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The Halo series has always championed heroics and bravery.  Fighting insurmountable odds in the face of a relentless foe.  And while this still holds true, there is a new element that this latest installment to the franchise introduces.  Greed.  Contrary to the rave reviews, hype and despite the fact that the game was developed in only a year, I am not impressed.  This game, at it's core,  is an expansion pack (as orginally proposed) watered down to resemble a completed product.   It has all the Halo components, but fails to deliver a memorable experience.  For example, there are no Elites, (Yes, I know they were busy handling Master Chief) and aside from a silenced SMG and revamped pistol, no new weapons.  I like the game, but it plays more like a Halo Greatest Hits Collection Redux than a new offering. Very little new is offered especially if you've already purchased the multi-player maps previously. See the Value section for more explanation.

Gameplay: 8.5

Being an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper means you don't have the rechargeable shields and gravity defying leaps of MC, so Bungie takes a nostalgic step backwards and makes you find those good old fashioned health packs.  Which by itself is not a bad thing, but just one more thing you have done before.  The level design is also a throwback to previous titles.  The one thing I really looked forward to, was exploring the city.  But it is so dark and vacant (You will have to use the ODST VISR ((the equilvent of a HUD and a flashlight)) throughout most of the game) But  I have a question for every reviewer and fan: Was anyone else disappointed as to how little there is to do in the city?  For an occupied strategic location, such as New Mombasa, the opposition seems very scarce and weak.  You can't interact with most doors or any civilian vehicles; Gosh, this feels like another unfinished vision like... Assassins Creed?! While most reviews are boasting a 6-7 hour campaign, that timeline includes a lot of walking between objectives, fighting re-spawning covenant troops and passing countless non-interactive objects.  The one exception being Intel Stations, that when activated,  gives you an audio recording and story boarded account of the event leading up to your arrival. If you weren't less than impressed up until this point, this should clinch it.  Health packs and diaries...like we haven't seen these before. Blech!

Sound: 7.5

A great soundtrack and the weapon effects are just what you would expect.  However, the city itself seems abnormally quiet and even the alternate levels (like the highway and animal reserve) are just absent of any unique ambiance.  Likewise, the voice acting toggles between good to horrible while the dialogue and writing is just plain horrible.  Very heavy handed and D-movie stuff.   Also don't expect any new clever grunt lines, they're all recycled.

Value: 7.0

Let's tell it like it is.  This is a game that could've been offered for:

  • Campaign and the Firefight Mode for $29.99 or as DLC.
  • The three additional Multi-player maps as DLC.

But instead you are paying 60 bucks for a modest 5 hours and access to download all the multiplayer maps you probably already own.  For the more casual gamer, it might be worth it.  But for your hardcore Halo fan, you will buy it if only for the new maps and modes but the value for you is less than extraordinary.

Overall: 8.0

Let's call a spade a spade.  It was no coincidence that right before E3 Bungie abandoned the expansion pack idea of Halo 3: Recon, only to re-classify it as Halo 3: ODST and decided at the last minute to include the Firefight mode to warrant the price increase.  Knowing that the brand would sell itself, they capitalized on it .  While most won't hold any grudges due to an the Microsoft contractual agreement, I still find myself perplexed that almost no one has outlined the games shortcomings.  Or maybe they hope we'll forget it, a s we stand in line for Halo Reach to be released in 2010.

Posted
AuthorGunfart

The Batman You Have Been Dreaming Of!This latest installment to the Batman franchise does convincingly what no other effort (besides the comics) could achieve.  It creates a viable argument that the Dark Knight is no less insane than the prisoners he captures and incarcerates:  A central theme that separates "Batman" from the Dark Knight stories. Developer Rocksteady Studios then expounds on that idea with unprecedented actions and pacing that elevates it so far above any previous comic book game, you will need an oxygen mask to take it all in.

Gameplay: 9.5

Do not judge this game by it's demo.  While the demo felt heavy handed and disjointed leaving me titillated and yet strangely confused, the actual release is flawless in it's presentation and execution.  This 3rd person game seamlessly mixes action, stealth and exploration in a large environment.  The combat is a throwback to the original Prince of Persia, in other words, an eloquent button masher.  But the moves are varied enough to keep your interest.  Inflicting justice via punishment is rarely this much fun.  The camera tracks the action perfectly as you slam wave after wave of Joker's henchman. Plus you get health, armor and Batarang upgrades throughout the game.

The standouts in the game include:

  1. They perfectly balance the action as they incorporate Batman from the cerebral detective to the hard nosed fighter.
  2. The use of an emotional AI with the henchman; As their reaction and moves are directly influenced by the fear you invoke.
  3. No load screens!  No break in the action, yeah!
  4. Gadgets and upgrades acquired can be used in new and inventive ways to topple the bad guys.
  5. They employ the classic: easy to play but hard to master strategy in their challenge modes.

And while most games would have just dumped Batman into Arkham's cell blocks, Rocksteady really put the extra work into creating the entire island for you to explore and gives you a rich history of the fabled prison from it's roots to the present day.

The story mode alone along with The Riddler's challenges will take you 15-20 hours and be prepared for some good old fashioned Boss battles.

Sound: 9.5

Like in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, the team did not skip out on the talent and the voice acting is paramount to this games success.  Reprising their animated roles,  Mark Hamill is the Joker, Kevin Conroy is Batman, and Arleen Sorkin is Harley Quinn.  The score is meticulous and stays clearly on Batman and his trials on this, his longest night.  Bravo!

Graphics: 9.5

You can tell these guys and gals did their homework.  Of course Batman looks magnificent,  but Arkham is the real show stopper here.  A modern day Alcatraz.  The attention given to the architecture is exceptional.  It really gives you the feeling of this once magnificent east coast estate that has fallen into decades of disrepair and ruin. Throughout the facility you can see influences that range from Gothic to Victorian. And then building on that, there are terminals and state-of-the-art containment grids and contraptions that really add to the illusion that this place has had a long history of occupation and chaos.

Also, pay attention to the cape.  I could watch that tattered material for hours.

Value: 9

I Weep For a Proper BatarangI must first express my extreme disappointment in the Collectors Edition.  The Batarang was plastic, with worn (battle damaged) marks and there wasn't even a bat symbol on it.  14 inches of Chinese plastic. (Blech!)   Go online and find a respectable substitute.  The patient diary doesn't contain anymore information you could get by completing the game and the bonus disc is something they could have posted online.  All that aside, the game is great enough for me to dismiss them all.  The main story and challenge modes are enough to satisfy the most die hard Bat enthusiast.

Overall: 9.5

This game is the David that swallowed Goliath.  They challenged themselves to take on a big, scary, corporate  franchise and they not only took it to town, they gave it drinks and called it their bride.  A monumental example of what can be accomplished when researching the material really means something, as opposed to simply tacking it on a press release.  They take the best of the series creators and contributors (special note to acknowledge Neal Adams and Frank Miller and of course, Bob Kane)  and make it their own.

Easily, Game of the Year material.

Splosion-Man-10 Ah, Science.  That volatile little powder keg of discovery and mistakes.  A playground for man to play god, create monsters and then have them run amok in their technological fortresses.  Good stuff.  And a good basic plot for developer Twisted Pixel Games Xbox Live Arcade title, 'Splosion Man.

I had the good fortune of running into Michael Wilford the CEO of the company in the Xbox booth at Comic-Con last week.  He was playing the game by himself and I crept over to take a look.  He paused, saw me and said, "Have you had a chance to play this yet?"  I said, "I had to tear myself away from it to come here."  He smiled.  I had no idea who he was but we chatted for several minutes about the game.  He told me that after their first game The Maw, it took a team of only 9 people 6 months to make it, using their own proprietary engine. Wow!  That's people who love what they do and it shows in their latest offering.

At it's core the game is a 2D-ish puzzle platformer.   You run and jump and super-jump exploding up to 3 times before you have to re-charge on a flat surface or sliding down walls.  There's exploding barrels and nitro-barrels, plasma barriers and switches.  It's not new stuff but they take what's already been imagined and make it uniquely their own. Give some of that Old Time Religion, as the song says.

Splosion-Man-4

Gameplay: 9.5

With 50 levels of single player and and additional 50 levels of multi-player this game is a beast to reign in.  And the difficulty ramps up very quickly.  This is not a Ninja Gaiden throw-your-controller-out-the-window but you will crack the casing at least a few times. From talking with Michael there were some concerns that having so many levels would distract your average gamer, but the clever level design justifies the additional expanse and only adds to the games value and appeal.  The pacing of the game is exceptional.  Certain levels feel impossible but they smartly have save points that allow you to continue and recoup.  As you play through they also include FREE gamer pics and a premium theme for completing the game.  This is something, every developer should take a note from.  Reward the PLAYERS!

Sound:  9.5

The sound here is better than any arcade title released yet.  From the explosions to the chattering of the main character everything here is fun and conducive to the overall experience.  Special accolades must be made to the composers:

Joshua R. Mosley: Single-Player tracks

John DeBorde: Muliti-Player tracks

Matt "Chainsaw" Chaney: "Donuts Go Nuts" track.  This is the best track since Portal's "Still Alive."

You  can download the entire soundtrack at www.Splosionman.com

Graphics: 9

I don't want to give away too much, but as fast paced as this game is, hover around the rest points and check out the environments. From the Pause menu to to the opening screens there's lots to see and take in.  And as you would expect the explosions are beautiful, man!

Value: 9

There is 100's of hours of gameplay here.  Even if you take the "Cowards Way"  there are still the time trials and multi-player.  I can't wait to see the DLC for this game.  I would personally love to see a replay mode where you can revisit your best times or other players attempts and slow the action down to see all the gory details.

Overall: 9.5

The best value I have seen for the money in years.  And I am an Xbox Live Founding Member.  This is undoubtably the smartest 10 bucks (800 MS  Points) you could spend.

On a personal note:  Please let me know when you guys/gals announce your next project! An MMO?  Please?!

In the 90s Lucasarts had hit after hit and The Secret of Monkey Island was arguably they best. Guybush Threepwood returns along with everyone else in the original game. All they did was update the graphics, add voices,change the HUD, and gameplay. The story is the same and the jokes are all intact. One of the cool features is that you can switch between the new version and the old version on the fly. Yeah that was then. We need an upgrade.

The graphics is the first thing you notice. The art style is a lot like the Escape From Monkey Island but not at the same time. The character models are the same but a little bit more shell shaded. It looks like a beautiful art game. The water looks like a painting. The are few close ups on characters during the game and they don't animate the lips. It's a little weird some of the time but not enough to be a distraction.

You are embarking on the same adventure you did when you had to run it on floppies that you bought in a store. I know that's ancient. The characters are updated with the voices that were hired for the more recent release Escape From Monkey Island that was playable for the last generation of consoles. It really brings the characters to life. Besides who reads in video games any more? Who reads any more for that matter? The voices make the game pop. The delivery is spot on and breathes life into the old lines.

Ooooh they have definition and shadows it's so new and modern.

Old schoolers will not like that the gameplay is changed. I think it was a necessary update for the market today. Kids wouldn't even begin to know what to do with the old interface. Did they update it perfectly? No I think they could have made it so much better. They just took away the actions that were always on the screen and added them to a drop down menu attached to a shoulder button. It was a nice attempt but you still play the game the same way.

Who knows why people don't make games like this any more I think it is a great system. Yes it's not intensely action packed and it is very linear. The joy you get from solving a puzzle and hearing a new line of dialogue can't be matched in any Grand Theft Auto game. Well okay bad example you get to drive a tank in GTA3...and the bank robbery in GTA4 was amazing. It's hilarious and you instantly love all the characters. The replay value of this game is directly related to the characters and dialogue options.

The price tag is 800 points and that might be the deal breaker. It is the same game so if you haven't played it get it. If you have then just get the demo and look how pretty it is for the small amount of time you have.

It's been a long time since I've found a fighting game that I like. It seems as if the older I get, the more I require that the games I play are somewhat phenomenal. I played Street Fighter 4, and I was basically unimpressed. It still can't compare to Street Fighter 2. I've played the Soul Caliburs. They're not very exciting. BlazBlue (which is pronounced Blaze Blue), on the other hand, seems to be doing something right. BlazBlue Cover Art

What you'll notice initially about BlazBlue (which is available for the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3) is that it is Guilty Gear. The resemblance is far from remarkable considering that both were created by Arc System Works/Aksys. Which isn't a problem considering that Guilty Gear was good. Very good. The second thing you'll notice is that it's really easy to do special attacks. These attacks, called drives, can be used with the press of a single button. Kind of like Super Smash Brothers, which was also good. The end result is that BlazBlue is Guilty Gear crossed with Super Smash Brothers. I find this concept to be most  intriguing.

Gameplay

Gameplay is by far the most important thing in a fighting game. It is important to be able to make your character move how you think it should move. BlazBlue is not completely helpful in this regard. Character recovery is quite a bit slower than in Guilty Gear, but this can be fixed by playing better. But since, I don't want to have to play better to recover properly,  this is a problem for me. Aside from that, the controls work great. The drive system allows you to easily control and attack without too much effort. Combo attacks have varying difficulties, but it's nothing that you couldn't learn. Blocking is limited, which isn't a bad thing, though I find that I often mispress and end up burning all my shields at once. If we disregard my inability to play, we'll see that the system is pretty solid.

I rate the gameplay an 8/10, because I want faster recovery.

Story

The game has a story. It's basically incomprehensible. But, it's a fighting game.  So, who cares? Not me.

I rate the story a 1/1 for having one.

Sound

I'm actually less than enchanted with the game's sound. I believe that this is because I never hear it. The sound effects are pretty loud, and they overpower the actual game music. In doing this, I am very aware that I am playing a game. I've actually struggled to hear the music, and it's just impossible while playing. Given that the game has a soundtrack, I assume that the music is good. But even still, it doesn't draw me in.

I rate the sound a 6/10 because it didn't annoy me, but it didn't call to me.

Characters

Yes, that's all of them.

Having characters you want to play is the heart of a successful game. This is true regardless of genre, but in a fighting game it is of utmost important. BlazBlue has good characters. You have an ice swordsman, a devil swordsman, a future robot swordsman, the giant angry looking guy, a robot girl, a girl with guns,  a guy with a doll, a weird Miyazaki looking thing, a vampire, a cat girl, a boobilicious girl, and what is possibly a cross between an entertainer and a ninja. A ninjatainer, if you will. Out of those, there are only a few that I have absolutely no interest in ever playing. Unfortunately, since there are only twelve characters, a few is about 25%. That's not a good thing.

I rate the characters a 9/12, since I like 9/12 of them.

Graphics

Look past the tits and legs and see the background!

When I said the first thing you would notice was that BlazBlue was Guilty Gear, what I meant was that the first thing you would notice is that BlazBlue is incredibly pretty. Your jaw will drop from how well the background art is rendered. The characters are pretty good too, and watching breasts jiggle can sometimes be distracting. (Though, I find that to be true in most aspects in life.) The graphics are immeasurably detailed, and seem to be showing off what video game consoles can produce. It's all very impressive.

I rate the graphics a 15/10. I'm writing the review, and I can do that.

Overall 39/43 = 90.6%

I guess individual scores don't matter, especially considering that I just make things up as I go along. What's important is the overall game experience. And...the game is fun. Really fun, in fact. I rarely play console games these days, but I've devoted a fair amount of time to this one. I imagine that I will continue devoting time to this one. So, if you're into fighting games, I highly suggest BlazBlue.  Just remember one thing, Jin is a damned cheater.

Available on WiiWare for 600 Points! Sometimes downloading games via Nintendo's WiiWare service feels a lot like gambling.  Since there are no free demos, you pay for the price of admission and hope you are not disappointed.  So on Monday I rolled the dice with a title called Bit Boy!! published and developed by Bplus and all I can say is that it is the best 6 bucks I have EVER spent, except for that one time in Mexico but I digress....

You control a Bit Boy pixel named Kubi as he traverses through a variety of worlds modeled after the numerous generations of gameplays past.

Now I know I have stated in past reviews that love in a game cannot be programmed but I am saying it again, so there.  This is one of those very rare gems where you can tell the talented people who made this love their games and their history.

Gameplay: 9

Your game worlds are divided into 6 categories: 4 bit (Bit Boy), 8 bit (Bit Boy II), 16 bit (Super Bit Boy), 32 bit (Bit Boy 3D), 64 bit(Bit Boy 64) and lastly 128 bit (Bit Boy Wii).  The idea is that you must rescue your pixelated friends to end each level.  Each bit world contains 5 maps that you must conquer to be admitted into the higher levels.   Now I could rattle off a half dozen games that emulate the kind of game-play represented. But I won't.  That's the real fun and magic behind the experience, especially if you're from the Pong generation.  As the game unfolds you will re-experience the joy and frustrations of your gaming career.  The hook is, that like all gamers,  you want to see what's next and that gleefully pushes you to finish even the most frustrating levels.  I have rarely smiled continuously for 6+ hours.

There is also a co-op mode and once a level is completed you can collect diamonds in warp mode.  It's a faster version of the game as you race to collect points and outlast the digital demons that pursue you.

Plus you can employ 2 different control schemes.  The Wii remote can either act as a virtual joystick or you can lay it on the side and play like an old nes controller.

Graphics: 9

I have seen my fair share of retro throw backs. Most simply emulate or re-create arcade greats but few get the subtle details right.  From the choice of colors to the textures used every element of this game gets the era right.  In my opinion this game should be studied at any university that offers courses in video game history.

Sound: 8

While the primitive soundtrack and sound effects lends itself well to the game, I would have preferred to have seen a progression as the levels advanced. It's a small criticism and nothing that deters from the experience.  Just a minor detail from a highly critical reviewer.  You can all remain seated.

Overall: 9

While most developers and publishers are pushing for the next big next generation console game, it's refreshing to see a game that prides itself so highly on gameplay and fun.  That's the foundation of ANY game and remember you read it here first.

This is the kind of game that spawns Fanboys (the good kind) and I consider myself one of them.  And for only 600 Wii Points (6 US Dollars) this is an insanely great value.  Oh and if you don't buy this game, you are not my best friend and I won't invite you to my birthday party.

Fans of this should also check out Retro Game Challenge for the DS and Cubivore for the Gamecube.

Available on Xbox 360 (Reviewed), Playstation 3 and Wii The original Overlord developed by Triumph Studios and published by Codemasters released in 2007 for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 and Microsoft Windows was a huge sleeper hit. It took an innovative and  fresh approach in creating a darker Fable-like world that incorporated unique gameplay elements as you loom and devour townships with hordes of minions to do your evil bidding.  Slaughtering sheep and setting grass on fire to flush out enemies was a welcome departure from the standard RPG being offered at the time for consoles.  Fans of the series appreciated the high production values and the wicked sense of humor presented.  And like most great titles, it was the smaller attention to details that made it great.  Not that it didn't have issues, but surely those shortcoming would be addressed in the sequel.  Wrong!

As with any follow-up, you want to keep the aspects that made it great while improving and expanding it's core mechanics.  And with a few exceptions,  Overlord II has largely failed.

Gameplay: 6

Like the original, you use the RS (right stick) to control the camera and direct your minions and the the LS (left stick) to move your Overlord through the terrain. Unfortunately, the scale seems almost smaller in this game.  Instead of creating a larger more open world, it feels cramped and heavy handed as you drudge through to find your next target marker. The level design is confusing and frustrating as you try to control your evil horde and target objectives.  This coupled with the wonky camera and poor AI makes the game frustrating.  Not because you're doing anything wrong but because more times than not you are competing with a poor targeting system and unclear objectives.   There is also little value in upgrading your armor and you can easily complete the game with only upgrading your minions. Just don't count on them to retrieve gold and treasure for you. Your faithful are as stupid as a drunk supermodel as they neglect to target loot and upgrades to give to their master.

Now you do get the chance to pummel the empire and citizens with catapults and board ships to not so distant islands.  But the best addition is that your puny friends can now ride wolfs, spiders and fiery salamanders to access a limited number of areas, so you can't say the developers didn't at least try to include new gameplay elements, but these fall short in the limited range they can explore and the booty they retrieve.

I hope you like load times, this game has them everywhere.  I could forgive an Xbox title for this due to the limited hardware but with the muscle of the current consoles,  there is no excuse.

Sound: 6

The sound bits are consistent with the original.  You hear the banter of the minions and the epic orchestral soundtracks. But look closely and the characters dialogues sync up like a bad foreign subtitle.  Explosions are flat and frankly uninspired.  If not anything, the game is consistent in that the shortcomings permeate every area.

Graphics: 6.5

I have been flamed on this one but I ask you to put in the original Overlord and compare the two.  Clipping, frame rates and general detail on everything is substandard.  Even when you walk through banners in your tower they just hang there and let you pass.  The cut scenes are fairly well done, but the editing is horrible.  You get a few seconds, then fade to black and another appears to pick up where the last left off.  This happens countless times and only confirms my suspicions that this game was not given the proper resources of talent to fully realize it's potential.

Overall: 6

I know that based on their track record Triumph Studios is capable of a much better, polished game.  And for whatever reason they have failed to build on what could have been a great property.  If you doubt my criticism of the game, please go rent it and try to find a multiplayer game.  You will have to try several times,  as nobody is playing and I traded mine in just as soon as I completed it. Do yourself a favor and buy the first Overlord used for 15 bucks or so.

I will also play the Wii version developed by Climax Studios just to see if the game is worth a second look.

For all you haters, check out my gamertag: gunfart just so you know I completed the game.

Available on Xbox360, PS3, PC and Wii Although officially Ghostbusters: The Video Game is to serve as a 3rd virtual movie for the franchise, it is largely an expansion and revisiting of the previous 2 films peppered with new backstory and dialogue. Which is not a bad thing, because personally,  I would have been pissed if Stay Puft and Vigo had not been represented in the game. And For the most part developer Terminal Reality and publisher Atari get it right largely because of their persistence to have the project piloted by the previous episodes and the original cast. Written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis it features ALL the original voices including Ernie Hudson and yes, the legendary Bill Murray.  (On a side note, I want to personally thank Mr. Murray for his contribution).

Gameplay: 8

First the bad news.  In the single player campaign there is NO co-op mode.  This is a huge omission as after seeing the the game in various phases of development at trade shows for the last 2 years, fans were adamant that this be included.  We wanted our friends to share in the experience as their favorite respected ghostbuster wrangled the paranormal pandemonium.  And while you can team up with your friends in multiplayer, it would have been an exceptional experience in the single player campaign.  Amen.  Now, for the copious good stuff.  Although you play as the "rookie" new recruit, the game makes you feel as though you are a real part of the team.  This game, unlike many licensed titles, does not feel like it was ported and molded to fit into an existing platform.  While many developers would have chosen to build on an existing engine (ie. The Unreal Engine)  Terminal Reality chose the bold move to develop a new one they call the Infernal Engine.  This really allowed the team to get the physics, particle effects and lighting needed to truly capture the ghostbusting experience.

Trapping ghosts is fun!  You can analyze them, discover their weakness, and either blast or wrangle them with your proton stream into a trap.  It's just like the movies!  Your destroy objects around you, upgrade your Proton Pack and PKE Meter abilities, set traps and recover them.  Evening having to vent the overheated pack in the middle of the mayhem contributes to the immersive quality of the game.  It is very apparent from the first minutes these guys and gals love the property they are re-creating. My only complaint is that the level design is extremely linear.  You trot from point A to point B, save game and repeat.  When you get to a big open space, brace yourself  for a ghost battle.  The design just sucker punches any real surprises you might expect from your supernatural foes.

The biggest surprise in this title is that multiplayer is not just an afterthought tacked on at the last minute.  Teaming up with your friends and blasting away the afterlife for cash and upgrades only highlights how great this game could have been had they included this feature in the single player mode.

Sound: 7.5

Hope you like Ray Parker Jr.'s original theme song.  Actually, you only hear this during the load screens as the soundtrack to the original movie plays throughout most of the game.  It creates a great background and lends itself nicely to the games spookiness.  A little repetitive at times but most people will hardly notice.

Graphics: 8.5

The rendering here is beautiful, unlike the Wii version that chose the cartoon styling, everything from the character likeness and their movements to the Proton Packs and the Ecto 1 are faithfully recreated.  I could watch the proton stream bursts for hours.

Overall Value: 8

If you ever wanted a Proton Pack or Ghostbuster Flight Suit, this is your game. Go buy it now. Even if you just liked the movies there is enough variety and (gasp) ENTERTAINMENT (We sometimes forget that in the gaming world) to warrant a buy here.  Fans will enjoy and appreciate the care given to the franchise and new players can expect to be thoroughly entertained (there's that word again) for hours.

FF4 Logo Back in 1991, a game was released in the United States called Final Fantasy II. At the time, few people realized that it was really the fourth Final Fantasy, and the Japanese were holding out on us. It didn’t matter. Final Fantasy IV was an epic tale, lasting anywhere between 20 and 60 hours to complete, and spanning across two worlds. It was a tale of heroism, jealousy, redemption, and betrayal culminating in a battle against the most evil of evils. June 1, 2009, a game was released in the United States called Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. Japan, of course, has had the game for quite some time.

When you release a sequel to a beloved game, two things happen. The first is that every fan becomes uncontrollably excited. The second is that every fan becomes uncontrollably afraid that their childhood is about to be ruined. The second feeling is considerably more overpowering, and rather than try out a game, most people will just pretend it never happened. Or deny its existence after having their childhood ruined by it. Chrono Cross? Never heard of it.

That being said, I adore Final Fantasy IV. So much, that I was willing to risk all my fond memories on this new release. Plus, since it was released on Wiiware, I didn’t have to leave my room to get it.  I’m happy to say that my childhood is still in tact. It’s my adulthood that was offended. I’ll explain.

The sprites haven't changed!

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years takes place 20 years after Final Fantasy IV. Cecil and Rosa (your main characters from the original) are now king and queen of Baron, have ushered in an era of peace, and have a son with a stupid name (Ceodore). Of course, utopia just isn’t possible, and monsters have started resurfacing. A character similar to Rydia (another main character) is going around collecting crystals (which are powerful for some unstated reason) and just generally causing trouble. This is all introductory stuff, and I haven’t ruined the storyline for anyone who wants to play the game yet.

I can’t go on until I explain what I disliked. The game released for 800 Wii points ($8), which I thought was a deal. Little did I know, the game was going to be released in nine episodes, each with its own cost. Currently, only two of the episodes are out, with the second costing 300 Wii points. When all is said and done, the game will go from a deal at $8 to a total cost of $37. While $37 isn’t excessively expensive for a game, I still think it’s a bit of a lame trick to not state the cost up front. So, not only will you have to wait to complete the game, but it’ll cost 4.5x it’s original stated value. Yay...

OMG! Cecil, Rosa and Cid!

Cost aside, I’m still uncertain of whether or not the game is good. Upon playing it, you’ll notice that the maps, graphics, and music are almost identical to the original game. The characters have aged, and now have different templates, but overall the world is the same. Most of your adventures will bring you back to places you explored 18 years ago, and the game wins for reminiscence. On top of that, the introductory chapter has an intriguing plot, filled with all the things you’d expect out FF4. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed upon playing Episode 2, Rydia’s Tale. Episode 2 seemed to lack any sort of storyline whatsoever and was just an extended grind.  I fear the rest of the chapters will be similar.

As for changes, they’re pretty much all in the battle system. Phases of the moon affect the strength of certain attacks, which is really just an annoyance. They’ve also added a band system, where multiple characters can team up to do a special attack. As far as I can tell, those attacks are less than useful, and you probably won’t use them much.

Overall, the game seems to have potential. Obviously, you could figure out whether or not it was good just by looking at Wikipedia. The Japanese have had the full game for quite some time now. But, that really ruins the fun, doesn’t it? For those of you who loved the original, I’d suggest checking out the first episode at the very least. It’s pretty damned cool.

Available on Xbox360 and PS3

After eight years the fight is thankfully back on Mars and developer Volition's Geo- Mod engine takes a giant leap forward.  Originally released for the Ps2 in 2001, A new miner takes on the fight to finally bring a lasting peace to the red planet and end the planets global tyranny from the EDF (Earth Defense Force).
Gameplay
Volition hones their skills acquired in making Saints Row and Saints Row 2 and builds a huge sandbox environment.  Much of the mission based gameplay plays a lot like the Pandemic's original Mercenaries title. (Not that crappy sequel that EA published, blech!) You choose a vehicle and mission, complete it and then run back to your safehouse to get your warning level down.  What really separates this tile from the pack is the newly designed Geo-Mod 2.0 engine that allows you to literally blow up almost anything you can see.  After blowing up an installation you then collect scrap which can be exchanged for weapon and armor upgrades.  The weapons are diverse and interesting enough to keep any hardcore shooter happy, however the vehicles are another story.  Driving on Mars is pretty standard no matter what vehicle you are using.  You will frequently get that odd physics bounce that send your truck flying uncontrollably, much like the driving in Mass Effect.  Most noticeable and extremely disappointing was the lack of any air power units.   The whole time I am being chased by the EDf Vetrtibirds I was thinking, "When do I get to fly that?"  After finishing the game the sad answer was, "You don't."  Maybe Downloadable Content (DLC) can remedy this exclusion. On the plus side you do get super armored exoskeletons with rockets, so all is not completely lost.
Multiplayer is really what this game has going for it.  Not only can you destroy building and set charges it features a variety of special ability back packs that really add to the replay value.   With 10 different ones to choose from you can do everything from creating  tremors to x-ray vision.  It's obvious this where the developers spent a majority of their resources.
Sound
A very cool subtle score that lends itself to the vast martian plains and dusty conditions.  What is lacking though is the radio.  You do a heck of a lot of driving in this game so a variety of stations to choose from would have been ideal.  Radio Raheem would not like Mars.
Graphics
Mars has never looked better.  It looks and feels like a planet that has torn apart from their civil war. Flaming wreckage litters the towering totalitarian strongholds and monuments. Dust storms obscure your vision and creates a hazy sunny glaze.  With 6 sections to liberate, each feels unique enough to let you know where you are.
Value
The value is here is all in the multiplayer.  While you can go back and complete missions after the main campaign is finished.  The single player still gets repetitive very quickly.  No more hostage release or vehicle transport missions, please!
Overall
I do feel like I am being a bit harsh on this title, but only because they have laid a solid foundation for what could have a must have game.  I sincerely hope that the team will put some time into expanding the title with fresh DLC as that could really help sway the public into getting more out of their entertainment dollar.

After eight long years the fight is thankfully back on Mars and developer Volition's Geo- Mod engine takes a giant leap forward.  Originally released for the Ps2 in 2001, A new miner takes on the fight to finally bring a lasting peace to the red planet and end the planet's global tyranny from the EDF (Earth Defense Force).

Gameplay: 7.5

Volition hones their skills acquired in making Saints Row and Saints Row 2 and builds a huge sandbox environment.  Much of the mission based mechanics play a lot like  Pandemic Studios original Xbox Mercenaries title. (Not that crappy sequel that EA published, blech!) You choose a vehicle and mission, complete it and then run back to your safehouse to get your warning level down.  What really separates this title from the pack is the newly designed Geo-Mod 2.0 engine that allows you to literally blow up almost anything you can see.  After seizing an installation,  you then collect scrap which can be exchanged for weapon and armor upgrades.  The weapons are diverse and interesting enough to keep any hardcore shooter happy, however the vehicles are another story.  Driving on Mars is pretty standard no matter what vehicle you are using.  You will frequently get that odd physics bounce that sends your truck flying uncontrollably, much like the driving in Mass Effect.  Most noticeable and extremely disappointing was the lack of any air power units.   The whole time I am being chased by the EDf Vetrtibirds I was thinking, "When do I get to fly that?"  After finishing the game the sad answer was, "You don't."  Maybe Downloadable Content (DLC) can remedy this exclusion. On the plus side,  you do get super armored exoskeletons with rockets,  (think Lost Planet) so all is not completely lost.

Multiplayer is really what this game has going for it.  Not only can you destroy buildings and throw mine charges, it features a variety of special ability back packs that really add to the replay value.   With 10 different ones to choose from you can do everything from creating earthquakes to spying in x-ray vision.  It's obvious this where the developers spent a majority of their resources.

Sound: 7

A very cool orchestral score lends itself to the vast martian plains and dusty conditions.  What is noticeably lacking though is the radio.  You do a heck of a lot of driving in this game so a variety of stations to choose from would have been ideal.  Give me a Radio Free Red Planet station!

Graphics: 8.5

Mars has never been better represented.  It looks and feels like a planet that has torn apart from their civil war. Flaming wreckage litters the towering totalitarian strongholds and monuments. Dust storms obscure your vision and creates a hazy sunny glaze.  With 6 sections to liberate, and no load times in-between,  the planet begs for you to drive through it and explore .

Value: 8

The value  here is all in the multiplayer.  While you can go back and complete missions after the main campaign is finished,  the single player still gets repetitive very quickly.  No more hostage release or vehicle transport missions, please!

Overall: 7.5

I do feel like I am being a bit harsh on this title, but only because they have laid a solid foundation for what could have been a must have game.  I sincerely hope that the team will put some time into expanding the title with fresh DLC as that could really help sway the public into getting more out of their entertainment dollar.