February 2008

Release a product when it is finished. It would be impossible to review Final Fantasy XI: Wings of the Goddess because, despite having the game disc, an Xbox 360, and a character to play, I can’t play most of it. There are a few portals that teleport you 20 years into Vana’diel’s past, two new jobs, and a whole lot of locked zones, scant few missions, and content from the previous expansion that still doesn’t work properly (chocobo racing, I am looking at you).

Wings of the Goddess effectively doubles the size of the Vana’diel by adding Cavernous Maw portals that whisk the player 20 years into the past to see and take part in the events that made Vana’diel the world it is today. Battles are small, frantic, and nearly constant which is a refreshing change from the nigh-unplayable Besieged events of Aht Urhgan.

One portion of Wings‘ content that managed to make it onto the disc however is two new jobs: dancer and scholar. This serves to stimulate the game’s lower-level areas by encouraging players to abandon – if only for a while – their level 75 characters to develop a dancer or scholar. This makes those intro areas unbalanced, however, as there are now hundreds of each class looking for a group only to find more scholars and dancers. That’s what happens when your expansion contains two new classes that are both suited to a support role.

Of the two new classes, dancer is the easier to use as it can function as both a tank and a healer. These attributes to make it more of a support role, but it makes for a fairly hearty – if a bit flamboyant – solo character as well. Dancer works just as well as a primary job as secondary job with abilities like Animated Flourish (now you don’t have to take Warrior as a sub-job if you want Provoke), Cure, Drain (HP drain), Aspir (MP drain), and Curaga you’ll be seeing Dancers around Vana’diel long after everybody has theirs leveled because they’re a well-balanced and useful support class. Scholars, on the other hand, are only really valuable in the late game and definitely need a well-rounded party to survive. Scholar is obviously intended as a sub-job for a White Mage, Black Mage, or Summoner, but until you’re facing god-level monsters it makes more sense to use Red Mage as a sub-job. Why is the Scholar valuable in the end-game? Because he can alter the weather and turn the tides of a large-scale battle. Just make sure that he’s out of range of attacks; those attacks don’t afford him much protection.

If you’re picking up Final Fantasy XI for the first time then Wings of the Goddess is a good starting place. FFXI is packed full of content, and by the time you’re actively running through Wings of the Goddess content it should all be in place. Everybody else, however, should wait, as Wings of the Goddess is only half-released.

Winter Sports

February 28, 2008

Conspiracy Entertainment has been known to try to exploit any deficiencies in a system’s game lineup. With the release of Winter Sports, the company was obviously looking to play off the success of both Wii Sports and Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. All in all, it’s not the worst effort in the world, but it certainly could have benefited from a bit more polish.

The game’s nineA

Though many of you are undoubtedly looking forward to a different game featuring Snake right now, Konami has given one more date to start counting down to. Metal Gear Solid 4 will be hitting the US on June 12, another sign that the traditional summer game drought might be a thing of the past.

Check the press release after the jump for more information, including details on the preorder program. READ MORE

Months after a system update made Datel’s GameCube FreeLoader unusable, the company has finally released a Wii version of the popular product. The disc allows any Wii to play games of all regions. Right now it’s available for $20 at the official site, but expect it to hit other stores soon.

Anyone want to predict how long it will take for Nintendo to stop this version with a system update?

Bomberman Land

February 28, 2008

When White, the hero of bomberman, gets a plea for help from the famed Bomberman Land amusement park he rushes to the scene to find the park erased off the map. Some mysterious force has caused the park to disappear and it is up to you and your friends to gather zone pieces to put the park back together.

Really there isn’t much more to the plot than that, but then again it isn’t really necessary for a standard mini-game focused PSP release. Pieces are the ultimate goal of progression here, as you talk to befuddled inhabitants, solve minor puzzles or complete mini-games to earn these numbered tiles. Along the way you can earn money through casino games to buy props, costumes, or (more importantly) access to additional areas, which contain some of the yet unplayed minigames. As linear as it sounds, it quickly becomes anything but as you move from the Red to Blue to Yellow zones and beyond; a lot of backtracking between zones begins to wear on the player as it seems unnatural and time-consuming constantly have to check back to beginning zones waiting for someone to finally appear at a location to move you forward. The dialog sections required to get pieces out of park employees is humorous at times, but once again takes on an inane feel as I quickly got tired of the banter and skipped through the dialog to get my reward.

Undoubtedly the mini-games are the high point of this title. Very numerous and quite addictive at times, there is no shortage of replay value that is suited nicely to the portable format. The games go from timed shooters to side-scrollers to racing to somewhat difficult puzzles. Controls are aptly applied to each game whether it is using the input buttons for Whack-A-Gnome or the directional buttons and/or analog stick for driving games. Aimed primarily at the younger crowd, the games vary in challenge, but rest assured there are still ways to buy out of certain mini-games so you don’t get stuck or frustrated.

The addition of buyable costumes is a nice nuance but ultimately it is the addition of the original Bomberman that will have a whole bunch of people dropping money to buy this title. Included as a standalone game, the enhanced graphics of the original help bring this classic back into the mainstream. Add to that the fact you can play four players at the same time using the Wi-Fi option and you are getting a huge bang out of your buck. In that same vein it is possible to challenge another PSP user to some of the mini-games adding to the multiplayer options.

While the graphics of the original Bomberman have been updated, the overall visual quality of this game is not really up to the PSP’s superior output. Sprites are colorful, but there is an almost hokey nature to the graphics that isn’t helped by the sub par sound. The happy theme-park music is cute at first, but due to its repetitive quality it quickly wears out its welcome.

Bomberman Land is not going to win any awards, but its cute and easy-to-pick-up play style make this a game worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of the original.