Monday, June 30, 2008

Aready been a year!

Just wanted to make a post to say that this site (er, blog) has now been up a full year as of today. Around the time I made my first post here, I thought this site would turn out to be a one month deal and that I wouldn't stick with it but, in fact, it's been quite an awesome experience!

I'd like to thank the visitors that have taken out the time to stop by and and a big thanks to the more frequent visitors - you know who you are, all three of you. :)

Here's hoping for another year!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Do you enjoy sweet Goozex?

Well, do you?

You don't...? Well, you should.

I just wanted to share this site with my visitors. I think it is only open to users in North America though.

Basically it is trading site where you can swap games with other users. Goozex uses a point system for all trades and charges $1 per trade (trade credits). Most new games are around 1000 points and some older games go as low as 100 points. Basically 100 points = $5. If you trade off the games that you don't want and build up a good amount of points then you'll only ever have to spend $1 per trade and pay nothing else (well, except for shipping if you're the one making the game offer).

I've been using Goozex for a few months now with some very good results. Here's a list of games that I have gotten so far:

Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (Xbox) - 100 pts
Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max (PSP) - 250 pts
Kameo: Elements of Power (X360) - 250 pts
Turok: Evolution (Xbox) - 100 pts hey, I was curious
Resident Evil 4 Preview Disc (GC) - 100 pts I know, I know...
Yoshi's Island DS (DS) - 300 pts
And I only had to trade off just a few newer games to get those (House of the Dead [Wii] and a few others). Still have 1400 points left as well. As you can see, I like to surf the site for older games. To me, you get the best deals with the older titles.

I usually sell my unwanted games on, but this site sometimes gives me more value per game. It is most likely a better alternative than Gamestop trades as well.

If you do join then be sure to join through the link above or the link on the right side of the page below so we'll both get an extra 100 points and 1 trade credit on your first positive trade.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 - Review

This review originally posted on Gamers' Temple.

Player(s): 3
Memory: 136 MB
Extra Support: Online Co-Op, Leaderboards

Around the time when Billy The Cowboy was rustling up outlaws in the wild west in Gun.Smoke and Arthur was battling hordes of demons in Ghost n' Goblins, another hero by the name of Super Joe was annihilating enemy armies and rescuing their captives in Commando. The original Commando was the first isometric shooter from Capcom that went on to spawn a sequel in the early 90's by the name of "Mercs". Mercs (or Commando II) greatly improved the action of the original and brought in extra weapons and vehicles. The Japanese title of both Commando games was "Senjou No Ookami" which translates to "Battlefield of the Wolf". With the incorporation of the Japanese title along with the American title, Wolf of the Battlefield (WOTB): Commando 3 also combines the gameplay of both original Commando titles and brings in some new gameplay enhancements and graphics for the newer generation of gaming.

Upon first starting up WOTB: Commando 3 the change in art style was definitely noticeable. The original realistic character designs of the first two games has been replaced with a Cartoon Network-like art style that is full of color and exaggerates the character emotions with its still drawings much like a Samurai Jack episode. The menus are full of little animations here and there while exploring the game's options. The new art style works really well with the new characters that are introduced this time.

Speaking of the characters, there are three selectable characters that may be chosen from the start of the game - Wolf, Coyote and Fox. Unlike Mercs, Commando 3 differentiates the characters stats a bit in order to make each one feel different. One character can take more damage than the other two, one character has average attributes, and one character can hold more grenades and is faster but she has a very small life bar.

After choosing a character, you will notice that the game is still showcased with an overhead view reminiscent of the first two games but the controls have changed a bit. Firing is now down with the right analog much like Assault Heroes. This new control setup allows one to move in any direction while firing in another making it a most welcome change of control compared to the other games in the series where you had to quickly face a certain direction to fire. The HD graphics are showcased in full 3-D. The characters and enemies are a bit bigger than those found in Assault Heroes and they're animations are fluid while walking though the main characters lack a bit detail and look blocky when stared at each one from up close. Environments such as trees buildings have a lot of detail however.

The game plays much like Mercs. Each of its five levels has swarms of soldiers that will be running toward your character and there are many environmental objects that may be destroyed. Different weapons can be picked up throughout each level. You have the choice of a normal machine gun, a spread fire, a flamethrower, and a rocket launcher. Grenades have been brought back once again from the original Commando and each character can stockpile a certain number of them. Each character must pause a bit during the grenade tossing animation, which can get you hit, so each grenade toss must be planned out. Each of the characters also has their own unique special attack that will bring up a short animated sequence then trigger an on-screen explosion that will take down most surrounding normal enemies.

There are also a few vehicles that may be found in some levels that players can take control of. Sadly, there is not as much of variety of vehicles like there was in Mercs however. In Commando 3 there are only two different kinds of vehicles. The vehicles have some clumsy controls when trying to steer them and it is sometimes hard to exit from a vehicle and walk away from it - sometimes I would exit from a vehicle then wind up getting right back into it since there was no space to move away from it. The game is primarily on foot though - vehicle portions are not found that often.

Commando 3 once again brings back hostages from the original Commando. Each hostage is held in a cage and must be freed through weapon fire. Secret areas are also spread throughout the game and may be found by tossing a grenade at mysterious looking walls. Certain markers such as an odd blue flame, red flower or some other type of oddity signify a breakable wall and these secret areas lead to more powerups, weapons and sometimes hostages. The game totals up the amount of hostages and secret areas found at the end of each level to help tally the score.

One might expect each level to have an end boss but not each level has one. Two of the bosses are nearly identical tanks with a few attacks that distinguish them. Thankfully the final boss is unique and there is a big battle at the end of level 4 that seems much like a boss fight. I was slightly disappointed with most of the bosses, especially with the recycled tank bosses since Mercs offered an entirely different boss per level giving the player more of a sense of variety. Even though Commando 3 only has five levels, each level is pretty long and will challenge you greatly. I always had my feel of a level as it ended whether there was a boss or not.

The sound in Commando 3 doesn't incorporate any classic tunes from the series but it does bring in some new pieces that match the game well. You'll really be too busy spamming gunfire to notice the soundtrack but I did find myself humming along to level 1's music. Some of the other tunes are catchy as well. One would expect all of the music to be loud and aggressive - most of it is, but the title screen music is rather laid back. Sound effects mainly consist of the sounds of gunfire and grunts of soldiers dying on the battlefield.

Commando 3 can be played cooperatively with up to three players through normal multiplayer options or Xbox LIVE. Co-Op gameplay can get rather chaotic with the sheer amount of firepower on the screen at one time, mainly when three characters are used. Even a skilled player can fall victim to a stray bullet very easily as all three characters shoot. All three characters also share lives so one non-skilled player can drag down the team by dying too much early on in the game and leave the other two with no extra lives. Commando 3 is best played single player or with friends rather than being matched up with new gamers online. While playing through Co-Op, each of the three characters can get inside of a vehicle and control different guns in that vehicle (one player controls the steering). This can make for some very fun carnage infested romps through certain portions of each level when a vehicle is found.

The Xbox LIVE version also grants access to a downloadable beta version of the upcoming Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix that will be released sometimes in the future. Unfortunately at the time of writing this, the beta has not been released so I can't comment on it. It will be released on June 25th, trying to download it right now from the main menu will only give you an error message.

Commando 3 is a very fun shooter and a worthy introduction to Capcom's line of next-gen downloadable sequels for their classic franchises. Like most shooter games, Commando 3 is best played in short sequences but the game will have you coming back to find secret areas and trying to beat your best score. The four modes of difficulty add a bit to the replay value as well. The game is only about 1 hour long from start to finish, but you most likely won't be blasting straight through on your first playthrough - a bit of familiarity with each level helps out a lot for completing the full game since there are no continues and each player only receives a few lives. At 800 points, Commando 3 is worth a try for those that are hungry for a good arcade shooter or those that want a good blend of Commando and Mercs (Commando 2).

Graphics: 8.0
Controls: 8.0
Sound: 8.0
Gameplay: 8.5

The Good:

+ A good blend of Commando and its sequel, Mercs
+ 3 unique characters to choose from
+ Comfortable control setup
+ Very fun single player game

The Bad:

- Only 2 vehicles
- Vehicles are hard to control at times
- Co-Op play with 3 players can make the game harder thanks to shared lives


WOTB: Commando 3 blends the gameplay of both of its predecessors and makes a good stand against the other arcade shooters on the marketplace.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ninja Gaiden II - Review

Player(s): 1
Memory: 144KB
Extra Features: Content Download, Leaderboards

About four years ago, a friend of mine kept bugging me to check out the new Ninja Gaiden that was released on Xbox. I eventually got an Xbox around the middle portion of that year but didn't get around to playing Ninja Gaiden until much later since I was involved in other games - my friend literally brought me his copy and insisted that I play it. After a few plays, I did indeed see where all of his excitement for the game was generated from and went out to buy the game myself. The original Ninja Gaiden was easily the most unique action experience that the Xbox had to offer if you ask me and one that required much dedication to fully conquer.

The last Ninja Gaiden dealt with the Vigoor Empire and a treacherous betrayal in the Dragon Clan but this time the story focuses on the Spider Ninja Clan that many may remember from the last game. The clan's leader attacks Hayabusa village and steals the demon statue. The mysterious female villain (Elizeb├ęt) along with the Spider Ninja Clan travel the globe and resurrect the Greater Fiends while on their way to revive the ultimate Archfiend.

About half of the game's story is told through the text displayed before each chapter and the other half is shown in cutscene form. The overall story felt weaker than the last game's story and some characters didn't have as much development and screen time as I would have liked to have seen but overall it was decent and it did have its moments. Like the first game, some of the cutscenes stand out very well from the others. The sequel doesn't use FMVs like the first game, all the cutscenes use the in-game graphics and character models.

The story takes a back row seat to the action gameplay and this game serves up that action in great quantities like before. The gameplay in Ninja Gaiden II is absolutely fantastic! The game still uses the same basic gameplay mechanics from the last game but the action has been intensified and the overall game is much more violent. Each battle is filled with tons of bloodshed as Ryu cuts off arms, legs, heads and torsos. With some weapons, you can completely tear your foes apart. Wounded enemies with one arm or one leg can still fight and they are some of most dangerous enemies to have in a battle because of their suicide moves. A new technique known as the "Obliteration Technique" allows Ryu to instantly kill any wounded enemy with the tap of the Y button near them. Press the button and Ryu will perform a finishing blow to that enemy.

Ryu can find a big assortment of weapons on this new adventure and all of them feel different and are very fun to use. All of them have quite a variety of attacks that grow as each weapon is upgraded. Even the bigger weapon - the Eclipse Scythe - has a bunch of attack combinations available to it. Many of the weapons also have their own version of a Flying Swallow attack that used to be exclusive to only the Dragon Sword. Each weapon still has an Ultimate Technique that can easily turn the tides of a battle in your favor.

The difficulty can still get just as intense as the last game even on Acolyte difficulty (easiest). Normal enemies attack with extreme aggression and bosses get all up in your face with their hard-hitting blows that will send Ryu flying to the other side of the room if a mistake is made while attempting to dodge. Oh, you'll still be pausing the game or pulling up the item menu to use those health items. The number of healing items that Ryu can carry has been lowered this time (3 small and 3 large).

Ryu's health now regenerates after every battle, but there is a certain amount of red damage on the life meter known as "Permanent Damage" that will remain unless healed with an item or blue essence. Some may complain that this new health regeneration makes the game too easy. To those people, I say, play on an extremely hard mode then get back to me about how much easier the game is with the new health regeneration. There were times where I felt that the game hated me, but in fact the game doesn't hate anyone - it just messes with you until you're willing to get better. Beyond all the hardships in Ninja Gaiden lies an ultimate sense of satisfaction after defeating your greatest nemesis, a satisfaction that not many other games can deliver.

There are altogether four modes of difficulty - acolyte, warrior, mentor and master ninja - and each difficulty feels unique by changing the enemy setup at certain parts much like the first game. You'll be facing the brutal dog enemies much earlier on higher difficulties and some of the bosses will have normal enemies along with them. There are also various challenges that can be engaged in, such as completing the game with a single weapon from your arsenal. There is a "Complete" game option (Clear game file) that allows Ryu to start with all weapons and previously collected power ups once the game has been beaten this time around.

There were a few battles that seemed unfair because of the way the camera would trail off from Ryu. During boss battles, the camera can now be locked-on to the boss or it can be changed to follow behind Ryu. The camera that follows a boss can sometimes get stuck or it might refuse to show the full view of the boss if Ryu gets too close, which can lead to some mistimed dodging. Thankfully, you can always press RB to switch to the other camera mode in order to fix those problems.

The camera problems also surface during normal gameplay. There were times where the camera would get stuck behind an obstacle or sometimes it would not show me a full view of a platform after jumping to a high platform - basically the camera wouldn't raise up enough to show me what was in front of Ryu, making me have to tilt it upwards as the character walked ahead.

The controls during battle were once again just as precise as they were in the last Ninja Gaiden. Every move and attack was executed with little effort as each area filled with red from my bloody rampages. Jumping to platforms and wall running was never much of a problem. Much like the last game, the slightest wrong movement while jumping can sometimes cause Ryu to run all over the nearby walls however, so some caution still has to be taken while platforming. The controls for swimming still feel sluggish much like the last game.

One of my complaints from the last game was that the bow didn't feel quite right while aiming because of the first person view with a lack of precision aiming but in Ninja Gaiden II we are shown a side view of Ryu as he aims the bow and there is a red dot to help out in aiming this time. There is also a quick weapon change and item menu that can be instantly brought up by tapping on the D-pad. This menu allows a player to quickly switch between weapons and use items much faster than having to go to the pause menu, though you can still change them the old way (through the inventory menu) if you want.

The overall graphical look of Ninja Gaiden II really hasn't changed that much since the last Ninja Gaiden. The character models are slightly better looking (mainly in the face) and there are some noticeable upgrades such as the smoother and more realistic looking water. Every single body part of an enemy now stays on the ground once each enemy has been defeated, so you can retrace your steps to previous room and have fond memories of the great battle therein and the ownage that you dished out and painted the room with.

Ryu's weapons become stained with the blood of his enemies after battles. He can actually swipe his weapon to the side to clean the blood off the blade while standing still and holding the weapon - a cool little extra. The game does have some slowdown in some areas that litter the screen with enemies. Even though Ninja Gaiden can look quite beautiful while moving in slow motion this can still interfere with combat at times but the slowdown only happens during a certain few battles.

Each chapter is usually composed of one linear path that will get you from point A to B. Battles are a lot more frequent this time, which is most welcome for a game with such good combat. The game constantly wants you to press forward and usually bars your entrance path. There is very little backtracking and returning to prior stages unlike the last game. The stages don't connect like they did in the first Ninja Gaiden, so you can't backtrack for an item.

The game has some catchy tunes that play throughout each stage that were quite memorable. The electric guitar music that plays during the outside storm during the castle stage (Volf's castle) is one of my favorites. There are many other good tracks here and there as well. I always played the first Ninja Gaiden with Japanese voices and meant to do the same for the sequel but accidentally started with English voices and I must say that I was very impressed with the English voice work this time. The greater fiend's voices sound just as fitting as their Japanese counterparts. It's hard not to listen to Ryu speak in Japanese though, since I am so used to his DOA voice actor.

Even with the camera flaws and story gripes, Ninja Gaiden II is a very worthy sequel to the first game. Even though the game may not have as many extra as Ninja Gaiden Black, it can last for quite a while with its four modes of difficulty and weapon challenges. With the addition of some extremely useful weapons and the ability to wound your enemies and utterly annihilate them, the gameplay of the second installment has been improved greatly from its predecessor. For any action game fan out there, Ninja Gaiden II is definitely worth a look if you're ready for a challenge.

Graphics: 8.5
Controls: 9.0
Sound: 9.0
Gameplay: 10.0

The Good:

+ Gameplay that still remains as addicting as the original Ninja Gaiden
+ A variety of different weapons that are all useful and fun to use
+ Tight controls during combat
+ Still as challenging as the last game

The Bad:

- Camera can lose site of your character or get stuck at times
- Story didn't seem as good as the last game


Much like the first game, Ninja Gaiden II will once again pulverize you and kick you while you're down, but I have a feeling you'll be smiling on the inside the whole time.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

New Turok guide

Turok Strategy Guide by Berserker

I like the new Turok quite a bit. I really do... but I just can't bring myself to finish this guide at the moment. Ninja Gaiden II is way too addicting.

For now, all I really have is a weapon list and a walkthrough for the campaign. Readers of my DMC4 FAQ might notice some reused ASCII art for the Turok guide since I got lazy toward the end. I originally wanted to have multiplayer info and co-op walkthroughs. Might try to finish up on Turok at some later point this summer. Or maybe not.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to playing and cursing at Ninja Gaiden II.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Biohazard 5 site now open

The Resident Evil 5 Japanese site is now open, or should I say, the Biohazard 5 site is now open.

It has up an HD version of both trailers for RE5 and it also has a few different images that the North American site doesn't have, like this picture of Chris:

I don't think ^that pic of Chris was taken from the latest trailer. Anyone recognize it from the trailer?

The Biohazard site also has up those two wallpapers with error notes on them that were posted on the North American site, only this time the writing on them is in Japanese, so I suppose they are indeed official wallpapers for RE5...?

UPDATE (6/3)

Just a few extra bits of info for RE5:

Biohazard 5 HD Trailer is now up on GameTrailers.
Gametrailers Video Interview with Jun Takeuchi
Gamespot Video Interview with Jun Takeuchi

So much info to absorb there. Game will be released before March 31 2009 according to Jun Takeuchi! More info will be available at E3!

There is even more info posted up at THIA.

UPDATE (6/5)

IGN video interview with Jun Takeuchi

UPDATE (6/6)

RE5 Pop-Up Block on Gametrailers - Very interesting details on the new trailer.