Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Review

Platform(s): Playstation 3, X-Box 360
Developer(s): Capcom
Publisher(s): Capcom
Genre: Fighting
Rating: T for Teen
Price: $39.99

9 months ago, we were gifted with the long-awaited sequel to one of the best fighting games in the past decade: Marvel vs. Capcom 3. And while we enjoyed it, we all could recognize that there were a few things missing that Capcom should have fixed. So, Capcom gave us Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 as a way to improve on a good foundation. But is it a good improvement or does it need to go back to the development team?

The Story:

Capcom's Firebrand goes at it against Marvel's cocky archer,
Doctor Doom has assembled the greatest villains of the Marvel Universe and has joined forces with Albert Wesker in order to unite their respective universes in an effort to conquer both. However, this course of action awakens a great and powerful threat that could potentially destroy both worlds. It is up to the heroes of the Marvel and Capcom universes to put a stop to this evil before it is too late.

The Pros:

Okay…before I get into the good and bad parts of the game, I’d like to clarify something for people who’re probably wondering why they made a 2nd version of Marvel 3. Originally, this game was supposed to be all DLC for the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3. However, production was delayed due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Once that was cleared up, the director and producer of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 decided to release the proposed DLC for MvC3 as a game with a lower cost with new concepts and re-balanced gameplay.

Now that we know that…onto the pros of the game.

The first pro that I have for this game lies with the online mode. Players that are in a room who are not participating in the match are now allowed to watch the match as it plays out. And honestly, you don’t know how glad I am that they’ve included this in there. Because honestly, sitting in the lobby watching nothing but the character’s bars diminish and wondering what is going on wasn’t a good idea, especially when you’re allowed to watch the fights in Super Street Fighter IV.

Ghost Rider performing his Level 3: Penance Stare.

Now, my next pro has to be the new characters added. One of the things that I enjoyed about Marvel 3 was that the character list was diverse. Well…the new addition still rings true about this game. The added characters still hold their own different fighting styles from the ground/air rushdown tactics of Firebrand and the keep-away style of Hawkeye to the long-ranged fighting of Ghost Rider and the pure power of Nemesis. Add in the fact that they’ve added in fan favorites like Vergil and Strider Hiryu and you have a great addition for this game…mostly.

Finally, the re-balancing of the game is a solid plus. Everything in this game got re-balanced, from basic combat to character specific stuff. Even the X-Factor has a much needed revamping, including the ability to do it in mid-air. And I’m thankful (so thankful for this) that they limited Phoenix’s ability to release as many fireballs in the air. Because honestly, you don’t need a high-level character like Phoenix to be able to spam fireballs.

The Cons:

Okay…so now we’re at the part of the review where I talk about what’s bad about the game. And I have a feeling that I’ll probably rant about a specific con.

The first con that comes to mind has to deal with some of the character re-balancing. Or, to be more specific, a certain character re-balancing in general. That character would be Albert Wesker. Now, Wesker’s a top-tier character who was easy enough to play with but had a few complex things. So instead of toning him down a bit, Capcom decided to barely balance him out and made his Teleport a lot simpler this time around. How? Simply do his gunshot move and press a button directly after it.

Why, Capcom? Why?
Phoenix Wright doing his most famed gesture on his

My second and final con has to be one of the biggest issues that many people voiced when they seen this character released. And I’m pretty sure that by reading that sentence above, everyone knows who I’m talking about. He’s the Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright and even I can say that he’s possibly the only character in the game that will make you want to turn the game off when you see him in action. Why, you ask? All of his attacks are more suited to prosecuting the defense (searching for and submitting evidence, walking forward and thrusting papers at you, pointing…) rather than fighting, his trademark maneuver – pointing at you and shouting OBJECTION!!! – activates a special mode that makes certain moves unstoppable, and his level three is dangerous. And that’s without being in X-Factor…

Granted he's actually a good character in the game, he has a large fan following in the Capcom universe, and they were trying to put him in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom but wow…you could have handed us Megaman X over him.


Overall, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the game that the original version should have been. With the new characters added, fighting system re-balanced, and being able to watch online matches as you fight, you’ll enjoy this game a lot more than you did the first one. However, I can guarantee that if you were a fan of the first one, you’ll find something in the game that’ll tick you off. And, most likely, it’ll be something other than Phoenix Wright.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

Friday, November 25, 2011

Super Mario 3D Land review

Super Mario 3D Land

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Developer(s): Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Genre(s): Platforming
Rating: E for Everyone

A tree that stands on Princess Peach's castle grounds is stripped of all its leaves during a storm. The leaves, which turn out to be Super Leaves, are blown across the Mushroom Kingdom, bestowing Tanooki tails on all living things they touch. When Mario and the Toads go to inspect the tree the next day, they discover a letter from Bowser, learning that he has kidnapped Princess Peach. Mario sets off in pursuit to locate and rescue the princess.

This is how I imagined a 3D Mario game to play like.
Let me start by saying when this game was announced and I saw the trailer I thought that this  would be just another Super Mario 64 remix of sorts. I am happy to say that I was wrong! It does have the visual styling of Super Mario 64, but it has the  playability of Super Mario Bros 3. This is what I imagined what Super Mario 64 was going to be like so when that game came out I wasn't the happiest Mario fan. 
Yes that's Bowser with Raccoon tail.

Now you get all the usual items like Super Mushrooms (to grow), Fire Flowers (to throw fireballs), Super Stars (becomes invincible for a short time) and Gold Coins. Oh and just like your regular SMB game after collecting 100 coins gets you a 1-Up (extra life). They did add a few new items to make your experience on Super Mario 3D Land have that WOW! When you find the propeller box, which is a "?" box that when you hit it becomes a cute little box that you wear can fly you in the air vertically so that you can reach higher platforms. Boomerang Mario is exactly that. You throw a boomerang and if you time it properly, you can jump around and have that one boomerang take out a number of baddies on the screen. The one thing that made it a Ooh or Aah moment went to the revival of the Tanooki (raccoon) suit from the SMB 3 fame. It generally still plays the same (no flight but the ability to hover), and if you are knowledgeable of SMB3 you can find the ability to turn your Tanooki Mario into a statue (for all of us fanboys).

Yes! Tanooki Mario is back!
Now that I cooed over the Super Mario 3D Land, it' time to give you sharp thoughts on the game. The 3d controls are very responsive but require some real adjusting if you're not used to Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine or Super Mario Galaxy. So mastering jumping with precision on certain platforms can be a bit tricky. The graphics are smooth, with bright colors like what you would expect from a Mario game. Now the 3D effect that comes with being on a 3DS works so well to the point where you can turn it all the way up and it won't bother your eyes likes a few of these 3DS games have in the past. I have to give props to the level designer, because he brought originality to old level concepts. The stage may seem short or constrained in a box but they are highly imaginative. Things you couldn't really do in the 2D world of Mario, and too afraid to try in other 3D Marios have been implemented here. Some stages are completely vertical shooting higher in the sky while others exist in the one area as if it's asking you to solve the puzzle that is this stage. New imaginary Ghost house stages, fantastically organized and heart-pounding Airship stages, and every stage has remixed classic themes with new tracks that carry the same vibe. I have to say this game definitely gets a 4.5 out of 5. I am love with this game. By for my new favorite Mario game. I don't know how they keep improving on these more recently SMB games but they do. I can't wait to see what new comes from Miyamoto. Rumor has that there is a 2D Super Mario Bros coming out for the 3DS someday soon. Hhmmmm......

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Platform(s): PC, X-Box360, Playstation 3
Developer(s): Bethesda Game Studios
Bethesda Softworks
Genre(s): Action/Role-Playing
Rating: M for Mature

There was a lot of hype surrounding the release of Skyrim, especially since its predecessor, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was such a world-raved success, and because Bethesda Studios had more than 5 years to work on it. The important question then stands, “Is the hype worth it?” especially since such vicious competition as Modern Warfare 3, Arkam City, Uncharted 3, and Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 were all released within 14 days of each other?

I think so, Yeah. 

The first impression of the game is the graphics. Thick mountain forests with non-cookie-cutter trees placed at irregular intervals, a touch of frost on patches of grass or collected in the base of one side of the trees and rocks, and splashed onto the faceted faces of the surrounding mountains. The wagon you are in creaks and warps and splinters as it’s slowly pulled over an irregular landscape, and the faces  of the surrounding initial characters with their several days of stubble, old battle scars, and an articulation of the mouths that match the well-voiced acting.  If you look around, since it takes a minute to realize that the opening scene is in-fact *not* a CG rendered cutscene, you can watch as a small town looms out of the woods, clearly behind on the upkeep as the splintered wooden buildings break under the elements. Then a sense of doom washes over you as before you can even control yourself yet, you are shoved forwards towards your execution. 

And just when you think you finally get a sense for the spectacle, the Dragon appears, and all hell breaks loose. 

The opening tutorial mission is chaos incarnate for an opening mission. The fog of war holds no greater meaning then when you and your allies are fighting tooth-and-nail against unknown enemies in the dark of the cave, and you can’t differentiate friend from foe among those struggling silhouettes in front of you. The landscape is proven to be destructible as it is literally torn apart around you.  When you can finally move on by yourself into the world, the sheer scope of the world is laid bare and boy are you tiny in comparison.

Gameplay is in many ways an improvement over Oblivion. Each hand is now an independent entity to which you can assign a weapon, shield, spell, torch, or go barehanded in any combination you may like. Skills are once again independently leveled based on use, and your own personal level is increased by the improvement of skills, but now there is no limitation to “talented” skills or not. Stat points are reduced to general stats that improve automatically with levels. Finally, skill-related perks are no longer gained automatically with skill rank. Now you have to buy those perks with leveling points, meaning that you really do need to specialize this time, since it is impossible to buy every perk in the game. Another big improvement is that weapons and armor don’t break anymore, so you never have to worry about wasting weight limitations with stupid blacksmith hammers. 

The AI is a major improvement over the predecessor. A pack of wolves will fight like *a pack of wolves!* meaning, one will draw your attention while the others flank, and then they’ll hit and run until you’re dead or they get injured enough to flee. People will press you with melee and defend while their partners pick you off with arrows, and dragons will roast you with their breath from above, strafing runs, or directly in your face on the ground, depending on what is most likely to kill you first. 

Some downsides to the game: The shortcut menu is too limited. With so many spells, weapons, enchanted armors, and powers at your disposal, having only 8 or 9 shortcut buttons simply isn’t enough. The favorites menu quickly fills up into a ridiculously long list to sift through for your chosen thing, and it’s an annoying break in the action to pause in the middle of a fight just to jump through several screens of articles  to equip the next thing you need.  The game sometimes glitches, rendering some missions impossible, such as the one where I needed an NPC to open up the wall to the dungeon, but he’s already further along leaving me trapped in the foyer.  Finally, no matter what kind of character you want to play, smithing seems to become a necessary skill to level, since it’s the only way  to get any decent, or matching, high level equipment in the game. Enemies rarely ever wear anything more than Fur stuff, and hoping to find a type of weapon or armor underground is a crapshoot at best. 

All in all, though, it is incredibly easy to lose yourself for hours, days, and weeks at a time in World of Tamriel across the snowy mountains of Skyrim . Since I had to struggle to find faults with the game, I’d say that Bethesda used these last 5 years of development wisely, and that the Elder Scrolls V is in fact all that it was hyped up to be.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

BloodRayne: Betrayal Review

Platform(s): X-Box Live Arcade, Playstation Network
Developer(s): Wayforward Technologies
Publisher(s): Majesco Entertainment
Genre(s): Action/Adventure
Rating: T for Teen

The dhampir vixen is back! After a long hiatus, everyone favorite vamp returns in a new game Bloodrayne: Betrayal. The game continues Rayne’s quest to eliminate her father Kagen’s extended family. Things were quiet after the events of the second game until a new vampire uprising calls the Brimstone Society to action. However this new threat is proving too much for them to handle. With no other options, Brimstone contacts Rayne to deal with the new threat.
Betrayal moves Rayne from her previous 3D adventures for some old school side scrolling. Many gamers will recall the days when all combat were like this. In fact, a lot of today’s 3D action/adventure games can find their roots in 2D. Bloodrayne is no different. The new game retains the same action horror that made the two previous titles fan favorites as well as the character Rayne. Instead of humans, you fight your way through hordes of supernatural creatures as well as other vampires. There are also mechanical monsters that will bar Rayne’s path as she descends into the depths of the castle, which she enters after the game’s opening level. Rayne still has her trusty arm blades and guns to mow down her opposition.

The Pros:
Bloodrayne: Betrayal’s anime style graphics bring the characters to life, making you feel like you’re watching a series rather than playing a game. The character animation is smooth and combat flows nicely, keeping the action moving. As always, Rayne can take out her enemies in a variety of gruesome ways, whether she beheads them or stomps them into the ground. Besides her iconic arm blades, Rayne does have access to her gun but with limited use. The game’s platforming element is true throwback to earlier action platform games like Ninja Gaiden or Contra. Bloodrayne: Betrayal may not be as challenging as the series’ two previous entries, but the action is non-stop enough to keep your attention.

The Cons:
There aren’t too many flaws with the game. I did make note that I cannot block enemy attacks like before. However this is compensated with a dash maneuver. Time it right and you’ll avoid damage. This move can also be performed in the air.

Rayne has been brought back from what, thankfully, did not end up a dead franchise and upgraded with familiar and new abilities yet giving gamers a feel for some good old fashioned action platforming. I am pleased with the sexy vamp’s rebirth and her anime makeover just makes her more appealing. Bloodrayne: Betrayal offers up good action with intriguing puzzle solving.
Final Score: Rayne’s back and ready to sink her teeth into new fans. She gets 4 out of 5.

See you on the next level,
Brian M.