Game Review Bits

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Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Bandai Namco Games & Sora Ltd.
Release date: November 21st, 2014

Super Smash Bros has always been the must-have title since it was released back in 1999. From the Nintendo 64 all the way to todays generation – the Nintendo WiiU – Super Smash Bros has seen countless hours of casual and competitive play throughout the world. Does Super Smash Bros for WiiU deliver upon expectations and if so, does it exceed them?

It has been 15 years since we saw the release of the original Super Smash Bros on the Nintendo 64 and I still go back to play the classic roster of characters. The one thing I have to credit Nintendo on is the ability to remake old games but put a twist on them that makes them feel new and refreshing. They did exactly that with Super Smash Bros for WiiU as they brought the same, old fashioned game mechanics with a plethora of new game options to expand on the already perfect formula.

Read the full review here

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To cut (or crack the whip) to the chase, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate is an excellent 3DS execution by game developer MercurySteam. The artwork, action gameplay, storyline and musical composition puts Mirror of Fate within the high quality of Castlevania games. Mirror of Fate is what brought me back to the 3DS after leaving it several months ago, and boy did it have me hooked. I couldn’t put it down, setting aside some other console games I had been playing. And yes, you can count me among the longtime Castlevania fans. It’s one of the few games I play and collect since the series began. The Castlevania series has its share of hits and misses among the many varities (side-scroller, action, puzzle, fighter), but count Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate among the hits. The good it offers far outweighs the bad. Here’s a breakdown after my first play through of Mirror of Fate:

The Good:

+ Varied action and abilities throughout the gameplay perspective of four (or really, mainly three) Castlevania characters.

+ Beautiful gothic cathedrals and ornate interiors in 3D. It will stop you in your tracks at times, to take in the scenery.

+ Detailed, dark villains.

+ Surprising 3D effects, besides the expected differences between the background and foreground. Fire and flying demons tease outward to poke at the player’s perspective.

+ Several nice puzzles dispersed throughout, especially during Alucard’s segment.

+ Dramatic big boss enounters.

+ Cell-shaded cutscenes are a nice interlude from the in-game 3D. Although some may complain about lip-syncing, to me it wasn’t a distraction. The artwork is beautiful. The cinematics are available for playback when unlocked.

+ Fills you in on the history of the prime Castlevania characters, including a surprising revelation on Alucard.

+ Detailed 3D bestiary with information on each beast/character.

+ Ability to leave notes on a map screen for backtracking when new abilities are unlocked.

+ One the fallen brotherhood turns up to be Nintendo’s icon (hint, hint).

The Bad:

- No manual. Not a fault of the developer, but on Konami’s part for deciding to opt with a digital only version. Sacrilege for us Castlevania fans who enjoy the series for its beautiful artwork and atmosphere. Mirror of Fate is available from the Nintendo Store online to appease those who want to go digital, so why Konami didn’t at least provide the Castlevania core collectors with some embellished physical version beats me. Even the pre-order sticker 3DS case offered from another game retailer felt very cheap for the series. Collector’s Editions seem to be a dime a dozen for some games, but the Castlevania series is definitely worthy of it, if not at least a color instruction manual (or even a black & white physical copy!) /rant

- A bit on the shorter duration of the Castlevania adventures. Completionists will likely go on for the 100% and hardcore more (and another surprise teaser incentive at the end that I won’t spoil), though expect a 90-95% completion at around 12-13 hours into it.

To sum it up, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate is a must for fans of the Castlevania series or for those who are looking for a gorgeous looking 3D game. Highly recommended, solid game for Nintendo 3DS gamers (or a good reason to buy a 3DS!). Excellent job, MercurySteam!

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Luxor Evolved
Available for iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch)
Game Developer and Publisher: MumboJumbo
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Luxor Evolved review

The lush, almost photo-real graphics of Luxor’s previous iOS incarnation Luxor 2 HD set a high standard for the match-3 marble shooter. Could it get better? MumboJumbo takes gamers on an all-new surprising visual approach in Luxor Evolved. Just by the game’s name and its graphical style, Luxor Evolved is clearly influenced by Geometry Wars Evolved. Dig deeper into Luxor Evolved’s secret levels and you will find there are in fact many other video game tributes to some of gaming’s greatest. Experiencing the secret levels unlocks the biggest rewards that Luxor Evolved offers. The Luxor game series may have been a niche in the casual game market, but this release calls out to the hardcore and long-time classic gamers.

Luxor Evolved does have the colorful vector graphics from the Geometry Wars game series. And at its heart, the gameplay mechanics of Luxor Evolved are still very much the same from previous Luxor releases. So I will spare the repetition. There are a plenty of power ups and bonuses to catch, in fruity retro gaming style. The three different Super Power-ups are the most rewarding and damaging, which transform your ship into a uber-destructive force. The Super Power-ups will also light up your screen with psychedelic colors.

 One thing that felt a little off in Luxor Evolved is the gameplay speed. There is a slow-motion effect, but sometimes I couldn’t tell if it was because of the game’s performance. For a vector game, it definitely should feel a bit speedier or a bit snappier like previous Luxor games (or Geometry Wars). The other minor annoyance may be the boss battles. Some of the boss battles may be frustrating, but there is an option to skip the boss battle should it really aggravate you. Once you get a couple encounters with the bosses, things may get smoother.

I won’t spoil which retro games make a surprise appearance in Luxor Evolved (unless you can guess one of them from the screenshot above), but think early and late eighties arcade games and you get the idea. I had a blast playing through the game just to see the unique neon representations of the video game classics. I was doubtful how MumboJumbo could possibly come up with another unique release of Luxor, but they did it in a totally awesome and retro fabulous gaming way. Gamers owe it to themselves to experience a super fun visit down video game’s godly glyphs in Luxor Evolved. Highly recommended!
Game Rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars


 

4.5 out of 5 stars

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Thanks to MumboJumbo for making this review possible!

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Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Game Publisher: Capcom
Game Developer: Slant Six Games
Available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Release date: March 20, 2012

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City review: 

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a third-person action game set in the Resident Evil universe, particularly during the time period of the first three Resident Evil games. Developed by Slant Six Games (SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALS Confrontation), the game thrusts players into the roles of Umbrella corporation mercenaries. Tasked with destroying evidence, the players try to survive the infested streets of Raccoon City while eliminating anyone or anything that get’s in their way. The storyline doesn’t seem to stick exactly to the Resident Evil canon, which may really annoy some diehard fans but rest assured that there isn’t too much story development anyways. After all, this game is about killing monsters.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a cover-based shooter, and the first thing that action game vets will notice is that the cover system is just mediocre. It’s not completely broken, but there were many times where I died simply because I was not looking straight at a box I wanted to hide behind. It almost seemed like once I got close to cover I needed to give the game time to show the on-screen prompt before I could do anything. It didn’t always happen that slowly but it is something that is definitely lacking a certain polish. Although, even if the attempt to hide took a bit longer than usual, once behind cover I could usually look around and shoot fairly smoothly.

The game features a campaign that integrates jump-in/jump-out multiplayer which could be turned off, however Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City seems geared toward group play. Since the game is pretty tough even on normal difficulty, I think Slant Six just assumed that most people would have a friend around to help out. If you’re antisocial and you play on the harder difficulty settings, then god help you because the threats to your life will be numerous and hungry. I usually rolled the dice by starting games by myself and leaving the session open for the public to join.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City does have a fairly lag-free multiplayer (although occasionally glitchy) that I enjoyed quite a bit. The game types were diverse and the feature where players could become zombies and go after friends really took on a whole new dimension here. Another game type I thought was noteworthy was one where players from opposing teams fought over available spots on a helicopter. I did have one major problem with multiplayer and that was that human-controlled enemies simply take way too long to die. I like to think that If I empty two magazines from a submachine gun into an enemy they should stop moving, but Slant Six seemed to disagree. I think if the response from the turn and look controls was a bit more responsive I wouldn’t have minded so much. In those situations, the game devolved into two enemies spinning around franticly trying to spew bullets wildly in every direction.

Overall, the game did have a fair amount of replay value. There were unlockable weapons, new characters and different character abilities. Weapons couldn’t be upgraded which was disappointing, but there usually were a few different versions of the same weapon with different attributes. There were also unlockable pieces of concept art, although they weren’t too exciting in my opinion. The gameplay in Operation Raccoon City was certainly fun, especially when playing with other people, but it should be noted that the package is rough around the edges. I would liken it to a fast, sporty car with the seat replaced by a steel folding chair. I think some people have been overly harsh because it is vastly different from the series’ other major entries, but taken on its own it’s a definitely a decent game.

The overall design in the game was very reminiscent of the three original Resident Evil games. I give Slant Six credit for even having music that seemed to be written in the same musical feel and scales as the other Resident Evil titles. The colors and environments also fit the theme very well. I am glad they seemed to nail the feel, since I think mutating that would amount to a mortal design sin. Much of this feel also extended to the menus, which fit the theme well and were easy to navigate. The sound effects were nothing to cheer about. Standard gunshot, zombie and monster sound effects were all present but nothing seemed to jump out as well-placed or particularly stunning. The effects did not detract from the experience though. Finally, the graphics and character models were actually pretty good. If you haven’t played Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City yet, don’t expect to be stunned, but I think the game looked like it fit as a later-generation game release for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 life span.

Game Rating:

 

 

3.5 stars out of 5

 

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Thanks to Capcom for making this review possible.


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Street Fighter X Tekken
Available for PS3 and Xbox 360
Published and Developed by Capcom
Release Date: March 6, 2012

Game Summary:
Capcom has achieved potentially one of every fighting game fan’s biggest dreams by matching up their Street Fighter brawlers with those in the Tekken realm in an effortless fighting game. While there are a few hindrances preventing this game from sheer perfection, the well-balanced fight mechanics and characters coupled with tight controls, solid modes and presentation are sufficient to earn Street Fighter X Tekken praise it deserves.

Read the full review and see the star rating here.

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