Monday, 24 October 2011

REVIEW: Solatorobo: Red the Hunter

Solatorobo: Red the Hunter
[DS] [Cyber-Connect2]
Despite being Nintendo's most successful video game system, the DS has been living through a somewhat declining age recently. The dinky dual-screened handheld has since been bested by the much-superior 3DS, leading to loss in sales of DS games, particularly new releases. By next year, the handheld that has sold so many units and lasted for a rather long seven years will most probably have passed away after experiencing a few last hurrahs. Professor Layton and the Last Spectre is one of these games, as is Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, an absolutely excellent RPG released just a few months ago only to be overshadowed by the 3DS and that newer system's tall-standing games. This ace DS title, developed by Japanese RPG experts Cyber-Connect2 who crafted this game a rather long time ago, was finally released in the UK after Nintendo decided to publish it. Yes, it's actually been a number of years since the release of Solatorobo: Sorekara Coda e (that's the fancy Japanese name of the title) in its country of origin, and while it's quite possibly the worst time to release the game in the UK now, what with Nintendo's latest handheld completely hijacking the spotlight from the poor old DS, they really couldn't have picked a much better game on the last-generation handheld to see an English release after so many years of practically nobody waiting for it, because they've never actually heard of it.

It's a shame that Solatorobo: Red the Hunter waddled along onto UK shelves without much hullabaloo surrounding it, because this overlooked title really is one of the dying handheld's hidden gems. While not the system's best RPG, this tale of a humanoid dog who rides around on a mech with stretchy arms is packed with colourful characters, very varied gameplay elements, a ton of well thought out content and some of the best visuals you'll see on the DS, if not the best. Being a role-playing game, you'd expect this title to have some kind of deep plot. You'd be right in thinking that, but what you probably wouldn't expect is for the game to feature not one, but two adventures each lasting about 8 to 14 hours, depending on how often you sit back and take up some of the many side-quests that offer a surprisingly dialogue-filled distraction from the game's main adventure. The protagonist you'll be taking up these quests as is Red, a hunter  (as if you couldn't guess that from the games title) who takes the form of a humanoid doggy. This character is enthusiastic about his work as a travelling quester, who takes up jobs in order to make sweet, sweet cash in order to make a living with his younger sister, ridiculously named Chocolat Gelato. Both the main dog and his feline sibling are very likable protagonists, who are also joined by another character early on in the game, the mysterious Elh, who acts as the individual who sets up the epic quest you play through in Solatorobo thanks to the promise of a rather massive sum of money on this young, loner's behalf. Of course, things get a lot more complex and a lot more brilliant later on down the line, but I wouldn't want to spoil any of that for you guys and gals! Let's just say that, while Solatorobo's plot isn't quite up there with the genius writing found in say, The World Ends with You, it's still a very enjoyable adventure spread across two whole stories, featuring many likable characters and some great twists and turns that will keep you sucked-in. The art style found in the game is particularly awesome too, representing a Studio Ghibli film. Great art, charming characters and a well-written plot add up to make Solatorobo's indisputable and unique appeal, and it's this charm that you'll mainly be playing this title for.

How you advance through Solatorobo's plot is through the Quest Broker. There's one of these small kiosks housing a woman who will happily let you accept quests on or below your 'Hunter Rank' in pretty much every location you visit throughout the game, allowing you to take on aforementioned side-quests to not only take a break from those that would advance the story, but also to increase your Hunter Rank if need be. The 'urgent' quests that advance the plot may be the funnest of all, but you'll often be too low a rank to participate in them so it's a good idea to often get a little sidetracked with the sub-missions on offer. It may be a very odd comparison to make, but this system of questing is a lot like Monster Hunter Tri's online mode, where you also increase your Hunter Rank to take part in tougher segments of the game, working your way up the hunter tree. It never feels like you are straying away from the plot in Solatorobo when taking part in side-quests, however, as the narrative and fun-factor found in these levels is just as rich and enjoyable as that of the main story, where you'll often be asked to do some quests to increase your rank anyway. Where you'll be initiating the many quests found in Solatorobo is a collection of floating islands, each of which has there own distinct look thanks to some of the best visuals on the DS. A mix of 2D and 3D rendering makes for an interesting art-style and graphical approach, making Solatorobo one of the best-looking games on Nintendo's previous generation handheld. The art-style also seeps into the many interesting individuals you'll encounter throughout the game, from Red's friends and enemies to everyone in between. The kiddy look of the games furry animalistic humanoids is more of a trick of the eyes at points too, as the story can often get more serious than you'd expect, giving Solatorobo yet another layer of character.

This was the only decent screenshot I could find of the game, and even this image far from does Solatorobo's great visuals justice. If you want to see the game for yourself then buy it!
While story and characters are a big focus in most RPGs, the gameplay is also very important no matter what the genre of game. You'll be exploring Solatorobo's world, as the hunter Red Savarin, in the Dahak, a strange mechanised robot that proves to be very 'handy' in battle situations. I say handy because, rather than using weapons and ridiculously high stats to beat your foes, you'll simply be lifting them from the ground and throwing them to destroy them and loot cash and whatnot. As uninteresting as this method of enemy-bashing sounds, it's actually very satisfying to spam the A button to lift up your targeted opponent, throw them up into the air after getting a firm hold on them and slamming them back to the ground, possibly into one of your other opponents. What's more, just as this battle system is getting uninteresting towards the start of the second story, many new techniques are added to differentiate from what was previously starting to become a little boring, changing things up in a surprising and very much welcome manner. It's this method of surprising the player that really sucks you in to Solatorobo: Red the Hunter. Often the gameplay will change thanks to the inclusion of newly introduced elements, the odd minigame (one of which is a Mario Kart-esque flying racer that could pretty much be a game in itself) and the many twists and turns in the games plot. Unfortunately, this is where the first of Solatorobo's few flaws comes in to play, as you'll never really get much time with some of the newly introduced gameplay elements. At very few points throughout the adventure you have to defend a character or go all-out against a huge boss by hopping on a gun turret which launches rapid-fire bullets in a very satisfying manner, and I honestly feel like more of these segments should have been included, at least in more of the sub-quests. The aforementioned (in brackets) racing game is actually only played in two quests throughout the entire game, with little motivation to race on the tracks direct from the games menu as you don't even get any prize money, let alone no prizes at all for winning races.

And this underused content isn't the only flaw surrounding what is ultimately a brilliant game. Oh no, what's most infuriating about Solatorobo is its criminally easy difficulty, no doubt. Throughout the 22 hours it took me to finish both of the game's tales, I died an insanely low amount of times. Twice, to be precise. This is ridiculous, as I'm sure you'll agree. You still have to concentrate on what you're doing, otherwise you will take hits from enemies rather easily, but Solatorobo's punishing lack of actual challenge is the game's only real flaw, without a shadow of a doubt. You can potentially get around this poor difficulty by forcing yourself to not customise your Dahak mech, which can be upgraded via an involving attache case-esque minigame, but without knowing the game would be so easy I ended up wanting to build up my stats more than anything leading to me realising Solatorobo's shockingly low difficulty. This is meant to be a Japanese role-playing game, not Barbie Horse Adventures! Still, without waffling on about the lack of any real challenge, Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is still a very, very fun and involving game that features a charming cast of characters, is packed with loads of well thought out content and two whole plots to play through. It still saddens me that not enough many people have experienced this gem yet, so take my advice and add it to your DS collection as a sign that you still care for your handheld, at least until the next Professor Layton game is released anyway. While it's not the longest RPG ever, nor is it the hardest (in fact it's probably the easiest RPG I've ever played), this is honestly one of the best games on DS so you might want to do yourself a favour and purchase it.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Will The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Be the Greatest Game Ever Made? [2/2]

 "This is a story passed down by you... But the story still held many secrets. And now, the door to a new legend is about to be opened... by you." - Opening, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

The sheer importance of these lines from the direct translation of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword's Japanese opening sequence is truly magical. For the first time in a game, it truly means something when it says that you are making the events that are to take place in the game actually happen. The story is passed down by you, because in the next Legend of Zelda adventure you are Link. The magic of 1:1 motion control thanks to Nintendo's innovation-crammed device we know as Wii MotionPlus well and truly puts you in the shoes of Link, and in turn makes you feel that you yourself are in the hero's shoes, swinging the Goddess Sword and saving Zelda, the world, and all other things wonderful like never before. The Legend of Zelda has truly evolved since the days of Ocarina of Time, and even further back, the original NES game that was released 25 years ago. In case you didn't know from all the hullabaloo surrounding the subject, 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, the franchise I described as my single favourite video game series of all time in a preview I wrote regarding the next Zelda game about a month ago. What you're reading right now is a second preview of the game written by yours truly. While my post last month focused on the unveiling of the game's release date, my unimaginable hype and the gorgeous box-art for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I'll instead be concentrating all the writing in this preview on everything we've seen since then. And trust me, Nintendo have shown-off a lot of what could potentially be the best game ever made since my last post about this magnificent-looking game. I'll be covering the majority of things we've seen detailing a pinch of what we're going to see in Skyward Sword without spoiling anything (because I haven't checked out what was marked as spoilers and I don't want to) and in turn I'll be sharing my thoughts on what we've seen so far of the potential greatest game of all time. Keep in mind that this post covers only footage and information that was shown before October where spoilers began to crop up and I stopped watching stuff in order to not ruin any major moments of the game. Now that's cleared up, you can read on...

The tidal waves of information, video and images regarding Nintendo's next big game first crashed through the floodgates last month at the Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011, which I happened to do a post on recently (check that out if you haven't already!). While that event mainly focused on Nintendo's current handheld and all the great games coming out for it next year, the conference that the big N held began not with anything regarding the 3DS, but instead detailing The Legend of Zelda's 25th anniversary. A CGI animation of Link sprinting across a field located on one of the small floating islands surrounding Skyloft, hurling himself off ground into a skydiving position and soon grabbing onto a Loftwing, a bird like creature that serves as Link's main mode of transport in the game, was shown to reveal the first of one of the next game in the series' big new gameplay additions, which I'll get onto later for sure. After the gorgeous CGI animation (which came complete with a short but sweet harp rendition of the Skyward Sword theme) was beamed into the eyes of those at the conference and later on to those who were to watch it on YouTube and various other sites, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto strolled onto the stage, grasping the same replica Hyrulian sword and shield that he wielded at both E3 2010 when Skyward Sword was first unveiled, and at the same event six years earlier when they revealed Twilight Princess. When Miyamoto-San walks onto a stage with these two objects in his hands, you just know that he's going to show off something Zelda-related. And he did. After talking a bit about the Zelda Symphony Orchestra soon to tour the UK as well as the free downloadable remake of the multiplayer GBA game Zelda: Four Swords, Miyamoto moved onto what was most important: Skyward Sword. A compilation of gameplay lasting just over five minutes revealed a lot of previously unseen things, such as a little more cutscene footage on top of some intruiging new items and locations. Before I move on to what we've seen of Skyward Sword more recently, I'm going to discuss what was shown in this compilation of new footage.

Phi, the same character we saw in the very first piece of concept art for the game two years ago, acts as Link's guide and companion throughout Skyward Sword. It's quite clear she won't be as annoying as Navi already.
This set of gameplay sequences begun with the game's protagonist running around Skyloft for a few seconds, before instantly cutting to him soaring around on his aforementioned Loftwing and jumping down into the world below. Now, in case you haven't read anything about the basic premise of Skyward Sword's plot, I won't spoil much now by saying that the land below Skyloft is ruled by demons and the like, and that Link will have to literally skydive down to these dangerous areas. Next up was a few clips of exploration around a forest-like area that has since been confirmed to be known as Faron Wood, with Miyamoto describing how the majority of actions are performed through either a press of the A button or 1:1 motion controls, and even combinations of both. For example, when swimming, you can take a dive by holding A and dash forward using that button when underwater, all while changing Link's direction with the Wii Remote as shown later on in the collection of footage. What you'll mostly be using the A button for however is sprinting on land, a new addition never before seen in past Zelda games. By holding the A button with your sword unequipped, you can dash around and quickly make your way up small ledges and the like, as well as large enemies you encounter. This comes in pretty useful when up against a big Bokoblin with a large shield, as Link can simply run over him and take the beast out with little hassle. You can't perform this action all the time though, as Link is burdened with a stamina gauge that depletes not only when sprinting and speeding up descent when climbing vines, but also in combat situations. Attacks that use a combination of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck such as the standard spin attack we see in most Zelda games and the Fatal Blow move that returns from Twilight Princess take up a large slice of the stamina gauge also, so don't go thinking you can make your way through battles just by spamming spin attacks all the time.

After showing more antics in a desert area, and a clip of the game's supposed Antagonist Ghirahim and the first boss fight against him that we've seen in demos of the game since E3 this year, a returning item was confirmed to make an appearence in Skyward Sword. I'm talking of course about the Hookshot, an item any Zelda fan will be familiar with. According to Miyamoto, pretending to be Spiderman never felt so good with Skyward Sword's intuitive controls. Soon after showing the Hookshot, another usable item was revealed, this time one we've never seen before in a Zelda game. The Gust Bellow is an object that can be used to blow away sand and enemies, among other things. Thing F.L.U.D.D from Super Mario Sunshine but with wind instead of water. A wind cannon, one might say. Moving swiftly on with more footage of the desert area in Skyward Sword featuring the Bow and the Beetle, two items I won't get into as we've seen them previously. What we haven't seen previously is a very fun looking mine cart section, in which you tilt the Wii Remote to stay on the fast moving cart which doesn't seem to stop swinging around loop-the-loops and other perilous sections of track. The likes of the controversial Silent Realm which you'll be reading about later as well as a first look at the new upgrades system were shown next. The ability to seek out pieces of treasure to upgrade items and the like has been touched on in past Zelda games, but never to this extent. At the same time this bit of footage is shown, Miyamoto says that there are a lot of side-quests and minigames that run parallel to the main quest, which is hardly unbelievable as the big guy said previously that Skyward Sword is the biggest and most expensive game Nintendo have ever worked on, and that it will last from 50 to 100 hours or more depending on what areas of the game you take part in. With these facts in mind I'm fairly sure that this is without a doubt the largest Zelda game ever made to date, but will it be the greatest?

Dungeons have always played a very important role in pretty much every Zelda game. Here's Link in shock and awe upon entering one of the many dungeons in this title.
It's more of an interesting revelation than a spoiler to hear that Beedle is returning in Skyward Sword. This odd and slightly camp character first made an appearence in Zelda: The Wind Waker as the owner of Beedle's Shop Ship, and now it seems he's upgraded to selling his goods in a large airship. While it's quite clear that Wind Waker comes a lot later in the Zelda timeline than Skyward Sword, this guy is always welcome to make an appearence here. The new Dowsing system is touched upon next, a gameplay element that is introduced as early as the game's first action segment after Zelda is kidnapped. When dowsing in a first person perspective, the player can switch the 'mode' of the sword used in the system in order to find different things, such as treasure, characters, and even Zelda herself with the help of both visual and audio clues. Miyamoto goes on to say in a bit that would probably be considered a rather major spoiler in the form of a returning face that "all the ideas from the past 25 years are in this game. I think the amount of content will take your breath away". Hell, the amount of content in this compilation of footage is enough to take your breath away! At this point something that could be considered a rather huge spoiler was shown, so I won't get into that. Nintendo's biggest developer continues on, stating that there are over 100 minutes of cinematics in the game. This may not seem like a lot, but it's actually more than any past Zelda game to date, and I must say the cutscenes look better than ever before in Skyward Sword as you'll find out. More bosses are shown after a bit of cutscene footage, some of which appear to by inspired by PS2 classic Shadow of the Collossus, an incredible game that had you struggling against literally gargantuan foes, and it seems that some of the bosses in Skyward Sword take SotC's massive bosses into its own. On another boss-related note, Miyamoto goes on to reveal that the Boss Attack mode from Ocarina of Time 3D returns, allowing you to fight all the bosses again after finishing the game, which is certainly a welcome addition. Finally, the compilation ends and Link performs his signature 'sword put away after battle thingy' (yeah, I couldn't really think of any other way to describe it) with Miyamoto, like a little boy in the body of a man, imitating Link's movements complete with ridiculous sound effects coming from his vocal chords. And at that, the Skyward Sword segment of the conference ends, and the massive stream of new information and footage related to the next Zelda game truly begins...

As you can see here, Skyward Sword's Upgrades system allows you to swap items and a bit of cash to improve Potions and the like. This should come in handy as the game's apparently very tough.
A mere matter of hours following Miyamoto's presentation at the Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011, a number of trailers were released, showing most of what was already talked about in the presentation compressed into a shorter few videos. One trailer in particular focused on the Upgrades system which I touched upon earlier, an exciting new addition to Skyward Sword's much-altered formula. Around the game's world, Link will come across different kinds of treasure which can be combined to improve equipment, such as the Shield as well as healing items such as potions which can be improved to heal more hearts than a standard potion. One of the places you'll be able to upgrade items is the Bazaar, a huge marketplace located in the centre of Skyloft which will come in great use to Link. In the bazaar you'll find a Scrap Shop where you can upgrade weapons and equipment and have your shield repaired, an item shop where you can buy and improve Potions and other unknown goodies, and a storage box where you can store items you collect (you're only able to carry four Potions or other items like that at any one time, so this comes in pretty handy). This is honestly starting to sound more like Monster Hunter than The Legend of Zelda, what with all this upgrading and item storage going on. Don't be fooled however, as this is still a Zelda game at its core. As we know, there's a large emphasis on exploration in Zelda titles, and this emphasis looks to be even more fun in Skyward Sword with the help of a cool new gameplay element: Skydiving. As the game is set among many floating islands, Link can literally throw himself off the edges of said islands and in turn can allow the player to control Link while he freefalls downwards towards the world below. You can also whistle to call on Link's trusty Loftwing bird and fly around on that if you wish. These elements look to make simply free-roaming around Skyward Sword's open world a lot more fun than the game's predecessors, which can only be described as a good thing.

More recently down the line in terms of information regarding The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, we've seen a fair bit of the rather controversial Silent Realm since it was first unveiled at the conference last month. This intriguing gameplay element is basically a mash-up of Phantom Hourglass' Temple of the Ocean King stealth sections, and the segments in Twilight Princess in which you had to gather 'Tears of Light' in Link's wolf form. Why is this such a controversial thing that they're implementing these ideas into Skyward Sword's new Silent Realm? Quite simply, because those gameplay elements were by far the worst parts of both of Skyward Sword's predecessors I mentioned, and many people criticised these segments to a great extent, and I was no different. Sure, the Tears of Light sections were simply tedious and a tad boring (thank God there were only two or three times you'd have to drag yourself through 'em) but the badly incorporated stealth of Phantom Hourglass' constantly repeated temple was certainly no Metal Gear Solid. Still, just because both those segments were poor, it doesn't mean they'll absolutely screw up this Silent Realm malarkey. Basically, Link is transported into an alternate realm that may look rather gorgeous, but ignoring that, it's a place where Link lacks the ability to use weapons and items. Annoyingly, Silent Guardians, enemies similar to those dudes in Phantom Hourglass, are on the move and if Link were to enter their line of sight, things wouldn't look too pretty. In order to escape the Silent Realm, you as the games protagonist must collect a certain number of objects that look far too similar to the Tears of Light from Twilight Princess. No combat, no fancy uses of Wii MotionPlus, just you running around searching for objects and avoiding enemies in the process. So, what's my opinion of these segments then? At least from what we've seen, I actually think it looks quite exciting. Despite my hatred of the aforementioned elements from previous Zelda games, I actually like the idea of the Silent Realm as it looks like it may give the player a much-needed break from standard adventuring, and it'll clearly offer some luscious eye-candy in the process on top of this. We'll see how the Silent Realm plays out soon enough.
This games Link and Zelda share a fairly close relationship, as you'll find out. Things go horribly wrong very quickly though thanks to the game's antagonist, Ghirahim.
The most recent thing I've seen directly related to Skyward Sword is the games amazing introductory sequence. As soon as this was shown I knew I'd have to draw the line at watching anything else that came out regarding Skyward Sword, at least until I receive the game and have played through it, hopefully with more surprises than I would've got had I spoiled any of the game previously. Back to the intro sequence, it can quite simply be put into one rather short but effective word, with that word being epic. At the start of this post I used a few extracts from the direct translation of Skyward Sword's Japanese introductory video, and while an official English version has since been released, I honestly prefer what was apparently told in the Japanese version. Without spoiling anything, the game makes it clear that you are in Link's shoes as I mentioned at the start of the post, and this is all thanks to Wii MotionPlus. Without the dinky small white box (unless you have a Wii Remote Plus with the technology built-in) a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword wouldn't have been possible without a very ridiculous control scheme, which could've potentially ruined the experience a little. Since Miyamoto wants the player to actually feel like they are adventuring as the game's heroic protagonist, why not make it as realistic as technically possible at this moment in time with 1:1 motion controls? Speaking of adventures, the actual story of Skyward Sword hasn't fully been touched upon yet aside from a 'Romance trailer' that showed Link and Zelda's (who surprisingly doesn't happen to be a princess this time around) relationship as two lovebirds. Then the melancholically insane Demon Lord Ghirahim kidnaps Link's love and everything goes horribly wrong, then amazingly right as the path to a new, epic Zelda adventure is to be opened. Hopefully. I mean, it's a new Zelda game that may bend the rules, but is still the same epic kind of experience we know and love from the majority of the main installments in this great series. On that note, this is me looking forward to this game with unimaginable hype and finishing this post. Hope you had a good read, and be sure to check out what's to come!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Update: My Second Skyward Sword Preview, Zelda 25th Anniversary Goodies and Other Upcoming Posts!

Welcome one and all to this month's Update post. It even surprises me that, bar my post on the launch of the blogs redesign, I haven't written one of these types of posts in quite a while. So, I figured now would be a good time to keep you readers up to date with what's going to be posted on the blog within the next month or so. What's quite possibly most exciting of all though, are the few posts I have planned regarding the much-celebrated 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, my favourite video game series of all time, with me publishing the first of these pieces on the site tomorrow. Not the day after, not any time after that, but tomorrow. This is truly one promise you can actually count on in regards to when I end up posting things on here, mainly because in a few paragraphs' time at the time I'm writing this, it'll be done and dusted and eventually posted within the next 24 hours. This post happens to be nothing other than a rather big preview of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Now, you may be thinking that I already wrote a preview of the game last month (which I must admit was one of my best pieces in a while) but that was before the absolutely huge stream of information, gameplay and screenshots emerged from the interwebs, straight into the brain. You won't have to look forward to this huge new preview much longer, because as I said it'll be up in a matter of hours...
My hype for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is on an unimaginable scale at the moment, as you'll find out in a rather large preview of the game written by yours truly, up tomorrow!
A fair bit later down the line are more exciting 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda antics, including a Feature I'm planning on starting in a few days titled simply, My Top Five Personal Favourite Legend of Zelda games. As you may or may not have guessed depending on whether you're a complete imbecile or not, this countdown will be a personal list detailing my five favourite games from what is easily my favourite gaming franchise. Not only am I looking forward to sharing my opinions on the subject of my five favourite games in the Zelda series, I'm also looking forward to finally working on another countdown-type post, because the last one I remember doing was back in January. Freaking January! Anyway, I'm hoping to do more posts like this in future, as they allow me to get more creative with my opinions of a number of aspects of gaming, rather than just a single game when it comes to writing Reviews or Previews for the blog. So, you can expect more countdowns from now on, starting with my aforementioned top five personal favourite Zelda games Feature. Moving swiftly on, the third and final Zelda-related post I'm planning on posting in my own good mystical time will be a review. The game in question I'll be reviewing is none other than The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition, the free DSiWare release that was made available to DSi, DSi XL and 3DS owners a number of weeks ago. This will be my first proper review of a downloadable game, so that's relatively exciting, I guess! As for anything else Zelda-related, who knows whether I have something else planned up my sleeve? Well, I can tell you right now that I actually don't, but some other posts are incoming regardless...
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is an awesome DS gem that features a humanoid dog riding around on mech, among many other odd spectacles. Check out my review very soon!
Outside of the mystical realm of Legend of Zelda-related posts, I've also got that Professor Layton and the Lost Future Review I promised ages ago incoming. Yes, it's been a while since I said 'it'll be up soon' but I'm genuinely not lying when I say that I'll finally have a review of what I would consider one of the DS's best games up very soon. Speaking of the DS, I'll finally have a review of 3DS title Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D written up and posted here quite soon, possibly popping up this month also. If not, that'll be posted next month at the very latest. Also, another Feature I've had promised for a very long time is my Top 25 No More Heroes Bosses list. I know I've said I'll have this posted soon in pretty much every update since I first revealed this piece, but I genuinely have no doubt in my mind that I'll have finished Part 1 and it'll be up here on the blog for all to see before November ends. The final post I have planned is another review of another DS game, and a great one at that. Solatorobo: Red The Hunter, one of the dying handheld's last hurrahs living alongside the likes Okamiden and Professor Layton and the Last Spectre, is well and truly a brilliant handheld RPG that I'll be sharing my thoughts on very soon. Again, this will most probably be posted by the end of November.

Whew, you'd think I'd have been locked in a room with a computer with every single site but Blogger blocked, with nothing to do but write up some glorious games journalism for the rest of my days on this planet with all these upcoming posts, but alas this is not the case. I get all of this stuff written and posted because I'm insane. On that rather odd segway to finishing up this update post, it's time to end (this particular post). Look forward to the upcoming pieces I'll soon be beaming into your eyeholes through the medium of text and keep it as unreal as technically possible! Bye for now...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

First Impressions: Starfox 64 3D

I've been saving up my pennies for Skyward Sword of late, so I've not really managed to put much money aside for other games that have interested me lately, mainly titles that have been released on the 3DS. The likes of Ocarina of Time 3D, Pac Man and Galaga Dimensions and even some of the launch titles such as Ridge Racer 3D have caught my attention as of late, so it's slightly painful to think I won't be buying them for quite a while (although I'd take Skyward Sword over any previously released or other upcoming game at this moment in time). Despite showing interest in the remake of the much proclaimed 'best game ever' on 3DS, I initially never showed much interest in the other Nintendo 64 classic that you can find in a glorified, remade shell on Nintendo's latest handheld's library as of recently. I originally had little intention of buying the 3DS remake of Lylat Wars, the second Starfox game that was released many years ago on Nintendo 64, which is why I still haven't bought it (alongside my lack of funds). However, I happened to borrow the game off a mate a few days back and I must say it's pretty wicked, and that my previous opinion on what I reckoned was just another way to cash-in on a classic Nintendo game was pretty much false, as you'll find out in this First Impressions post and possibly a review in good time.

Despite Starfox 64 3D being a graphical remake of the Nintendo 64 classic Lylat Wars, it's clear that a lot more work has gone into this version than the 3DS remake of a certain N64 Zelda game from the moment you start playing. First off, the 3D effects in the game are literally incredible in comparison to most other stuff I've seen in 3D on my handheld. When I watched the game's opening sequence, I literally felt like the pointiest parts of Starfox's Great Fox starship were going to poke straight through my eyes. This 3D amazement continued throughout pretty much the whole game, and I declined to ever turn the setting off when playing Starfox 64 3D because there's really no turning back. The 3D effects also help the sense of depth in the game, making it somehow seem a bit less difficult to play. Speaking of which, there really isn't anything else like Starfox when it comes to gameplay.
As you can probably guess, this looks pretty damn amazing in three glorious dimensions.
You, as Fox McCloud, must fly through both linear and open stages (unless you're trawling along the ground or navigating the sea in Landmaster tank and Blue Marine submarine stages, respectively) set both in space, and on memorable planets spread throughout the Lylat System. Starfox 64 3D isn't necessarily a hard game to beat, and it'll only take around an hour to an hour and a half to best the final boss of the game. What gives the game its replay value, however, is the fact that there are quite a few different routes you can take through the Lylat hub, with your fate changing depending on whether you fulfill certain conditions in a previous level. For example, if you fly through all the archways in the sea on Corneria, the game's first stage, then you'll have the option to either pick the stage you would've reached had you not flown through said rings, or an entirely unaccesible level had you not fulfilled those conditions. It's a clever concept, and this also carries over into the story and dialogue, triggering set-pieces depending on your actions throughout a playthrough. For example, on one stage you encounter Katt, Falco Lombardi's lady-friend, who later on turns up in subsequent levels; but only if you encounter her on a specific stage. This may not sound extremely exciting, but Katt will generally help you by shooting down enemies, and give Falco a taste of his own cocky-boy medicine in the process.
The amount of alternative routes through stages you can take in a single playthrough is immense, and you'll have to play through the game a number of times to experience each area of the Lylat System.
And that's where the sheer charm of Starfox 64 3D comes in: With the dialogue and the characters. This title would've been a great experience even if it had starred generic heroes and a lack of dialogue, but the fact that you can share some form of connection with your intergalactic animal colleagues in a major plus when it comes to charm factor in the game. The characters are lively and original, with Starfox team's members being a highlight. The main cast consists of the ignorant and cocky Falco Lombardi, the aged wise hare Peppy, the extremely annoying but still rather hilarious Slippy Toad and of course, Fox McCloud himself; Nintendo's own Luke Skywalker. The dialogue these characters exchange is often witty and memorable, and all in all makes you want to play the game through a lot more than you would if the game's cast consisted of a bunch of generic spacefaring humans. And when it comes down to it, Starfox 64 3D's charm is what really makes it worth buying. While there's a great deal of replay value included in the package, from collectible medals for achieving impressive feats on stages to an awesome Battle Mode which greatly improves on the multiplayer feature that was included in the original Nintendo 64 game, it's the standard Nintendo charm that really takes the cake. While the game can be a little repetitive and it won't last you an extremely long time if you just want to play through all of the levels, I'd definitely recommend this title if you find it for a good price. I can't say anything other than I'm glad I borrowed it, and I'd be tugging at the cartridge when my mate asks for it back.