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    Mar 4th, 2008 at 17:48:31     -    Final Fantasy VII (PS)

    GAMEPLAY

    Moving around the game-world is better in ff7 than in nearly any game I’ve ever played…and that includes new ones on more advanced systems. FF7 takes place in a large world with three main continents and many islands. Landscapes include grassy plains, deserts, mountains, rivers, oceans, swamps, and snow covered tundra. At first, you can only travel on the plains, but as the game progresses you are given different modes of transportation in order to traverse the landscape. These include an airship, a shallow water boat, a buggy, and a submarine. Also available to players are animals called Chocobos (giant chickens than you can ride on). Chocobos can be bred to have different characteristics, such as the ability to walk over mountains, rivers, or even oceans).
    Before you go to fight the final boss at the end of the game, ff7 opens the entire world for you. All of the transportation is available, and the world still has much exploring to offer. There are so many side-quests to be completed at this point, you could spend days finishing up. Some of the more fun (and profitable) ones include raising Chocobos, fighting in the Battle Arena (a minigame that has you fight through 8 rounds of enemies, randomly hampering you in some way after each fight), exploring a sunken plane, and fighting giant monsters called ‘weapons’.

    DESIGN
    The difficulty of ff7 depends on how long you are planning on spending on the game. The more you train with enemies and level up in each area, and the more you explore and find all of the items/materia the easier the game will be. The most recent time I played, I made sure to level up completely in each area, and my characters were extremely powerful at each stage of the game, making usually difficult boss fights a breeze. For me, that was a fun way to play, but if you want a different challenge, you can try playing the game (and can do this for most of the story) with only the main character, Cloud, in your party, or without spending extra time in areas to level up.
    The magic system, materia, is one of the most interesting design aspects of ff7. The system gives players a lot of control over their own abilities, instead of just having the basic fire, ice, lightning magic. You can attach a counter command with a 4x cut, and counter attack enemies with four physical attacks. Couple that with a lightning-elemental, and you can counter with four lightning based physical attacks. The possibilities are nearly endless, and figuring out all of the ins and outs of the system was a major part of my good experience with the game. I’ve played through three times now, and I’m still figuring out new combinations to help me on the journey.
    The reward structure of ff7 is another fun design aspect. Killing enemies gives you four things: EXP, AP, items, and Gil. EXP is a character’s experience gained from battle. This goes toward their ability to level up. AP is used to level up the materia currently being used by the characters. While Gil is the money system of ff7. Some enemies will give more EXP or more AP, and seeing which enemies are good to kill for what can be an important part of making strong characters.

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    Mar 4th, 2008 at 17:48:04     -    Final Fantasy VII (PS)

    SUMMARY

    Final Fantasy 7 is a turn based Japanese-style RPG, and one of my favorite games of all time. You play as Cloud Strife (and a few others) on a quest to save the planet from the evil Sephiroth. Through the use of an innovative magic system (called materia) and weapons ranging from swords to gun-arms you level up your party and fight a huge array of enemies.

    GAMEPLAY

    The first thing that comes to mind is FF7’s unique battle system. It’s extremely deep for the original Playstation and allows an almost infinite amount of possibilities. The setup is this: in order to use magic, you must find orbs of life-energy called materia. These materia are used to cast spells, summons, use commands, or augment other magic, depending on the type of materia. In order to use these materia, weapons will have a specified number of slots, connected or independent, which can be filled with materia. With connected slots, you can put two materia together for a variety of effects, including a double cast, or an added cut.
    As far as graphics go, some of the cut scenes are still beautiful to watch, and the in game graphics get the job done, but they are still outdated. Speaking of the cut scenes- sometimes these can get a little long in ff7. The designers saw that, and made some of the longer ones slightly interactive. You have to move around and talk to people and such. They can be a bit long, but ff7’s deep story is hard to tell without them, so, in the end they seem a necessary part of the game.

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    Jan 25th, 2008 at 19:01:46     -    Super Smash Brothers (N64)

    GAMEPLAY

    I was lucky enough to have a Super Smash Brothers group when I started learning to play. We were all about the same skill level and progressed at the same pace, so games were always interesting and fun. Having not played for a while and playing again now, the game can lose appeal when you’re so far behind your opponents. Games can go by without me even getting a kill, which can be extremely frustrating. After a while, too, the at first large-ish selection of playable characters and even the random appearance of pokemon in pokeballs can seem small and predictable. When I’m in the Super Smash mood, however, there still isn’t anything better.
    The game is just plain fun. There isn’t much of a story (if any at all), and it’s not an extremely deep system of play, but in this simplicity SSB exceeds. You can pick it up for a quick 3 minute timed match, or play a huge 99 stock battle without having to sit through text to set up a story or a cut scene or anything like that. You just play. And it seems to me that getting to see your character dance in victory after a successful battle is reward enough. That and bragging rights.

    DESIGN

    Super Smash Brothers is innovative in almost every level of its design. The feature that stands out the most, and the one that is advertised on the game’s cover is the ability to “duke it out as your favorite Nintendo characters”. The game brings together characters from all different styles of game into one fighting platformer. The level design is also unique, consisting of different floating platforms, each with a unique flare and danger. One level, based off the Star Fox games, is a flying space cruiser. Set in a distant galaxy, Sector Z, the level contains smaller ships firing powerful laser at unsuspecting players. Having to watch out for these dangers adds an interesting twist to the level design. While most are fun, some of the level dangers can become annoying when they kill you multiple times.
    The damage system is complex and innovative in SSB. It features a percentage system of damage, the higher the percent, the easier it is to be knocked off the board. Percentages do not stop at 100, nor does 100 percent mean death, which can cause some confusion for beginners to the game.
    Items in SSB can be both fun and annoying. Timing the home-run bat to one-hit-kill your opponent is a nice challenge, but bringing your opponent to near-death and then them receiving a heart to replenish health is irritating, though can help even the playing field between two unequally matched opponents. The ability to use pokeballs in order to have pokemon help you in battle is a nice feature.
    All in all, this game has very innovative and effective design elements that vault SSB into the category of “classic” games that will surely have an impact in the gaming world forever.

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    Jan 25th, 2008 at 17:41:13     -    Super Smash Brothers (N64)

    SUMMARY

    It’s all your favorite Nintendo characters in one place. It’s settling the bet: who would win in a fight, Link or Mario? It’s you and your three best friends yelling at each other for hours. It’s kicks and throws. It’s who is Ness and what is Kirby? It’s fireballs and hammers. It’s Super Smash Brothers. The goal is to get your opponent off floating platforms inspired by different Nintendo worlds, and it never gets old.

    GAMEPLAY

    Super Smash Brothers provides players with different types of game play, essentially single and multiplayer options. Having said that, I’ve never seen the single player game; it’s just a menu option before I click on multiplayer. See, I’ve never owned this game, so the burden of unlocking characters through single play never falls on me. For me, this is a social game.
    I’m a huge fan of the Zelda series, and I’ve played through more than a few Mario games, so the thought of getting to play as Link, Mario, Bowser, or Luigi in a completely different style of game as I’m used to seeing the characters intrigued me. When I first started I loved seeing what special move each character was given for battle, and thinking about how best to utilize their strengths. Pikachu’s lightning and speed, Donkey Kong’s power. Even seeing what surprises each level brought was exciting. As my skill increased, different aspects of the game became fun. Learning the subtle skills needed to defeat greater foes, timing of shields, which attacks had priority over others, combo moves, etc. became important.


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