Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:59:09 - Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon (N64)
Gameplay: When we left our heroes they had just slain a giant head statue boss, what awaits them? The king with both a 'Pass' to the outside world (apparently the town is a concentration camp where its citizens have no freedom?) and a moon symbol. And although I, as the player, know not what it does I take it gladly. Time to get back on the trail of that dastardly Peach Mountain Gang. No further than a few zones outside of town I reach the Wise Old Man's house which is promptly blown up. Hey, isn't that Impact's Shell in the rubble? (These characters are from a series, I have never been able to beat the SNES version of Mystical Ninja). Then the most amazing thing in video game history happens, a giant robot beams my characters up and I watch a 'Power Rangers' style suit up sequence accompanied by Japanese vocals. I can tell you from experience, this never EVER gets old. Which brings me to something I failed to mention. The music all the while has been a mere 16-bit, but it packs a powerful punch for its time, both setting up the mood and the surreal Japanese world the game takes place in. This music has a major influence on Boss fights and I have rarely seen material to match its caliber since. But on to the boss battle. I am at the 2/3rds view of a continuous road with robot goons and buildings which I can knock down for fuel. The better I do on this warm-up, the more health my robot will have in the oncoming fight. And the boss fights are especially fun due to the arsenal of attacks both the opposing robot and my robot have at their command. I can use a light punch, hard punch, nose missile, chain pipe grab (and reel in), kick, kick combo, punch combo, punch kick finisher, super fist, and the ever popular charged beam. Oh, and block, but it is for wimps. As the sumo robot flies around, I must have a 'rock-paper-scissors'-like battle, if he does such and such, I counter it with such and such. Still, it does simulate a giant robot battle much better than most games. Once he is destroy we all rejoice and continue on our journey. This game rocks!
Design: Unique design elements include but are not limited to...
Ground-breaking 16-bit music
One of the first heavily Japanese influenced style
Giant robot battles and pre-battles add duel fighting system in the game (though the game decides which one you need to be using).
Distinct power-up modes and weapons skills associated with each different character.
Similar design elements found in Platformer/Adventure games...
Heart based health that can be raised with certain items
Simple coin currency system
Free flowing staged based layout
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Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:13:23 - Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon (N64)
Summary: Like the title of this game suggests, it stars a 'mystical ninja' named Goemon. It starts when the Peach Mountain Gang attacks Neo-Japan in order to turn one of its islands into the world's largest stage. Goemon teams up with his pal, Ebisumaru, to foil their plans. Along their way they run into some old friends, Yae and Sazuke, who join forces. In the end they are successful in ending the reign of tyranny brought forth by the 'gang.' But all the women are outraged by killing their sexiest idol. The End. Oh ya, and you have a giant robot that works on Boardway.
Gameplay: First off, I've played this game through multiple times since its release back in 1998 so pardon my bias. This game begins with an Anime style opening with Japanese non-sense singing and English subtitles which is enough to make anyone laugh that understands the subculture (especially me). Then the first cinematic rolls and introduces Goemon and his bone-brained sidekick, Ebisumaru, as they are thrown out of clothing store. People attack, they must defeat them, yadda yadda yadda. Though cinematics were new in games made around this time, Mystical Ninja breaks the common sterile dialogue of its predecessors (but it is still limited). This game follows the common Zelda series make-up.I need things to fight the big baddy, to get those things I need equipment, and this equipment is found throughout the game. For no apparent reason everyone in the town is telling me about the expert pipesmith living at the top of Mt. Fuji, guess I'll venture up there. Oh noes, enemies! Floating dragon heads and dolls with weapons adds to the Japanese theme of the game (don't make me explain why). The first challenge of the mountain got me acquainted with the controls due to the necessity of changing the camera angle to avoid boulders (drat, infinite boulders, my only weakness). After some old school platformer jumping I reach the top of the mountain and the pipesmith quickly crafts me a chain pipe with which I can attack enemies at a range or pass gaps with metal boxes on the other side. After experimenting with the ranged pipe and the funny Japanese sounds the characters make, I jump off the mountain (a simpler time, no fall damage). If you ever miss the dialogue queues put in by the game designers, like myself, you can get explicit tips from the fortune teller for some of the games currency. Actually I lied, I knew what to do but I love this game's Japanese flare. On to Edo Castle where a siege is going on. This game is heavily key oriented. I would go to one room to get a key, then another room to get a key, which in turns brings forth another room to get a key. This game is fun and entertaining enough to get away with something like this. Each room has a distinct feel to it; it breaks continuous theme but it keeps the play spicy (besides, who cared about game theme in the late 90s?). I eventually made it to the face boss where the game requires me to play jump rope while hitting moving targets. I pass with little difficulty. And I only have a few moves thus far. Will this game get any better? YES!
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Feb 21st, 2008 at 02:12:42 - Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Gameplay: For the sake of my interest in writing this I'm going to skip straight to traveling to get the third colossus cause I found those elements to be far more impressive than the second boss. Anyway, not much story-wise since the first boss, just do what the entity in the sky says, which is go to the beach with the platform in the sky, or something along those lines. I really don't know why he has to tell me when I can just follow the light of my sword, especially when the developers have already decided that this game is going to have few story elements in it. None the less, this journey is a far more impress one, taking my character across immense bridges and deep canyons, all the way out to a lake/sea place. And just like the 'God' said, there is indeed a giant platform suspended by flimsy columns; but this is no time to turn back. As you run up this sloped ridge you catch a glimpse of the vast world you have yet to completely explore, as far as games go the scenery was truly awe-inspiring. Only one complex back jump and some shimmying gets me promptly to the third colossus. This one is MUCH taller than the other ones thus far and is equipped with a giant sword. If you want to know the intensity of this fight, just listen to the colossus strike the sword into the ground mere feet away from you. Figuring out the first line of defense is hard for this guy, because while it is quite obvious you need to climb up his sword, there is a barrier bracelet-like thing on his forearm. This could be enough to make many people run to Gamefaqs (although as I came to find out, there were much worse gimmick based bosses), but not I. There is a conveniently placed rock plateau in the center of this suspended arena which when you stand on it he will swing his sword onto it thus breaking his armor (a reminder that this a puzzle game). Then up his sword, onto his shoulder, and up his head. Stab stab, flung off, rinse and repeat. Epic fight and epic death. Watching these huge colossi tumble to the ground is often times bittersweet. Though I enjoy progressing, it seems like you have taken something irreclaimable from the land. But it is just a video game... and yet appears to be so much more. I enjoyed every bit of it, even with the lack of goons.
Design: Here are what I believe to be the most relevant design elements...
1. Since story is vague SotC draws on the 'rescue the princess' dynamic often seen in earlier consoles, before story was a tool in constructing games.
2. Large-than-life-esque, by making the main character look seemingly helpless against the colossi makes defeating one all the more precious, this is one of the two elements that I think made this game.
3. The other element that made this game was the camera-work and scenery. Since it would have been boring if it was just a series of boss this beautifully done scenery acts as a filler, and oh how filling it is. This is what most game critics note as its breakthrough design element.
4. Sound effects: probably the most unappreciated element in this game. This would have been only half the game if it didn't have the proper 'woosh' when your on the bird colossus or the correct ker-splash when the lake monster colossus makes a hearty dive. This adds to the Large-than-life-esque.
5. Music: probably the most over appreciated element in this game. Though it is epic and fitting for this game I felt like it wasn't as impressive as other, even worse games I have played. Adequate job none the less.
6. Simple camera and cinematic camera: it gives the functionality of a joystick controlled camera with the blur effect of a battle-scene cinematographer (this game was the 'original gangster' camera designer in my opinion, Gears of War can suck it).
7. Puzzle with an action illusion: self-explanatory, really. Though this game is comprised of various boss fights they all focus around figuring out the proper course of action to combat them, mind over matter.
One of thee finest games I have ever played, bravo.
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Feb 21st, 2008 at 01:29:32 - Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Summary: The story behind this game is a little vague, just what you'd expect from the makers of Ico. Your some young kid who ventures out to a banished land to revive some dead chick, who he probably loves. A nondescript 'God' tells your character must kill the Colossi scattered across the land in order to revive the chick, but at the cost of being corrupted. In the end, people from your village chase you, you become a corrupt demon, then turn into a baby and live with the chick... as a baby. The End.
Gameplay: Before I say anything else, in this game I started off with a trusty steed. SotC 1, Ocarina of Time 0. The god has just given me the green light on colossus number one. In most games you get a map with an X to mark the spot; instead, whenever my character's sword is held up in the sunlight it shines in the direction of the colossus I was sent to kill. Riding through the wasteland really makes this world seem endless, in fact this game has the best sudo 3D cardinality to my knowledge. But even with all the places I could go there is only one that I wanted to go to, where the first colossus was. Unfortunately, the distance to the first colossus didn't give me as much scenery as I wanted to see. I quickly scaled the cliff, if I wasn't so used to gaming controls it may have taken a while, even though the game does display the buttons that are necessary to get past the current obstacle on the cliff. Camera angles are superb and very smooth to provide a cinematic style. When I first reached the top of the cliff I was stunned by the sheer size of the colossus as the camera tilted upward of an appropriate size comparison. Being the veteran gamer that I am I charged in, albeit stupid (my sister was extremely cautious with approaching them when she first showed me the game, which is what I believe was the desired effect of encountering one of these golems). The god tells you to climb it and stab it in its weak spot, so I obey. I can clearly see the main green spot on its head, but I couldn't find a place to get up him. After a few 360s around the golem I noticed a patch of grass on his left or right back leg with a green crack, which is synonymous with a weak point. Stab stab, and down he goes... well, almost. While he is kneeling I quickly take advantage of its other patch of grass. After being flung off once, I realize what the tiny circle gauge is for; thanks for the heads up 'God/developers.' No harm though, health regenerates. I didn't really like that cause at any time all I have to do is lay low for a while when I get injured. But this isn't an action game at heart, it is a puzzle game. I get back on and stab on his head for a few times, then rinse and repeat. Watching one of those giants come down fills most players with a great deal of self-accomplishment (one of its major selling points in my opinion). One down, 15 to go.
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