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Archive for October, 2010

Review #380

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Bakugan: Defenders of the Core
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Now Productions
Genre: Third Person Action
Release Date: 10/26/2010

One year and one week ago, Activision released Bakugan Battle Brawlers across all consoles. The game, developers by Now productions stuck exceptionally close to the actual collectable board game while mixing in the characters of the anime in an entirely new adventure where you, and your Bakugan Leonides (eventually Omega Leonides) joined up with Dan and his friends to stop Masquerade and other bad guys. Mark, Aaron and I reviewed the Wii, DS and PS3 versions respectively and surprisingly, even with very different gaming tastes amongst us, we all highly enjoyed our time with the game. Hell, I even earned the platinum trophy for the game.

Five months later, Activision released a DS-only sequel called Bakugan Battle Trainer. Aaron reviewed it, but he really didn’t like it, citing how the game was nothing like the first and/or the collectable tabletop game. Now seven months after that, it’s time for the third Bakugan game in a year. Like Battle Trainer, Defenders of the Core eschews the actual Bakugan game and just uses the anime characters. Is this a recipe for failure yet again, or does it turn out the odd numbered Bakugan games are the good ones?
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Review #379

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Genre: Roguelike
Release Date 10/26/2010

In 2003, Nippon Ichi basically reinvented the tactical role playing genre with the release of Disgaea. In truth, they had put our SRPGs before this like, Rhapsody and La Pucelle, but Disgaea hit the zeitgeist and really brought the company into its own on both sides of the Pacific. Now, seven years later, Nippon Ichi hopes to do the same thing with rougelikes, which are pretty much the LEAST favourite type of RPG. Why is this? I’m not sure, but it could have something to do with the fact they tend to be the most challenging type of RPG as well, with their randomly generated dungeons, characters having to start from level one each time they enter and a whole host of punishment heaped up on the gamer should they die inside the dungeon.

Now publishers keep bringing roguelikes over, but they rarely get critical acclaim or much in the way of sales. Square-Enix has tried with Chocobo’s Dungeon, Atlus has tried with Baroque and Izuna, Natsume has given us Adventures to Go (which let you keep your levels at least), and so on but they just don’t get over with RPG fans. In fact the only two I can think of that have been true successes are Azure Dreams, which was published by Konami back in the PSX era and later ported to the original Game Boy, and the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, which manages to be the standard bearer for the genre in terms of being financially lucrative and accepted by critics and gamers alike. Of course, Nintendo never did bring over the WiiWare Trilogy of PMD games, which means they weren’t successful ENOUGH for NoA’s liking.

Earlier this year, Nippon Ichi gave us a truly great turn based RPG in Trinity Universe and a superb retro dungeon crawl in Cladun: This is a RPG!, making old standards and clichés feel fresh and new again. Were they able to make it three in a row with Zettai Hero Project: Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman, or was the best thing about the game its bizarre title?
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Review #378

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Costume Quest
Developer: Doublefine Productions
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date: 10/19/2010

I’ve always been a big fan of Tim Schafer’s games. Grim Fandango, The Secret of Monkey Island, Psychonauts and more are all his handiwork. So of course I was excited to see Doublefine Productions making their first traditional RPG and with a Halloween theme to boot.

There aren’t a lot of Halloween themed video games out there. There’s a horrible Atari game based on the MOVIE Halloween, and there are a lot of scary video games that are fun to play around this time of year. But how many video games are there about the actually holiday? The answer is that there really aren’t any save for Costume Quest. As someone that goes up to Salem, MA every year for the biggest Halloween party in the country, I was excited to see a game revolving around costumes and trick or treating. Couple that with one of the guys that gave us Day of the Tentacle and you have the recipe for a winning combination. So was Costume Quest a trick or a treat?
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Review #377

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Get Fit with Mel B.
Developer: Lightning Fish Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Genre: Exercise
Release Date: 10/26/2010

There are two big problems with most exercise games. The first is that the games are poorly made and actual include exercises that do more harm than good. We saw this with both EA Active and Wii Fit. The games included things like computer generated trainers that demonstrated how to do exercises incorrect, had exercises like running in place or weird jumping things (both of which can cause damage to your knees and ankles and really should be avoided) and were really more snake oil cons sold to naïve dupes that wanted to lose weight or get fit without getting a gym membership (or possibly leave their home).

The second problem is the sad excuse we call gaming journalism these days. Most of these exercise games tend to be reviewed by people that lead a very sedimentary lifestyle and who are also blissfully ignorant of proper techniques for physical fitness. These leads to horribly erroneous reviews written by people than neither know what they are talking about nor are aware of how bad some of these games are for you. But hey, since when have sites like Game Informer, IGN, 1UP and the like ever bothered to do research or quality reviews in the first place? Why make an exception for games that can actually lead to long term physical damage or their readers? It’s all about the hits and getting the review up as fast as they can for them. I still shudder at the recollection of those early reviews praising the Wii balance board for its accuracy when it was apparent to anyone who fooled around with it in the slightest that said balance board’s pressure sensitivity was a joke and it was easy to not only trick the board, but also yourself into thinking you were doing something right where you were in fact doing it horribly wrong. You wouldn’t want someone doing brain surgery on your loved ones after just reading a book on it; why would you want someone that doesn’t know the first thing about exercising to tell you which workout game to buy?

Then there’s myself. I’m a pretty physically active person and have a pretty intense exercise routine that includes several miles of jogging, 600 crunches, 50 flights of stairs and more. I exercise a lot, as should most gamers considering how often we’re sitting our asses down in front of a TV with a controller in our hands for hours at a time. I’m pretty anal retentive about making sure I am not only getting a lot of exercise in each day, but that my reps are done right and I know exactly what part of my body is being focused on. That’s why I take it upon myself to review most of the fitness games (occasionally with the help of marathon runners, yoga instructors and the like to ensure you get a high quality informative review) that come out – so that you, the consumer, are actually knowing what you are in for should you buy one of these games. My concern and goal is to make sure each and every one of you that reads me doesn’t get stuck with a piece of crap like Wii Fit or EA Active.

To date I’ve only given a thumb’s up to two exercise games so far: Your Shape with Jenny McCarthy and Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout. The former was praised because a game finally included a camera so you could watch yourself exercise and make sure you were doing reps correctly and the latter because it used two Wiimotes (one for each hand), which ensured both sides of your body were being tracked instead of one like all other exercise games. Both had their issues, but they are the best the industry has. My Fitness Coach would be #3 but it’s really a port of the awesome Yourself!Fitness for the original Xbox, so I tend not to count it.

Now it’s time for Get Fit with Mel B.. I have to admit I had to go out and purchase the Playstation Move bundle just to review this game – something I had never planned on purchasing because after spending several hours with the setup as a press event Sony had here in Washington D.C., I came to the same conclusion that every major non-gaming centric publication from the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal had: The Playstation Move is highly underwhelming and the motion detection abilities of the tandem is actually far inferior to a regular Wiimote, much less the Wiimote with Wiimotion Plus. I went out and bought that since Deep Silver sent me a review copy for three reasons: I wanted to make sure people got an actual in-depth (possibly way too long) review of this game, I love Deep Silver because they gave me the Secret Files series and because I truly care about people getting this genre right. Hell, I played this game to a depth that even Aubrey Norris, the PR rep for Deep Silver was shocked by. She’s left comments here and there on my Facebook like, “OMG!” and, “You are a MACHINE!” as I unlocked trophies 99% of people shouldn’t be able to get until they had played the game for a fortnight to a month of hard exercising. For you, the public, I crammed in 36 workouts into roughly a week – something none of you should be insane enough to try at home, ESPECIALLY if you don’t work out regularly now. Yes my body is sore, but at least you’re getting a review from someone who played the game more than 2-3 times (at most) and then wrote a review that was 50% ignorance and 50% “Yay! I did ten push-ups! 9/10!” Ugh.

So is the first exercise game to utilize the Playstation Move worth investing in, or should you just pick up NewU Fitness First Personal Trainer which is the 85% the same game, but missing a Spice Girl and for the Wii?
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Smackdown vs Raw 2011

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

It’s interesting to see the pre-order bonuses.

Wal-Mart gives you a $10 gift card and the Tribute to the Troops Arena in Iraq

Best Buy gives you Bret Hart as an exclusive character

EBgames/Gamestop gives you a $20 credit towards a PPV purchase

Amazon gives you $10 and three outfits for Randy Orton along with guaranteed release date delivery.

I’ll probably go with Amazon. Any other pre-order deals anyone knows of?

Review #376

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring
Developer: Slang/Immersion Software & Graphics
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Professional Wrestling/Lucha Libre
Release Date: 10/12/2010

I haven’t been too happy with Konami this year. The year started with a “Worst Game of the Year” contender in Walk It Out and their latest product was Castlevania: Lords of Shadow which was universally despised by the more than two dozen of us on staff. Honestly I was about ready to wash my hands with them. But I held out to give them once last chance because they were publishing Heroes Del Ring. I’ll be completely candid: The main (and only) reason I preordered this game was for the La Parka mask as he’s one of my favorite wrestlers (The original La Parka, L.A. Park, not the new guy) . Then of course the masks were cancelled at the last second, leaving me to rue trusting Konami once more. But hey, I paid off the game already, so I might as well pick it up, right?

Well, if you read my first impressions piece, you could tell I was torn on whether to like the game or not. Now that I’ve beaten the game, unlocked all but a single wrestler and have about 60-70% of the trophies, it’s time to write the review. So did Lucha Libre get better the more I played it, or did it job out like Super Calo in 1990s WCW?
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Review #375

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

NBA Jam
Developer: EA Vancouver
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Arcade Sports
Release Date: 10/5/2010

Ah, NBA Jam it’s one of the few Midway/Acclaim titles to have universal love shown for it. Between that game and Mutant League Football, 1993 was THE year for arcade sports in the Lucard household. I spent a lot of time and quarters on the original arcade game and happily picked up the Sega Genesis version when it came out. However I just wasn’t a fan of any of the sequels. NBA Jam Extreme, NBA Hangtime, College Slam and the other NBA Jam remakes failed to capture the magic of the original.

Here we are seventeen years after the original release of the game and EA Sports has picked up the license and brought the series back to life. Of course, we all know the controversy surrounding this titles and that Wii owners are more than a little pissed off with the fact that the PS3 and Xbox 360 are getting a HD version of this game with online play for a lower MSRP, but it is what it is. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how spectacularly awful EA handled the release of NBA Jam - what matters is if it is a good game or not. So does the newest version of the game put up a brick, or is it on fire?
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Review #374

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Mercurysteam
Genre: 3D Platformer
Release Date: 10/5/2010

Usually we start out reviews here at Diehard GameFAN with some teasing opener that is basically, “maybe the game is good or maybe it’s bad: read on to find out.” Not this time. I’m going to be up front with my opinion of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: I HATED it. After the first three levels I was like, “I hate this game. This thing is awful. This is just poorly designed in every way.” But then I stopped and thought, “Maybe it’s just me.” I HATE platformers after all and this game was 85% platform jumping and 15% combat. The entire genre is my least favorite in gaming, so maybe it was just my disdain for the genre coming through. So I talked to Jon Widro, our publisher who was also playing LoS (and for whom platformers are his favorite genre), what he thought of the game.

He hated it. I asked DJ Tatsuijin, our head of PR, what he thought. He hated it. I asked our newest staffer Michael Capley what he thought of it. He hated it. In fact, everyone on staff I talked to that had so much as touched either the PS3 or 360 version of the game HATED it. Even Aaron Sirois, who adores God of War style games was so unimpressed by even the demo that he decided not to touch this until it was bargain bin material. With such a wildly diverse group of gamers, it is rare that we all share the same opinion on something, especially when it comes to hating something. In fact, it has only happened twice so far: Daikatana and Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust. That’s some pretty damning company to be in.

So is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow as bad as those two aforementioned games? No, it’s really not. By now I’ve beaten the game twice and although the game is one of the ten worst of out the fifty I’ve reviewed this year, there are seven games I’ve played this year that were decidedly worse. However, there’s no denying that Castlevania: LoS is a PoS and it’s time to look at why.
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Another Year, Another Oktoberfest

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Although this was my third Oktoberfest here in Shirlington and it was exactly the same as previous years, it was still pretty fun, even for a non-drinker like myself. I had a crab cake sandwich, two different samples from Robeks (strawberry-bananna and mango-pineapple), a chicken basil thai dish with rice, a ham and cheese stomboli and then some frozen yogurt from the new place we have down here. Notice no german food at all. Take that horrible oppressors of mine ancestors.

As always it’s neat to meet new people, but its best to be there at noon or one, because when I had to go down for my 5:30 jog, the entire town smelled like booze and bad cigars. Thankfully today when I went out things were back to usual.

If you live in the area and don’t attend, you’re really missing out.

Review #373

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Haunted House
Developer: ImaginEngine
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: 10/05/2010

I’m a big fan of the original Haunted House for the Atari 2600. Along with River Raid and H.E.R.O., it is one of my favorite games for the system and something that I wish Atari would stick on compilations that they have done in the past, like the one I had for my Sega Dreamcast. When it was announced that Atari was doing a remake of the classic game and in 3D graphics, I was in. Of course part of me was hoping the original game would be made available on the disc, but alas that was not to be. What can I say? It would be nice for a generation of gamers brought up on Resident Evil and Silent Hill to play the original survival horror game.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was dimmed when I learned ImaginEngine was making the game. ImaginEngine primarily makes licensed games for little kids, which is fine. However the one game that they made that I have played is legendary in its horribleness. I’m talking about Pokemon Team Turbo, a game I forced onto Mark during “Pokemon Week” in March to show him the worst Pokemon game ever made. I was pretty worried that ImaginEngine would ruin another franchise (Although can we really call Haunted House a franchise as it’s only one game?) I so dearly love, I decided to put it out of my head because after all, I’ve only played one of their games and who knows? Maybe My Little Pony: Pinkie Pie’s Party Parade or Hello Kitty Bubblegum Girlfriends were actually really good games!

So how was Haunted House? Did ImaginEngine and Atari manage to give us a quality kid-friendly survival horror game, or was playing through this title truly a nightmare incarnate?
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