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Ethos and Riddles talk about video games...
            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

Quickie

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Love you guys. Just got back. Exhausting time. Full impressions of the press conference, event, and all the games I played tomorrow. Too pooped to even find a picture of a tired dude and post it.

Quickie

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

I’m still here! I have Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and I’ve played about an hour into it. I’m playing as Terra first because he interests me the least and it bugs me that a dude is named Terra. Riddles and I are going to get you some IMpressions about it because hopefully he’s found a way to play it as well. Until then I’m off to work.

Oh right! I played some Professor Layton: Unwound Future too at an event and got an early copy. However, with all the Kingdom Hearts and girlfriending, I doubt I’ll get a review out for release date. So I’ll just be giving random impressions about it here and there. Any of you playing Birth by Sleep yet?

Update: Riddles has found a way to play! IMpressions sometime this week!

Quickie Impression: Donkey Kong Country Returns

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Time to get back to these. Only three more to go. Or, er, two and a half, really. But let’s get back on track with Donkey Kong!

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Ah, it was great to be playing Donkey Kong Country again. As you’ll hear on the upcoming Hey! Look! Listen! Audio Edition, Matti blasts it for being absolutely nothing new.

This, in and of itself, is true. The gameplay feels exactly the same, the graphical style is identical, the music is practically unchanged, and even the enemies and supporting cast are nothing new.

But when the 5th first person Halo game is coming out in 9 years, I’m okay with another Donkey Kong Country being released for the first time in just under double that period. Plus, the gameplay is tight and challenging, the graphics are very pleasing, and the music is fantastic, there is nothing to complain about.

However, there’s nothing else new to write about this game. I played a mine cart level, and it was pure fun, just like the SNES game. The only thing I can tell you that is noticeably different is the new waggle to blow feature, which is exactly like it sounds. You waggle the Wiimote and Donkey Kong blows. Luckily, the function of this is to reveal secrets, and so the gimmicky controls are not mapped to any of the moves needed in platforming or combat.

The only other thing I noticed of note was that on top of the K O N G collectible letters, there seemed to be other – far more difficult to discover – collectibles. This is something I don’t mind at all in 2D platformers. With 3D ones, it seems tacked on, but in 2D games it feels more optional and requires you to really know levels intimately to find everything.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below if you feel I missed key pieces of information that you’re curious about regarding Donkey Kong.

Quickie Impression: Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Yessss, Pokémon Ranger! The most under-appreciated spinoff series in history!

Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs

Yup, I love the series in which you don’t battle Pokémon, but literally turn them into your friends by drawing circles around them. It sounds incredibly dumb, but the 2008 sequel to the cute but simple original proved that this series is capable of pulling a lot of weight. Shadows of Almia blew open the doors with an impressive number of sidequests, secret areas, and challenges, and by turning the “battle system” from a simple countdown process to a more deep, upgradeable system with rewards for pulling off better performances.

Now, unfortunately, most of my time with this demo was spent reading text. And I didn’t even give it a good read to see if it stacked up to the funny and enjoyable stuff of the last game. I blitzed through to finally start circling Pokémon again. Luckily, the game seems to be moving forward from the standard the sequel set, at least in terms of the battle complexity. There were slots I didn’t recognize – which indicates more upgrades or mechanics – and the system was still rewarding me for maintaining multiple consecutive circles. Unfortunately, I calmed down not more than two Pokémon and I was called away. I didn’t really get a good chance to explore the back-end or the experience system. All I can say is that all of you need to keep an open mind with this underdog series. It’s really a hidden gem on the DS.

Quickie Impression: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

I was really excited to hear that this game was at the event. I was a fan of the original games on the GBA to some extent. I beat the first one (I think) and only played a bit of the second, but I remember them as fun, addicting, and deep RPGs, at least for a handheld system. One of the hooks of the series is the fact that many of your acquired powers must be used on the field to solve puzzles or to find secret areas. It gave the game a unique hook and made exploration more fun in a lot of cases. Now the demo at the event was split into two parts: Adventure and Battle, and I went with Adventure first.

This section featured that hook I was talking about. It was essentially a timed training ground to learn a few of the spells for moving objects and burning objects. Unfortunately – from my 10 minutes anyway – it controls terribly. This is even more disappointing when you factor in the fact that the touch screen should easily make the process easier. To aim your fireball, instead of just tapping, a giant circle appears with your reticule in it somewhere that you have to painstakingly maneuver to the place you want it to be. Even then, it seems to be a bit of a crapshoot. Hopefully I just didn’t understand and going through the proper training will alleviate my fears here.

The Battle section was just a dungeon with random battles, and it was a relief to see that the same menus and strategy were back. The graphics seem to make a jarring shift in style not only from the original games, but from the overworld itself. Maybe my memory is fuzzy, but I remember a classic cartoony style while I was struggling with the touch controls and an almost realistic switch for the battles. Although I’m likely exaggerating, this isn’t a bad thing, necessary. And they fixed my biggest gripe with the original! Now when two characters have selected the same enemy to attack, if the first kills it, the second won’t defend for no reason but will attack another enemy. Thank fuck.

Anyway, I’ve still got my eye on this one, but it was the most disappointing demo I played at the event.

Quickie Impression: Dragon Quest IX

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Unfortunately I had the least amount of time with the DS games, but I was able to try 3 of them out. All games that I’m extremely excited for. First up, DQIX.

Dragon Quest IX

I’ve mentioned many times before that I think the handheld space is perfect for the Dragon Quest series. The classic series might be epic in some regards, but is mostly too rooted in old school tradition to make good use of the power of modern home consoles. I’ve quite enjoyed the remakes of IV and V on the DS, so I’ve had my eager eye on Dragon Quest IX for a while.

I couldn’t have played more than 5 minutes of it, but from that I gleamed that there seem to be some incremental improvements with some disappointing – if not slightly expected – standbys. First off, the visual style is simple but appealing. It looks more like a notably upgraded version of the classic DS remakes than a recreation of the PS2’s DQVIII. Gameplay seems thankfully more the like DS remakes as well, which means quicker exploration and jar smashing. Much more friendly for longer play sessions or loot-binges. Another improvement is the axing of random battles. The game incorporates the now genre-standard enemy models on the overworld so you can engage or avoid to your heart’s delight.

The downside? The menu system seems to be ripped out of the IV and V remakes. Those menus were actually the worst part of those games. I can deal with simplistic, but not only do they lack good presentation, but they lack any sort of intuitive layout. I didn’t get to check them out too deeply before moving on to other things, but I notice a glimmer of hope. When I selected “equip” I was brought to a far more attractive screen that seemed to be way more user-friendly, so maybe it’s just the initial screen that’s bad.

I only engaged in one battle, but it was the same battle system you’ve seen in Dragon Quest for every single entry. I didn’t get a chance to explore or investigate the upgrading or leveling up mechanics.

You’ll hear more when I buy and review the title in mid-July.

Quickie Impression: Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

I played 7 unreleased Nintendo games yesterday and looked at a few others, but none for any significant length of time. So instead of clumping all my thoughts together, I’m going to post quickie impressions of them one at a time over the next few days. First up, Kirby!

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

This game’s announcement got my attention by having a standout art style. Using just patchwork and yarn to create characters and backdrops looked way better than you might expect. In motion, it looks even prettier. The animations are incredibly smooth and full of personality. The controls are tight, and the sound effects bring back memories of Kirby’s Dream Land: my very first video game. So far it looks like the difficulty will remain consistent with other Kirby games: easy. Still, there are a bunch of collectibles, and I can imagine that 100 percenting this game will be a challenge for any hardcore gamer.

Even if the game ends up easy overall, the early levels were showing promise of charming and clever puzzles using the world held together by yarn, strings, buttons, and zippers. Kirby was able to turn into a bunch of context sensitive forms already, and it was fun for every moment I played.

Oh, and Kirby is really fucking adorable.