The end of 2011 has been a crowded period for gaming and there have been quite a lot of quality games coming out in the market. Lord of The Rings: War in the North came out early November and was sidelined by more successful triple A titles such as Battlefield 3 and Uncharted 3. Just simply being released at a time where tons of highly anticipated games are already out in the market wasn’t the game’s only problem. Poor presentation, mediocre storyline, and long load times were all central problems that reduced the quality of the game. Lord of the Rings: War in the North however offered one of the better Lord of the Rings experiences in recent memory and a game that can be enjoyed by fans of the franchise.
War in the North doesn’t delve into the main story of Lord of the Rings but rather focuses on 3 heroes: Eradan, Farin, and Andriel on their quest to do their part in helping with the war for Middle Earth. In a sense War in the North is a spinoff that attempts to tell a tale on its own rather than focus on backbones from the main plot of the Lord of The Rings storyline. The story doesn’t pick up very well and for the most part it seems to be just there to move the game along. I had a hard time remembering the character’s name simply because there was little to no attachment to their personalities. The characters were simply avatars that just took the role of different classes to portray different character classes.
As an action-RPG War in the North plays very similarly to other games of the genre most notably Dragon Age and The Witcher 2. You control a single character from the 3 main heroes and can choose to either have other real players play along with you in co-op/Online or have the AI take control of the other 2 partners. As you make your way through the game you gain experience points which eventually add up to increase your level. Once you level up then you can spend points on different attributes as well as skills to customize your character in the way your own play style. Combat is fun in Lord of the Rings: War in the North but can become repetitive because of moments in the game where you feel like you are just slashing at rows after rows of beasts and monsters.
The main selling point of War in the North is its cooperative experience. Co-op can be played by up to 3 people at once and can be a ton of fun. While playing the game single player can still be fun, the game was catered to co-op play from the get go. Playing Co-op makes the experience a lot more fun as you get rid of some AI problems that can be of annoyance when playing alone and hence this allows for a much more engaging experience.
There are several problems that I came across while playing through the game. Loading times in the game are one my main complaints, as they can be quite lengthy at times. This can be especially frustrating when you are moving from one part of an area to another only to be stopped by 30seconds-1minute of load times. Another problem is crashes and glitches that can occur while playing multiplayer whether it is Co-op or online.
Lord of the Rings: War in the North still remains a game that can be enjoyed by Action-RPG lovers as well as lord of the Rings .The game has enough solid points to offer an enjoyable experience but does suffer from several issues that holds it back from becoming great. If you are a fan of the Lord of The Rings then War of the North is a title that does a decent job of capturing the essence of the Lord of The Rings Universe.
Whenever a new Nintendo hardware launches you have to expect a brand new Mario Kart game to be launched sometime within its timeline. The 3DS has finally received its own Mario Kart game as Mario Kart 7 is now out. Nintendo this time around created a highly polished Mario Kart game with the most robust online multiplayer mode I have ever seen in any Nintendo title to come out.
If you have played Mario Kart before or any other Kart racing game then you will feel right at home with Mario Kart 7. You pick a character from the Mario universe and choose from a variety of karts available to race against other characters. As you race you pick up several power ups that give you a variety of benefits. For example picking up shells allow you to hit other racers hindering their progress in the track, while picking up mushrooms gives you a limited speed boost. Nintendo added a few new power-ups this time around and it emphasized a lot on the ability to fly and drive under water with this iteration of the franchise. Both features are great additions to the series as they expand the diversity and possibilities of the in game tracks.
Nintendo has managed to add a few great changes to the Mario Kart gameplay experience. 1st of all Kart customization comes in which enables you to choose which kart, tire, and add-on to use before starting a race. While the customization isn’t incredibly deep, this feature allows you to tweak your kart to your own play style. Another important gameplay element added is the use a first-person view and the ability to control the kart using the 3DS’s gyroscope. The controls for this mode felt pretty responsive and combined with the 3D effect in the game gave a more immersive feel to the kart racing experience.
While the single-player modes can be a ton of fun, the real gem of Mario Kart 7 is the multiplayer mode. Here you choose to play local multiplayer with your friends as well as online multiplayer with people around the globe. The online multiplayer of Mario Kart 7 is THE best online mode I have yet seen in a Nintendo game. You can choose to play regular races or challenges such as collecting coins or popping balloons and whatnot. In addition there are communities available for you both to join and create. This provides a great foundation to build a community around people who enjoy the game. The latency online is nearly unnoticeable regardless of who you play against. Nintendo has done a great job of both masking and reducing latency making the online multiplayer all that more enjoyable.
Mario Kart 7 also has both StreetPass and SpotPass support to enable a number of handy features to be used. Through StreetPass you can fight other racers you meet locally, while through SpotPass you can get ghost data from various races around the world to compete against as well as recommendations to which communities you can join. Both of these features add a ton of great value to the experience and boost the game’s replay ability.
Mario Kart 7 doesn’t bring in anything revolutionary in terms gameplay but rather polishes the Mario Kart formula to a really high extent. Kart customization, rich course diversity, and brilliant multiplayer make this package one that’s really hard to resist. If you haven’t picked Mario Kart 7 up yet, you are going to miss out on such an amazing experience.
The Spider-man franchise has not been doing so well in recent years. Most of the video game adaptations come off just for the sake of making a push with an upcoming movie or some sort of publisher demand. Last year’ Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions however tried to do something unique and different with the franchise and was successful in making a surprisingly good game that was able to capture some of the elements that were lost. This year’s Spider-man: Edge of time tries to improve upon what last year’s release’ positive points but rather fails in producing a better game and the result is a half decent product. Spider-man: Edge of time isn’t a completely horrible experience, but is definitely not the step forward fans of the series are looking for.
Shattered Dimensions focuses on two adaptations within the Spiderman universe, The Amazing Spider-man and Spider-man 2099. The plot of the game revolves around Doctor Walker Sloan who was able to create a portal to go back in time which allows him to start his evil plans at a much earlier point in history. Both the Amazing Spider-man as well as Spider-man 2099 must work together to put an end to the works of Sloan as its effects will cause some drastic changes that can shift history forever. There is very little that is interesting in the plot of the game and you often find yourself finding the plot being there just for the sake of it.
Throughout the game you shift between both the Amazing and 2099 Spider-men to fix important things in each time period. The concept of changing something in the past to effect the present is crucial to the game as most of the time you will be doing various tasks utilizing that concept. For example breaking a door in The Amazing Spider-man’s universe will cause that same door to open in the future.
The gameplay of Shattered Dimensions is a mixture of the Action/Adventure and Platformer genres .Most of the time you will spend punching away at enemies to advance from one area to another. The combat lacks diversity and you often find yourself fighting off just waves and waves of the exact same enemies. The game also suffers from repetitive and poor stage design than often makes you do the same things again and again. That combined with repetitive combat are glaring problems that hold back the game from producing fun gameplay experiences.
Each of the Spider-men is at first introduced to have different play styles and characteristics. During your playtime however you realize that both Spider-men play nearly identically regardless of the “differences” that the game boasts. For example the dodging sensing ability of the Amazing spider-man is essentially the same as Spider-man 2099’s speed ability. This large similarity between the two main characters in the game is a huge problem that makes an already repetitive game more repetitive.
As you progress through the game you can purchase and unlock various upgrades to each of the Spider-men. There are some upgrades which are shared between the two, while others that are unique only to one of them. The upgrade system adds a good layer of depth to the game which is quite needed to cover up the repetitive and blunt nature of the combat and stage design.
While Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions is definitely a step back in the franchise it’s not a drastic one per say. If you are a fan of Spiderman then the game can still be fun despite its many flaws. However if you are looking for a game with a lot more polish and then Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions should best be avoided.
The Nintendo 3DS has several great titles out for it already, such as Ocarina of Time 3D and Starfox 64 3D, but it still lacks an original game that offers an experience you can’t find elsewhere. Super Mario 3D Land comes in to fill that gap as it’s a core Super Mario game that combines the great 3D Platforming of the Galaxy series with the more retro 2D side-scrolling of the previous iterations in the franchise. Early previews of the game showed us that the game was promising, and I was quite positively overwhelmed by the final product. Simply put Super Mario 3D Land brings the best of 2D and 3D Platforming into one outstanding package.
As with every Mario game, the story is the same old routine. Mario finds out after a stormy night that Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser. This leads to Mario immediately following the trails left by Princess Peach in order reach where she is being held captive and save her. Throughout the journey you will go through a series of world and levels that vary in both the enemies fought as well as design and feel.
While many other games before it simply used 3D as an aesthetic, Super Mario 3D Land incorporates the 3D effect to the core of the game. The game is made from the ground up with 3D in mind and hence does a fantastic job of giving you a reason to have that 3D slider up. For the most part the levels are designed in a mixture of 2D side-scrolling and 3D Platforming. There are however certain puzzles that can only be done with 3D effect on as it’s needed to solve them correctly. This huge emphasis on 3D is great and even though I don’t usually game on the 3DS with the 3D always on, I found myself enjoying it quite a lot.
There are 8 worlds in total in the game with each usually having 5-6 levels with a boss level in the end. The amount of diversity in both level design and level visuals is brilliant and you never seem to feel that the levels are repetitive as each world and level offers new ideas. While the levels are shorter compared to other Super Mario titles they have a lot of depth in them and you often find yourself coming back to get all 3 hidden golden stars and exploring parts of the levels you missed. On the other hand boss battles in the game feel extremely repetitive as it just seems to be fighting the same bosses over and over again each time you complete the world. This doesn’t redact a lot from the game but it would have been nice to see a much more diverse array of ways to fight bosses throughout the game.
As you play through the various levels in the game Mario can get a variety of power-ups that help you along the way. For example, the Tanooki suit gives Mario the ability to glide after jumping as well as a spin attack on the ground while Boomerang suit enables Mario to throw boomerangs at his enemies. These different power-ups enhance the gameplay experience as they feel quite diverse from each other while offering a unique way to approach the level.
Completing the game takes around 6 hours and once done there are still optional levels to unlock and Golden Stars to collect. You also unlock Luigi as a 2nd character to play as after you finish the game which you can use to play any level in the game. Super Mario 3D Land also supports Street Pass which when turned on enables you to share different hidden items with other people as well as play against them or with them in a series of challenges. This addition does offer a new way of playing the game and could be quite fun if you know someone who also owns the game.
Nintendo did quite an amazing job with Super Mario 3D Land by making an excellent title that is tailor made specifically to use the capabilities that the 3DS provides. Impeccable use of 3D, brilliant level design and diverse environments and stages are all reasons why the game is such an enjoyable experience. Super Mario 3D Land is a highly recommended purchase for any 3DS user out there and a great incentive for new users to join in on the fun.
The original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 launched just a mere 9 months ago back in February and yet we already have our hands on the latest iteration of the franchise. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (UMVC3) is an upgraded version of the original that adds in 12 new characters, several new stages and modes, as well as various character balance tweaks and online stability. Lots of people were on the edge on whether to buy another version of the game in such a short period of time; however it’s safe to say that Capcom has created a compelling package enough to justify a purchase.
The main attraction of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the 12 new characters and the gameplay changes and adjustments. Right off the bat you will notice that each of the newly introduced characters is different in their own way. For example Phoenix Wright plays unlike any character I have even seen in a fighting game, he does not use actual hits for his attacks but rather finds evidence or throws paper at the opponent. In addition he has various modes he can go into by searching for different clues while in battle; each mode gives him a different set of attacks to use against the enemy. There was a lot of thought put into each of these characters and the diversity that they bring to the cast is much welcomed.
The old cast members have also received their share of changes ranging from balance adjustments all the way to brand new moves. Nearly every character in the game now has more tools and traits to work with which opens up new ways of how these characters are used. It’s safe to say that the now 48 roaster of characters make the game a lot more fun while the balance adjustments seem to give each of the old characters a set of fresh new tools.
The in game HUD in UMVC3 has gotten a complete redesign that was aiming to be more comic-like and clear at the same time. While the HUD is mostly considered an improvement there are few points that can be problematic. The first one being that the order of characters now lists the 1st assist on the bottom and the 2nd on top of the current character’s health bar. This can be confusing as you can misread the order and end up doing something you weren’t planning on doing. Another issue is that the two characters not on point (not being currently controlled) have their health bars dimmed which can be a little hard to read at times. These issues although might bug some people can be mostly adjusted to as you get used to the game.
The Assassin’s Creed franchise is hands down my favorite video game universe of the current console generation. The mysteries, characters, and setting are so interesting and engaging that I grew a huge attachment to the franchise. While the series started out with a somewhat decent 1st entry in the original Assassin’s Creed, it quickly risen up to become one of the most loved franchises this generation. With Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Ubisoft is wrapping up the Ezio trilogy once and for all while answering a lot of questions that fans of the series have been eager to get. Needless to say, Assassin’s Creed Revelations is a solid conclusion to the Ezio trilogy and a great tease for what’s to come.
The story of Revelations starts off right after the events of Brotherhood. Desmond is in a coma because of the events that occurred at the end of the previous entry and has been put in the Animus in an effort to stabilize him. Desmond must then dive into the memories of his ancestors (Ezio and Atair) for one last time in order complete all their memories and retrieve consciousness once again.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations has the most complex story yet as it links 3 major characters of the series (Ezio, Altair, and Desmond) into one big picture. Although the game starts out with a quick recap of the events of the previous games, I highly recommended playing the previous entries as the beauty of the story can only be fully enjoyed if you did so. The pacing starts off slow but quickly rises to the proper speed to keep you interested. For the most part of the game you will be spending time in the city of Constantinople. Just like Rome before it, Constantinople is rather large with beautiful 16th century architecture and a ton of historical sites that paint the setting amazingly well. Unlike Brotherhood, which only stayed in Rome as the main city, you do visit a variety of other locations. This makes the overall experience much more diverse as you explore several areas that are quite unique both in design and location than each other.
The core gameplay in Revelations remain pretty much the same as the previous entries with a few tweaks to improve upon it. The now added hookblade enables you to move around the city a lot faster while also opening up different ways to assassinate enemies. Combat feels a lot more solid and enemies’ AI seems to have to been improved to be more challenging. The biggest addition to the combat however is the bomb creation system. Using a variety of materials you can create 100s of different types of bombs that you can use in combat. There are bombs such as the cherry bomb that act as distractions to the enemies, others like the smoke bombs which clouds the enemies’ vision as well as destructive bombs which are made to kill enemies. Bomb creation definitely added a brand new option as to how you approach combat and can become quite handy in variety of situations.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is unique than previous entries in the franchise in that it has quite a lot of cinematic experiences than any of the previous titles. There are tons of great moments throughout the game that do a brilliant job of keeping you engaged and on the edge of your seat. Puzzle and exploration elements are also much more involved in the story than they were before. This makes missions a lot more diverse than in previous entries while making sure that what you are doing is contributing to the overarching storyline.
Starfox 64 was one of the most loved classics on the original Nintendo 64. It introduced a fun set of characters, addicting gameplay, and full on 3D environments to navigate your aircraft around. Starfox 64 3D is a full remake of the amazing original that emphasizes on revamping the graphics and packaging the title for a more modern audience. Nintendo were indeed able to take the core experience of Starfox 64 and enhance it in a variety of ways to produce a product that is well worth your time.
Starfox 64 3D is set in the Laylat star system and has you controlling Fox McCloud , the son of the legendary James McCloud, as he tries to save the world from the plans of the evil scientist Andross. You are sent on missions from one area to another in order to accomplish the given task with the final goal being finding Andross and foiling his plot. The game follows a non-linear path where you can go through different routes to finish the game. Depending on what you do in each of the missions and which objectives you complete you will divert to different paths. It’s also important to note that some characters most notably Star Wolf (leader of the mercenaries) are unavoidable regardless of what route has been taken. There are 25 routes available in the game which adds in a lot of replay value.
Starfox 64 3D has the exact same gameplay elements as the original Starfox 64. The game is set in a full 3D environment where you control Fox assisted by the rest of his team members to accomplish your objectives. The combat is a mixture of shooting and navigating around to doge incoming enemy attacks and obstacles. The gameplay of Starfox 64 3D is extremely fun especially due to its tight controls and great level design.
The crazy season of video game releases has just begun and there will definitely be plenty of awesome games to play till the year end. Looking into next year we also begin to realize that the upcoming year is indeed filled with plenty of triple A titles such as Final Fantasy 13-2 , Mass Effect 3, and Tomb Raider. There are however a couple of games that I think did not receive the amount of attention they should have. These titles seem to have huge potential to be great games that should be marked on your must buy list for 2012. Let’s have a look at what these games are all about and what makes them so special.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
I think I speak for most JRPG fans when I say that we haven’t been getting many quality JRPGs this generation. With the exception of a few amazing titles such as Xenoblade, Eternal Sonata, and Tales of VesperiaI feel that the overall quality of JRPGs have reduced quite a bit over the past couple of years .I think however we might finally be getting a game that showcases just how ridiculously awesome a well-made JRPG can be. A JRPG set in a beautiful open world withinteresting characters, an interesting story,and solid gameplay elements. Enter Ni No Kuni the upcoming JRPG coming from Level-5.
Ni No Kuni feels simple yet really big at the same time. The world and art style constantly reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki movies (Howl’s flying Castle, Spirited Away etc.) The game follows a traditional JRPG system and looks to have a huge open world that you can explore and travel for countless hours. I was worried that Ni No Kuni will not make it out of Japan, but it turns out Level-5 announced that the game is indeed being localized for a North American release sometime in 2012. As a huge JRPG fan both this game and Final Fantasy Versus 13 are at the tip top of my hype list.
Asura’s Wrath is quickly becoming one of the most WTF games I have ever come across. Imagine combining God of War with the geniusness of the Japanese mind to create this insanely over the top beat them up game. If you haven’t seen Asura’s Wrath in action yet then stop what you are doing and head over to YouTube right now. The game has you in control of a demi-god called Asura who is really pissed off because the other gods have kidnapped his daughter. We don’t really know much about the actual story of the game but what we do know is that Asura is not going to stop until he finds his daughter and the person behind all this mess.
The gameplay of Asura’s Wrath is a mix between Dynasty Warriors and God of War while offering more crazy action than both games combined. For example one of the boss fights in the game has you fighting a guy wielding a 50ft sword while and fighting you ON THE MOON. If you aren’t exited for this game yet then I have no idea what can ever excite you more. Asura’s Wrath is coming out sometime in 2012 so be sure to keep an eye out for this title.
The Resident Evil franchise is quite known for its wonderfully crafted survival horror gameplay. Although the series did move into a more of an action oriented direction, it still sports a large dedicated fan base. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is the first Resident Evil title on the Nintendo 3DS and is an expanded version of the Mercenaries mode featured in previous Resident Evil games. You basically choose from a variety of missions that need to be completed within the specified time limit. Although Capcom promised an expansive version of the mode with an online co-op option, the final product does not live up to what was been promised. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D disappoints with an extremely short set of missions, iffy frame rate drops, and very little end game content.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D doesn’t really go into any explanation as to what the premise is, or have any story at all for that matter. It is what it is, a mission mode that was popular in the original series that is now a full-fledged game on its own. You start of by choosing one of the starting characters to play with such as Leon Kennedy and Jill Valentine. As you progress through the game’s missions you are able to unlock more characters to play as from the Resident Evil universe.
You will start off with a few introductory missions to settle you down with the controls. The controls felt pretty responsive on the 3DS and the button layout was exactly what you would expect from a Resident Evil game. The camera controls have been mapped to the right side of the touch screen and work quite well given the hardware. This kind of emulated a similar feeling to having an additional circle pad and was quite a smart use of the 3DS’s hardware capabilities.
Mercenaries 3D, however, suffers from tons of problems that could have otherwise made the title a lot more money worthy. The biggest glaring problem with the game is how limited the content is. When Capcom announced the game I didn’t really like the idea of a stand-alone version of a mode already included with every major Resident Evil title. My fears have become true as the game only offers 6 levels with each having 4-5 stages to complete. The stages are quite short themselves because of the imposed time limit that you need to complete the stage within. Although you can change characters to replay the stages, they and the overall feel of the game stay the same with little difference.
The other problem that plagues Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is its unstable frame rate. The game does look good for a handheld but has lots of slowdown and low resolution background textures that spoil the experience. The frame rate drops occur quite often but does not reach unbearable levels. The 3D effect didn’t feel significant in the game but it helped in adding depth and spacing to the environment of the game.
The game also includes local as well as online Co-op. While the local co-op works as well as the game does, online co-op usually has several issues plaguing it. Latency is the most significant one as there will be plenty of times where enemies pop up out of nowhere. Every now and then however you can get a stable connection that works well enough to render the game playable.
In a nutshell, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is a disappointment. The game seems like a test project on the 3DS for Capcom with the end goal of checking how the engine works on the 3DS hardware. The game also comes with a short Resident Evil: Revelations demo which is interesting if you are looking forward to that game. Unless you really love the Mercenaries mode from the various Resident Evil games, then The Mercenaries 3D should not be a title on the top of your must buy list, or any other for that matter.
Members of different gaming communities, such as fighting games or FPS games, usually have a hard time at getting exactly what they want from upcoming titles. While most publishers and developers do listen to criticism and requests from these communities, they rarely prepare a product that is completely tailor made to the community’s specifications. Let’s take the example of the fighting games community. There have been numerous requests to improve the online netcode of fighting games to a solid standard.
One of the most requested additions to the online netcode is a piece of software called GGPO. GGPO is a middleware program that allows a near lagless experience by reserving the inputs you press during a match the way you are used to. Hence, even though there is latency between the two players, the player doesn’t feel lag in their input. While some of the development team members feel the justification for putting GGPO into their games, it’s extremely hard to convince the higher ups in the company to adapt something that they don’t exactly believe will be successful. GGPO is one of the large numbers of requests that the community have been demanding and is an example of how games made for a specific community are hard to come by.
There are however a few rare games that come out every once in a while which are specifically tailored to what the community wants. The most recent example of such a game is SF3: Third Strike Online Edition. 3rd Strike Online Edition was made to include a ton of features that fans requested specifically. It included GGPO, tools to upload matches directly to YouTube, watching replays with friends, and many other features. The product was also placed at a solid price point in order to attract a large number of buyers to it.
Now what people might not realize is really how important this game is to the fighting community as a whole. Not necessarily as a game itself but rather what it represents. 3rd Strike Online is a testing product. It is one of those projects that development teams had to really push and convince the management body to justify having the features I just listed in the past few sentences. If the product succeeds and sells well, the team will prove that having those features implemented is actually a huge deal sales wise. If not then management will not agree on their future games including features such as these.
Communities have to realize that these rare occasions where they suddenly get a game packaged directly to them, the hardcore, means that they need to take this opportunity and run with it. Titles like 3rd Strike Online should be bought by every single dedicated Street Fighter player to show the higher ups that projects such as these sell and that these new features are actually the reason this game sold so good. The managers and directors of these large companies such as Capcom are the people that make the final decision. In order for the community to convince those people that this is the way to go, they have to speak with their dollars. It is opportunities like these that lets us play games exactly how we wanted them as well as build a future Segway to make sure future titles also satisfy our requests.