Game Review Bits

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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Asura’s Wrath
Available for PS3, Xbox 360
Published by Capcom
Developed by CyberConnect2
Release Date: February 21, 2012

Anger is atomic in the world of Asura’s Wrath. Just as atomic are the battles, character design, storyline and quick time events. If you are looking to experience a different kind of a game, and a story that you can only truly appreciate through this interactive medium, Asura’s Wrath is definitely one to take on. From the onset of the game’s over-the-top galactic battle, the player is bound to be overcome with intrigue to dig deeper into what the heck is going on.

Asura’s Wrath is a game best enjoyed by the player experiencing it, so I won’t tear open the details that developer CyberConnect2 and Capcom have wrapped up in this package. To sum up the overarching story, players take the role of demigod Asura, one of the Eight Guardian Generals protecting Gaea and its human inhabitants. The planet’s animal inhabitants are twisted incarnations of their former being, known as the Gohma. The Gohma are enraged and darkened elephants, gorillas, manta rays and more. Something pissed the Gohma off and it is pretty likely to have been the humans. Boiling at the core of Gaea is Vlitra, a monster of mother earth. It is the demigods and their heavenly array of spaceships and godlike super-cyber powers that can only quell the rage of Gaea and “purify” it. When deception and deceit defile the ranks of the Eight Guardian Generals, not even 12,000 years can calm the rage of Asura. 

Asura’s Wrath has the kind of events and story you want to share with the non-gamers you may know. Yet, its story is best told through this interactive gaming medium. Be prepared for many quick time event reactions (pressing buttons or pushing thumbsticks in the right direction). Besides keeping players on edge on what button command is coming next, some of the movements (or intense button mashing) put you in one with Asura. Whether it is extending Asura’s six arms or taking a swig of sake, interactive moments are beyond the standard jump or punch at the right second. That said, don’t expect extended third-person action sequences. Asura’s Wrath teeters in between games like Heavy Rain and third-person games. There are three main parts to the story of Asura’s Wrath, divided up in an episodic style (as seen in games like Alan Wake and Alone in the Dark). The episodic presentation helps set the tone of the upcoming conflicts and provide recaps of the story if you have taken a little break from the game. It also reminds you how story is the driving force of Asura’s Wrath.

The graphics of Asura’s Wrath border in between a cell-shaded and a light textured style. Using the Unreal Engine 3, this is yet another unique application of Epic Games’ production tools. At times, Asura’s Wrath feels like an anime. Sprinkled throughout are illustrations and many unlockable pieces of art to take in the unique artistic direction of Asura’s Wrath. The character designs are well crafted, being unbelievable at times. Players may feel the character designs fall somewhere in between Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, but uniquely all onto its own in Asura’s Wrath. See why the Brahmastra makes the Death Star look subatomic. The soundtrack also entertains with a unique blend of styles from western themes to Symphony No. 9. As for the voice acting, Asura’s rage is heavily enunciated throughout the game. For the most part, these are burly deities you are dealing with here. That’s an understatement for Asura’s Wrath.

Asura’s Wrath is a single-player game, with a fairly expected Capcom letter ranking system for replay value. For players to truly get a grip around Asura’s Wrath and experience an additional chapter, an “S” rank must be attained in at least five of the 18 episodes (or complete 50 episodes in various degrees of difficulty). Besides unlocking more of Asura’s Wrath character art, special gauges can also be unlocked. The gauges allow for differing effects during battle (such as better defense, recharging of powers and more). So to fully achieve the game’s value, expect some replay of some levels. To appreciate the story, and build up your power gauge options, start on Easy and then go from there.

If you tire of sequels and the many standard game genres, Asura’s Wrath delivers a truly refreshing story, incomprehensible atomic battles and visually striking character designs. Gamers open to experiencing something different will be pleased with what they find in Asura’s Wrath. If it is open-world, fighting, third-person action, FPS or some other popular genre like that you are looking for, well, there is plenty of it out there to satiate you. If you want to play something a bit different, unbound with energy and deep with story, Capcom and CyberConnect2 have offered up this serving of atomic rage in this must play experience of Asura’s Wrath.

Game Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

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Thanks to Capcom for making this review possible.

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