Saturday, November 25, 2006

Review: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Blue Rescue Team (DS)

Platform: DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: ChunSoft
Also For: GBA (as Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Red)
Release: September 2006

While it would have been nice if Pokemon Mystery Dungeon was built from the ground up to take full advantage of the DS, there’s no denying the compelling, addictive game play and high replay value that this title provides.

Ah, Pokemon. Love the phenomenon or loathe it, you have to admit that you’ve been addicted to a Pokemon title at least once. And who can blame you? Behind the cutesy characters and marketing ploys of the franchise (ahem, multiple versions of the same game released at once), there lies a world of compelling, addictive RPG-lite game play. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon takes a drastic turn from series tradition, and instead of offering a typical role-playing adventure akin to the recently released Pokemon Diamond (in Japan, anyway – Diamond wont hit American soil until next year), it is a compelling dungeon crawler that will keep you glued to your DS for quite some time.

Although there are numerous Pokemon to play as in Mystery Dungeon, you don’t get to choose one right off the bat as you would think. You must answer a series of questions and a Pokemon will be assigned to you based on your personality. Of course, there are always ways around this (ahem – restarting the game over again and changing your answers to receive a different Pokemon), so if you’re not initially thrilled with the Pokemon assigned to you then you can always change it, but it must before you start your adventure.

Once you start your journey you will notice how disappointing the visuals are. Instead of creating a DS game from the ground up the developers pretty much ported a GBA game to the DS, so while the graphics would be right at home on the GBA they are quite mediocre for the DS. Still, the colors used are rather nice, but Nintendo could have done so much more with the advanced hardware DS provides…

When you finally get into the adventure, the visuals will become a non-issue, however. The game is very enjoyable, and at many moments throughout the game it can be more addictive than a standard Pokemon release. You must go journeying through dungeons, performing rescue mission. The average lengths of the missions vary, but they become more complex and lengthy as time move on. The game can be as challenging as you want it to be, so whether you’re a skilled adult player or a youngin’ you’ll be able to enjoy the game just fine.

The combat system used throughout is turn-based. Simple but effective, the turn-based combat works like a charm. Throughout the dungeons you will also be able to recruit a staggering amount of Pokemon to join your team. And when I say ‘staggering’ I mean it – there are a grand total of 380 possible Pokemon recruits. This game provides a large amount of replay value if you really want to dig deep into it and recruit all of the Pokemon.

Disappointingly, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon doesn’t quite seem fully optimized for the DS. While it does use both screens, the touch screen implantations feel tacked on, the map on the second screen isn’t very useful, and as mentioned before, the graphics are sub-par for such an advanced handheld. Also, the A.I. can use some improvement as well, as enemies and your own team mates sometimes make some puzzling and non-sensual decisions.

While it would have been nice if Pokemon Mystery Dungeon was built from the ground up to take full advantage of the DS, there’s no denying the compelling, addictive game play and high replay value that this title provides. Whether you’re a hardcore Pokemon fan or could care less about the whole franchise, Mystery Dungeon will make a welcome addition to your Nintendo DS collection.

Rating: 8.8 (out of 10)
Other reviews:
High Scoring - 9.3 via eToyChest
Low Scoring - 2 out of 5 (or 4.0 out of 10 on our scale) via Modojo

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis - The Same Great Soinc You Knew Before?

The original Sonic the Hedgehog, the killer app for the Sega Genesis way back in the day, is one of the most legendary, well-known and enjoyable games of all time and arguably the greatest game in the entire Sonic the Hedgehog series (well, besides the much-lauded Sonic CD, which I’ve yet to play). It’s also an incredibly old-fashioned and simple game, so you’d think porting it to the Gameboy Advance would be straightforward and simple, right? Hell, not that I condone piracy or anything, but bootleggers have been enjoying a quality version of this title for quite some time now on their GBA’s.

Sega, however, despite over-charging for this version of the classic game, appropriately titled Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (which has already found its way onto numerous Sonic the Hedgehog compilations over the years, including Sega Smash Pack (DC, 2001) and Sonic Mega Collection & Sonic Mega Collection Plus (GC, 2002 and PS2 & Xbox, 2004, respectively – which can all be found cheaper than what this title retails for (twenty bucks for one title!) plus include numerous other releases in addition to this one game) they have not managed to accurately port it to Nintendo’s uber-popular handheld. Slowdown, flickering graphics, and other severe flaws hurt this port of what is otherwise a stellar title. What’s bizarre about this how fiasco is how simple it should be to port this to the GBA. If bootlegs in Hong Kong can do it so easily, why cant Sega? Reasons like this are prime examples of why Sega is continuously losing money and is sinking further and further each year as a game publisher and developer.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I personally can't wait to eat some turkey for dinner later on tonight.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wii Launch Madness

In less than six hours gamers all over the country will be getting their hands on Nintendo’s uber-hot new console, Wii. I’ve been anticipating this launch for months, and this is arguably the most exciting launch since the debut of Nintendo’s first for tray into the 3D realm with the Nintendo 64. I’ll be hitting up the stores in town as soon as midnight strikes, and hopefully I’ll successfully purchase a Wii along with Zelda: Twilight Princess and some other items for the smoking hot new console. In the meantime, I’ll show you what I predict will be the top five best games to get at launch.

(in no particular order, though you can probably guess what would be number one on the list...)

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Really, this one’s a no-brainer. What can be said about this title that hasn’t previously been said before? The Legend of Zelda is among the most legendary game series of all time, and this looks to be another stellar entry in the epic franchise. With a 96% average on Game Rankings, this looks to be this year’s killer app for console gaming – on Wii or otherwise.

Rayman Raving Rabbids

From the series’ glorious debut on the Playstation eleven years ago to the critically acclaimed 3D entries, Rayman 2 and Rayman 3, Rayman has always been a solid game franchise that was never afraid to push new boundaries in the platformer genre. Unfortunately, despite all three entries being massive hits in Europe, the series has never found much commercial success in the States. With the lack of any title starring a pudgy plumber for the Wii launch, however, Rayman might find his way into more homes this holiday season than expected…

DragonBall Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2
Although I’ve never actually sat through an entire episode of Dragon Ball Z I will still admit that I am mildly excited for the release of Budokai Tenkaichi 2. No system launch is complete without a solid fighting game, and the ability to play this one with the Wii-mote combined with over one-hundred characters makes Budokai Tenkaichi 2 seem like a hard title to pass up.

Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam

Despite its shoddy box art, Downhill Jams looks to be one of the better games for the Wii launch. A racing game with accessibility in mind, Downhill Jam could possibly be what SSX was for the PS2 – taking a tried and true genre and completely re-working it, making an instant classic. Alright, maybe it won’t be that revolutionary, but it’s still looking mighty fine. Too bad Downhill Jam won’t be taking advantage of the Wii’s Wi-Fi online capabilities…

Madden NFL 07

Yep, that’s right – Madden. Although hardcore gamers and international readers of this blog will probably swoon (possibly out of anger…) at the sight of it, Madden 07 on the Wii could be the revolutionary make-over this aging series desperately needs.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halo 3 Available for Pre-Order... and available to Purchase for As Much As $100

Although Halo 3 might not even hit store shelves until sometime in 2008 (people are speculating that it will be released in 2007, but remember how many times Halo 2 was delayed?), you can still go to any GameStop store and throw down money to pre-order yourself a copy.

Halo 3 will undeniably set the standard for pricey collector’s editions, however. Three unique Halo 3 editions will be available to purchase. One of them will be your typical Halo 3 with generic packaging and packaged in an every-day 360 DVD case. Once you get past the bare-bones edition there is the Collector’s Edition, which we all honestly expected to be released alongside the standard one (really, don’t most big-budget releases get Collector’s Editions nowadays, whether they’re warranted or not?).Although details on the Collector’s Edition are sparse, you can expect the standard bonus DVD filled mostly with drivel you don’t care about and a spiffy tin-DVD case ala Halo 2 Collector’s Edition, Doom III Collector’s Edition, and True Crime: New York City Collector’s Edition. Although you’ll have to plop down an extra $10 for the Collector’s Edition, it doesn’t actually sound like that much once you hear the price of the Legendary Edition. For a staggering $100 you’ll be able to receive special packaging, three bonus discs and a wee-sized Master Chief helmet that will prove to be un-wearable to anyone who doesn’t have a head the size of a grape-fruit.

Unless you’re such a die-hard Halo fan that you dress up as Mater Chief on days besides Halloween then you’ll probably find the Legendary Edition completely unnecessary. Sure, it provides a plethora of bonus content on three DVDs and an interesting-looking helmet, but how good are the bonus features on the DVDs, what is the actual quality of the helmet, and who has one-hundred bucks to spend on one mere game? It’s going to be interesting to see how the two pricier editions – the standard Collector’s Edition and the loaded Legendary Editions – perform at retail though, especially at $70 and $100 a pop, respectively.


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