Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is an early release for the Playstation 2. The game feels very arcadey, which makes sense since it was first released as an arcade game in Japan.The game is an arcade action game, and allows you to pilot a mobile suit and destroy other mobile suits in a variety of environments.

There are three modes to choose from off the bat: Arcade, Versus, and Campaign. Arcade allows you to select the mobile suit you want to use, then throws you into a series of missions. All the mobile suits in the game seem to be unlocked from the beginning in this mode. Versus I did not play, but this seems to be the multiplayer option. Finally, we have campaign. In this mode, you start by picking a side (Federation or Zeon) and selecting a mission based on a world map. The missions are color coded to show you their difficulty. Each mission has different objectives, but they all seem to be about destroying other mobile suits. Of the missions I played, there were several where you needed to defeat a set number of enemies and a single mission where you needed to defend some allied tanks from enemy mobile suits – by you guessed it, destroying the enemy mobile suits.

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The game gives you two weapons, a ranged weapon (machine gun, laser, rocket launcher, etc.) and an energy sword. As far as I could tell, that’s it. Some of the mobile suits I tried in arcade mode had some slightly different melee attacks but it didn’t vary enough to be interesting. The game play was fairly boring for me, and while I could see where fans of the series might find a lot to love here, I was not impressed.

The graphics were acceptable for an early release PS2 game. The mobile suit models looked good and were fairly detailed, but some of the stages had some really bland and poor looking landscapes. I will say I did appreciate how clean and responsive the menus were.

Sound is a bit ugly in this one. While in combat you are constantly hearing the caution noise alerting you to enemies and attacks from off screen. Normally, this would be appreciated, but when you hear the alert noise for the 100th time on the first mission you will already be tired of it. The background music ranges from acceptable to grating – leaning more toward the grating side.

Verdict: Back on the shelf. While not a bad game, this one is very simplistic and has some hard to get used to controls. Since I’m not a fan of the series it’s based on I don’t see a reason to revisit.¬†

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb

On Reviews

Since I’m about to publish my first review, I think now is a good time to discuss the scale and format I’ll be using and how I approach reviews.

Reviews are a contentious topic on the internet. There are lots of people out there that think that not only are reviews either right or wrong (hint: they don’t need to be either), but that reviews don’t matter since it is just an opinion after all. While true, they are one person’s opinion, reviews help potential buyers or players evaluate if a game is worth their time and/or money. Here is the sticky part though: you can’t take a review to heart if you don’t identify with the source. For instance, there are several reviewers out there that I don’t take their scores at face value. Sure, they may raise valid points in their review about why they love or hate a certain aspect of the game, but these reviewers do not value what I personally care about in games. Put simply, what matters to them doesn’t matter to me. Other reviewers I trust completely – if they love a game it’s a no-brainer for me to pick it up. Which puts anyone reading this in a strange position – you have never read one of my reviews so you have no baseline to see if I line up with your tastes. You’ll just need to read some of the reviews I put up and figure it out for yourself. I hope at least they will be somewhat entertaining.

Format and Rating

Each review I write will have a basic style – I will give an overview of the game to the best of my ability, including mechanics, game play, story, graphics, sound and all the rest. I will give a brief recap of my feelings in an overall sense in the final paragraph (you can use this as a tl;dr if you’d like) followed by a pros and cons section. Finally, I’ll rate the game on a scale of 0 – 5 stars.

Star ratings

0 stars is a rating I hope to never give – this means the game not only was terrible, but was so bug ridden that it should have never been sold. 5 stars means that a game is worth anyone’s time or money that plays games – there is not only broad appeal, but this is something everyone who enjoys the medium should experience. These games are rare, and I expect few if any to ever appear here. I will also give half stars where appropriate – I find that the 5 star scale with half star increments is a great way to express the game’s quality without going deep into the weeds with a sheer percentage rating. Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann did a great piece on this system that is well worth a read.

One last thing I will say about the star ratings, I find that many modern reviews are very top heavy in their rankings. An average or mediocre game is often given a 7 out of 10. I will not be doing this. If a game is a 2.5 star rating, it’s completely average and is only recommended for fans of the genre or studio, or those who are really interested in it after reading the review.

I know this entry was a bit long winded, but hopefully I’ve explained not only the format but how I will review going forward. Expect my first review sometime this weekend.

 

 

Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

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As a collector, one of the aspects of the hobby that fascinates me is the “hidden gem”. Games categorized in this way have an allure to me – they are good (maybe even great) but did not reach a high degree of commercial success. These games, generally, are not expensive because no one has heard of them. They tend to be quirky, and sometimes have aspects that are on the rough side – either they were not implemented well, or perhaps not fully fleshed out to begin with. This week’s game, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a great example of a hidden gem.

The game starts with some fairly lengthy cut scenes that unfortunately are not able to be paused and do not have subtitles. I got some idea of what was going on, but not all of it. You play as Nick who has had his memory erased. He is then captured by “The Movement” (real original guys!), but is set free by a double agent who seems to know him from before his memory was erased. The story isn’t super interesting and seems like it will be full of cliches, but to be honest I’m wasn’t expecting much more.

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The game is played from a third person perspective. You are given several tools in order to eliminate enemies. You have psi abilities such as telekinesis and remote viewing, as well as several firearms. Guns have a very generous auto aim on them, but are not very interesting in general – they all perform almost the same. The main draw of the combat in Psi-Ops is the psi abilities. Remote viewing allows you to effectively enable a no-clipping mode to see enemy patrol patterns in other rooms – very helpful in stealth sections. Telekinesis allows you to throw enemies or objects. This ability is both fun, interesting, and frustrating. Throwing enemies or just suspending them in air while you shoot them is a blast, and the combat scenarios let you be very creative with what you’re throwing around and when. The other interesting thing here is that the telekinesis ability takes advantage of the Playstation 2’s analog trigger buttons. Hold the trigger lightly, and the box stays at ground level. Press it harder, and the box moves higher relative to the pressure. Very cool and intuitive use of the controller. There are of course downsides. Getting the object you’re levitating to move closer to you takes forever and sometimes doesn’t work at all. Also, while levitating an object, your turning speed completely goes out the window and you turn like you have stick sensitivity in Halo set to 1. This is a real problem when you’re getting shot and you can’t turn quick enough to do anything about it. Overall the game play is exactly what you’d expect from a hidden gem – good with some real rough edges.

The graphics hold up fairly well – this is a PS2 game, and it looks it, but it is definitely on the better looking end of the spectrum for the system. Music and sound effects are OK at best. As an added bonus, there is a music video on the disk for a song written by the band Cold exclusively for the game. That video is priceless.

Verdict: Play again. While it has issues, I’m sure the rest of this game will at the very least be interesting. Definitely worth a second look.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb

Amped 2

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I was never very interested in sports games, and extreme sports games doubly so. I knew a lot of people who play and enjoy these types of games, so there is clearly some broad appeal, but I’ve never been drawn to them myself. I say this to give the reader some context into my thoughts on Amped 2 (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia).

Amped 2 is an original Xbox exclusive released in 2003 by Microsoft Game Studios. The game take a decidedly arcade sports approach, which for snowboarding is a perfect fit. You can select a snowboarder, customize their look and board, and take them out on the mountain to perform tricks for points. That’s pretty much the entire game however the developers managed to mix it up a fair amount by not only having a massive amount of courses¬† but different challenges and scenarios to play through as well.

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The graphics are very nice for the original Xbox – high detail character models and some great looking courses. Some of the textures are a bit muddy and low res, but considering the time it was released (2003) they are more than acceptable.

The sound effects and music are all very fitting, but I didn’t care for the music – it’s mostly licensed and not my taste. According to Wikipedia, you can use your own MP3s if you don’t care for the soundtrack which is a nice feature.

The controls feel good for the most part, but there is some definite issues with the analog sticks on the Xbox – the dead zones are pretty large by today’s standards and balancing on a rail never felt quite right to me.

Overall, if you have an original Xbox and are interested in snowboarding games, I think this would be a good one to try. It’s just not for me.

Verdict: Back on the shelf.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb

Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master

 

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Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a Sega Genesis classic – a game that always seems to find its way onto Genesis collections whenever Sega decides to publish one for a platform. I’ve seen it described as a brawler, but I would say it’s more like an action game – either way, your objective is to kill everything in your path and make it to the end of the stage. There is some platforming in this one too, but for the most part it’s pretty light. Every level has a mid and end boss, some of which have some really great looking sprites.

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In order to destroy everything in your path, you are given several attacks. You can throw a shuriken at enemies but you have a limited number of them, you can hit them with your katana if you’re close enough, or you can use magic. Yes, you have ninja magic and it is very useful. I was only able to get the basic lightening shield, but according to wikipedia there are several offensive magic attacks available. Enemies will attack you with various ranged and melee attacks, which you can jump or duck to avoid. Speaking of jumping, there is a double jump that you can perform but I was never reliably able to pull it off. The best I can tell is that once you are on the descending side of the jump you can no longer double jump.

The graphics are quite good for a game released on the Genesis in 1993 – scrolling backgrounds, transparent waterfalls, and huge sprites. I really liked the art style too – particularly on the third stage where there are glowing test tubes with creatures in them pulsing in the background.

Music in this is… uneven. Some of the tracks I really liked, such as the first stage and the title music. Others, not so much. The music in the fourth stage in particular was borderline bad in my opinion.

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I spent about an hour with the game, and got near the end of the fourth stage. Judging by the total count of seven levels, I think this game is easily beatable in about two hours if you are good. I think the length is a bit on the short side, but each level is completely different from the last and the boss encounters are memorable which helps justify the length.

Verdict: Play again! This was a fun action game, and due to the short length, I think I will try to beat it next time I play.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb