Custom Robo

January 29, 2006

Being a fan of Nintendo games (and gaming hardware) often requires a player to make suspensions of disbelief that other, more realistic (or more accurately, less imaginative), games/consoles don’t. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the occasional stumbling block arises that just requires an outright “ok, whatever”. For example: the world of the PokA


When the only problem with a game is the fact that it isn’t long enough, you know you’ve got a great game on your hands. This isn’t quite the case with UbiSoft’s stealthy adventure Beyond Good and Evil, but it comes incredibly close.

Jade, a young woman on the planet Hillys (rhymes with “Phyllis”) who earns some spare credits as a freelance photographer and runs a local orphanage with her adoptive uncle pig-man, Pey’j (pronounced “page”). The orphans in question are the result of Hillys’s constant problems with the DomZ (not “domes”), an unpleasant alien race that wreaks havoc at seemingly regular intervals. Many Hillians end up kidnapped after these attacks, and thus orphans left behind. Luckily, the Hillian army has a special unit, the Alpha Sections, who do their best to fend off the DomZ and keep the people of Hillys safe.

This sounds fine, except that it makes for a lousy story to base a game around.

The truth of the matter is that the Alpha Sections aren’t quite what they seem to be, and before long Jade finds herself working with the underground rebellion group Iris to uncover the real story, armed with little more than her wits, her camera, and her dai-jo beatstick (plus a cool little laser disc shooter she picks up along the way). When not on foot, Jade and Pey’j cruise around in an old hovercraft that gets the job done on the mostly aqueous Hillys and comes equipped with boost jets and a laser cannon for emergencies. The Rastafarian rhino family at Mammago Garage can help you further outfit your vehicle if you bring them rare pearls.

The story itself isn’t anything groundbreaking or even that captivating as there aren’t a lot of unexpected twists and the conspiracy isn’t all that deep, but the characters, and especially the top-notch voice acting, make it seem important. There’s some genuine emotion in [i]BG&E[/i], both spoken and observed (witness the exuberant hug after Jade and Pey’j fend off some DomZ early on), and that’s what makes the admittedly trite story work.

It also doesn’t hurt that the game is, to put it simply, gorgeous. Jade, Pey’j, and all of the other inhabitants of Hillys (both friend and foe) are solid, believable characters, even though most of them are human-animal hybrids or outright alien. The environments that you explore, which range from an abandoned mine to the alien base on the moon, are detailed and diverse. Little details, like children’s crayon scribblings on the walls of the orphanage/lighthouse, also help to flesh out the reality a bit. The water looks great (and as I mentioned, there is a lot of water on Hillys), and real-time lighting moves shadows when necessary (like the “heavily-guarded elevator” stealth segment). Some of the smaller animals and non-essential hybrids that you have to photograph for the local science center are a bit uninspired and/or undetailed, but that and some strange shadows are the only graphical problems I experienced.

Sound and voice plays a big part in this game as well, from the voice acting to a wide variety of appropriate background music. Whether it be the up tempo beats in the Akuda Bar, the high-tension rhythm during combat, or melancholic melodies at one of the games many emotional downswings, the BGM always meshes with the gameplay ideally. You might learn to hate the creepy music that always seems to accompany a stealth segment, but it won’t be because it’s bad. Effects in the game are also precise, from the Darth Vader-like respiration of the Alphas to the irritating squeaking of rattus gigantus. And finally, enough good things can’t be said about the voice acting in this game, or at least the English versions (I didn’t try to play the game en espaA

As we all know, the GameCube has gotten the short end of the stick as far as the amount of games produced for this generation of consoles. More specifically, the Cube has only received a handful of RPG’s, although the majority of them ([i]Tales of Symphonia[/i], [i]Paper Mario[/i], [i]Skies of Arcadia Legends[/i], etc.) are very good titles. Well, now you can add to this list Namco’s latest: [i]Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean[/i].

[i]BK[/i] takes you on a journey as the guardian spirit of an angst-filled young lad by the name of Kalas. Kalas and his band of companions are on a journey to avenge his family’s death and to prevent the resurrection of the evil god, Malpercio. While it isn’t exactly original, Namco does pretty well making the story unique and adding some very good plot twists to keep you interested.

[i]BK[/i] displays some of the best looking visuals you will find on the GameCube. The pre-rendered backgrounds are absolutely beautiful, although some (village made out of construction paper anyone?) are extremely odd. The character models as well as the environments show a good amount of detail. The menus are easy on the eyes and are very easy to navigate. Spells used in combat have some dazzling particle effects, but you will most likely be too focused on the combo system to really enjoy them. The biggest gripe I have is that all the cutscenes are done with the in-game graphics. I think it would’ve been a very nice touch to see some FMV goodness at least a few times throughout the game.

[i]BK[/i] is a traditional turn-based RPG at heart, but it does have a bit of a spin to it. Rather than using weapons and armor, you use magnus cards. Magnus cards are used to trap the A

Sonic Gems Collection

December 27, 2005

Mmm … nostalgia. [i]Sonic Gems Collection[/i] was released almost as an afterthought to [i]Sonic Mega Collection[/i]. Whereas [i]Sonic Mega Collection[/i] had the majority of the classic Sonic games, it missed the big one: [i]Sonic CD[/i].

The simple fact is, [i]Sonic CD[/i] was a rarity. When it came out, surely it was easily found. But with Mega CD gone and no ports available, it seemed [i]Sonic CD[/i] was lost to the ages. Until now.

[i]Sonic CD[/i] was released just after the first Sonic game came out on the Mega Drive. It was the pilot game for the Mega CD, the Mega Drive’s CD drive. It took an interesting turnA

Shadow The Hedgehog

December 23, 2005

Released to a mass of speculation and predestined hate, Shadow the Hedgehog hasn’t enjoyed a very good release. The release of Sonic Heroes last year was enough to put many a Sonic fanboy off the series – and with good reason. What most of those people don’t realize is – this isn’t a Sonic the Hedgehog game; it’s a spin off which they should judge on it’s own merits. So, on with the review.

One part of the Sonic universe that’s made it on board Shadow – a basic storyline. But at least its original this time. The game takes place a few months after Sonic Adventure 2. Shadow the hedgehog is seen alive and well after falling from space, only he’s lost his memory. Again. Unfortunately, aliens are invading. Now he’s got to rely on his instincts (And the player) to guide him through the story. This is where things get a bit special: There is no defined path to follow. Depending on how you play, Shadow will end up siding with earth’s army to fight off the aliens, or join the aliens to conquer the planet. Or, he can choose to let them kill each other, and remain neutral. This is an original idea for the Sonic series, and one that works well.

The graphics are very good actually. They’ve managed to get a fair amount of realism in here, while still retaining the cartoonish looks of the previous Sonic games. The enemies are well done, as are the levels. One thing that stands out however, are the GUN soldiers. They look like they’ve been stolen right out of a Dreamcast game.

The music is done quite well; better than usual. The screaming guitars from Sonic Adventure still rear they’re ugly heads every now and then, but for the most part the music is suitably dark, while not going overboard. An interesting thing; There’s actually 5 different end songs (Which have always been the high point in a Sonic soundtrack – the big final boss music). The song you get depends on how you’ve played. Of course, the music isn’t the only thing that changes depending on how you play, indeed – the final few levels are like entirely different games according to what you did on the early stages.

Now for the most important feature; how does it play? Very well. Insanely fun game-play. The high speed bits from Sonic Adventure 2 – they’re here. Only faster. And of course, the biggest addition to the game – Guns. This is the thing that’s been annoying the fanboys all this time, but I really do have to point out: guns are NOT required. They make the game more fun, and a few of the end levels are damn near impossible to complete without them, but if you really want to go ‘Old school’, the guns can be put away. Anyway, the guns don’t get in the way of the high speed action. It’s entirely possible to run through a mass of enemies and gun them down on the way. Short answer: The guns work.

Now, replay value? Quite a bit actually. According to the game theatre, the Pure Hero ending is listed as “1”, and the Pure Evil ending is listed as “326”. This means there are 326 possible ways to play through the game. And let’s not forget about the Chaos Emeralds! While each playthrough may not take very long, there’s 326 of them to be done before you can call ‘complete’ on them. And the game itself is very Pick-up-and-play-able. Overall, I’d give it an 8/10. A vast improvement over previous Sonic games, and starring a much more interesting lead character. Rent or Buy – Rent it. Then love it. Then buy it.