Saturday, 30 April 2011


F-Zero GX
[GameCube] [Amusement Vision]
I haven't done a GameCube review for ages. My first one was of the excellent side-scrolling beat 'em up Viewtiful Joe, which was the second review I'd ever written (in other words, it's years old now). The second review I did on the boxy platform was of SSX On Tour, and that was only a quickie anyway. So, I've decided that it's time I revisited the good ol' Cube and did another big review of a game on the underrated platform. What game, you ask? Well, it clearly says in the title that I'm reviewing F-Zero GX, one of the most punishing yet awesome games ever released on the console. This one was really tough to play through, that's for sure, but after somehow managing to complete the insanely difficult Story mode and every Grand-Prix in the game, I'm ready to do a review. So without further delay let's get into it!

F-Zero GX is the fourth installment in a long line of Nintendo-developed futuristic racing games. However, this one wasn't just made by Nintendo. In fact, they got the help from Sega this time round and formed Amusement Vision to create GX and an arcade version known as AX (which I can't say I've played or ever even seen in an arcade) then disappear without a trace. It's a shame really. Nintendo and Sega should pair up once again and create a new F-Zero game for the 3DS, that's what I say. Anyway, back to GX. This game is easily one of my favourite titles on the 'Cube, and not only is it brilliant but it's really, really seriously difficult too. However, one of the greatest things about F-Zero GX is that playing on harder difficulties is never a requirement. Sure, perfectionists will want to get through every cup and every story mission on all the difficulty settings, but after playing through on the easiest difficulty you will have seen everything. This clever design decision makes the game appeal to a much higher percentage of gamers. Sure, F-Zero GX isn't the sort of game you'd want to give to someone who's not familiar with more core gaming and just uses 'the Wii Fit' and not a whole lot else, but it's still nice for the game to appeal to the majority of the gaming community.

F-Zero GX's visuals are extremely impressive considering how fast you're going.
F-Zero GX contains a plethora of game modes, the two main ones being Grand Prix and Story Mode. I think I'll cover Grand Prix first. This mode is very similar to the Mario Kart games in that you select a Cup and pick one of the many F-Zero machines before racing across several tracks, earning yourself a certain amount of points depending on what position you place after each race. When all five races are over, your total points determine what your final position in the cup is, with first place earning you a Gold cup and so on. And that's basically Grand Prix mode in a nutshell! There's four cups to be played through on four different difficulties, the harder of which are extremely difficult. Don't think this is just a futuristic Mario Kart clone though. One major difference with F-Zero GX in comparison to Mario Kart is the amount of other racers you'll be hoping to speed past. F-Zero GX pits you against a massive 29 other machines each with their own different pilot, which is a really impressive feat considering you're driving at extremely high speeds against so many others without any frame-rate issues whatsoever. And no, this doesn't effect the graphics in any way either, as the game is a true beauty visually minus a few bad textures (which doesn't really matter because you won't be stopping to look at any time). Another rather large difference is the option to actually kill off your opponents via a strafe move that can smash other machines off the track. Other machines can also perform this dash move back at you, but a defensive spin reflects their attacks. There's a surprising amount of strategy involved in the Grand Prix mode.
The track design in the game is absolutely mental, as is the music. I particularly love the Fire Field theme!
Now it's time to write about Story mode, which is equally as fun as the main Grand Prix. In Story mode, you play as Captain Falcon, F-Zero's bounty hunter poster-boy that has appeared in every F-Zero game to date, as well as the Smash Bros. titles. After winning yet another F-Zero Cup, he returns to his job as a bounty hunter and sets out to pursue his racing rival Black Shadow, who is up to no good for sure. The story is honestly quite basic, but it makes way for some great set-pieces that end up being the game's nine missions, each of which begins with a hilariously cheesy cutscene complete with ridiculous animations and some fairly shoddy voice acting (which is definitely no bad thing). These cut-scenes are clearly Sega's doing, but unlike the older polygon-based Sonic Games, they're actually very enjoyable and sometimes ridiculously funny. It's impossible to develop an emotional connection with any of the characters because they're so badly animated and scripted that it's funny, but the story is very enjoyable from start to finish. The missions themselves involve you driving Captain Falcon's machine to fill out certain tasks, which can be anything from collecting a number on items on a track and reaching the finish line within a time limit to rescuing an injured pilot from a burning building by boosting your way through obstacles. Each story mission provides a thrilling challenge that variates the standard gameplay in exciting ways. Each and every one is difficult but not impossible, which really adds to the feeling of sheer satisfaction you get when you finally finish one after tons of restarts.

On top of the Grand Prix and Story options, other modes are also available. You can have a pop at beating your best race times in Time Trial mode, you can view profiles of each F-Zero pilot and listen to their surprisingly good theme tune in Pilot Profiles and you can take a look at your best saved races in Replay mode, but the most important option bar the Grand Prix and Story mode on the main menu is the Customisation mode. Here you can spend F-Zero Tokens that you've earned from the main modes on new Story Missions, unlockable pilots and parts for developing your own custom F-Zero Machine. The Machine builder is pretty fun to mess around with, giving you the option to pick from three different types of parts, give them a lick of paint and apply custom emblems to your new machine a-la Mario Kart DS. Sure, the actual pilot machines tend to be much cooler than your own custom machines, but the customisation option is still a cool option to mess around with.

If F1 was anything like F-Zero so much more people would watch it for sure!
Despite the plethora of game modes, the core racing in F-Zero GX is where the game really shines brightest. Once you've tried out a few of the many machines, you will have found one that suits your specifications and handles just how you want it to. Each of the 20 futuristic floating tracks in the game are extremely enjoyable and offer some insane jumps and gravity-defying roads to race along at astonishing speeds. The controls work really well too. A drift mechanic is implemented on top of tighter air-brakes which help you get around pretty much every corner. I've already mentioned the offensive and defensive moves that you can perform which only add more to the insanity of racing. I'll go as far as saying that this is easily the best F-Zero game that may never be topped (get on a 3DS game Nintendo!).

I'll end this review by saying these four words: F-Zero GX is hard! Or is that five words? Regardless, it's a statement that reflects whether you should buy the game or not, because if you're not very good at games in general then you probably won't get the most out of it. Still, if you're not a perfectionist you can still get the most out of GX by playing only on the lowest difficulties - You really won't miss out on anything other than a much bigger challenge. When it comes down to it, the main selling point of the game is the hardcore as hell, super fast futuristic racing. If you think you can handle the insanely fast antics of F-Zero GX, then by all means buy it - It's easily the best game in the series and one of the GameCube's greatest hits. Until next time, this is Noodle out...


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Just One More Day to Go Until Conduit 2 Hits the UK!

In case you were wondering, I'm pretty excited about Conduit 2. This 'bigger, better and bolder' sequel to the original 2008 Wii shooter The Conduit is out in just one day over here in the UK, and is one of the few Wii games we're aware of coming out this year to warrant a purchase. Of course, that will all change at E3 2011 when Nintendo announces their next Wii game onslaught and apparently a new console codenamed 'Project Cafe'. More on that in a future post though - Let's get back to Conduit 2. The game launched in NTSC regions two days ago, and up until now it has received some pretty great feedback. When the game was first announced last year the developers promised a bigger and much better game than the 'love it or hate it' original, and now that part of the world has played the game it seems that High Voltage Software certainly weren't lying. With just one more sleep until PAL regions get their hands on Conduit 2, let's take a look at what the game has to offer.

The first Conduit game was a commercial failure. High Voltage hyped the game up a little too much and left fans disappointed at what they came out with: An admittedly bland corridor shooter with a pretty fun multiplayer mode. Now however, they've learned their lesson. Now that graphics aren't a huge focus in Conduit 2, High Voltage had a chance to expand the story levels and the online multiplayer to create a much better game. The story follows on directly from the original game, but that doesn't mean you'll have to play that to understand it. You play as Michael Ford, an agent who ended up getting involved in stopping a plot to invade Earth and for the most part succeeded. However, the evil man behind the invasion, Mr. Adams, managed to survive after the events of the original game and is still up to no good. He retreats to an abandoned oil rig and Ford chases after him in an attempt to end his evil doings once and for all. Yeah, it's not the greatest set-up, but this is a shooter with a focus on action packed gameplay and not an epic plotline.

The ridiculously massive Leviathan is one of the many alien bosses you'll be blasting.
Like I said, the first level takes place on an oil rig (or oil derrick if you're american) and acts as Conduit 2's tutorial. According to several reviews I've read about the game, it feels a lot more fun than most other tutorials, and actually fits in with the story. As it turns out, an evil robotic alien creature known as a Leviathan is causing havoc in the oil rig, and ends up destroying a Conduit that Adams escapes through earlier on in the level leaving Ford behind with the beast. It's unusual to have an epic boss battle in the very first level of a game, but High Voltage deliver. After taking out the Leviathan, Mr. Ford and his partner Prometheus (now trapped in the A.S.E, Ford's special alien device) have to pursue Adams through a variety of locations that span all across the world, rather than just one city like in the much more plain original. Story-wise, that's all I know. What? I wouldn't want to spoil it for myself, would I?

As well as a vast single player campaign that will take several hours to complete, Conduit 2 also contains online and offline multiplayer. The online play is basically a much upgraded version of what we saw in the original game. Still the same basic concept, returning levels and modes (alongside loads of new ones) but with much more added on, such as an enhanced levelling-up system and many new options to customise your player. On top of online play, you can also play offline in a splitscreen mode. Two modes are available offline, namely the regular deathmatch mode supporting 2-4 players, or the Horde mode inspired by Gears of War 2. Horde mode sounds much more interesting. In this mode, you and your friends have to eliminate waves of enemies with a set number of lives. This can apparently be quite competitive, as you have to battle it out to score more points than your opponents while also helping them out when they're outnumbered. Sounds thrilling, that's for sure.

Conduit 2's Gears of War inspired Horde mode looks brilliant. I can't wait to have a go at it!
Playing through the globe-spanning single player campaign and the multiplayer modes of Conduit 2 earn you in-game credits that you can use to customise your character in both types of play, another unusual concept for a game of its kind. This means you can play through the single player mode in the sidelines of the multiplayer earning credits to get ready for some online play, without worrying about taking the fight to the rest of the world and failing. It's when you decide to jump in online that matters. Naturally though, you can't level up your character in single player or earn the achievements exclusive to multiplayer. Yup, there's achievements too. Conduit 2 keeps sounding better and better, doesn't it? Unfortunately, there are some clear issues with the game that you notice before even playing it. First off, the new voice actors High Voltage have employed to voice the game's characters are atrocious, B-movie style vocals. Micheal Ford's voice actor is the main offender. The protagonist is played by the bloke who is well known as the voice of Duke Nukem, and he certainly sets the dial to 'annoy'. Prometheus' voice is pretty bad to in comparison to the first game, and Adams' one isn't too bad. Still, I don't see why they couldn't have used the same voice actors as the original game? Or at least find someone with less annoying vocal cords to play Mr. Ford.

So, there you have it. Will you be getting Conduit 2? Will you wait until it's cheap like me or not buy it at all? Leave your opinions in the comments, I won't bite! Until next time...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

First Impressions: Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition

As you guys and gals probably know, I got my aqua blue 3DS a few days back and I'm pretty chuffed with it to say the least. I posted a rather long First Impressions piece on the new system yesterday, detailing my opinion on the brilliantly innovative built-in software and the hardware itself, but in the end the 3DS is a games console - You need to buy a retail game for it to get the most out of it in the long run. And guess what? That's exactly what I did. Along with my 3DS system, I grabbed a copy of Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition for just under £30 and it's truly brilliant. After playing the game extensively and wiping the floor with my fighting skills online (or maybe not), I've decided to do yet another First Impressions post this month on the excellent handheld fighter. "It's the battle of the century... FIGHT!"

Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition is not just a simple port of the great Xbox 360 and PS3 fighting game. In fact, it's much more than that. Yoshiniro Ono, the creator of Street Fighter IV has been calling the 3DS edition of the game the very best iteration, and he's not wrong. Sure, the graphics aren't quite up to scratch with the console versions and a few online modes have been taken out, but aside from that all you can find is improvements. The main thing is that this is obviously a handheld title, and since it has quite a big focus on online play that's a definite plus point. 3D edition also adds several new features to the game, mainly the inclusion of the Figure Collection system. When you win fights in the game you earn Figure Points, or FP for short. FP can then be spent on figurines of the Super Street Fighter IV cast, each with their own statistics and unique variations on design and colour. A rather large 500 figures can be found in the game through the use of the Figure Slots minigame and more exctingly, SpotPass. We're all aware of SpotPass now, surely? Anywho, I happened to receive a notification from Capcom a few days ago saying they hope I'm enjoying the game (definitely, thanks for asking!) and ended their message with a code to enter in the game. I entered the code and voila, a level 7 golden Blanka figurine only available through the code was mine just for owning the game. If that isn't awesome, the whole world has officially gone insane.

Of course, fighting is where the heart is in Street Fighter, and it's essentially the same as the console versions here. However, a function has been implemented called the 3D Dynamic View, which provides an over the shoulder angle during fights to make use of the brilliant 3D effects. It certainly does make better use of the 3D in comparison to the standard view, and is worth playing about with for a bit. However, I still prefer the regular camera angle and use that more often than not. Still, it's a cool addition and it achieves its goals. Nice work Capcom! Another new edition is the new touch-screen attack buttons, which allow you to perform special moves, Hyper Combos and Super Combos at the touch of a button. Being a bit of a newbie to Street Fighter, I couldn't help but use the touch screen controls when I started out. However, I soon became better and better at the game and eventually found my main, Sakura. I usually wipe the floor with her online now and have a respectable 50% win rate (which is pretty high, trust me). This shows that the touch-screen combos definitely do work and are great for people who are unfamiliar with the Street Fighter games. However, this new addition will undoubtedly annoy the pros, but it can be turned off and filtered out online. Speaking of the online...

Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition is the only online game on the 3DS at this moment in time, so it'd be pretty annoying if Capcom messed up this aspect. Thankfully, they haven't. Even when fighting folks over in Japan, I've experiences very few connection issues and very little amounts of lag. The game does play up here and there, but very rarely. I mentioned before that some of the modes have been taken out, namely the tournament and replay options from the console versions, but you can still play good old regular fights using either the standard or dynamic camera angles. And who knows, we might just get the extra modes through SpotPass sometime in the future...

There you have it, my first impressions of the excellent 3DS launch title known only as Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. It's a truly ace game that I'd recommend even to those not familiar with the series or fighting games in general, thanks to the brilliant touch-screen buttons. Capcom have successfully ported over the console versions of the game and might just have made the definitive Street Fighter IV release (it all depends on your views on graphics and controls). Next up on my blog is my review of the hardcore racing spectacular, F-Zero GX. Until then, ta-ta.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

First Impressions: The Nintendo 3DS!

Wow. Just wow. That was my reaction when I turned the latest Nintendo handheld on and witnessed the plain old 2D Nintendo 3DS logo transform instantly into 3D - And this was just the calibration bit, what was to come was even more awesome. That's right, after waiting long and hard, going through stressful clashes with a crap delivery company (DPD suck), getting a refund and waiting 2 weeks to get my hands on the new handheld, I finally have - I now own a Nintendo 3DS. Naturally, it's time I post this long overdue (DPD's fault) First Impressions post on Nintendo's latest and potentially greatest handheld console. After a day on extensive playing it's time I shared my opinion on the 3DS, so without any more blabbering, let's get on with it! And it's about time too... (DPD's fault)

The Nintendo 3DS is more than just a simple handheld that plays games and has a few nifty extra features like its predecessor. Instead, the 3DS is packed full of so much free built-in software that I literally didn't know where to start when I first entered the Home menu. Despite the fact that I bought a game to play on my 3DS, I actually checked out the Augmented Reality games on the 3DS. If you aren't familiar with the concept of Augmented Reality, let me take you through it. AR is a nifty little thing that allows you to see virtual objects in real life through a camera, thanks to the placement of an AR Card. After you place the card on a flat surface, the camera will recognise the image and a 3D object that you can freely look around as if it were right there before your eyes. The 3DS comes with AR Games, which make use of the 6 cards that come with the 3DS, and they work pretty well. I've had a bit of trouble with lighting and the tricky Fishing game, but the whole concept and the amount of games on offer is mesmerising. AR Games isn't only piece of built-in software on the 3DS though. Soon after playing through AR Shooting, I checked out Face Raiders; The standalone minigame that so many people have praised in the past for its sheer hilarity. They were certainly right. Playing Face Raiders with my brother was absolutely hilarious, and a whole lot of fun too. After taking a photo of a face you play through a level that involves shooting down evil floating faces that appear in your real-life surroundings with tennis balls. Several levels are on offer, and you are rewarded for building up a collection of faces. This awesome minigame is definitely one of the coolest ways to show off the 3DS, and will even make the grumpiest people giggle.

Now that I've talked about the main built-in games, I'll quickly run through the other built in software on the 3DS. I decided to make a Mii on the new and improved Mii Maker application soon after trying out the aforementioned stuff. Mii Maker is, in short, a massive improvement. The amount of options in comparison to the Wii's avatar creation tool is just immense, and as a whole everything has been made much simpler and easier to deal with. The Miis you create can be converted into QR Codes, which can be scanned by other 3DS owners to instantly download them onto their systems. Say goodbye to trying to replicate Miis from scratch on the Wii, QR Codes are the way to go. You can also take pictures of your Mii in the MiiViewer AR game which is particularly awesome. On top of the Mii Maker, there's also the StreetPass Plaza. This software involves you using the Miis you've walked past via StreetPass in two minigames. Unfortunately, I haven't actually passed anyone (not that surprising to be honest) but fear not, because this isn't actually a requirement. Built-in to the 3DS is a pedometer that counts your steps. Every 100 steps you take, you earn a currency called a Play Coin (10 of which can be earned each day). These coins can be spent on replacements for the Miis you can encounter in the StreetPass Plaza, such as puzzle pieces for the StreetPass Puzzle game and cat warriors to use in the beyond awesome StreetPass Quest, a brilliantly simplistic RPG built into the 3DS. Enough about the built-in stuff though, let's get on with the actual hardware.

The 3DS is a little bulkier than past iterations of Nintendo handhelds, and it's for the best. You genuinely feel the weight in your hands, which is a great feeling. Built onto the system are three camera lenses; Two on the front for taking brilliant 3D photos and one inside to take regular 2D photos and scan your face for various games and such. The cameras are no different from the DSi in terms of megapixels, but the 3D really makes up for that. Plus, there's a ton of all new camera functions, lenses and various other tools to use in the camera mode which improve over the previous handheld. One big thing about the 3DS is the slide pad. After Sony screwed up the PSP's tiny analogue nub multiple times, Nintendo's new slide pad caused much controversy. However, in short it definitely works. The nub has a nice rubbery feel to it and it slides around without much effort. Another win for the 3DS.

There's so much more I could go on about, but this is just a first impressions post after all. Plus I've got work to do on other things, such as some exciting new reviews. Who knows, you might just be treated to my blogs first console review sometime soon. Until then, get a 3DS and believe your eyes...