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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:56:21     -    Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PS3)

    Gameplay

    For the most part, little has changed over the course of my first couple sessions. There are of course bigger, shinier guns and new kinds of enemies, but at its core this remains a solid platform game that really doesn’t want to redefine itself a whole lot. The “free-falling” mechanic is pretty cool, but other than that this seems to remain true to its roots, and is definitely a lot of fun to play. This title seems to follow the idiom “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    Design

    Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction remains at its heart a platformer. You control your character in 3D, be it the “Lombax” Ratchet or his robot counterpart Clank, and you navigate through environments by jumping around or skating on rails. You come equipped with a whole arsenal of guns, and they’re pretty fun to play around with. The Tornado Launcher in particular speaks well of this game’s design, by utilizing the motion-sensitive capabilities of the Sixaxis controller.

    As far as innovative design goes, or at least as far as I can tell so far, all innovation hinges around the PS3’s Sixaxis controller. There are some “free-falling” sequences where you tilt the Sixaxis to guide Ratchet as he falls, and the tornadoes you shoot via the Tornado Launcher are also controlled by tilting the controller. Other than these neat twists, so to speak, Tools of Destruction doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground. It’s yet another installment of the Ratchet and Clank series, which is nothing to be scoffed at, but this game doesn’t really break down any walls as far as level design or game mechanics. It’s a platformer, you run, jump, shoot, and collect arbitrary amounts of Bolts. But, this made for great games before, so there’s no reason that it can’t work again.

    I’m actually pleased with this game, even though it doesn’t do a lot of new things, it does what the other Ratchet and Clank games have done, and it does them well. What else does a game need to do, right? It’s fun, and that’s really all that counts.

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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:21:51     -    Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PS3)

    Summary

    This iteration of Ratchet and Clank reminds me of why I first got interested in the series. The original was quirky, funny, and completely over-the-top, and Tools of Destruction seems to deliver on all those levels. I like the witty dialogue, and the story sets itself up quickly and effortlessly, allowing players to get right to the game play. The game itself throws a lot of enemies at players at once, and the first level is filled with explosions and mayhem, providing the perfect segue back into this series.

    Gameplay

    Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction does not appear at first glance to be very different from its predecessors, but this is definitely a good thing. As an avid fan of the first two games for the Playstation 2, I was pleasantly surprised to pop this game into my PS3 and immediately get right back into the fray. Right out of the gate, the screen was filled with enemies and bullets and bombs, most of which were mine. The first couple of guns this game gives you, a fireball shooter and a grenade launcher, are quite effective and visually impressive. I wasted no time in blowing the robotic enemies apart and racing around the level on the high-speed rails.

    Many of the common mechanics from the original Ratchet and Clank were right in the first level of this game, but the scale was hiked up. This game looks like it plans on taking advantage of the PS3’s processing power with an insane amount of foes and particle effects from bullets on the screen. Oddly enough, this actually makes for a really fun game. The scale of this platformer immediately sets itself up for a lot of fast-paced action and some pretty crazy moments which I am definitely looking forward to getting back to.

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    Feb 19th, 2008 at 23:56:45     -    Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)

    Gameplay

    As the game progresses, it never stops accelerating until the final credits roll. From the addictive tunes playing in the background to the witty banter of the cast to the innovation of “Timed Hits”, and what that does to combat, this game remains one of the greatest RPGs of all time. The quirky characters, from the marshmallow-esque “Mallow” to the foreigner “Geno” to a few surprise guests along the way, Super Mario RPG both utilizes established characters that players can recognize as well as introducing some new faces to the world. The story is surprisingly complex for such an early title, this truly is a game for the ages. This game is, simply put, fun to play. Something about it just works, and its success led to the development of more RPG-style games in the vein of Mario RPG (Paper Mario (N64) and Super Paper Mario (Wii)), but neither of these hit quite the same buttons that this title did. Some of the magic lies in the nostalgia of the SNES system and its quirky midi files and graphics, while some of the magic remains in the originality and innovation at play. Many factors combine to make Super Mario RPG simply spectacular, and it remains a game that I will continue to come back to as long as I remain a gamer.


    Design

    Why is this such a fun game to play? How does a side-scroller translate into a turn-based RPG system? Simply put, because there is something about the Mario universe that lends itself to the RPG format. The multitude of enemies, the various moves Mario can perform, the never-ending supply of wacky allies he always seems to run into. All this adds up to a huge amount of resources available to the dev team, all that was left was to tweak some of the basic actions from keystrokes to strategy and you’ve got yourself a Mario RPG. But they didn’t stop there, they took it a step further than they needed to and created the “Timed Hits” functionality that makes this game stand out from other RPGs. Whenever a player attacks or defends, they can hit a given button at the right time to increase the strength of the attack or increase their own defense, which can hugely shift the tide of battle. This mechanic can get a little unfair for veteran players, at a certain point combat becomes much more about skill than luck, a factor in many RPGs. And yet, this contributes so much to the thrill of the game. Combat never gets frustrating, as with many RPGs where luck is a huge element. A skilled player will probably never lose a fight, and yet this makes the game so much more enjoyable. The ease of play and the low stakes allow the player to put less at stake while playing, and game sessions become about fun, which should be at the core of all gaming after all. The humorous dialogue and enchanting storyline continue to drive the player forward, and the whole package just comes together nicely to make for a thoroughly enjoyable play experience. This game is, to be blunt, a success story. When it comes down to it, this is a great game. Great games are incredibly rare, and having so few it is hard to come up with the vocabulary to describe them, but I can testify to this game’s greatness whole-heartedly. Something about this game just works, and it never disappoints. I have probably completed upwards of 10 run-throughs of this game, and I am certainly planning on revisiting it again as soon as I get the chance.

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    Feb 19th, 2008 at 23:48:54     -    Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)

    Summary

    Since the early days of video games, Mario has been a household name. Most often associated with side-scrolling craziness and stomping on goombas and koopas, it cannot be questioned that this stout plumber's 'stache is one of the most recognized video game icons in all of video game history. In this title, the fiery, mute, red-clad hero dons his RPG gear and sets out on one of my personal favorite adventures in video games. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is by all means a classic and is worthy of the highest praise in gaming.

    Gameplay

    Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars truly is a legend among games. From the moment I turn the game on, I am enchanted by the familiar-yet-different midi that plays over the title menu screen, and I can tell that I am in for a great gaming experience. The first level entails the standard Mario scenario: the princess Peach has been stolen away by the villain Bowser, and the hero Mario must scale Bowser’s tower, thwarting his minions along the way to save the day. And save the day he does! The princess is safe, the tyrant is defeated, and all is well after the opening number. But then a twist: Bowser is not the “big baddy” in this game. A huge sword pierces the sky and crashed into the tower, sending plumber, princess and turtle flying in different directions, and the stage is set for this epic game. The opening sequence is so familiar and nostalgic, with throwbacks to the Mario games of old while introducing the combat system, and yet it turns all of that on its head as it begins to change what a Mario game is about and point it in a different direction. The first few minutes of gameplay truly speak wonders about where this title will go along the course of its story, and what it will do to the Mario universe.

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