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Game Review - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

This review was supposed to come a lot sooner, but due to some trouble with my computer, I’ve had to sit on my hands while I wait for it to get fixed.  Fortunately, I have access to other computers, and now that I finally have some free time, I’m here to give you my thoughts and reactions to the highly anticipated Zelda: Ocarina of Time remake in 3D (I am playing this as a fan of the original, so certain criticisms will make reference to the original game). Will it live up to the expectations of fans of the original, or is the Hero of Time past his prime?

=Gameplay=

Too someone who has never played a Zelda game before, the gameplay may seem pretty good.  Not much has changed since the original Nintendo 64 days, but it didn’t need too, as the gameplay still holds up to this day. Everything from Z-Targeting (Which has become L-Targeting) which allows you to focus on one enemy at a time, to the time traveling system that allows for different items to be used when playing as a kid or an adult.  Everything still works, and the things that have changed are changed for the better, such as making it easier to switch your iron boots on and off for the dreaded Water Temple.

=Controls=

The controls of the game have not changed much, as the A button still functions as the action button, B is still the sword, etc.  The X and Y buttons function much like the C-Buttons did on the N64 controller, allowing for the equipping of weapons, as well as two buttons on the touch screen, allowing for 4 equipped items, as opposed to three on the N64.  Ocarina playing is also easier, as the ocarina has it’s own button and does not need to take up one of your iten boxes.  Also, one may use both the touch screen or the buttons to play the songs, with the former allowing you to see where the buttons fall on the musical scale, as well as being able to see the song as you are playing it.

         

=Graphics=

Ocarina of Time 3DS has seen a substantial graphical overhaul, which is good, because it is expected for a game being re-released after over ten years.  Well everything looks much prettier, the big talk is of the 3D effects added into the game.  Turning on the 3D effect makes all of Hyrule seem much bigger, but the effect is wasted when you are playing since more often than not you are focused on link, or the enemy attacking you.  I found myself turning off the 3D effects during the game to conserve battery life.  Nice try, Nintendo, but it’s much better served in the cutscenes.

=Sound=

Nintendo, you cheap bastards.  I thought we were cool, you said new Zelda remake and I thought you meant it, but you were only willing to go halfway, because you know people will buy it based on how pretty it looks.  Then we turn on our games only to find that not only have you not recorded new music and sound effects for the game, you went and used the soundbytes ripped directly from the Nintendo 64 game.  No orchestral theme to accompany me when I am riding across Hyrule Field, no newly recorded sound effects for link, no ACTUAL ocarina recordings for the ocarina songs.  Nintendo, there’s a difference between a remake and a cash-in, and this is the line that separates it. After 13 years, I expected something better, but you can’t hear me, you’re to busy laughing all the way to the bank.

=Story=

If you’ve ever played a Zelda game, you already know the story.  Guy wants to rule the world, fairy guy has to stop him and save the princess.  The end.  For a more deeper insight, (Spoilers) Link, the kokiri boy who does not have a fairy friend, despite all his friends having one, is sent one by a guardian tree of the forest.  The tree tells Link it is his destiny to save the land of Hyrule.  After meeting the princess, she tells him that they need three spirtual stones to stop Ganondorf.  Link gets all of these and the Ocarina of Time, and opens the door of time.  He goes to grab the Master Sword but is put in a deep sleep for seven years.  After waking up, Link sees that the whole world has gone to hell, and it is up to him to save everyone, and eventually overthrow Ganondorf. (End Spoilers)
A few interesting twists, but if you’ve had any connection to the gaming world in the last 13 years then you probably already know it.

    

=Closing Thoughts=

Despite Nintendo bringing back a beloved game from my childhood and updating it for the 3DS, I just can’t justify telling anyone who has already played this game to buy this barely updated cash-in.  On the other hand, if you haven’t ever played Ocarina of Time, it is worth a playthrough, though it will be up to you to decide if updated graphics are worth the price difference of getting on the 3DS, versus getting it off the Wii Virtual Console.

Final Recommendation: Fuck it (Unless you’ve never played it before.)

Game Review - Metroid: Other M

Logo

Originally, I was planning on doing a review of the movie the Hangover 2, but I can sum it up in four words, “Same story, different jokes.”  So while that satisfies my promise to write a review of the movie, I still am itching to write, so I decided to go back a little, and review a game I got a few months ago, Metroid: Other M.  For those who don’t know, the Metroid series is about a bounty hunter named Samus Aran who goes on many adventures to barren planets fighting the space pirate menace, among other things.  At the end of the first game, in a twist to what was usual at the time, Samus was revealed to be a female.  Over the years, many sequels to the original were released, among them the amazing Super Metroid, and the wonderfully immersive Metroid Prime series.  Metroid: Other M is the newest game in the series, taking a fresh new look at a classic series.

=Gameplay=

Let me start off by saying that the gameplay in Metroid: Other M isn’t bad, it’s just adequate.  It pushes no boundaries and takes no risks,  everything we have seen has been done in past games, with this one choosing to take elements from both the 2D and 3D games in the series and combining them into ones.  There are a few exciting moments where you can execute an enemy in combat, but learning to do this effectively can be very difficult.  The major tease comes from being trained to use all of your moves at the beginning, only to have the game tell you that you can’t use them unless your CO approves, despite your life being put in danger several times (See Story section).  One thing I didn’t like was the new system for collecting energy.  In past Metroid games, you would kill enemies and they might drop health or ammo, but in other M, you instead use a function called concentration to pull ammo and health out of your ass.  It almost makes the game too easy, and I don’t understand why this was added.

=Controls=

The controls in this game are a bit wonky.  While it seems like a good idea to use Wii remote turned on it side, it doesn’t function well in a game that is set in a (mostly) 3D environment.  You move around with the control pad, and shoot and jump with the 1 and 2 buttons.  Samus will automatically lock on to enemies, though sometimes she’ll shoot the one that is standing back from you instead of the one that is gnawing your leg off.  If you are really in a pinch you can point the remote at the screen and the game will go into first person, allowing you to shoot enemies manually, as well as enabling the use of missiles, though doing this in the middle of a battle is about as fluid as trying to ride a unicycle upside down and throw a dart at a bulls-eye.  As most gamers hold the remote differently when holding it sideways, it takes a minute to adjust, and you are unable to move while you are in first person mode, aside from shaking the remote to dodge attacks.  This game could have been done so much better with a Wii remote and Nunchuck combo, but someone at Nintendo with three arms thought this was better. Still, despite all my gripes, the game is still playable, and after a little use, I got more used to the controls.

=Graphics=

For what it’s worth, the graphics in this game are pretty good, for a Wii game.  It should go without saying that being on the Wii, not a lot should be expected visually, but the game actually has some decent graphics.  Nothing worthy of the 360 or PS3, but pretty good for the Wii.  The game has some very well rendered cut scenes as well, which is good, because you can’t skip any of them. Also, if you unlock them all you can watch them all again like a movie without having to go through all the hassle of actually playing the game </sarcasm>.

=Sound=

This is where the game starts to trip over it’s own feet.  There’s a reason that silent protagonists should stay silent, because when you make them talk, the image that the player has in their mind of the character’s personality is shattered.  Samus is a character that is known for breaking the mold of scantily-clad whiny women in video games who only need a man in their life.  Someone at Team Ninja has apparently never played a Metroid game and decided that Samus needed to talk CONSTANTLY about how she never got the love she needed from her father-figure/CO/ambiguous boyfriend Adam. All horrible dialogue aside, Samus’ voice actress just seems like she’s phoning it in.  There is no juxtaposition in her speaking, so the same tone is used when Samus is narrating to the audience, to speaking in the middle of a firefight.  Take some advice, Nintendo, keep all of your characters silent from now on.

=Story=

And this is the point in the game where the game falls over, wets itself, and starts coughing up blood.  Metroid games in the past have favored immersive gameplay over a story, but story has started to take a more important role in the more recent titles, which is fine.  Where it goes wrong is when the gameplay takes a back seat to the story, and the story is busy sucking off fan fiction writers online.  This is seriously something you read on the internet from a love-repressed kid with a fetish for girls in spacesuits.  The game follows chronologically after Super Metroid with Samus leaving a Federation colony after seeing a Metroid baby give it’s life for her.  She picks up a distress call from a “Bottle Ship” and goes to investigate, running into a Federation task force, led by her former CEO, Adam Malkovich, who have also answered the distress call.  (Spoilers)  After meeting up with them, Samus decides to help them investigate the ship with them, deciding not to use her full abilities unless authorized by Adam, of whom she is desperately seeking approval, even though her life is put in danger because of this many times.  After a while, it comes to light that one person on the task force is killing off the other members.  I was excited to play detective and see if I could guess who it was, but the game seems to completely forget about this plot point and it is never resolved.  I’m not kidding.  It’s like the writing team had a fit of ADD after writing this part and forgot what they were doing.  Afterwards, Samus discovers that the Federation was breeding Metroids, despite the danger involved, finds a dragon that she has calmly killed in the last game and has a complete breakdown only so that the strong men can come save her. Then Samus kills some Android, and then the Federation shows up and shuts the whole ship down.  What a freaking tease.  (End Spoilers)

=Closing Thoughts=

Having played (and beaten) all of the Metroid Games minus the pinball spinoff, I can safely say this is my least favorite in the series.  The story is lacking, the voice acting is atrocious, and the controls are clunky to say the least.  The graphics and gameplay are simply not enough to save this from being an awful gaming experience that everyone should avoid, newbies and fans alike.  If you are still considering getting it, save yourself some money and get Super Metroid off of the Wii Shop Channel instead.  Worth every penny.

Final Recommendation: Fuck it.

Game Review: Portal 2

This review will be MOSTLY spoiler-free, minus a few parts, which will be designated.

If there’s one game I have been waiting for for far too long (besides Duke Nukem Forever), it’s the sequel to the breakout hit Portal from Valve’s compilation game The Orange Box.  When Portal first came out, I heard whispers about it from friends in gaming circles.  Eventually I decided that I needed to figure out what all the hype was about.  I don’t have a gaming PC, so sadly I had to buy the dumbed down Xbox 360 version, but I was still mesmerized at the cleverness and originality of the concept, story, and gameplay.  Unfortunately, Portal was released only to test the water, and was a relatively short game.  Many people beat the game game in one day and were already clamoring for a sequel.  Unfortunately, we had to wait years before the successor to Portal was released, but could Valve make lighting strike twice?

=Gameplay=

When I played the first game, I got exactly what I expected:  A bunch of Portal based physics puzzles.  When I got the second game, I expected pretty much the same, but I got so much more.  In addition to your basic Portal based puzzles, the developers added new elements, such as gels that speed-up and bounce you, tunnels that carry you around the chambers, and light fields that you can walk on and use as shields.  All of these bring new life to old puzzles, and give limitless opportunities to create new stages.  This also can allow certain stages to be solved in different ways.  The other biggest addition to the game is a new co-op mode.  This results in interesting new ways to solve puzzles that would be impossible with one person.  Team work can be anything from distracting robots to coordinating 4 different portals.  It can be a lot of fun,and you can choose to be completely cooperative, or you can be dick (I went with the latter).

=Controls=

Whether you are playing on the PS3, Xbox, or PC, the controls for Portal are pretty responsive and even when you are flying through portals, the game helps you find your bearings by adjusting to how you are oriented. The controls are just as good as any game, but what’s unique is the co-op mode.  When playing in co-op, you can actually mark on a wall where you would like a portal to be placed, as well as doing other communication actions like setting a count-down to coordinate a switch pull.  This can be very useful when playing with someone who doesn’t have a microphone, and even if they do, you can use it to better coordinate your actions.

=Sound=

Portal 1 wasn’t a lot for music, which is actually fine, because silence is golden if you want to work on solving puzzles.  The sound mainly came from the voice of the AI unit GLaDOS, voiced by Ellen McLain.  McLain returns for the sequel, and is as hilarious and sarcastic as ever.  She’s not the only voice actor in the sequel too, as the hilarious dialogue is also carried by the guiding AI, Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant.  The MVP however goes to J.K. Simmons, playing the recorded voice of Aperture Science CEO Cave Johnson.  Simmons is totally believable as a rich CEO who has gone insane, and delivers some of the funniest lines of the game.

=Graphics=

As was said before, Portal one was a quick title made by Valve to test the water. The graphics were okay, but nothing ground-breaking.  Valve stepped everything up in the sequel, and really pushed the Source engine to it’s limits.  Not only is the detail in the chambers stepped up, but the overgrowth that has been taking over the facility also looks pretty realistic.  At the beginning of the game, you’ll even go through test chambers that you went through in the first game, that have been heavily decayed from the years of abandonment.  The graphics are incredible, and you can definitely tell a difference as soon as you turn on the game, and you won’t be let down.

=Story=

Set several thousand years after the events of the first game, Chell, the protagonist from the first game has been put in cryostasis.  Though she was supposed to be awakened sooner, a system failure causes the whole system to leave her sleeping for over 99,999 years.  Assisted by an AI core named Wheatley, Chell makes her way out of the facility, only to inadvertantly wake up GLaDOS, who puts her through the ringer again.
(SPOILERS)
At this point, Wheatley comes to the rescue helping Chell escape and disable GLaDOS’ weapons, such as the neurotoxin and the turrets.  Chell then removes GLaDOS from her body and puts Wheatley in instead, but instead of aiding her, Wheatley goes mad with power and sends Chell all the way to the bottom of the facility miles down.  Chell then teams up with GLaDOS to climb back up.  When they get back, Chell faces off against Wheatley, culminating in Chell putting a Portal on the moon and causing everything to get sucked out.  GLaDOS, now back in her body rescues Chell, and leaves Wheatley behind.  GLaDOS finally decides that Chell is too much trouble to kill, and decides to finally release her.
(END SPOILERS)

=Closing Thoughts=

Portal 2 is everything that I expected in a sequel and more.  While I still have yet to completely conquer the co-op mode, the single player has moderate replayability, and the co-op mode will always be different depending on who you play with.  Even if you can’t find someone to play co-op with, there is always Xbox Live/PSN/Steam, which will let you play with someone at random.  Even if you never played the first Portal, aside from some minor plot confusion, you will still enjoy the game.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION:  BUY IT

Movie Review - Tron: Legacy

      

Let me begin this review by saying that I will try my best to avoid spoilers, a few minor ones may spill out here and there, but I will not ruin the ending.  Still, read at your own risk.

The original Tron was a science fiction film released by Disney in 1982 about adventures inside a computer program.  It paved the ways to movies that developed more on this plot, such as The Matrix.  While it didn’t make any revolutions in the story-telling department, it more than made up for it with it’s advanced special effects for the time period.

                

                                     We’ve come a long way since then…

The movie was a critical and commercial success, and it seemed likely that a sequel was right around the corner.  Unfortunately, the day was a long way off.  Still, even years after it’s release, Tron had a long legacy (pardon the pun) that extended from it’s video game spin-offs (including it’s own level in the Disney/Square Enix crossover Kingdom Hearts 2), as well as comic books, theme park attractions, and even internet memes.

                                          

                              And some people wonder why they’ve never been laid.

Eventually, the rumors of a new Tron cinematic experience became a reality when Disney showed a surprise teaser at Comic-Con 2008, much to the chagrin of fans everywhere.  I was among this crowd who couldn’t wait to see how they could bring the series back in a way that only Disney knew how.  As the number of days until the premiere diminished, my excitement grew more and more. It’s no secret that 2010 has not been a great year for cinema, but I retained my optimism.  I bought my ticket, went into the theater, sat down and the film began.  Did it live up to my expectations of what it should be? Short answer: No.  Long Answer: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.  Still, despite it not living up to what I expected, I can’t say it was a bad film.

                          

                                              Seen here: An okay film.

=Visual FX=

I don’t pretend to know the amount of work that goes into making the special FX on a movie, but I can say that the FX department went way above and beyond what was necessary to impress me for this film.  From the sequences were Jeff Bridges is made to appear young to the AMAZING fight scenes, I was drooling at the way that everything seemed real, even though it was plainly a different world that we were seeing. Let me also say I have a love/hate relationship with 3D films.  If I shell out $10 for a movie ticket and 3D glasses, I am expecting to get what I paid for (and the 3D glasses don’t fit over my own glasses). Well, I can say that the 3D glasses were worth it as the visuals were stunning to say the least.  The whole world comes to life in this dark and grittier take on the world from the original movie, and rather than use the 3D effect to make stupid gimmicks involving things flying at the viewer’s face, the filmmakers use it to make the world seem bigger and more detailed than would be possible in 2D. To sum it up, this movie is so pretty, that if it were a woman, even Barney Stinson would consider getting into relationship with it.

                     

                                                           Yeah, it’s that awesome.

=Sound=

As for the sound effects, I can speak a ton about them seeing as it’s not something that I pay heavy attention to during a film.  What I can say is that everything sounded like it should, and I’m happy to say that the sound department did exactly as they should have. I do have to say something about the music, however.  While Daft Punk is not one of my favorite bands, their style is perfect for this film, as the techno beats blend perfectly in this world of 1s and 0s.  Even if you don’t go see the movie, at least listen to the soundtrack, because it is an amazing gateway to a whole new genre of music you might not even be interested in.

       

                                 They also may have stole some costumes from the movie.

=Acting=

I’m not an actor, but it doesn’t take one to know what a good one is, and this movie is chocked full of them.  Some are better than others, and unfortunately, some of the more memorable performances are limited to a few minutes of screen time.  To put it delicately, I found the acting in this movie to be adequate.  I was not impressed by Garrett Hedlund’s stony performance, as the only time I could even remotely see an emotion from him in the whole movie is in one relatively early scene.  I’m sorry, but that’s not going to cut it.  Jeff Bridges is as good as ever, playing not only the hero, but also the villain of the film. 

                               

                                                                   Also, he’s a jedi.

=Story=

So with so few complaints so far, you have to be wondering why I was so harsh on the movie in my introduction.  To me, it comes down to the most important part of any film, which is the story.  As both a film buff and an English major, I am always looking for a good story that keeps my interest and logically makes sense, even if only in the film’s universe.  Unfortunately, Tron: Legacy has several plot holes that are big enough to drive a truck through.  Try as I might to overlook them, some are inexcusable, such as (Spoilers) an early scene where Sam tries to use his father’s computer, and pulls a complex file command out of his ass that literally sets up the whole movie.  Frankly, this could have easily been solved by having him find it written down somewhere on the desk, but it’s simply never explained (End spoilers).  Try as I might to enjoy the film, many random events are never explained, and it dragged the whole experience for me.  What was the total killer for me, however, was the ending.  Without giving anything away, a multitude of things go right for the heroes just in the nick of time that even James Bond would be calling shenanigans, and again, nothing is explained.  I understand leaving the audience wondering is a great way to entertain, and in fact, I encourage it, but make it something that is intriguing to speculate about, rather than frustrating…

         

                                        …such as whether or not Olivia Wilde is single.

While Tron: Legacy wowed me again with it’s amazing visuals and rocking soundtrack, the acting was merely adequate, and story needed a lot of work.  I’m sure that it will make a decent amount at the box office, and while I won’t be rushing out to buy the DVD when it goes on sale, I will say that enjoyed my experience seeing it.  If you are a Tron fan, go see it, and if you aren’t, still go see it, as it’s a visual experience that will blow you away.

Final Recommendation: Rent it, but only in 3D.

Game Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

The original Donkey Kong Country was a game that I have had a very limited relationship with.  I never disliked it, but I was never to keen to pick it up after I bought it on Wii Virtual Console. This was mostly due to the difficulty of the game, which was unforgiving to say the least.  Recently, a few of my fraternity brothers started playing the games on my Wii and my interest in them was rekindled.  While I still was having difficulty with the game, I did enjoy the challenge.  When a current generation version was announced, I got excited, as did my friend Brandon.  Unfortunately, it came out right around the time I had to study for final exams, but as soon as I got home after school got out, I was hooked.  Let me end this introduction by saying that everything you read is from a co-op perspective, as I played every level with my friend Brandon.

=Gameplay=

While all of the Donkey Kong Country games are known for their difficulty, this is the only one that I’ve played (and beaten) that wasn’t frustratingly difficult.  At no point did I ever feel the urge to throw my controller, though their were some mild annoyances. A new feature in this game is the ability to play co-op simultaneously, as opposed to the tag system employed in the old games.  While it’s as enjoyable as it sounds to play with a friend, it can get extremely frustrating, as some of the platforming sections can require speed, and if you both aren’t quick enough, you can leave your partner in the dust.  Luckily, Diddy can jump on Donkey Kong’s back to take a more passive role, allowing them to give more of an helping hand, and get past some of the more difficult sections. You should have the less experienced player play as Diddy, as his jet pack can help him on some of the more advanced jumps.  Also, there are parts where you’ll have to take control of a vehicle, such as a mine cart or barrel jet, and you’ll both be in control, so communication is key. Certain things have been removed from the game, such as the underwater levels and most of the animal buddies. Rambi the Rhino shows up occasionally to switch up the gameplay, but it’s appearances are rare at most.

=Controls=

The game can be played with both the Wii Remote and Nunchuck Combo, or the Wii Remote turned sideways.  I personally preferred the former, because I found the control stick more comfortable than the D-pad, and it was easier to shake than the one controller alone.  Whichever you choose, the controls will come naturally, although shaking the controller to do various actions (Ground pounding, blowing stuff away, and rolling) can get tiring on your arms, as it’s an action that you’ll be doing frequently.  You will find that you need to be very careful with the direction you are pressing when you shake the remote, or you might find yourself rolling off a cliff instead of blowing a dandelion away.

=Sound=

Anyone who has played any of the previous Donkey Kong Country games will know that the series is known for it’s impressive soundtrack, and this game is no exception.  With it’s compilation of remixes of songs from the older games, as well as creative new tracks, the songs always fit in with the level, enhancing the gameplay without distracting the player.  The sound effects are just as you’d expect them to be, though I would have preferred a different voice for Donkey Kong.

=Graphics=

While it might make some people say it doesn’t look realistic, I’d much rather have a game with color in it than a game that is entirely brown and grey.  Luckily, DKCR is the former.  While the game isn’t cel-shaded, the bright color will make you feel like it is one, and it helps the game a lot.  The bright levels actually make you feel like you are on a bright, sandy beach, and the dark levels will actually feel like a dark cave.  Still, at the same time, you are always able to see what’s happening around you.

=Story=

If you’re getting excited for another adventure of bashing Kremlings, beavers, and bees, unfortunately you’re going to be let down.  Gone are K. Rool and his minions in favor of a new enemy called the Tiki Tak Tribe.  At the beginning of the game, the volcano on Donkey Kong’s Island erupts, releasing rocks which turn into some of these characters.  They immediately start hypnotizing the animals of the island to start gathering up the Kongs Banana Hoard.  One even makes his way to the ape’s home and attempts to hypnotize him, but perhaps due to his own thick headed-ness, Donkey is immune to the effects.  Donkey and Diddy then take it upon themselves to get back every last banana that was stolen from them.

=Closing Thoughts=

While it’s not exactly perfect with some minor flaws here and there, this game is, in my opinion, the best Wii game of 2010, beating out Super Mario Galaxy 2.  It’s difficulty is too the point where you will find yourself challenged, but not overly frustrated.  If you are a gamer looking for a good game for Christmas that doesn’t involve shooting a gun, I highly recommend picking this up, as it’s how a remake should be done.

Final Recommendation: Buy it