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By Jessica Brister On 7 Jul, 2016 At 08:17 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Featured, Games You Slept On, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSometimes sequels just don’t compare to the original.  In the case of Chrono Trigger, one of the greatest RPGs of all time, there was a lot riding on a follow-up game.  Happily, Chrono Cross ended up being an amazing game with the same ground-breaking game play and story that we loved about Trigger.  It continues to be one of my favorite games of all time.

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Chrono Cross is an RPG developed and published by Square (now known as Square Enix) in 1999 for the PlayStation.  It is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Chrono Trigger, which was released in 1995 for the SNES.  It was developed by Masato Kato as well as others who worked on Chrono Trigger.  Chrono Cross was released with critical acclaim and sold extremely well worldwide.

Chrono Cross follows the protagonist Serge on a gorgeous tropical archipelago named El Nido.  The island and nautical theme runs throughout the game, including the enchantingly beautiful soundtrack.  Serge is transported to an alternate dimension where he died ten years beforehand on a beach and sees how his life has impacted the world.  He meets a thief named Kid and finds out that the universe split into two dimensions on that fateful day at the beach.  He is able to go back and forth between the dimensions by using Kid’s Astral Amulet.  There’s a lot more to the story, but I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t play it (seriously, if you haven’t, you need to).

Now, I know it doesn’t sound like the story of Chrono Cross has anything to do with Chrono Trigger, but it does.  A few familiar characters make cameos, and the games are intricately linked together in ways that I’d rather not say in order not to give out a bunch of spoilers.  Chrono Cross always felt to me like the sequel that you could play without the original and have a great time, but if you played Trigger, it would be even better.  In fact, I played Cross before Trigger and didn’t have any issues following anything.

An interesting concept that was used for (possibly) the first time on this game was the idea of talking to villagers or characters, not to further the story, but to add depth to the setting and feel of the game.  As players, we are so used to this now, but that was an unheard of concept back in the day.  This really adds a cool twist to the game with the dimensional travel, since you can talk to the same character in both dimensions and see how Serge’s absence or presence has affected that person.  It’s a really awesome story element.

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One thing that people both love and hate about the game are the multitude of characters that you can have in your party.  There are forty-five party members that you can have, although you cannot play them all in one game.  But, just as there was in Trigger, you can do a New Game+ in order to have access to all of them.  Some people hated having all of the characters because some of them weren’t developed very well.  I personally loved it because I could find the exact party to fit my play-style.  To each his own, I guess.

The game play is so much fun, and it’s probably one of my favorite old-school RPG systems ever.  There are still a lot of traditional RPG elements to it: an overworld map to go between areas, places to explore, puzzles to solve, and enemies to encounter while going through.  The enemies are completely visible, and there are no random encounters.  Battles are turn-based, which was pretty standard for the time.  This allows the player to take as much time as he or she wants when battling an enemy.  And, of course, there are hit points for each character and enemy.  One revolutionary concept that was added was the fact that you can run away from any battle, including all boss battles and the final battle as well.

Chrono Cross also deals with an elemental system (sort of similar to FF VII), where characters are best with a certain element while the opposite element really hurts them.  Elements are reflected in colors: Red (fire) versus Blue (water), Green (plants) versus Yellow (earth), and White (light) versus Black (darkness).  Red characters match up against Blue characters best, and so on and so forth.  Characters also have Tech abilities like Chrono Trigger, which can be doubled or tripled as well.  An interesting twist to the element-based battle system is the use of a field effect, where if the field is all one color, that color’s power will be enhanced and the opposite is weakened.

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When characters are not using their Tech abilities, they can use standard attacks.  Chrono Cross was also innovative in the fact that it has a stamina bar for attacks.  That stamina can be raised or lowered, depending on whether the character uses a standard attack of an Element.  Another interesting twist is that there are no experience points.  Players level up by upgrading their stats a couple of times through regular battles but do not level up until there is a boss battle.  This concept completely gets rid of the idea of grinding because you actually can’t.  To me, it makes the game play more fun and the story feel more exciting because there are never any lulls.

The graphics for the time were amazing. The opening FMV (full motion video) sequence is probably one of my favorite game openings ever. It seriously gives me goosebumps every time I see it. Even the in-game graphics looked slick (again, for the time). The color-palate is bright and beautiful, which enhanced the overall feel of the game.

This review would not be complete without praise to the beautifully done and award-winning soundtrack.  Yasunori Mitsuda, who did most of the soundtrack for Trigger, came back again and really outdid himself.  It has elements of Caribbean, Fado (Portuguese), Celtic, and some African.  The soundtrack is so good that was officially released in a three-disc set in Japan (one that I got my hands on through E-Bay many years ago).  It is probably the best soundtrack that I have ever heard for a game, and I don’t say that lightly.  In fact, you really haven’t experienced the soundtrack to its full extent until you’ve listened to it on the beach or on the deck of a cruise ship.  The music is magical.

There aren’t many games that have brought me to tears, but Chrono Cross is one of them.  It is an amazing masterpiece of a game, not just a sequel, but an amazing game just by itself.  If you ever get the chance to play or replay it, I highly recommend it.

No GravatarMy little girl might be little now, but eventually, she will be old enough to start gaming.  For the record, I’m not saying that she has to be a gamer (she can have her own interests and hobbies–as long as they are appropriate), but I will be introducing her to gaming when it is developmentally appropriate (don’t put comments about how some of these games aren’t appropriate for (fill in the blank) age; I know that).

If I had to whittle down my list of games I would love to have my daughter play, here is the list that I came up with of the games that really had an impact on me, both as an adult and when I was growing up:

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20.) Rebel Assault II

I do love a good Star Wars game, but this one was very special to me.  I still have the discs for it, though I’m not sure I could get it running again.  I bet my technically-savvy hubby could get it to run.  This was one of the first good Star Wars games that I played, which got around graphics limitations of the time by having live actor shots.SWTIEFighter

19.) Tie Fighter

This is another Star Wars game, which I still have but have no idea if I could ever get running again (bet hubby could with enough motivation).  Just like it’s X-Wing counterpart game, Tie Fighter was an excellent flight simulator that also portrayed the Empire in a different light.  I spent HOURS playing this game.

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18.) Wolfenstein 3D

It’s the first first-person shooter I ever played.  I clearly remember the first time I got to play this revolutionary game, even though I was only six or seven at the time.  Sure, there have been sequels and reboots or whatever, but nothing beats the original.

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17.) Sim City 3000

I do love a good simulation, and this was the last good Sim City that I can still play without any special things done to my PC.  Interesting story: When I was in high school, I studied for my AP Government local government test by playing this game.  I had the highest score in the class.  Woot!  Woot!

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16.) Duke Nukem 3D

Sure it’s a little raunchy, but I spent most of my middle school years playing this game.  I bought every add-on that I could get my hands on.  It’s just a really good and really funny first-person shooter, and I still find myself to this day quoting from it.

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15.) Doom

This is an absolutely essential classic first-person shooter that I think everyone die-hard FPS gamer should play.  Sure, it was a bit scary for it’s time (now it looks a bit cartoonish), but it was revolutionary for when it came out.

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14.) Manhunt

Okay, this is definitely a game that my little girl will not be playing until she’s much, much older, but it’s probably one of the best, most original games that I have played for PlayStation 2.  Screw the Hunger Games.  This game is an amazing sneak game with a really good story, similar to “The Most Dangerous Game,” The Running Man, or Battle Royale.  It’s amazingly violent as well, and I wish that Rockstar would either redo or remaster THIS game instead of some of the other games being redone.

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13.) Jones in the Fast Lane

I do have an original copy of this game complete with packaging because it is one of the best life simulation games that I have every played.  However, you can actually play this game on your phone or tablet now without worrying about getting it to work on a PC.  My have times changed!  The game is similar to The Game of Life: you get a job, work on advancing, and manage your time.  And it can have up to four players, so I will be playing this one with my little girl as soon as she is old enough.

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12.) Fallout 3

Besides having the best intro to a video game that I have ever seen, the game is absolutely amazing to play.  Part first-person shooter, part action RPG, this game has it all.  Another thing that I absolutely adore about the game is the size of the enormous map you get to play around in.  No claustrophobic maps here!

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11.) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Another amazing Bethesda game and one of my favorite open-world, fantasy games, Skyrim is another must to play.  Sadly, I’ve probably spent a couple hundred hours on this game and actually haven’t finished it yet.  It can get you really side-tracked if you let it.

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10.) Borderlands 2

This is one of my favorite cooperative games that I have ever played.  It’s funny and a bit ridiculous at times, but that’s what makes it so great: it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  With several different characters to play as, including two very strong female roles, and a TON of weapons to collect, this will always be one of my top FPS games.

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9.) Final Fantasy VII

Okay, the graphics DO make my eyeballs bleed a bit, but there is no doubt that this game is one of the best Final Fantasy games ever.  It’s got the best characters, the best music, and the best story line.  And with the remake coming out soon, she hopefully will be able to play it without getting a headache.

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8.) Tomb Raider II

The original Tomb Raider was a little fuzzy on graphics and TR III was a bit whacky in the plot.  However, Tomb Raider II–to me–is the perfect balance of a cool story, interesting places to explore, and a trendy tone.  It’s the game that really spawned my love for the franchise.

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7.) Final Fantasy X

This is another one of my favorite Final Fantasy games.  It’s got a great story and awesome characters, but the graphics have aged a lot better than VII (and I’m not even talking about the HD version that just came out).  And, I now do have the option to update by PS2 version if I want to.

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6.) Sims 3

Sims 3 is my favorite out of the franchise (and I have played 1-3 extensively).  Some people don’t understand my obsessive with simulation games, but think of all of the cool things that I can do: create interesting Sims, design my dream home, design my dream town, go to new and exciting places, and do things I wouldn’t dream of doing in real life.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

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5.) Chrono Cross 

This is one of my favorite RPGS of all time.  The graphics STILL look awesome.  The story is amazing, even though it’s technically a sequel.  The music is amazing (I actually bought the soundtrack).  It’s a great game, and would be my favorite RPG if it weren’t for the next game on the list…

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4.) Chrono Trigger 

A game that has consistently shown up on “best RPG ever” lists, Chrono Trigger really should be listed as one of the best games ever.  Period.  The graphics stand up to the test of time.  The music is awesome.  The story is amazing.  My husband always likes to comment that it it one of the few games in which you don’t have to have the main character to beat the game.  It’s just one of those games that you will always remember and want to play no matter how old you or it gets.

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3.) Mass Effect 2

Not the original Mass Effect and definitely NOT Mass Effect 3–Mass Effect 2, to me, was the perfect balance of a good story, good game play, and cool characters.  But it wasn’t just those elements that makes me rank this game so high.  I was completely in awe of the really cool mix of genre and game play.  I mean, how many space-related action RPGs do you see out there?  Not many.  One of the best things about the game, besides having the really cool character of Commander Shepard, is how engrossing BioWare was able to make the Mass Effect universe.  As in games like Dragon Age, you could literally spend hours reading up on all of the technology, history, and species in the Mass Effect Universe, and that is a really important story element for me that I love in well-thought out games.

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2.) BioShock Infinite

I never thought that another game could rival my precious BioShock, but I was totally wrong about this one.  BioShock Infinite is an amazing game with some of the best graphics of the time and a story that will make your jaw drop.  The game play was a blast to play as well, and the setting was totally immersing.  This is a game and a franchise that have really upped my expectations on what first-person shooters should be like.

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1.) BioShock 

I thought about this for a long time and realized the BioShock is–hands down–my favorite video game of all time.  There are many reasons for this.  It was the first FPS that I have every played that demonstrated intelligence in its story: it discussed political issues, morality, all sorts of things that don’t normally make it into the standard FPS.  Second, I absolutely, positively fell in love with Rapture.  I can’t explain it.  I just love being there and exploring.  I love learning about the people who lived there and what all went wrong.  I enjoyed the cool game play with the plasmids and ADAM.  Third, I really enjoyed how awesome the graphics have aged (look at some of the other games that came out at the same time, and you’ll see what I mean).  It still looks AWESOME.  And lastly, I really appreciate the tone of this game, which many games in the genre fail to generate.  It’s sometimes scary but always enjoyable.  It’s a bit demented but doesn’t encourage what you see as being “normal.”  It really does make you think, and I love that and hope that I can share that–eventually, when my little girl is much, much older.

By Jessica Brister On 29 Jun, 2016 At 09:54 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Featured, Games You Slept On, PC Games | With 0 Comments

No GravatarTo this day, I still absolutely adore Sims 3.  Even though I want nothing to do with the 4th installment, I still love to play the third, especially while utilizing all of the expansions that have come out for it.  Here is my list of the best expansions to date:

11.) Generations  The_Sims_3_Generations

Though this expansion isn’t “hit you over the head” with new stuff, it does have some subtle changes to the game play that are interesting.  Teens and children have a lot more interactions than before.  There is a new profession: day care.  Adults can even send their kids off to boarding school.  However, with only some slight changes and no new town, this is probably my least favorite expansion.

10.) Seasons  Sims_3_Seasons

This is another expansion that isn’t as good as the rest.  It gives Sims 3 weather, which sounds like it would be cool, but it gets a bit old after awhile.  Sims can go to festivals that change depending on the season.  There are also some outdoor activities that are added, including snowboarding and soccer.  Sims get to swim in the ocean (though correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that was a complete game update…maybe I’m wrong on that one) and aliens are another life form added to the game.  Overall, it’s a little weak for an expansion.

9.) Showtime The_Sims_3_Showtime

This is definitely the expansion for people who love the “L.A./Hollywood” lifestyle.  There is a new town, Starlight Shores, that has a Hollywood vibe to it.  There are new careers that are more performances based: singer, acrobat, magician.  A new life form was created for this expansion as well: genies.  I could take them or leave them, though.  Simport was also introduced with this one.  However, I have never used it (and am VERY glad that EA is not forcing social play in Sims 4).  Some new venues were introduced in this one as well, including coffeehouses, live show venues, and private show venues, though these are not my favorite.  I’ve found that this town is a bit glitchy to play in as well.

8.) Supernatural  The_Sims_3_Supernatural

This expansion allows for a variety of different types of Sims, including vampires, witches, zombies, werewolves, ghosts, fairies, and genies.  Although I never really cared for the supernatural types, the town of Moonlight Falls is one of the more stable towns to play in and some of the architecture features and styles of furniture are really cool.  There is a new skill, alchemy, that goes well with the supernatural theme.

7.) Into the Future  The_Sims_3_Into_The_Future

As the last expansion of Sims 3, this was unfortunately not the best.  It’s an interesting concept: you can take your Sims back and forth to the future and back to the present as much as you’d like.  In the future, there are a lot of high tech gadgets, including jetpacks, hover boards, and other futuristic things.  There are a couple new careers: astronomy and bot arena.  Actions in the present can change the future.  Oasis Landing, the new town, is pretty cool, though I found myself wanting to stay in the present more than the future (the bot people can be really annoying).  Overall, I thought it was okay, but it is not my favorite.

6.) World Adventures  The_Sims_3_World_Adventures

This was the first expansion for Sims 3, and it allowed some really cool travel options.  Players could choose to travel to three different places: China, Egypt, and France.  Besides seeing the sights, tomb raiding is an option for the adventurous Sim.  The more activities a player did with their Sim, the longer the visa level for the particular place.  World Adventures also opens out three new skill possibilities: martial arts, photography, and nectar-making.  Overall, this expansion was a great because it allowed the player to get out of town for a bit.

5.) Ambitions  The_Sims_3_Ambitions

Along with the new town of Twinbrook, Ambitions allowed the player to expand into many different professions, including being a firefighter, stylist, ghost hunter, architect, or private investigator.  These professions are different from regular Sim careers because you go out on “jobs” instead of working normal hours.  Also, this expansion allows for becoming “self-employed” in most skills.  Two new skills were added: sculpting and inventing.

4.) University Life  Sims_3_University_Life

Finally!  Sims 3 got the ability to send Sims off to college.  One of the last expansions done for the game, University Life allows Sims to go off to college and pursue a degree.  A lot like World Adventures, where a Sim travels to Sims University but does not permanently life there, this expansion has plenty going on.  Sims can pursue degrees, join cliques, and drink from “juice kegs.”  There are a few new careers, depending on a Sims degree and clique association.  There are apparently Plant Sims that players can get to, though I’ve never tried this.  New skills include: Science, street art, and social networking.  Overall, this is a very good addition.

3.) Island Paradise  he_Sims_3_Island_Paradise

This is a very good expansion, and it contains that town that I am currently using (Isla Paradiso).  The town is a really cool set of islands and has a really interesting feel to it.  There is a new life form: mermaids.  Also, boating and scuba diving have been added, which I have really enjoyed.  Being a resort manager is the new profession, though it’s not like a normal profession for the Sims (you can still hold down another job, if you want).  With lots of water sports, a cool new town (that is pretty stable for the most part), and an interesting feel to the town this is one of my favorite expansions.

2.) Pets  Sims_3_Pets

One of the better expansions to date, Pets allows players to own different types of animals, including cats, dogs, horses, and smaller rodents, birds, and snakes.  A new town, Appaloosa Plains, is given.  It’s a very western-themed town, but I’ve found it a bit glitchy to play in.  Sims can train their horses and the new riding skill is offered.  However, for people who don’t like pets, this expansion could be a miss.  But I love pets, so this expansion is more of my favorites.

1.) Late Night  Sims-3-late-night

This is definitely my favorite out of all of the expansions.  Besides giving the player the new city of Bridgeport, which has a cool “big city” feel to it, the expansion also introduces a lot of cool social aspects.  Clubs, bars, and a new celebrity system add a new dimension to playing.  Sims can also live in high-rise buildings with elevators and join the acting career.  This was also the first expansion to add a different type of Sim other than “human.”  Vampires came with this particular expansion and made things interesting to the game play.  Overall, it’s a very slick expansion.  And the city is very stable to play in, which is definitely a plus.

 

No GravatarSometimes there are very special games that will forever hold a place in the heart of gamers. Chrono Trigger is one of those games. It is a game that is often hailed as being one of the best RPGs of all time and, in many cases, can be considered on of the greatest games of all time, period. Here are the reasons why:

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Chrono Trigger is a role-playing game developed by Square (now Square Enix) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The game was created by a team of extremely talented individuals, including Final Fantasy’s creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi. It was published in 1995 with critical success and was the third best-selling game of that year. Chrono Trigger was later ported to the PlayStation in 1999 and then repackaged in 2001 with Final Fantasy IV as “Final Fantasy Chronicles.” With such critical and commercial success, it has been later ported to the mobile platforms of the Nintendo DS, iOS, and Android. It is a revolutionary game that spawned the sequel Chrono Cross and gave a lot of fans some very happy memories.

The game follows Crono, a main character who never speaks during the game, Marle, a princess, and Lucca, Crono’s super-smart friend. During a Millennial Fair for the time period of AD 1000 in their world, Lucca and her father demonstrate a new teleporter. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work quite like it was supposed to and teleports Crono, Marle, and Lucca in time. They bounce around both forward and backward in time, learning about a creature named Lavos that wipes out civilization. The party is then determined to do what they can to save the world through time travel.

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It is a fantastic story, filled with twists and turns. Players end up traveling between seven different eras with their distinct characters, setting, and feel. Along the way, you meet the wonderful characters of Robo, Ayla, Magus, and the best and coolest video game character of all time, Frog. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. Trust me, though. Frog is freaking amazing.

One of the many revolutionary aspects of Chrono Trigger was the possibility of multiple endings. However, there were other advancements including plot-related, character-driven sidequests. These may not seem like a big deal today, but in 1995, that was unheard of.

Though the game play is a fairly standard RPG, there were several new ideas to come forth as well. Done with beautiful two-dimensional graphics (that still look good, by the way), the player can roam around in an overworld typical of RPGs of the time and visit different areas. Each area has things to interact with, whether it be people to talk to, puzzles to solve, or enemies to defeat. One change to the traditional RPG is that Chrono Trigger has random encounters for enemies, some which may be visible and some that will ambush you. Unlike other RPGs at the time as well, the game’s battles take place in the same map area instead of being whisked off to a different screen.

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During fights with enemies, Chrono Trigger uses an active battle approach. Each character can do an action based off of a personal timer that is affected by that character’s stats. Characters can either do a straight attack or use their Techs, which use their magic points. One unique feature for the time was the ability to do combined attacks with characters using the Techs. The characters can double or triple their Tech use to create an even greater effect.

The game play is a lot of fun and allows a player to use many tactics to defeat enemies. Another really cool element that Chrono Trigger officially introduced was the New Game+ feature that allowed players to keep their characters’ stats, techniques, and inventory when playing a new game. This helped players go through the multiple endings easier. Though this idea may have been used in earlier games, from my research, it does look like Chrono Trigger was the first to actually use the term “New Game+.” Pretty awesome, right?

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One of my favorite game elements of Chrono Trigger is actually the soundtrack. It was primarily done by Yasunori Mitsuda, who had some help with the legendary Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu. The shear amount of tracks for the game was an amazing feat for the time frame. The music is otherworldly and consists of some amazing songs, one of which is my all-time favorite: Frog’s Theme. Seriously, whenever I do something cool, I start humming it. Yes, the song is THAT epic.

Chrono Trigger took some giant leaps forward for gaming. It helped push some of the gaming elements that we all love so much in modern RPGs, especially Western RPGs. The game will always hold a special place in my heart, and I am planning on making it the first game that my daughter and I play together. It is just THAT amazing.

No GravatarAs some of you might know, Mass Effect is one of my favorite gaming franchises.  Of course, when I say that, I am looking at the franchise as  a whole (I will not dwell on what happened to ME 3).  However, for those gamers who primarily play on PlayStation consoles, playing the original Mass Effect was not in the cards.  This changed once the game was finally released for PlayStation 3 at the end of 2012.  Finally, PlayStation fans were able to play the whole series through.  I  was one of those fans who got the original for digital download.  Here is what I thought:

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Mass Effect is a science fiction third-person RPG developed by Bioware and published by Microsoft originally, but is now being published by EA.  It originally was released for XBox 360 only, but eventually was released for PC and then Playstation 3.  It uses the Unreal 3 engine.  The game was applauded for its in-depth universe.  To me, the game is the Holy Grail of RPGs, since most do not have the Science fiction twist that Mass Effect does.

The setting puts the game far into the future where the human race discovers alien technology that allows them to travel faster than light (the “mass effect” field).  They have also found mass relays that allow them to travel significant distances in space in short amounts of time.  The human race expands throughout the galaxy, meeting other alien races.  They create the Human Systems Alliance that becomes a rising power among the other, older races.

The game follows Commander Shepard, an elite soldier who is picked to head a secret mission on a experimental ship, the SSV Normandy.  He is also in the running to become the first human Spectre, a black-ops division of the Citadel counsel, a governing body of the “civilized” parts of the galaxy.  As the story continues, the player begins to delve into the richly-designed universe that is Mass Effect and discovers that there are some very sinister things lurking in the galaxy.

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One of the fun things about this game is the ability of the player to go where they want to go in the galaxy.  Sure, there are some parts that you don’t get to decide, but there is a lot of freedom in traveling, allowing the player to go to some really cool planets.  Another interesting aspect (that I’m sure you may have heard about) is the ability to have Commander Shepard have a relationship with some of the characters.  You only get a few options in this game, but it still keeps things kind of interesting.

There’s a lot going on in Mass Effect.  It’s an RPG with XP, leveling up, and different skill-sets you can go through.  However, it is also a third-person action adventure shooter.  It employs a duck and cover system of fighting but also incorporates vehicle battle as well.  It SHOULD be a very diverse game play.  For the main missions, that is correct; the actual main quests are a ton of fun.  It’s the side quests that are a complete bear to play.  They are tedious and difficult in some spots, something that I wasn’t used to from playing Mass Effect 2 and 3 originally.  Because of this, I will have to knock the game play down quite a bit.

There are other aspects of the game play that I would like to cover, however.  The first being the class system.  Players get to choose at the beginning the type of class they want their character to be.  This also includes being able to fully customize the Shepard character: male or female, default or customize completely.  I recommend being on male default because Shepard is sexy.  Besides customizing the character in that way, there are six classes to choose from: Soldier, Engineer, Adept, Infiltrator, Sentinel, and Vanguard.  Each class has its own special perks.  I typically play as soldier.  Each of the classes also have their own special combat abilities.

Another interesting aspect of game play is dialogue and morality system.  As the story unfolds, the player is given options for dialogue.  One is typically the “good” option.  Another is the “neutral” option.  And the third is the “bad” option.  Depending on how good or bad you want Shepard to be will depend on how you answer.  However, sticking with one side opens up special dialogue conversations not available otherwise.

This particular Mass Effect game focuses very heavily on upgrading weapons.  The player can upgrade pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, as well as grenades and armor.  Mods to weapons and armor can also be found as well.  Upgrades are collected while exploring and in battle when an enemy is killed, but it can be a pain keep track of all of them.  Many times, I would have to stop game play because I had accumulated too many upgrades and had to either apply them or convert them into omni-gel (an all-purpose tool that helps with everything for fixing damage on vehicles to hacking locks).  This did get a bit annoying at times.

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For the time that the game came out, the graphics were pretty darned slick.  And not only that, but the game has actually aged well.  It is still playable without the graphics seeming to be annoying.  They certainly do not cause me headaches like Final Fantasy VII, for instance.  The in-game graphics are great, but the cut-scenes are really were the money is.

Unfortunately, even though the main parts of the game are a lot of fun, all of the side quests are a pain.  They are such a pain that I almost stopped playing the game.  They are tedious and repetitive.  Technically, I would give the fun-factor of the main game a 10, but I would give the side quests a 1.  Also because of this, I will probably not be revisiting the game, despite the awesome storyline.

As a whole, this game is great.  It’s got some issues; however, if the player just focuses on the main mission, the game is a lot of fun to play.  I’m also a bit picky because I feel Mass Effect 2 is a much better game overall.  Then again, considering that you can get the whole trilogy pretty cheaply and just the original even more cheaply, it’s definitely worth your time.

 

No GravatarBioShock is a first-person shooter released in 2007 for XBox 360 and PC. It was later ported for PS3 in 2008.  It was developed by Irrational Games (they were calling themselves 2K Boston back in the day) and published by 2K.  The game uses a modified version of the Unreal engine with Havok for the physics side.  It was highly praised for its story, setting, and thematic elements.  It later spawned two sequels: BioShock 2 and BioShock Infinite.

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As the player, you take on the character of Jack, a man who survives a plane crash into the middle of the ocean.  Upon swimming to safety, you find a lighthouse.  However, this is more than meets the eye.  After getting into a device called a bathysphere, a type of submersible, you are transported underneath the ocean and are introduced to Rapture, a huge underwater city.

However, there is something completely wrong with Rapture.  Upon arrival, you discover that the once utopian city is now in a state of disarray with roaming “splicers,” creepy little girls called “Little Sisters,” and huge robotic bosses called “Big Daddies.”  I don’t want to get into the story too much because I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I will tell you that the story is top-notch.  To me, the best part of BioShock is the setting.  I could just walk around in Rapture all day and be as happy as can be.  I know it’s a really creepy place, but it’s also a really interesting place, especially since you have to dig around a bit to figure out what went wrong.  I loved that the game was kind of scary, but not so scary that I wanted to stop playing it.

One of the other great things about the story of BioShock was a lot of really good and really interesting thematic elements of the game.  Rapture’s creator, Andrew Ryan, designed the city to be free of government and free of religion (a nod to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism).  However, without some constraint of morality, the city quickly crumbles into chaos after some bio-engineering and experimentation gone really wrong.  It’s a really interesting and engrossing game.  It’s one of my favorite video game stories of all time.

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BioShock is first and foremost a first-person shooter.  It’s a rather good one at that, especially for the time that it came out.  As an FPS, it plays smoothly and adds some interesting game play elements.  It has a typical style of ever-increasingly fun weapons to play with, but it also adds the “bio” element to it by creating the use of plasmids (a type of genetic alteration involving needles–I told you the game is a bit creepy).  With your left hand, you control your plasmids, which can vary from shooting fire, ice, and even bees out of your fingertips.  With your right hand, you control your primary weapon.  This is a really, really fun combination, and it makes for  some interesting game play.  However, it gets annoying switching back and forth between shooting plasmids and shooting your weapon, since you can only have one or the other at a time.  This glaring issue was later fixed in BioShock 2.

Besides the use of plasmids, the game play also adds some role-playing and stealth elements as well.  The player has options for stealth around security, including cameras and auto-turrets.  Collecting money in the game gives the player options for upgrading weapons, buying new plasmids, or gaining additional ammo or health.  You may also collect gene tonics that give you special abilities.  One of the more annoying parts of the game was the ability to hack certain things like cameras and vending machines.  Although this sounds like a great idea, to hack something, you get pushed into this mini-game, similar to Pipe Dream.  The first ten or so times you do it isn’t bad, but it gets annoying after twenty, thirty, or forty times.

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One of the unique game play aspects of BioShock is fairly original concept of “roaming boss battles.”  In order to gain more power, the player must take on Big Daddies in order to get to the Little Sisters.  There are a set amount of Big Daddies in each level that will appear in various places (but sometimes can feel like at random).

The graphics were very good for the time that it came out.  It has still held up well for an older game.  In fact, it has held up much better than games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and even the original Infamous.  Even going back and playing it now, I don’t get headaches from playing a game with crazy old graphics.

One really enjoyable thing about the graphics (and the setting) is how it highlights the amazing Art Deco designs of Rapture.  This is one of the reasons why I will actually play the game just to wander around and explore (I can’t say that for many other games).

I don’t care if the game play is perfect.  I don’t care if the graphics are perfect.  BioShock will always be one of my most favorite games of all time.  It is probably my favorite first-person shooter.  This game is just plain fun.  It has been the most fun that I have had in a game in a long, long time.  It is the reason why I have been so backlogged on so many games: I keep wanting to play this game over and over again.  BioShock made me expect more out of my first-person shooters.  It is a complete must-play, trust me.

By Jonathan Balofsky On 28 Apr, 2016 At 07:15 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Games You Slept On, News, NINTENDO, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarJoy Mech Fight, a Japan only Famicom game, was another early attempt at a fighting game from Nintendo. The game took a lot of influence from other fighting game but also Capcom’s Mega Man series. It had 2 scientists who made robots, one scientist went evil and reprogramed the robots except one. The difference in JMF was that after defeating the other robots, they became playable characters, much like story mode unlocks in modern fighting games. The graphics and music were impressive for the time, even as they fought hard against the limitations of the Famicom system ( This was during the transition phase between the 8 bit and 16 bit generations), and while they are not impressive by today’s standards, they were still a technical marvel. The game actually had the largest roster for a fighting game, with 36 characters, until the King of Fighters 98 came out and had 38.

Now there is the question of how to revive it, and to that I say that this is a chance to kill two birds with one stone. There is another game Nintendo was working on for Wii U that seems to have stalled, with no further direction. I refer of course to Project Giant Robot

That game would be perfect to repurpose as a reboot of Joy Mech Fight. It could be the game finally done right, with unique characters that feel like their own character, with the full character shown and not the way they were in the Famicom version with the disembodied limbs. In HD with 3D graphics, this would be an amazing game and if treated right, could be a unique fighting game for Nintendo to have on the NX. The two game concepts seem perfect for each other and would blend well.

Custom characters could be done fantastically in this and the opportunity is there for a variety of modes, such as story ( like in the original), Arcade, Local Multiplayer, Online Multiplayer and Custom Local and Online Multiplayer among others. Nintendo has stated recently that they are unsure of what to do with Project Giant Robot, and retooling it into a reboot of Joy Mech Fight just seems like a perfect way to make this into gold. As for who can make it, perhaps Platinum Games, with their track record of action games and robots in their games. Or maybe Next Level Games, with their unique offbeat games. In the end, whomever makes this, this is too good an opportunity to pass up.

 

 

By Jessica Brister On 21 Apr, 2016 At 07:35 PM | Categorized As Featured, Games You Slept On, PlayStation, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarUncharted: Drake’s Fortune is the start to an amazing series.  I unfortunately played the games out of order (started with Uncharted 3).  I ended up buying the Uncharted/Uncharted 2 dual pack and really thought I got my money’s worth from both games.  Despite having some age, Uncharted is a blast to play.

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Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a third-person shooter, action-adventure game that came out on the PlayStation 3 in 2007.  It was developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony.  Overall, it sold very well, and got critical acclaim, spawning two sequels.  Although when I originally heard about it, I thought it was going to be a Tomb Raider rip-off, so I ignored it completely until now.  This is not the case at all, and I wish I would have known that back in 2007.  This game is a ton of fun and does not play like a Tomb Raider game at all in game play, story, and tone.  If anything, it’s more Indiana Jones-like than Lara Croft.  The game was re-released as part of the Uncharted Collection in 2015 with slicker-looking graphics and more power.

In this game, we are introduced to Nathan Drake, treasure-hunter, Victor Sullivan, his mentor, and Elena Fisher, a journalist hired to record his adventures.  Nate is searching for Sir Francis Drake’s secret, which leads him on a quest for El Dorado.  Adventuring ensues with Elena provided as a love-interest for Drake.  Overall, it’s a fun story, but I felt the pacing was a little slower than Drake’s Deception.  I also was a little annoyed at the fact that the scenery was very similar: jungle/ruins.  That made the game feel a little dull, especially compared to Drake’s Deception, where you get to go to so many cool places.

The game is a typical third person shooter, duck and cover with the added elements of jumping and climbing.  Being the first of the series, it is definitely not as polished as the later games.  One thing that bugged me was the constant gun battles that lasted way too long and came up too often.  I felt like there wasn’t a very good balance between the adventuring portion and the action portion.  There were also some spots that drove me absolutely crazy and actually made me want to stop playing (I’ll get to that in a bit).  This is how I would classify each part of the game play:

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1.) Adventuring/Puzzles

To me, the fun part of the game is the adventuring, and even though I don’t particularly like puzzle games, I actually kind of enjoyed the ones in this game.  I could figure out most of the puzzles by myself, and the rest I easily found how to do on YouTube (what did we do before YouTube, right?).  The jumping, leaping, and climbing is pretty easy to get the hang of, although it was a lot more polished in the later games.  I actually wish there was more exploring and jumping puzzles.  I felt that it was a little lacking, especially for a Tomb Raider fan like myself.

2.) Fighting

This was the part that really annoyed me.  I thought there was way too many gun fights for an adventure game.  It felt like every time you turned the corner there was another gun fight.  It actually became very predictable after awhile and took away from the game a bit.  This aspect was much improved in later Uncharted games, but it still unfortunately took a little away from the game.

3.) Vehicles

Throughout the game, you will ride on different vehicles, including Jeeps and jet-skis.  To me, this was one of the more fun points of the game.  In the Jeep, Elena is driving and Nate is shooting.  With the jet ski, you are driving as Nate but also must shoot with Elena.  It was a fun change from the massive amounts of gun fights that consumed the game play.

For the time that the game came out, the graphics were pretty good.  Obviously now, they are a little dated.  However, I could stand the graphics, and they didn’t give me a headache from Final Fantasy VII syndrome.  By the way, Final Fantasy VII syndrome is a term my husband and I have coined to describe how older games with funky graphics give us headaches when we play because of the eye strain.

Here’s the problem with this game: It reminds me of how I felt about the original Mass Effect.  Now don’t get me wrong, except for the cover-shoot and third person game play, they are worlds different.  But because I had to wait to play the original Mass Effect since I typically play on PC or PlayStation, I had already played the second and third game.  Playing the original became tedious and unpleasant because I knew how much better the later games were.  I don’t see this as a complete knock to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.  With all gaming franchises, there are improvements that come along the way.  Luckily, this is a franchise that keeps on improving.

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Welcome to our new series, “Games That Should Be Revived”, in which I will be discussing various games that the IP holders should revive. Today lets look at a game that many absolutely despise but has some potential, Urban Champion.

Urban Champion, a fighting game on the NES  was one of Nintendo’s first attempts at a fighting game and to be honest, the game was awful. It is widely regarded as one of Nintendo’s worst games, so why am I arguing for a revival? Well its quite simple, the technology for what they wanted to do with the game was not quite there yet and while they did make an NES fighter with Joy Mech Fight that got a lot right, that was only released in Japan. With modern tech, a reboot could work, especially if it an in name only reboot.

Here is my proposal, hire Bandai Namco or SNK Playmore to develop it. Make it be Nintendo’s own 2D one on one fighting game like Capcom’s Street Fighter. With the proper work done, it could end up well. I think it would be best for Nintendo to farm it out to one of those 2 publishers mentioned due to their history of fighting games, especially SNK Playmore, who could make it work well.

This would not need to be a major production but rather let’s call it a b project. It could be done as a test to see if the series would work. It would need around 12 characters, online, arcade mode, 2 additional modes for multiplayer and single player to entice casuals as well as hardcores and the potential for DLC. It would also cost less than other games, again to hook people in. If this succeeds, DLC could be done to add a lot more content, or a sequel could be made that would be bigger and better like with Smash Bros 64 and then Smash Bros Melee.

But now the question, Why make the game? Well to be honest, Nintnedo is lacking in traiditional fighting games. Microsoft has Killer Instinct ( which formerly was with Nintendo) and Sony has locked up Street Fighter and King Of Fighters. Smash is not a traditional fighting game and Pokken requires two consoles for local multiplayer to work right. I feel that Nintendo needs a traditional 2D fighting game in their lineup and this could work perfectly. It doesn’t need to necessarily be a Street Fighter or King of Fighters clone but be similar yet different.  There is a market for these games, poor sales of SF V not withstanding ( and that was more due to the game ‘s barebones content at launch.) A traditional 2D fighting game would be welcome and a reboot of Urban Champion as an In Name Only reboot is just what the doctor ordered.

 

Next time: A look at Joy Mech Fight.

No GravatarBorderlands 2 is one of those special games that only comes around every once in awhile.  It’s a blood and guts shooter with some humor (and a bit of satire as well).  It also is one of the best online co-op games to this day.

Although the game has aged a bit, it still holds up very well.  Borderlands 2 is considered an action RPG first person shooter.  It was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K in 2012 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC/Mac (the game also had a late PlayStation Vita and Linux port).  It is also the sequel to the original Borderlands that came out in 2009.  The game was re-released in 2015 in the Handsome Collection for this current generation of consoles, but for the purposes of this review, I am referring to my play-through on PlayStation 3.

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Just like the original game, Borderlands 2 follows different Vault Hunters on the planet of Pandora.  Another large corporation has taken control of the planet, spear-headed by the charismatic Handsome Jack.  The Vault Hunters have come to seek an even larger Vault on the planet but also end up getting caught up in a lot of issues on Pandora, including tons of side-quests.  Although the plot itself is kind of bland, the dialogue, humor, and splash of satire keep the game interesting.  Overall, the feel and ton of the game is a kind of dark comedy/space western.  It’s an odd combination, but it somehow works.
Borderlands 2 is a game that CAN’T take itself too seriously because the game itself is absurd.  It’s filled with ridiculous characters in a ridiculous places doing ridiculous things.  When playing the game, you will laugh, and you will probably laugh a lot.  It’s just enjoyable wandering around the world of Pandora and meeting the crazy people who live there.  Whether it’s meeting the British-imperialist wannabe, Sir Hammerlock…Or the very much redneck, Scooter….Or Ellie, the very big, but very funny mechanic….Or Tiny Tina, the world’s deadliest 13-year-old (by the way, search for “Tiny Tina” on YouTube and see why she’s a freaking hilarious)….Or my favorite, Butt Stallion, the diamond pony.

One great thing about Borderlands 2 game play, is that the game allows you to play as much as you want offline and immediately join up online and not lose your place in the game, as long as you are hosting.  So I could play for a couple hours by myself, see my friends online, invite them into my game, and continue my adventure with my friends without missing a beat.  Another thing that I love is that you can have your game open and allow online people to pop in and out at their leisure to help you.  Or, you can jump into someone else’s game that is way ahead of yours and help you level-up.  Or, you can have someone help you get through a particularly tough time.  It’s an extremely social game.

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Online holds up to four people of whichever class you prefer.  The classes consist of: Commando, Siren, Gunserker, Assassin, Mechromancer (DLC), and Psycho (DLC).  Let me quickly go through each:

Commando: Turrets!

Siren: Phase-lock/Team Nurse!

Gunserker: Double-trouble guns!

Assassin: Stealth/Snipe!

Mechromancer: SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND! (You get a mech that helps you, and it’s awesome.)

Psycho: High risk, high reward play-style!

Each character is a blast to play.  And you will end up playing through the game, which is pretty long to begin with several times with each class.

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Another big thing about Borderlands in general is the fact that there are more weapons possibilities than a player knows what to do with.  I’ve heard at least 17.75 million combinations because weapons randomly generate based on: your level, how many people in your group, where you found it, what baddie you got it from, what rarity level it is, and so on.  This means that even if you have beaten Borderlands 2 several times on all of the difficulties with ever character, you are ALWAYS looking for the next best weapon.

Though the original Borderlands game was interesting, and I have played a good deal out of it.  But I really didn’t like it, mostly for the fact that the graphics were awful and the online play was hard to connect to.  Now for the graphics, please understand that Borderlands uses cell shading, which gives off a cartoony-look. In the original game, I had a hard time even playing it because it gave me a headache (I call this Final Fantasy VII syndrome–where the graphics are so weird that it hurts you eyeballs/head.).

In Borderlands 2, you still have cell-shading, but IT IS SO MUCH BETTER.  The lines are crisper.  The graphics are much improved, and I can play this game for hours without issue.  Plus, now cell-shading makes sense to me.  This game isn’t about the latest, greatest graphics, but about the humor, satire, and fun of it.  The graphics actually look pretty good, but I have come to understand why the developers choose to use this method.  Also, with the online play, it is pretty easy to connect with your friends or random people.  The original Borderlands was kind of a pain in the you-know-what, but now you can jump from game to game without issue.

So, as you can see, Borderlands 2 is nothing but fun.  I am currently patiently waiting on news for a 3rd.  But in the mean time, happy vault hunting for those who still play!