Old pants can be considered a double entrA

Guitar Hero II

April 19, 2007

I have a couple of confessions to make before I begin the review of Guitar Hero II (GHII). First is that I have been playing guitar for close to twenty years now (yes I’m getting old). I’ve been in several bands, had songs played on the radio, performed at gigs, recorded in a studio and countless other A

The pedigree of The Legend of Heroes III is very strong due to its developer Falcom. Falcom is the creator of one of my favorite RPG series, Ys. I remember playing the first Ys on the Sega Master System and enjoying every minute of the game. When the Turbo Grafx CD system was released, I made sure to purchase the system just for Ys Book I & II. The series took a stumble, in my opinion, with the release of Ys III and has never recovered. It could be that Falcom has never recovered as well because The Legend of Heroes III just doesn’t achieve the same level of greatness as those earlier Falcom titles.

As the title indicates, this is the third title in The Legend of Heroes series, all of which have been released on the PSP. For those that have played the earlier titles, Legend of Heroes III (LH III) will allow you to import saved character data from earlier games. The characters from the first two LH titles can be used in special battles that you discover in the game. These battles are not connected to the main story of LH III, but the experience points collected in the battles do transfer over. Unfortunately you cannot use characters from the earlier games in the main story of the LH III.

Now for those that haven’t played the first two games, LH III is what I would describe as a tried and true RPG. If you’ve played a Japanese style RPG before, then you will not find any surprises in LH III. The plot, graphics, and game play of LH III will remind you of games you’ve played in the past. A game with a teenager as the main character? A love interest between the main hero and his female supporting character? Turned based combat? Check, check and check to all of these and many more clichA

Is it soccer or football? For me it’s always been called soccer. Even when I played the game for one short season as a youngster, it was always called soccer. In my one season of football/soccer I learned to appreciate the game, but I never learned to love the game. After moving closer to the southern border of the United States, I soon learned that my lack of passion for soccer wasn’t shared amongst the rest of the world. Now with Winning Eleven Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 for the PSP, I’m put to the test to see if my past association with the sport would help me in reviewing the game.

I’m not going to pretend and tell you that I know everything about soccer. I don’t know how many leagues or how many teams are located throughout the world. My soccer knowledge is limited to what I remember from playing the game and the World Cup craze. Thankfully with Winning Eleven 2007 (W11 2007), you don’t have to be an expert at soccer to have fun with the game. The game is jam packed with tons of options and solid gameplay to keep you playing.

The amount of options in W11 2007 was overwhelming at first. The game lets you customized almost every part of the game. From the camera angle, to season mode, to the colors on the jersey, W11 2007 is a full featured soccer game that should please casual gamers and hardcore soccer fans. I let a friend who is a big soccer fan play the game, and he was impressed with the amount of options that can be customized. The gameplay modes are just as full featured as the options.

There are six gameplay modes in W11 2007 to keep gamers busy. Match mode is just a single player game against the computer, either a regular game or a penalty kick game. Master League is the simulation piece of the game that lets you manage a team while competing in a season. League mode lets you play in a season with a team of your choice. Cup mode allows you to compete in seven different cup tournaments. Training lets you practice to your heart’s content all of the moves in the game. Wireless lets you play against other PSP owners but only by Ad Hoc Mode. Then finally there is an edit mode which lets you edit and create players, teams, and cups/leagues in the game. This isn’t a stripped down portable game; this is a game that is loaded with all of the toppings and extra cheese.

The actual gameplay is topnotch but only after stumbling out of the gates due to the controls. The controls are just as feature-packed as the gameplay modes with what seems to be an endless variety of ways to perform passes and shots. You have a short pass, a first-time pass, a first-time long pass, a high cross, a low cross, an early cross, a regular shot, a first-time shot, a chip shot, a hard shot, a soft shot, a moderately hard shot, a moderately soft shot, and many others. I know it’s been a long time since I played soccer, and maybe I don’t understand the broadcasters on Univision, but I sure don’t remember that many choices for passing and shooting.

It took me a few games before I felt comfortable with passing, shooting, and playing defense. But I still had shots flying over the net consistently even after several games. The game lets you control the strength and height of a shot by holding down the square button to charge the shot. To me it seemed that the charge meter was very inconsistent since my character was still missing open shots. Sometimes I would hit the button just once for a quick shot, and I would get a short and low shot. Other times, even with a quick button press, shots would start flying away.

Even with the misfires in some of the controls, Winning Eleven Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 is a portable game packed with all of the trimmings usually seen in a console game. The gameplay modes should keep the hardcore gamers busy for hours. The sheer number of options can even help novice players learn the ins and outs of soccer. Just take my advice and start off on the beginner’s difficulty setting if your soccer skills are still developing. This let’s you play the game in a more arcade style setting where you can get used to the controls and the variety of options. Oh, one more item of note, yes there is still a delay in waiting for the game to load off of the UMD. It can take up to a minute in some areas to get into the game while you wait for the load menu.

Well it has been a long, strange journey for [i]The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess[/i] for the Gamecube. When the first screens of a new Zelda game were shown when the Gamecube was announced, fanboys around the world cried in joy. However those cries of joy became shameful attacks towards Nintendo when [i]Wind Waker[/i] was shown to the public. Even though the game still played just like a Zelda game, some gamers wrote [i]Wind Waker[/i] off just because of the cartoon visuals. Nintendo decided to appease the masses by announcing a new Zelda game, [i]Twilight Princess[/i], which was similar to the original footage shown when the Gamecube was announced.

Even back at E3 2005 Nintendo was letting gamers play a demo of this new Zelda. I was fortunate enough to play the demo at E3, and I was amazed at how incredible the game was turning out to be. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game and immediately paid off the game in full when I returned home from E3. But I had to wait and wait and wait until late in 2006 before the game was finally released for the Gamecube. It seems that Nintendo wasn’t done baking [i]Twilight Princess[/i], in fact the game shifted over to a new console, which we all know as the Wii. I’m happy to report that even with all of the waiting (and playing second fiddle to the Wii version) Gamecube owners are treated to one of the best Zelda games ever released.

By now I’m sure most of you are aware of the basic plot of [i]Twilight Princess[/i]. The game centers upon you (aka Link) and your journey to save Hyrule from the grips of evil. Sure, Princess Zelda is involved, and the game does focus on saving the Princess, but the main plot centers on saving Hyrule. Parts of the kingdom have been plummeted into darkness, the Twilight, and it’s up to you to release Hyrule from the darkness. Along the way you will meet up with Midna, a strange and obnoxious character who helps you after you’ve changed into a wolf. The Twilight has a strange effect on all of the inhabitants of Hyrule, and the strangest effect is turning you into the wolf. The rest of the plot/story will remain left to you to discover because this game has hours upon hours of gameplay ready for you. I would say you will need at least forty hours of gameplay to get close to finishing the game.

I know, 40 hours of gameplay might seem like much especially to other AAA titles that let you off the hook after 20 hours. But those 40 plus hours will have you playing through some of the most gripping gameplay included in a videogame. The dungeons in this game are probably the most expansive I’ve ever played in any Zelda game. The same premise of previous Zelda games is followed, (find keys, beat mini boss, find boss key, beat boss) but all of the dungeons will have you sucked in trying to find all of the secrets and solve the puzzles. Besides the dungeons the scale of the entire game is truly massive and will leave some of you speechless. Almost all of the locations you find and explore in the game are truly epic in size. Just exploring the entire world could take several (twenty or thirty) minutes, but thankfully you do unlock warp points as you progress in the game. So no, you don’t have to spend ten minutes boating to the next town or dungeon.

The gameplay in [i]Twilight Princess[/i] is still a classic example of 3D gameplay done right, but I need to address a few items. The first item is to say that this game still plays just like [i]Wind Waker[/i] and Ocarina of Time (released as a collectors pack on GC). The same lock-on targeting system is in place that we love, and most of the standard items from previous titles are included as well (boomerang and bow & arrows just to name two). Even when you do play as the wolf the combat can still be played with the lock-on targeting to help you. There are a few differences in searching for items as the wolf but the combat, surprisingly, still “feels” the same. With the combat being identical to the previous titles, you still get a few clunky moments with the camera angle. At certain points in combat the camera angle gets funky and has a hard time locking on to a good angle to view the action. It happens out in the field fighting, and it happens in the dungeons, especially when you’re fighting multiple characters. You can quickly adjust the camera, but these moments have been happening for years now, and it was surprising to see them show up again in [i]Twilight Princess[/i].

Another issue to discuss is the differences between the Wii version and the Gamecube version (come on, I know some of you want to know). The big difference that you will see immediately (at the title screen) is the layout of the Gamecube version. The Wii and Gamecube version are opposite of each other. If the Wii version has something on the right side of a stage, then the Gamecube version will have it on the left side. I spent a ton of hours on the Wii version, and the layout change to the Gamecube version is still disorienting at times.

Another difference between the two versions is, of course, the controls. Obviously the Gamecube seems limited when controlling Link since you’re not using the motion activated Wiimote. But Nintendo didn’t just limit the Gamecube controls with no motion sensor technology; the game is limited in the number of open item slots. The Wii version lets you place four items in the Action Icon holder while the Gamecube only supports two items. Using ranged weapons, such as the bow & arrow and slingshot are a little more time consuming with the Gamecube version. I had more of a dependency with the lock-on system when using range weapons in the Gamecube version. But the GC version does win regarding one difference, free camera control. You can use the C stick to move the camera angle at any time while the Wii version has the camera locked.

Graphically this is one of the best looking Zelda games ever released. It definitely won’t win any awards for best graphics, but the game is gorgeous in its own way. All of the dungeons are exquisitely detailed with attention to everything. Patterns in the ceiling, paintings on walls, enormous structural features such as columns and arches are littered throughout the game. The only bland portions of the graphics I could find were the textures used in rocks and grass when viewed up close. Not pretty by any means. As far as looking different from the Wii version, I didn’t notice any differences. I played the GC version on the Wii and on the Gamecube. Since my official Nintendo component cables haven’t arrived yet for the Wii, I do think the game looked just a little clearer on the Gamecube (with the official Nintendo component cables). But that could be a cable issue and not an actual difference between the two systems. There wasn’t any special effect or graphic features found in the Wii version that are not in the Gamecube version.

Well in the end [i]Twilight Princess[/i] is another classic title from the folks at Nintendo. The game is an epic that will have you clutching your Gamecube controller saying “just a little more” as you keep playing to the point of exhaustion. The graphics are top notch, the gameplay is still incredibly engaging, (even without the Wii controls) and the puzzles/secrets will keep you busy for hours. Sure there are some issues, such as the goofy camera angle issues, but those are minor and shouldn’t convince you to not play this game. If this is supposed to be the swan song of the Gamecube, then you better not miss out on this game.