliest. The game has a tiny bit of replay value, but its not a game you will go back and play from the beginning very often, if at all. I still give this game an excellent rating since the 70 hours I spent playing it blow away the length of most current games, but I wish there was more to it. I almost think that if they would have let you play as another character with slightly different attributes (maybe Goofy or Donald) then the game would have been that much better.

Welcome to a new Snackbar feature;
the Weekly Retro Column. Once a week Pickle and I are going
to get together and write a game review together. The catch
is that we’re going to be reviewing a game from the past. Generally
we’re going to reviewing NES games that we used to enjoy when
we were kids. Hopefully those of you who have been gamers for
a long time will get a kick out of this feature and it will
be something to reminisce to. Playing these old games brings
back great memories of the stupid power light flashing on my
NES or having to blow in those damn oversize cartridges to get
them to work right. And how could you forget the ever-popular
“Battery Backup” games. Also known as “Pray to
god that your game gets saved right.” Those of you new
school gamers who aren’t old enough to remember Nintendo’s glory
days, I suggest you get on Ebay or something and pick yourself
up an old NES system. Hope you enjoy and feedback
is always appreciated.

This week’s retro game is GunSmoke for the NES. Released in 1988
by Capcom USA. Let the chaos begin.

First of let me say that I am a big fan of westerns. I mean who
doesn’t like shooting guys off roofs. Back when I was a mere lad
I remember playing GunSmoke with my cousin for many hours, trying
again and again to get enough cash for the horse. This game was
North/South scrolling. As opposed to the horizontal platforms of
the day, it was all about shooting as many things as possible. The
challenge in this game comes with the absurd amount of bad guys
that roll onto the screen. Shooting every single one of them proves
difficult in itself.

Honestly Pic, while it is a nice change of pace to see North/South
scrolling instead of side scrolling, this is the same freaking game
as 1942. Some marketing genius somehow managed to change some graphics
resell us the same thing again. The amount of bad guys that
come onto the screen is crazy at some points, I don’t know how my
reflexes would have ever been good enough to play this game when
I was eight. Like you I thoroughly enjoy a good western. Now I will
grant Capcom a little bit of creative license, but isn’t this game
supposed to be based in 1849? Yeah, I’m sure that the “Machine
Gun” was a common weapon back in the old west. Sheesh. At least
it was a nice change of pace from the “Hyphen Shooter”
I start off with.

Speaking of guns, you start with a peashooter and everyone else
seems to have a better gun. But you don’t mind because you’re like
a mix of Charles Bronson and John Wayne. However you can take solace
in the fact that you can get a POW power up that kills everyone
on the screen. This game taught us that every barrel in a video
game is meant to be shot at. There are numerous power-ups in the
barrels that can improve your shooting range and speed. The only
thing you really need to look out for is running into an enemy or
not seeing laid dynamite. May I remind you also do not get stuck
behind an object as the game scrolls you upward, or it’s your ass.

This game is defiantly the distant relative to games like Resident
Evil or Dynasty Warriors 3. Every crate or barrel needs to be explored.
How many shots does it take to destroy a barrel though? You’d think
that one blast with a shotgun would blow those things up. They tended
to get in my way more than help me. Here’s my major issue with this
game though. I hate to sound horribly politically incorrect here,
but how come all the bad guys look like Asians? I’ve taken a lot
of history classes and I don’t ever remember reading about Cowboys
and Asians. They hop around like ninjas and everything. I was really
confused if I was in the old west or if I had stumbled upon some
secret ninja training center.

Well Soda, you have to remember the eighties. Movies like Karate
Kid and American Ninja were insanely popular. It does not surprise
me that there may have been an old west Triads type of gang. Surely
there were Asians back then…right? Anyways the game is as fun
as anything. A bit repetitive but seeing as how it is a NES game
we won’t hold that against it. I don’t mind so much the drones of
enemies but the barrels do take about ten shots to break. All the

while 100 enemies surround you and take you out. Like we mentioned
the game is not without its faults, but without the likes of GunSmoke
we would have no action shooters.

I defiantly respect the groundbreaking steps that games like this
took towards trying to expand video game creativity. Here are a
few things that I found a little odd though. The main bad guys in
the game have ridiculous names. On the first level you’re trying
to hunt down “Bandit Bill.” I blame this guy’s parents
for his lawless ways. If you’re going to go out and name your kid
Bandit you have to expect that his career choices are going to really
limited. Have you noticed that you buy all your weapons from some
stranger standing on a street corner? As some sort of law enforcement
officer shouldn’t you be concerned with people dealing illegal semi-automatic
weapons on the street corner? I mean renegade western Asian ninjas,
impenetrable wooden barrels and now illegal arms dealers on the
street? This game is some mindless fun but it’s a little bit too
cheesy for me. Stick with 1942 if you want a retro North/ South

I no doubt respect the game, and I agree there are some shady people
on the corners. I mean what kind of guy stands on the corner with
horses and guns and doesn’t get a Chinese star to the back? These
Triads would just assume kill you than look at you. If this game
teaches us anything it is that enforcing the law is as easy as packing
some heat and taking out every one you see. Also that there was
a lot of twins being made. As you fight about a thousand of the
same four people. I love this game to death, I recommend going down
to your video game store and picking one up if they have it. If
not hit up the internet and buy one. It’s worth it, trust me.

Now that I am about half way through Splinter Cell, I am able to review this bad boy. Splinter Cell is yet another iteration in the Tom Clancy saga of military “kill-the-bad-guys” games. However, this one is a slight departure from the usual multiplayer team forces games (like the recent Ghost Recon), this one is solely single player. You play the role of Sam Fisher, a retired military operative, who has come back to join a new intelligence gathering initiative called “Third Echelon,” which is long for “get lots of juicy information for the government, and oh, by the way, kill some people while your at it.”

Splinter Cell is labeled as a “stealth action” game, which pretty much means you are supposed to sneak around and not get caught. Those familiar with the line of Thief games will feel very familiar with this style of gaming. However, not all of it is sneaking in shadows…I tend to get caught a lot, which then ensues into a gun fight of some sort and me ending up dead. But again, the goal of the game is not to be detected, so you will do a lot of creeping behind people and taking them out.

Now Metal Gear Solid 2 inspired this game, and I had just finished it on Xbox before Splinter Cell came out, and I have to tell you, aside from it being an entirely different story, the two games are almost identical. I would say, though, that Splinter Cell is a more polished game, both in graphics and in game play. Oh, did I mention the graphics?! They are beautiful!! As I mentioned above, a lot of the game is spent in shadows and behind objects, so lighting is an essential part of the game, so it no surprise that the developers spent a lot of time perfecting the lighting in the game. And I can say, without doubt, it is has the best lighting I have seen in a game (well, except from Doom 3 alpha). You are also equipped with night vision goggles, which unfortunately, you spend most of the time wearing, because you are always in the damn dark. It is kind of ashamed too, because you miss a lot of the lighting effects the developers spent so much time working on.

Game play is very satisfying and frustrating at the same time. Since it is based around stealth, patience is the name of this game, and because you are not loaded to the teeth with ammunition, finding your way around guards and enemies takes a good amount of time. Although you can kill the opposition, you have to make sure their bodies are well hidden…otherwise the guards will find the bodies and alert the others to your presence. I found that I had to retry sections five to ten times so I could get through without losing too much ammo or health (maybe I just suck).

Splinter Cell was heralded as the Xbox game of the year, and yes, although it is indeed a very good game, frustrating parts can wear at your civility. By in large, the game is a must buy if you enjoyed Metal Gear Solid 2, and if you have never played Metal Gear Solid 2, you will definitely enjoy this game much more. As an added bonus,Splinter Cell adds the ability to download extra missions though Xbox Live, so when you have finished the game, you can count on an ongoing saga of espionage and aggressive hostile encounters (for an added fee of course).

Let me know if you guys have any questions!