Monday, July 26, 2010

Trinity Universe and Big Bang Mini arrive

I think I did a hefty amount of avoidance when it comes to NIS America and their JRPGs (Mostly because I'm terrible at finishing them. I'm looking at all you Disgaea games), so to succumb and try out Trinity Universe now at almost a month after a release is a new record for me. Hopefully this is better than Cross Edge.

Big Bang Mini, on the other hand, was only delayed for so long because I was looking for a good deal to bite on it. I've borrowed and played the game before, so I know what to expect - great gameplay, great music (which is still free to download from their site), and unique style makes the game a replayable classic. Did I mention there's single-cart 2-player mode?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

DeathSpank leaves a strange craving...

I can't quite place it...demos are usually just that - a sample of gameplay to give you a taste, usually over-patronizing in tutorials, and end way too early before you get to try out the really cool stuff.

The DeathSpank demo does none of that; the demo feels like the full game, there's no countless windows of tutorial messages to clutter up your limited experience, and at one point, there is a timer in the upper-right corner ticking down from 20 minutes - probably a timer for how much time left you have to play the demo. The timer could've practically have been irrelevant to me, since the game sold me before that even went up.

I'll admit, I really had no initial anticipation for Deathspank. All I knew about it was it was created by Ron Gilbert (of Monkey Island fame) and a couple of videos. It wasn't until I actually sat down with the demo that I heard for the first time what the game sounded like.

DeathSpank's voice actor has the baritone of Qwark from Ratchet and Clank, and the allure of Zap Brannigan from Futurama. His personality is the perfect mixture of suave and heroic stupidity. All his interactions with the locals are reminiscent of "Monkey Island" brand humor, with multiple dialogue selections to carry conversations on wide tangents. And while the voice acting can get as slow as being hand-fed every spoonful of syllable, everyone else's role shines through. (Just found out now that it's Townsend Coleman, the same person that voiced The Tick from the animated series. That explains a lot!)

If you've ever played any Animal Crossing game after Wild World, the environment will be familiar ground. The terrain is like a long conveyor belt, simulating a vanishing horizon near the top of the screen, and adjusts as you traverse the world. It's both a visual treat and a practical gameplay element.

What's probably the most engrossing part is what everyone touts as the "Diablo-like" equipment system, where you can equip yourself with items, weapons, and armor picked up as you progress. And the game spares no time taking itself seriously with item names like "Cleaver of Cleavening." What it boils down to is an RPG of mixing and matching equipment based on the situation, using what works best at that moment.

Bottom line, if you like Ron Gilbert humor and mindless enemy killings, you'll enjoy DeathSpank. Hell, in the time I took to write this article, I've downloaded the full game!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finally received my Zero T-Shirt!

Thanks to Capcom-Unity and their awesome Mega Man Zero Collection fan event, everyone that attended got a free shirt mailed to them. And mine finally arrived! Gaze at the awesomeness that is Zero in this winning T-shirt design!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2...120 stars complete!

Just like the first game, I've completed Super Mario Galaxy 2 with its own 120 stars, but not without some sweat and tears. While I believe the difficulty factor was increased a notch, it didn't feel as difficult as the first one. However, they did bring back that cursed 8-bit Mario level that everyone practically hated for its purple-coin challenge with an added twist, and made a rolling-ball level on a Rainbow-Road track. Kudos to Nintendo for busting out the familiar "OMGWTF was that" references!

And like the first game, there's another set of 120 stars to collect in the form of Green Prankster stars littered in all the levels. Basically, for every star that existed in each level, another green star is there. And some of them are located in very sneaky places! I'm into 160+ stars now, so look out in the future for another post for possibly a FULL completion of a game!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

E3 2010: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair Hands-On

The call for more Castlevania 2D games has been answered a number of times, so expecting another version to appear at E3 is practically a no-brainer. But what if no story were attached to it? What if all you were tasked to do was to slaughter all of Dracula's minions just for the sake of it? Enter the arcade-y stylings of Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair takes the tried-and-true 2D platformer and boiled it down to a saucy reduction of pure flavor; gone are the story elements that generally weave through all the boss battles, the lengthy backtracking through the ENTIRE castle to accomplish goals, and even the use of the map as a tool. What's left are small, short bursts of vampire-whipping levels with a starting point and a boss battle goal, all on a level designed straight on the map. What's even more amusing is the three different zoom modes you can set on the level. So, you can zoom up to a normal playing perspective, a partial zoom-out to see all nearby rooms surrounding you, or a full-blown, where-the-hell-am-I zoom out where you see practically EVERYTHING.

The demo of the game had 5 selectable characters, most of which are actually from the DS games. Apart from Alucard from Symphony of the Night, there is Soma Cruz, Shanoa, and the dual of Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin from Dawn of Sorrow, Order of Ecclesia, and Portrait of Ruin, respectively. Each character also comes with their own set of special abilities they can perform with magic, all triggered Smash Bros. style by pressing a direction and the B button.

There are even unique game mechanics that characters carry with them from their previous titles. For example, Shanoa's ability in Order of Ecclesia was her surrounding sphere that allowed her to lock onto gems in levels, and you would used the stylus to drag her in one direction from the gem in a slingshot-like fashion to release and launch her to hard-to-reach areas. In the levels themselves, certain rooms will contain these gems that only Shanoa will be able to utilize. Depending on what character you choose, your level traversing options may vary.

The level structures all follow a set format: a starting point, a big boss location, and a time limit. What's awesome is that everything's happening all at once before you; enemies in every room are moving around in their own pace, platforms and pendulums are swinging around waiting to be used, and the boss can suddenly wake up and dish out an attack that crosses through the entire map aimed squarely at you. This time it's you against the entire map, and if you're not careful, the map will win.

In addition to the single-player mode, there will be a co-op mode (which will bring about harder bosses to take down) and survival mode. Games can also host up to 6 players simultaneously, and will be online. Expect Castlevania: Harmony of Despair to be released on Xbox Live Arcade on August 4th.

Friday, July 2, 2010

E3 2010: Sonic Colors Hands-On

On the floor, I decided to humor myself and see how horrible Sonic Colors on the Wii would turn out to be. Turns out, I was in for a surprise.

Not only was Sonic Colors fun to play, but it felt like a Sonic game; a game more focused on speed and agility without all the added minor gameplay elements. Getting from point A to point B was straight-forward, and the attacks were a mere button press away as you auto-lock your enemies without missing a beat. With a mix of small 3D elements and 2D platformer, it almost plays like a good (dare I say it) Mario game! Even with the added color elements, all of which perform a specific action like drilling or increased speed, Sonic Colors doesn't stray too far from its original roots.

With all due respect, this is a game I'm sure Sonic fans will revel in, since it feels like a big-brother version of Sonic Rush on the DS. Coincidentally, the DS version of Sonic Colors follows the same vein as Sonic Rush, bringing another 2D Sonic Game to the portable console.

Sonic Colors comes out on the Wii and DS this Fall 2010.