Quickie Review: Mega Man Maverick Hunter X

As you probably already know, Mega Man Maverick Hunter X (referred to as MM:MH from now on) is a remake of the original Mega Man X for the Super Nintendo.  However, much like Mega Man Powered Up was, is much more than a simple port to the PSP.  This isn’t really a short ‘quickie review’, but hey, it’s not really a full-on review, either.  Regardless, let’s get started on the comparing/contrasting.

When you first boot up the game, the only thing that’s available to you is ‘X Mode’, which would obviously let you play through the game as X.  The game overall plays much like the original: You run through the eight Maverick stages, finding power-ups and stealing the bosses’ weapons, then you blast through Sigma’s palace to take on the main baddie himself.  The levels are overall unchanged, though a few things are moved around, most notable of which being the locations of X’s armor upgrades.  In addition, some of the bosses get some new tactics in this game, which can make them easier or harder (in my opinion, mostly easier).  Overall, the game is easier than the original (at least, it was on Normal Mode… that may not be the case on Hard), which can be good for Mega Man newcomers, but not so much for veterans of the series.

Moving on, though, when you beat X Mode, you get two things: An anime short and Vile Mode.  Let’s touch on the movie real quick… it’s about twenty minutes long, and it explains some of the events before the first game.  It’s interesting if you’re interested in the actual story of the series, and it surprisingly doesn’t spoil any plot points in other games.  Of course, if you don’t care about the story, then you probably won’t find much good in the anime.

However, the most interesting part about MM:MH is the new Vile Mode.  Vile plays completely differently from X, featuring the ability to use three different kinds of weapons at once.  He also gets a bunch of new weapons every time you beat a Maverick, so he gets to be really customizable.  However, Vile’s mode is also a lot harder because of this:  You’re gonna have to find new strategies for the bosses.  Thankfully, Capcom did a good job tweaking the levels so that the enemies sets and other things are better suited for Vile’s playing style.  What that basically means is that the difficulty doesn’t stem from cheap deaths or an enemy that’s hard for Vile to hit.  It’s also interesting to note that Vile’s story stays pretty canonical to the original story (or X’s, if you will).

MM:MH is a pretty good remake.  It offers stuff for both the newbie and the old veteran, and the price I paid for it ($15) was worth it.  Of course, this is a game where mileage will vary, and you can see why by everything above.

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Review: Ys Seven

Information about Ys Seven…
Consoles Game is Available For: Playstation Portable
Genre: Action RPG
Developer/Publisher: Falcom/XSeed
US Release Date: August 2010

The Ys series has always been an odd one for me.  I was always fascinated with the series, but the only game I played was a homebrew patched version of Ys Eternal (it’s a remake of the first and second game, though I never got to the second) for the PC.  The game entertained me greatly, and while I wanted to try other games in the series, I just… never did.  Ys is essentially my favorite little series I’ve never played.

So… back to Ys Seven.  I hadn’t known that the game had come out… hell, I didn’t even know the game was ANNOUNCED.  My boyfriend and I picked it up because of the awesome special edition (cloth map of the world for the win) and that the GameStop employee insisted that it was the ‘last copy we like’ (i.e., in any sort of decent shape).  I put the game away for a day or two, but I decided to open it up and try the game out.  I mean, it’s Ys, after all.

Yeah, that's the special edition. Be jealous.

When I first booted the game up, I was a little skeptical.  The graphics were okay, but some thing about it irked me (They couldn’t animate someone getting up off the ground?  Really?), and I got lost in the town I couldn’t exit for god knows how long.  I had finally gotten somewhere after about an hour and a half, and it really wasn’t speaking good for Ys.

But then… I got outside.

And swung my sword.

And all my doubts went away.

Ys Seven, and I can say this without a doubt, is the mechanically best Action RPG I’ve played.  Ever.  This game is fast-paced, streamlined, and insanely fun.  You can have up to three members in your party (obviously to facilitate the three different attack types), and you can switch between them with a tap of a button, making battles go at a brisk pace.  In fact, all of the controls are easy to learn, so that you won’t spend much time trying to figure out what does what.

Boss battles in Ys Seven are just as fun as the rest of the game, but also very challenging.  A word of advice:  You better learn to dodge well, or the bosses will hand you your ass.  All (well, okay, most) of the bosses require strategy to beat, but you never need to grind to get past them.  Ys Seven nicely throws away ‘fake’ difficulty (you know, the kind you need to be higher level to get past) for a true challenge.

That's the first boss. Yes, that's 4000 HP. Good luck.

What about the other aspects of the game?  Well, the graphics aren’t bad, like I said before.  They’re actually pretty good.  There are just a few points that I consider lazy on the part of the designers (like the point I stated before), but overall there is nothing wrong ar garish about them.  The story is basically standard RPG fare, and if you’ve played a lot of those like I have, you can probably guess most of the plot twists a mile away.  The music, as the Falcom standard, is awesome, with only a few tracks that I thought were just okay.

I guess my point is… this game is fun.  The most fun I’ve ever had with an Action RPG.  Its battle system is streamlined for fast-pace awesomeness, and I am pleased with this entry in the Ys series.  Even though I know it’ll be different, I can’t wait to play another game in one of my favorite series (that I still haven’t played much of).

Quickie Review: Castlevania: Harmony of Dispair

[Author’s Note: Quickie Reviews aren’t written like my normal reviews… well, that’s because they’re quickies!  They’re easy for me to write, and easy for you to read.]

Castlevania: Harmony of Dispair (HD for short) is a total fan service game.  If you don’t like Castlevania, you will not like this game.

That being said, though, it’s really not like the ‘Metroid-vania’ games that HD pulls their characters from.  It’s essentially a Castlevania MMO, since you can get online with up to six people, fun through six stages of throwbacks mainly from the DS games, and eventually grind for those rare drops from Dracula on Hard mode for hours on end.  So… maybe if you are a Castlevania fan, if farming and grinding isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you may not like this either.

Thankfully, each of the five characters has something unique to offer to the game, and different ways of obtaining their skills.  Alucard’s the basic weapons guy, with a few ‘meh’ spells and a lot of awesome equipment.  Soma obtains souls, and getting them is random from the enemies killed.  Jonathon uses subweapons, which you level up though CONSTANT TEDIOUS usage (it sucks).  Charlotte has spells you absorb from enemies.  And Shanoa… oh, hell, I don’t know what she does.  I never used her.  Point is, everyone’s different, and it adds a bit of variety to the gameplay for when you’ve seen that same stage for the hundredth time.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s also certainly not a bad game.  The online community is still active, especially with the new DLC that came out (though it’s unlikely I’ll pay 400 MS point for only one new map… milk it more, Konami?), so you won’t be running dry on teammates.  One thing, though, is that you shouldn’t try the demo… it doesn’t really capture what the game’s about.  Watch some videos instead.

Oh yeah… and be thankful (or unthankful?) it wasn’t like this:

Review: Mega Man Legends

Information about Mega Man Legends:
Consoles Game was Available For: PlayStation, Nintendo 64 (Mega Man 64)
Genre: Action-Adventure
Developer/Publisher: Capcom/Capcom
US Release Date: August 1998 (PS1), January 2001 (N64)

The Mega Man series is one that is ever-endearing.  It’s been around since the days of the Nintendo, of course, always delivering ball crushing hard, but (mostly) excellent games.  When the series moved on to the PS1, Capcom decided to take the series into 3D, with a new story arc different from the original and X arcs… and that’s just how Mega Man Legends came to be.  MMLegends is a game very different from its predecessors, taking a bit of an adventure game to the Mega Man formula.  Whether or not this was exciting or innovative… for a game over ten years old, it’s more important to ask… has it stood the test of time?  Well, read on to find out.

Mega Man Legends takes place last in the Mega Man timeline… a good 80,000 (estimated) years or so after the other games in the series.  You play as Mega Man Volnutt, an accomplished Digger.  A ‘Digger’ is basically a treasure hunter, rushing into old ruins and looking for refractor shards, the world’s energy source.  The game begins in exploring one such ruin, though a mishap requires the party’s airship to crash-land on an island.  The game is spent exploring the island and it’s ruins on the mayor’s request, slowly uncovering the secrets of the ruins beneath the island… whether it’s for the best or not.

While that’s a quick overview to the story, there’s actually so much more to it, though to explain more would probably be too spoil-y.  While the beginning parts of the game promise little in the way of it, later parts of the game throw a bunch of interesting plot twists, and a lot of loose ends are left open for Mega Man Legends 2.  Overall, it’s a good story, though it takes a bit to really get rolling.

When it comes to the gameplay, MMLegends really shows its age the most.  MMLegends was released before the DualShock controller, so controlling Mega Man’s moves fall solely on the D-Pad.  Being a 3-D game, it makes movement a awkward, especially when the L1 and R1 buttons are used for turning.  To say the least, it takes a bit of getting used to.

On the same note, locking onto enemies is also a bit odd.  When locking on, Mega Man will automatically lock on to the nearest enemy.  While this is normally a good thing, the lock on will shift if a different enemy gets closer than the one currently locked on.  Coupled with the inability to manually shift who you’re locked onto, it can lead to some frustration, though overall it isn’t a bad system.

After getting used to the outdated controls, though, the game plays pretty nicely.  There are a few difficulty spikes, and times you’ll have to grind for Zenny (the game’s money unit) for better equipment, but for the most part it isn’t a difficult game.  Some bosses will take multiple tries, but usually it won’t be too extreme.

For the game’s presentation, this is a PlayStation game.  The graphics are blocky, of course, but they still look pretty decent.  Unlike most of the games in the day, the characters have varied facial expressions, and it really gives them a bit of personality.  For the music, I really didn’t take much notice to the tracks other than the town and final dungeon music.  None of the tracks were bad, but they never stuck out.  Voice acting is also alright, though the game tends to have volume issues with the voices and sound effects, and without subtitles every cutscene had me playing with the remote, turning the volume up and down.

Facial expressions are a bit over-exaggerated, and are (I assume) are supposed to look like it's from an anime.

So, is MMLegends a good game?  Yes.  Does it play perfectly?  No.  It’s outdated, but it’s well worth playing.  Once you get used to the controls, you’ll be in for an enjoyable ride… and one that’ll want you to play the second game!

Quickie Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

Note: Quickie Reviews are done in a different format than my normal reviews.  Why?  So they’re quick, for both me to write and you to read.

Oh, good old Sonic the Hedgehog, with his cool ‘tude, his super speed, and his fake ‘Blast Processing’.  Mario’s rival back in the days of the Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog was the blue animal’s debut.  But that was over ten years ago… does the first Sonic game stand the test of time…?

Well, no.  Let’s start with the lack of the speed dash: It might be one of Sonic’s signature moves, but it wasn’t introduced until the  second game.  While you could still roll by pressing down while running, but you can’t start a spin dash from a standing position.  It may not seem like much, until you’re in a situation that you’ll really want it… maybe when you lose your speed going up-hill, for example?  It only becomes a real problem rarely, but after you’ve played another game of the series, it’s hard to get on without the spin dash.

Also, it seems like most of the stages weren’t really built for Sonic’s speed.  When I say this, the second Zone pops into my mind.  All the things blocking your path, trying to crush you… the ‘careful’ platforming (at least for a Sonic game), and so on… it really ruins what the game’s all about, which is speed.  Of course, there are some stages where you can run and enjoy yourself, but be careful… unless you memorized the stage layout, there’s likely to be an enemy there as soon as you feel safe.

Now, this might sound like a bash-fest, but the game is still fun.  The stages are still decent, and the music is great.  It has its flaws, but it’s still worth a playthrough, as long as you understand that it’s just not as good as the later Genesis games.

Eh, I think that’s it, I don’t have much else to say.  See, that’s why they’re Quickie Reviews!

Quickie Review: Fatal Labyrinth

Note: Quickie Reviews aren’t done in the same format as my other reviews.  Why?  Because they’re supposed to be quick, for both me to write and you to read.

I recently beat Fatal Labyrinth on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.  They’re not much I can say about this game, really.  It’s a standard rouge-like game (if you don’t quite know what a rouge-like is, wikipedia is sure to help), though different from most is that it has some decent graphics.  Nothing to be amazed with, to be sure, but compared to most rouge-likes in genreal, not bad.

Oh yeah, a quick overview of the story: Some dragon took the Holy Goblet and now you gotta fight through the Fatal Labyrinth, with nothing but a knife and the clothes on your back.  Seriously, you could have at least asked the damn guards for a better weapon or something.  Oh well…

Anyway, like most rouge-likes, you have to find EVERYTHING you need on the ground, from weapons and armor, to potions and food.  Who’d really drink potions and eat food just sitting around on the ground of a dangerous dungeon is my guess, but you’d better do it here, or you won’t last long, since our hero forgot to pack lunch.  Oh but don’t eat TOO much, or else…

Of course… you’ll get used to dying at lot in this game.  Maybe I’m just really bad at rouge-likes, or I just have miserable luck, but I died A LOT… but one thing made me feel better about dying.  I mentioned before that my memorial service changed as I went through the game, but as opposed to my original thoughts (farther I got, better memorial), getting a better grave was determined solely on how much money I had.  Kinda depressing… had I died on the 30th floor with no gold, I’d still only get a rock as a grave…

There are 30 floors in the game, and after you getting through them all, you’ll fight the only boss, the evil dragon… and the bastard likes to make you dance.  I won’t spoil the rest, though I doubt anyone else will really want to play this game.  It’s not that it’s a BAD game, it’s just… there’s so many other games you can play, especially since I only played this because it was on the Genesis collection.

Guess that sums it up about Fatal Labyrinth.  A bit disorganized, yes, but still understandable.  In the end, I would have never bought this for the Genesis, but since it came in the Genesis Collection, I guess it’s not bad.  If you’re in the mood for a rouge-like, it’s worth a try.

Review: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Information about Dragon Quest VIII:
Consoles Game is Available for: Playstation 2
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Developer/Publisher: Level 5/Square-Enix
US Release Date: November 2005

When Dragon Quest VIII was announced way-back-when, it’s an understatement to say I was excited for it.  I’m a huge fan of the series, and while VII disappointed me a little, it looked like this next game in the long-running series was shaping up to be something great.  Also, it was the first Dragon Quest game headed by Level 5, so no one knows how it was going to work out.  Well, did it meet MY expectations? Read on to find out.

Let’s start with the story.  You’re the Hero (that’s the placeholder name, you can call him whatever you like), and well… you’re on a journey with your cursed king to un-curse him.  Obviously, the story’s more complicated than that, but that about sums it up.  Anyway, the one that cursed the king of Trodain is running around the countryside, causing mischief and killing people, and you spend a good deal of the game chasing after him.  Of course, as one would expect from a modern-day RPG, not everything is as it seemed, and new facts and plot twists will be slowly brought to light.  And I mean slowly: the game’s main story clocks in at around 70 hours, which is a hefty chuck of Dragon Quest.  That’ not really a bad thing, though; while there are times where you get little story for the effort, or just have to walk through the overworld for a little too long, you typically get storyline equal to the amount of effort you had to put for that walking or fighting through that last dungeon.  Also worthy of note is the game’s overall light-hearted demeanor: combined with the colorful graphics, the wise-cracks and comic relief make the game seem happier, even though if you look past that the story to DQVIII is surprisingly dark.  Overall, the story isn’t going to change your view on videogame storytelling or whatnot, but it’s an acceptable story that keeps the game going.

As for gameplay, it’s mostly what you’d expect from a Dragon Quest game.  The battles are turn based affairs, and the game has skills and spells from earlier Dragon Quest games.  What’s different, though, id the skill point system.  At every level up, the characters get skill points, which you can put into any combination of four weapon classes, or a character-specific class.  It allows you to customize you characters a bit, though even if you don’t put points into a weapon class, you can still use that weapon, you just won’t have any weapon skills or increased attack for it.  The skill system’s pretty simplistic, but it’s effective.

As for out of battles, like the series itself, it’s a typical RPG affair.  Run around town, talk to people for your next objective, move on.  The only problem is, “moving on” can sometimes take a bit too long.  The game world is pretty big, but not all of it is filled with places to go and things to do.  Especially before you get faster transportation, sometimes you’ll find yourself wandering the world map for a long time.  Seeing as I liked to explore other routes, there’d be a lot of times I’d explore the map for over an hour with nothing to show for it.  It gets better when you get the Sabercat and other transportation and spells to keep monsters away, but that doesn’t stop the annoyance of walking down a long path to get nothing out of it…

THERES TOO MUCH OF THIS

THERE'S TOO MUCH OF THIS

Even if sometimes it drags, and even though it’s nothing new, the gameplay is still solid, and the tried-and-true Dragon Quest play style still prevails.  Of course, that’s a bit hit-or-miss with most people… if you liked older games in the series, you’ll still like VIII, but if you didn’t… well, it’s more up in the air.  It’s worth a shot, but your opinion of the series probably won’t change by playing DQVIII.

Onward to the graphics and music… which are both simply gorgeous.  DQVIII upgraded its graphics greatly from the series’ previous games, which usually looked a bit outdated.  The cel-shading is done very nicely, and the graphics never seem to hiccup or give rise to any ugliness.  The music is also wonderful, with both redone tracks from previous games and new tracks played wonderfully by an orchestra.  It never got old, even when I heard the same battle music 2,000 times before.  Unlike any of the previous games in the main Dragon Quest line, VIII’s presentation is top notch.

Of course, now comes the question… should you buy it?  Well, this game’s four years old now, and on a “last-gen” system, so it’s not like you’re plunking down $50 for it.  Also, it ended up being popular among RPG fans, so chances are you can find a friend who you can borrow it from.  So, while asking to buy it may be a vague question, I personally think you should TRY the game if you like RPGs.  If you don’t, I highly suggest against it, since DQVIII is pretty much the definition of the RPG genre through and through.

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