CASTLEVANIA: ARIA OF
SORROW: Any of the system's Castlevania
games are worth buying, but the variety
offered here makes it especially hard to
CHU CHU ROCKET:
Sega's puzzler, which plays like a faster
paced Lemmings, just seems like it belongs here
rather than on the Dreamcast.
WRESTLING: Great wrestling games are
hard to find, but fans of the sport can
always count on Fire Pro for a complete and
GURI GURI BLOCK CHAMP
(JPN): Forget every puzzle game
you've played before... this is a whole new
animal. Instead of rotating the blocks, you turn
the entire screen!
KONAMI ARCADE ADVANCE:
Konami really aimed to please with this collection
of six great games, all with added bonuses and new
rounds. They succeeded.
KART: SUPER CIRCUIT: Anyone who's played
the previous Mario Kart games won't be surprised
by the quality of this one. If you like
racers, you'll want this.
OLD AND NEW
BOBBLE: Bubble Bobble was
a childhood favorite of mine, and I'm relieved
that MediaKite did such a great job with this
COLLECTION: Namco's second collection for
the Game Boy Advance introduced the world to the
fun and addictive Pac-Man
Sonic on the GameBoy... who'd have thunk it?
This is actually better than the Genesis games,
with more characters and
STREET FIGHTER ALPHA
3: Although there's some voice missing,
this is the next best thing to playing one of the
bad Eugene Jarvis couldn't defend the good name of
his classic shooter by preventing Midway from
turning it into this
2: Could have been so beautiful, could
have been so right. The Genesis and Super
NES versions were great, so why couldn't this be
FLINTSTONES: BIG TROUBLE IN
BEDROCK: The only trouble you'll have
while playing this boring, generic platformer is
staying awake. It's
POTATO: It's not a completely horrible
puzzle game, but there's just something about
those oversexed mutant spuds I find
BOY GENIUS: I'll grudgingly admit that
the show's not so bad, but Jimmy's games are
almost as fun as passing kidney stones.
JIMMY NEUTRON VS. JIMMY
NEGATRON: He's 0 for 2, folks! This
time, Jimmy sets out to defeat his archrival in a
clumsy, frustrating 3D
MIDWAY'S GREATEST ARCADE
HITS: You could always count on Midway's
classic collections to be terrific... until this
was released. A huge
ADVANCE: Midway once again crushed
peoples' hopes into the dirt with this miserable
conversion of Ultimate Mortal Kombat
SHREK: SWAMP KART
SPEEDWAY: It's just like Mario
Kart: Super Circuit. Except the frame rate's
been cut in half and the weapons make no sense at
TANG TANG: It may have
been inspired by Solomon's Key, but it'll take the
patience of Job to get through this banal
Pros: More like Symphony of the Night than ever,
interesting plot twists, interesting gimmick
Cons: Still no
max/min-ing of stats (yeah, I'm grasping at straws)
This is the third Castlevania game for the Game
Boy Advance. The first one, Circle of the Moon, was pretty good, but
it was very dark--making it the "perfect" match for the GBA's
screen. The second, Harmony of Dissonance, was brighter and
better-animated, but the music left something to be desired. This
third one, on the other hand, seems to get it all right.
The plot begins at the Hakuba shrine, in the
year 2035. You are Soma Cruz, an exchange student staying in Japan.
You are at the shrine to witness a solar eclipse. When the eclipse
occurs, you and the daughter of the shrine's caretaker, Mina Hakuba,
wind up at the gate of Dracula's castle. You meet a mysterious man
named Genya Arikado, who tells you that you must find a way out of
the castle. As he says this, you are attacked by skeletons, but you
actually absorb the soul of one of them. You find that you are able
to take the souls of your enemies, using their abilities against
them. With these abilities, you must find your way out.
The characters are quite well-animated, smoothly
moving and attacking. Larger monsters will often fall apart upon
dying. The music is pretty good, even if one would be hard-placed to
find sound-alikes in the archive of the mind. Voices, as sparse as
they are, also sound good; everything from an evil maid welcoming
you (in Japanese, of course) to a succubus exclaiming as she charges
you to a character actually saying "Hello" to you.
The system of the game is a lot like Symphony of
the Night, giving you weapon, armor and accessory slots. But also,
there are three soul slots: an attack soul (activated by up+B), a
guardian soul (activated by hitting R), and a status soul (which can
increase certain stats or prevent certain ailments). Less common are
the "ability" slots, which let you double-jump, super-jump, slide,
or even backdash.
The most impressive moment in the game, in my
opinion, was the bossfight against Balore. You expect to meet the
giant bat from the other Castlevania games, but a giant fist crushes
it in a gout of blood.
My only problem with this masterpiece of a game
was the inability to "min-max" your character. I know it sounds a
bit crazy, but it would add a bit to the game if you could customize
your character, perhaps making him into a "tank" or an engine of
gathering rare items and souls.
Pros: It's a Dragonball Z game
that's actually good, and it actually works around the "balance"
issues in some ways. The "what if" stories are nice,
Cons: The game seems to lend itself to cheapness (which,
to be fair, can be said of just about any Dragonball Z fighting
game), "purchasing" system to unlock fighters
Well, it was bound to happen sooner or
later. The wearers of Atari's tattered flesh brought to us a
Dragon Ball Z game that's actually good. The game was actually
published in Japan by Banpresto, the "evil" twin of Bandai (evil in
the same sense of that "evil" Cartman from an episode of South
Park). But in a first in 2D DBZ fighting game history, they
picked a development team that actually knew something about
fighting games--Arc System Works, the developers of the Guilty Gear
The result is a good, fairly-balanced
game that is fun to play. The graphics and sound are about as
true to the series as a portable system could muster, and the
control is simple-- B does a light attack, A does a strong attack, L
tags out, R charges, R+A does a strong fireball, R+B does a weak
fireball, and R+A+B does a context-sensitive super attack. The
attack done by R+A+B depends on both the "power" of the character
and the position relative to the opponent; for example, Freeza's
Death Ball can only be done at 100% power above the
The system of balance is exhibited in
that the characters each have three levels, denoting a particular
level of power for the character. For example, Level 1 Gohan
is norman super-Saiyan, while Level 2 is super-Saiyan level 2, and
Level 3 is "Mystic Gohan." The system typically can have up to
three characters on each side, but the levels of all the characters
combined can only be up to 4. So, it's sort of a mix between
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Capcom v. SNK 2 in its balance
Another good feature here is the fact
that you can go through each saga individually, as well as go
through a "what if" scenario, in which you can explore the
possibility of Freeza acquiring the Dragon Balls and of Majin Buu
going through our heroes until he fights off his dark side and
becomes a hero.
However, I said this was a good game; I
didn't say it was great. It still has its little bouts with
cheapness... for example, some of the Androids in the game can fire
light energy blasts ad nauseum, allowing them to pin down an
opponent very effectively. Also, the super attacks can
sometimes be too easy to avoid.
Another problem can be the system whereby
characters are unlocked. One must purchase these characters
with "Zenie" earned in the story mode and through challenges.
I understand that certain characters and levels may be too
"powerful" to be available from the start, but it's a little strange
to have to buy even goon-level guys like Ginyu.
With all this, we have a good-- but not
great -- Dragonball Z game. But all that puts it above most
other DBZ games ever released. I'd definitely recommend at
least a rental for this game.
Arc System Works are the greatest company that most people have
never even heard of. These genii of gaming are responsible for
the biggest shocker of the PSX's history--a well-animated 2-D
fighting game, Guilty Gear. The game was impressive,
considering that it was on a console for which 2D was a distant
Flash forward to 2000, where they, under the aegis of Sammy,
create Guilty Gear X on the much more capable Naomi hardware,
allowing for an easy port to the Dreamcast. Among the features
included were improved graphics running at an unprecedented 640x480
resolution, a tweaked engine, and two primary sources of cheapness
removed ("win match by default" kills, multi-level special
Flash forward--again--to 2001, where Sammy releases Guilty Gear
games for Dreamcast, PS2, and Wonderswan Color, and announces a port
of Guilty Gear X for Nintendo's wonder system... no, not the
Gamecube, the Game Boy Advance! Many doubted their ability to do
this, citing the lackluster KOF:EX as an example.
But Sammy succeeded where Marvelous Entertainment failed.
Sammy knew not to trust the task of porting over GGX to any company
other than the one that made it--Arc System Works. With this
in mind, Sammy set Arc to the task at hand, ordering them to not
come out until they had given their all to port the game over.
Did they succeed in recreating the GGX experience? (What, did you
think I would purposely truncate it for the purpose of
coolness?) In my opinion, yes. The characters have all
their moves, even the "power-up" techniques of Johnny and Jam, as
well as the "random" maneuvers of Faust, the "baldhead"ed doctor.
The round-ending "instant" kills are present as well, and the
effects of certain maneuvers, including Faultless Defense and
Millia's hair slashes, are created as well as the GBA's 32-bit heart
can pump them out. The music is like a toned-down version of
the original tracks, but you can still catch the fever created by
The characters are smaller than usual (shades of Samurai Shodown
SNES, anyone?), but they're still animated and detailed very
well. There is minimal slowdown during some of the more
intense "instant" kills, but believe me, when one of the players is
already doomed, it doesn't affect gameplay one iota. They even
incorporated the "Heaven or Hell" from the original arcade game,
with a somewhat subdued voice saying it as well. Certain areas
are toned down graphically, however: The select screen no longer
seems to have the "Please select of [sic] a character" bars running
along, and the win screen doesn't have the "endless in a victory of
a [sic] yourself" text appearing almost HotD-like. There also
don't seem to be taunts, but if taunts are going to keep you from
buying this game, I really have to warn you to hold on to those
As an added bonus, the end text is in English, so you'll most
likely be able to understand what you were fighting for. :)
This is definitely on par with SSFII Turbo Revival in terms of
portable fighting games. This is a Guilty Gear X-perience you
shouldn't pass up. There, I did it. Happy?
Pros: Lots of classes and abilities, great music,
Laws, good number of quests.
Cons: Certain abilities are over-powered; music
seems inappropriate at times, Laws, some classes seem superfluous,
plot seems transparent, seems too easy
First off, we have the best known of the three games
here, and most likely the most anticipated. In this game, a boy
known as Marche and his friends find a mysterious book. After
reading it, they all go home and sleep, after which they somehow
wind up having their town turned into a fantasy world. Marche has to
find out how this happened, and also how to change it
One of the interesting things in this game is that
each fight is governed by "Laws." These laws affect what you can and
cannot do in the fight; for example, one Law might prevent you from
using Fire-based abilities, while another might prevent you from
using projectile weapons. At first, the laws can feel frustrating
and confining, but as you progress and can "change" laws, you can
use them to your advantage. If you violate the laws, youíll either
get a yellow card or a red card, depending on the number of offenses
and the nature of the offense (if you kill an enemy in the violation
of a law, youíll get a red card). Red cards will send you to prison,
while yellow cards will earn you a mere warning. Both will issue you
a fine, however, affecting your items, equipment, money, or stats.
To get the cards removed, you will have to go to the prison and send
the affected party member to jail for a set number of battles, as
well as pay a token fine. This, however, is better than the
alternative-higher and higher fines. Also, if Marche gets
imprisoned, you get an automatic Game Over. So be
The customization in this game is pretty good. Each
character can use the abilities from up to two classes at once,
which can occasionally benefit the "secondary" class with more
beneficial stat growth. To learn new classes, you have to master a
certain number of abilities (learned from weapons) from one or more
classes. The different types of abilities are Action abilities,
Reaction abilities (used as defenses, like "Counter," "Reflex,"
which can actually dodge an attack, or "Block Arrows"), Support
abilities (like Maintenance, which can prevent equipment theft; or
Immunity, which allows you to resist status ailments), and Combo
abilities, which allow more than one character to attack an enemy at
once for hefty damage. The problem with the abilities is that
certain abilities seem unbalanced, like "Damage > MP," which
causes an attacked character to lose MP instead of HP. Unless you
have your characters swarm a character using this, heíll effectively
be invincible. Meanwhile, some of the classes seem to be mere "means
to an end"-Beastmaster is only useful if you want to either a) teach
a Blue Mage abilities, or b) build up to a Morpher or
The music in this game is very well done. The only
complaint I have is that some of it seems inappropriate-when youíre
fighting zombies, you donít need to hear a light-hearted
Meanwhile, the plot plays out with certain quests.
The different quests are battle quests, negotiation quests,
searching quests, and "clan battle" quests. All but the "clan
battle" and battle quests require you to dispatch one character for
either a set number of days, a set number of battles, or until a set
number of enemies are defeated. If youíre not careful, you may find
yourself short-handed, and the plot seems to only involve a small
percentage of the quests.
Yet another problem lies in the Laws. They are
governed by a judge, who seems to keep any fallen members of your
party from dying permanently. You donít have to be as careful in
this game as in other games, unless thereís no judge, in which case
the battle is anarchy. Also, some of the laws are really a pain,
like the "Dmg 2" laws, which prevent you from doing damage to a
certain race, or even to monsters.
This game is pretty good overall, but itís not the
best game out there. A lot of the value of the game lies in the
Final Fantasy name. That said, the upcoming FFXII seems to borrow
from it, using its races and universe. Overall, the game, in my
opinion, deserves a 7 out of 10.
The Fire Pro Wrestling series is legendary in
Japan. The depth of the game engine, along with the amazing
customization possible, have been acclaimed the world over.
Each game in the series has seemingly myriad characters to choose
from, each with several dozen maneuvers. And all this without
a license from any major US or Japanese federation.
It was only a matter of time before one of these
games came over here, and in fact, Fire Pro Wrestling A for the Game
Boy Advance was brought over for the system's US launch. And
again, there is nary a license to be had. But that's not a bad
thing... it's a GOOD thing. I'm sure most of you remember many
licensed wrestling games--ECW Hardcore Revolution, anyone?--that
don't really capture the atmosphere of the federation in
question. And let's not get started on WCW Backstage
Assault. My point is, without a license, Spike was able--nay,
forced--to make the game shine on its own merits, rather than just
try to make it sell based on its association with the WWF. And
boy, does this game shine.
First of all, the characters all look and act
enough like their real-world doppelgangers to overlook the nagging
lack of license. And the gameplay is scaled back (consider
that the FirePro games have been made for every system from the
Super Famicom to the Saturn to the Dreamcast) just enough to
accomodate the layout of the GBA, but not so much that it's too
simplistic: B does light attacks, A does medium, B+A does strong, R
runs, and L allows your superstar to catch his/her breath. And
to grapple, you just walk into the opponent--a FirePro
About that breath thing... Another hallmark of
the FPW series is its realism. The characters will actually get
tired over the course of the match, and if you hit them right,
they'll even "bleed." There's a slight redness on the
character then, and at the moment of bloodletting, you can hear a
scream. In fact, if you overexert yourself, even if you have
the upper hand in a match, you'll barely be able to move! And
if you see "CRITICAL!"--well, suffice it to say that the match is
There are a diverse amount of matches available,
as well. 1-on-1, tag team, handicap (2-1), 4-way matches
(normal elimination, last man standing, or over-the-top), exploding
electric cage matches (you don't win, you survive), and even a
UFC-style octagon brawl.
The superstars seem to represent virtually every
federation in existence (at the time of the game's release, anyway
:P)--WWF, WCW, New Japan, All Japan, NOAH, FMW, as well as several
shootfighting organizations such as PRIDE and UFC (the whole Gracie
family seems to be in full effect), and even guys who aren't in any
fed (at the time, including Rob Van Dam, Abdullah the Butcher and
Sabu) or even wrestling anymore (Andre the Giant, Bob Backlund).
Also, there are "audience matches," in which you
have to progress through various tiers of matches, getting a certain
level of approval. But in each mode, the audience favors a
different approach: One audience might favor 2-minute
squashes, while another might go for 30-minute classics, and another
might favor dirty tactics such as low blows and forks to the
head. If you manage to get through the mode in question,
you'll unlock secret superstars, including Ric Flair, Johnny Ace,
and Shawn Michaels.
With a total of over 200 superstars, you'd think
there would be no need for more, though. However, Spike
know what their audience wants, and they put in a create-a-wrestler
feature that's actually pretty damned meaty. You can change
the skin tone of your fighter, the head, the size of the clothes
(small, medium, large or fat), and even decide how he double-teams
his opponents. And there's even some fairly good entrance
music in this game--including a dead ringer for Stone Cold Steve
Austin's music. And of course, you can pick three taunts--one
for your entrance into the ring, one for the match, and one after
your hard-fought victory. This stands in stark (VERY stark)
contrast to THQ's Road to Wrestlemania, which only has about 20 or
so stars and has no create mode.
In short, this is probably the single best
portable wrestling game ever made--and like SNK vs. Capcom for NGPC,
it will be the standard by which all others in its genre will be
judged. If I had one complaint, it's that they don't have
proper hardcore or cage matches--and would it kill them to put in a
ladder match? (Maybe it would, in which case, I apologize
;) If you have a GBA, and even remotely enjoy wrestling (even
in the "guilty pleasure" vein), buy this game.
Solid SNK died. But they came back.
Either they survived, or there are two of them...
Sorry, wrong game. Anyway, about six
months ago, I heard about a King of Fighters game being released for
the Game Boy Advance. The game was actually being done by a
company called Marvelous Entertainment, a company that also does
such things as anime dating games and distribution of an anime
called Medarot (Medabots in US). I was pretty psyched to get
this game--it was supposed to fill in the gap between KOF'97 and
Now that I've played it, I'm not so sure it's
Don't get me wrong, it's a good game. The
graphics are good, and the only real trouble I had with the controls
were doing qcf, hcb motions and doing SDM's. To do SDM's in
this game, you have to hit both attack strengths. However, the
strong attack buttons are the triggers, and getting the timing off
consistently requires mastery of the Force or a third arm.
Also, there's a significant lack of frames here. Not so much
that it's unplayable, but there's definitely a noticeable lack of
animation. Also, the collision on the command throws is very
picky--you have to be right next to the guy to land a Super
Argentine Backbreaker by Clark.
From the get-go, there are 18 characters to play
as here. Six others are designated strikers, and there are
also "extra strikers" from KOF Evolution. The designated
strikers are Shingo (Kyo's team), Joe (Fatal Fury), Yuri (Art of
Fighting), Whip (Ikari), Chin (Psycho Soldier) and Jhun
(Korea). The "protagonist" team in this game is made up of Kyo
Kusanagi (of course), Benimaru "Polnareff" Nikaido, and a newcomer
by the name of Moe (that's Mo-eh) Habana, Kyo's caretaker of
American origin (her parents are Japanese). Her attacks seem
to give off cherry blossoms the same way that Kyo's give off
The plot seems to be the same: KOF tournament,
invitations go out, secret goings-on revealed. Some of the
designated strikers are actually explained out of the game by the
storyline (Yuri has the mumps, Joe is entertaining the king of
Thailand). Of course, Iori can't be too far behind Kyo;
indeed, he serves as the game's sub-boss. When you beat him,
the organizer of the tournament, our old sky(scraper)diving friend,
Geese Howard, makes his appearance. Apparently, he enlisted
Iori to help him attain the Orochi power, or something like
that. The endings seem a bit "sparse;" they entail Geese
saying something, then his background exploding, then your team
standing outside Geese Tower saying something, then Iori standing
outside Geese Tower saying something, then the credits.
The music seems to be pretty well-done,
representing an approximation of some of the KOF2000 themes,
including the Psycho Soldier team's 2000 theme.
In short, it's a good game that could have been
much better. Marvelous is good, but they're no SNK. Just
as well, because there's only room enough for one SNK and one Big
Boss! Wait, what are you doing with that dart full of horse
So sleepeeeeee zzzzz...
Pros: Much improved over original, great new
characters, incentive to excel
Cons: The sound leaves something
to be desired
The first King of Fighters EX game was not
particularly good. It played as some approximation of the KOF
series, but the collision was worse than the Game Boy games, the
sound was inconsistent, and the animation was horrible. That, and
the buttons couldn't be configured other than
The second one is much better. They no longer
have "designated strikers" in this game, and the animation is much
better. They also have a 2-button control scheme in which you can
play like KOF R-2.
The plot is as follows: Something is affecting
the seal placed on Orochi in 1997. Children are being abducted. This
can only mean one thing: It's time for another King of Fighters
tournament. However, Chizuru Kagura can't attend, because she has to
keep an eye on the seal. So, she sends her servant, Reiji, in her
stead. Meanwhile, Iori has a new team made up of Jun, a supermodel,
and Miu, a schoolgirl who attacks with crow feathers. The other
teams are as follows: Korea team (Kim, Chang, Choi), Ikari team
(Ralf, Clark, Leona), Psycho Soldier team (Athena, Kensou, Bao),
Fatal Fury team (Terry, Andy, Mai), Art of Fighting team (Ryo, Yuri,
Takuma), and Kyo's team (Kyo, Moe, Reiji).
The game controls just like the normal KOF
games, and you can customize the button assignments, even right down
to the combinations for rolling and striker calls. The graphics look
remarkably like KOF, right down to the backgrounds from
Meanwhile, the sound is a mixed bag. The music
is pretty good, coming from KOF2000, but the voice is a mixed bag.
There are some of the classic quotes, like "Hey, c'mon c'mon!" and
the entire Maiden Masher dialogue, right from the start to the end.
But some of it isn't there.
Meanwhile, there's a rating system that ranks
your performance according to how well you fight (perfects,
straights, hyper finishes), and as you unlock the "Master Orochi"
rank for each character, you'll unlock options like more difficulty
levels and secret characters, as well as a "counter mode" like in
The boss is vintage KOF... a boss that is cheap
as hell, but that can be beaten with the right strategy. Also, the
way the striker system works here is as follows: First round, your
second guy is the striker and you have three striker calls. Second
round, third guy is the striker and you get four calls. Third round,
In all, this game deserves a 9/10 for not just
being a good game, but a much-improved game.
I'm sure that many
Playstation 2 gamers out there remember the game Kingdom Hearts,
which brought together Square characters, Disney characters, and
original characters, topping the mix off with famous voice actors
including David Boreanaz, Haley Joel Osment, and even Lance Bass.
With the second Kingdom Hearts game to be released soon for the PS2,
Square Enix and Disney Interactive- realizing that there will be a
gap in the story- have released a Game Boy Advance interlude in
In this new game, Sora, Donald, and Goofy happen upon a robed
figure who offers to grant Sora something he holds dear... but he
must lose something first. This takes our heroes to Castle Oblivion,
where they expect to find King Mickey, but lose many of their
memories. As they go through the castle, they encounter old friends,
and come face to face with a mysterious organization that seeks to
gain the power of Sora's Keyblade for itself.
To put it simply, the graphics and sound are nothing less than
you would expect from either Disney or Square: if nothing else, this
is the one "sure thing" that both companies can be expected to get
right without any problems. Also, you will hear Sora calling for
various characters, as well as the voices of said characters,
throughout the battle. Even some full-motion video sequences, as
well as a surprisingly high-quality rendition of Utada Hikaru's
"Simple and Clean" from the first Kingdom Hearts, have made the cut
The story is interesting... without any major spoilers, the main
theme seems to be that memories are important, and some memories
that seem lost are just buried deep within our minds. Also, the
dialogue is pretty good, making sure that everything is tied
together tightly (on a side note, somehow, the word "hell" got past
Standards and Practices- and apparently the ESRB, since the game got
rated "E" regardless of its inclusion).
The gameplay combines isometric dungeon-crawling with elements
from Paper Mario- attacking enemies on the main map will give
you the initiative, letting you attack stunned opponents on the
battlefield. The battles seem to be a more free-roaming version of
the Megaman Battle Network system... your attacks, spells, items and
summons are done using cards, and high cards will "break" low cards,
negating the move and leaving the victim open for
counterattack. Also, you have "sleights" that function like
the Advance Programs in MMBN, allowing for devastating combos or
just stronger versions of spells or summons. Also, certain monsters,
including bosses, yield "enemy cards" that can do anything from
increase the value of all your cards by 1 to prevent your attack
cards from being broken.
Also, this game continues Square's "world-building" obsession
that seems to have started with Legend of Mana. Each floor of the
castle has you picking a world card that provides the motif, and
each room is determined by a particular map card. The map cards can
do anything from lessen the values of your enemies' cards to
stunning every enemy in a battle when you get the initiative. Also,
there are cards for save points and shops, which are essential to
improving your deck.
The deck is limited by the number of "Card Points" you have.
Cards have a certain CP cost based on 1) the type of card (for
example, spell cards may cost more CP than some weapon cards) and 2)
the number on the card (the 1 will be cheapest, while the 0--which
can break any other card, or even a sleight--is the most expensive).
However, it is possible, either through a reward earned in a
fight or a shop purchase, to get a "Premium" card, whose cost will
always equal the "1" card. However, premium cards will not be
reloaded when you reload your deck. Also, reloading your deck will
take more time each time you do it, so at least in the early goings
of the game, you may want to try to get as many attack cards in your
deck as you can, rather than the more expensive spells and
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories should take the average player
about twenty hours to finish on the first run-through. Some of
the bosses are pretty hard, but each one has a particular weakness-
either a susceptibility to a particular type of attack or a hole in
its strategy- that can make the fight easier. Also, even after the
game is over, there's more to do, including fight versus
The game could probably have been longer, and there could have
been more stuff in the game (why not have Leon- Squall's incarnation
from the original Kingdom Hearts- as a summon, or why not have some
other big Square villain as a secret boss?). However, the game
is very well done overall, even with its flaws, and a must-play
for Kingdom Hearts fans, if for no other reason than to get some
background on the next game for the Playstation
Good: It's based on the series known as Ultimate
Muscle in the US, it has commentary, a diverse array of
Bad: Not your conventional wrestling game (aka no
Bandai has a split personality. On the one hand
is its horrible shovelware games and its ill-conceived attempt to
compete with Nintendo in its element. On the other hand is its other
side, Banpresto, which makes the critically-acclaimed Super Robot
Wars series and the game here, Kinnikuman II.
The game involves Kinniku Mantaro's (Kid Muscle)
journeys against such opponents as the dMp (Demon [making] Plant),
the second-year students of the Herakles Factory, and No Respect.
The modes are pretty interesting: There's the classic story mode,
the tournament mode (basic arcade mode set-up), 3-on-3 (in which you
pick one of 5 groups--New Muscle League, dMp, 2nd-year students, No
Respect, and old Muscle League), exhibition, and training (in which
you can learn the intricacies of the engine against Ramen Man and
test them against Terry the Kid).
B is a light attack, A is a medium attack, and
AB is a heavy attack. R grapples, and in a grapple, B does weak
grapple attacks, A does strong grapple attacks, L whips an opponent
into the ropes, and R throws him into the air for a high-impact
move. The timing gauge affects your ability to do certain moves: You
can whip an opponent into the ropes or do a weak grapple attack when
the bar is in the yellow, but only when you're in the blue can you
do a strong grapple attack or throw an opponent into the
The characters look like something out of the
cartoon, right from Kinniku Mantaro to Dead Signal, a wrestler made
out of road signs. The sound is excellent as well, including voices
from the anime, and the control is spot-on. On the other hand, I was
disappointed that a wrestling-style game with wrestling-style
controls lacked the ability to pin an opponent. But, it's nothing
major. It's still good.
Games have been made based on classic
baseball players, classic basketball players (Jordan vs. Bird) and
classic boxers (Legends of the Ring). So, Acclaim made a game called
Legends of Wrestling some time back. The game wasn't that bad; it
had some interesting ideas, such as all moves starting from a few
basic positions, like the "head between legs" position of a
piledriver; and the ability to control a classic superstar carving a
path of destruction through the US. Also, it had Hulk Hogan as the
frontman of the game.
The Game Boy Advance version seems to have a
total of 40 superstars in it, out of the 60+ in its bigger brothers
on consoles. The game has a career mode, in which you are either
managed by Jimmy Hart or Lou Albano through five different US
regions, the entire US, and then the world (consisting primarily of
Mexico City, Montreal, and Tokyo). Depending on your ability to
excite the crowd, it can take any number of matches to get the title
shot for each region. Every time you go all the way through the
game, you can unlock a secret character. Considering that there are
20 secret characters (out of 40 total), it would have most likely
been more prudent to unlock one guy with each "region."
The controls are fairly simple, with all of the
strikes and attacks (irreversible grapple maneuvers like
backbreakers and jawbreakers) being done with combinations of the
D-Pad and the A button, grapples being done with the B button, the R
button performing defense and counters, and the L button switching
focus, whipping the opponent into the ropes, and entering/exiting
the ring. The problem with the control is that the collision is
iffy--it can take several tries to get a tie-up, and you have to be
at a precise distance from the opponent for a strike to hit.
However, the less collision-sensitive areas, like timing the combos
and reversals, are fairly easy to get.
The graphics can be described by Ranier
Wolfcastle from the Simpsons: "My eyes! The goggles--they do
nothing!" Pixellation is not your friend, Acclaim. Also, try to put
some emotion into your characters' motion. As for the sound, there's
not too much music in there, and it's very forgettable.
I actually had some hopes that this game would
at least be fun, but it got to be a chore after a while.
Good: Better than warm milk for
getting you to sleep.
Bad: Where to
From Two Towers, I got the
illusion that Fellowship of the Ring would be a good game. For fucking with my mind, I
will punish this game with many kicks to the groin to match the pain
The first time I booted this
game up, it wouldn't load up properly. Five kicks to the
In the beginning of the game, I
had to sit through a long intro involving Bilbo's goodbye to his
fellow hobbits. Two
more kicks to the groin for not cutting to the
The entire first part of the
game served as a massive fetch quest series. Ten kicks to the groin
for sending me on a scavenger hunt.
The battles take too long,
especially considering that in the beginning, you can only do 1
damage per hit and you miss 99.99% of the time. Fifteen kicks to the
groin for making battles a drawn-out exercise in
To make matters even worse,
there's a bug in the game that prevents you from getting past a
certain point if you don't save the game AT EXACTLY THE RIGHT POINT
IN TIME. Twenty
kicks to the groin for not getting all the bugs out prior to
more because it's bad enough that we have to put up with this bull
in PC games.
Finally, because I'm fed up,
fifty kicks to the groin for going back to the main menu after
saving your game.
All I can say to Black Label
(other than "you guys suck") is that this game is a horrible abuse
upon all. I thought
Acclaim was bad. I
thought Bandai was worse.
But now, there's a new king of Hell. Its name is Black Label
To paraphrase the principal in
Billy Madison, "I actually feel dumber for playing this game. I give it 0/10, and may God
have mercy on your soul."
Pros: It's Lord of the Rings, it's like
Diablo (if you like that style)
Cons: It's like Diablo (if you
don't like that style)
The Lord of the Rings is one of the
greatest works of fantasy ever written. The recent release of the
second part of the saga in theaters, as well as of the game for PS2
and GBA, has been well-received. The game itself is interesting, as
it's not the same conventional licensed crap game.
The gameplay is very much like Diablo,
which means that you'll be doing quite a bit of attacking and
exploring. The button layout is pretty good: B attacks, A uses an
ability, L switches between abilities, and R picks up items and
opens treasure chests. The game itself allows you to play as one of
five characters: Frodo, the Hobbit keeper of the One Ring which must
be destroyed; Gandalf, the wizard who has commissioned the task of
destroying the Ring to Frodo; Aragorn, lost prince of Gondor and
master Ranger; Legolas, brave Elf and archer; and Eowyn, human
There are three main gauges in this game:
HP, represented by a red sphere in the lower left corner (like
Diablo); MP, represented by a blue sphere in the lower right corner
(again, like Diablo); and Corruption, represented by an "Eye of
Sauron" in the upper-right. Certain actions will raise the
Corruption total, and when it gets to look like a giant eye, a
Ringwraith will come after you and attempt to kill you. You'll have
to find fire to stop them.
My only real complaint is that you can
only hold eight items at a time other than items equipped. Other
than that, you can sell items in forges and shrines; also, forges
can enhance your weapons and give you random items, and shrines can
give you status and ability points. There are two types of
abilities: Active, which are activated by selecting them (with L)
and using them (with A); and Passive, which are with you at all
times and range from resistance to Corruption to the ability to use
In short, check this game out. It's
pretty good for a licensed game.
quite as frustrating as previous MMZ games, interesting Zero Knuckle
system, new customizable Cyber Elf
CONS: Too short, somewhat gimmicky new
Cyber Elf system
The Mega Man Zero series known for its frustrating
difficulty along with its impressive graphics, sounds, and
gameplay. Megaman Zero 4 is no exception to this rule.
The graphics are up to par with those in the previous Mega Man
Zero games, with the victims of your Z-Saber falling apart
like meat sliced from a bone, and shadows trailing behind
Zero as he dashes. Similarly, the music is up to
the standards of the other games in the the series.
The gameplay is just as familiar, except with four major
changes. First, the Zero Knuckle replaces the various Rods and
the Shield Boomerang, and allows you to "borrow" minor enemy weapons
such as a flamethrower, an axe, or even a tongue (yes, a
tongue). Secondly, a weather system affects the
design of each level. Next, the new Cyber Elf system allows
you to customize your character. Finally, you can now enhance
Zero with parts assembled from the scraps of your fallen foes.
The Cyber Elf system now features only one elf with three
different stat-building attributes... Nurse (healing), Animal
(support), and Hacker (other, including everything from customized
combination attacks to simplified attack commands). You can
change the level of each attribute by feeding the elf energy
crystals. However, if you want the highest score possible, the
level of these three attributes cannot be above a set amount
(which will increase as the game progresses).
The weather system also adds a fresh new spin to the
familiar gameplay. Each of the eight "robot master" levels has
two different types of weather, one of which is ideal.
The four total types of weather are sunny, cloudy, snowy, and
stormy; and in the ideal type, the level is more difficult and the
boss uses its EX skill (which could be anything from a time-stopping
blast to ball lightning covered in scrap metal). Luckily, you
only have to beat the boss under the ideal weather conditions to
acquire its EX skill. You can only equip one buster EX skill,
but you can equip all of the saber skills at the same time.
Sadly, there aren't any knuckle skills. Since one of the
bosses uses a flaming uppercut, this seems kind of odd.
Even with all the enhancements made to the gameplay, Mega Man
Zero 4 is not perfect. The new cyber elf system is more
restrictive than before, allowing you to equip only one ability of
each type at a time. Also, the game seems significantly
shorter than previous entries in the series. Perhaps this has
more to do with the decreased difficulty than anything else,
but it only took me three hours to finish the
game. Considering the average cost per hour, this would
make Mega Man Zero 4 a better rental than a
Pros: Metal Slug on the GBA, special
"card system" to enhance play
Cons: No "trademark death
animations," sometimes difficult to collect cards
Metal Slug series is notorious for pitting one or two lone soldiers
against everybody from Nazis to a Saddam Hussein body double to
zombies, aliens and mummies. This game, naturally, is no different.
However, instead of the usual gang of hardened soldiers, you have to
send one of two recruits through a survival course so that they can
become the latest members of the Peregrine Falcon Squad.
Metal Slug Advance, you have to go through five levels of heavy
action, shooting enemy soldiers, rescuing hostages and driving
around in the eponymous supervehicle. Being able to do this without
having to pay a triple-digit price is a definite perk.
game contains well-animated characters and vehicles, and the
playable characters even have their idle animations. However, unlike
other Metal Slug games, the characters simply slump over and die
when they get attacked. The enemy soldiers don't disappear in a gust
of bones from a shotgun blast, or lurch around ablaze from the
flamethrower. This was one of the "touches" that the series has
typically had, and while understandable, it's a little unfortunate
that this couldn't be worked in, just for old times.
most of the Metal Slug games, you have a life bar, but just one
life. If you die, you can choose to start at the beginning of
the "stage" within the mission or choose another stage. This can
make the game easier in some ways and more difficult in others,
since while you don't have to worry about one-shot kills, but pits
are a bit more perilous.
A new addition to the game is the
card system. By collecting cards throughout the stages, you can
upgrade your weapons and ammunition drops, get other vehicles, or
even unlock secret rooms and levels. However, any cards you
get in the mission disappear upon death; even if you have already
completed the mission, you can't simply skip out of the mission to
collect the cards.
In short, the game is very good, despite
the flaws it may have. And at about 10% the cost of most other Metal
Slug games, it's a definite recommendation for Metal Slug
Perhaps the greatest improvement this
Metroid has over the SNES and NES versions (I've not played the
others for comparison) would be the fact that it has actual plot and
goals. In the other two versions mentioned, basically you wandered
around aimlessly gathering items until finally you were able to find
and defeat the final boss. Personally, any game where you wander
around aimlessly is lacking something. After all, if such were a
bonus, then SaGa Frontier would have done well.
Granted, some will criticize the mission system, saying the
specific tasks and lack of free exploration ruins something of the
Metroid flavor. Having never been a true die-hard Metroid fan to
begin with, I don't miss the aimless wandering. On the other hand,
there are times in Fusion when I've just received some nifty new
power-up that I noted I needed three levels back, but I can't go
back to try it out because that area is inaccessible for plot
reasons. So in these sorts of cases, some amount of free exploration
can be argued for. Still, I won't complain about the computer's
mission briefings that actually give you goals to strive for and a
meaning for your existence (and, consequently, for your playing the
One other possible gripe that some old fans may have is that most
of Samus' upgrades in this game are in fact, well, old. You spend
much of the game simply re-gathering abilities that Samus had in
previous games. This is explained well in the plot, but some might
say it would have been a lot more interesting had most or all of the
power-ups been new. Then again, it wouldn't really be Metroid if
Samus couldn't roll up into a little ball and drop bombs. And
requiring you to gather these abilities rather than just starting
the game with them gives you more to do.
So now that I've covered any possible negatives, let me touch
briefly on the positives. The graphics are quite nice, better than
the screen shots on the back of the box would lead you to believe.
(I'm amused by whoever took that screen shot with SA-X in it, as the
person had to commit suicide to get that shot. True dedication.) One
nice touch is that Samus' sprite is actually not in fact x-flipped;
her cannon is always on her right arm no matter which way she is
facing. My only complaint with the graphics is they are overall too
dark. I know this is supposed to be a gritty sci-fi game, but on the
GBA screen, most of the areas are nearly impossible to see in
anything less than optimal lighting conditions. Running around blind
in areas where you aren't really supposed to be running around blind
loses something. It's just a shame that game developers too often
forget to take this into account.
The play control is top-notch. There are a few issues where you
find yourself fighting with the controls, mostly when trying to jump
correctly off ladders, but still, overall it works well. The
developers were thoughtful enough to give you the L button for
diagonal aiming, so you don't have to worry about accidentally
moving while trying to shoot. And Samus has a lot of moves, more
than it might at first appear. Among other things, she can duck,
morph, jump, dash, high-jump, shoot in eight directions, climb
certain walls, stick to certain ceilings, and grab onto the edges of
ledges. It's also no longer necessary to use bombs to jump while in
the morph ball form, which, while not as challenging, makes
navigation easier. Samus can aim in nearly any practical direction
regardless of her current position--she can shoot straight up and
down while on a ladder for example, which allows her to dispatch
enemies sharing the ladder with her while she climbs. Coupling her
aiming abilities with various positions such as standing versus
ducking and so forth leads to a lot of maneuverability.
Finally, the game even has a little bit of the "survival horror"
genre thrown in, which mostly takes the form of one SA-X who likes
to pop in at unexpected times with the ominous sound of footsteps.
SA-X can really make your adrenaline level shoot through the roof
when it suddenly decides to walk in the door behind you...
Overall: A very solid action game with the Metroid feel, sans the
Pros: Actually grades your performance, interesting play
mechanics, can skip cutscenes
Cons: Not your typical strategy RPG, no real penalty for failure,
limited customization, too "idiot-proofed"
Onimusha has become a fairly successful franchise for Capcom-the
premise of killing the undead in a Japanese setting has been
intriguing to many gamers, and the ability to customize certain
aspects of your character has been a pretty good idea as well. How
well, however, will this translate to a strategy RPG?
The game is actually not that bad, despite the
average rating. It has many features that most games of its
type do not- you can actually skip cutscenes, and you donít
regenerate SP in the game, so you have to make each special attack
The game takes place around the time of the real downfall of Oda
Nobunaga, an infamous Japanese tyrant. This leads me to believe that
the game may be a prequel to the main Onimusha series, as from what
Iíve gathered, you seem to be fighting an undead army led by
This game is very simple. You can attack, perform one of up to
three or four specials (one of which is learned from an enhanced
weapon, the other of which are learned as you progress in levels or
reach a certain part of the game), use an item, check your status or
stay where you are with each turn. Sometimes, you will have an
option called "Issn" available, which will automatically kill one
opponent who uses a normal attack. This will earn you many souls,
which can be used to enhance your weapons.
The game also eschews certain aspects of the strategic RPG. For
instance, there is no real exploration. The game is mostly in a
straight line, and there are no stores. Instead, you earn certain
stones from enemies, which can be refined into weapons, armor,
items, or accessories as you pick up the recipes for them. This can
be an interesting gimmick, but you can only use it before a
Also, you can save in mid-fight. You don't just "suspend" the
game data until you play next; you actually save. This is an
interesting idea, but it can make the game even easier than it would
As I mentioned previously, this game can be really easy. When a
character dies, he can be used in the next battle, but he/she will
have zero experience points, without losing his experience level.
Also, for some reason, you can only earn 48 experience points at a
time. This "trial-and-error" style of gameplay hurts
Also, there is next to no customization available. You can change
the weapons and armor on your characters, but they will remain in
the class they started out in until the day they die (and then
theyíll come back for the next battle as the same class). There is
also a dearth of secrets-the only real hidden extra is
that you can get a secret character by going through the "Phantom
Tower," a sixteen floor marathon of increasing difficulty.
The notable thing about this game is that itís the first tactical
RPG Iíve seen where enemies can have more than 999 HP.
However, the game will show a maximum of 999 hit points.
This is somewhat unusual, as towards the end, youíll hit opponents
with devastating attacks which appear to have no apparent
One of the most frustrating things about this game is its extreme
friendliness. If your character has a gun, you canít aim past
your allies, and you canít aim a technique at an empty square on the
field. This can be frustrating if all enemies are just out of the
range of the spell.
For all the flaws, itís still an entertaining game, and there
seem to be some interesting missions in Onimusha Tactics, like
having to defeat the enemy within a certain number of turns or kill
two enemies in the same turn. But I canít in good conscience give it
more than a 6/10, because I expect more from Capcom than this.
Pac-Man has become like the doorknob
of the video-game world--every system under the sun seems to have
gotten a turn. There's even a section on this site that has
every known version and port of the game. So, it was only a
matter of time before Nintendo's follow-up to their most successful
system of all time got its chance at the game. But before you
write it off as another hastily thrown-together deal, hear me
out. This one has something the others don't.
The game is a collection of four Pac-Man
games... superficially, it seems to be par for the supposed
course. The four games are the original Pac-Man, Pac-Mania
(the isometric "noble experiment" that never really panned out),
Pac-Attack/-Panic, and Pac-Man Arrangement.
Did you read those last few words? I hope so,
because they make up the most significant thing about this new
compliation. The "Arrangement" version of Pac-Man has never
before been released outside of an arcade, which makes this the
first, best, and only chance (so far, at least) most people will
have to experience this game.
Some people might know about this game, but they
brought back Clyde for the first time in a long time, as well as
bringing in a fifth monster named "Kinky." This bespectacled
beastie has a penchant for fusing with the other monsters, with
interesting results; for example, Pinky turns into a bunny-monster
who can hop across the maze with incredible ease; Clyde sets down
"slow-down" pellets to trip you up, etc. It seems as though
Pac-Man may have his hands full... or he would, if he had hands.
^_^' However, Kinky seems to scare quite easily, and eating
him in his "frightened" phase will in turn frighten the other
But wait! There's more! Certain
levels have "zip" arrows that can allow you to go through monsters,
stunning them (unless they're frightened). There are also
powerups that appear along with the fruit--speed-up, mirror (a
shadow Pac-Man appears opposite you on the maze, mimicking your
movements), and capture (traps the monsters in a pot
temporarily). It's nice to know that Namco made this effort to
balance the combined extra challenge of 1) an extra monster and 2)
the prospect of "super-monsters" in this game.
But that's not all! There's one more
challenge--a final boss. That's right, this game actually has
an "endgame" stage, with a giant robot monster. Beat this guy,
and you win. It's not very easy; it involves going about the
usual business of eating dots and avoiding the monsters,
including the ones manning the gigantic robot.
As for the other games on the cartridge, there
seems to be the classic treatment given to each. Pac-Man
Classic has the full-screen (but small) and zoomed-in modes (the
trigger buttons are used to scroll up and down), complete with the
sound and intermissions. Pac-Mania is pretty good, with decent
resolution and graphics, as well as music (the Lego-esque first two
levels and intermissions seem to be here in full effect). And
Pac-Attack is... well, Pac-Attack. Not much to be said about
this particular title... screwing this one up would be a task that
would make Hercules blanch. Make of that what you will.
And as an added bonus, you can tweak certain features of the games
(lives, difficulty, and "bonus" conditions) and get tips on each
The only two things I would change are 1)
two-player support, as far as I could see, there was none; and 2)
maybe more games (Pac & Pal or Super Pac-Man, maybe--imagine
Super Pac-Man in "scroll" mode O_O').
Mass Media actually did a decent job on this
one, as opposed to the abomination that was the DC Namco
Museum. If you have a GBA, check it out.
characters, attention to detail
Cons: Repetitive. Very
In the year 1600, at the bloodied and misty
battlefield of Sekigahara, two swordsmen square off. In one corner,
the samurai Mibu Kyoshiro. In the other, the feared assassin Onime
no Kyo (or Demon-Eyes Kyo), the slayer of a thousand men. Both men
fight viciously, but Kyoshiro's sword is broken. As the battle goes
on, three warriors sent by the Sakuya clan--Sanada Yukimura, a
drunken samurai; Saizou, a ninja, and Sasuke, a yound magician-type
boy, set the plan to eliminate Kyo into motion. Saizou maintains the
mist in the field, Yukimura keeps Kyo busy, and Sasuke summons a
meteor to the area. As the meteor hits, Sasuke, Saizou and Yukimura
escape. But Kyoshiro and Kyo seem to be killed in the
Four years later, Mibu Kyoshiro is disguised as
a pharmacist, Onime no Kyo is wanted for 1,000,000 Yen, and the
three aforementioned warriors are searching for them both.
Meanwhile, Shiina Yuya, a young female bounty hunter, lures Kyoshiro
into a trap by pretending to be sick--it appears that he is also
wanted (for eating food and not paying for it). And so, she uses the
old "I'm cold--would you please warm me up?" strategy to trick him.
He soon finds himself with a triple-barreled pistol in his
Later, as Yuya has Kyoshiro tied up, a
snake-like swordsman comes by, looking to kill some people. Yuya
attempts to shoot him, but he catches the shots with his tongue and
mutates into a horrible monster. He lays waste to both Yuya and
Kyoshiro. As he's about to bring the killing blow to the druggist,
something... or someone... happens. Onime no Kyo appears where
Kyoshiro once was...
Sorry for the long set-up, but that's a rough
summary of the first episode of the anime series that this game is
based on. The game seems to play like a Dynasty Warriors-type game
(from the second one in the series on, that is)--go through an area,
cutting through as many enemies as necessary between points A and B,
eventually face a boss. Somewhat formulaic and tedious, but it's
still fun to an extent. As you progress, you'll face the same
three or four types of goons, which basically are as
--swordsman who occasionally
--swordsman who occasionally spews smoke that does
strange things to you
Each character seems to have a different style
of play--Kyoshiro/Kyo being the well-rounded character of the bunch,
Yuya being the ranged character, Yukimura being the defensive type
and Benitora, I believe, filling the "power" area.
The graphics are surprisingly impressive. There
doesn't seem to be any slowdown, and the attention to detail is
impressive. Characters leave footprints, and the supers tend to
leave dust trails where they go through. The sound includes voices
from the anime, as well as approximation of the music.
The only complaint I really have about this game
is that it's really repetitive. Other than that, the game is a lot
of fun, and the difficulty is brought the old-fashioned way--by
force of numbers. I give this an 8.
Pros: Actual difficulty, incentives to be thorough
in clearing out foes, more secret characters, able to recruit
characters, compelling story.
Cons: Might be a bit obscure for some, certain
"configurations" of characters may be arbitrary.
Here we have a game in another famous saga (at least
in Japan). The Ogre Battle saga is not quite as comprehensive as the
Final Fantasy series (in fact, the first four chapters have not yet
even been made), and the gameplay in most of them has not been as
involved (you mostly pick your army and let them go at it). However,
this series has one thing Final Fantasy doesnít-continuity. All the
games are actually connected, and not just in the sense of sharing
characters with similar names.
In this game, you play Alphonse, a young nobleboy
sent on behalf of the Holy Lodis Empire (ostensibly) to investigate
a conflict between two regions of the island of Ovis. He and his
friends are attacked by bandits, and Alphonse is knocked out to sea
while intercepting an arrow meant for his commanding officer. Upon
coming to, he meets up with a knight named Ivanna Batraal, who
offers to help you reunite with your friends. However, along the way
you meet up with the troops of the lord who sent the bandits, and
get captured. You wind up getting saved by a mysterious woman from a
secret society and caught in an intricate plot involving land wars,
family betrayal, deep-seated jealousy, and fallen angels. YesÖ
The game seems to be a lot like Final Fantasy
Tactics Advance. But in FFTA, the characters attack according to
speed, while in TO, each side takes turns (all your guys go, then
all my guys go, etc.).
The game doesnít seem to be as customizable as FFTA,
but certain traits have more impact on your charactersí development.
Each character has two special alignments: element and law. Element
can be Earth, Air, Water or Fire, while law can be Lawful, Neutral
or Chaotic. The element of a character can affect both his skill
with certain elements (an earth character can use earth spells or
weapons more effectively) and with attacking enemies (an earth
character can more effectively attack an air character, and vice
versa). The legal alignment can affect the classes open to a
character. Also, certain "emblems," earned by achieving given feats,
like hitting two enemies at once with a spear or performing a
certain number of "head-on" attacks, can change certain abilities or
open up classes.
You can also recruit new fighters regularly, either
by "buying" them at a store or by persuading them mid-fight. The
effectiveness of persuasion can be affected by the class of both
characters, as well as any "emblems" one might have.
Also, in battle, you have a "support" system, which
affects your abilities. Each characterís confidence is affected by
both allies and enemies in close proximity. For instance, a "beast
tamer" will provide +1 (support) to allied beasts within three
panels, while a character with an "exorcism" emblem will cause -1
(fear) to undead enemies within three panels. This affects your
attack strength and accuracy.
Furthermore, each class has a different type of
movement both on land and in water. Certain characters can only hop
up one level or down two, others might be able to move in snow
without penalties, others still might be able to walk across water.
Also related to terrain is the elemental influence of the terrain.
Snow will enhance water attacks performed on it, while lave may
affect fire attacks.
There are actually very many classes and races to
control in this game. In addition to the more than dozen classes
available to each gender (though there are liberal amounts of
overlapping), there are "demi-humans," beasts, dragons, undead,
fiends (gremlins, gorgons, etc.) and transmigrated beings (Angel
Knights, Liches). Only humans can equip spells for the most part,
but most creatures can learn abilities as they level up, such as
"breath" attacks for dragons and healing abilities for
As the story unfolds, youíll find your main
character questioning not only his new allies, but also his old
friends. In the end, the decision will be yours to make, but it
depends on how far youíre willing to go to achieve certain goals.
Also, certain battles will be changed according to which path you
take, as well as the ending (of which there are five).
The only problem I can really think of in this game
is that the "setup" of your character seems to be arbitrary. This
can be more problematic for the legal alignment, but that can be
remedied with the right items. Overall, this game earns a 9/10, and
I look forward to any other games of this nature Atlus may want to
make in the future.
Toukon Retsuden is another great wrestling
series. It's enjoyed great success on such platforms as the
Playstation, the N64, the Dreamcast, and even The Little Engine That
Not Only Couldn't, but Had No Business Even Trying, the WonderSwan.
Now, the Game Boy Advance gets its turn. Not particularly noteworthy
in the annals of history, except for the fact that this is a 3-D to
The Toukon Retsuden series deals with the
Japanese promotion New Japan Pro Wrestling, a federation which is
very much like our World Championship Wrestling, right down to doing
interpromotional deals and having their own New World Order. Hulk
Hogan even won his first title there--and he was the first to win
the title! Certainly, a promotion with a good amount of history. But
since most people haven't played this game, I'll give a quick
rundown of how this particular installment works.
The game follows a simple, intuitive grapple
system: B does striking attacks (punches, kicks, chops), A does
suplex-type moves (suplexes, slams, drivers and bombs), and R does
submission holds (and the odd pinning combination). The moves you
can do depend on 1) your position relative to the opponent (front,
back, etc.), 2) your opponent's position relative to you (on the
ground, standing up, in the corner), and 3) your opponent's state of
consciousness (normal, groggy, very groggy). It's easy to pick up,
but hard to master, as the CPU can reverse with relative ease;
however, the cheapness doesn't quite get out of hand.
The characters are pretty interesting, but most
people might not have heard of most of them. The ones you may be
familiar with if you followed WCW pretty closely are: Masahiro Chono
(nWo member), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (also nWo), Scott Norton (nWo),
Super-J (aka nWo Sting), and of course, the papa of the Palm Strike,
Jushin "Thunder" Lyger, who headlined the first Nitro with the late
Brian Pillman). Also, followers of PRIDE, the MMA promotion in
Japan, may be familiar with Don Frye, who seems to be an unstoppable
force in the league--he's here, too. Finally, luchador fans might
have heard of a doctor by the name of Dr. Wagner, Jr., hailing form
The career mode seems to put you through a good
number of matches, gauntlet runs, and even the odd tournament (G1
Climax, King of the Jr. Heavyweights). You'll also get to join or
reject membership from Team 2000 (the Japanese nWo as it stands now)
and BATT (some faction that talks about "puroresu* LOVE"). By going
through this mode with a created superstar, you can unlock new moves
and characters (who seem to be either templates or unlicensed
wrestlers). I've seen the Stunner and the Last Ride in here, among
other famous finishers.
The create-a-wrestler mode is pretty neat in
this one. You can change so many details about your character--the
sleeves, the shirt, the gloves, the pads, the pants, the skin tone,
the head, the stance, and even the date of birth and nationality.
You can set up to four specials and one finisher.
As for the presentation of the game. The
characters are large and animated very well, even "selling" injuries
to limbs by limping and clutching their arm. The music is fairly
generic, and there's only one ring--but it has an walkway instead of
the ramp seen in most US promotions. They even have something of an
entrance, but it's not much--stand in the gate, taunt, walk, do
another taunt, get in the ring, taunt some more. I wish that at
least they could have had something like custom ring entry, like
luchadores leapfrogging the ropes and big guys stepping over them.
But you can't win 'em all.
The game even has the "Critical Combos" from the
series that will more or less devastate your opponent and get the
crowd roaring. This was an interesting touch.
I have to give this one a 9 as well. It could
have been better (why hasn't a GBA wrestling game had steel chairs
or tables yet? >_<) but not by much. And it's better than Road
to Wrestlemania or *shudder* WCW/nWo Thunder. A quick caveat,
though--this game is very much in Japanese. Including the extensive
text in the career mode. However, for the moves, you can check what
they do in the move edit mode by hitting right on the d-pad to
figure out what you want for your instrument of