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This page was once a place for obligatory lists, but I've decided that it will be better used as a place for reviews of games I've played. There will be several for sure that you've heard of and played yourself, but there are some more surprising ones and obscure ones too. For reference, I'm rating these with six factors: Story, Gameplay, Graphics, Sound, Cast, and Lasting Appeal. Also, I'll give each game it's own introduction in case you need to know a bit of the backstory, or how I came to play it. So without further ado, here we go.

Amazing Island

Before Spore, there was Amazing Island. This was a game made by SEGA and you can play it on the Gamecube. I played it at my neighbor's house one time, and then later bought it for myself to learn more about it and finish the game. No doubt there are some cool concepts going on here, but a shiver runs down my spine when I remember the supporting comment on the back of the box: "Think of it as a blend of Pokemon and Mario Party. What could be a better combo than that?" What indeed.

  • Story: Some kid finds a magic book in the attic about Amazing Island, then goes to sleep and hears a voice calling them from inside their head. The kid falls from the sky and lands on Amazing Island, which has been overrun by the forces of the Black Evil. Yeah, what a great name to give to a villain >_> and the only way to stop it is to reclaim all of the Vision Orbs. So, you get to make your own monster and then go out and get the Vision Orbs. You beat the Black Evil and it turns out it was all a dream. Great. (4/10)
  • Gameplay: Well, the monster editing process is good and you CAN make infinitely many creations, so go crazy. The monster editing process is the best part of the game, and hopefully that's where you'll be spending most of your time if you're smart, because the rest of the game is made up of MINIGAMES. Well, I have to hand it to the Black Evil, there's nothing worse than a fistful of annoying minigames to make someone feel like NOT saving Amazing Island. Some of them are somewhat fun, while others border on near impossible, or badly designed. But what a waste! You can make so many incredible monsters, and all you can use them for is minigames?! At least you'll sometimes get to unlock preset monsters made by the game's designers if you score insanely high amounts of points in some games. They are generally amusing and range from legendary dragons to floating cat aliens to football players with leprosy to bald people with creepily huge mouths in loincloths. Apparently, there's an RPG you can play if you hook a GBA up to the Gamecube which is better than the game itself. I've seen small parts of it, and it looks OK. (7/10)
  • Graphics: It's a somewhat interesting approach that looks OK, not much to say about it other than it's cartoony and reminds me of Wind Waker a bit. (7.5/10)
  • Sound: I liked the fact that you could unlock a Sound Test in this game, because some of the music is nice. Sound effects are pretty good and suit the whole minigame atmosphere, but nothing special. Some music is annoying, while other tracks are alright. Not too much here, really. (6.5/10)
  • Cast: Really bland, and the characters are fun to make fun of in real life, especially the Elder, who looks like an evil nutcracker. (2/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: After you beat it once, you'll be really fed up with the minigames. You might want to keep making monsters and you can probably have some fun with that GBA RPG if you're willing to go to the trouble, I've heard good things about it. (5/10)
  • Overall: Some people will really enjoy this game for the monster editing process, and it can be fun if you avoid the minigames altogether and just stick to the RPG. There's only one thing that's amazing on this island, and it's the monster editing system. You'll want to rent it first before you consider purchasing it. (5.3/10)

Bugdom

Now for something a bit obscure. This is a game made by Pangea Software, and a free demo came with it on a computer I had. It was interesting so I bought the game. Since then I beat it a few times, then I couldn't find the game anymore. It's left some lasting impressions. So was it good, or bad?

  • Story: The Bugdom (bug kingdom, in case you haven't guessed) was always a peaceful place. Then one day, King Thorax and his army of fire ants overthrew it and recruited many other types of bugs to fight for them. They also caught all the ladybugs and now have the Bugdom under complete control. Except for a pillbug whose last name I remember as McFly. So, this pillbug has to save the Bugdom. Although the story is pretty much an excuse for the adventure, you feel its presence at all times, despite the cartoonish appearance of the game at first, it becomes clear that you're living in a repressed, tightly-guarded world. (3/10)
  • Gameplay: You travel through 10 levels to beat the game, one after the other. Normally, you just make your way through the levels searching for keys to any gates that block your way until you reach the exit log to the next level. Sometimes, you have to beat a boss to clear a level. Although the game is usually just a stealthy search for keys without taking on too many enemies at once, there are several other aspects to it. Sometimes you'll have to search for explosives to take out barriers, break open water pipes to put out fires, roll quickly through areas by turning into a ball, hop across platforms and swing on plant roots, ride water bugs across killer fish-infested waters, and even take flight on dragonflies which can spew unlimited amounts of fireballs at hordes of foes. Probably the only thing I didn't like was swinging on roots, the controls were pretty bad for that part. I should also mention that the game is VERY glitchy, and if you discover how to exploit those glitches very well then you can finish this game in 10 minutes- there's a video on YouTube showing how it's done. Anyways, this game is pretty fun, but because you only have two methods of attack (kicking enemies or rolling into them) you won't stand a chance against many of the troops, especially when they gather in numbers. Towards the end, the game starts mocking you with fire ants which can fly, spew a huge line of fire which kills you nearly instantly, and gather in groups of 20 or so. I suppose this is the game reminding you that while you can do a lot of things, there's power in numbers and the numbers are undoubtably against you. In a way, it feels almost like a bug-themed version of Metal Gear Solid. (8/10)
  • Graphics: I think the graphics look pretty good. Bright and colorful, gives Bugdom a feel of its own. Towards the end you'll come across a massive night-themed level which is incredibly enormous and breathtaking. (8.5/10)
  • Sound: I generally like the sound effects, but the buzzing of some airborne foes is very annoying! Music is quite good, the night-themed level has the best in the game. (8/10)
  • Cast: Each bug you encounter has a characteristic of its own. Some are pretty cool, it's mostly in the character design that they are memorable. No dialogue at all. (7.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: It's a short game, but there are glitches to exploit, secrets to find and that makes it worth playing again and again. (8/10)
  • Overall: I haven't played many other of Pangea Software's games, but I liked this game. It's good, memorable, and fun to pick up again. I have to find it and not lose it this time! It's probably one of the few games I know whose glitches actually make the game better, and that's worth seeing in my opinion. (7.2/10)

Bugdom 2

And then they made a sequel. It looked different than the first, but similar in some aspects. So, I was waiting for this for a little while after I found out about it. Bugdom's a factor on my nostalgia list. Does this one measure up?

  • Story: Skip the grasshopper was walking along one day long after the events of the first game when all of the sudden a Bully Bee stole his lunch! Skip chases him down. This is pretty much the worst story ever made, it makes the original look like it was written by Shakespeare. (0/10)
  • Gameplay: Similar to the first, you have to search for keys to gates, and make it through ten levels like last time. Because you're a different type of bug than in the first game, you have different abilities. For example, you can jump much higher and even fly for certain periods of time! In addition, you can pick small objects up and carry them around in this place, which is used for different things like bartering with squirrels for maps with acorns, finding a snail's missing shell, collecting pieces of a special jigsaw puzzle, bowling over batteries with a marble, raiding picnics while competing with hungry ants, and more. In addition, two of the levels are slides where you zip down a course at high speed trying not to hit obstacles which will lower your life. These are pretty cool and were an unexpected addition. There's also a level where you fly in a plane to blow up a bunch of anthills. It was weird, and once again unexpected. These odd levels, however, seem to have unfortunately replaced the boss battles, which I think is an important aspect in many games. You fight a wide and wacky variety of foes, I'm not sure what to make of all of them. Some of them are pretty menacing in dangerous, but others can just be given a swift kick upside the head to send them flying. There's a lot of variety in the gameplay, but it's more like jack-of-all-trades, master of none. (7/10)
  • Graphics: Arguably better quality than the first, but I simply prefer the style of the original. Things look pretty sharp in this game, I'm just not a fan of how it looks. (8/10)
  • Sound: Still good sound, annoying buzzing enemy sounds, and some okay music but not as good as the original. (7/10)
  • Cast: Odd enemies, stupid rats which you have to save from mousetraps constantly, and a pair of characters which actually have voice acting: Sam the Snail and Sally the Chipmunk. Their voices are incredibly scary, and their character models are rather frightening as well. Sally the Chipmunk is obviously a rip-off from Spongebob. (5.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: You might play through it twice, it's a really short game. But the replay value is nowhere near as good as Bugdom. (5.5/10)
  • Overall: It's not as good. The game's okay. Nothing to write home about. It's got just about the worst story ever written, or rather the least effort put into it. Even though the first can't really be called a mature game by most people's standards, this game was made, in general, MUCH more kid-friendly. Not much of a sequel. (5.5/10)

Chameleon Twist

I've been waiting to do this review for a while. I really doubt anyone who reads this has even heard of this random N64 platformer, let alone played it. Anyways, there isn't much of a background to say about this one other than I played it when I was younger and haven't played it in a considerable number of years. I'll try not to be nostalgic and judge this truthfully so that it gets the score it deserves.

  • Story: A chameleon is sitting in a poorly-rendered jungle one day when all of the sudden, a white rabbit appears out of nowhere, wearing a suit and a hat, holding a pocket watch and is clearly late for a very important date (three guesses what this is ripped off from). It runs into a magical pot, and you, being a chameleon with nothing to do with your pitiable life but sit on a log in a poorly-rendered jungle, follow it into a magical world where the rabbit makes you go through six crazy worlds to escape, although you only need to complete 4 of them. This means that it is quite possible to finish the entire game in under an hour after discovering which worlds are easiest and finding a quick path through them. So, that's the whole story. Impressive, huh? (2/10)
  • Gameplay: When you go through the magical pot, the chameleon turns into a strange creature with a huge head that looks nothing like a chameleon, and this is the thing that you play as. So it shouldn't really be called Chameleon Twist, should it? Well, to its credit you'll be using your chameleon tongue to make it through the worlds. You can use it to grapple across ledges, eat up legions of 16-bit foes and even use it to pole-vault across gaps. You can also latch it onto a support beam of some sort and spin around in a circle. This is all very fun and the levels are fun to progress through as well, save for the deceptively innocent "Kid's Land," which is the one level you should definitely stay away from as it will probably break your brain. Boss battles are very memorable and always worth reaching at the end of their respective levels- the game is definitely diverse, with some M.C. Escher-esque schemes going on in the last level, as well as a hidden minigame where you have to use your tongue as a pool cue to survive a game of human pool. Also, you can unlock a secret boss battle arena that allows you to instantly access the game's best fights- and the four player battle is a lot of fun for people that have gotten to learn the game. In a way, it feels rather like Smash Bros., and there you have a winning formula. I can honestly say, this is a good reason to own an N64- awesome gameplay. (10/10)
  • Graphics: Some of the worst on the N64. A lot of the enemies look like sprites you'd see in Super Mario RPG, which was great for the SNES but not-so-great for the N64. It's almost as if someone made Super Mario RPG an all-out platformer in terms of graphics. Nevertheless, there's something memorable about the graphics. Seeing them just makes you want to play the game because they're very... inviting? It looks like a lot of fun, and it wouldn't be Chameleon Twist if it was any other way. (6.5/10)
  • Sound: The sound effects sound like classic arcade and I generally like them a lot. The music is apparently very annoying for some, but if you give it a chance you'll actually find that there are some good platforming songs in there, and the Ghost Castle song is probably the best. Also, a couple of the boss songs are cool, especially the final boss's last form. The jingle that plays when you encounter a boss is also one of the ways I remember this game well. (8/10)
  • Cast: Actually, I like the white rabbit and the chameleon characters, my chameleon was always Jack, because it was the least creepy of the "chameleons." By this point you've probably figured out that there is absolutely no character development, but who cares in a game like this one. Some of the enemies, no matter how poorly-rendered or odd they may be, are instantly memorable to me, like the fire enemies in the last level and the ants in the aptly named Ant Land. And a few of the bosses are menacing in an odd sort of way... they're not "scary" so to speak, but they are intimidating due to their size, their silence, and their cold, programmed attack patterns. I think of the final boss in particular, which is very hard to describe. It seems to made out of barrels or something. I found it to be much more creepy than Giygas from EarthBound. (7/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: This game is very simplistic, but fortunately this leaves little room for drawbacks. There are really no parts that I ever dread about this game when playing it, besides Kid's Land. It's pretty much fun all the way through, every time. Except for Kid's Land! (10/10)
  • Overall: If you're just looking for something fun and mindless, Chameleon Twist has got you covered. It's as fun and mindless just as ever, every time. (7.3/10)

Chrono Trigger DS

I've seen plenty of "best games ever" lists. Up there with the greatest of Zelda and Mario, I was always seeing a game called Chrono Trigger. I didn't know what to think of it, but as long as I got a DS, I figured I'd pick up a copy of the DS version and try it out. So, what possessed me to see this 35 hour RPG through to its end, even if I'm not particularly fond of the genre? Read on and find out.

  • Story: The year is 1000 A.D. in the Kingdom of Guardia, and Crono is off to the Millennial Fair. While attending a public display of scientific inventions, a simple teleporting experiment goes wrong and sends a mysterious girl into a strange portal. Crono bravely follows and stumbles 400 years into the past. I wouldn't want to spoil the story from here on out. It's very imaginative and epic, and especially ambitious considering when this game was originally released. In addition, it's a little known fact that the story parallels elements of Greek Mythology, the Bible (Old and New Testaments) and Scientology. Yet, it manages to create its own enduring character without pandering to these ties to make itself appear more deep, only hinting at possible parallels until you really look for them, at which point they're pretty much unavoidable. An incredible balance of timeless legend, history, and originality. (10/10)
  • Gameplay: In Chrono Trigger, time-travelling is a major staple of the game. Throughout the journey, you'll be spanning hundreds, thousands, and millions of years in your quest. You do so by finding blue portals called "gates" and stepping through them into other worlds. The changing landscape, evolving customs of the people who live in the various villages and the traditions and tendencies of the people may change depending on your interactions in other time periods. Later on, you receive a more effective and immediate means of time travel, and many more locations become accessible, although the gameplay is pretty linear. Basically, there's a lot of turn-based fighting with typical physical and magic attacks, but there are a few twists that make it a bit more fun. You can team up with your other party members to unleash combined attacks- and because you always encounter and battle enemies right on the map where you find them, the angles and directions that you send your attacks will factor in as well. The game uses an ATB gauge, and although this feature can take some getting used to at first, it becomes second nature and thankfully isn't intrusive. Some bosses are kind of weird, just in terms of their moves and strategy- especially some of the last ones. Regardless, it really is a fun and epic game which is rarely tedious- save for the optional dungeons exclusive to the DS version. (9/10)
  • Graphics: Probably the best on the SNES, and I'm glad they stuck with this incredible pixel art for the DS version. Many of the characters' expressions are instantly endearing, and a lot of enemies you'll encounter, particularly the big boss enemy ones, have a sort of flair to them that recalls the artwork of Akira Toriyama (Dragonball Z) who incidentally worked on a lot of the game's artwork. The only annoyances are the many enemies which are mere pallet-swaps of earlier ones you've already fought. Fortunately, most of these repeat offenders are only found in the optional dungeons added in with the DS version. Also, some of the attack animations are really well done- I never get tired of seeing Crono and Frog use X-Strike, dicing their target across the line in two different directions at once. Also, the critical hit and victory animations are always satisfying. (9.5/10)
  • Sound: Good sound effects across the board- gotta love that slashing sound for the critical hit- and one of the game's primary antagonists has a characteristic roar which is really spine-chilling. It sounds like a robotic velociraptor screaming with its throat filled with water. What really stands out is the music. It's very well done, and despite very few battle themes, you never say "oh no, not this theme again" because it always sounds so good, despite looping after 30 seconds or so. Much of the music is superb and fits the time periods that you go through. (10/10)
  • Cast: I really liked a lot of the cast in this game- Crono is truly among the elite of the silent protagonists, and it really goes to show how deep you can make a character by having your player use an alias as opposed to a character with a defined personality. I also liked Frog and Robo, and Magus was a cool villain as well. I wouldn't say it's one of the greatest casts of all time, but it comes together really well in this game, and there are sure to be a few characters you really enjoy. (9/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Well, there are over a dozen unique endings depending on when you finish the game, as well as a few other secret factors along the way that determine various outcomes. This game really is timeless, and just playing the game without looking for all the endings is fun enough. Some parts of the game can be annoying, like the extra dungeons in the DS version, but you can thankfully avoid them if you really want to. (9/10)
  • Overall: Chrono Trigger DS is a really high-quality port of a really high-quality game. With extra features that allow to see the game's imaginative artwork and impressive soundtrack, extra (albeit rather repetitive) dungeons and bosses, it's no wonder this game scores so high, so consistently. It established a lot of the features held in many of today's much-praised RPGs, although in truth Chrono Trigger probably does it all better. If you enjoy RPGs, you've probably already played this. If you haven't, then try this one out for something familiar yet unique. It just might be one of your favorites. (9.4/10)

Dr. Mario 64

Unless you've been living on the 14th floor of a subterranean labyrinth sealed underneath a rock since your beginnings, chances are if you're reading this you've heard of Tetris. You might NOT have heard of the "Mario" equivalent of Tetris, Dr. Mario. Some people learned about him when he was featured as one of the first awesome unlockable characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee. I took the time to find this game in a bargain bin somewhere and find a few people who also wanted to play it. Here's the verdict!

  • Story: Actually, it's pretty funny that this game has not one story, but two separate, intertwining storylines that aren't remotely deep or even intriguing- just there. However, they are quite funny and you'll get a good laugh one way or another during the cutscenes, and seeing some of the animations. Dr. Mario's story is that his MegaVitamins that he uses to cure patients of various sicknesses has been stolen by the evil "Mad Sciencestein." So Dr. Mario goes on a quest to catch Mad Sciencestein. Along the way he gets into fights with various ne'er do wells and people that are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. It turns out that Mad Sciencestein wanted to hand over the formula to none other than (you actually might be interested by this) SPOILER Rudy- an actually creepy Mario villain /SPOILER. The fundamental flaw in the story is that Dr. Mario uses MegaVitamins to fight off his foes- but wait, didn't Mad Sciencestein steal them? Did Mario just summon more? Why should he even care to chase this guy? Wario's story revolves around him trying to get to Mad Sciencestein first to beat him up, steal and sell the formula for cash. Each storyline has new and funny cutscenes. (5/10)
  • Gameplay: In addition to a fun adventure mode where you can select many difficulty levels, some totally impossible, there is a classic mode where you just have to keep going through advancing stages of viruses. Destroying all the viruses in the container is how you win a match in any mode. You do this by lining up the color-coded MegaVitamins with the matching viruses. Four of the same color in any direction will cause the viruses trapped within to disappear. Sounds simple, yes, but it is incredibly strategic! If you manage to pull of massive combos by building up a tower of set viruses, you can use a special move with an interesting animation that causes random MegaVitamin pieces to shower down on your opponent, likely forestalling your final judgement. Of course, if they're really lucky it could miss or help them. The gameplay is highly customizable, and most important of all is the multiplayer, which is perhaps the best, most engaging multiplayer on the N64! The gameplay is... BETTER than Tetris. There, I said it! (10/10)
  • Graphics: Definitely lacking- it looks like Paper Mario, but with zero production- they just bounce around and show different moves. A lot of it looks too much like SNES, in fact! Some bits even look NES-ish! Seriously, they should've spent more time on this part! (3/10)
  • Sound: Some annoying songs, but some that perfectly suit the atmosphere. By the way, there's an awesome final boss song which is really intimidating! (8/10)
  • Cast: Actually, many of the characters are from Wario's earliest games. Even the main villain turns out to be an infamous final boss who wants revenge. There are also a pair of super-secret hidden characters that are bosses rewarded for beating the toughest modes under certain conditions. I haven't unlocked either. (7/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Once in a while you might want to play through the adventure mode, and the classic modes are good displays of skill. By far, the thing that won't grow old is the multiplayer, because after you haven't played for about a year and then play it again, you'll start remembering all the controls and have just as much fun as you did last time. The multiplayer is amazingly fun and is the sole reason why you should at least rent this game. (10/10)
  • Overall: Although Dr. Mario 64 has definitely dated graphics which anyone can notice, you'll get a lot of joy out of the multiplayer, one of the few multiplayer games which is just as much fun every time- and that's certainly an impressive achievement. Otherwise, there's really not much to come back for. (7.2/10)

EarthBound

A cult classic. Well, I am an RPG hater, so this one's tough for me. I've played it and finished it completely. I learned about it through Smash Bros. Brawl and was eager to play it after I finished its predecessor, the super-powerfully spectacular MOTHER 3. EarthBound is the second game in the MOTHER trilogy, and the only one that got a release in the U.S. Of course, it's quite different from other games of the time, but does this mean it's better? Perhaps in some ways it is, but in other ways it can be just as tedious as other RPGs.

  • Story: Now, the first time I reviewed this here, I gave it an average score because I thought it was stupid, but after playing through it again, I noticed that there is more to it than meets the eye. Although it might seem at first like a story of the chosen ones fighting off Giygas and nothing more, the truth is that throughout the sets, scenarios and locales it pays tribute to a hodgepodge of American culture throughout the ages, as well as some interesting philosophical viewpoints. The main story might not have all that much going for it, but the atmosphere it creates throughout the game really shows. (8.5/10)
  • Gameplay: Like other RPGs, but you see all your characters on screen at once, as well as the enemies you can engage in battle with. Your HP is managed by a rolling meter, so if you're hit for 150 damage and you have 100 HP, it'll start scrolling down to zero. If you can heal before that time, you can keep fighting! But the numbers fly by so past that most of the time the feature is next to useless. You get cash from battles and use it to equip weapons and armor before heading off into the next inconveniently placed dungeon in front of the place you have to go to get the thing you need to go to the next place with the next thing you need *yawn* the regular. At least the enemies you run into are bizarre. Most of the time though, they're just odd doodles that have sprouted eyes and want to fight you, and are surprisingly efficient at it. The towns actually have the best enemies, which are possessed people which are always fun to fight, sometimes because you'll have an awkward conversation with them before they suddenly jump to the wrong conclusion about you. So while at some points it might seem boring, you can count on a hilarious, fun part to come along and wash away the bad memories. (8/10)
  • Graphics: They're not as bad as everyone says. In fact, combined with some of the music, a few of the locales are downright deep and inspiring, like the sanctuaries and the mysterious worlds you adventure through towards the game's end. "Mysterious" isn't enough to do it justice, but whatever. Some of the sprites are funny, and a few might actually remind you of South Park- especially in one of the best parts of the game, Happy Happy Village. Has the look of a SNES classic. (8.5/10)
  • Sound: A lot of the sound effects sound kind of stupid and annoying, but there are cool ones too, like PK Starstorm and the sounds of the final bosses' insane attacks. The music however, is handled very well for the most part. A lot of the battle music simply sucks, though. It doesn't help that a lot of the worst battle songs are played over and over again, instead of the good ones like the one that plays when fighting the Smilin' Sphere, and the one for the Hippie. Miniboss theme is probably the best, and the final boss theme is awesome heavy metal! The themes for the towns and houses in the beginning are lighthearted and nice to hear, and there's one song that plays while you're crossing a lake that sounds terrificly epic, with surprisingly good sound effects for the wind. (9/10)
  • Cast: Really great! One of the spots where this game is particularly memorable. For sprites, there's a lot of personality and depth to even the most insignificant NPCs which can be catchy, quirky, useful, but never annoying and always fun to read. The dialogue for some of the enemy people before they attack is hilarious and always adds to the battle afterwards. Here's a good one to try: in Happy Happy Village, steal from the self-service stand, then walk near the guy and he'll attack you because you didn't pay, resulting in a battle with the "Unassuming Local Guy." The dialogue for some of the attacks is funny too. "The Hippie used the Toothbrush and his teeth were white. The whiteness of his teeth shocked the enemy!" From beginning to end and even afterwards, the characters never get old. (10/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: As soon as you reach the end, there's a point of no return. It makes you want to start a new file up after you finish the game, and EarthBound is classic enough to be replayed again and again if you're a fan. Limiting oneself to an annual playthrough of the game is probably best, though. (8/10)
  • Overall: If you're a fan of RPGs and aren't annoyed at having to pay the Hint Man when the story takes a bathroom break in your gym locker and don't mind a lot of repetitive grinding and losses to embarrassingly odd enemies, then you'll appreciate the brilliant side of this game without caring too much about the bad side, and will likely keep coming back for more. It's not my kind of game, but there's a great cast here with good graphics and music too. Don't let the tediousness keep you away. (8.7/10)

F-ZERO X

I am by no means an F-Zero fan, but there's no denying that this racing series has potential. You've seen the damage Captain Falcon dishes out in the Smash Bros. games, but his devotion lies in racing, not the Falcon Punch (although, it has its uses for whenever he feels like a sore loser.) This is perhaps the most passed-over of the F-Zero series, eclipsed by its predecessor and F-Zero GX for the Gamecube. Does this racer deserve more attention than it got?

  • Story: Umm... Captain Falcon and a whole bunch of racers go and race. (1/10)
  • Gameplay: You start off with three cups to choose from: Jack, Queen, and King. Later you can unlock the very difficult Joker Cup, and if you try even harder you'll unlock the X Cup, which has somewhat randomly generated and tricky levels. All the racers control differently. You zip around the courses at high speed, making sure not to fall off along the way. If you hit other racers or a wall, you'll take damage. This can happen a lot of the time, so race over the pink floor to regain HP. In addition to this, there are yellow boosts which you can use if you run into them along the way. It's pretty fun, the courses are really surreal a lot of the time and the multiplayer is of course a blast. Also, there's an epic Death Race which I never beat, but puts you on a straightforwards road which goes in a giant, gravity-defying circle. It's pretty cool, just not too much thought goes into the gameplay. The racers also seem to slip around a bit. That could just be my inept skills as an F-Zero pilot, who knows. (8/10)
  • Graphics: Pretty bad. But then again, there really wouldn't be much point in covering the game in detail because the whole point is go really really fast. It's not a good excuse, especially since F-Zero GX is oozing with detail. It doesn't compare well at all. (5/10)
  • Sound: The music is heavy metal/rock, all fast-paced and fits the gameplay well. I never really got tired of the music. The sound effects are good as well, they sound retro but with boosted quality. Overall, it's generally to serve the whole adrenaline-based gameplay. (8/10)
  • Cast: You can check out their descriptions, but they never really have any interaction of any sort in this game. Sure, the Phantom might be undead but put him in a racer so you can't see him driving it and it might as well be driven by Samurai Goroh. In other words, they're all pretty much interchangeable. (4/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Easy to play again and again for some fast-paced racing goodness, nothing high quality but fun nonetheless. (8/10)
  • Overall: It doesn't deserve any more attention than what it got. It was obviously a rushed ordeal, not much thought went into making it at all. But when you play a game like this, you're not sitting around like a philosopher contemplating Plato's Cave. Chances are, you're not thinking straight, because F-Zero GX is without a doubt much better. (5.7/10)

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (GCN)

I got this game for free from a friend of mine. I'd seen the case a few times in a few stores, but never did more than glance at it. I got just the disc without the box, but that's fine by me, so long as it's free! Anyways, this is a very different game from the Final Fantasy series, which generally consist of turn-based RPGs. This one, as it turns out, is a hack-and-slash. But for RPG haters for me, is that a plus? Well, I played the game for around five months and beat it, and here's what I've got to say.

  • Story: The world was cloaked in a poisonous substance called miasma long ago. It was deadly to humans that breathed it. Fortunately, the large crystals spread across the towns could repel the miasma to keep the people safe. However, the crystal's power has to be replenished annually or else its light will fade. To do that, expeditions set off from the various towns to search for myrrh, the water of life. Each caravan is provided with a chalice which holds a small crystal to protect the traveling group, and the chalice must be filled with three drops of myrrh. Myrrh comes from myrrh trees, conveniently enough, each one provides a single drop every other year. However, the myrrh trees always grow in inconvenient locations. So each year, you travel to various lands to search for myrrh and to complete that year. So is there an end to the story? Yes, but you'll have to figure out how to get there by yourself. Maybe you'll be able to patch together the various clues the game provides you and solve the mystery. When you do figure it out, you're treated to an odd ending that reveals the origin of myrrh, miasma and other such matters. (8/10)
  • Gameplay: I'd play multiplayer, but it just so happens that I don't want to have to buy four GBA linkup cables. That's one of the game's most prominent flaws- not allowing players to use Gamecube controllers unless it's single player. Anyhow, single player is the same as multiplayer but with one difference (you guessed it) there's just you, and a Moogle that carries the protective chalice for you. As it turns out, the Moogle is much more trouble than it's worth, regularly getting tired, slowing down, getting trapped behind walls and generally endangering you at every turn. It doesn't help that most characters are terrible at dodging/blocking the cascade of enemy attacks that you're going to encounter (cascade is putting it lightly. The entire game is practically a siege against the universe.) There are four different races that you can choose from. The Clavats are your standard humans who use swords and shields. The Lilties are Pikmin-esque little people that use spears. The Yukes are tall people that wear too many clothes at once with strange armor and beaks that cast magic, and the Selkies are half-wolf thieves or something that use tennis rackets. No matter who you choose, the game will be very unforgiving towards you. Even when you upgrade your offense and defense it won't matter because the dungeons will destroy you all the same- and they get tougher every time you visit them, including the (shudder) bosses. I did every dungeon three times before attempting the final one, because you'll get random cutscenes in the overworld that will count towards your "memory" total, a stat that at first seems useless but turns out to buy you time in the final battle. If you lose all your memories in the final fight you'll have to do the final dungeon FROM THE BEGINNING. And it is one long final dungeon, with many bosses to fight. This game is simply put, inhumane. (7/10)
  • Graphics: There are some very nice graphics and effects in this game- the world, people, monsters and spells are all very stunning, although some of the water effects aren't that great. Up to that point, they're some of the best water effects in a Final Fantasy game, which is in no way an insult to the rest of the series. (8.5/10)
  • Sound: There's a different composer in this game, and she's brilliant. The sound effects are OK, but can get a little repetitive. (9/10)
  • Cast: Characters in this game are pretty generic. There's nobody with a really defined personality, and the game has a very lame villain. (4/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Beat it once, you can't play it again. This game is long and hard enough as it is. What are you, a glutton for punishment?! (5/10)
  • Overall: This game has a lot of bizarre gameplay elements and bad ideas thrown in. But it has creativity as well. The problem is, the creativity won't help you get through the dungeons, which is what the game is all about. Definitely one of the hardest games ever created, at least in single player. With a proper level of difficulty this game would take about a month to beat. But five months?! This is just an elaborate ploy to get you to play multiplayer and buy those stupid GBA linkup cables. (7/10)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (GCN)

Ah, a game I fondly remember, and have recently played through again as well. Some websites have been very kind to this game, such as IGN, which claims this is one of the best movie-to-game adaptations ever made. With the recent release of the movie "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" some people are looking back at the games of the series and seeing how far they've come. This was actually like the first Harry Potter game made, before Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone- so check out the series' origin!

  • Story: Generally, they expect people to have read the book or at least seen the movie before they play the game, but nevertheless there are a few parts where the story shows through the game, and they have a narrator explain things, sometimes very badly, like the whole part with the diary which is downright laughable in this game- a little lack of work in this category. It feels generally pretty forced and tacked on. However, you can feel it there at all times, which is a rather important thing. (7/10)
  • Gameplay: From the start, if you've played a Zelda game you'll be screaming "ZELDA" like the guy from the original commercial. If you haven't then you'll likely be impressed by the smart mechanics. L targets, A is the action button and you can equip spells from the pause screen to Y, X, and B. Of course, it's not nearly as refined of a Zelda system as say, Ocarina of Time, but a good system for this kind of game nonetheless and I'm really glad it's there. It makes the game a lot of fun to play. In addition, you can ride around on Harry's Nimbus 2000 broomstick after you unlock it. It only works outside, but it's blast the first couple of times and a nice feature the rest of the time. Harry's classes are rather like the "dungeons" of Zelda. You work your way through huge underground mazes to find a spellbook and use it to escape the place. Battles with enemies in this game feel kind of awkward though, the kind of thing you'd expect from a movie/game adaptation. Same can be said for the bosses. Puzzles are not Zelda caliber, but have something vaguely ingenious about them. Exploring Hogwarts is cool- there are tons of secret places to go and exploring by day and night feels totally different- much creepier at night, and sometimes you'll have to use stealth through some pretty intense sequences that have a definite Metal Gear Solid feel to them. In short, Zelda and Harry Potter had a kid and his name was Solid Snake. Weird, but you get the idea. And no, it didn't happen, go away. (8.5/10)
  • Graphics: Actually, a lot of the time the graphics look really nice! Especially in the first room of the Expelliarmus Spell Challenge Chamber. That's Twilight Princess quality right there. It's not that quality most of the time, but the graphics do the story justice and there's definitely a magical, playful atmosphere when there needs to be, or a shadowy, (sometimes a bit TOO dark) intense atmosphere for the night/stealth parts. (9/10)
  • Sound: There are some beautiful tracks in here, but there's something wrong with the programming of the game that can often make melodies play at the wrong time, like the music that plays when you're spotted by someone in a stealth sequence. Oftentimes they'll yell "HEY! YOU!" And fire spells at you, then you'll be out of the room and in a cutscene when all of the sudden the calm music goes "DUNNN!!!" and scares bits of your brain out of your ears. It's always a great laugh, and should be tried out by anyone that plays this game. There's some OK voice acting, but some of it is bad and annoying. Sound effects are nice, basically. (8.5/10)
  • Cast: Actually, there are some good characters that have better voice acting than you'd expect, like Tom the Bartender and the guy who sells Stink Pellets. The latter is an entirely original character and a memorable one at that. They did a good job here- except for Malfoy I'd say. There are also a lot of pointless NPCs... (7.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Lots of Wizard Cards to look for, and triflingly small amounts of GBA support necessary for extra stuff. (7.5/10)
  • Overall: Believe me, it IS a great movie/game adaptation, but compared to a lot of games that were never movies in the first place, well, it's still quite a good game. If you like Harry Potter, you owe it to yourself to rent this and beat it. (8/10)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (GCN)

The pivotal installment game-wise of the seven part Potter series headed in a new direction from the previous three. The previous three were known for having Zelda gameplay mechanics that made them generally engaging at the very least. However, this game was meant to throw in a bit of multiplayer. How did they pull it off- did they succeed with multiplayer Potter? You be the judge, but I'll be the Ultimate Dictator.

  • Story: This goes along with the whole "assuming you saw the movie and/or read the book" thing that the other games did, but this time it's even less obvious and random than usual thanks to the terrible format of this game. You just have to accept things as they are. Chances are you bought this after learning something about the story, so you won't be lost. But otherwise there's no understanding it at all. (1/10)
  • Gameplay: Perhaps the people making the Potter games started thinking that the Potter games needed to be something more than Zelda clones, so they turned this one into a multiplayer hack-and-slash. The catch is, of course, that there are parts where only one person can play because neither Hermione nor Ron got into the Triwizard Tournament (and if you've been playing the game without reading the book or watching the movie, chances are you won't even know what this is). Plus, while not the worst hack-and-slash ever made (there are some interesting gravitational effects) it is certainly far below the standards set for the Zelda Potter games. The gameplay worked very well for those games, and this simply turned into a mindless spellfest. (3.5/10)
  • Graphics: While there are some interesting spell effects, I was never really impressed by the graphics, although you can't say they were utterly careless by any means. You don't get anything less than what you'd expect, but a lack of camera control makes this game so much less immersive that you pretty much just have to accept what you see, no questions asked. (6/10)
  • Sound: There are a lot of noisy spell and monster effects, and some bad voice acting, specifically from whoever voiced Mad-Eye Moody, who sounds more like Hagrid loaded up on drinks down at the pub. Although, Ron is pretty bad as well. You gather beans for points or health in this game, I forget. Anyways, they're super common and you'll be collecting them every waking moment of your life. And for some unexplained reason, Ron will sometimes find the need to mention that he found a bean. "Oh... a bean." This never ceases to make me laugh or annoy me. It's a very strange, mixed feeling. As for the music, it might as well not be there because there's so much other random noise cluttering everything up. Simply unremarkable. (4/10)
  • Cast: In the game, you couldn't care less about them all. And Voldemort makes for a spectacularly stupid villain in this one, pretty much just waving his arms around all the time and saying the same lines: "If only your filthy mother could see you now!" and "bow to death, Harry!" If Harry's mother could see him now she'd definitely be ashamed that he stooped so low with this console game, which could make fans of the previous three practically beg for death. (1/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Sure, there's stuff to look for, but there is nothing worth unlocking, nothing worth seeing, nothing worth playing. (2/10)
  • Overall: Unfortunately, Goblet of Fire marks the point where the Potter games, which will total up to a respectable 7-8 installments, went off the deep end, in a pitiful nose-dive. The other games from this point on, Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, fared better but never recaptured the Zelda-clone goodness of the previous three. The fourth book was a pivotal point in the series- and this heartless imitation is the unfortunate "pivotal point" in terms of quality in the games. It seems as if after Potter mania REALLY started taking hold, they saw no need to put in nearly enough care or attention anymore. Too bad. (3/10)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (GCN)/(PS2)

A few years after I played the great Chamber of Secrets, I watched this movie. Ironically, the evening that I saw this movie I played Wind Waker with my friends at their house afterwards and it became my favorite game of all time. But I remembered Chamber of Secrets, and so naturally I rented this one as well. As it turns out, I've actually rented it twice on the Gamecube, and played through the whole game in one day at a friend's on a PlayStation 2. This won't be about "which version is superior" but rather just how this game did/didn't live up to the standards set by its predecessor.

  • Story: The story is pretty much ignored in this game, although there are a few story sequences which feature scenarios which weren't from the movie or even the book. Some are pretty awesome (Black Deeds) but some are really stupid (Slytherin rigging the Quidditch match which you don't even get to play in) so it's a mixed lot. Towards the end they try to desperately explain the story of Sirius Black but it's really cramped and even though you rescue him in the end, people who didn't even watch the movie won't know what to think of a lot of the scenes with Black towards the end. Sigh. (4/10)
  • Gameplay: Steps it up a notch from the one that came before it- but there is a certain fatal mistake which I'll mention. Puzzles are now far more challenging, and I can honestly say that a few of them are up to Zelda standards, perhaps a couple even high-quality Zelda standards. That's right, this still plays a lot like Zelda. However, they threw in the gimmick of letting you switch control between Ron, Hermione and Harry. This isn't necessarily bad, in fact it makes the game a bit more engaging at times than it would normally be with one player. Combat still feels somewhat awkward, but the awkwardness of the bosses has been toned down a bit. Too bad there are only a couple of dungeons like the predecessor. At least they're very well fleshed out. Also, combat sequences with wizard duelists, while uncommon, are handled well. The overworld is much more expansive and free to explore this time around, and you'll be spending hours just flying around on Buckbeak. I should also mention that the Dementors make for extremely unnerving and annoying opponents, up there with the Miniblin from Wind Waker and turrets from Portal! It's because of the Dementor dungeon that I never finished the game myself (I admit, I needed serious help on that level.) There are also a few snags here and there. Control is the major issue. It's usually not too bad, but when you need control the most, it won't come to you at all (many people have serious complaints about defeating the Hinkypunks in the toy dungeon as Ron, and they are not at fault.) Worst of all, the deadly "poison" effect that the Doxies inject you with is not only very overpowered but can only be cured by drinking a special potion. If the stung person has a potion, no problem. They can drink it themselves. But if they don't have one, a fellow party member has to use any potion they have on them, which usually results in that person drinking it themselves because it won't register with the people who got stung. This is a major issue and is the ultimate problem with the game. (7.5/10)
  • Graphics: It's a bit more "mature" then Chamber of Secrets, and will be considered better by most. The graphics are very good in my opinion. (9/10)
  • Sound: The music is usually not that noticeable, there are not as many good tracks as Chamber of Secrets. It's usually playing quietly in the background. Sound effects are fine, although the Dementors are far too realistic in this category! Voice acting is also better in this one than any other Potter game I've played. (8.5/10)
  • Cast: You don't really care too much for the cast in this one except for Harry, Ron, and Hermione who are now a bit more developed in terms of personality. You'll be spending practically the whole game with the trio, and they're not a bad group of people to get to know. Most everyone else is rather forgettable. At least there's Peeves. (5.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Tons of extra content in this one. Hogwarts is larger than ever before, and it is actually a pretty fun game to replay, except for Dementors. There are tons of secrets and objects to find, and even an extra spell which unlocks even MORE secrets. Also, scavenger hunts galore. Let the optional party begin now! (9/10)
  • Overall: It's not as good as Chamber of Secrets, but could've been nearly as good if it weren't for the stupid issues with control, and a bit more clarity in the story. Plus, pretty much all of the characters besides the main trio got pushed to the back of the line and treated as if they weren't there. Aside from issues with control, there's a huge, adventurous overworld, a multitude of impressive spells, challenging dungeons, interesting bosses and sidequests everywhere. It all adds up to a fairly good game. (7.3/10)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (PC)

I was feeling nostalgic the other day, so a couple of friends and I decided that we were going to play through this PC game that we remembered as being fun. Surprisingly we got it to work perfectly, minus the fact that sometimes characters would randomly disappear, then reappear again. Creepy. So how does the PC game hold up against the first book/movie of the Harry Potter series?

  • Story: The story behind the book and movie is a classic, in my opinion. The game goes along with the assumption that you already know the story. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie then you'll definitely be lost. Granted, you might still finish the game but the story is presented so badly that it might as well not be there at all. (2/10)
  • Gameplay: It felt strange playing this game again, and it probably felt just as odd the first time through. The control is awkward, the puzzles are stupid, but not quite as stupid as the enemies (fire crabs are supposed to look vaguely like CRABS, not rainbow-colored laser turtles!!!). Harry Potter's classes are oddly enough similar to dungeons that one might encounter in, say... Zelda, maybe. Spells are fun to use though, like the levitation spell. It adds a vague "Half-Life" feel into the game. Also, just jumping around the dungeons and the forest outside Hogwarts is fun enough. There are a couple of instances where you fly on your broom, which is okay, and a part where you run from a troll, which is okay as well. Then there's a part where you have to avoid Filch that lasts for about two hours and is far more trouble than its worth.Towards the end of the game, the challenges become awkward and it feels more like a badly-produced game show than anything. The best aspect of the gameplay are the idiotic battles against Malfoy. He throws firecrackers at you and rides around on a broom, and if you hurt him he whines "You've damaged my broomstick, Potter!" Battling Peeves rivals it in stupidity. So now do you understand the gameplay? I don't either... but then why is it so fun? (6.5/10)
  • Graphics: I think I'm right in saying that the environments look fantastic, the monsters look bad for the most part aside from some Deku Baba rip-offs and giant snails, and the characters would look okay if their mouths moved when they spoke. (8/10)
  • Sound: The music is almost never-present besides the title screen, so I'll focus on other things. There are some creepy, phantom-like sound effects in the game, and there are really bad sound effects as well. The only real sounds you'll focus on are the voices of the characters, who seem to have been voiced by all the wrong people intentionally... except Peeves. Filch sounds like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, Dumbledore is THE WORST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD and nearly all of the children, who are at least 11, sound like first graders. Fred and George's voices are simply inexcusable. They sound like giant babies or something. It sounds so bad it's funny, like CD-i. (4/10)
  • Cast: Talk about a way to take the life out of every character from the story we ever cared about. Peeves is there for sure and is very annoying and unfunny, but some of the characters are unintentionally hilarious, like Malfoy's whiny noises. "You've damaged my broomstick, Potter!" (2/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: You beat it once, then never play it again unless you feel nostalgia, but if the memory remains fresh in your mind you'll know to stay away. (2/10)
  • Overall: People might remember this game as being great, and there are some good parts to it concerning parts of the gameplay and graphics, and the laughs you'll get out of the voices, but other than that there's no reason to play the game. Just go read the book or watch the movie. Much better. (4.1/10)

Homestuck

I did a Problem Sleuth review as a semi-joke. So it was only a matter of time until this one reared its head. Homestuck is featured on the same site as Problem Sleuth: MS Paint Adventures. It is the current story and is still ongoing, but around 5000 pages in and 6 ouf of 7 acts reached, it's fair play to do a review. Homestuck actually is more like a legitimate game than its predecessor- in the end though, it is something never seen before. Let's have a look at it then!

  • Story: I try to be considerate with spoilers, so I'll keep them at a minimum here. Homestuck is a sci-fi/fantasy adventure story that revolves around some kids and a video game they play together, with highly unexpected results. The game, SBURB, at first appears to be some kind of "Sims" experience- until it becomes clear that the game world it controls is the REAL world surrounding the players. It doesn't take long for all hell to break lose on an unprecedented scale, and it's up to our heroes to embark on an epic quest, meet strange new people and learn about incredible new worlds, realize their destinies and try to overcome a complex network of insidious plots woven by a mysterious, malevolent force. The story is not yet over, but for those who read it without a clue of what to expect from the very beginning will find it taking them places they never imagined it would go. It's lengthy, almost always confusing, and oftentimes quite hilarious. The only drawback is that it is just a little, just a little bit WAY too convoluted at points. And it revels in that fact. Rubs it in your face. It knows what it's doing and doesn't care if you feel like you're being trolled. (9.5/10)
  • Gameplay: Problem Sleuth was a parody of point-and-click adventure games, but it only went so far as clicking to go to the next page. Homestuck plays around a lot with more elaborate flash sequences, including multiple sections with mini-games or areas to explore, people to talk to, loot to plunder, enemies to battle and a wealth of secrets to unearth. These sections may admittedly be scarce, but they're always a treat and they add to the fun of the experience. In this way, Homestuck really plays with its "webcomic" medium by doing things that were never really possible before. It's a unique, surprising and engaging combination. (7/10)
  • Graphics: Homestuck utilizes a variety of graphical styles. Some carry a lot more appeal than others. It's a mixed bag. The art style is at its best when it is trying to be either incredibly silly or incredibly serious. It has perhaps one of the greatest artistic ranges, that's for certain. And that's because a lot of different artists worked on it at different points. (8.5/10)
  • Sound: The music, like the art, was worked on by a variety of people. You get a variety of songs as a result. In addition to the ones featured in the comic, other tracks in Homestuck's impressive album are available to download on their bandcamp page. Not every song in there is gonna float your boat. But the sheer quality of some of the tracks will absolutely blow you away. There are some very memorable themes here, some very atmospheric ones, and a ton that are just plain catchy. I'm very thankful that such a diverse selection of tunes exists! (9.5/10)
  • Cast: Where Homestuck probably shines most is in the writing of its characters. This is an extremely text-heavy story, and so much of it is in the dialogue. Each one is wholly unique, many are incredibly entertaining- and some of them feel very, very real. Without giving too much away, this story features one of the best-written villains/antiheroes found just about anywhere. (10/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: This is a tale meant for the ages, though it will be a wonder if people still recall it years and years from now. Ever since I began the story and caught up, I've wanted to start over again, but I've done my best to hold back. Once it's done, I'm doing it again, and then at least one more time. At least. This is the mark of a gripping tale. Superb writing. There is even one particular flash level that I've explored again and again, searching for new clues. (9.5/10)
  • Overall: On one hand, it's a miracle Homestuck has gained such a following. But I believe it deserves more. If you give it a try- and not the sort of try where you give up at Act 1 or 2- the sort of try where you read the whole thing- you'll understand precisely why. This story has a lot to offer that can't be found anywhere else. It's almost an entirely new medium. So don't delay! I implore you to check out Andrew Hussie's Homestuck right now at MS Paint Adventures. (9/10)

HyperBound

After you've played an entire series, where do you go next? Hacks, of course! HyperBound is a hack of EarthBound, developed into an entirely different story and scenario using the previous games' mechanics, such as sprites, backgrounds, basic menu functions, etc. It was developed as somebody's college project, so naturally you'd expect some sort of quality. I decided to take a risk and play it through to the end. How did it turn out?

  • Story: After waking up from a hospital bed on a distant island resort, our unnamed protagonist realizes he's lost his memory, and is recommended by the doctor there to seek out another doctor on the mainland who has apparently developed a method of helping people reclaim their lost memories. From this point on, the story changes depending on your decisions- one way or another, you'll end up at this special hospital you were supposed to reach, and the doctor there warns you that the process of recovering memories isn't an easy one. Patients should try to learn as much about their past before they undergo the treatment- otherwise, serious trauma may occur. From here on out, the world is open to explore. I was lucky and managed to get the best ending- I spent a good 4 hours before moving on to the finale, which is a lot for a hack... I was really surprised at what I learned about the character's past along the way, and although story arcs are few and far between, I got a cool combination of them. A little bit of imagination can go a long way. (8/10)
  • Gameplay: EarthBound was an RPG, and HyperBound is an entirely text-driven adventure. There are no battles- just decisions and exploration. That being said, I wasn't really thrilled with any of EarthBound's battles so I can't say that I feel that I'm missing out. Although, it would've been nice to maybe have a few battles here and there in the more dangerous or distant areas, if anything. Also, even though you can buy all kinds of crazy items like in EarthBound, none of them seem to do anything remotely useful except for a few fetch quests or getting a reaction out of people. For instance, I bought the Bad Key Machine which originally pried open lockers in EarthBound. I remembered lockers in one area in HyperBound, so I went to the trouble of walking all the way back across the world map to reach the lockers. Turns out that you can't interact with them at all... it's missing the little touches of care that could've gone a long way. Complaints about no battles and no effective item usage aside, one thing that this game did exceptionally well was the great feeling of complete, free roam exploration in a strange new world. I really felt like I was right in the main character's shoes, trying to learn about my clouded past. A lot of the areas also have the same "mystic" sort of feel like they did in EarthBound, so retaining that atmosphere was a good thing. BTW, if you fail to complete the treatment correctly, you'll regain consciousness but have slightly less sanity. The more failures you have, the more that reality around you gradually becomes distorted, with bits and pieces of the map getting scrambled around to hinder your progress. It is very possible that if you continuously fail that your world will become so destroyed that you can no longer hope to proceed forwards, so there's a lot at stake. Take your time and plan out your moves carefully. (7/10)
  • Graphics: Okay, so they're the same as EarthBound. So they might not have originality, but they still look good... and because there are no battles, I have no complaints about low-quality battle effects either. Nothing's really changed here. (8/10)
  • Sound: No battle music is a good thing! A lot of the good overworld music from EarthBound returns, and some of the tunes that sound more meditative are used more frequently. I like those tracks a lot, so I'm partial to this game's mostly ambient soundtrack. It's calm, slow-paced, and thoughtful. (8/10)
  • Cast: Terrific! You don't really get to find anyone, but I loved the dialogue in this game. It was better written than EarthBound's, with a sharp sense of humor and occasional strokes of brilliance... even if a lot of the sprites are just reused from EarthBound they really did feel like entirely new characters. There was also the element of "Oh hey, there's Paula!" or "That guy was Jeff!" that makes meeting this recurring characters in new roles really amusing. Basically, it's like Ocarina of Time characters that got new personalities in Majora's Mask. I think the cast is probably the strongest point of the entire project, and it makes me want to play the game again. (9/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Unfortunately, there are no battles and the only form of transportation (which I found) was walking. And it can take an awfully long time to traverse the world map. This is fun at first, but obviously it becomes a chore, especially in the desert where it's very easy to get lost. The game may be good overall, but I don't think it's something that would be played regularly. Most people would probably lose interest even on their first playthrough, but I appreciated getting through to the ending. (5/10)
  • Overall: HyperBound really is an odd sort of game which is really more of an experiment than anything... but if you've got patience, attention and imagination you should enjoy it. It's got good characters, backed by the engine that made EarthBound great, minus annoying battles. The game could've been better with a greater array of story arcs like the ones in the beginning, as well as usage for those items (and perhaps a rare couple of battles). The good news is that a new hack is in the works, called "Unearthed" and it looks extremely promising, with a new story (obviously), new characters, added gameplay mechanics, new enemies (that means battles... yes!) and all kinds of awesome new locations. Looks like what we'll see will inevitably be an improvement. (7.5/10)

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy

Naughty Dog's more recent series, the Uncharted franchise, has been met with critical acclaim. But they've long been at the head of another franchise, which got its start soon after the launch of the PlayStation 2. Although all the other games in the Jak and Daxter series went in a completely new direction, the first is a comparatively light-hearted platformer. Is it worth your time?

  • Story: The world that Jak and Daxter live in was created long ago by the Precursors, who built many structures by harnessing Eco, the life energy of the planet. Sages like Jak's mentor (named Samos) search for the truth behind the disappearance of the Precursors, as well as the Eco and structures they left behind. However, Jak and his friend Daxter are generally uninterested in the search for truth, and one day they steal a fisherman's boat and go to the forbidden Misty Island. On the island, they see a pair of mysterious people commanding an army of evil Lurkers. During their misadventures on the island, Daxter falls into a pool of Dark Eco, but instead of being disintegrated, he is regurgitated in the form of an Ottsel, an otter/weasel hybrid. Samos tells them that only one person has studied Dark Eco long enough to change Daxter back- Gol Acheron, the sage. So they embark on a long journey north, collecting Power Cells to fuel machines and devices to help them along the way. Eventually, they discover that the sages are being kidnapped, and that Gol Acheron is one of the two people who commands the Lurker army. He and his sister Maia succeed in capturing four sages and forming a completed Precursor robot from old remains scattered across the land. They attempt to use it to break open the Dark Eco Silo, spreading it over the face of the planet to recreate the world. However, Jak and Daxter discover White Eco at the last second, and while it could've been used to change Daxter back, they're forced to use it up on the robot to destroy it and save the world. At the end, they discover a door which seems to serve as a mysterious portal- this is elaborated upon in the sequel. I really liked this story. It's predictably easy to follow, but handled smoothly and hints at a lot of things which become major plot points in later installments. (7.5/10)
  • Gameplay: At first glance, it might seem extremely generic- typical platforming stuff with jumping, double jumping, ground pounding, spin attacks, and tons of collectibles easily likened to the Mario series (Star=Power Cell, Red Coins=Scout Flies, Coins=Precursor Orbs) but give it a little time and you'll see that it actually refines all of these techniques, and also adds a ton of polish and cool additions. The control is much tighter than pretty much every other platformer out there. In addition to the platforming norm, you get to use Eco-based moves. Collect some of that strange, colorful and glowing matter and you'll get a temporary Eco charge. Yellow Eco shoots homing fireballs, Red Eco increases your attack power and range at the expense of agility, and Blue Eco makes you run fast and activate machines with an electrical charge. The machines you activate could be doors, platforms, boxes, or even launchers that turn your jump into an incredibly powerful blast upwards. There are also a few different things to ride, like the A-Grav Zoomer and Flut Flut. The A-Grav Zoomer is a hoverbike of sorts, and while it might be slippery at first, you'll grasp the controls in about a minute and from then on, it's a sweet ride. The Flut Flut is used very sparingly, but the sections where it is used are well done and always worth it. There are few puzzles in the game, but they make you use Eco in inventive ways. Bosses are very uncommon, there are literally only three in the whole game, and that's counting the final boss. Surprisingly, the game is fun enough that you're never just waiting for the next boss, but enjoying the journey virtually every step of the way- unless you're looking for all 2000 Precursor Orbs, which might be just a tad taxing. Even so, I managed to do this during my first playthrough of the game. Platforming at its finest. (9.5/10)
  • Graphics: This was one of the earliest PlayStation 2 games, but it manages to still be one of the higher caliber games on the system graphically, especially in some of the later levels where there are stylized weather effects and areas that bring back memories of Mordor from Lord of the Rings. My only real gripe is the water. I don't like it, it looks really flat. The game has a generally cartoony look, and it works well. (9/10)
  • Sound: The voice acting for this game is simply phenomenal. Voice acting in so many of today's games lack the comparative charisma and creativity of the voices, which perfectly match the cartoony people they represent. Daxter is usually spouting one-liners left and right, which can be good and sometimes annoying, but he wouldn't be Daxter if it was any other way. The villain is voiced by Dee Snider, lead vocalist of Twisted Sister, and it is without a doubt the greatest villain voice of all time- he also has an incredible evil laugh- and to top it all off, he actually makes a reference to one of his famous songs at the final moment of the game, if you listen carefully. The music is mostly techno-sounding stuff, and while some is clearly ambient, other tracks can really get you going, like the ones that play when you're shooting down the Lava Tube at the end of the game. Little sound effects for picking up items is excellent as well, it's always nice to hear that sound. (9/10)
  • Cast: There's no other way of saying it that would do it justice. In this game, Jak and Daxter are really cool heroes. Regardless of what happened to the series more recently, they kick butt and take names every step of the way in this one. Keira, the mechanic who makes the Scout Flies and A-Grav Zoomer, is probably my least favorite character because her voice is really shrill and piercing, plus she randomly says "Oh my!" for no reason whatsoever. The sages all have unique and distinctly different personalities and designs based on the Eco they research, which is a good thing. They manage to not make them all stereotypical old men by making Samos have a bit of a temper problem, the Red Sage be a laid-back guy, the Blue Sage be ever-so-slightly psychotic, and the Yellow Sage talk with a southern slang accent. All the numerous NPCs throughout the game also have interesting designs and personalities. (9/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: After you beat it 100%, there's not really much of a reason to go through it again other than the fun factor. That being said, the fun factor probably is quite a good reason to go through it again. Still, it's not the kind of game that takes a long time to complete. Took about 22 hours total for 100% completion, so going through it normally could probably put it just about at the 20 hour mark. (9/10)
  • Overall: Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, is an amazing game if you're looking for a game which is meant to be enjoyed purely as a game, with a ton of polish, time, and attention that went into making it. Don't be put off by "cliches" here, because the whole point of the game is showing how effective these tried and true methods can be with proper execution. (8.8/10)

Kingdom Hearts

When I was younger, I played this game over at a friend's house. Naturally, having next to no experience with games, we wandered aimlessly around Traverse Town, freaking out at every Heartless we met, getting stuck on Cerberus and stopped playing altogether. After I finished Kingdom Hearts II, I decided that it was mandatory that I return to the first game in the series and play it seriously. People warned me that it would be much harder. I heard that the final boss was apparently super-difficult and that people had gotten to the very end, only to get stuck. Was I daunted? Of course! Regardless, I still took up the Keyblade...

  • Story: The peaceful Destiny Islands are home to the three friends: Sora, Riku, and Kairi. However, the three of them want to go off and see faraway places besides their islands. Their wishes are granted when a terrible storm wreaks havoc on the islands, and the three of them are split up. Sora awakens in the faraway Traverse Town, where he meets Donald and Goofy, a pair of the King's assistants who were sent on a mission to find "The Key." Sora, as it turns out, somehow came into possession of the key, the Keyblade. As its chosen wielder, it's his duty to search for the Keyholes of the many worlds and seal them to protect their respective hearts from being taken over by the growing army of Heartless, beings formed from the darkness in peoples' hearts. Things should work out well- but when Sora meets up with Riku again, their time apart shows how much they've changed. Riku feels jealousy for not being the wielder of the Keyblade, and believes that Sora's quests are worthless because he hasn't been looking for Kairi. Feeling forsaken, he turns to the dark forces to gain power and save Kairi- but like all the villains of Kingdom Hearts who abuse the power of darkness, he himself becomes a victim of it. Sora and the group set off to save Kairi and Riku, and discover the plans of the Heartless army. A very good plot, especially for a square/disney crossover game, and with its powerful themes, it could've been an excellent standalone title. Most people, however, will argue that this game was definitely the best in the series. (9/10)
  • Gameplay: This is an RPG, but it's an action-RPG. There's a lot of rolling, slashing, jumping and dodging, but also a balance of equipped items, MP, HP, level-ups and Moogles. There's also a bit of platforming in the beginning (which is one of the worst aspects of the gameplay) but fortunately, this becomes alleviated about 30% of the way through the game once you get a suitable jump. You even get the ability to glide later on, and that's a lot of fun. The core aspect of the gameplay is combat, so you'll basically be fighting a ton of Heartless, learning new moves and growing more powerful along with your foes. Once you play it for a little while, you'll notice just how excellently it all ties together, building up the fundamentals of combat and effective movement much more than in Kingdom Hearts II. It's also worth mentioning that the game gets very difficult later on- this game is much more of a challenge than you'd expect. In fact, it's pretty much harder than nearly any game on the market today. This is the kind of game that requires patience and a whole lot of healing. For people who are 100% completionists, there are some really nasty optional bosses to fight- I was able to beat one of them, Ice Titan. It was one of the toughest bosses I've ever fought... then I went after Kurt Zisa and Phantom. They also live up to their reputation, and although I died on Kurt Zisa more than Phantom (stupid HP and MP locks) Phantom is definitely the nastiest, most difficult of the bunch due to the sheer panic factor, cheap hit-and-run tactics and insanely high defense which only becomes apparent about halfway through the battle. I tried Sephiroth for a while, but then decided that I'd save him for later. One of these days, I'll take him down. If you're looking for a well-made challenge with balanced and effective gameplay to boot, look no further than Kingdom Hearts. You probably won't like some of the early platforming, the gummi ship segments (they're really easy and boring, a sharp contrast from the rest of the game) or the massive amount of enemies you'll have to fight to gain power, otherwise known as "grinding." But these are the only gripes I have about the game. It's definitely tough, but not because the gameplay is flawed. The enemies are just more effective and powerful than in other games, and you have to fight with the same skill or better to overcome them. (9/10)
  • Graphics: Really well done- I love how strikingly stylized the Heartless are. The best things, however, are the areas that you go through. Running across the rooftops in Traverse Town at night looks great, and there's more where that comes from- pretty much everywhere you go. Wonderland's trippy corridors and patterns sometimes have that Paper Mario-esque quality to them, Tarzan's treehouse in Deep Jungle has an incredible view, the giant mountain that you climb up in Halloween Town makes me wonder why the area in Kingdom Hearts II is so bland and awful in comparison... and to top it all off, the original areas created for the game are completely mind-blowing. Hollow Bastion is a massive steampunk fortress rising from a thundering ocean on a planet where the motion of water doesn't follow the laws of gravity. End of the World is also one of the best final levels I've ever seen in a game. You've got to play through these places to experience them firsthand. Even if you're annoyed by how easy it is to get lost in them (and there are no maps of any sort, by the way) they're great to look at. So yeah, the graphics in this game are mostly excellent everywhere except for on the gummi ship- even then, the backgrounds look awesome. (10/10)
  • Sound: The voice acting in this game is mostly stellar. The only voices I had problems with were Clayton and Jafar, who really sounded bizarre (sorry, didn't mean for that to rhyme...) but maybe that's just because they're really over-the-top characters. Hmm. Oh... and Ansem sounds really strange sometimes. But that's fine, because he's supposed to be a Heartless. Ergo, he can only "act" like a human, with most of his movements and actions being totally exaggerated. So, I don't really have any complaints like I did with some of those voices in Kingdom Hearts II. Although you can't skip cutscenes in this game (which can get annoying at times when you keep dying on a particular boss fight, and you have to watch the preceding scenes all over again) but at least they nearly always sound good. The soundtrack is great, with the best themes probably being "Deep End" and the ominous, final music at End of the World. (9/10)
  • Cast: Diverse, and does a surprisingly good job of not feeling so awkward like in Kingdom Hearts II. The square and disney worlds combine excellently in this one, and don't feel forced at all. I liked a lot of the characters in it, and although some of them aren't all that memorable, there's nobody you'll outright hate. The Heartless are also a lot better in this game than in Kingdom Hearts II, with cooler designs and better abilities, making them much more worthy opponents. (9/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: With different ways to play through the game to affect gameplay, lots of optional bosses and a generally great quest to boot, this could be considered a classic, and probably the best example of a successful, well-done crossover. A lot of the fighting can be difficult and tedious because of mazelike areas, so it's not like you'll be playing this all the time. But it should be a worthwhile game to come back to, if anything. (8/10)
  • Overall: I was really surprised at how well this game turned out, all things considered. It really is a fantastic game, and a difficult one at that. Some of the areas just have so much effort put into them, like Hollow Bastion, Big Ben in Neverland, and so much more... and the ability to glide wherever you go later on just makes the game feel so magical. It's got a story and cast worth caring about, and the soundtrack and voice acting match the high standards of the rest of this game. Besides the short-lived gummi ship segments which can fortunately be warped through, this game plays really well and is a must for all PS2 owners, no matter how doubtful you may be. Show this game some attention. Go back and play the first Kingdom Hearts. (9/10)

Kingdom Hearts II

It isn't always the most ideal thing to play a sequel before playing the original title, but this turned out to be the case for me with the bizarre Kingdom Hearts series. Most people generally view it as a good game, although there are a few critics that point out flaws like repetition, button mashing, etc. Regardless, this is what I think of it.

  • Story: If you haven't played previous titles or even bothered to learn anything about the story, you're in big trouble. Unless you really put in the time and STUDY like I did about the plots of a few of the other titles and roles that the characters played, it's easy to get lost from beginning to end. And it's even worse if you skip the cutscenes, because they try really hard to make the story apparent to you. If you don't understand the story then you have nobody to blame but yourself, because despite how incredibly convoluted it can get, the story is a good one. I think perhaps the best part of it was the first couple of hours when you play as Roxas, actually. Afterwards, I didn't really feel too much of a good storyline except briefly at the halfway point, and then the last few hours. A lot of the side stories that take place in the Disney universe feel very shallow by comparison because they just serve as excuses to go from Point A to Point B and fight enemies- a prime example of this would be in the Land of the Dragons, which has mega-awkward dialogue due to some content from Mulan which was apparently too "shocking" or "hardcore" for Kingdom Hearts. If you play the game, you'll understand what I mean. However, there are some instances where it works rather well, with an interesting sidestory that takes place in old Steamboat Willie cartoons, and even a well done dual segment at Beast's Castle which seamlessly ties in connections to the game's main group of villains, Organization XIII. Overall, the main story is a very good one at parts, but many of the sidestories are just awkward. (8.5/10)
  • Gameplay: Well, aside from a few pointless minigames, the entirety of the game is fast-paced combat against hordes of foes or a single, powerful boss enemy. You basically fight by locking onto enemies and mashing X to hurt them, and pressing A (triangle) to perform reaction commands that allow you to take advantage of the situation in probably well over 100 unique ways. Although some of the gameplay after the section with Roxas really starts to drag on and become easily repetitive, keep trudging forwards. There's a nice fun break in the monochrome world of Steamboat Willie, and that's a lot of fun. Once you defeat Tron's world, it's a whole different story. Suddenly, you're in the middle of massive sieges, battling (I'm being serious here) one thousand enemies at once, and going toe-to-toe with the challenging and unique members of Organization XIII. After defeating Demyx and Xaldin, the gameplay slows down again, but the massive pickup you get once you head back to the last few hours of Twilight Town and its mysterious parallel dimensions are very much worth the wait. So overall, what can I say? A lot of it feels tedious, but there are select parts that can be fun, frantic, challenging, and all-around epic. (8/10)
  • Graphics: Very nice! A lot of the levels look good, even if I have some objection to the styles that are used here and there. The most impressive animations of course, are the many battle effects and colorful foes you do battle with. The game's got a great framerate and probably never screwed up on me. (9.5/10)
  • Sound: The music is very well done, and a lot of the battle tracks really do get you in the mood for a massive fight. The voice acting for this game is really good- it adds personality to Organization XIII members who would otherwise be bland, and a lot of the other voice actors do a good job for characters like Cid, Donald and Goofy- you might even notice one particular character voiced by Christopher Lee. That's right, he was Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy! Also, hats off to Roxas' voice actor. Very few lines for the most part, but all pulled off very well. And, of course there are a few major stinkers too. Aeris sounds so dead, she's honestly really annoying. The voice actors in Port Royal sound very different from the movie counterparts, and the decline in quality is kind of jarring. The worst of the worst however- and this is debatable against Aeris- is Mushu. If you thought that the Eddie Murphy impersonator who voiced him in Mulan 2 was awful, you aren't prepared to listen to this monstrosity. Ugh. Well, as you can see, the music rocks, some voice actors are talented and others should've just remained silent characters throughout the game, speaking only through text boxes. There are fortunately precious few of these, and thanks to the magical ability to skip select cutscenes, you can erase the bad voice actors from existence. (9/10)
  • Cast: This basically goes along similar lines with the voice actors. Many of the Disney characters are actually very annoying, and although this kind of defeats the original purpose of the Kingdom Hearts series, I have to say that the series would likely be better off without most of them. Hey, why not try and create original worlds for original characters to live in? Or at least, maybe more nods to Final Fantasy characters than Disney ones? Turns out that the good characters have little to no connection to Disney at all. At first, I thought Organization XIII sounded pretty lame, but as it turns out they're not a bad lot. As long as we're on topic with the cast, the enemies have to count as the cast too, right? Well, the Nobodies are awesome enemies. In addition to being completely unique, original enemies, they are all equally entertaining in that they constantly break the laws of physics through their natural movement. Pay attention during the battles and you'll see how the Dusks can run upside-down through the air and slash at you, how the Sorcerers' bodies pulsate constantly, how the Berserkers are mercilessly dragged around by the massive hammers that they hold. Also, I must mention that the first few hours in the beginning do a good job of getting you familiarized with a set of characters, and then emphasizing with them when they come into conflict. (8/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: It's a pretty long game, and while there are extra things to do like find tons of hidden items, fight in stadium matches and battle Sephiroth, there isn't much else. A lot of the game can be tedious, so I don't think it's really worth playing through more than twice. (7.5/10)
  • Overall: Kingdom Hearts 2 has a lot going on, so it can be difficult to sift out what doesn't work in a package which is overall a great game. With a few Disney-related exceptions, the voice-acting in the game is really great, the soundtrack is diverse and fast-paced when it needs to be. The game looks great, and although some of the segments of gameplay can get dull and repetitive, there are select parts which are tremendously fun and epic. Play the others first or study up on the story before you play, and you'll appreciate the work they put into making it. If you're still skeptical, you should at least go and rent it. (8.4/10)

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

Kirby 64 is a game I've played during random, numerous occasions from place to place over the years without ever owning or even renting. BTW, this is the only Kirby game I'm going to review, so if you're a Kirby fan and don't like anything else, you might as well read nothing but this one.

  • Story: Very generic stuff. Everyone was happy until evil shadow/eyeball stuff started possessing people and stole the magic crystals. It was up to Kirby to stop them. Well, that's all there is to it! But, at the end there is a famously creepy final boss from Kirby history with a disturbing, dramatic theme- it's worth a look. (4/10)
  • Gameplay: For the most part this game is your average "cute" platformer but of course there is a Kirby twist to it, so you'll inhale smaller enemies and use them against the bigger ones which are otherwise invulnerable. This can be done by spitting them back out, or by digesting them to steal any special abilities they might possess. You can use this special move in battle until you want to throw it away. However, if done correctly you can throw the ability at another enemy and it'll kill it, fusing with that other enemy's ability. So if you eat the enhanced double abilities you'll gain a mysterious new combo move until you throw it away! Are you following all this? Good. Essentially, what this means is that Kirby has a wide variety of moves of varying effectiveness depending on the situations, and these moves are very creative too. You'll likely want to experiment for a while in the earlier levels trying out all of your ability combos. The search for the crystal shards themselves are not really exciting in the least- more tedious than anything else, with some fun moments along the way. Some bosses are tougher than nails, like Miracle Matter. (7.5/10)
  • Graphics: Very kid-friendly, until the game throws you for a loop during the finale! It plays out in a 2-D fashion, although sometimes the path will have you moving in a clearly visible circle. The graphics don't look too different from Animal Crossing for the Gamecube. (7.5/10)
  • Sound: Cheerful, energetic Kirby songs that keep you going, and an intense, dramatic final boss theme. (8/10)
  • Cast: Kirby's helped out by a group of characters that we couldn't care less about. Enemies are odd at best, although there are a couple of created bosses like Miracle Matter and the last one SPOILER 02 /SPOILER, and a miniboss you fight in the beginning which looks like something out of Scribblenauts which is a lot of fun to fight! (5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Chances are that after you've tried out every move and beaten the game at last, you'll never play it again except for the first planet, Pop Star. (4/10)
  • Overall: Other Kirby games are generally known to have a better reputation and cooler cast. But if you're a Kirby fan I could easily recommend this to you, it's not a bad game by any means, it's decent. Worth a rental for cool moves and a few fun battles to use them in if you can make it to the designated points. (6/10)

Luigi's Mansion

One of the Gamecube's first titles, this is the only Mario game where Luigi has been the main character instead. It's also very different from what people might have been expecting. You can't even jump in this game- instead, you use a vacuum to capture ghosts in a ghostbusters tribute of sorts. Is this a winning formula? Let's take a closer look.

  • Story: The Mario Bros. receive a strange letter in the mail saying that they won a mansion (in a contest that they didn't even enter) and a map within the note will lead them to it. Mario decides to go first and he'll meet up with Luigi after he gets there. So Luigi follows the map through a dark and mysterious forest and it comes to a clearing with the mansion, which looks much more ominous than the letter entailed. Luigi goes in and barely escapes a ghost attack thanks to professor Elvin Gadd, a ghost expert. E. Gadd gives Luigi a ghost-detector/radar map/GameBoy Color (called the Gameboy HoRrOr) and a vacuum cleaner and sends him into the mansion to save his brother from the ghosts. Long story short, Mario is saved, the mansion vanishes in the morning and if you found enough cash, Luigi and Mario will get a real mansion! If you didn't get enough money, your house won't be as luxurious. I think there are five different houses you can get. (7/10)
  • Gameplay: Many of the mansion's doors are locked, so you'll have to battle ghosts for the keys. Catching ghosts is a lot like fishing, only with more attacks to dodge. After clearing a room, the lights will go on and ghosts will avoid that room- except for Boos, special ghosts that hide in lit rooms. Sometimes, you'll come across special ghosts that have distinct personalities and quirks. You'll have to learn about them by searching the mansion for clues of their weaknesses before you can catch them. These ghosts are called "Portrait Ghosts" and they were once E. Gadd's captive ghosts until they were set free by King Boo, a powerful ghost and the final boss. Bosses in this game will transport you to nightmarish arenas to do battle in, as the mansion, as large as it is, is not large enough to contain these guys. Sometimes you'll have to shoot fire, water, and ice out of your vacuum cleaner to solve different mysteries. There are secret rooms too, and optional Portrait Ghosts to hunt down. Put it all together and it's a lot of fun! (8.5/10)
  • Graphics: They look nice- cartoony but realistic. There are some very intricate details in the mansion that recall various styles of furniture and equipment over the years. (9/10)
  • Sound: The music and the sound effects are generally pretty creepy, but in an odd way. They're good, that's for sure. (8.5/10)
  • Cast: Luigi has a more defined personality in this game, and E. Gadd is a wonderfully bizarre character and mentor. The different kinds of Portrait Ghosts you encounter make up the rest of the game's personalities, and there are some interesting ones, some scary ones and some that are just there. (8/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: The game is very short, but it will take a while to complete the first time you play it. The second time through you'll find the other secrets and you'll be able to finish it faster. After a couple of times, I realized that an experienced player can finish in 3-4 hours. This makes it the ideal game to play when it's late at night and you're in the mood for a creepy, odd game with Luigi. Because it's short, it's also easy to pick up and play again and again. (8/10)
  • Overall: Luigi's Mansion is a different experience, and a worthwhile one that has more thought put into it than a Mario game would. Play it. (8.2/10)

MarioKart: Double Dash!!

First time I played this was actually in a game store. It was fun, and I was thinking to myself "Hey, that's worth buying!" Then a couple years later I somehow got a free copy of it along with a promotional demo disc (no, I didn't steal it!) and I've played single and multiplayer as well as used Action Replay to see all the secret stuff. I'm not a fan of racing games, but this isn't proper racing if you can go from first to last with a mere infamous blue shell. Does this game come in first or spin out in flames?

  • Story: Umm... well... Mario and his friends/enemies go racing, but this time they form tag teams. (2/10)
  • Gameplay: Fun! The variety of items is cool, the carts generally control well. However, there are some irritating and wicked twists and turns from time to time. The difficulty of your opponents is customizable and well balanced. There are also a number of fun multiplayer games, the best of which involves simply tossing bombs like a madman at your foes, which can be interpreted as a mindless, low-caliber form of entertainment or a tutorial for future terrorists. I'm not sure if this game would've sold more or less copies if the title was changed to Mario's Terrorist Blast: Double Strike!! There's not too much to say other than what's been said, so overall it feels fun, but in some instances a bit dumbed down, kind of like if you held open Mario's mouth with pliers and threw in a dump truck's worth of mushrooms, stars, fireballs and bob-ombs, then covered him in styrofoam, threw him into one of those bouncy rooms in an insane asylum, and pressed TURBO. That's Double Dash in a koopa shell, my friend. (7.5/10)
  • Graphics: Cartoony. Sometimes fun to watch, other times hurts to look at. (6.5/10)
  • Sound: Good sound effects for racing, although a lot of the music sounds stupid (besides the Waluigi Stadium song, everyone loves that one). (7.5/10)
  • Cast: Along with the typical Mario Bros. regulars there are a few interesting others, like King Boo and Petey Piranha. Overall, it's a fun group to race with, and it's interesting to see what combinations of characters and carts you can come up with. (7.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Although it's not a game you'll want to play all the time, whenever you get the urge to play it for a few quick races you'll be glad it's there. (8/10)
  • Overall: This game is fun to play for just a couple quick races once in a while. You'll really enjoy it when you play it like this, but otherwise this game is just too shallow to really get into and play seriously, save for if you're going to play fair and square to unlock the extra content here. I just don't have that patience, at least not for a game like this. Is it bad? No! It's just not one of those titles that stands out or anything. Worth renting. (6.5/10)

MOTHER 3

While playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl, one thing particularly confused me. Who are Lucas and Ness, why do they have all these weird moves and levels, and is that weird boss from the Subspace Emissary from their games? I had to look more into it, and I learned that Mother 3 was the last of the Mother Trilogy, a trilogy which only had one game released outside of Japan: EarthBound. It has the most dedicated fanbase ever, and I learned that they went to the trouble of translating Mother 3 into English so it could be played. It looked very bizarre, and I normally don't care much for 2D games- especially RPGs- especially turn-based RPGs, which I outright hate. Then why did I get the translated version of the game? Why should you as well? To find out why... read on.

  • Story: Not going to describe it here, this needs to be experienced by the players themselves. An outline won't do justice for all the details. The story is separated into chapters, you'll go from one chapter to the next, oftentimes playing as different characters with different parts in the story. One of the strongest points of the game is the story, which is in my opinion the best of the best. (10/10)
  • Gameplay: Like the previous installment, EarthBound, you travel throughout the land carrying out specific actions as your assigned characters. The basis involves turn-based combat which occurs when you run into an enemy on screen. This is usually something I detest with every last fiber of my being, but for once, it manages to make it not tedious, but fun! In addition to strategic placement of psychic attacks, shields, counters and items galore, your basic attacks are tempo-based according the background music, meaning that if you hit the attack button in time with the music you can continue your attack up to 16 hits per character in a single turn. To some it may seem gimmicky, but it is part of the greatest turn-based system put to use in an RPG yet. In addition to this, your HP is managed by a rolling counter. So if you're hit with a massive attack of 300 damage and you only have 150 HP that number will start sliding down towards zero and your death. However, you can save yourself if you heal quickly enough when you get a chance. The gameplay is just the right level of difficulty the first time around, but on subsequent playthroughs I've found many ways to make battles easier. You can always make the system tougher for yourself by playing Hard Mode which doubles the HP of every enemy and boss you do battle with. But apart from the battles, just exploring the world, discovering new places, secrets and people is the most fun. There are all kinds of ways to get around- on foot, by train, on elevators, escalators, ropeways, climbing, riding hovercrafts and even mobile coffee tables. It's an incredibly unique game, and has characteristics so uncommon that you won't even find them ripped off anywhere else. (10/10)
  • Graphics: Tons of work went into the sprites of this game. There are so many animations and so much impressive scenery, it's unbelievable how much power can be rendered through the use of supposedly simple sprites. It would not be Mother 3 if it looked any other way. (10/10)
  • Sound: 280 songs, and altogether the greatest soundtrack in gaming history. There are also many sound effects, what I particularly like is that everybody, friend of foe, makes a certain sound for each attack, and these sounds have variations with multiple hits and powerful smash attacks. (10/10)
  • Cast: The characters of the story are the best of any game, and they are as good as the music and story. Down to every last supposedly insignificant NPC, everybody has a certain quirk to them that makes them stand out. There is so much text which was translated into English, and it was very well done. It has to be amazing in Japanese as well, and it's being translated into other languages like Spanish so that everybody can get the most out of the characters. (10/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Over a decade of cancellations, announcements, work and pure care went into this game, and it shows. Not only is it easy to pick up and play again, but the concepts of the game itself will have you thinking about it when you're not playing it- it's extremely thought-provoking. (10/10)
  • Overall: A masterpiece, the single greatest achievement on the GBA with the greatest story I've ever heard which could be told in no other way than through the game itself. I've added an extra section on Mother 3 on my User Page, so check there for an unrestricted opinion of what I think of it. I totally recommend this to everyone, gamer or not, to take into consideration and appreciate. It's in my Top Five Games of all Time, and it's the pinnacle of achievement in the Mother series. (10/10)

MOTHER/EarthBound Zero

This is one game I never thought I'd see myself playing, let alone reviewing... but after finishing both of the other games in the series, I figured that I had to give this one a go. Like Mother 3, it was never officially released outside of Japan, but it was translated so it could be. Of course, there wasn't enough time for Nintendo to show off this game. I played this game on an emulator. It is a clone of other RPGs at the time, but it is set in modern days instead of in medieval times. This is a game few have had the chance to play, or have given themselves the chance to play. Was it worth it?

  • Story: Pretty confusing. One day, Ninten (a kid whose name sounds like Nintendo) is visited by a poltergeist that wreaks havoc on his house and his village. He sets off to settle the disturbance and discovers a land called Magicant. This world is ruled by Queen Mary who wishes to hear the song "Eight Melodies" so Ninten sets off on a voyage all over the world to gather the notes to the song, and it soon becomes clear that the world is under attack by an alien armada of some sort. After completing the song and playing it for Queen Mary it is revealed that she adopted the leader of the alien invasion (Giegue) through some strange turn of events and wants you to set things straight with the aliens. So Ninten and his friends climb the mountain where the aliens are coming from and sing the song of the Eight Melodies to Giegue who realizes that he shouldn't be invading his Mother's race, so he flies away and leaves Earth alone. Uh... okay.. (6/10)
  • Gameplay: Essentially the game is a quest for the Eight Melodies, which are hidden in very strange places so it will take a while to find them all unless you're using a guide, which you will hopefully consult along the way if you're smart. It's not easy to tell where you have to go next. But the problem isn't figuring out where to go next- it's getting there. You'll randomly encounter TONS of waves of enemies that want to battle, and unless you have a lot of patience, you're going to get angry fast at all the random encounters, because the battles aren't that exciting. I was patient with this game, and I probably enjoyed it more than a lot of people would've, but then again I'm supposed to be recommending this to a lot of people to begin with. Exploring the world is fun when you're not fighting enemies every other step. (7/10)
  • Graphics: Even for the NES these don't look too great, but I don't particularly dislike the style. (6.5/10)
  • Sound: The sound effects are what you'd expect, and not bad. The music however, is the best on the NES, or at least one of the best. The overworld songs are good, the Magicant songs are mysterious, dungeon songs are spooky, and battle songs sound okay. There are no bad battle songs, unless you count the last one which is a droning, high-pitched screech throughout the whole thing. (8.5/10)
  • Cast: Weird characters that unfortunately can't be that fleshed out thanks to the haphazard translation and the fact that this is an NES title. But despite all of the limitations of the system, there are some memorable characters here. If you can't remember them by their sprite, then at the very least you will remember them by their dialogue, which is humorous even today. (7/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: If it weren't for the extreme tediousness of the random encounters and all the limitations, you might feel like coming back. But I don't think this is the game worth finishing more than once. Of course, you could do it once more for old time's sake twenty years later or so. (6/10)
  • Overall: This is not the kind of game I would play unless I was a HUGE Mother fan and/or an absolute RPG fanatic. But it is not a bad game by any means, and clearly laid the foundations for EarthBound and Mother 3, which would carry the Mother series from a single game to one of the greatest trilogies. It was better than I'd expected, and that's saying a lot for someone who originally hated every RPG out there. (6.8/10)

Nanosaur

A Pangea Software game, and one of the very first games I can remember playing. About a decade later, and do I remember this game fondly?

  • Story: In a future ruled by very intelligent dinosaurs, one of them is sent back to the past to retrieve eggs of extinct species to benefit their culture. However, the catch is that the dinosaurs millions of years in the past are violent and dangerous, and there are only 20 minutes to retrieve the eggs before an asteroid obliterates all life on the surface of the Earth. But then why couldn't they send you back to a more convenient time? Oh well. At least it's original. (4/10)
  • Gameplay: Fortunately, you're armed to the teeth with a blaster which can fire heat-seeking shots, scatter shots, sonic waves and an extremely dangerous nuke which totally destroys all enemies in a very wide radius. However, this weapon is deadly enough to kill you easily if you use it stupidly. You also are given a jet pack which you can fuel with natural gas geysers in order to fly over lava or to reach high-up places. Once you retrieve an egg, you take it through one of the time portals. Once you have all the species of eggs, you yourself can go through the portal to leave the time and save your skin. These are pretty cool concepts, but the control isn't good. There's no targeting system, so you have to position yourself correctly every time to fire shots. Also, it can be pretty glitchy- and you don't even need to hover over lava because you can walk around the borders of lava areas anyways. Maybe that was on purpose, but it seems more like bad design to me. Anyways, it's simple, but pretty fun although short- 20 minutes doesn't allow time for much depth of any sort. (7/10)
  • Graphics: Very basic, but has an instantly recognizable style. Your character and the enemies look realistic in some respects, but lower quality in others. Although I thought a few of the environments were cool, the biggest problem is the mist which constantly obscures your vision. That's bad. (6/10)
  • Sound: Creepy enemy growls, which lets you know that they've got you in their sights. A lot of the sounds are reminiscent of classic arcade sounds but updated so that they're more realistic. There's only one real theme music, but it's a cool, jazzy theme which fits the atmosphere of the game. (7/10)
  • Cast: No dialogue, just your character and the enemies. There are only five different enemies, but each is recognizable and has its own habitats and abilities. It's a pretty cool main character- a raptor with a blaster and a jet pack. Enemies are nothing less than you'd expect: angry dinosaurs. (4/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Although you only have 20 minutes of game time, there are tons of high scores to set because there are a lot of possible courses you can take in that time. It also helps that there's a harder version of the game that comes along with it "Extreme Mode" which is a mod of the original, with armies of enemies and items in new places which can be fun if you like sheer mayhem. (8/10)
  • Overall: It's not a deep game at all, and not of the highest caliber, but it is easy to just sit back and play a quick 20 minute game of it whenever you feel like it. You can develop a few techniques of your own for getting eggs faster. Overall, it's a decent game which isn't bad. (6/10)

Nanosaur 2: Hatchling

I've also played the sequel to Nanosaur, to see how it compared to the first. It looked like a more modern version of the first game, with a different main character- kind of like Bugdom, but without the inherent kiddification of the sequel. Looked worth a try, I played for free. Does this hatchling fly?

  • Story: I don't remember too well. Something about a couple of rebel dinosaurs stealing eggs and taking them to their home planet, and you have to go there through a portal and warp the stolen eggs back to the main planet. Something convoluted. Whatever, let's get this show on the road. (3/10)
  • Gameplay: This time, you control a Pteranodon which is equipped with a pack of some sort on its back. The jets on the back allow for high speed getaways if necessary, but it functions mostly as a blaster to ward off your foes which this time include not only dinosaurs, but technological foes as well. So it plays a lot like the first, but without the 20 minute time limit. You fly through three worlds to get all the eggs back to the portals without getting shot down. The first is annoying because there are lots of trees to crash into, and there are raptors close to the ground that jump up to try and damage you. The second area is a desert. You have to avoid twisters, and an annoying robot which you have to shoot down from a distance before it hits you with its far-too-accurate lasers. The final area is a creepy apocalypse-scape of burnt forests and lava where there are enemy flyers, even more evil robots, giant electric generators and a totally unexpected finale against an army of enormous, disgusting predatory worms. It's pretty dynamic, controls better than the first, but once again isn't that long at all. (7.5/10)
  • Graphics: The best in a Pangea Software game. Looks quite realistic, the last area was pretty fascinating. I can't complain about them. Quite good. (8/10)
  • Sound: Three different tracks of music which aren't that memorable, and not too many lasting sound effects. I'm not really a fan of this. (6/10)
  • Cast: Even less memorable foes than the original, and no dialogue except for a narrator to tell the backstory. Character design isn't really inventive. (3/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Although there are multiplayer races/battles, they aren't that good, and unlike the first Nanosaur, I don't feel like playing through it ever again. It's still a very short game, but long enough to make me not want to go back to it. I see they put in some effort, but they could've made a longer single-player game. After all, many of their other games have ten levels, like the Bugdom games and Otto Matic. (6/10)
  • Overall: In short, this game introduces interesting concepts but limits itself to three levels. It doesn't have the instant replay value that the first one had because it is just long enough to keep people away. You can tell that the developers actually wanted to extend this category with multiplayer offerings, but they really don't hold up that well and the main game could've done with even just two more levels at least. Ten would've been fantastic and imaginative, I'm sure. A few more types of dinosaurs encountered, even if they were already seen in the first, could've gone a long way. That being said, this game isn't as good as the first. (5.6/10)

Otto Matic

This Pangea Software game came along with an older mac my family has. Out of all the Pangea Software titles I've played, this is the only one that hasn't been lost or broken. But is that really a good thing after all?

  • Story: The Brain Aliens from Planet X kidnap a bunch of humans from Earth, and Otto Matic the robot has to save them. He does so and defeats the Giant Brain as well. Wins the award of most uninspired sci-fi story ever written. (0/10)
  • Gameplay: Otto Matic uses various atoms to power himself up. Red is health, blue is rocket fuel to advance to the next level, and green charges your jump-jet, which is a cool move which turns your feet into rockets and propels you gracefully forwards, smashing through barriers and enemies. You can punch the various aliens you encounter, but most of the time you'll be fighting with the guns you pick up, which range from the typical normal, fire, and ice attacks to powerful flares and super-cool supernovas. You'll use different techniques to get through each level, sometimes grabbing magnets to hitch jet-ski rides on high speeding submarine sharks, battling space clowns in bumper cars, riding zip lines through the air and even careening legendary distances on the back of a classic rocket sled! There are a few boss battles in the game as well, and a very annoying teleportation gate puzzle in the fourth of the ten levels. There is also one instance where you pilot a UFO over an alien military camp to save the humans. A lot of it sounds fun and the concepts are cool and a few of them are certainly original. However, the control could be much better. You have bad aim and slip around way too much. (7.5/10)
  • Graphics: Characters and surfaces look pretty good, but it's a style I don't really like. Things just feel too "drawn into the background" for my tastes. Like Bugdom 2. (7.5/10)
  • Sound: Good sound effects, a wide variety of them. The music is weird and alien, and not something I'm particularly a fan of. (8/10)
  • Cast: Really stupid villains. The other enemies you encounter along the way are extremely varied and they have that EarthBound flair to them. You fight a possessed and really angry tractor along with giant evil tomatoes celery and corn on the cob in the first level which is totally hilarious. The second level is just filled with a bunch of typical slime/jello monsters, the fourth level has evil robots and mutants, the fifth has a bunch of circus-themed aliens, the sixth has giant monsters like huge venus flytraps, praying mantises and flame lizards, the eighth has the coolest of the bunch with fire and ice monsters, a Pikmin-esque hopping enemy and a whole host of ridiculous robots with things like wrecking balls, hammers and drills sticking out from them. The humans you save are modeled after 50s Americans. Bad characters, but really funny designs. (7.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: After you make your way through it once, there's no reason to EVER play it again. (3/10)
  • Overall: Some aspects of it are good, but nothing really stands out. It's brought down by a low replay value and an awful story. It's really just not a noteworthy title. (5.6/10)

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Back during the Gamecube's life cycle, I'd been hearing a lot about this game, but I'm not a fan of Mario so I never paid it any attention. Just recently I decided that I should get around to playing it after I got into RPGs more, and I've discovered what makes it a real favorite for those who give it the time of day. Hopefully, if you haven't played it yet, this will offer a bit more insight.

  • Story: Yes, there is the initial premise of Princess Peach getting kidnapped, and Mario having to rescue her. But the entire story is so much more. In fact, it's a bit more like something you'd see in a Zelda game- without too many spoilers, let's say it has some similarities to Wind Waker and Majora's Mask, both games that I've given very high scores to in terms of story. There's also a bit of an EarthBound-style flair going on. I say this not only because of the game's ending battle premise, but because of the setting. Paper Mario makes itself stand out because of its pseudo-modern-age world it takes place in- a world of superstars, emails, luxury trains, blimps, turf wars and rockets. All this and more make for some extremely engaging story elements when you combine them with the traditional fantastic Mario elements of coin blocks, pipes, and strange little balls of fire that rotate in place. There's really so much going on that there's never a dull moment. It's a story with a lot of humor, some sadness and concealed horror. The only drawback is some of the potential emotional impact is lessened by Nintendo's obsession with not letting characters die off permanently. (9/10)
  • Gameplay: This is one of the better concepts for RPG battling that I've seen. You've got to be focused in every fight to pull off timed moves in order to get the full potential out of your skills to beat your foes. In addition, the better you perform in battles, the more you'll impress the audience watching your fights (all battles take place on a stage like it's an act). The more you entertain the audience, the more unique special moves you'll be able to unleash. It's a really fun system, but there aren't really that many instances that really push you to get good with the system besides the very final boss. For those who want more challenge out of the system, there's always the "BP-Only Run" of the game that calls for progressing through the game without upgrading life or power for special moves and relying entirely on badges that cause various in-battle effects. There's a lot to do out-of-battle with a huge world to explore that you can uncover with each new party member's strength or Mario's newly-discovered powers. There is some platforming, but the jumping is a bit iffy like early Kingdom Hearts. (9/10)
  • Graphics: Paper Mario uses a unique visual style that makes it look like the world and its characters are made out of- you guessed it- paper! It looks very vibrant and cool most of the time, and it's really smooth. (10/10)
  • Sound: Sound effects are very bouncy and top-notch to fit the atmosphere. Music has its own style to suit the game, and I feel like a lot of people will feel kind of split on it. It definitely suits the game well, and whether or not it's good is mostly a matter of taste. The loops for some of the music seems to come it bit too quickly for my tastes, but you won't really feel it wearing on you for quite a while. I was only annoyed by Hooktail's Castle theme, for instance, when I had to hear it when I explored the castle a second time during an optional quest. (9/10)
  • Cast: Brilliantly diverse. So many unique NPCs with different personalities, loads and loads of dialogue for some fun reading during the adventure... there is absolutely nothing wrong here. (10/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: If you do all the sidequests along the way in addition to the main quest, the game will be upwards of 50 hours, perhaps 60. There are tons of collectibles and ways to play depending on how you level up and which moves you choose to rely on. Definitely worth coming back to. (9/10)
  • Overall: One of the Gamecube's strongest titles and a real classic with a distinctly unique personality. Most importantly, fun is guaranteed! (9.3/10)

Pikmin

When the Gamecube first came out, lots of people were rushing to get Super Smash Bros. Melee. I was one of the people fortunate enough to ignore it and pick this up instead. It is without a doubt THE game that got me into gaming. Is Pikmin worth it for you as well? It's definitely not your everyday title; one glance at the box art should clear that up. It's not a game for everybody- but the only way you'll find out is if you experience it firsthand. If you are still doubtful for any sort of reason, please read this review so you can understand exactly what I got out of Pikmin.

  • Story: While on interstellar vacation, the miniscule Captain Olimar is struck down out of space by an asteroid, and his ship, the S.S. Dolphin (an homage to the Gamecube's project codename) crashes on the surface of an uncharted, backwater planet. It loses thirty parts, and Captain Olimar has only thirty days before his life-support system fails him. It is unknown to him how many of these parts will need to be collected in order to escape from the planet. Fortunately, he stumbles upon a strange machine... or is it natural? Something odd which he calls an Onion. It produces small, half-plant, half-animal beings which he calls Pikmin. They are loyal to Olimar, and sees that they can be useful to restore his ship and return to his family. There are three separate endings to this story, depending on what you do to survive. I'm not going to spoil any of them. I'll say that probably the greatest impact of the story is the self-reflection Olimar goes through at the end of each day. There are 64 possible entries of varying length, and they say a lot about his character, and his state of mind. The story is partly whimsical, but at its core it is a dark struggle for survival, a story of predators and prey, natural cycles, and the functions different beings are meant to carry out. I was able to understand so much of it thanks to the incredible translation, one of the best I've ever seen from Nintendo. It's left a long-lasting impression. (10/10)
  • Gameplay: Thirty parts, and thirty days. Each day is twenty minutes. The pressure's on. Although there is always an atmosphere of tension, you'll gradually start to learn exactly how this world functions. Pikmin, when plucked from the ground, can produce more Pikmin by harvesting plants and defeating insects. They carry this back to the Onion which generates more Pikmin seeds in return. You can build up an army of thousands, but only 100 are allowed to follow you at any given time. When Pikmin mass in great numbers, they have a lot more power, which means you can take on larger tasks, like demolishing walls and building bridges, with ease. This gives the gameplay a Katamari-like feel to it, but it's definitely more complex. You'll be searching the world for different ship parts, which your Pikmin can pick up and carry back to your ship to repair it. Although you've got a lot of work to do, don't get in over your head; be sure to return your Pikmin to the Onions before sundown. When the Dolphin and the Onions take off, any Pikmin that aren't nearby or buried in the ground will be eaten by the nocturnal predators. That brings us to the next important topic: combat. You'll be fighting tons of strange insects which live on this planet, and they all have different methods for disposing of your Pikmin. Therefore, it's important to take note of your Pikmin's different types of traits to aid you in battle. The Red Pikmin are stronger fighters, and they are also resistant to fire. Yellow Pikmin fly high when thrown, and they can also handle explosive stones to break apart walls and bomb enemies. Blue Pikmin are the only type which can swim- all others will drown in water. Even with all this knowledge, you'll be discovering a lot more things on your own which can help or hurt on your journey. Many fresh encounters are still incredibly vivid in my mind. In addition to this gameplay, you can also unlock a challenge mode which modifies the levels and challenges you to grow as many Pikmin as you can in a given day in the level. There are world records and possible maximums for every course. Incredible gameplay in every way imaginable. (10/10)
  • Graphics: To think this was one of the Gamecube's very first games! It has some of the best graphics on the console, and the world becomes incredibly real. Sometimes, it actually becomes frightening to see an unknown monster looming in the distance- partially because it could lead to anything, but also because... SPOILER this is Earth in the future we're talking about, and this is what it looks like really close up! /SPOILER The appearance of the water is also fantastic. From the mystical lengths of the Distant Spring to the darkest depths of the Forest Navel, the graphics of this game are absolutely amazing. (10/10)
  • Sound: The game's music fits in splendidly with the levels and helps characterize each individual location, as well as what's currently happening. Whether you're running around the bushes of the Impact Site or working your way up to the final encounter, it never lowers in quality. The same can be said for the sound effects of the Pikmin and all the other creatures you encounter. You'll care for the Pikmin very much when you hear they're anguished battle cries, or cheering whenever they return a ship part to the S.S. Dolphin. Despite the fact that you never know what they're saying or what they're thinking, it is the sounds that get the concepts across. Even the menu sounds brilliant. You'd be missing out so much of this game if you played it in silence. (10/10)
  • Cast: Olimar and the Pikmin become surprisingly developed throughout the adventure. Once again, a lot of it has to do with how you play the game. Olimar never really got as much press as other Nintendo characters, and in the very first game he was entirely new. In a sense, he feels a lot more like an avatar than a character like Mario would. The design of the enemies is fantastic and very memorable, totally bizarre and oddly intimidating much of the time. (10/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: When I finally finished it, I got right back to playing again. There are so many different routes to take and possible ways to finish that I lowered my completion time from 30 days all the way down to 11 (with no deaths) as of late. The world record is 9. And that's not even counting Challenge Mode. (10/10)
  • Overall: Without a doubt one of the Gamecube's very best games and one of Nintendo's very best games. Too many people turn down something like this because it's too weird, or too different. Do yourself a favor- don't think like that. This is probably the game I'll feel nostalgic about years from now. It goes without saying that it has earned its spot in my Top Five Games of all Time. Now that it's been re-released for Wii, you can get your hands on this game easier than before, assuming you have a Wii. If you can't find it... then get Pikmin 2, which is just as good! In fact, many people will tell you that Pikmin 2 is the better one. I'd probably say so as well if I hadn't played Pikmin first. They're both equal, and both legendary. (10/10)

Pikmin 2

Needless to say, I was really, really looking forwards to the sequel, and it is without a doubt the game I anticipated more than any other, and that's not likely to change in the future. For many months I speculated over the beta screenshots and bits of information about multiplayer, new Pikmin, infinite days, many more enemies and the mysterious new "caves." When it finally arrived, I really got into it and finished it in probably 4-6 months. Even if you didn't get the first Pikmin, is the sequel a good enough reason to jump on the bandwagon?

  • Story: After the events of "Pikmin," Captain Olimar is returning home to Hocotate. When he arrives, it turns out that his employer, Hocotate Freight, has gone bankrupt. The reason behind this is Louie, the simple delivery guy, had his shipment of golden carrots stolen during a space voyage- or so he says, by a "ravenous space bunny." This puts the company in a massive debt of 10,100 Pokos, the currency of Hocotate. The President of the company even sells the ship Olimar worked so hard to repair and save his life in the first game, the S.S. Dolphin. All seems lost, but suddenly a rusty old ship scans a mysterious artifact Olimar brought with him from his adventure (which is in actuality a bottle cap) and assesses its value at 100 Pokos. The President sees promise in the treasures on the planet and sends Olimar and Louie on the rusty old ship back to that mysterious planet to gather more objects like it and pay off the debt before the government loan sharks get to the President. Luckily, the Pikmin seem to remember Olimar, and so they help the two pilots gather treasure. After many days of toil when the debt is finally repaid, Olimar takes off back to Hocotate, but suddenly turns and sees that Louie has mysteriously disappeared. So, Olimar and the President return to the planet to search for Louie and to collect the remainder of the treasures- but it turns out that there are a few things they didn't know about Louie after all. At this point I'm going to stop explaining the story because it is laden with spoilers and shouldn't be revealed without playing the game. Rather like the first, the real emphasis of the story is not so much in the basic motivations as it is in the adventure along the way. The Pikmin follow their leaders with utter subservience, oftentimes to horrific death. And it gets even creepier when you think about it- you'll be propagating armies, traveling to the darkest depths and farthest corners of the planet only to sacrifice them for the sake of profit. It's less deep but certainly as dark as the first, but there are some parts, like the end, which seem too mysterious and vague. (9.5/10)
  • Gameplay: Better than the first, and no doubt the staple of any continued iteration of the series from this point on. For a basic outline, see the description of the first, then continue reading here to see what's been changed. So! First off, AI is better than the first, your Pikmin are smarter when it comes to things like crossing bridges or not falling over, although this can happen sometimes, usually at the worst possible moment. Secondly, the dual-pilot mechanics let you multitask more efficiently so you can split up parties to solve puzzles and explore greater territories during the day. You've got two new rare types of Pikmin, the Purple Pikmin which are heavy and can smash enemies, and the White Pikmin which are speedy, resistant to poisons, poisonous to enemies that eat them and able to sense treasures buried under the ground. That leads us to the biggest new addition: caves! These underground sectors are swarming with enemies and filled to the brim with hazards and traps, but they hold a great store of treasures and time stops while you explore them, so you can arrive in one at any point of the day, leave it and the clock will continue again. A boss waits for you on the bottom floor. In short, they are the dungeons of the Pikmin world, and from now on it should be a requirement in any sequel the franchise will have. The battles of the game are super-strategic and well-balanced, except for the overpowered Purple Pikmin's attacks. It's easier to manage Pikmin in this one because you don't have to split up groups; you can hold down A and shift through colors to use on the D-Pad. The main game is also much longer, and despite the fact that you have infinite days the dungeons will make it much tougher to complete and it's a far longer experience than the first. Add to that mulitplayer battles and co-op challenge arenas and you've got one huge, totally satisfying game. The only thing missing, in my opinion, is a two-player story mode. That's what I was looking forwards to, but everything else here makes it easily forgiven. (10/10)
  • Graphics: Some of the very best on the Gamecube. The tons of enemies you encounter and Pikmin you'll meet are splendidly animated. Environments look very realistic, and it's a very beautiful, ominous world of exploration, like the first. The dungeons are mysterious, moody and timeless, and there are always scenes that are still breathtaking even now when I play the game. The cutscenes are also very well-done, and the bosses are massive and fearsome. Epic. (10/10)
  • Sound: The Pikmin make many more sounds in this game, and it brings them to life all the more. There are lots of sound effects for enemies and objects that you'll interact with, along with background sounds of birds flying somewhere off in the sky, animals scurrying through the grass, distant echoing noises in the dark underground. The music is nearly fantastic as the first, managing to always create so many moods, like the lively and merry forests, the dreary cavern corridors and especially the incredibly epic boss battles where sheer scale rules. Too bad there's no official OST for this game! (10/10)
  • Cast: Olimar, Louie, the President and even the ship's Research Pod are incredibly memorable thanks to the terrific translations provided for all of the game's dialogue present in the hundreds of research files, journal entries, cooking notes and sales pitches documented during this tremendous expedition. In addition to that, you also get called by various characters from Hocotate during your adventures, like family members, friends and even random spammers. The Pikmin themselves are very charismatic, and even though you'll never understand a word of what they're saying, they'll be your favorite characters. Even more quality went into the translation than the first, and it shows. Well done. (10/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: It's got amazing replay value, the main game is one of the most epic adventures of all time. Coupled with the multiplayer modes and all kinds of records you can set, it's always good to start a new file and play through it to the ultimate finale. (10/10)
  • Overall: Although it doesn't have the same nostalgic appeal as the first, this is one of the greatest sequels in gaming history, and a perfect example of what a perfect sequel should be. Even without playing the first, I can absolutely recommend this game to everyone, it is much more accessible and has better gameplay to keep you going through the whole thing. This goes in my Top Five Games of all Time, the Pikmin series absolutely rocks. (9.9/10)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (GBA)

This is one of the only instances where I deliberately played a game that I knew would be downright horrendous. You know how I hate Zelda II? This game is part of what helped me to understand that there are fates worse than side-scrolling temples, slow-moving text boxes and slippery jumping controls. Ladies and gents, prepare yourself for one of the very worst movie tie-ins I've ever had the misfortune to stumble upon. Also consider that a person with no former knowledge of the actual game's content is expecting it to be at least SOMEWHAT like the movie it was based on. Here we go!

  • Story: Without any warning, upon starting the game we are treated to still images of pirates on a ship. One of them looks vaguely like Barbossa, and he's making Jack walk the plank- okay, understandable so far, this is what happened before the events of the actual first movie. But wait... why does Jack Sparrow not look like Jack Sparrow at all? This guy has a blue bandana, and a face that looks more like Hulk Hogan than Jack Sparrow. And interestingly enough, he is never actually called "Jack Sparrow" during the course of the game... just "Jack." So maybe he's an entirely different person? Who knows. Anyway, he wakes up on an island looking somehow even more super deformed than before. He manages to gather firewood and attract a ship's attention that takes him to Port Royal, where he meets an innkeeper. Why is this important at all? Well for some reason, Jack has nothing better to do than do whatever the innkeeper tells him to, whether it's wandering around town murdering British officers and stealing money, bombing merchant ships in the harbor, or mucking around on the beach looking for buried treasure. I could not manage to get far enough to experience any other kind of story, but I do know that eventually the plot with Barbossa DOES return at one point, because you fight Barbossa at the end as the final boss. And he very clearly dies. But wait... that means that the events of the movie are already over! So essentially, the story seems like some sort of twisted alternate reality. Dreadful, but entertaining in a sick sort of way. (0/10)
  • Gameplay: Basically, Jack runs like he has serious bowel movements 24/7. Or maybe that's just because of the ridiculous pants that pirates wear? Whenever he encounters an enemy, be it a British officer, a crab, a skeleton, a British officer, or a crab, he whips out his sword and starts slowly dancing in place. You can't take out your sword otherwise- only if an enemy is close enough to engage in combat. So good luck avoiding damage from enemies that run at you. You also have a gun with a couple of bullets in it, literally a couple, you only have 2 shots. And it is just as powerful as the sword, only it has no aim. So basically, you run around like this doing anything the innkeeper tells you to do. And I came to a point, about 30 minutes in when I had to find a buried treasure. Well, I eventually found a guy with a shovel. Definitely the shovel I had to use to dig up the treasure. But he wouldn't do anything other than go on about how I needed to use a shovel to dig up buried treasure. Go figure. The other gameplay element is the ship section. You use L and R to steer your ship left and right, or fire the cannons, or something like that because these are absolutely the worst controls I have ever witnessed, and I can't even remember which buttons did what. Also, the game uses the incredibly dated system of passwords/codes for each level... that's right, it can't even save. (2/10)
  • Graphics: Characters look super weird and mutated in "cutscenes." For some reason the innkeeper always looks like he just accidentally crushed his finger in a closing door. But the graphics in cutscenes are truly artistic beauty compared to the game's actual graphics. It's on GBA... yet the graphics look like a nasty cross between a pirated SNES game and the original Earthbound Zero. (2/10)
  • Sound: Believe it or not, nearly every musical piece is aggravating. The best of them all, "A Pirate's Life For Me," loops every 12 (COUNT THEM, TWELVE) seconds. Have fun losing your mind. And every time you bring up the item select screen, a monkey screams. The same thing happens if you cancel the item select screen. I have no clue why. (2/10)
  • Cast: Barbossa, Jack, and the innkeeper. Also worth noting is that there are some generic pirates who appear in the opening cutscene forcing Jack to walk the plank. Yet upon the game's completion, those same pirates are seen celebrating alongside Jack. I'd call it lazy, but the fact that they bothered to animate them again seems like an astounding display of effort considering the rest of the game. (0/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Not long at all. For me it lasted 40 minutes, and not once was it appealing. (0/10)
  • Overall: Terrible terrible terrible terrible. I have a hard time believing that Disney let this carry the Pirates of the Caribbean name. This is the worst game I've ever given a score to. Makes Zelda II look decent by comparison. At least that game... isn't this game. (1/10)


Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time, Explorers of Darkness

I've never been a Pokemon fan. Plots are all the same, dialogue is generally poor and sometimes unintentionally hilarious, like all of the trainer's stupid catchphrases that they yell out before, during, and after the battle. Then, I learn of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon which does away with the trainers and lands the Pokemon in a world of their own. Much more inviting. So, at a friend's house I took a chance and started my own file in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2, the game so nice they named it twice. Or is it? Keep it mind I'm an RPG hater too. As you can imagine, this was a different experience for me.

  • Story: Actually, I was pretty surprised at the depth of the story. This one of things the Mystery Dungeon series has that the main series doesn't. You go through an intricate quiz to determine your type of Pokemon, and after many tries, I got a Pikachu- and a Cyndaquil to help me out. The story starts with an odd shipwreck of some sort... that's what it seems like anyways... and then you wake up on a beach and join an Explorer's Guild because you somehow turned into a Pokemon and really have no idea what to do with yourself. Throughout your general adventures you discover you have psychic powers and that a mysterious Grovyle is attempting to paralyze the planet by stealing the Time Gears. You're aided in your quest to stop him by the legendary explorer Dusknoir (spoiler) who is the most OBVIOUS villain I've ever seen (/spoiler) who ends up (another spoiler) betraying you, Grovyle turns out to be trying to save the world, but both of them fall through a vortex anyways, putting them out of the picture (/another spoiler). Then you go through the final dungeon where everything is at stake and of course you save the world, but then you're erased from existence. The final boss pities you so it brings you back into existence so you can live out the remainder of your life completing optional dungeons all over the world. Doesn't sound all that great, the story certainly isn't original... but it's a lot more than I expected at first sight. They have to make some of the situations obvious for younger players, which dumbs down a bit of the dialogue, but if you manage to overlook these little things then the story will turn out alright for you. Plenty of character development, too. (8/10)
  • Gameplay: Odd kind of board layout for the dungeons, every time you take a step your enemies will do, leading to inevitable confrontations. Whether or not the dungeon you go into is a difficult experience is completely random, because the floors shuffle around all the time. Some of it is quite fun, but other times you'll have to deal with the stupid sandstorm condition, hidden traps that damage you far too much (and will probably be triggered twice in a row, as your partner is an incompetent buffoon that's always one step behind- but certainly invaluable when he/she's not getting you killed.) Boss battles are always loaded with tension, and rightly so, because if you screw up you're going to lose half of all of your items and cash- or maybe all of it? I forget. Either way, you want to carefully store things away. Difficulty level is very good, actually. The problem is that there's really nothing to do besides the dungeons. Online support is cool too, so you can have a legendary Pokemon from another file help you out through the first dungeon if you want. Still, there are some places where outside help is off-limits. That's fine too. Sometimes, enemies you defeat will join your party if you let them, and it's usually interesting to see who comes along. I ended up adding a Seviper and a Wormadam to my team. (8/10)
  • Graphics: Not bad, but nothing special at all. For a DS game, it should be utilizing more of the system's capabilities. There are some interesting Pokemon sprites. (6.5/10)
  • Sound: Decent enough sound effects that perfectly match the graphics. The music is better, though. Some of it sounds cheesy, but other tracks sound downright epic! (8/10)
  • Cast: Aside from some issues with the simplicity of the dialogue, there are some memorable characters here that have distinct personalities- and certainly a lot more character development than I ever expected from the start. Some of it is very corny, especially the end, but never feels out of place. I have nothing against the characters here. (8.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: While there's never all that much diversity, there are many dungeons to tackle and people to help. I stopped playing after I graduated from the Guild, that was all I needed to do. Then, my file was promptly deleted so someone else could play. Completing it all will take a while. (7.5/10)
  • Overall: Much better than I expected! There were annoying parts, that's for sure, but there were parts that made playing it worthwhile. Some parts might seem naive, but this is the sort of game that should be played with an open mind. If you do, it'll be completely worth it. (7.8/10)

Pokemon White Version

Having never before actually played through a Pokemon game besides Mystery Dungeon, I figured I should give the main series a try. I don't know what inspired me to start with White. After all, I thought at the time that it had the dumbest Pokemon designs I'd ever seen. I admit I sort of leapt into this one without really knowing what to expect. But ultimately it paid off, and here's why.

  • Story: There's more effort put into the story of this Pokemon game than the others in the main series, and it was one of the qualities of the game that appealed to me more. There's the standard Pokemon plot of a kid who wants to get the 8 badges and become the Pokemon Master, but it's intertwined with the plans of a strange organization called Team Plasma. Unlike other "villainous" groups in the series, Plasma's stated goal is to campaign for Pokemon liberation. This does make the story more morally ambiguous. And if a game can make its players think and reflect, then the story's done a good job. Although, I think more could've been done with this premise than what we saw in the final product. Nintendo probably had to dumb it down a bit because it's a game that kids are going to play after all, so it doesn't reach its full potential. It's still a welcome addition though, and I hope that more stories like this appear in other Nintendo games. (8.5/10)
  • Gameplay: See Pokemon Yellow. Every Pokemon game has basically built upwards from there in terms of gameplay, and here we have the current pinnacle of the series' efforts. It controls more effortlessly yet is just as strategic- it's really just gotten better and better! It makes me wonder how they'll improve upon it yet again with the next installment. It's a really good thing that I'm asking that, because it goes to show that it's hard for me to imagine it being any better! (10/10)
  • Graphics: Very well-done sprite animation. Finally, the Pokemon actually move during battles. I'm glad to see that the much needed effort was finally put into this game. Some interesting effects are tried out for the weather and large structures that was explored a bit in Platinum. This is the best that a Pokemon game has ever looked, and I hope it sets the current standard. (10/10)
  • Sound: Nothing worth noting besides the music, which is VERY much worth noting. I think that even more effort was put into this game's soundtrack than the others, and I absolutely loved it. The battle theme gets repetitive, but it's like that for every RPG. I'd recommend getting headphones to appreciate the audio more. (9.5/10)
  • Cast: Better-written to go along with the more thoughtful story. I still think N is probably the best character in the current Pokemon series. There are other entertaining NPCs, and it was also interesting to see how the main character, Cheren, and Bianca represented the different paths each of them would take. Sometimes, though, Cheren and Bianca were a little bit annoying. (8.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: There's around 600 Pokemon these days. That being said, even without catching 'em all there's still a ton to do in the game long after the final bosses are defeated. It's a great map to explore, and fun game to play again and again. They've really outdone themselves this time. (10/10)
  • Overall: You don't need to get any of the other Pokemon games to appreciate the series. This game currently represents the best of all the qualities I've listed in this review present in the Pokemon series. If there's one you must own, it's definitely this one. I would also recommend not spoiling the story and taking the time to think about it. You won't just have fun with the story, but maybe you'll actually learn a few things too. (9.4/10)

Pokemon Yellow Version

Believe it or not, Pokemon White was the first legitimate Pokemon game (that is, one of the handheld games that comprises the central series) that I ever purchased. After finishing it, I felt compelled to play the titles that had come before it. I got into Yellow instead of Red or Blue, sheerly due to that adorable Pikachu sprite that follows you wherever you go. This game is hardly changed from Red and Blue version, so this review could account for all three games, technically. How does the original series of Pokemon games stack up against its multitude of successors?

  • Story: It's a tale about one boy's quest in a world much like our own, but inhabited by creatures called Pokemon. He decides to defeat the 8 Gym Leaders and travel to the Pokemon League to become a Master of Pokemon battles. Along the way, he thwarts the efforts of the sinister Team Rocket that wants... what exactly? Well, they're pretty much just a standard criminal group that operates in this world without any grandiose scheme. And I suppose that's actually an interesting change of pace as far as gaming is concerned. The real villain is arguably your rival, Gary, with the same goal as you- only he's a total jerk. It's a simple story and it really doesn't matter much at all, but the game never suffers for it, either. There's nothing ambitious about it. (4/10)
  • Gameplay: A unique twist on the standard RPG system. You carry up to six Pokemon, each attacking one at a time to defeat your rival's Pokemon squad. You can catch and battle Pokemon in the wild to then use against the opponents you encounter. There are roughly 150 Pokemon you can use, offering a variety of ways to play. You need to pay close attention to your Pokemon's elemental type in order to find advantages against opponents, and avoid your own unique weaknesses. Adventuring is standard RPG fare- exploring, talking, clearing simple obstacles, occasional puzzles. It's well done and enjoyable. (8.5/10)
  • Graphics: The people putting this game together had to work with severe limitations, but ultimately they got a game that does what it can with what it has. Nothing special, but on one hand it's kind of iconic. (5/10)
  • Sound: There are some really special and well-done soundtracks in the game, and I suppose there's also a few that can get annoying at times, like the one used early on in Viridian Forest. But the good definitely outweighs the bad here. (7/10)
  • Cast: Most NPCs are fairly lame, but there are some memorable ones. They did a great job making me HATE Gary. Oak is still my favorite Pokemon Professor as well. I also remember enjoying Surge's bit in the story. I just feel like the more memorable characters just aren't given much to do. (6/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: The gameplay leaves a lot of room for variety, and for fans who get into the series, there's plenty of fun to be had here, even at such an early stage. There are of course, so many Pokemon to catch, and various challenges to be had with the way this game is set up. (8/10)
  • Overall: I'm glad I can be honest about my scoring system, taking everything into account. Pokemon Yellow and its pals serve as the template for what the series would become, so in a way it feels like working with a blueprint. But it's a well-done blueprint nonetheless with some interesting moments for those patient enough to follow it and see where it goes. (6.4/10)

Portal (The Orange Box)

In case you haven't figured it out, I prefer Nintendo games more than either Sony or Microsoft and I generally ignore offerings for the PC. (All the same, I'm NOT a fan of what Nintendo did with the Wii...) A friend of mine picked up The Orange Box, said it was a good deal and we played at least a little bit of each game, but easily we followed through with Portal and played the whole game that night. And it was TWISTED. Best of The Orange Box? Definitely. Is everything else in there worth it too? Absolutely. But this review focuses on Portal specifically, because while the Half-Life and Team Fortress games stand out, Portal is one of my favorites- in case you couldn't tell.

  • Story: At first, Portal seems to be devoid of story whatsoever, and at first appears to be just a cool Half-Life mod made to test new physics. But... that's just the tip of the iceberg- or as you will soon find out, the tip of the icing on the cake beneath. You're led through a series of tests through the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, wielding a device given to you which has a more complicated name but in "layman's terms" it's a Portal Gun. The wonderful thing about this game is that the story rarely ever presents itself to you. You slowly realize what's happening as you make your way through the labyrinths, guided by GLaDOS' voice, the computer that aids test subjects. In fact, from the very first room where you wake up, there's a bit of a background you might notice. Lying next to your bed/capsule is a pad with paper that has instructions for Advanced Knee Replacement Surgery explaining why you can fall from high places without injury. (Of course, if you want you can flush the notepad down your toilet.) Little by little you'll start noticing the framework of the labyrinths deteriorating in places- and behind the clean white panels lies a view of a more industrial portion of the center- with foreboding graffiti that says "She's watching you." Sure enough, SPOILER the only speaking character is leading you into a trap of sorts, what exactly it is you cannot tell, but apparently cake is somehow related to it. /SPOILER After the said event, if you figure out how to continue onwards you'll get to explore the industrial portion of the laboratory, all the way to its core, and discover clues as to what happened here- and to the world outside. But you won't get out without a final showdown. Dark, disturbing and intense. (10/10)
  • Gameplay: Fans of Zelda, like myself, should gravitate towards this title. Portal's gameplay revolves around puzzles for an FPS rather than a meat-headed blitz through mutants. You'll learn how to use Portals to bring objects closer to you or move them away, how to pick up speed through Portals to launch yourself across gaps, how to drop objects from above or throw them through walls, and even redirect bullets and other unfriendly projectiles... the list goes on and on. And it's a good thing you have all these skills, because the tests go from easy to fevered madness- and it doesn't help that your enemies are among the scariest in any game made. They'll call out to you in childlike voices to get out of your hiding place, then open fire and relentlessly barrage you with shots until the target is lost. Also, they look very realistic- something that Apple would probably invent for the military. The fact that they are uncommon makes them all the more frightening. In short, gameplay in Portal can be compared to an enormous temple in Zelda where you follow a mostly straightforwards path using the same item to progress through many different situations. It controls like a breeze as well. The only flaws are that you'll be using triggers so much, you'll start forgetting what the other buttons are meant to do, and you may press the wrong ones at the wrong time. The game itself may be short, but in a sense it is perfectly sized, an excellent poem of a game. (9.5/10)
  • Graphics: Excellent. The test chambers which look so sanitized add to the claustrophobic mood, and it becomes even more evident when you're passing through the mysterious and sinister industrial sector. There are so many hidden details that you'll want to take your time- just try not to lose your mind along the way. (9.5/10)
  • Sound: Mostly ambient music, which of course is supposed to lend to the claustrophobic mood. Everything looks and sounds the way it should. (9/10)
  • Cast: Minimalist, to say the least- there's you, there's GLaDOS, and there's a cube that you'll have to use to set down on switches and other stuff to get through tests called the "Companion Cube" and due to the circumstances of the game, the cube becomes a true character without ever displaying emotion, having a face, saying words, or being anything more than the cube it is. GLaDOS has tons of funny dialogue, oftentimes sarcastic, which is helped due to the monotonous tone. Also, as I mentioned earlier, enemies are personality-less but have voices that will chill your marrow. The lack of characters is what makes this game more silent and pensive. (8.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: You only get one first playthrough, like any game... but believe me, that playthrough will be one to remember. You'll want to play through it again afterwards to unlock achievements and view the secrets hidden deep within. Afterwards, you probably won't feel like playing it much anymore, but that's why there are extra test chambers- and now, a mod of Portal: The Flash Version which is an excellent addition for fans of Portal. You could almost call Portal a series now. (7.5/10)
  • Overall: Portal must be played by all, even the faint of heart because it'll help them build character. Do you like physics and sarcasm? Need a new kind of fear? You'll love Portal. This is the strongest title in The Orange Box, and the others are great games as well, making it one of the best deals in gaming history. (9/10)

Problem Sleuth

This is definitely stretching what one considers to be a "game," but this is just for the sake of fun. Problem Sleuth is hard to classify. It's an online story that progresses from page to page like a webcomic, but it progresses like one of those old point-and-click adventure games. Characters have unique statistics, there's are puzzle elements and RPG battle elements- there are boss battles- it basically fulfills the requirements of a game, while really just being a story about a very game-like scenario. Let's get into more detail, shall we?

  • Story: We begin with a hard-boiled detective who somehow got locked in his own office. His goal is to break free of his office, enlist the help of two fellow detectives who find themselves in similar predicaments, and team up to find a way out of the building that has been sealed by the notorious pseudo-prohibition-era criminal, Mobster Kingpin. Things get a little strange along the way, with Problem Sleuth and his accomplices discovering two unique worlds- one, a world of fantasy, and another, a shadowy city with eldritch horrors lurking in the wings. If you can believe it, the final battle actually lasts for more than half of the entire story. That's just an example of how madcap it is. It really doesn't take itself seriously at all, and it's hard to follow. But it can be really funny and sometimes even epic. (7/10)
  • Gameplay: Nothing beyond clicking to go to the next page. Problem Sleuth and co's commands are all preset, so you pretty much just watch them do their thing. (0/10)
  • Graphics: Minimalist style, but mostly pleasing to the eye. Later on, some of the art becomes more elaborate and color is added. There are even, eventually, some really cool animations for the battles and minor funny ones as well. (7.5/10)
  • Sound: Unfortunately, none whatsoever. A missed opportunity. But if you just put on some scratchy jazz in the background, you'll be set. There is actually one bit that has a great piano solo, if I remember correctly. Really, it's up to you to provide the soundtrack. You have the internet, after all. (7/10)
  • Cast: Problem Sleuth and the other characters rarely speak. And by rare, I mean almost never. How strange, then, that each of the main three characters has such a well-defined personality! Problem Sleuth is really somewhat of a wannabe who defines himself through appealing charisma and just a touch of imagination to create a self he's content with. Ace Dick is a more blunt character not unlike the brother from the old "Trinity" spaghetti western films. Pickle Inspector is more awkward and hesitant but also a lot more of a deep thinker than the other two. Most other characters are more just there for laughs. And mostly, they serve that purpose quite well. (8/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: What a strange tale. You definitely feel sad when it's over, and I'd say it's worth going through at least once more. Has staying power. (7.5/10)
  • Overall: It's really stretching it to say Problem Sleuth is a game. Rating it by the qualifications of your average video game, it still comes out with a decent score! Surely if its gameplay elements were actually put into practice, this game could score around an 8 or so. It's a unique experience that really can't be found anywhere else, so it has that going for it. Very odd, worth a read. (6.2/10)

Rayman Raving Rabbids

I got this on the day I got my Wii. It looked really bizarre and I was quite doubtful about it at first- it looked nothing like any Rayman game I'd ever seen, looked like a bunch of random stuff. In a way I was right, but at the same time it was better than I expected and there was some time invested in this game. It had a few sequels, which I kind of wanted to play but decided it wasn't worth the effort.

  • Story: Not much here. Rayman was eating a picnic with some people that look suspiciously like the Tenda from EarthBound when all of the sudden they all get kidnapped by maniacal bunnies and Rayman is forced to complete great challenges in a colosseum for the entertainment of the Rabbids. However, there are some interesting things to note here. The Rabbids give Rayman plungers as a reward, and after a few hectic days, Rayman learns that he can use the plungers as a ladder to escape his cell. Little by little, the Rabbids start to like Rayman more when they see him advance through so many challenges. He goes from being a hated prisoner to a mega-celebrity. Of course, this is all rendered meaningless when he escapes, only to remember that he left his friends behind. The end credits show him trying to go back down the rabbit hole. (4/10)
  • Gameplay: The entire game consists of minigames, which are the challenges Rayman must complete. They're either hits or misses. Some turn out to be bogged up and tedious, like "Bunnies Don't Like Bats" but some are a lot of fun because the Rabbids are so bizarre and fun to interact with, sometimes with exceedingly violent results, like one where you bash the brains out of a Rabbid while he stands in place, then the bump on his head has to reach so high that it passes a certain mark. There are some "dance" sequences where you have to wave the remote and nunchuk in time to the music in a fashion not unlike Guitar Hero. It's great fun and is one of the highlights of the game. But the best parts are the "shooter" segments where you get a plunger gun and a grappling hand and go commando against an army of Rabbids and sometimes giant machines. The game's final boss, (spoiler) Pink, (/spoiler) is fought in this fashion as well. (7.5/10)
  • Graphics: Definitely lacking. There's no excuse. There are a couple of cool things though, like Rayman's bizarre alternate costumes and the Rabbids in general. But that's just the style of the characters, not the graphics of the game. (5/10)
  • Sound: The sound effects are fun and frantic, very cartoony and hysterical. Fits the crazy atmosphere of the game. In addition, the soundtrack is good as well, featuring a few well-know songs remixed, and a number of original scores, one in particular which plays when you fight a certain boss in a "shooter" segment which is completely awesome. Sound effects are probably the strongest point of this game. (8/10)
  • Cast: Rayman isn't that great, nor the Tenda rip-offs. The Rabbids are the most fun, as well as Sereguii, the prison guard that doesn't ever speak a single word but certainly has the best developed personality. However, I wouldn't call the Rabbids "endearing" or anything. After a while, they seem kind of sinister as well as very annoying, which was what I felt as I fought through the final challenge, "Bunnies Aren't Afraid of the Dark." (5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: After you finish the story mode once, I see no reason to start a new file again. If anything, you want to keep and perfect that one file. Afterwards you can play all the minigames again in point mode. This is good because it gives you easy access to the best parts of the game, shooting and dancing. There are a list of challenges as well, and I only unlocked a couple. These are secret series of events. I don't know exactly what they entail, but they're probably not worth the effort... (4/10)
  • Overall: A definite rental. You can complete it was some considerable work in a day or two, and in that time play around a bit with the minigames that you enjoyed. If you suddenly feel the need for 100% completion, I guess you could do it in a few days, but I could never dream of trying, I just don't see the point. That's the strength and weakness of the game- there's absolutely no point. (5.6/10)

Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom (GCN)

If you haven't heard of this cartoon, here's the breakdown: Spongebob Squarepants lives in a pineapple under the sea in a town called Bikini Bottom. He lives next to a starfish named Patrick, a squid named Squidward, has a friend named Sandy who is a squirrel that has a diving suit, works as a fry cook at a restaurant called the Krusty Krab, under the employ of his boss, Mr. Krabs. Weirded out yet? This is only the beginning. Mr. Krab's rival, Plankton, owns a far less popular restaurant called the Chum Bucket, and he's always hatching devious schemes to put Krabs out of business. With that in mind, let's move onto the story of this surprisingly accurate game based on the show... there be spoilers...

  • Story: Plankton is also a genius. But, a stupid genius. How so? Well, this time he builds an army of robots to wreak havoc upon Bikini Bottom- but leaves the switch on the machine that created them on DON'T OBEY. They go into a frenzy and kick him out of his restaurant before laying siege to the town. That same evening, Spongebob's friend Patrick uses the "magic wishing shell" to try to make it so that they can play with real robots the next day instead of just toys. In the morning, Spongebob wakes up to find the town quite trashed, with reports of wild robots running amuck. Thinking it was their games that caused them to come to life, he sets off with his friends to neutralize the robot threat. But by the end of the adventure, they make it into the Chum Bucket and Plankton attempts to betray them by flipping the switch to OBEY. However, he is stopped by a robotic version of himself that commands all the robots, as well as its soon-to-be-bride, Spongebot Steelpants. (I'm not making this up.) After a massive battle Steelpants is destroyed, but before Robot Plankton can take further action the robot making machine makes tons of copies of robot Planktons who get into an endless argument over who the real leader of the robots is. The story ends there, so we can only assume they remain arguing to this day. So... bizarre... that... it's... good?! (7/10)
  • Gameplay: Wow. They really went all out on this one. You'll be platforming as three different characters through various gigantic locales using all sorts of tactics- stealth, smarts, or the commonplace "go crazy on anything that moves and jump over gaps." For the most part, this is really, really fun! However, there are some dark levels towards the end where it can be hard to see where you're going, and too often this results in careless deaths. In addition to the platforming and battling fare, there are also some levels where giant sliding courses are located. You'll zip down these at high speeds, leaving a trail of destruction in your wake. There are hidden minigames, challenges and secrets pretty much everywhere. Take it from me: anything you can see, you can reach. Just put your mind to it and think about all possible solutions to the problem. This game might be a collect-a-thon, but there are specific places where it is obvious that you can use them to "grind" for cash, and it's always rewarding to find a collectable item in a really random place. There are so many hidden areas that I won't bother to spoil even one. Boss battles are gut-wrenching and titanic, and with the iconic talking tuna head from the intro cutscene narrating every moment of the fight, but not so much that it gets annoying. There are very few issues with control. Open your mind, stop taking things so seriously and you can really get into this game and play it the way it's meant to be played. For any kind of adaptation, this is amazing. (9/10)
  • Graphics: True to the show, but in 3D. This is probably what it would look like if you were to visit these locales in your dreams, but with realistic limitations. The style is so incredibly irreverent and surreal. If it wasn't for the content of the material, however, I would consider the graphics to be somewhat lacking. (8/10)
  • Sound: Lots of good voices, but Mr. Krabs' voice kind of hurts to listen to, and Mermaidman's voice doesn't sound anything like the one on the show. It just sounds like some person who swallowed a vacuum cleaner. Sound effects are wacky and add to the score of the graphics in their randomness. The music is surprisingly high-caliber. It never grows annoying, and the pieces are very well composed. This also adds to the score of the graphics. The music always fits what's going on, and the game would not be nearly so good without its music. This can be said for many good games, and this composer, or the composers, deserve lots of credit. (9/10)
  • Cast: Although the cast always shows up in the oddest places and is always mysteriously involved in the perplexing incidents which occur in each level, I can't help but say that I'm glad they're there. In a way, it makes it feel more like the show's old episodes. It also helps that you can take out your frustration on all characters and random fish with your moves if you feel like it. You'll get responses in the form of comically censored expletives. Ah. (8/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Good for 2 playthroughs, one of which will probably be the one where you strive for 100%... there's so much to look for! (7/10)
  • Overall: I was totally taken by surprise with this one. It's in some cases as funny as the old episodes of the show it was based off of, and a must for fans of the naive yellow cube. For people that aren't fans, it's proof that there are some special cases with titles like these that don't completely fail. In fact, this is a great game. In a way, it feels a lot like the platformer partner to EarthBound in a way that I can't quite explain. It's got those quirky scenarios and humor and an ending which manages to be darker than what you ever expected at first. This one is of course much more light-hearted, but eerily disturbing to say the least. Interested? Rent it. (8/10)

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Well, I didn't start playing Melee until several years after its release, so I was eager to start off strong with the next installment and get on the Brawl bandwagon. I checked the incredibly awesome regular updates on the Smash Bros. Dojo, an incredibly ambitious and kind offering- was surprised by new characters like Pikmin + Olimar, and when I played the game I went ballistic on it. Since then, I've got myself like 7 Tabuu trophies on Intense Mode and like everyone else have played waaaaaayyy more matches than I could ever count. Now, I'm writing a review... all in all, what do I think of the game at this point?

  • Story: For the first time in Smash Bros. history, this game actually takes a stab at a story with the adventure mode, the Subspace Emissary. In short, the Ancient Minister goes around with Subspace Bombs tearing apart the world and sending it into Subspace for unknown reasons. Nintendo characters from all over the world get entangled in the threat and end up confronting him, where it is revealed that he's being controlled by Ganondorf- Bowser and Wario are his henchmen, as well as several different bosses. Ganondorf in turn seems to be working for Master Hand, the creator of the Smash Bros. world. But as it turns out, a mysterious entity called Tabuu gained control of Master Hand and used it to command the bad guys into making a Subspace world. In the end, the bad guys get defeated, and everyone who wasn't the same rank as Tabuu goes back to normal and they live happily ever after. It's definitely a generic story and was super-massively overhyped, but with more ambition. (4.5/10)
  • Gameplay: Smashing PERFECTION! Never mind if there's a mode you're not that into, because I guarantee you'll find lots to like here. There's an unbelievable amount of content and customization that makes this the pinnacle of smashing up to this point, and has certainly set a high bar for any kind of sequel, if there is one. I'll briefly say that a couple things are not as good as Melee, like Target Test, Classic Mode and especially Event Matches. Other than that, this game soars above and beyond. Of course, on top of everything else is multiplayer, and there are so many tributes to so many franchises that the whole thing is like one big party. (10/10)
  • Graphics: Also, the graphics are very well detailed- perhaps an explanation to the ever-so-slightly long load times, but worth it. A few things, no matter how good-looking, turn out very generic, like the whole "machine" areas in the Subspace Emissary. (9.5/10)
  • Sound: The most extensive soundtrack devoted specifically to games. The music of the party. And there are so many excellent sound effects that make attacks so satisfying. In addition, there's hidden voice acting for a few characters which is both amusing, well done and worthwhile. (10/10)
  • Cast: The personalities of some of the characters are a bit more fleshed-out than previous installments, as seen in the cutscenes of the Subspace Emissary. And this is an incredibly diverse roster of characters. It's not meant to be particularly deep though. (8/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: You'll probably get tired of it after a year or so, but even then the multiplayer is fun. (9/10)
  • Overall: After all is said and done, this is a must-have Wii game and one of the best on the system! ... But when it gets stale, the multiplayer is all that you really feel like going back to. (8.5/10)

Super Smash Bros. Melee

I never played the original Smash Bros. on the N64, but I was glad to get my hands on this game for free when it was given to me by some kids across the street. They haven't asked for it back for about three years now, so that's a good sign! Super Smash Bros. Brawl has been out and about for a long time now. By comparison, how does Melee fare?

  • Story: There isn't one. A bunch of Nintendo characters get together and fight. They're trophies, and in their world Master Hand brought them to life so they could battle. Not that great, but an excuse to get some action going. It's still better than Zelda II. (4/10)
  • Gameplay: Basically, you choose one of 25 characters (several must be unlocked) and fight some other characters. Sounds simple at first, but there are tons of complex strategies that make this game ideal for tournaments and international competitions. You use standard and special moves which are unique to each character, and you can use different items against your opponents during battle. Also, there are single-player modes which are fun as well, like Classic Mode where you make your way through battles, timed mazes and target tests to fight Master Hand, and Adventure Mode where you'll go through various locales from different Nintendo games to face off against Bowser. You'll also have a series of 51 events that put you in situations with various conditions and make you solve the problem by using as much brains as you do brawn. There are all kinds of secrets to unlock, including lots of collectible trophies to detail history. Multiplayer is king, though. Sometimes the items will greatly upset the balance of a fight, but you're welcome to turn them all off if you'd like. (9.5/10)
  • Graphics: The graphics aren't that amazing, in retrospect. Especially after spending so much time with Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Other games like Pikmin and Luigi's Mansion came out around the same time and looked far superior. I guess the popularity of the game was enough to keep people from caring about this too much. (8.5/10)
  • Sound: A wealth of sound effects and classic battle themes play during fights that make it all the more absorbent. Some very nice songs in here, like the MOTHER ones. There are creepier songs too, like Brinstar Depths from Metroid. The Hyrule Temple theme is classic, and perhaps the best thing that came from Zelda II. (9/10)
  • Cast: Not that there's any character development whatsoever, seeing as there is no story, but there's quite a range of characters here! There are some really cool hidden ones like Dr. Mario, Roy of Fire Emblem fame, and Mewtwo. The final hidden character is the 2-D Mr. Game and Watch, even. (8/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: The multiplayer and tons of hidden features keep this one going for a long time, and you'll be enjoying every second! (10/10)
  • Overall: There's fun to be had here, for sure. But, it rather pales in comparison to the caliber of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I honestly think that despite everything Melee has going for it, it is VERY overrated. The blueprints were laid in the original Smash Bros., this game added many features and a larger scale, and Brawl perfected it. (8.2/10)

Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams (GCN)

I still wonder to this day how I came to own this game. I'd never even played the first one, and this doesn't look like the kind of game I'd ever buy... anyhow, it somehow found its way into my possession and confused as I was, I somehow managed to beat it and I remember a great deal about it, so let's get this review out of the way before the introduction gets any more awkward!

  • Story: Some jungle kid named Tak is visited by the Dream Juju (a deity of sorts) in his sleep that he has to save a princess from the Dream Guardian in the dream world. When he wakes up he enlists the help of the village elder Jibolba and they set off to meet his brother, an expert in the world of dreams, to figure out what this means. By the time they reach Jibolba's Brother (that's actually his name) Tak has already ventured very close to the Dream Guardian's lair in his sleep. When he reaches the Dream Guardian and defeats it in a duel, it drops its Staff of Dreams. But suddenly, the princess is revealed to be a dummy- or rather, two dummies: Pins and Needles, henchmen to the evil Tlaloc, apparently a villain from the previous game that was transformed halfway into a sheep. He disguised himself as the Dream Juju in order to get the Staff of Dreams. However, Pins, Needles and Tak fight over the staff and snap it in half by accident, sending them all back to reality. There, Pins and Needles use the nightmare half of the staff to wreak havoc and Tak chases them down with the dream half. Tlaloc is defeated in the end and the Dream Guardian gets back the Staff of Dreams. Okay then. (6/10)
  • Gameplay: The game is pretty much straightforwards; you hop around jungle and dream worlds bashing anything that gets in your way, and sometimes you'll have to complete extremely annoying puzzles involving floor switches, guiding electric jolts or taming wild animals. Once in a blue moon you'll ride a catapult and blow a lot of stuff up, and other times you'll have to raft down rivers without getting crushed. Also, you can transform into animals in some situations. Besides the main game there are several two-player minigames which are really pointless and not fun. Chances are, you'll just want to stick to the main game, which is fine. (7/10)
  • Graphics: Looks vaguely like the movie "Ice Age" and there are some pretty interesting and stylized locales/creatures to see. Nice. (8.5/10)
  • Sound: Sounds are fine, love the voice acting! Some of the music sounds really good as well, so as you can imagine this makes cutscenes very enjoyable. (8/10)
  • Cast: Actually, a lot of the characters were pretty funny, and if you can make it all the way to the final boss you'll be glad you did. Surprisingly a lot of the characters here are pretty memorable. It's good to see something that doesn't take itself seriously at all. (8.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: I can't see anyone playing through it more than twice at most. The minigames aren't worth the time at all. (5/10)
  • Overall: Story and gameplay really isn't anything out of the ordinary, what makes this game more notable is the artistic and musical design, along with a crazy cast with humorous dialogue and scenarios. If you're interested, consider renting it. (7.2/10)

Tak 3: The Great Juju Challenge (GCN)

Having somehow inexplicably bought and completed the first, I was interested in the sequel which looked similar, but with multiplayer. I never bought it, but I rented it and I played it with single and multiplayer. Does it follow through with its promise as a fun multiplayer title?

  • Story: A tournament is held amongst four tribes that discovered Phoenix Feathers to win the protection of the powerful Moon Juju. This tournament is known as the Great Juju Challenge, and it happens once every other generation. Tak's tribe had its protection previously, and now risk losing it unless they can complete the challenges. Tak is paired with Lok from the other games and they set out on the quest the jujus have taxed them with to protect their tribe. It's all done pretty light-heartedly, and while it's not a deep story at all, it does explain some of the backstories of the characters, which were only hinted at in the previous game. I doubt anybody played it for the story, generally it's pretty much on par with what I expected. (5.5/10)
  • Gameplay: To win the tournament, you have to travel through portals from the Juju Realm to different locations on earth and make it to the end of the courses. After a few levels are finished, the four tribes are pitted against each other in a vehicle battle. One tribe is eliminated with each vehicle battle. These victories and losses are already preset, so if you lose it'll let you try again until you win. The vehicle battles are too fast and stupid to really have much thought of any sort, and that's probably the worst aspect of the gameplay. Otherwise, the levels you go through are timed, so you have to keep finding ways to add seconds to the clock while progressing. Although there are lots of enemies to fight and platforms to leap, there is a heavier focus on puzzles this time around, and these always add pressure to any situation. The enemies are what you'd expect if you played the previous game; in this game the monsters are stone enemies called Rockers which take a wide variety of forms greatly ranging in difficulty. In addition, you still can interact with animals to solve puzzles in this game. Also, the multiplayer works flawlessly as long as you have a good second player on hand, it works well single player too. It's good that you can go back to areas in this one whereas in Tak 2 you just followed a path with no turning back. Better than I expected, but the final course was too hard for me to finish. I never beat the game. (7.5/10)
  • Graphics: They still have the Ice Age look to them, and you've go the awesomely stylized locales and creatures. Same as Tak 2, which is great. (8.5/10)
  • Sound: Voice acting still rocks, sound effects are same as the first, music is good but seems a bit less varied. (8/10)
  • Cast: Crazy returning characters from both games and a few funny new ones as well. Once again, this game never takes itself seriously and the dialogue is as funny as its predecessor. Also, some more of the characters' backgrounds get some well-deserved elaboration. (8.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: As for this game, there's no reason to play through it more than once. It's good the first time through, but some parts of the game are just WAY too annoying. What a last level... too much pressure and some of the later levels begin to drag a lot. (4.5/10)
  • Overall: Virtually the same as the first, but with good multiplayer and bad vehicle levels. You get exactly what's on the front cover, nothing more, nothing less. If that's the kind of game you like, good for you. I suppose it was worth renting, definitely not a buy, though. (7.1/10)

The Legend of Zelda

The very first Zelda game- and the first game where you could save! Good thing too, because it's really hard! I never got past the second dungeon. But nevertheless, I've spent enough time with the game to give a basic overview, having explored virtually the entire overworld and several dungeons out of order. I played it on the Collector's Edition along with other hits such as Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. How does the first game in the series measure up today?

  • Story: Ganon kidnaps Zelda, Link has to get the Triforce and beat him. Well, it's a start... and laid foundations for what would become major plot points. (3/10)
  • Gameplay: Quite fun, definitely difficult. You attack enemies with your sword, use a variety of equip items and travel the world searching for caves that hold pieces of the Triforce. For the first game in the series, you can definitely see how much the other games have played off of this formula. A lot of the time your shield won't do its job (fortunately there is an upgrade to alleviate this problem) and the sword isn't a very effective item for battling (once again, you'll find an upgrade for this too.) In addition, how you make your way through the game is pretty much random. (8/10)
  • Graphics: Well, this is the first game in the series so I'm not going to be too harsh on it- looks fine for NES. (7.5/10)
  • Sound: Classic tunes- well, like... five of them, anyways. And I wouldn't say all of them are that classic, maybe one or two. Not much to say. In addition, most of the sound effects are very irritating, like when you're on your last heart. I thought my head would explode. (4/10)
  • Cast: Virtually nobody. Well, there's an old man or something. (1/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Actually, if you can get into it there's quite a lot of exploring to do, and like I said it's a good thing this game can save! Not to mention, after you complete the game you can start a Second Quest for all-new dungeons... or you can just name yourself ZELDA from the beginning. (8/10)
  • Overall: For the time, this was a good game. It can't really compare with the other Zeldas at all, except for Zelda II which is one of the worst games ever. That's not meant as an insult- in fact, I'd say that it's a good thing people can access this via Virtual Console and the Collector's Edition. At least you'll see how it all began- and you'll have some fun along the way as well. Just don't expect anything mind-blowing. (5.3/10)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Although some people believe Ocarina of Time to be the best Zelda game, there are also some who say that this SNES classic is the greatest of the series. It actually took me a while to get around to playing this game, but once I started, I really got into it- that is, until I got up to the Helmasaur King, tried to defeat it and lost all of my save data. One day, I may get back to playing through the whole game. Until then, all I can do is offer a review.

  • Story: I don't feel the need to list this story- it's already here on the site. A lot of it is found in the game's instruction booklet, so people playing nothing but the game will kind of get the short end of the stick story-wise. As far as Zelda games go, it's a pretty typical formula, but this is the first one to use that formula so it can't really be discredited. Essentially, it's a massive excuse for a dungeon-oriented fetch quest, but what Zelda game isn't? I was kind of surprised by a few of the twists in the story concerning Link's Uncle. For some reason, the part where the sanctuary was raided really hit home. (7/10)
  • Gameplay: Really, really good. There are tons of items to use and ways to use them, cleverly designed dungeon puzzles with rewarding solutions, and perhaps best of all, the game has an excellent difficulty level. The dungeons are hard, no doubt about it. So are bosses. Even encounters with standard enemies can be life-threatening. It makes the game a tad more epic than your typical Zelda, and I wonder why Nintendo let up on this difficulty later on. The switches between the Light World and Dark World are cleverly done, and the quest is massive, boasting the most dungeons in any Zelda game to date. This game, no matter what may be wrong with it, is undoubtably fun and rewarding to play. (9/10)
  • Graphics: Very good for SNES. They're not really memorable, but the game is clearly presented and colorful. I didn't have a problem with them at all. (8.5/10)
  • Sound: Sound effects are surprisingly versatile, for example- Link's sword makes different sounds depending on what objects it glances off of. I was amazed that this sort of thing was in use even before Ocarina of Time. The music has been remixed and reused in many Zelda games after it, and it's safe to say that A Link to the Past is one of the biggest staples in the series as far as music goes. I do have to say though, a few of themes really do get annoying after a while, like the Light World theme. (9/10)
  • Cast: I'm not really a fan of this one. A lot of the characters felt really bland to me, and I'd go as far as to say that I rather disliked a lot of the sprites used for character design. They could've easily made some vaguely interesting characters, it's a fantasy story after all. Despite everything the game has going for it, this is one aspect which is significantly worse than other installments in the series. Still, there are some good-looking and imaginative enemies that Link clashes with, like that walking plant monster in the Dark World overworld (I forget what it's called, sorry.) An unfortunate low mark. (5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: The great thing about the end of the game is that you're actually graded for how many "game overs" you got in a dungeon. This may drive you to play through the game again to get better marks at the end. This classic holds its own easily among today's supposed amazing titles and has high replay value. (10/10)
  • Overall: This had to be one of the absolute best games back in it's day. It's a true classic foundation for the series, and while I'm glad to see the series evolved into so many different things, it's still worth it to look back to the origins. A Link to the Past's story is fine, and while it might be a bit bland as far as characters go, in terms of music, graphics, and gameplay this game rocks. If you're a Zelda fan, play A Link to the Past. I'm looking forwards to finishing it up- then I'll probably update this into a more comprehensive review. Maybe. (8.1/10)

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

Although Zelda is traditionally known for its single-player experience, there were also a couple of multiplayer games. This was one of those games. Unfortunately, it required a far-too-pricey and gimmicky way to play with multiple people, involving GBAs and linkup cables, so I had to play through it in single player mode. Although I never officially finished the game, I stopped at the Tower of Winds which is the second-to-last level so I can give you pretty much a complete summary of this game, and I'll add on a few extra points for the supposed greatness of the multiplayer.

  • Story: Zelda senses a disturbance in the Force or something so she calls Link to the Four Sword. Suddenly, Shadow Link appears and kidnaps Zelda as well as a few other maidens. There's only one way to stop him, so you pull out the Four Sword and split into four copies of yourself- which unfortunately breaks the seal on the evil Wind Mage Vaati and he starts to take over Hyrule. So basically you have to rescue the maidens and beat Vaati, and it has the stupid plot twist of Ganon being behind it all. Honestly, Vaati makes for a better villain in the 2D games, and this is a 2D game, so... (6.5/10)
  • Gameplay: Classic Zelda, and a bit better, believe it or not. Similar to a Link to the Past, but slightly more refined. There's a lot of crazy warping through split worlds, using formations to attack and tons of strange enemies to fight and places to go- and puzzles to solve which are likely tougher than you anticipated. Although you can only use one weapon at a time besides your Sword, weapons are fun to use (especially the Fire Rod) so pyromaniac Zelda fans will love this one. Unfortunately, as soon as you move from one stage to the next, you lose everything you found, so it all feels like it was just so you could move onwards, nothing more. Multiplayer looks hectic and requires intense cooperation, so that's a plus. There's also a battle mode for four players. And lastly, if you have the Japanese edition of the game, you can play a strange minigame called Tetra's Trackers with some full 3D cutscenes and even voice acting. Not sure what to think of that last part, but the bottom line is that as far as gameplay is concerned it is pretty good in single player and better in multiplayer. (8/10)
  • Graphics: It uses 2D, but it is a chosen style and one that works well, except for some low-res areas that were meant to be seen on the GBA screen in multiplayer, which become full-blown in single player. Graphics look like if a Link to the Past was 2D but looked like Wind Waker. (8.5/10)
  • Sound: Actually, this is a pretty good soundtrack. There are lots of sounds from enemies to hear and there's no problem with it. (8/10)
  • Cast: Aside from the Four Links that have developed personalities of their own in our imaginations, there's really not much else to speak of. (3/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Only worth playing through once or twice at most in single player, and I could say ditto to multiplayer. But the story mode is long and gets gradually much tougher so it'll take a while to finish. If you have multiplayer you can still play the battle mode afterwards, and if you have the Japanese version you can also play Tetra's Trackers in multiplayer, whatever that's supposed to be. (7/10)
  • Overall: Worth a rental for a single player alone, but for multiplayer you should consider purchasing it, as I hear it is much more fun. Right now I'm giving it the score for a single player, and for those who will actually go to the trouble for multiplayer you can add as many points of your own as you think it deserves. If you're actually going to gather up a bunch of linkup cables, go ahead and also buy Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. (6.8/10)

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

The "other" Zelda title for the N64. It wasn't met with the same, revolutionary fanfare as its predecessor, and will ultimately always be compared to Ocarina of Time in any review. But that is generally because on top of being on the same console, it is a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time. I have this on the Collector's Edition along with Ocarina of Time, so I've played both of them. At the end of the day, which one is really better?

  • Story: Rather than giving a summary, I'll highlight some important details and even more important backstory information. Link stumbles into the world of Termina, doomed by Majora's Mask to be put to an end in just three more days. The mask's bearer stole Link's ocarina, and after he retrieves it he uses its power to return to the beginning of the set of three days again and again in order to find a way to stop Majora's attempt to end the world by smashing it with the moon. There are many theories as to the backstory of these events, but this is the one I find the most plausible: the three goddesses that created Hyrule also created the parallel world of Termina by mistake. It was likely an anomaly produced by the making of Hyrule, a strange and jumbled world connected by a hidden portal. The beings within it did not recognize the goddesses as their true creators and instead worshipped the deities that the goddesses had bestowed upon the land: the Four Giants. They defaced the Triforce and mocked the goddesses with the blasphemy of the Stone Tower Temple, a tower meant to stretch into the heavens to prove that the people of Termina were greater than their supposed "creators." The Goddesses, in response to this, sent down the Light Arrows. When these arrows hit the emblem on the tower, the tower's pathway became inverted and lead to a pocket dimension- a "hell" of Termina. It was here that they uncovered Majora's Mask, which the goddesses had decided would be fitting punishment for the hot-headed inhabitants. Sure enough, they used the mask's destructive powers to make war amongst one another until it became lost for generations, before it had fulfilled its purpose: destroying Termina for good. Upon its return in "Majora's Mask," Link, who seemed to have stumbled upon the land by accident, was sent to save Termina, to show that even a forsaken universe with a bloodstained history could be healed, it could be redeemed. This is just one of the endless theories this game spawns- it really makes you think about the causes. (10/10)
  • Gameplay: If you played Ocarina of Time, this is even better. Along with the fantastic exploration and mind-breaking dungeons Ocarina of Time was famous for, Majora's Mask goes above and beyond with two dozen masks which have all kinds of effects, some will change your shape and give you new abilities, others might help you get a different response out of a person, others will change the way you interact with enemies- the list goes on and ever on. There is also a focus on getting involved in the world of the game, talking to everyone to learn about their lives in this three-day time span. In order to solve their problems, you'll have to know what they go through and their relations to other in-game characters. The web of interactions is so complex that they actually put a notebook in the game which you can use to keep track of everyone's schedule, all the important events! It's an unseen level of depth, even in so many games today. This three-day schedule system makes this game the black sheep of the Zelda flock, and by all means that's a good thing. (10/10)
  • Graphics: The best on the N64, no contest! Moody, creepy, and completely surreal. There's a lot more attention to detail than even Ocarina of Time put forth- the weather and hazes in the sky change according to the time, becoming more ominous as the moon draws nearer to the surface of the planet. It's something that really has to be experienced. Very, very atmospheric. (10/10)
  • Sound: As good as Ocarina of Time in the sense that there are more varied sound effects, but less notable songs. Although there are some good, new pieces like the Song of Healing and Clock Town, several are reused from the previous game and a couple of the level songs are uninspired, like Woodfall and Snowhead. I suppose it's a matter of taste, but those songs should've been good in their own right to match the classics you hear from Ocarina of Time. (9.5/10)
  • Cast: An incredibly in-depth cast. Some of the different NPCs you help out in the sidequests are actually even more fleshed-out than some of Ocarina of Time's main characters. One of the best casts in any Zelda game. Weird, but real. (10/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Such an involved world is one which will have you coming back again and again. Of course, the dozens of Pieces of Heart help too. (10/10)
  • Overall: This is an improvement upon Ocarina of Time in nearly every way- in terms of story, gameplay, graphics, cast. The lasting appeal is just as good as well. However, the music isn't as good as Ocarina of Time, although there are better sound effects. In addition, this game is in my Top Five Games of All Time. There have been too many instances of people skipping over this one just to play Ocarina of Time. That is a mistake. Both games have to be played, and after you've finished them then you can decide which one is truly the better installment. (9.9/10)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Normal and Master Quest, GCN)

The critically acclaimed pinnacle of gaming, so they say. I've beaten this one a few times, never finished it 100% probably due to lack of motivation. But I liked it enough to actually go out of the way and look for the Master Quest version as well, which I have also beaten. It's safe to say I've had a fair amount of experience with this one, played it on the N64 and have three different versions of it for GCN (Collector's Edition, Normal and Master Quest.) So... is it... good?

  • Story: A young boy, Link, is awakened one day by a fairy who joins him as his fairy companion in the magically protected Kokiri Forest. He is summoned to the guardian of the forest, the Great Deku Tree, who tells Link of a looming threat on the horizon. After handing him one of the mystical "Spiritual Stones," he tells Link in his dying words to leave the forest and seek the princess of destiny. He leaves the forest and goes to Hyrule Castle, the castle in the big town. There he meets Princess Zelda who tells Link that she has a recurring, prophetic dream of Link saving the kingdom with the help of the spiritual stones from an advisor to the king she believes to be corrupt, the Gerudo King Ganondorf. So Link travels to Death Mountain and Zora's Domain to get the other spiritual stones. But when he returns to Castle Town, Zelda is seen fleeing with her nursemaid Impa from Ganondorf on a black horse. Zelda manages to toss Link the Ocarina of Time. He uses its melody combined with the spiritual stones to enter the Temple of Time, where he finds the legendary Master Sword. He pulls it out and unknowingly allows Ganondorf to enter the Sacred Realm and claim power over the Triforce, becoming the King of Evil. Link is forced into a seven-year sleep by the Master Sword, until it awakens him when he is old enough to be the hero to fight Ganondorf. So Link travels back and forth through time with the assistance of the mysterious Sheik to gather medallions that could stop Ganondorf. When he collects them all, it is revealed that Sheik is actually Zelda in disguise. Ganondorf kidnaps her and Link fights him. It is revealed that when Ganondorf took the Triforce, it split into three pieces because his mind was not balanced and focused far too much on power. The other two pieces resided within Link and Zelda. Working together they seal him into a portal, and Zelda sends Link back to his time as a child so he could live the seven years that were skipped over. Pretty extensive summary, no? Well, for a story that sets the scene for 13 more games and counting, it's worth every word. (9/10)
  • Gameplay: Revolutionary for the time, and pretty much brought to life so many of the mechanics of so many games we play today. You'll see how a lot of it got its start in Ocarina of Time, and even for an older game it oftentimes holds up far better with its mechanics than the games which utilize them now. Targeting helps you lock onto enemies, you can ride a horse, use various items, combat enemies which block your moves with shields and leap around, sink to the bottom of lakes, play minigames and much more. The game is particularly famous for its challenging dungeons. The first few aren't really much to speak of but from the Forest Temple onwards, you're guaranteed to have a mind-crushingly confusing time, which is a very good thing. The puzzles are smart, the dungeon designs for the temples are cool, and the boss battles are pretty good too. Overall, it's an exploration and puzzle solving game with a lot of other things mixed in, and we have Ocarina of Time to thank for these awesome features in newer Zelda games. (10/10)
  • Graphics: They have a certain lasting quality to them which makes it look dated of course, but incredible for the time. Way too polygonal by today's standards, but I still can't help but feel inspired and/or claustrophobic by the atmosphere a lot of the locations conjure up, like the Lost Woods, the Forest and Water Temples, and Lake Hylia. Naturally, it has the look of a classic. (9.5/10)
  • Sound: A variety of sound effects where lots of detail went into the work. People still shudder at the ReDead's moaning and screeching, but arguably more important is the quality of the music. So many good songs in this game, they've been remixed many times. My personal favorites? Hyrule Field, and Twinrova's Theme. (10/10)
  • Cast: A very diverse one. You've got Kokiris, Gorons, Zoras, Gerudos, Hylians, and many other hidden races along with an onslaught of memorable enemies. The quality of the dialogue shifts around a lot. You get a bunch of deep lines from Sheik, but some really stupid-sounding ones from Ganondorf. His laugh doesn't help much, either. (9/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Amazing. There are so many sidequests, hidden treasures, 100 cleverly-hidden golden spiders... the list goes on and on. A classic to play. (10/10)
  • Overall: While I don't agree that it's the best game of all time- or even the best Zelda title- Ocarina is among the top tiers of both categories. Now that it's available for Virtual Console, Wii owners have absolutely no excuse (unless they're shy of 10 bucks.) Here's to one of the greatest N64 titles ever. (9.6/10)

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

This is the current Zelda game at the moment, but in a few days, it will have its very own sequel: Sprit Tracks! At the same time, this game was already a sequel- to my favorite game, Wind Waker. It goes without saying that I was interested to see how this would play out, considering that it's a DS game and its predecessor was for the Gamecube. Although I never actually bought this game, I've played it from practically beginning to end, plus many sidequests along the way. So, is this a worthy sequel and/or worthy of its own sequel?

  • Story: After Wind Waker, Tetra's Pirates search for a mysterious Phantom Ship, but when they finally encounter it Tetra is trapped aboard the ship and Link falls into the sea. When he wakes up, he's on a mysterious island and enlists the help of Ciela (a fairy) Oshus (a wise old man) and Linebeck (a real man of the seas!) to find the Phantom Ship. When he finally does, it turns out that Tetra has been turned to stone by Bellum, a monster that lives at the bottom of a far-too-big temple and can only be defeated with the power of the Phantom Sword. So you put together a bunch of crystals and defeat Bellum. Honestly, this was a pretty generic story, but a couple of the main characters managed to liven it up a bit. (7/10)
  • Gameplay: From the start, I was impressed at how well this game used the DS controls, by which I mean stylus-only. You tap objects to attack/interact with them, you draw out paths for your ship, your boomerang and your bombchus, and best of all- you can take notes on traps and the paths certain enemies follow by adding whatever you like to your map! This is very well utilized and makes for a much more in-depth experience. Most puzzles are pretty easy, but you'll encounter a few here and there which could take a little longer. A particularly good thing about this game is how you can battle bosses. Most of them are of a higher caliber than most Zelda bosses in that they are both fun AND challenging. You might actually have to try more than once to beat a few of these bosses! Sidequests like fishing, searching for treasure and customizing your ship are very enjoyable. There's also a multiplayer game which is supposedly OK, so that's another thing to try out. However, some parts of the game feel too overpowered, like the Hammer. It's like somebody hit the "easy" button for the whole game by that point. At least that happens near the end of the game, so it doesn't hurt too much. (8.5/10)
  • Graphics: Very good for the DS, looks like Animal Crossing. Not worthy when compared to its Gamecube predecessor, though. (8/10)
  • Sound: Some of the worst music in a Zelda game overall, least number of memorable tracks. I was expecting a bit more effort here... seriously, this needed more work. I can't complain about the sound effects otherwise, they sound fine, they could be better but could also be worse. (5/10)
  • Cast: Most NPCs in this game aren't worth caring about, but then there's Linebeck, one of the greatest characters created in Zelda and perhaps one of the best reasons that this game was made in the first place, besides its intuitive control and note-taking system. Hilarious! (8/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: There's surprisingly a lot more to do than just the main quest than you'd expect, especially from a game which looks deceptively straightforwards. And best of all, the extra content isn't tedious or meticulous- it's fun! I suppose this game is worth replaying a couple of times. (8.5/10)
  • Overall: Mixed feelings. It's definitely a worthy DS purchase because it has very well-utilized and intuitive control, and it's cool to see how a Zelda game can work with just a stylus. This game has its fun parts, but it feels a lot more bland than a Zelda game should. This is pretty easy to notice when it comes to the music, sound and story. It's still a good game, but could've been better. We'll see how much of this is fixed in Spirit Tracks. It introduces some awesome new ideas, and these have real potential. (7.5/10)

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

As I mentioned in my Phantom Hourglass review, the game brought a lot to the table, but overall it didn't utilize the full potential of its new control ideas to create a fulfilling and complete Zelda game. Spirit Tracks, from the get-go, had quite a few people concerned for its trains. It could either be a hit, or a miss. So I finally bought a DS along with the game, and I beat it. Should you?

  • Story: In a faraway land, the spirits of good battled the evil demon king. Unable to defeat him, they instead sealed him underground, using train tracks as chains, and building an immense tower in the center to secure the rails. After the events of Phantom Hourglass, Link and Tetra established a kingdom of New Hyrule. Quite a few decades pass, and Tetra's granddaughter is now the princess of New Hyrule. A new Link works as an engineer-in-training along with a former guard of the castle, Alfonzo. On the day that he visits Zelda to get his royal train certificate (or something like that) he meets the all-too suspicious Chancellor Cole. When Zelda asks him to go check out the strange goings-on at the Spirit Tower, Chancellor Cole ambushes them both and separates Zelda's soul from her body, stealing the body away with his assistant, Byrne. Link learns that he's the only one who can see Zelda, and so they work together to restore the disappearing Spirit Tracks and fix the Tower of Spirits in order to ensure that the demon king cannot return. However, they are too late- by the time they reach the top, the demon king possesses Zelda's body and takes off with Chancellor Cole to the Dark Realm in order to prepare for the takeover of the world. Cole's minion Byrne is betrayed, and so he decides to help Link and Zelda instead by showing them the way to the Dark Realm. In the final battle against the demon king, both Chancellor Cole and Byrne are destroyed, but the spirits of good intervene and grant Link and Zelda the power to finish off the demon king, saving New Hyrule. It was a pretty good story as far as I'm concerned, and it is far less bland than Phantom Hourglass. Some of it towards the end was actually kind of sad, despite how happy-go-lucky the game usually seemed to be. (8/10)
  • Gameplay: I'll just start by saying that the train travel is the worst aspect of it basically because it is slow, catching rabbits in the sidequests is irritating, and the evil trains are overpowered. The only part that really felt like the train was used strategically and well was during the Dark Realm and final boss. But aside from that, this gameplay is a higher tier than Phantom Hourglass. New items are actually among the series' best, and the returning items are used in new and better ways, so there's no penalty for returning items in the least. Some people find the Phantom clunky to control at certain segments, but it was never a real obstacle for me. The Phantom puzzles highlight the ultimate in dual-person dungeon exploring in the Zelda series, with a variety of Phantoms to possess which are used in unique ways. The stellar stylus control and note-taking system returns, and it is more strategic than ever. Bosses are actually an appropriate difficulty for once- and the final boss was incredibly versatile. The game is at its best in the dungeon and battle segments, and there's plenty of that to be had. If people complained about a lack of new puzzles in the Zelda series, then Spirit Tracks is the game for them. There are so many new puzzles in this game, and I'd feel terrible for spoiling them, so I won't. The only real detractor here is the train portion of the game. (9/10)
  • Graphics: Better than Phantom Hourglass. It's not Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days, but it is one of the best looking DS games available, and it showcases its graphical capabilities more often than Phantom Hourglass, such as viewpoints from the Tower of Spirits and a few very well-animated bosses. The basic enemies don't really look different at all from Phantom Hourglass, though. There's a lot more to see on the train then there ever was in the World of the Ocean King. (9/10)
  • Sound: Actual effort and quality, and there were a few tracks which I'd say are actually worthy as some of the better musical scores in the series, especially towards the end of the game. One of the ending scenes is particularly dramatic and emotional. Sound effects are good quality, and I was very happy that Link had a new voice for once. The dungeon music for the Tower of Spirits areas is also superb. (8.5/10)
  • Cast: I liked a lot of the cast in this game- way less bland than Phantom Hourglass, and the dialogue is also pretty funny. I think that one of the best things that the game did, surprisingly, was show that even the enemies in the game had emotion. While playing as Phantom Zelda, she can talk to other Phantoms to distract them. Different Phantoms doing different tasks in different areas say different things. A few examples: THIS IS WHERE THE ELITE PHANTOMS HANG OUT. IT'S LONELY TO BE SO ELITE. I mostly liked the villains in the game more than I usually do in a Zelda game. (8/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: It certainly won't be the same playing through again a second time, but a title of this quality deserves attention. For those who suffer through the boring, irritating Force Gem quests, there are a few extra stations which are actually not only a worthy prize, but something that I'm surprised hasn't been used in more Zelda games before. There are several hidden dungeon-like areas which actually have fairly complex puzzles and introduce new ideas. This is the kind of thing I'd like to see spread throughout a longer Zelda title, and without any stupid train quests in between. (8.5/10)
  • Overall: I liked this game more than Phantom Hourglass, it really made use of the potential that the previous installment set up, and created a complete game, with brand-new puzzles and inventive uses of items, great boss battles, a very epic finish and a bit more polish. The only really glaring problem is the train and its tedious segments, plus there are still a couple areas where NPCs or music feels a bit bland (fortunately this is uncommon) although there are enough creative characters and musical pieces to balance this out. If you own a DS and like Zelda, this is the definitive title. (8.5/10)

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The first Zelda game I really got into. I originally had no interest in the Zelda series because I hadn't played a single game yet. But at my neighbor's house, they had Wind Waker and we enjoyed playing it, even though we couldn't get past the guards in the Forsaken Fortress. Then, one night, we finally succeeded. What followed was an incredible saga of adventures, hunts for treasure and exploration across the Great Sea. Afterwards, I played Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Four Swords Adventures, Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass and the first two Zelda games. Looking back, how does Wind Waker compare?

  • Story: Long ago, there was an ancient kingdom where a golden power lay hidden, but a man of great evil tried to take it for himself. He was stopped by a boy dressed in green who sealed him away and became known as the Hero of Time. But one day, the seal broke and the wicked man returned. The Hero of Time did not, and as the kingdom fell into darkness and despair, the story ended. However, the legend of the Hero of Time survived on the wind's breath and was passed down through many generations. In the world where the story takes place, it is customary on Outset Island for boys to dress in the green clothes that the hero wore in the legend once they reach a certain age. Such is what happens to Link on his birthday. However, the island is unexpectedly visited by pirates in search of their missing captain. During their visit a monstrous bird they were chasing snatches up Link's sister Aryll and flies somewhere across the sea. Tetra, the captain, and the rest of the pirates let Link stow away on their ship so they can take him to the bird's nest at the Forsaken Fortress. There, they catapult him over the wall of the fortress. Link fails to rescue Aryll and the bird snatches him up and is ordered by a mysterious man to toss him far out to sea. Instead of drowning, he's rescued by a talking boat called the King of Red Lions. It tells him that the man who commands the bird is named Ganon, and is the Emperor of the Dark Realm spoken of in the legends. To stop him, Link travels the Great Sea in search of three Pearls of the Goddesses. After this point there are many spoilers which I will not go into, so I'm cutting the synopsis short. All in all, it is my favorite story of the Zelda series and in my opinion second best to Majora's Mask, although I like this one better for its clear-cut simplicity. (10/10)
  • Gameplay: Similar to Ocarina of Time, but with sea exploration by sailboat. The puzzles in the dungeons are never particularly challenging, but I found it tough the first time I played through because it was my first Zelda game. The combat is the best in the series yet, fast-paced and entertaining, but once again never really difficult. That's probably the biggest problem, how easy the game is. Aside from that, it has the best world and exploration of the series yet, the scale was so massive that I found it most believable and therefore most immersive. There are unfathomable amounts of sidequests, and many of them are as entertaining as the main game itself. Towards the end of the game there's also a big treasure hunt which was one of my favorite parts because it is so much more non-linear than a lot of the game and the rest of the Zelda series. There are so many mysteries to unravel and places to go, a feeling of freedom unlike any other game. The gameplay is good not because of how it advances Zelda in particular, but makes a name for itself. (10/10)
  • Graphics: The best I've ever seen. It uses cel-shading to its fullest potential and makes a world more alive than any other in a game. From day to night to massive smoky explosions or currents of wind, I was impressed by it since the beginning and I still am! (10/10)
  • Sound: A totally huge range of sound effects and even good sounds for menu screens. The music is great and couldn't have been any better. (10/10)
  • Cast: My favorite cast in a Zelda game, in my opinion even better than Majora's Mask. They were characters you could really emphasize with, even the villain, which is something particularly unique for a Zelda game. Motives are clear, personalities well-defined. Tons and tons of memorable lines of dialogue which reinforced the depth of the world. It didn't matter to me that there wasn't any real voice acting, I think the game is much better for it. (10/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: I'm still finding new things in this game... there's so much to experience here. Whether for nostalgia or for the fact that this game is absolutely amazing, Wind Waker is a joy to play every time. (10/10)
  • Overall: The best Zelda game likely ever to be made, and my personal favorite game of all time. I think it is excellent in every way except for the difficulty of puzzles and the difficulty of the combat which is already the series' best. It also could've done with two more dungeons which were possibly in development. If there are ever any mods or re-releases of this game, you can bet I'll be there to experience every last bit that I can. (10/10)

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)

The reason I bought a Wii. If I hadn't bought this game along with it (or somehow never heard of Super Smash Bros. Brawl) then I would've considered my purchase a HUGE mistake. So, I was really looking forwards to this game. It was clearly a different path than Wind Waker, and one that a lot of fans had been waiting for. Even though Wind Waker is my favorite game, this was my major focus at the time. So I was overjoyed when I finally got it, then I played through it from beginning to end (I named Link A1Sauce) and kept the file. It has nearly 70 hours of gameplay on it 0_0 and I have all hearts, all ghosts, all bugs, four bottles of Great Fairy's Tears ready to go. So... what's the verdict?

  • Story: Link's village is attacked by a bunch of kidnappers, and when Link follows them he finds that Hyrule has been covered in an ominous Twilight, and that whenever he enters the Twilight he becomes a wolf. With the help of the mysterious Midna, Link gathers Fused Shadows, items powerful enough to take on the Twilight King, Zant. However, Zant overcomes them and steals the Fused Shadows, then escapes to his home, the Twilight Realm, and breaks the mirror portal which leads there. However, he lacks the true power of a twilight ruler, so he couldn't entirely destroy it. After recovering the well-hidden shards, the mirror is remade. Link and Midna defeat Zant and reclaim the Fused Shadows, but Zant reveals that it was Ganondorf that gave him his power and has now taken over Hyrule. So they defeat Ganondorf, and it turns out that Midna is the Twilight Princess. She goes through the mirror but breaks it so that the Twilight Realm will (hopefully) never bother Hyrule again. There are good and bad aspects to this story. First off, the main focus of saving the kids and the village feels kind of tacked on to get into the whole "get Fused Shadows" quest, which leads to a "get Mirror Shards" quest, which leads to a "let's go fight Ganondorf" quest. Although there's a lot of other stuff tied into it, it's basically a bunch of fetch quests ending in a not-so-surprise appearance from Ganondorf. It would've been cooler if it was just Zant and if he didn't run away until the very end. Instead, after the Arbiter's Grounds the game feels kind of awkward to play, and I found myself asking "Why am I doing this again?" more than once after that point. If you couldn't tell, I wasn't too thrilled with yet another "Ganon did it" approach. All the same, it felt like a Zelda story. (8/10)
  • Gameplay: Awesome, classic, and the controls feel perfectly natural. Fighting and springing around as a wolf didn't feel tacked-on to me, and it was a cool way to play the game. The overworld is huge, lots of places to explore with hidden nooks and crannies practically everywhere. The sheer scale of some of the locales simply amazed me, and made it feel like a truly authentic Hyrule. The horseback combat is more fleshed-out and better than Ocarina of Time, and the difficulty of battle has been amped up a bit in some respects, although most bosses are still far easier than the dungeons you go through to reach them. There are some really nice items in this game too, like a wind-powered boomerang which should've gotten a lot more use, two clawshots which allow you to spring from target to target without ever touching the floor, a rod that controls statues, and a giant top which latches onto spots on walls and grinds quickly along them, launching off rails. These are all really cool items, but at the same time they could've been used in so many more clever situations. The dungeon difficulty is perfect in this game. Even the first dungeon will take a while to complete! If you can complete this game without a guide, good luck- not just because of the mind-bending dungeons but the sheer amount of sidequests waiting in the world. There are so many hidden caves and treasure chests to find (although they deliberately made it so you have to find 5 pieces of heart instead of 4) you'll be exploring Hyrule for a long time even after you've run through Ganondorf with the unclean end of your Master Sword. (9.5/10)
  • Graphics: The realistic approach did not disappoint, and most everything looks nothing less than stellar. Truly a beautiful way to remember the Gamecube, as this was actually not a Wii game but one of the very last Gamecube games. The Twilight portions of the game were very moody and well done. It felt like a truly ominous and dangerous land living in constant fear and oppression. The atmosphere for the forest, water, ice and time dungeons are nothing less than incredible. The water one in particular is one of the best-made dungeons in Zelda history. It's truly breathtaking. Character and enemy designs are interesting and very characteristic of what this game wanted to accomplish. Like the gameplay, it leaves open ends for a sequel which can be even darker. (9.5/10)
  • Sound: A great soundtrack, so what if the music wasn't orchestrated? It sounded fine all the same, and was nothing less than the quality I've come to expect from Zelda. The sound effects are as varied and well done as the music, and it all really brings the world of Hyrule to life, from the opening to the ending credits. (9.5/10)
  • Cast: There are lots of characters with distinct personalities and they are mostly memorable. This game received a lot of praise for Midna, and a few people were unhappy that Zant turned out to be a complete psycho in the end. I somewhat agree with both ends but I'm not a devotee of either. They were both fine. As for Ganondorf, he was really an unwelcome guest and I was quite happy to send him away with what he deserves for mucking up a Zelda game with his unnecessary appearance. Overall, this was a pretty good cast, and I would've rather seen Tingle than Ganondorf. I was rather let down by the many NPCs in Castle Town that you couldn't talk to. (8.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: What can I say? I think the 70 hours of gameplay speaks for itself. (10/10)
  • Overall: The best game on my Wii right now, and I've had it since 2006. That speaks for both the library of awful Wii games and the sheer quality of this particular game. Although I wouldn't say I'm a Twilight Princess "fan," there's no denying just how amazing this game is. It did nearly everything right- the gameplay, the sounds and music, graphics and all the cast except for Ganondorf. If you have a Wii or a Gamecube, and you're a Zelda fan and still haven't played this game, there's something seriously wrong with you. This game was made for YOU, so start playing! (9.2/10)

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (GCN)

It's somewhat common knowledge that this show went downhill after the movie due to new and less-skilled writers (not to say that earlier episodes were necessarily well-written, merely funnier or more memorable.) The movie, too, was the last I paid attention to this franchise... except, of course, the game based on the movie. The movie wasn't as good as the older episodes I remembered watching, but was a fun two hours. Did the game adaption hold my attention for more than that time span?

  • Story: More or less the same as the movie- the cutscenes and scenarios in the game generally explain the same story seen in the movie. For the same reason I haven't described the stories in the Harry Potter games, I'm holding back on this one as well because there are already tons of summaries out there. However, if you don't see the movie then the scenes will have much less impact and it'll feel like you're being guided along by your nose. But it doesn't really matter because the story isn't meant to be one for the ages. It's simply bizarre. Honestly, even for a movie based on a talking sponge I thought that the plot was lacking. (4/10)
  • Gameplay: It's a platformer, and what there is works well. It has just the right level of difficulty without floundering from bad controls, and some series of jumps just flow together really well, you'll be surprised how much territory you'll cover and chaos you'll cause in such a short space of time, what with your insane moveset of cartwheels, tongue-grappling on floating ice cubes, karate and guided electrical guitar attacks. A lot of the gameplay is modded from the most successful Spongebob game, Battle for Bikini Bottom. This is definitely a good thing. Although there isn't much to say about the combat, there are some hardcore nasty foes towards the end that made me say "OK, now THAT is not fair at all!" Seriously. What chance does a talking sponge stand against a laser-guided hovering military helicopter with double MIRVS that are heat-seeking and can split into five copies each which are also heat-seeking and each causes an individually dangerous explosion? And it gets even better- towards the end you have to fight no less than SEVEN at the same time along with other enemies while trying not to fall into an obligatory chasm of fiery inferno. And if you survive that, well it's your lucky day. You get to jump back and forth across two conveyor belts flowing into the lava while dodging fireballs and all-encompassing lightning strikes from a massive statue. At least those looking for a challenge won't be let down when they reach the last couple of levels. There are also racing challenges which involve driving courses, and also sliding courses which are modded from Battle for Bikini Bottom. There are some insane time challenges on them, so the game's as hard as you want to make it. Never beat it 100%... too tough. (8/10)
  • Graphics: Similar to Battle for Bikini Bottom. The graphics aren't that good in this one, and the only one that ever made me think twice was the trash level near the end of the game, but that's probably because it was so unexpected, it made no appearance in the movie, yet here was something that I could see in a Fallout game, with a Spongebob twist to it in that it all looked vaguely cartoony. Still, that particular level should stand out in your mind if you ever reach it. Other than that, nothing great. (6.5/10)
  • Sound: Lots of funny comments from the cast and crew during the gameplay that actually was nice to hear and sometimes was good for a laugh or two. Good work on all the voices in this game, voice talent people. Sound effects are alright, but the best thing along with the voices is the music. Although there are a number of tracks that don't stand out, there are some amazing ones like the road trip theme in the desert, the epic final battle song, and the legendary trash level theme. (8.5/10)
  • Cast: Spongebob and Patrick, and a few other fishy people I don't care about. I hated the mer-people. (3.5/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: There are a LOT of secrets. And if you're really determined, good luck going for 100% and unlocking all of the extras they have out there. Honestly, I never felt much of a motivation to do so, but what extras you find will provide an extra level of insight which is otherwise impossible to get. Take your time. (5.5/10)
  • Overall: Eh. It's a mod of Battle for Bikini Bottom meant to be like the movie. Although the gameplay is vaguely there from the original, it just goes to show that less effort goes into the movie adaptations than actual games. Still, there is some hilarious voice work and a few well done tracks. The extra hidden content that allows for minor hacking (that's right) and behind-the-scenes footage gives you an incentive to play the game and enjoy it while ignoring the obvious flaws. I don't think I can recommend it, though. (6/10)

WarioWare: Smooth Moves

The WarioWare series is essentially a rush of random minigames so small that they are called "micro-games." However, the fast-paced, initially hard to predict and oftentimes hilarious results and gameplay style have made them truly entertaining titles, at least on the handhelds. But what of the console version? I got to find out when somebody left behind a copy of the game at my house. They haven't asked for it back, so let's get a review of it first.

  • Story: Wario lives in Diamond City, and one day while eating junk food and watching TV, some strange Tenda rejects from EarthBound steal Wario's food! He takes after them and stumbles across the mysterious "form baton" within their temple. After that, there are just a bunch of random scenarios with random characters around Diamond City doing random stuff. Then, the little guys ask for their form baton back, and he accidentally drops it back in its place. I would've given this story an outright zero, but I found some of the random scenarios kind of humorous. (2/10)
  • Gameplay: So, you select a person's icon from the map and then a cutscene plays that introduces their character. After that, you just do a bunch of microgames and then there is another cutscene to wrap up their part of the story. The microgames are a lot of fun, and there's a massive number of them to be had. The microgames can literally be anything from shredding paper, to trapping people under baskets, to whisking tablecloths off of tables without spilling the food and drink, to fanning polluted air away from an innocent child (the polluted air is later revealed to be Wario's fart.) The best ones are a series of microgames based off of Nintendo games, and they have their own special course. There are microgames for Metroid Prime, Super Mario Sunshine, Balloon Fighter, Animal Crossing, Pikmin 2, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and more. At the end of each course there is a "boss microgame" that goes on for a longer time but isn't always necessarily a battle. Sometimes it's an attacking swordsman or a murderous flying nose, but other times it can be a dance, or a mission where you have to direct people into bathrooms. Besides the microgames, there are a few other side games where you can set high scores by bouncing a ball up a tower, or a very interesting one which involves stacking blocks into a tower and not letting a single one fall. Of course, all of these moves are performed through a series of poses using the Wiimote, and it works very well. I've had next to no screw-ups on the remote's part throughout the game, save for a couple of microgames here and there. It's a lot of fun to play with a group of people even if it is a single-player game. (8/10)
  • Graphics: The cutscene animation is very cheesy, and it brings back scarring memories of the abomination some have the guts to call "pizza" at Chuck E. Cheese. The microgames have varying styles to them, though no microgame ever has impressive graphics. For the most part, if you've ever seen the movie "Napoleon Dynamite" the microgames' animation style is eerily similar to his sketches, only more Japanese. But a lot of the time, many of the simplistic microgame graphics add to the humor and appeal. So aside from the cutscenes, I don't have any gripes. There are just TOO many cutscenes, though... (5/10)
  • Sound: No striking musical numbers here, but they fit the fast and frantic minigames perfectly. Very energetic soundtrack. (7/10)
  • Cast: A lot of the characters are really random and bizarre, but there are a few that you can't help but like, such as the karate kid and the wise old master, the two afro disco guys, and of course, Wario himself. Otherwise, you just go with the flow. A most of them were obnoxious, though. (4/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: This is the game you can always come back to once in a while with some friends and have a great time, until you get annoyed. Fortunately, you really have to play it non-stop to get that "annoyed" feeling. There's a lot of variety and fun here, and that's what counts in a game like this. (9/10)
  • Overall: Although the score here does address what I think of this game in comparison to pretty much everything else on this list, if you're in the mood to play this game then the score shouldn't matter to you. The bottom line is you should let yourself go, alone or with friends, and just have a great time with the microgames. But don't play it too frequently or you will likely get sick of it. (5.8/10)

Zelda II

Well, here it is. Might as well get this one out of the way sooner rather than later. This is, without a doubt, the worst Zelda game ever made. I learned from firsthand experience on my Collector's Edition. To think that it gets away with stowing away with The Legend of Zelda, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, even a playable demo of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is blasphemy. You don't need analysis to see why Zelda II gets the hate it does, but this is what we do here.

  • Story: Some stupid story about Zelda falling asleep, and Link needing to wake her up with magic crystals. It's all lost somewhere in the Zelda II NES instruction booklet, and who even cares about this garbage anyways. (0/10)
  • Gameplay: You walk around the overworld and get into fights which you will lose. You go into towns where talking to a person takes about 10 minutes per sentence due to the deliberately slow load times for their useless text which never helps or is simply indecipherable. You go into caves, everything looks the same, you wander lost until a monster puts Link out of his misery. You go into temples, which are the same as caves except with a boss. It doesn't help that Link is a terrible fighter, has spells that don't work and can't jump- well, such a disgrace can't really be called "jumping", can it. (2/10)
  • Graphics: Probably some of the worst I've seen, even on an NES. Sure, there are lots of bright colors, but a lot of it looks like vomit, particularly the battles that take place in the "forest." Honestly, some of the graphics are so bad that they can bring dead people to tears. And why do half of the villagers look like Lord Farquaad from Shrek?! I don't know if that's how you spell his name, I really don't care. (1/10)
  • Sound: Well, here's a redeeming feature. The sound in this game is okay, but not the best Zelda soundtrack. We got a few memorable tunes out of this one. Sound effects sound no different than your average NES game, no real problem here, but the low quality does nothing to bolster this junk heap. (4/10)
  • Cast: There's Link, there's Dark Link and there's Lord Farquaad. (1/10)
  • Lasting Appeal: Why would ANYONE want to play this more than once, if at all? (0/10)
  • Overall: This game simply exists, and should be respectfully left alone. If you somehow find yourself with a copy in your possession though, you're allowed to use any desired method to dispose of it as soon as possible, preferably shredding it before doing anything else. (1.3/10)
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