Opinion – The Last Story

tls2The Last Story (Wii)
Pub: XSEED/Dev: Mistwalker and AQ Interactive
ESRB: T

Please note that this opinion piece will discuss spoilers. Therefore, I’ve implemented a jump. For those who are curious as to what I think but don’t want anything ruined, I will write the majority of the piece without spoilers, and then flag the offending words AFTER the trailer at the bottom. So you can read through the article with nary a concern until you see the trailer at the bottom, in which I will discuss some of the key story bits and how they were executed. (more…)

Opinion – Bioshock

bioshock1Bioshock (PS3)
Pub: 2K Games/Dev: 2K Boston (Irrational Games), 2K Marin, 2K Australia, Digital Extremes

ESRB: M

OVERVIEW – This First Person Shooter puts you into the role of Jack, a silent protagonist that ends up in the underwater city of Rapture, built and overseen by Objectivist Andrew Ryan. Jack discovers that the city is in a horribly dilapidated state; Plasmids, a DNA altering substance, have warped the minds and bodies of the populace, changing them into freakish “Splicers”. They terrorize the streets, tunnels and buildings of Rapture. Jack is led by the helpful Atlas, a man who is combating Ryan for control of the city. After absorbing his first Plasmid, Jack discovers the mammoth Big Daddy and its protected, the Little Sister. The Sisters harvest ADAM, the material that powers Plasmids. This pair will play a major role for the remainder of the game as Jack needs ADAM to power up, and the only source of it are the Sisters. The player can make a choice regarding their fate when caught; will you harvest them, killing the girl in the process, or will you rescue them, which has a smaller immediate reward? Jack is guided by Atlas towards Ryan’s factory, acquiring new Plasmids and uncovering what exactly went wrong in Rapture.

bs-spiderPROS – Atmosphere is through the roof on this game. Rapture is an amazing place, and Irrational Games deserves props for making one of the more immersive environments in any game I’ve played. The choice to use 40′s and 50′s era music was also a delightful one. It really added to the mood of each area. The enemy design is excellent, too; the Splicers are creepy bastards that showcase the problems Rapture experienced perfectly, and the Big Daddies are worthy adversaries that easily intimidate. There is no doubt that Rapture was a poor experiment that went askew.

The game’s Plasmid/Weapon systems are a blast to balance. There’s plenty of options for each gun bullet-wise, plus they can be upgraded (which physically changes the gun, which is neat). It’s when you get clever and decide to string together combos that the combat becomes euphoric. Using the Plasmids to unleash some sort of environmental hazard (such as electrifying a standing pool of water, say) is a hoot and a half, but when you discover ways to use a Plasmid to hold an enemy in some way to then take them down with a firearm, it’s quite satisfying. Getting Big Daddies on your side is also really nifty. I also like how the game rewards exploration. It wants you to look around, and gives lots of ammo, health and upgrade incentives if you do.

The plot is fantastic. It’s very innocuous at first, but it quickly scales up into something substantial; by the midpoint I was hooked and wanting to know more. And that plot twist! My god, I did not see that coming. I won’t spoil it for you here, but it was phenomenal. Superb voice acting rounds out the great story package.

CONS – The final boss fight was incredibly underwhelming. Far too simple of a showdown for all of the pain and anguish the antagonist provided. May have been the Easy difficulty, but nothing else seemed as simple as the concluding battle.

OVERALL – Bioshock hit all of the right buttons for me to enjoy a FPS. It was unique, provided a great storyline, offered some amazing moments and was a blast to play through. Nary a negative to be found, too. A hearty recommendation.

Opinion – Deus Ex Human Revolution

dehr4Deus Ex Human Revolution (PS3)
Pub: Square-Enix/Dev: Eidos Monteral/GRIP Entertainment (bosses)
ESRB: M

OVERVIEW – Set before the events of the original Deus Ex, this game focuses on Adam Jensen, the head security officer at augmentation firm Sarif Industries. After a terrorist attack left Adam mortally wounded, David Sarif (the head of Sarif and Adam’s boss) orders his doctors to heavily augment Adam to save his life. Following his recovery, Adam is whisked back into the company to investigate a second attack on a Sarif factory. The rest of the game tackles the concept of augmentation, what it means to be human, and who is Adam, exactly? The gameplay is mostly in first-person (outside of using cover, which switches it to third person), and the player has incredible freedom to explore the world however they see fit. Stealth, gunplay, communication, hacking and tinkering with Adam’s augmentation options are major facets of the gameplay.

PROS – Human Revolution refines the mechanics of the first game to nigh-perfection. Every issue, including the very minor, that I had with the original game has been addressed. The inventory system is simpler, refined and reminds me of Resident Evil 4 (that’s a compliment). The RPG aspects of the game are less notable, allowing Adam to be a decent shot from the get-go without devoting points into augmenting his aim. The voice acting generally is improved and well done. Even the ending system, which continues to dangle options for the player to choose from, managed to give me a choice that I was fairly comfortable with.

Beyond polishing the trademark feel of the series, Human Revolution just was incredibly fun to explore. It felt so real and believable. The level of detail in the maps is quite astounding, and wandering around the maps to uncover secret routes and stumble into sidequests was really awesome. The cover system worked quite well (better than Uncharted!), and the forced melee combat worked wonders (first person punching isn’t all that fun, really, so I’m okay with a short clip of Adam kicking ass while I just watch). The stealth versus action approach can be implemented at any time, allowing players to switch between the two at will or focus on what method suits them. I personally focused on being stealthy, but was not going for the Pacifist achievement on the first run. I loved running all over the map around guards, sneaking up on them to knock them out. Exquisite level design and well-executed combat combine to grant players unparalleled interaction with the environment given to them.

dehr-jensen-promo2Adam and the majority of the cast were quite likable. This isn’t the best VA work I’ve heard, but it’s leagues above the original game! I’ll nitpick the few objections below. These characters were well developed and became important to me as I worked my way through the game. Malik in particular is my favorite NPC, and I worked damn hard to protect her late in the game from the massive assault. Also, the last area (I’ll refrain from specifically mentioning it) was incredibly tense and a rush to play. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but it makes all of the prior missions and understanding the way the game works so worth it.

CONS – I don’t have too many. David Sarif and Letitia’s voices are really terrible. Sarif sounds obnoxiously pretentious, and Letitia is borderline offensive.

The music is good, but lacks any standout tracks like the original. I did like all the callbacks to the first game, though.

I liked the boss fights more than most of the critics seemed to, but they definitely felt separated from the rest of the game. When I was about to fight Barrett, I could tell. The level design took a nosedive. There was nothing to pick up or interact with, and the overall feel just wasn’t right. They were harder than they needed to be, as well. So, while I had a good time with them, they do feel disconnected.

OVERALL – Deus Ex Human Revolution is a splendid sequel that exceeds its inspiration. It is the best game I’ve played thus far on the PS3, and I give it the highest recommendation that I can, especially at the reduced price. $20 has so rarely been so well spent.

Opinion: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)

uc2atUncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
Pub: Sony/Dev: Naughty Dog
ESRB: T

Some spoilers after the jump! (more…)

The NEW LVLs. Opinion Format (at least ones by me)

I’ve decided to revise my opinion process in order to make it more fun for me to write and hopefully clearer for you to read. How will this work? Well, let me tell ya!

INTRO – A brief synopsis of the gameplay and methodology of the game in question. Will include a brief segment of why I was interested in the game in the first place.

PROS – One to five paragraphs of what stood out the most positively about the game, be it graphics, sound, mechanics, memorable moments, etc.

CONS – The flipside of Pros. One to five paragraphs of what negative aspects poked out from the good.

BATTLE! – Essentially, do the pros or the cons win out on this game? Also where I will recommend the game or not.

I plan on including a couple more photos of the game to add some visual aid, and will probably include a trailer of the game to show what it looks like if at all possible. I will be testing this new format out on THREE Opinions in the near future: Bioshock, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Uncharted 2. Don’t expect them until December, though. I have a bit more to do with school before I feel comfortable doing serious work on here beyond revision, Imagery updating and mild posting.

Nester’s Thoughts on The Last Story

WildcatJF:

Check out the rest over at Lark’s Island!

Originally posted on Lark's Island:

The Last StoryThe Last Story has been a remarkable game. I highly enjoyed the journey it took me on, which recently came to its conclusion. It was a wholly satisfying experience.

What struck me as I played through it was how well the relationships between the main characters were portrayed. From the very start, the main group of mercenaries is shown to be a close-nit bunch of friends who know each other well and work together like clockwork. In the context of the story, this is how it should be. But unlike other RPGs I’ve played, where the characters almost seem randomly thrown together, I felt that these characters were genuinely invested in one another. They really seemed to belong together.

And yet, there was still enough room left for development, both with the individual characters, and the relationships between them. That was handled well, too. Characters that I thought I wouldn’t…

View original 249 more words

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)
Pub: Eidos/Dev: Rocksteady
ESRB: T/Players: 1

Batman has had better luck than most of his superhero cohorts in terms of starring in some awesome games. Developer Rocksteady continues that trend of awesome Dark Knight gaming with their first effort, carefully melding one of the finest 3D interpretations of the Metroid-style format yet.

Batman is an amazingly fluid combatant in this game. He’s able to leap into full-on scraps with several criminal toadies and hold his own thanks to the game’s Freeflow combat engine. Batman is able to smash multiple opponents with ease, counter incoming blows and bob and weave his way through the horde. These are thrilling to take part in, but this is only half the equation. Batman is also able to utilize stealthy maneuvers and covertly eliminate threats as well in some sections of the game. These too are incredibly fulfilling to conquer. Rocksteady gave players a surprising amount of ways to take out Joker’s goons, and as his toolset deepens the possibilities increase. Challenge Mode allows you to relive this glorious setpieces over and over again, and they are definitely among the finest stealth moments in any game I’ve played. Boss fights do creep in from time to time, and luckily, most of them are pretty engaging. The final fight was the only one I felt was a little weak, but the others were all solidly executed. Scarecrow in particular is a standout.

So the gameplay is amazing. The game is fully bolstered by an stunning group of voice actors and actresses and a topnotch script. Mark Hamill’s performance as the Joker powers the game’s plot, and his skillful rendering of the character is masterful. It’s clear Hamill relishes this role. Despite some repetition, there’s little question this is one of the better overall dubs in a game. The game’s visuals are dark and appropriate, although the character design is more on the “steroid” and “sexy” side of things. Commissioner Gordon’s a little too pecked out, for example. Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, the two visible female characters, also suffer a bit from oversexualization. Ivy is understandable given her character history, but Quinn should have kept some more semblance of her original design than she does here. The nurse getup doesn’t quite work for me, I guess. There’s also plenty of awesome cameos and nods to other Batman bits of lore all throughout the game, with the Riddler providing the incentive to find them all.

Beyond a disappointing final boss, slight vocal repetition and the occasionally awkward character design, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a brilliant piece of software. It captures the essence of a Metroid-style game in three dimensions like few others have, and also throws in some ingenious gameplay. It’s a remarkable experience well worth considering.

Nester’s Opinion on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

I’ve written up my thoughts on the latest Zelda game, Skyward Sword, and posted them at my poor, neglected blog, Lark’s Island. In short, I loved it. Here’s a sample:

Do you believe in destiny? Is there a predetermined role we were meant to play regardless of any efforts to deviate? This seems to be the eternal theme for our green-clad hero Link, even if this particular one is the first in the line. In the latest entry to the Zelda saga, Link has been inexplicably chosen by the goddess to be the legendary hero, just as Zelda is locked to her own fate, as are other characters. And throughout the game, they rigidly follow their roles.

So, too, does Skyward Sword seem to have its own destiny; one which it does not deviate from, but yet heroically lives up to. It is as enjoyable as any of the main console-based Zelda titles, and while it does not extend far beyond what is expected of it, it manages to reinvent itself within its established framework.

Check out the full article at my blog, and give it some love: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3)

DANGER – Spoiler alert!  Do not read ahead if you want any aspect of Skyrim ruined for you.  I will attempt to keep major plot details out of this piece, but I will not refrain from talking about my exploits in the game, so there may be bits you may want to discover yourself in this article.  Also note that I may add in additional comments later on as I continue to delve into more of its parts and try out different characters. (more…)

Nester’s Favorite Games – Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998)

Street Fighter Alpha 3

Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Arcade, multiple

The Game: 2D one-on-one fighting game with tons of characters and modes.

Why it’s a Favorite: With regard to the Street Fighter series (as well as some of their other franchises), Capcom was often criticized for taking small incremental steps rather than making radical changes to a successful formula. While the fighting mechanics remain typically solid, Street Fighter Alpha 3 was the first time Capcom really went all out and threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Not only was every character that ever appeared in Street Fighter II or the previous Alpha games present here, but you could also choose different modes that would mimic the various super bars and fighting styles of previous games. Brand new characters and modes were added on top of that, and Capcom has continued to build on it with nearly every subsequent re-release of the game, turning it into an insane dream match.

Street Fighter Alpha 3

The action is still as fun as ever.

Beyond the standard Arcade mode, home console ports added several other ways to play the game, including various Survival modes, as well as the chaotic two-on-one Dramatic Battle. Most notable, perhaps, is the World Tour mode, in which you choose a character, and take him or her through a series of stages while earning experience points to level up your fighter and acquire new abilities. You can then import your customized character into any other mode in the game.

As a dream match, the storyline disregards any solid continuity, but the mere fact that every character actually has a story, as well has his/her own stage and music, just shows how much effort Capcom put into the game. The attention to detail is quite impressive given the scope, and “conservative” or “lazy” are not words that come to mind when thinking of Street Fighter Alpha 3.

Memorable Moments: Teaming up Guile and Charlie against M. Bison in the Dramatic Battle.

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