Category Archives: Reviews

Street Fighter: The Novel: Where Strength Lies

I’ve been a long time Street Fighter fan, starting with playing SF2: Champion Edition in the arcades and expanding my love for the series in all its available comics and other releases that expand the story lines of some of my favorite characters. I was looking forward to reading this book, but found its writing extremely flat and predictable. Maybe its because we’ve experienced Ryu VS Akuma so many times that there isn’t really anything left to explore between these two; but even the book’s later chapters don’t deliver anything ground breaking.

If you’re extremely new to the Street Fighter Universe, this book may be a great way to start; but long time fans can get a better Street Fighter story elsewhere.

Boss Fight Books Presents: Final Fantasy V – Review

Chris Kohler’s book on Final Fantasy V gives great insight to what the import gaming scene was like in the 90’s and the several unknowns that came with it. Where most would have turned away from paying for and playing a game that was completely in a different language, Chris faced the challenge head on and ended up working with others across the internet to generate a Final Fantasy V FAQ for English players.

This book, while short; gives plenty of personal prospective on what Final Fantasy V is to the author while also getting prospective from Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy V’s director. As someone who didn’t know what Final Fantasy V was until I fired up a ROM of it in the early days of SNES emulation; this book helps paint the picture of what was going on in the minds of other RPG hungry fans at the time.

This was my 3rd purchase of the Boss Fight Books series and the first that I really couldn’t put down. Chris keeps things interesting and exciting, while not getting too off topic. I hope Chris continues to release a few more books in this series.

The Evil Within 2 Review

Though I somehow own the original “Evil Within”, I have never played it. Either it was sent to me as a press copy and I never reviewed it or I grabbed it during some sale. From what I understand, while the first game had some creepy concepts that pulled straight from the series that inspired it (Resident Evil/BioHazard); it lacked some finesse in critical areas of design that prevented it from scoring top marks with both reviewers and players. It seems some of those issues have been cleaned up in the sequel.

For the second game in the series, I decided to pick it up and play it straight away; as I was looking for something to scratch that horror itch that I didn’t quite get this Halloween season from anything else.  Thankfully, this was one of the many games that was on sale for the Thanksgiving holiday and I was able to pick it up for only 25 bucks. In an effort to see how the shiny new Xbox One X that was sent to me would perform, I elected to grab that version of the game.

I spent about 22 hours with my first complete run of the game, opting to take my time exploring the fairly open world environment that the city of Union offered. I cautiously stayed in the shadows, crypt between back alleys and kept moving from cover to cover to avoid getting the attention of the disgusting creatures that now lurked around town. Make no mistake, getting caught by these creatures is terrifying; especially when ammo is not available in a plentiful fashion. The low amount of ammo keeps the game true to the rules of the survival horror genre, but sometimes becomes very frustrating when more powerful creatures are fought. In several boss battles, I ran out of ammo and was forced to run laps around the environment so I could grab some ammo that would appear due to the game realizing I had no more. While its nice that the game doesn’t completely screw you over in this regard, I feel it would have added more depth to the battles if there was always another way to defeat your foes. Towards the very end of the game, I had to lower the game difficulty to casual because there just wasn’t enough ammo being generated to balance out the damage I was taking on higher difficulty levels.

The Evil Within 2’s control scheme will be familiar to you if you’ve played any 3rd person style action game in the last 12 years. For me, this game brought back many memories of Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space; making it sit nicely between those two game series. This gives the player an experience loaded with action, but plenty of creepiness. The sound design was also well engineered: You’ll feel the shiver down your spine as your hear the grotesque noises of the monsters that lurk the town around you and experience the pound in your chest as you fire the many different weapons the game offers. Graphically, the game performed well on the Xbox One X; but I did notice some objects that would seemingly pop up out of no where from time to time. Despite the intense action that occurs in some spots, it never seemed to cause a dip in frame rate; something that was made possible by the power of the Xbox One X. (Or is that the hype speaking?)

If you opted not to play the original game, don’t be afraid to pick this one up. All the major story elements are explained from the first game in a paced fashion that make it more interesting then just a simple recap of cut scenes that many sequels seem to be doing these days. Based on my experiences with the flashbacks to the first game, it seems much of it took place in tight corridors in a mental hospital; where the second game gives you a nice mix of both open world and claustrophobic sections.

At 25 dollars, I really enjoyed the Evil Within 2 and thought I definitely got my time’s worth on the purchase. Had I purchased it at the full price, I doubt I would have regretted it. If you are looking to step back into the world of survival horror with a faster pace compared to Resident Evil 7, I certainly recommend checking it out. ~Mike Mertes

Haunted Castle (Castlevania)

                             “What is a man?! A miserable pile of quarters! But enough talk; start spending them!”

From the moment I put my hand on the controller and made Simon Belmont walk from place to place in Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest, I was hooked; and I would be with almost every other game in the series that came before and after it. I’ve played and completed just about every Castlevania in the series, but one of the games that I’ve always failed to conquer was the 1988 arcade adaption of the series, Haunted Castle.

                       The first stage in this game will tear you to bits, but its honestly the hardest stage in the game.

I’ve never seen an actual arcade cabinet of this game in my travels, so I’ve never had a chance to play with the real thing. The only way to play this game was via MAME or by tracking down an import only PS2 copy of the game that’s not easy to find either. Just recently though, the game was made available for PS4 owners as it was released digitally as a “Arcade Archives” digital release. Despite knowing that this game really doesn’t live up to the standards of the Castlevania series; I decided to grab it. That was a mistake.

      Simon was going to show his new wife that his whip is for more then just vampires, but Dracula ruins his fun.

As soon as you start the game, your greeted to a quick scene of Simon and his brand new wife walking out of a church they just got married at. Apparently, Dracula missed his opportunity to object to Simon’s wife marrying into the lousy Belmont family, so he’s just going to kidnap Simon’s wife instead. Simon realizes that he didn’t sign a a prenuptial agreement and if his wife hangs with Drac too much, she’ll probably divorce him. Thus losing the Vampire Killer whip to her; so off he goes to the local haunted castle to get her back.

When the actual game begins, you’re seemingly introduced to everything that makes Castlevania so great: Kick ass music, Gothic looking backgrounds and a bad ass vampire hunter armed with a whip. Unfortunately, Simon moves like a lumbering oaf and he takes more damage then Sypha does in Castlevania 3 when hit…and you will get hit a lot because almost every section of the level is out to kill Simon. If the monsters don’t get you, the falling statues, crosses and cemetery fire will. This makes staying alive for a decent amount of time almost impossible without going through the level with utmost caution. Thankfully, the Arcade Archives version of this game allow a single save state that allowed me to adapt to all the dangers very quickly and really helps you learn the quarks about what can kill you in this game.

                     Haunted Castle does feature a map shown between levels if you can make it past the first level.

The game immediately falls apart after the first stage and becomes astonishingly easier to deal with. Enemies still have some cheap tricks they can use to damage you, but its overused so much that you quickly learn to overcome the attack patterns. The developers seemingly ran out of ideas for surprises and designs for the rest of the game and instead present you with the most generic levels you’ll see in the entire game series.  The bosses featured in the game are huge, but complete push overs and can be defeated easier then some of the regular minions in the levels. This game really must have been rushed out for release! Even Dracula is a cinch to to defeat. Maybe Simon’s wife wore on him?

                                             The Dracula battle is as easy and generic as they come.

Konami tried to mix things up with this version of the game, by giving Simon access to a Mace and a Sword, but it really doesn’t add much to the game play. Simon’s sub weapons are available as well, such as the ax and the cross; but they still lack the uniqueness and impact that their console brothers have. I don’t know why Konami decided to ditch the Castlevania name for this title; maybe because they knew it didn’t have any right to be called that. Haunted Castle’s faults outweighs any reason to try it even with the Castlevania legacy behind it. Skip this one.

                                                          *Insert generic Bloody Tears reference here.*

 

Review Rewind: Sonic Heroes

Hello lovely gamers and readers alike, Emmie here! I had an article all planned for you all this week, but I got sick out of no where, and there was a casualty with the artwork I made for said article (AKA spilled water all over my papers). But fear not! Before I worked for Gamer Logic, I had my own articles that I wrote in my free time that didn’t really get so see the world, so I’m bringing it back from the dead for you guys to check out! I’m hoping to be better by next Wednesday for you guys so I can release some new material, but until then, here’s a blast from the past; my review of Sonic Heroes from 2013. Enjoy!

At the end of the year 2003, Sega released a brand new Sonic the Hedgehog game for GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC. Japan got the first taste of this newly released game on December 30, 2003 while America was given the game on January 5th, 2004. Europe then received the game a month and a day later, and while everyone was excited to play Sonic Heroes, little did the world know how much a mess this new game would be.

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I remember it being sort of a rainy day outside when my little brother and I went to GameStop to pick up the new Sonic game, and while at the time I didn’t think anything of the weather, I now think the world was trying to tell me something. I would always look at the manual and case of any new game I bought, so I recall looking at the back of the Sonic Heroes case and thinking how awesome this game was going to be. “They brought back old characters from Sonic Adventure and the Chaotix team?! You can play as 3 at a time?! New levels & new music?! I can’t wait to get home! Maybe this game will have a Chao Garden!!” (Needless to say, I was very disappointed when I discovered that there was no Chao Garden.) I don’t remember much of when I played Sonic Heroes as a kid though. In fact, all I remember is getting really angry (which is strange, since I’m not an angry gamer). So recently, almost 10 years after Sonic Heroes came out, I was talking with my significant other about how much they and other players hated Sonic Heroes. I didn’t understand why, and it bugged me that I couldn’t say if I hated Sonic Heroes or loved it. Not knowing bothered me so much that I picked it up for this weeks review.

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There are 4 different teams to play as, meaning that there are 4 different story lines to play through. Each team consists of 3 characters, each having their own special trait. One character will have a flying trait that allows them to fly to high places and shoot down flying enemies. Another character will have the running trait, so when they’re selected, your team moves much quicker. (WARNING: When going through loops and different parts of levels with the speed trait, be careful! The game can be very glitchy at times, and will send you right through the stage if you’re going too fast or if you move your joystick the wrong way.) The final trait is the power trait that allows the 3rd team mate to smash through obstacles along the way. The power trait is very over-powered (no pun intended), since the character with this trait can kill enemies much faster and easier than the flying and speed character.

I decided to start with the Sonic team, since it’s first in line. The story line takes place a few months after the Sonic Adventure 2: Battle plot, where we find Sonic running through a canyon of some sort. His best friends, Tails and Knuckles, fly down next to him in Tails’ plane to give him urgent news: Robotnick, their worst enemy, has returned! Robotnick sent Sonic and his friends a letter explaining that he has finally created the ultimate weapon, and that in 3 days, he will take over the world and he invited Sonic and his friends to try and stop him. After reading the letter, Sonic gets excited and goes “Sounds like an invitation!” Wait, hold on, pause. I don’t know about you guys, but if I had a device that I was completely sure could destroy the world, I wouldn’t invite the one guy who has foiled ALL of my past attempts at ruling the world to try and stop me, since odds are that HE’S GOING TO STOP ME.
CAM01051CAM01053While you can switch between characters at any second, you can only be one character at a time. Each different character also has their over team fighting stance. For example, when you play as the speed trait character, your other two team mates will follow directly behind you. If you’re the power trait character, each teammate will stand on either side of you, and when you’re the flying trait character your teammates hold onto you from below you. These different stances can make it easier for you to get rings throughout the game.CAM01065CAM01054In Sonic Heroes, there were a lot of moments where fighting enemy robots could get very overwhelming, especially since the game can sometimes flood the screen with them. The solution to this problem was to level up your characters to fill up your team blast bar. “How do I level up my character to raise my team blast bar?” When you kill bad guys (or occasionally when you go through a checkpoint), colored orbs will be dropped for your characters. These orbs raise your characters level, making them more powerful while raising your team blast bar. Each character has a special colored orb: Speed has a blue orb, flying has a yellow, and power has a red colored orb. Once your team blast bar is full, you can press the Z button to use a special move the destroys all enemies near you. Note: Some of the levels in Sonic Heroes are very long (10-15 minutes depending on how fast you go), so I suggest that if you want to just get through the level as fast as possible, don’t kill enemies unless you absolutely have to. (There will be plenty of areas that won’t let you through without killing some robots blocking your path.) You’ll still get plenty of orbs along the way to use the team blast move, so don’t worry about that. If you’re going for a good grade on the level, good luck to you. There’s a time bonus at the end of the level that helps a lot, but if you’re sticking around killing robots for points, it’s going to slow you down by quite a bit.CAM01074Now I do have some little, nit-picky things to complain about with this game. For starters, the controls are extremely slippery in this game. There are lots of moments in the game where it wants you to come to a sudden stop, but since you can’t just stop on a dime, you end up slamming into a wall and sliding around until your characters decide to finally stop.  Also, unlike other Sonic games, enemies need to be hit multiple times before dying. They have a health bar, and can take up to 3-4 hits to finally destroy.This can prove to be rather obnoxious. My final complaint is the fact that the voice acting is just flat out awful. I know a lot of people complained that Sonic Team got new voice actors for Sonic, Tails, and others, but that’s not where my problem stands. It’s not that I’m not used to the new voices, it’s the fact that the new voices are wheezy, nasally and sound like they’re 4th graders having to read out loud in English class. Knuckles sounds like he’s screaming the word “Shit!” when he punches enemies, and when Tails flies he shouts “WHEE”, making him sound like he’s going to lose his voice from yelling. It stresses me out.

Overall, this isn’t a bad game, but it’s definitely not a game I would want to voluntarily play again. While the game play itself isn’t the greatest, the soundtrack is one of my favorite soundtracks from any Sonic game. I can now understand why I would get so angry over this game, especially after all the countless times we’ve fallen through stages due to a glitch, or have gotten killed due to cheap hits that the enemies got off on us. The story line is nothing special, and is in fact extremely predictable. (Hmm, I wonder if the guy who get’s defeated in every Sonic game got defeated this time! Probably.) Sonic Heroes is available for less than $10 on Amazon for GameCube, but unless you’re a Sonic fan who hasn’t played this, I wouldn’t buy it if I were you. Try it out at a buddies, or watch game play of it. Don’t put yourself through the amount of frustration this game creates.”

Thanks for reading!

– Emmie

 

Contra Original Video Soundtrack – Bleeps On Wax

Mondo released the soundtrack on 12 inch vinyl for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Arcade classic Contra just a few weeks ago with an exclusive San Diego Comic Con variant and a player one blue & player two red color split available on their online store over at www.mondotees.com. Not having the opportunity to attend SDCC or wanting to drop big bucks for the cool looking variant, I decided to pick up the regular edition. For whatever reason, this release took some time to get to me; but it arrived none the less and I’m quite impressed with the overall package. The record jacket contains some fantastic artwork from Eric Powell that completely captures the essence of Contra, something Mondo occasionally misses with their home-grown artwork for their VGM soundtrack releases.  The same can be said for the record cover artwork itself as its equally top notch. The color split of the actual record is decent, but doesn’t quite stack up to the SDDC version that Mondo was offering.

Let’s start backwards and talk about Side B of the record which features the arcade version of the soundtrack. If you’re like me, chances are you experienced Contra first on the NES and in the arcade second. In most cases the common response to your first arcade experience with the game is “Man, the NES version plays better.” Along with “Man, this music just doesn’t have the same feel as the NES version.” For me, these statements follow through with this record as well. I do appreciate the fact that the music from the arcade version is included and the audio recording is engineered wonderfully; but it’s just not my thing with its somewhat plodded instrumentations.

Side A of the record itself contains all the excellent music you remember from the game and features tracks straight from the superior Famicom version of the game with all the extra tracks that the Japanese release had on it. James Plotkin, the audio engineer on the project did an excellent job of mastering the music to vinyl and captured the crispness of Konami’s punchy drums and melodic synths that everyone starts humming as soon as you mention the name “Contra” to them. Its great hearing the intricacies of the music separate from the game itself.

Playing this record not only takes me back to playing this classic side scrolling shooter, but reminds me of all the times I took my little boom box and strategically placed it next to my TV so I could record music from my NES. Music from Contra was featured predominantly on those old video game mix tapes I made as a kid and now it’s nice to have an official copy of the soundtrack without hearing the occasional sound of my little brother banging toys around or my mom suddenly calling from upstairs to let me know that lunch was ready.

If the Contra music has touched any one of your 30 lives, I highly suggest you pick this up.