February 2005

New reviews

February 28, 2005

Got a pair of new reviews online for your reading pleasure and you should be shocked that the Madden one is in fact mine. I am still not sure how I managed to pull that one off, if you can even say that I did pull it off. At any rate, we should have a few copies of Cold Fear from Ubisoft to give away in the very near future. It looks like it could be an awesome survival thriller type game. I think it ships in 2 weeks or something.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/lapucelletactics/cover.jpg[/floatleft]The tactical role-playing genre has finally started to catch on. The years past have seen some games fly below the radar only to end up with nines and tens in the review listings. Nippon Ichi’s [i]Disgaea: Hour of Darkness[/i] won many accolades and is one of Snackbar’s must-haves. Well Nippon Ichi has done it again with its latest incarnation of humorous tactical role-playing in [i]La Pucelle: Tactics[/i].

[heading]This game has a lot of moxy[/heading]

One of developer Nippon Ichi’s trademarks is over the top characters and game play. [i]La Pucelle: Tactics[/i] is full of both of those. You are part of a special ops demon-hunting squad fresh out of training. Your group consists of the sassy Prier, her brother Culotte, and the teacher Alouette (see a French theme). Together they are on a mission from their God, and it’s up to you to control the party.

Gameplay is simple in execution but deep in development. Much like [i]Disgaea[/i], your team gets its turn before the enemy, and each character gets a certain amount of space in which to move. Basically, the frontline bad guys get a whooping first. You level, learn new abilities, and gain stats and items that affect your characters. Unfortunately, you cannot pick up your allies and toss them around. But that doesn’t take away from the cool stuff you can do.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/lapucelletactics/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Each character has special attacks and techniques, but it’s the ability to purify that takes the cake. You can purify enemies and have them join your team. Think of it as on-the-spot rebuking evil. If you purify an enemy successfully, they join your ranks, be it as fodder (go bats) or as a bad-ass comrades. Purification, however, doesn’t stop at enemies. Dark portals are scattered throughout the battle maps. Dark portals allow monsters to spawn into the fray, as well as affect characters that are standing upon them. Needless to say, you want to get rid of the dark portals ASAP. You can use them to your benefit by changing their direction and purifying them, sending an attack on all the baddies that stand upon them. Of course, it’s a hell of a lot deeper than that, but I would be here all day writing about the battle system. It’s deep, good, and everything you expect from a tactical RPG. Trust me.

[heading]OG 2D 2 Thumbs Up[/heading]

Old-school graphics return to create a colorful world of demons and ass-kicking. The animation is simple, but simple is better than overdoing it. If you can look past a non-flashy, 3D bells-and-whistles-laden game and see what [i]La Pucelle[/i] truly has to offer, you will find a game that begs to be played. The graphics, sound, and incredible voice-acting all score high marks. While [i]La Pucelle[/i] is the simpler and lesser of the Nippon Ichi family, that is not a bad thing. This is a great game to start the genre on. I highly recommend it to add to your library.

Madden NFL 2005

February 28, 2005

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/madden2005ds/cover.jpg[/floatleft]The fact that I actually tasked myself with reviewing [i]Madden 2005[/i] for the DS should come as a huge surprise to anyone and everyone. If it were not for the fact that I am the only one with a DS, then I definitely wouldn’t be writing this right now. It isn’t that I hate sports games as much as it is that I suck at them and just don’t derive a lot of enjoyment out of them. Most of my games are completely based in fantasy, and I like it that way. With that being said, I am going to approach this from the most objective angle I can and not just write this game off as the newest crappy football game released by the behemoth that is EA. This should be very interesting.

I acquired [i]Madden[/i] for the DS shortly after its launch, so my willingness to review this game was in fact surpassed by my desire to not have to do that very thing. Sheesh, the things that I am willing to do for you, the readers. So here we are, closing in on March, and I am done playing that game. My experience might shock you a little, as my gut reaction was that I didn’t like it, but upon playing I didn’t find myself hating the experience as much as I expected to or wanted to.

My last experience was a few years back when I begrudgingly took on the role of “that other receiver that nobody ever wanted to throw to.” Since then, I haven’t bothered playing another [i]Madden[/i] game, so the advances that the series has made were all but lost on me.

[i]Madden[/i] made the jump to handheld gaming a few years back for the GBA, and the DS should give it the headroom it needs to improve alongside its console counterpart. The downside being that the initial jump to the DS left a lot of headroom for expansion, almost to the point that it seems like the game could have used a little more refining before its release. With the DS supporting 3D graphics, it was obvious that EA tried to make use of this feature, and the end result is blocky character models and 3D blobs in many places. I am sure that things will improve as everyone gets accustomed to the DS, but I felt like I was playing an N64 after a little Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox, and it was a little tough.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/madden2005ds/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]One of the nice things about [i]Madden[/i] on the DS is the dual-screen action. The top screen is your standard view for [i]Madden[/i] games, with the lower screen being your touch screen for play selection, as well as a top down Xs-and-Os view of in-game action. This top down view made it a lot easier to keep track of open receivers and ward off blitzing defenders. The second screen also means one more thing to be aware of in an already fast-paced game. Being a veritable newbie to the franchise, I spent a large chunk of time just trying to get my pass off to any receiver, much less an open one. In the end, I was throwing deep and burning the defensive backs.

The sound in [i]Madden 2005[/i] was decent. You could clearly hear the crowd ooing and ahhing at my spectacular skills, but virtually absent is the in-game commentary. Michaels and Madden chime in to announce things like a first down or a touchdown, but the commentary is sparse enough that you will definitely notice when the muffled voices kick in. The soundtrack is also decent, and with stereo speakers this time around, it is better than the GBA version.

The standard controls from previous versions of [i]Madden[/i] have made an appearance and-aside from the move back to a D-pad-based control-will be familiar to the [i]Madden[/i] veterans. Being unfamiliar with the controls, I found there to be a steep learning curve associated with remembering which buttons did what when I was on defense or offense. I attribute this mostly to my lack of time with football games in general.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/madden2005ds/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]As expected, the gameplay options in the DS version are somewhat trimmed down from the full-blown game. Exhibition, season, and multiplayer are present along with practice modes, two-minute drill, and situation mode. Season mode sports a slim number of franchise options and only allows you to play a single season before starting over. Fans of long-running franchises will not be pleased with that aspect. Despite these omissions, the Madden Cards have made an appearance and can aid you in beefing up your team and players.

While I historically have not enjoyed playing [i]Madden[/i] for any console, I didn’t hate my time with it on the DS. It is a solid game that needs some graphical tweaking and a little revision of the feature set, but all in all it is a well-made game. I can’t advocate that you should run out and buy it as the GBA version is probably a little better. But if you have a DS and want to see what the future of portable football has to offer, you may want to give it a shot.

Many of you may recognize that name and many of you may not. Sakaguchi is better known as the Father of Final Fantasy and he is joining up with Microsoft Game Studios to develop games for the next Xbox system.

[quote]Microsoft Corp. today announced that Hironobu Sakaguchi, video game legend and president of Mistwalker game studio, has joined with Microsoft(r) Game Studios to develop role-playing game (RPG) video games exclusively for the next-generation Xbox(r) video game platform. Sakaguchi is best known as the creator of the “Final Fantasy” franchise, which has sold more than 60 million units worldwide, and was executive vice president in charge of game development at Square Enix Co., Ltd. until February 2001.

Citing a shared vision with Microsoft for the next generation of video games, Sakaguchi will lead the creation of two upcoming Xbox-exclusive RPG titles to be published by Microsoft Game Studios.[/quote]

Star Wars, Lego style

February 24, 2005

I am sure by now that most of you are aware of the upcoming Star Wars Lego game. While SB is chalk full of dorky Star Wars Fan Boys/Girls (from now on I vow to get Cone Jr. something Star Wars till he is like thirty) the game seems pretty cool. It seems cartoonish but I think Star Wars can be lightened up a little after all the seriousness of Knights of the Old Republic. Then again that is just me talking, Star Wars can do no wrong. Well except make an MMO game, which they did, and it sucked.

[url=http://ps2.ign.com/articles/589/589880p1.html]Here is some more info on the new game courtesy of IG(shill)N.[/url]