June 2010

What impressed us at E3? We each picked our favorites. Here are Shawn Vermette’s picks. 

Nintendo 3DS

The 3DS blew everyone at the show away, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it finally comes out here. The tech sounds great and the games announced for it make me even more excited. Nintendo gave every exactly what they were hoping for and more with this system.

Civilization V

Civilization is my all-time favorite video game series, and after hearing and reading about the changes made to the standard formula in this next installation, I was a little worried. Now that E3 has come and gone though, I simply cannot wait to get my hands on it. READ MORE

What impressed us at E3? We each picked our favorites. Here are Eric Schabel’s picks. 

Nintendo 3DS

I was pretty excited about the 3DS even before E3 started, but I never dreamed it would end up working so well, and have such a killer software lineup from both Nintendo and third parties this early on. I expected to see maybe one or two new games from Nintendo that would interest me, but now that E3 is over I am simply floored by the prospects of playing a new Kid Icarus game along with the likes of Star Fox, Pilotwings, Mario Kart, and even a remake of the classic Ocarina of Time, all in 3D. A lot of questions have been asked about the power of the 3DS, but for me it only takes a few looks at Nintendo’s titles and especially some of the third party offerings like Capcom’s new Resident Evil game and Konami’s Snake Eater port to realize that the 3DS is going to offer some gorgeous graphics in portable format. Unlike the DS before it, Nintendo’s new portable is going to hit the ground running with great software right out of the gate when it launches later this year (or early next year).

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

I’ve always had a soft spot for Kirby, and despite the appearances of a mysterious new Kirby game on Nintendo’s software release lists for years now, I honestly did not expect the pink puff ball to show up at E3 this year; certainly not on the Wii, and certainly not in the form of a thread of yarn. I absolutely adore the style of this game, and I am impressed by how good it looks for a Wii title, even giving LittleBigPlanet a run for its money. READ MORE

What impressed us at E3? We each picked our favorites. Here are Graham Russell’s picks. 


What can I say? I still have a SNES store display set up in my living room with 1994’s Tournament Edition. I was incredibly skeptical about whether the new one would have the same feel, and it does. Oh, and I got to dunk on Trey Smith’s head, so that’s a moment I’ll remember for a while. (Note: Trey Smith is the game’s creative director. I realize that’s not information everyone knows.)

Nintendo 3DS

The screen must be seen to be believed, and even then, I have my doubts. That can’t really work, right? Well unless I’m totally crazy (and I can’t rule that out), it totally does. With the games they’ve announced, this is a must-have for everyone on Day One. You know, when we find out when Day One is. READ MORE

Hexyz Force

June 23, 2010

Hexyz Force does a lot of things right, but most of all it is designed with portability in mind. There are no overlong cutscenes, not multi-hour tutorial, and a quick, efficient battle system that keeps you in the action but still manages to feel strategic.

A single playthrough of Hexyz Force will run you between 20 and 25 hours. That feels right to me for a portable RPG. Once you’re through with your first playthrough though you’ll want to start a second because Hexyz Force is two games in one. With two main characters and two quests you’ll have something to do after you complete Rafael’s story that is more entertaining than replaying the first narrative, and easier to get into than starting a whole new game.

Story-wise Hexyz Force is nothing special. A great evil looms in the distance, and it’s up to you to stop it. In order to do so you must climb the Tower of Judgment slaying monsters along the way. Where Hexyz Force differs from the run-of-the-mill RPG is its streamlining. There are very few random NPCs begging you to find their lost cats or liberate their cities that are ancillary to the main quest, and there are no shops where you need to try on every tunic in the place to maximize your dexterity skill to make it past the next encounter. Everything you need can be crafted on the fly, and the pace of the game is better for it.

RPGs live and die by their battle systems, and Hexyz Force has a very good one. Each hero can equip one ragnafact (primary weapon) that requires RP to use. Each ragnafact has an elemental attribute, and exploiting an enemy’s weakness is key to victory. In this regard, Hexyz Force feels a lot like Skies of Arcadia. Using RP allows you to use your ragnafact, but ragnafact usage must be rationed as RP can only be replenished by leveling up or visiting a force site (like a mana fountain in Torchlight). Since RP is a finite resource you’ll need to create secondary weapons from random enemy drops using the game’s crafting system. There’s no need to seek out a workbench or run back to town – simply open the menu and get cracking. Created weapons have a limited number of uses, but drops are plentiful enough that as soon as one weapon deteriorates you’ll have the necessary parts to create a new one.

The graphics are serviceable, but you’ll never forget that you’re playing a 3D game on a system less powerful than a PS2. Most models are serviceable, but you’ll occasionally run across some very low poly-count models. Enemies are color-swapped quite a bit so get used to seeing that wolf because you’ll be seeing his green comrade in the next dungeon and his blue one in the dungeon after that. There’s a surprising amount of music in Hexyz Force, and the boss tune is catchy and warns you of a big encounter coming up where it’s okay to spend every last RP you’ve got. 

Hexyz Force doesn’t feature an epic narrative, but it hits all the right notes in terms of mechanics. Battles are fast-paced and strategic, crafting is fun, and since enemy drops mean new and better weapons grinding is its own reward. If you’re looking for a JRPG to play on the go and don’t mind a forgettable story then look into Hexyz Force.

Plays Like: SNES-era Final Fantasy, Riviera: The Promised Land

Pros: Great crafting system, fun battles

Cons: Throw-away story, color-swapped enemies


Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake is exactly what you’d think it is – a scaled down version of the PSN release with the same pick-up-and-play mentality, hats that define your role on the battlefield, and flags that get bigger when you force-feed them cake. 

Fistful of Cake feels just like its console big brother, and that’s a good thing. The PSN original is great fun, and it translates well to the PSP. Every game mode is a variant of capture the flag, but that’s what you get when you change the flag into a princess and then name your game after it. Since your flag gets bigger when you feed it there are more ways to work as a team than in your run-of-the-mill capture the flag game. Offense doesn’t just involve killing the opposing team’s offense but getting rid of their cake-carriers, and defense has the addition of finding cake and feeding it to your princess. In some game modes you’ll also need to fatten up your own princess once she’s on the throne to keep the enemy from kidnapping her and taking her back to their jail.

So as an owner of the PSN version of Fat Princess, why should you buy Fistful of Cake? First, you can play it on the go which is always nice. If you’re without Internet then you can play a skirmish with CPU allies and enemies, and if you do have Internet access then finding a game is as simple as selecting “quick match” from the menu. There are also new maps, a new Grim Reaper game mode, and a much-expanded single-player story mode. This makes a lot of sense. It’s understood that if you’re buying DD games from PSN that you’ve got access to the Internet, but Fistful of Cake is available via UMD and PSP users aren’t always sitting near anopen wifi hotspot. In the single-player story you might find yourself cursing your AI teammates. At first this feels like a slight against the AI programming, but once you’ve played online it becomes clear that teamwork is always hard to orchestrate properly. That’s not to say that the AI couldn’t be better, but it prepares you for online play quite well.

What is Fistful of Cake missing? A couple of big things. There is no voice chat, and there’s no way to invite friends into your game. And puzzlingly, matches are still 8v8 but only 4 players can be human-controlled so even when playing online you’ll be dealing with the AI. For a game designed around multiplayer these are strange things to leave out.

Fistful of Cake is a faithful reproduction of the PSN original on the PSP. If you already own the PSN version then you know what you’re getting and why it’s a good time. For those of you with PSPs but no PS3s then Fistful of Cake is great fun. It’s violent, medieval TF2 for a scant $20 that you can play anywhere. There are online limitations, but they don’t detract from the fun of finding the Grim Reaper hat and wreaking havoc for a while.

Pros: Great multiplayer experience on the PSP, easy to find online games

Cons: Limit of 4 human players, no voice chat, can’t invite friends to a game