Saturday, February 27, 2010

Level Up: Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

I think it’s about time to review a Sonic game. I think I’m going to start with Sonic Adventure 2 Battle for the Nintendo Game Cube. Why this one? No real reason, it’s not my favorite, but its not the worst one there is. As a matter of fact, some consider it to be the last great Sonic game. So let’s look at the good and the bad (that’s a joke by the way) of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle.

As the title would imply, this game is a direct sequel to the first Sonic Adventure. The “Battle” on the end however, allows us to distinguish the Game Cube version from the original DreamCast game. But, I have very little experience with that game, and I’m not 100% sure what changed, so I’ll be talking exclusively about the Game Cube port.

The game’s plot follows the usual one where Eggman is trying to take over the world (Clip:”OF COURSE!”), this time trying to use the power of the space colony ARC, something his discovered while researching his grand-father’s notes. When he breaks into GUN headquarters (who plays the role of the neutral party fighting everyone in this game) he finds something surprising: Shadow, a black hedgehog with power and speed to rival Sonic. He also eventually finds a female bat named Rouge, and the three team up together to take over the world. Of course, that won’t happen if Sonic, Tails and Knuckles have something to say about that.

Know what’s cool about the story and this game? You get to see BOTH sides! Taking a page from it’s predecessor, which allowed you to play as 6 characters to get a more complete story, this game lets you play as both heroes and villains. However, unlike the first Sonic Adventure, there are only the two stories, heroes or villains (even though you play as 6 characters total). Also unlike the first one, the two modes are quite similar. You see, in Sonic Adventure, each person’s levels had a theme: Sonic was normal level, Tails was a race, Knuckles was hunting, etc… But in this game, each person has been matched up with someone on the other side: Sonic with Shadow, Knuckles with Rouge and Tails with Eggman. So that means there are only three kinds of levels: platform styled, shooting and hunting.

Now I’ve told you all of that to tell you this: the really bad thing about playing the stories is that you have no control over what type of level you play next. This means if you don’t really feel like hunting for emerald shards, you might have to anyways if you want the plot to keep going. You do have the option of trying the other side of the story, but there’s a 33% chance that you might get the same one. Sure you can play whatever type of level you want in level select mode, but that doesn’t move the plot along.

The graphics are pretty good. Not great for what we later saw the Gamecube could do, but considering that this is technically a Dreamcast port, it’s still really good. This is especially true when you compare it to Sonic Adventure, but I have more on that game later on. Anyways, the graphics are good with no real harshness taking away from enjoying the game, just nothing spectacular either. However, I love the music in this game. I honestly think that this was the first game (or rather, the original Dreamcast version) that I was ever able to sing along to and even downloaded tracks from some of the levels to listen to without playing the game. If you have to know, my personal favorite has to go to Eggman’s Theme song.

This game is really good, and I can why some people say it’s the last great Sonic game. Though personally I liked the handheld Sonic games and Sonic Heroes even better, this really does feel like it was before over popular and just to make money. Maybe this game caused that popularity, but there’s good reason to that. It takes an interesting twist on Sonic and gives you some fun levels to play with. You also do get extras in the game, like the battle mode and the chao garden (that I had to skip over due to time), that just add to how you can enjoy this game. The only bad side is that while playing this Sonic game, you’ll have to play levels that just aren’t Sonic, so be ready for that. I give Sonic Adventure 2 Battle 8.5 Levels out of 10.

Level Up: Battle of the Bands

Reviewing games can sometimes be hard. No, seriously. Despite all the fun I might be having while I play a game, when it comes time to review it, I might have to put that aside to analyze it. Let’s take today’s game for example; Battle of the Bands. This is a rhythm game produced by THQ and this is one of my favourite underrated for the current console generation. I really do enjoy playing it, but when I take a step back and analyze it to review it; I can see that it’s obviously not that great. Don’t get what I mean, well just listen and I’ll explain while I review Battle of the Bands for the Wii.

As I’ve said before, this game is a rhythm game, and if you don’t know what I mean by that, think Guitar Hero or any game where you have to hit a button or do an action at a specific time. In this game, the actions are swing the Wii remote left, right, softly and vigorously shaking back and forth or in a stabbing motion when the corresponding symbol reaches a target area. Your reward for matching a certain number of symbols in a row correctly is that you launch an attack at your opponent (hence the “Battle” in Battle of the Bands). Each band has 3 unique attacks you can chose to use during battle and some even have special effects. Finally, you can also block attacks coming at you by pressing B at the right time. This might seem like you have a lot to keep track of (your notes, which attack you’ve chose and possible enemy attacks), and in such a short time, but I think that’s part of what makes this game’s game play so fun; the constant attention, action and reaction.

So, why are these bands fighting? To have their style play. When you go into a battle, both bands seem to be simultaneously playing the same song; however, only one is heard at the time. With enough successful attacks though, that can change. Suddenly, you no longer hear your band rocking out, you hear the other one marching in victory. It may be a different musical style, but the song and tempo don’t change, which is really cool. There are a total of 5 musical styles in this game: Rock, Rap, Country, Marching Band and Latino. This means that there are 5 version of each song, one for each style. With 30 songs covered in this game, that makes the total 150 tracks found on this disk. And the song selection was perfectly done for this type of game. In the background, I’m playing the Marching Band version of AFI’s Miss Murder, but you can also get a country version of a rap song... *Country “Whoomp there it is”* ...a rock version of a Latino song... *Rock “Adios Mexico”* ... and so many other possible combinations *returns to normal music*. If you are a fan of these types of cross styled covers, then that’s the main reason to get this game, especially since you can listen to all of them from the get go. If not, then this will probably be a downside to the music.

Now, for everything I just said I liked about the game, I now have to do what I said every reviewer has to do and take a step back from my feeling of this game and analyze it. When I do that, I can see that there are issues that some people may not like with this game. First off was that some may not like the different style, but I already mentioned that, so let’s move off. Next comes the fact that if you play this game for a while, your wrist will start to hurt badly, meaning that you can’t play this game much more then the recommended hour and you need to take a decently long break when you do. There are also the arguments of the graphics quality in the game, but since you’re going to be looking at the symbols and not the characters, I think it’s a moot point. Also, I find the characters blowing each other up good for what they are. But, I think the biggest issue is that this game is described as “simplistic”. Now, the first reason this might be is because it gets compared to other music rhythm games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, which isn’t right, it is its own game and is different (though probably not different enough). The other reason it’s called simplistic is because it’s for the Wii, a system that has games that are SUPPOSED to be easy to play so that everyone can join in. Although I do understand these points and have to agree with them, I have to ask if other reviewers aren’t just overreacting.

I still really like this game. The flaws it has never really got to me and I love the different music heard in the game. I will admit that paying the original 50$ (estimated in Canadian Dollars) would have been really much to ask for this, but at the current price of 10$ at most places that carry this game is more than reasonable. Think about it, a CD with 12 tracks normally cost that amount, and this one has about 150 and is a game... for fun. I’m not going to give this game the score I want to give it, since I do understand the complaints, but I think it is far from a bad game. I give Battle of the Bands for the Wii 8 Levels out of 10.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Level Up: Aladdin

Well, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, the day of romance and love. When you think about it, some of the most popular video games are based around love; the daring hero having to fight impossible odds to save the one he loves, usually a princess. As a matter of fact, not only is that the plot to many video games, but also Disney movies. So, today, I’m going to talk about a game that is not only a great Princess Rescue, but also a great movie. This is Disney’s Aladdin for the Sega Genesis.

In this game, you play as Aladdin while you jump and run through certain places seen in the movie, which is fun since you’ll remember they required some acrobatics. While you’re having this grand adventure, you’ll have to get rid of enemies either by using your sword or throwing apples at them. However, unlike most sword games I’ve played, sword fighting is a bit more than just swinging it, there’s a sense of timing to it to. For example, when you face off with someone, it’s possible that your two swords hit and none of you get hurt (you’ll hear the distinct sound of swords hitting together when you do). You can also stop other objects that might be thrown at you, such as daggers or apples, with a well-timed swing, so don’t go thinking that your only defense in this game is being the first to h. But I do have to mention that swinging in any other direction then directly in front of you can be a little odd, so make a purpose of learning the swing patterns before you need them. But still, it’s so much fun, that it’ll make you forget that Aladdin never used a sword in the movie.

The plot of this game follows closely to that of the movie. Aladdin is a street rat who has to steal to live and has to constantly escape the sultan’s guards. This causes even more problems when he falls in love with Princess Jasmine, the sultan’s daughter. This gets puts on hold when a beggar asks him to retrieve a lamp from the cave a wonders. But once again, things hit a snag when he gets trapped inside the cave. Things look hopeless for Aladdin, but he’s surprised to find that there is a genie living within the lamp who can make his wishes come true. So, he uses the genie (and a magic rug also found in the cave) to get out and try to win Jasmine’s heart. However the beggar turns out to be the sultan’s Grand Vizier, Jafar, who is actually a self-absorbed sorcerer bent on taking over the city with the power of the lamp that he managed to take from our hero. So, it’s up to Aladdin to stop Jafar, get back the lamp, save the princess and hopefully win her heart.

Now, here’s what I really like about the story in the game: it gives nothing away. Everything I just told you is exactly what’s in the game, but it is significantly less then what’s in the movie. What does Aladdin wish for? How did Jafar get the lamp? How does Aladdin defeat Jafar? None of these are answered in the game and you still have to see the movie to find all these out, which I really appreciate (especially since the ending was fantastic).

The graphics are pretty good, and do justice to Disney Animation, but what I really like in this game are the midi versions of some of the famous songs found in the movie. Being able to play to the music of Prince Ali, Arabian Nights and You’ve Never Had a Friend Like me is just really fun. As a matter of fact, playing to that last one gave me a new appreciation for that song, since its played to a wonderfully fun level that matches the magic of the genie perfectly. Of course, that isn’t the only level where the music is suited perfectly: Prince Ali plays in the first market place level and starts us off right, while Arabian Nights is heard in the dungeon level to match the despair of the moment. And for you fans of A Whole New World, that’s saved for the menu screens. There is also original music in the game, which does the job, but hold no nostalgia to me.

Developers Virgin Interactive (mentioned in Thrill Kill) did more than do justice to the movie with this game. Some games actually got a whole new appreciation for the movie after playing it. Sure you’ll have the occasional person who will want to point out the flaws in relation to the movie, or nit-pick about slight flaws in the game play, but to them I say “STFU!” This game is still fun, and with the exception of a single level, the difficulty flows nicely. And let’s not forget, it recreates one of the most iconic Disney romance stories. I give Disney’s Aladdin for the Sega Genesis 8.5 Levels out of 10.