To be honest, I’ve been playing Sonic for years and have always liked the gameplay, both as a side scroller and in its more recent incarnations with 3D gaming. Over the past five years or so, my time with the fastest thing alive has been sorely limited and it’s only been in part by working in a library that has rekindled my interest in our favourite blue hedgehog. Sonic: Generations presents players with one solitary goal in mind: bring together gamers old and new to enjoy playing as our favorite blue blur and keep things fun but with a little challenge, nothing more and nothing less.
The plot (not to be confused with the level design) for Generations was surprisingly less complex than previous installments such as Sonic Adventure 2: Battle or Sonic: Unleashed or Sonic: DX (Director’s Cut) as it quite literally broke down into being that a giant shadow being comes in to disrupt the natural balance of the world and Sonic (teamed up with himself) must undo the chaos wrought onto his world(s) in order to bring things into balance and bring back his friends from a state of whitewashed, statuesque frozenness. An even simpler explanation: clear through the acts and save your friends, take down Eggman and gather the Seven Chaos Emeralds to take down the big bad.
This big... Jesus it looks like something out of my nightmares with gears attached. Rather appropriate.
My mind instantly went to Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror"...
When the player is first brought into the actual playable aspect of the game, Sonic and Sonic go through the first three levels in their own acts before meeting at a hallway of glass mirrors whereupon they start mimicking each other, not knowing that each hedgehog that stands at each end is a different version of themselves. It’s only with Eggman’s intervention that the two speed off and Modern Sonic sees his younger incarnation in the flesh as he goes to take on one of Eggman’s machines. After a quick battle which should be presumed with a very obvious outcome, Classic and Modern versions of Miles “Tails” Prower come out and explain that there’s been a rip in the fabric of time and space, causing the two worlds to collide.
The actual gameplay was rather… simplistic I could say. Braking down into two components, the first of which involves playing as Classic Sonic for the older generation to tap back into their childhood and the second offers gameplay as Modern Sonic; blasting through baddies as fast as we can and making our way through challenges while generally being a badass. Gameplay was only set for two different modes, but to compensate, particular spin-off challenges were set up in order to prepare the player to fight against a boss in the sense that they were only set up to extend gameplay in an -alright- way to try and extend the life of a seemingly limited (and restricted) game. I mean, the challenges aren’t bad and hell, I’d say that they’re a lot of fun… but I felt as though the inclusion of them were almost a way for the game developers to make some cop-out additions allowing some buffer time available to the player. Whether it’s racing against Tails and his plane, fighting against Metal Sonic or using Knuckles to find coins buried in the ground (just a few examples of challenges available), they’re fun, but can be argued as somewhat unnecessary as more focus COULD have been brought to the story-telling aspect of the game, but it can be taken with a grain of salt.
Not much, but little Omochao here can sell us just about anything we need.
On the topic of challenges, from the main menu, one can access the Xbox Live (or Playstation Network) and engage in one of two challenges: a 30 Second Trial and Time Attack. The former of which is an addition made for people worldwide to test their mettle and show just how far they can get within a measly thirty seconds. To date, I have yet to see anyone clear through an act in thirty seconds (with one individual close to completing Green Hill Zone Act 1 at an astounding 33 seconds) but with each step made, the player can rack up points to try and bring themselves higher and higher up on the leaderboards. The Time Attack function is merely a “get through the act as fast as you can” option where the player can basically fight other players for their spots on the leaderboards; each one-one hundredth of a second shifting a player anywhere between one to a good hundred or so places up on the board.
Thankfully, Generations does give some consideration to players wishing to try and improve their own version of Sonic and as a result, made a skill shop available to the players to where they can buy perks to attach to either Sonic of their choosing. Whether it’s adding a shield to prevent damage from one attack or to give your rings some time before they vanish or to give the player that extra edge and allow them to stop on a dime, regardless of how fast they were going, the shop caters to nearly all players. In addition to skills, the player can also purchase a Sega Genesis controller in the shop which -after purchase- allowed the player to play the original Sonic.
If I could make a point of criticism to the game, it would be that the voice acting felt… subpar to say in the least. Sure, I can get that for the Classic versions of the characters would sound more child-like and embraced that, but if there was one thing that had made me cringe somewhat, it would have to be that the acting felt entirely stale. From the dialogue that I came across in the game actually spoken by the characters, there were delays in the lines being said (like slowing down speech for younger audiences to grasp what’s said much easier), mostly composed of simpler sentences and the acting seems a little under the full talents of the voice actors’ capabilities (such as Roger Craig Smith as seen at SacAnime). I mean no disrespect to the voice actors involved with the game, however I feel as though the actual dialogue in the game could have been spliced together in a less… awkward fashion and maybe if there were more moments of spoken dialogue, it might have made the overall presentation of the game stand out even more.
Sadly, I felt as though Generations was a bit short overall. The gameplay was great and the challenges were fun and hell, even trying my luck on the online leaderboards was a welcome challenge, but did stand just short of fantastic. The game itself was a good deal of fun and was definitely a welcome change of pace for me and if there was anything I could seriously take away from this, it would have to be that the guys with Sega, the Sonic Team and Havok did a fantastic job at presenting a Sonic game. They’ve rekindled my childhood and reminded me of days past when I played the original on the Sega Dreamcast (thanks again for including the option to relive my childhood by making the original an available purchase in-game!) and as I got older and started playing on the newer consoles. It stood out as a great, fun game and an easy recommendation to payers of all ages.
Reviewed by: Kris “Kaz” Sturm
Reviewer Rating: 4.5
It’s quite sad to say that we’re at the end of an era. Commander Shepard has taken us from one end of the galaxy to the other and yet here we are at the end of it all on our home planet, Earth. The question is, how did you, the player, go through his life? Did you play as a Paragon and savior of the galaxy or a Renegade; wreaker of havoc, chaos and general douchebaggery galaxy wide? Looking at you Khalisah al-Jilani. Quit asking so many goddamn questions. I for one went with the solid Paragon route and only chose Liara T’soni for my romance option through the course of all three games and would only have intercourse with her in the missionary position for the sole purpose of procreation. I’m quite possibly one of the most disturbed people to have ever played this game.
This aside, we’re led back to what started all those years ago. We’re brought back to Commander Shepard, now currently out of duty and supervising Earth’s Alliance force after having left Cerberus. It seems as though after his fight against the reapers he’s been stuck with a desk job; the player only being informed it was the lightest sentence that the Council could have given him after his unauthorized fight against the Reapers involving considerable damage to the Citadel. As Shepard had notified before of a Reaper invasion, thousands of them have come to wreak havoc in the biggest “I told you so” moment the galaxy had ever seen.
Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Called it though.
Now before I get into anything else, remember how it took an entire fleet to take down ONE as it attacked the Citadel? Yeah, give time six months and deal with thousands of them. Either:
A) you’re completely fucked or
B) the Alliance made some CONSIDERABLE changes to their weaponry, armor and… they’re still fucked no matter how you look at it. As best phrased by Shepard when talking to Garrus Vakarian, “This isn’t war… it’s slaughter.”
Regardless, the teams at Bioware and EA Games can be noted for their overall success in creating yet another engrossing title to add to their repertoire and small spoiler, if you had continued your save game through the course of all three of the games, then you’re in luck and will find yourself at a relatively advantageous position over the course of the game. If the player held themselves through a paragon path in the prior two installments, chances are that they’ll be set off with more opportunities to work with War Assets. These are a recent addition to the game in the fight against the Reapers where all choices made before and during the game function as an asset towards the end of the game which as many could attest to, is the biggest factor in deciding just how things will end.
On the topic of the war assets, this does bring to mind the whole multiplayer aspect of the game; in the sense that by completing these missions (netting anywhere between 3-7% in wartime preparation) would help add to the war assets… with the knowledge that these assets can be depleted over the course of one percent each day. Essentially, in order to get that achievement where the player maxes out all of their war assets, they would be forced to continually work to improve themselves and maximize the assets they have on hand.
Initial interface in the Galaxy at War multiplayer menu. As seen left, the player can change everything that makes up the match like most other modes while the right displays the player's progress in each galactic sector.
I have to say though, given the atmosphere and direction that the multiplayer missions present to the player, I was rather surprised to see that there was a good deal of teamwork implemented on the missions as those on headset relayed tips to better help the other squad members. Given how most of my multiplayer has been left with players either calling me insulting, derogatory and racial terms and talked about the raping and sodomizing of people I know. During the time I played online, I either found that the Mass Effect Multiplayer was a very supportive environment or over the course of those five to six hours, I consistently hit the 1% of good, inviting players every single time. I’m still reeling from it.
Game play -as mentioned by Project Director Casey Hudson- Normal difficulty could be akin to the Veteran difficulty of its predecessors; an increase I’m rather glad for as it helps in not letting game play grow too easy. In a way, by scaling things up it helps to illustrate how much of a struggle it is in the war against the Reapers. In fact, while playing on the standard Normal difficulty I noticed a general death increase, even factoring in the 30 level jump by transferring my files from Mass Effect 2 and the weapon upgrades made available to the player early on.
I transferred the standard default Shepard... but I had no idea this could happen.
Thankfully, each aspect can be tailored to individual needs.
The weapon upgrade system seems to have evolved a good deal over the past three installments; initially presenting us with the ability (and necessity for higher lever weapons) to buy every weapon we could, with each weapon having different levels characterized by their own strength levels. Mass Effect 2 tried to change this by giving us a selection of weaponry, but all at fixed values, not to mention taking away the unlimited ammo that we had in the first installment, as well as the revocation of our grenades. Unfortunately, this wasn’t met with the most positive favor. If viewed in another light however, the implementation of using thermal clips did help to add more of a realistic feel to the game, making the whole weapon firing dynamic that much more plausible and relatable as a by-product by likening the weaponry to real life artillery.
In the latest installment, we have a full inventory with access to personal modifications, each of which having the abilities to reduce the weight of the weaponry (which slows down your power cooldown time) as well as having the capability to increase your fire rates, accuracy and strength; and even the size of your magazine. As seen above, adding the different mods to a Phaeston rifle. While only two upgrades can be applied at one time, the upgrades themselves can be upgraded by purchasing their respective upgrades over the course of single player gameplay.
In the same vein as these modifications, the player is also presented with the opportunity to not only increase their weapons, but provide personalized armor customization, with each piecing of armor having its own attributes that can be mixed and matched to customize and tailor Shepard in whichever fashion best suits our needs. Whether it’s to boost weapon attacks, shields, power strength, power recharge time, health, melee strength and so on. If personal customization isn't exactly your thing, then the opportunity to buy fully detailed and customized armors. As seen on left, the Blood Dragon armor returns with stat boosting effects: +10% Power Recharge Speed, +30% Power Damage and +20% Shields.
Last but not least, there’s the ending. DEAR GOD, the ending. Anything I say about it is going to get someone’s jimmies rustled so hard that they’ll yank the stick out their ass and beat someone to death with it. At this moment, I've stopped just before the point of no return (so as to gather the maximum total of Galaxy at War points I can before making the final push), but I have seen the endings. From what I’ve gathered, sure, there may be some issues with the whole “after everything happens” part of the game, but by looking at things in context, and supposing a certain circumstance had made itself present earlier in the game (not to say there aren’t clues to tip off the player), then a good deal of the events that take place make sense.
As much as I do support Bioware and EA Games for what they’ve made over the past few years (hell, the story of Commander Shepard has helped in establishing some sort of standard that character development can be held to compare itself to) but as much as I would love the company to basically tell the fans that complained to effectively go fuck themselves, fact of the matter is that no matter how good something that we make is, it can always be better and Bioware/EA is no exclusion from this rule. Personally, I think they did a damn good job and the implications that were set forth are a fantastic example of fridge brilliance; however they do leave some plot holes open and too many questions (posed to me at least) for me to list here without just wasting space. Admittedly, yes; they could have smoothed it over. Hell, maybe they could have given it another couple months to fine tune everything. Do I think that it necessarily warrants a new set of revised endings? No, of course not.
Points of criticism can be directed to the companies not for their endings but for the fact that they didn’t stand by their own work hard enough and caved to the demands of those that bought their wares. I mean, it’s always good to give feedback to the company (hell, I’m technically doing that right now) but there’s a difference between being disgruntled about something to -as stated earlier- pulling the stick of ignorant ranting out of your ass and start beating the companies with it because you’ve ran out of more eloquent verbal ammo (thanks again Joker and Garrus).
Ignorant people tend to do that when they run out of intelligent commentary.
Other than the issue of the endings (not for their presentation but for the aspect of caving into others’ demands), I have to say that Mass Effect 3 absolutely tied everything together in a way that left me almost entirely satisfied. The game play was satisfying, plot development grabbed me in such a way that whenever I had any semblance of free time, I’d pick it right up in order to conclude Commander Shepard’s journey and see where all of my decisions landed me. Kudos goes to Bioware and EA for the years of gaming they’ve given me with the Mass Effect series and I hope the next series they come together for will grip me just as well… so long as they don’t start shutting down online servers after a finite period of time. Other than that, well done guys. Thank you for giving me roughly 400 hours of great game play over the years.
Reviewed by: Kris “Kaz” Sturm
Reviewer Rating: 4.8/5
Additional note, no matter what criticism Bioware and EA has come under, the one thing I'm sure most can agree on is the fact that Shepard is a total badass. Shepard gave us the opportunity to actually step into a new realm and let the player shape the game in their own image. It's been a great ride and to commemorate this, I'd like to add Gavin Dunne's (sole member of gaming tribute band Miracle of Sound) original Commander Shepard song. It may be dated, but the message still stands: you can fight like a Krogan, run like a leopard but you'll never be better than Commander Shepard.
25 years after its start and it's still got some fresh ideas. Not bad Nintendo, not bad.
While I may not have had much access to the Wii, I felt it was appropriate that the first game I got to cover would be the 25th Anniversary release in the Legend of Zelda series, Skyward Sword. I’ll begin by informing the readers that according to Kotaku and various other sites, Skyward Sword happens to take place at the VERY beginning of the whole series; and helps provide some supplementary information for the events that precede it. While I’m on that topic, thanks again to the dozens of sites that got everything cleared by posting the official timeline. Had it not been up and posted, at best it would appear to be something out and off in its own little world and thankfully, they presented this in a very refreshing manner.
Credit for the timeline goes to GlitterBerri for the translation from the Hyrule Hystoria.
First off, at this point in the story, we’re introduced to the fact that Link’s home “town” of Skyloft is a detachment of a greater world below; known as the “Surface,” cast away to protect the humans from Demise and away from harm. For all intents and purposes, this was handled quite well with a peaceful society living in the sky; self-contained and properly managed within the bounds of quite the limited realm. The only drawback that I could see from all of this is that riding a giant bird -while totally badass- is only left to let the player explore a small selection of land masses with very limited purpose (gaining items through unlocked Goddess Chests, minigames, proving a point to the player that they may have a gambling problem via Fun-Fun Island with that ass-reaming clown…) while everything else happens to be within walking distance.
Secondly, there was no sense of hierarchy present in all of Skyloft. While it might seem unnecessary, I did appreciate the fact that it supported a small, cohesive and fully supportive society with its own self-contained economy. Everyone on the floating island created a supportive infrastructure and as icing to the cake, all stages of character development by age are present from infancy through elderly. It could be me picking out unnecessary details, but I love how one could take the island and craft their own feasible life stories of the characters present and unaccounted for. The fact that the concept of a fluid society detached from conflict is just one thing I could point out for a good degree of appreciation.
Here's a quick glimpse of Skyloft... God it's beautiful.
At the start of the game, we’re introduced to the lore behind what has come to pass beforehand, only for us to realize that Link is dreaming; having come face to face with one of the most annoying bosses we will in due time come across. From here on out, we’re presented with the standard integrated tutorial in which Link runs around his home town and in the process, learns how to ride his loftwing, suffer from Zelda having a bitch moment by shoving him off a statue (which teaches him how to parachute), get his green tunic and eventually get his sword to start the “real” part of the game; a pretty cut-and-dry, rinse-and-repeat process. Annoying? Slightly, but at least it’s toned down in a manner where someone unfamiliar to motion control gaming can still get it while someone who’s more familiar with the layout can find it doesn’t drag on for too long.
It all goes so well before you're subject to an impromptu parachute lesson.
Speaking of motion controls, if there is anything I could gripe at in regards to Skyward Sword, it would be this. Being left handed, I felt it somewhat complicated to get into the groove of things, using the heavier end of the Wiimote as the sword in a relatively foreign hand. After a couple hours of wielding the sword though, I was able to get the hang of it… but the whole use of the Wiimote for free-falling, flying and swimming did come off as a bit of a hindrance. It being akin to the ball walking controls featured in the recently reviewed Super Mario Galaxy where the player had to hold the Wiimote in a pseudo old fashioned remote control manner which required direct angling to operate effectively, as the slightest tilt would cause the player to veer off in that direction. My advice, practice dive bombing off a platform. Pointing the Wiimote at an angle it’s not supposed to point at feels -super- comfortable, but having increased flexibility in the wrist is always helpful.
Overall, I found the gameplay was handled very effectively, in the sense that the boss fights were scaled appropriately, with regular matches integrating appropriate strike motions in order to take down certain enemies such as a mini three-headed hydra, or when fighting against Bokbolins who defend themselves by holding their own blades at particular angles that the player must try to maneuver around (taken somewhat to an extreme with Ghirahim).
Then again, Ghirahim is quite extreme as it is. And fabulous.
On the notion of difficulty, the game presents itself as challenging, yet not overly so. The puzzles were presented in a manner that left the player thinking there was enough of a mental taxation that left the player thinking it was somewhat hard on the mind, yet light enough to keep a player’s interest invested in the game. In the same vein as Master Quest from Ocarina of Time, Skyward Sword does present itself with ‘Hero Mode’ which can be played after playing the game with increased difficulty and improved enemy AI; but other than these changes, nothing else differs from the original game. Utilizing a wide array of various items and control dynamics, such as navigating a launchable beetle to hit switches ungodly distances away or using a whip to pull levers or swing oneself across a chasm (ala Indiana Jones or Simon Belmont) digging and tunneling underground or even with bomb bowling was as refreshing to see as it was to see Link actually wearing pants. In all seriousness though, I did find the versatility that Skyward Sword presented was a welcome change of pace and something that I can admire, attempting to truly adapt and make full use of the Wii’s motion control system and (arguably) improving on its predecessor, Twilight Princess. As mentioned by a friend of mine, comparing the advanced WiiPlus Motion Control, it stands leaps and bounds ahead of its previous incarnation.
A good example of adding a creative touch to gameplay, Link must make the eye dizzy by having it track the movement from the tip of your sword.
On the merits of evaluating Skyward Sword as a game, I found it to be well thought out with a good plot that captured my interest for roughly 70 hours and provided some of the best gameplay I’ve been able to enjoy in years. On the merits of evaluating it as a Legend of Zelda game however, considered it a welcome and impressive addition to the series, but its standing to other games of the series is quite varied but I assume amongst the Zelda fandom, it’s pretty high standing and debatable to be one of the best created. While hard to peg an exact rating for Skyward Sword, I can say that the time I’ve had to play this game was refreshing. If I had the opportunity I would play it again through on its more harder difficulty: Hero Mode.
Reviewed by: Kris “Kaz” Sturm
Reviewer Rating: 4.75/5