Friday, January 29, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Review

In 2007, Link transitioned onto the DS smoothly with the release of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. However, the game is often lauded as the worst Zelda ever made because of one huge problem: there's a dungeon that you have to visit over and over, having to restart at the beginning each time with all the traps reset, and it gets worse because you're timed. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks aims to fix these problems and more, and for the most part, it does.

Set 100 years after the events of the first DS game, the water has all drained and now Hyrule is a field once again. You play as the young boy Link, who is heading to the Castle to get his Royal Engineer Diploma. Here you learn how to control your train, which feels like the boat, but is a lot more fun and interractive. You can't just draw a line to anywhere a la the first game, you're restricted to the lines of the track. You would think than would lower the exploration, but while riding your train, you find hidden secrets all around the rails, and you soon become consumed into finding every last secret. You can't just sleep through rides, you get to switch rail lines in turns, blow your whistle to get animals off the tracks, and (later) be able to shoot enemies with a canon. On land, the game controls very much like Phantom Hourglass, but it has a few minor inprovements. Instead of having to draw a circle to roll, you just double-tap the screen. The controls are intuitive and work great. Also another inprovement in the plot; PH's plot often felt a little forced, but ST's plot is grand and intuitive, but nowhere near as epic as the consle's plot line. And in a shocking twist, Zelda's spirit is sucked out of her body, and she joins you throughout the whole game, letting you bond with you better. You also find out that the land's central dungeon, the Tower of Spirits, is falling apart, and you need to visit level by level, PH style. But the timer's gone, and you don't have to replay parts you've already done, making the tower a lot of fun. Another thing that's great in this game is the music. Not only is this the best music ever to hit the DS, you get a Pan Pipe that acts a lot like the Ocarina in OoT. It's fun to play, and the songs you play to uncover secrets are pretty catchy.

All the rails aren't perfect though: the items you get from the dungeons are nothing new (except the Sand Wand), and the dungeons are the standard fire, forest, and water-type generality. Also, some of the sidequest require tedious backtracking that get annoying fast thanks to the train's relatively slow pace.
Gameplay: Improved over PH. There's a lot to do and it controls fine. Great for on-the-go sessions. 9.0
Graphics: Impressive 3-D artwork that looks very good on the DS. Well done. 9.5
Audio: Fantastic. Some of the best tunes on a handheld in awhile. 9.75
Overall: This game is what Phantom Hourglass isn't and more. Easilly one of the best games on the DS and one of the best Zeldas ever.
9.5 out of 10

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Animal Crossing: Wild World Review

In 2002, Nintendo launched their social simulator, Animal Crossing, on the Gamecube in order to rival EA's popular Sims series. It was a fun little sim, but connecting with friends was a disaster because you had to trade memory cards and it just ended up being more frustrating than fun. Nintendo addressed these issues and more in their DS sequel, Animal Crossing: Wild World.
Wild World starts out in a taxi, and you already know it's not of the norm. You're apparently the only human around in a world populated by animals. Your taxi driver, Kapp'n, is a talking parrot who asks you questions in order to determine where you live and what you look like. Once the ride is over, you arrive in town. One problem, you're dirt broke. And your house is patheticly small. In order to make your house more homely, you'll have to pay off the mortage, which adds up to an astounding ammount of bells (the game's currency). Don't worry, the goverment gives you all the time you need to pay it off. Even better, the town's shopkeeper, Tom Nook (a raccoon), will pay off a little bit of debt, but you must run a couple of chores for him. These odd jobs act like the tutorials; you learn how to socialize, deliver gifts, write messages, etc. After that's over, the whole rest of the game's up to you. Do you wanna gain brownie points with your neighbors and give them rare items? Or do you want to horde every fruit (selling fruit gets you bells) and item? It's all yours. This game is very relaxed; you can do various calming activities like catching butterflies (which gives you money) or talk the latest gossip with you animal neighbors (even though the conversations are a bit one-sided). When you've gained enough bells, pay off your debt, go to the bank and figure out you have a second, even larger debt!!! This may infuriate you at first, but while you're gaining the money, you'll see how addictive the game is; special visitors appear to give you rare items you can sell for big cash, Tom Nook's shop expands based on how much you spend, you can try on some of the awesome fashions (cooler than it sounds) at Able Sister's, dig up fossils for the museum or for your own profit, do errands for your neighbors to gain money, and much more. Even though the town is relatively small, there's so much to do you'll never notice it. And your town's alive and thriving; neighbors with their own personalities come and go, though if you like certain neighbors, you can act kind to them to make them stay (though some villagers will hate you no matter what). The feel of accomplishment after paying off all your debt is so satisfyinig, it'll be definitelly worth the effort. If you have friends, you can visit their towns or vice versa, enhancing the fun.
Your life in the town won't be perfect, though. This game requires a LOT of time to play with; if you don't play for awhile neighbors will start to hate you and your town will be overrun by nasty weeds that take a long time to uproot. Also, some of the prices on things are so propostorously high you'll have to be flowing with blood in order to afford it.
Gameplay: Highly addictive. Takes a lot of your time, but well worth it. 9.0
Graphics: Standard 3-D quality graphics for the DS. Pretty good. 8.0
Audio: A little weak, but you'll start to hum it uncontrollably for a while. But K.K. Slider's songs are brilliant. 8.5
Overall: If you love sims you'll love this game. Once you start it they'res no going back.
8.75 out of 10

Monday, January 25, 2010

Super Mario World Review

In 1981, Nintendo introduced a legend to us: Mario. He originally had to share the spotlight with that Donkey Kong, but in 1985, he starred in the revolutionary platformer Super Mario Bros. The game had 2 sequels, both on the NES. But with Sega's hedgehog gaining popularity, Nintendo knew they had to eventually enter the 16-bit war. Thus call in the creation of Super Mario World, one of the finest platformers ever made.
Super Mario World, first off, was 100 times prettier than its NES cousins due to the power of the SNES. Second, it featured far more levels and worlds, with about 96 levels in total. Finally, it added multiple new moves and items to Mario's collection, some of which have become his signature moves. Probably the biggest contribution was the inclusion of the loveable dinosaur Yoshi, who could jump higher, eat enemies, and swallow shells to fly, shoot fire, etc. Two more important inclusions were the Spin Jump, which could break blocks under your feet, and the Cape Feather, which acted like the Racoon Leaf (from Super Mario Bros. 3), but you could fly forever if you could control it right. The levels are imaginative, and are much longer than the quick-fix Mario 3 levels. The variety of levels is astounding; one level you're riding a lava platform, the next you're avoiding spiked pistons from crushing you. The game's challenge was evenly set, with the early levels being fairly easy and the later levels being very hard (though nowhere as hard as Mario 3's final levels). And just when you think you've beaten the game, there's two bonus world to explore; one allows you to jump to the game's world on the fly and the other one will take your Mario skills to the max. The game all accumulates in inventive Boss battles, especially the final showdown with Bowser.
There are some small complaints, though. The underwater levels have never been fun, and this game is no exception. Also, gaining lives is far too easy, some levels give you 5 1-ups graciously, while others have none at all. These complains are relatively minor, though, and you'll probably ignore all of these due to the sheer funness of the game
Gameplay: Very fun. Even though some levels are tedious, the funner levels make you forget those other ones. 9.75
Audio: Very well done. You'll be humming it in no time. 9.5
Overall: This is one of the all-time great platformers. If you love the genre, this is a must-play now. Buy it on the Virtual Consle now for only 800 points

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pac-Man World 2 Review

In 1980, Namco released a revolutionary new character: Pac-Man. He appealed to many non-gamers with his simple yet addictive gameplay. Pac-Man decided to go on adventure on the Super NES, with disaturous results. He tried again on the Playstation in 1999 with Pac-Man World, but that wasn't so good. So in 2002, he finally starred in an adventure worthy of the Pac-Man name.

Pac-Man World 2 starts out with the ghost taking the Golden Fruit from the center tree in Pac-Village, thus releacing a menacing ghost named Spooky. Pac-Man must jouney across 6 world of platforming action, using his classic skills along with new ones in order to get the fruit.

The game's controls are simple: Control Stick to move, A to Jump, A in the air to do a butt-bounce, B on the ground to do a rev roll, and B in the air to do a flip kick. All these moves are thoughtfully interrgrated into levels, such as trampolines you have to bounce back and forth on, and boxes floating in the air that can be broken with a flip kick. Pac-Man's not always jumping around, though. Some levels give Pac a pair of skates, others allow him to swim around underwater (the funnest levels). The challenge is evenly paced: the first levels are easy and act like tutorials while some of the later levels can be very hard. Adding replay value is the inclusion of fruit around each level. If you're a collector-maniac, you'll love tracking down every single one of these pieces of produce. There are also tolkens to collect that buy you arcade games like the original Pac-Man, Pac-Attack, and a Jukebox to listen to the game's amazingly well-done soundtrack. At the end of each world is a boss, which tests Pac-Man's athletic skills to the limit.

This game isn't without its problems, though. The camera can be fine at one moment and frustratingly bad the next. You'll often die because the camera doesn't turn where you want it to. Another complaint is the game's length. It's far too short, with only about 25 levels or so. Also, some of the arcade cabniets have outrageously high tolken prices: Mrs. Pac-Man costs over 150 tolkens! But, if you're a Pac-Maniac, you'll probably think it's worth the high price.


Gameplay: Solid and fun. The camera can be wonky, but the overral tightness in the controls make up for it. 8.25

Graphics: Looks good for a standard Gamecube game. Not horrible, but not great. 7.0

Audio: Astounding. All of it's orchestrated and it sounds lovely. 9.5

Overall: If you like platformers, you'll probably like this game. Even if you aren't, it's still a solid purchase for the Gamecube

8.25 out of 10