June 2008

Ignition Entertainment and SNK Playmore have announced today that Metal Slug 7 for Nintendo DS would be released sometime this fall in the US.

Metal Slug 7 will feature a host of new weapons, bosses, and new Slugs to pilot. New gameplay modes go on to expand the replay value. READ MORE

Summon Night: Twin Age is a fun action-RPG that borrows elements from its Gameboy Advance counterparts and at the same time does a few new things of its own. While the first two games focused on becoming the Craftlord, what is essentially a heroic smithy, Twin Age takes a divergent path. It focuses upon a young girl named Reiha and her summoned beast-boy Aldo. The world they live in is wrought with strife, as there is an ongoing conflict between the humans and the demi-human race, the Kascuza. The Kascuza were exiled to a small island called Jarazi, and even though some animosity between the two races remain, the conflict has somewhat settled down. As for Aldo and Reiha, it’s close to their coming-of-age ritual, but they discover that the spirits on Jarazi have begun to act erratically. It’s up to them and friends they meet along the way to discover the source of the spirits’ behavior.

Twin Age is a bit of a departure from the first two GBA titles. The plot is oddly compelling, mostly since it’s driven by a cast of colorful and interesting characters, as well as the fact that the game play itself is vastly different. The first two played out like a traditional RPG with dungeon crawling and random battles that were more akin to a side scrolling beat-em-up type of game. Twin Age throws away the notion of random battles in favor of real-time battles controlled entirely by the touch screen.

When the game first starts, the player is given the chance to select whether they want to play the game from Aldo or Reiha’s perspective. It is possible to freely switch between the characters during battles, and the plot of the game remains largely the same. The narrative of the story merely shifts onto the character of choice and reflects their thoughts and opinions of the situation at hand.

Combat is handled in real time with character movement and attack/skill execution manipulated with the touch screen. A lot of what goes on in battle is fairly straightforward; the menu is used to assign skills to the skill palette, which allows for quick execution of skills and fast use of items, and speeds up the pace of battles. The skill menu also allows acquiring of new skills for use in battles. Skills are learned through leveling up from battles and then spending SP to learn and level up skills. Each skill has a maximum level of seven, and learning different skills allows both Reiha and Aldo to traverse their respective skill trees in different orders.

In addition to Aldo and Reiha, the player gains access to other AI party members such as Nassau, Aldo and Reiha’s axe-wielding friend, and Ayn, the young girl aspiring to be a Spirit Priestess of the Kascuza, close to the beginning of the game. Skills can’t be assigned to the AI party member, nor can they be directly controlled. Their levels are assigned as equal to that of the player’s main character, and they typically come with a handful of healing items at the start of each dungeon. Each AI party member has their own governing element as well as weapon specialization, such as Nassau having a few wind-element abilities and bearing an axe, and Ayn using mainly water-based skills and using a staff to cast spells.

The action is broken up with story sequences and dialog interspersed within the dungeons, as well as at the beginning and end of each chapter. Typically at the end of each chapter, the player is allowed to select a partner character to have a conversation with. How this conversation plays out is affected by the player’s choice of main character and the partner selected to converse with. They help to affect the relationship between the player’s selected character and the partner and increase the partner’s support rank, which increases their skill and usefulness in battle.

Despite the drastic changes from the previous games, Twin Age has a very polished look and there is a lot of fun to be had. The graphics are bold and colorful and the game’s score is quite enjoyable. Fans of Shinichiro Otsuka’s character designs from the previous games might be a little surprised to see that Twin Age’s character designs were handled by Sunaho Tobe, the artist responsible for the character designs in Riviera: The Promised Land. The only complaints are that the AI characters can be a little foolhardy; it’s not possible to freely customize their AI much more than use items/don’t use items, use skills/don’t use skills, use normal attacks/don’t use normal attacks, which takes away a little of bit the strategy. Also, at around chapter 5, the game difficulty sharply spikes, particularly during boss battles, so be prepared to do a little bit of grinding. For those who enjoyed the gameplay in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Summon Night: Twin Age should have a pretty good appeal.

Like many early adopters of the Xbox 360, my console is severely lacking an HDMI port. It wasn’t until well after release that Microsoft revised the hardware and made HDMI a standard feature of the console. Those of us that got in early were left out in the cold… until now.

MadCatz has heard the call for a resolution and has come to our rescue with the HDMI Conversion Kit. The Kit consists of an adapter that plugs into the AV slot on the back of the console and provides you with an HDMI out and an Optical Digital (Toslink) output for a separate audio feed.

The adapter is small, but very well built. It doesn’t feel like a cheap knock off adapter, and it shouldn’t. MadCatz also went the extra mile and included an HDMI cable AND a Toslink cable. These aren’t your standard cables either. They have an extra tough shield on them that provides extra protection to the cable, making them look pretty slick.

Installation is very easy–just unplug your stock AV plug, insert the Converter and hook your cables up to it. The included instructions explain the exact order you need to do this in, and I had no problems getting up and running in just a few minutes.

I’ve noticed no degradation in picture quality and this Converter has allowed me to move up to 1080p, improving my visual experience.

At $75, you’ll need to weigh the cost heavily. There is no doubt this is a quality product, but many are perfectly happy with component cables and 720p. If you have a 1080p set and an older model X360, this is definitely something you’ll want to consider purchasing.

Cocoto is something of a mascot for Neko Entertainment. He races go-karts, he goes on platforming adventures, and in Magic Circus he goes on a target-shooting spree in order to save his fairy friend from an evil clown. The story serves as a device to get Cocoto to the circus where, in order to advance, he must beat shooting mini-game after shooting mini-game.

The package claims there are 40 mini-games included in Cocoto Magic Circus. In reality there is one minigame with numerous skins. Everything you do will be some variant of the old carnival standby, target shooting. Some challenges have you shooting living critters. Other challenges have you shooting at moving pictures of those living critters. Still others require the use of only one bullet or taking out a primary target with a secondary target behind it. Each mini-game also has balloons in it. Shoot the balloons and the screen shakes or turns upside-down.

Cocoto Magic Circus, in addition to bing the same mini-game over and over, is painfully short. Most players can complete the game on normal in about an hour. Multiplayer lengthens the experience a little bit, but if you’ve played Link’s Crossbow Training then there is no reason to pick up Cocoto Magic Circus.

If Cocoto Magic Circus is anything then it is straight-forward. There are no unlockables, no hidden game modes, and no originality. Point, shoot, lather, rinse, and repeat. Unless you’re really hurting for a Wii-remote powered shooting gallery pass on Cocoto Magic Circus.

LEGO Indiana Jones feels like a comfy old t-shirt. The LEGO Star Wars games before it were wonderful, and LEGO Indy lives up to their standard. The Force is gone, but in its place there are shovels, archaeological texts, and wrenches. The diversification of abilities seems like it ought to make things more complicated, but what it really does is make each character feel useful. Instead of running around as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s ghost upon unlocking him you’ll still be switching between characters on your last Free Play session.

LEGO Indiana Jones covers Indy’s three classic adventures – Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade. Like the LSW games before it, cutscenes are used to poke fun at the original films and inject a little humor into the mix. All of your favorite characters and locales are preserved and ready to be destroyed in the quest for studs, and like LEGO Star Wars II, levels are fairly long.

LEGO Indy is great fun for the same reasons that LEGO Star Wars was fun. It is simple to pick up and play, it’s not overly complicated or punishing so cooperative play with a youngster is both possible and fun, and it’s fun to play through a classic movie franchise that has been LEGO-fied. Traveller’s tales have stepped the collectibles up a little bit, however. Artifacts (analogous to LSW’s, minikits) are better hidden throughout the various levels – you’ll get use out of the artifact detector. Also changed is the cheat system. It’s not enough anymore to find a red brick and buy a new cheat. Now you’ll need to find a parcel, carry it around for a while (sometimes through the majority of a level), find the postbox, and drop the parcel in it. The added challenge is great for older gamers, as the LSW games lacked challenge.

One sticking point, however, is the combat. LEGO Star Wars had a lot of combat, but every character worth using carried either a blaster or a lightsaber. LEGO Indy, despite having a holster, only has a gun when he takes one from an enemy. To pick up downed bad guys weapons is actually the only way to get a non-melee weapon throughout the story. This makes the game feel a bit more like the movies, but it also proves frustrating because most enemies have guns. It’s a good thing LEGO Indiana Jones has unlimited lives because you’ll be dying a lot until you buy the enemy soldier and run back through a level in Free Play.

LEGO Indiana Jones – The Original Adventures is loads of fun and encourages level replay making it a solid purchase. There’s plenty to do, and it’s presented in small enough chunks to never seem overwhelming. If you like Indiana Jones and enjoyed the LEGO Star Wars games then picking up LEGO Indy is a no-brainer.