Sunday, October 29, 2006

Victorious Boxers 2 to hit U.S. shores in just a few days

The original Victorious Boxers (released on PS2 way back in 2001) was a genuinely enjoyable boxing title that, despite glowing reviews and overall outstanding quality of the product, went by almost completely unnoticed due to lackluster marketing and the fact that it was a game based on a completely unknown license in the U.S. Titled Victorious Boxers: Ippo’s Rode to Glory and based on a popular Japanese manga series known as Hajime No Ippu in it’s native land, it was one superb boxing title that, despite being five years old, still stands up to the test of time in terms of overall quality and game play.

Finally, the long awaited U.S follow up to Ippo’s Rode to Glory will hit our shores this Halloween. Titled Victorious Boxers 2: Fighting Spirit, this sequel will feature a staggering seventy (!!!) characters to choose from and an enormous story mode with over sixty fights. Even better is the fact that Fighting Spirit will also ship with a nice budget price - $10. Yep, you read that right – Victorious Boxer’s 2 will be available to purchase for a mere ten bucks. Hopefully Victorious Boxers 2 will receive better success at retail due to its incredibly cheap price, but you might want to consider buying a copy on launch day due to the fact that it will probably receive an extremely limited print run.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Game Reprints - Get 'Em While They're Hot!

GameQuestDirect is an independent company responsible for re-releasing many rarer, valuable, or highly desirable games from the past that didn’t quite get such good initial runs in retail stores. Reprints the company has previously released included such highly regarded and valuable titles (most of them fetching upwards of $70 or more on eBay for used copies) such as Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, Rez, Persona 2, and Gitaroo Man.

The folks at GameQuestDirect are now at it again with another red-hot batch of game reprints. While their fresh new reprints – Suikoden III, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, and King of Fighters 2002/ 2003 Double Pack – aren’t quite as valuable as games like Rez and Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure were during their obscene price peaks, they are still uncommon games that fetch a good amount of dough on eBay. Also, while collectors are sure to swoon (especially if they paid top dollar for these titles) after hearing the news of these recent new reprints, it is great to know that people who have previously missed out on many of these exceptional experiences the first time around will get a second chance to give these titles a go.

The anime-inspired, cult hit Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, initially released quietly in Fall 2003, has still managed to retain it’s value even after a few reprints and has bewildered many people in the difficulty in trying to track down a copy (though it definitely depends on what area you’re in, because used copies have always been readily available – abeit for ludicrous prices – at game stores near me) will also shortly see another re-release from a source other than GameQuestDirect by the end of the month.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Review: True Crime: New York City (Xbox)

Platform: Xbox
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Luxoflux
Also For: PS2, GC, PC
Release: November 2005

While on paper True Crime: New York City might sound like just another half-hearted Grand Theft Auto clone, in reality it is an underappreciated gem that borrows many elements from the “other” huge popular crime underworld series while still keeping its own fresh identity.

When True Crime: Streets of L.A. hit game stores back in 2003, it was little more than a third-rate Grand Theft Auto clone. Although it offered some intriguing and unique new features that couldn’t be found in the Grand Theft Auto series, they were all implemented rather poorly, resulting in a ‘jack of all trades’ atrocity that served no purpose other than for the shiny disc to be used as a coaster. Fortunately, True Crime: New York City is an enormous step in the right direction. While on paper it might sound like just another half-hearted Grand Theft Auto clone, in reality it is an underappreciated gem that borrows many elements from the “other” huge popular crime underworld series while still keeping its own fresh identity.

In True Crime: New York City you play as gutter-dwelling gangster turned undercover police officer Marcus Reed. The choice is yours: you can either be a crooked cop, accepting bribes in turn for not arresting suspects or criminals and blindly killing innocents, or be on the good side of the law, playing your job by its strict rules. While playing on either side of the law delivers an exceptional experience, it’s preferable to play on the good side because the sense of responsibility and the challenge of maintaining your status make the game more enjoyable as a whole.

While the Grand Theft Auto games featured fictional, almost cartoon-like cities based off of real ones found in the U.S., True Crime: New York City’s is a genuine recreation of the Big Apple. The New York City recreation in this game is massive in scope, but since it is based off of real locations and areas found in the city, it sort of limits the creativity the developers could have had (and that the developers of the Grand Theft Auto games do have). Unfortunately, as greatly designed as the city in this game is, it is not quite as expertly crafted as the ones found in the Grand Theft Auto series. However, the realistic style of it definitely sets it apart from the Grand Theft Auto titles, and you will be constantly embarking on sections and areas of the enormous city that you have never seen before.

The story line in True Crime: New York City, while admittedly poorly done, is actually enjoyable to follow in a ‘corny, cheesy, mindless action film’ kind of way. Although I’m certain the developers created this game in a serious matter, it’s definitely hard to take it seriously with it’s hideous dialogue filled with useless, excessive cursing, and many chapters of the story that don’t make much sense. However, while many of the characters found throughout this game are belligerent and forgettable, the main ones, especially Marcus, are memorable and are fun to follow along with. Also, although the story is hard to take without a grain of salt, the missions that follow along the story are the main meat here and are highly rewarding and satisfying.

Whoever put together the soundtrack in True Crime: New York City did a remarkable job of choosing fitting music and exceptional songs. The soundtrack featured here is large and varied, featuring such legendary and highly regarded artists like Bad Brains, The Velvet Underground, Slick Rick, Gang Starr, Grandmaster Flash, and Public Enemy, among many others. It is slightly disappointing to note that Activision didn’t bother putting in a custom-soundtrack option, but with a soundtrack this incredible most people won’t even notice. Also, the reason for a lack of custom soundtrack could also be for atmosphere and creative reasons, as the developers probably wanted users to play the game with the songs intended to contribute to the “feel” of New York City.

However, although True Crime: New York City comes off highly recommended, there are definitely flaws found in it, some major and many mostly minor. Like just about any review of this title has mentioned, there are glitches found throughout this game, but they all depend on what Xbox hard-drive you play it on. If you use an Xbox with a Thompson hard-drive, it’s hard to even get True Crime: New York City running, but if you enjoy it with any of the other hard drives (the Philips and Samsung), then you will notice far less bugs and crashing than if played on an inferior (and unfortunately, common) drive.

Unfortunately, confusion and hard-ware issues like this split the reviewer’s opinions on the title, resulting in exceptional high scores (such as the 90% awarded by Game Biz) to the supremely low (the, ahem, mighty low 20% by Digital Entertainment News). However, if you have the right hard-ware to play True Crime: New York City on, then you are in for one whale of a game. True Crime: New York City is one of most enjoyable -and sadly, underappreciated – action games of this generation and it is one that will captivate you ‘till the very end.

Rating: 9.0 (out of 10)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sonic DS: A Canned Part of the Past or a Sign of the Future?

When Sonic DS (which would later be known to the world as Sonic Rush) was initially unveiled in 2004, it looked to be an entirely different game than what it is now.
Although details were scarce, it looked to be a Sonic Adventure-esque game instead of the classic 2D style that was used for the final release.

Judging by the screen shots, it looked to take full advantage of the DS’s graphical power, and even made use of the touch screen by letting you control everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog by rubbing the stylus against the bottom DS screen.

Although it looked to be a platformer in the vein of Sonic Adventure, in many shots there was a start and finish meter found, so it could have possibly been a racing title like Sonic R (A long-forgotten on-foot racing title initially released for the Sega Saturn and later resurrected on last years’ Sonic compilation Sonic Gems Collection for Nintendo Gamecube).

So what could this all possibly mean? It could be canned, but I doubt Sega would cancel the original release for good. It’s unlikely that all of the Sonic games released for the DS will be 2D titles, so the next Sonic release from Sega could possibly be a re-worked version of what was initially unveiled or perhaps a whole new 3D Sonic game for Nintendo’s quirky handheld. Stay tuned, and when Ross finds out some more info about this intriguing-gaming mystery then you can be sure that you will too…

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