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By Stark Wyvern On 15 Jan, 2018 At 06:44 AM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Featured, NINTENDO, Nintendo Switch, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSuper Meat Boy is a classic platformer of the modern era, and even now on the Nintendo Switch, it still shows that it’s worth the praise. Super Meat Boy is an amazing game starring a sentient blob of meat on a journey to find his lady love. It’s an amazing game that tests the mettle of anyone willing to play it, making it an intensely rigorous game, where every move counts especially as you continue playing.

Super Meat Boy tells the story of a Meat Boy who is out to rescue his girlfriend from the evil Dr.Fetus. Meat Boy runs through a vicious world filled with saws and other tough barriers to his justice. He has to dodge all that comes at him or else be instantly destroyed. Touch anything dangerous and you’ll have to run and jump through the perils all over again.

This game doesn’t just end with a run through what it calls the Light World. You will also have to run through the chaotic Dark World, an evil version of the original levels. These levels are far harder than the first run through, and your instincts will have to be even sharper if you are going to survive their assault.

As you play through this game you will also have to face bosses who will make your life even harder. Dodging and taking on bosses certainly, don’t make running through levels easier. Dr.Fetus is out for blood and he will only get more bloodthirsty as the adventure continues.

The game also includes warp zones which send the player into different worlds. These worlds are inspired by different games including ones like Castle Crashers. There are also versions based on classic systems like the original Game Boy. These levels will put your skills to the test, without the stigma of facing the time. They really help mix up the fun when you find the warps.

Don’t forget to collect the bandages you find around the world. These bandages are hard to find and collect but the rewards are amazing. Finding enough will allow you to play with different characters. All of the extra characters are different, making the game play interesting. Commander Video plays slow and has the ability to freeze in the air for a moment. Playing the game with a style like Commander Video can make it easier or harder depending on the stage, allowing for new ways to play the game.

While I may not be a master platformer, I did find this game to be one I wanted to continue playing. Dying multiple times is never terrible when your main character explodes after every death. With the games awesome soundtrack you simply want to continue playing. Plus, when you finally complete the level and see all of your past attempts at action it’s rather funny seeing the Meat Boys run and die showing off your evolution.

Super Meat Boy is a stellar game that really has a lot to offer. With 300 stages to blast through, you will certainly find a lot of enjoyment in playing this game. Plus, collecting bandages, playing with different characters, and conquering all the warp zones will certainly add to the fun. Super Meat Boy is out now on Nintendo Switch and has been out on many systems for quite awhile. If you’ve yet to pick up this meaty game, jump into the wicked world of Super Meat Boy today!

By Jessica Brister On 10 Jan, 2018 At 11:15 AM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Editorials, Featured, PC Games, PlayStation | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSince I have a lot of hobbies and loves, it’s not uncommon for me to listen to music while playing a game (as I’m sure many gamers do).  One odd aspect of my gaming career is that I inadvertently made “soundtracks” to games that do not play more modern music (i.e. the GTA franchise is out because it already has a soundtrack).  I stuck to this so much that when I think of a game, I automatically think of the soundtrack I made.  Or, if a song is playing from that soundtrack, I immediately am transported back to that game and possibly even that level that I assigned the song to.  This might sound awesome to some people, or it might sound incredibly geeky to others.  I find that I love to flash back to the nostalgia of a game when hearing a particular song; I may not have thought of said game otherwise.  Add some years  to when I first started doing this, and I’m enthralled with what I had initially did: it’s helped me remember aspects of some games that I know that I will never return to.

Enter: Tomb Raider II

It’s one of my favorite all-time games, and it’s definitely the best puzzle-based adventure game I’ve ever played.  I just completely fell in love with it, even though I such at puzzle games and had to buy a walk-through (yes, I said buy; the walk-throughs on the Internet weren’t great).  It looks dated now with Lara Croft’s squarish appearance, so I’m glad I can think back to days when it looked so “real” in comparison to what games came before it.

Tomb Raider II came out in late 1997.  However, I compiled my soundtrack sometime in 2000 on my second play-through, so if there are any songs that are newer than the game, that’s why.  I felt the need to share this list with everyone, if not for the fact that I don’t want it to die in my memory, so enjoy…

Level 1: Great Wall

Song: Creed – Torn (from My Own Prison, 1997)

 

It was the album before Creed turned obnoxious: My Own Prison had some dark vibes, and the song Torn really delivered.  It’s also one of those songs that feels like it starts things off, so it was perfect for the first level, Great Wall.  Lara ran around the ruins of the Great Wall of China, and the level gave an intro for things to come.

Level 2: Venice

Song: Stone Temple Pilots – Sex Type Thing (Core, 1992)

 

I chose this STP song mostly based on the fact that I was listening through Core at the time and also because of the pacing of the song.  If you put Lara at her natural “run,” she runs to the beat of the song.  For whatever reason, this song “took on” the feel of the level.  The actual content of the song itself didn’t necessarily matter, so the song really isn’t some sexual objectification of Lara for me.

Level 3: Bartolli’s Hideout

Song: Stone Temple Pilots – Wicked Garden (Core, 1992)

Another STP song that actually is right after the above fore-mentioned song on the album, Core.  It ended up being a natural transition from one level to the other, even though I took me approximately forty minutes for each level (yes, I put the songs on repeat).  This is also one of the songs where if I hear it, I immediately go back to that level.  Every.  Single.  Time.

 

Level 4: Opera House

Song: Days of the New – The Down Town (Days of the New, 1997)

Days of the New made all acoustic cool again in the late ’90s.  The Down Town might still be one of my favorites from them.  In this case, it emphasized the cool location of Lara’s exploration of a run-down opera house, while highlighting how dilapidated and grungy the place ended up being.  The song also really feels cool listening to while Lara is running.

 

Level 5: Offshore Rig

Weezer – My Name is Jonas (Weezer, 1994)

This level in particular made me stick to the song, My Name is Jonas, even if I used the rest of the album for other levels.  I thought it was cute because of how the lyrics describe, “The workers are coming home,” and the level is on an offshore rig.  It might be a stretch, but this is another song where I can’t not think of this album when the song plays.

 

Level 6: Diving Area

Weezer – Pretty much the rest of the Blue Album (Weezer, 1994)

I ended up listening to the rest of what Weezer fans say is “The Blue Album,” noting the blue background of Weezer’s self-titled album from 1994.  I flash back to this level any time most of the album is on, and I love it!

 

Level 7: 40 Fathoms

Jars of Clay – Flood (Jars of Clay, 1995)

When you’re playing a level where you have to fight for every breath, I thought Jars of Clay’s Flood was perfect.  This is probably the band’s more famous song.

 

Level 8: Wreck of the Maria Doria

Pantera – Floods (The Great Southern Trendkill, 1995)

One of Pantera’s most haunting and beautifully written songs, Floods seems to just fit with a level where Lara is trapped in a upside-down shipwreck, using pockets of area to survive.

 

Level 9: Living Quarters

Machine Head – Message in a Bottle (The Burning Red, 1999)

Living Quarters explores the passenger side of the Maria Doria, and it’s a bit of a head trip, since this part of the ship settled upside down.  Machine Head’s cover of The Police’s Message in a Bottle continues with my nautical-themed, darker toned set of songs.

 

Level 10: The Deck

Alice in Chains – Grind (Alice in Chains, 1995)

The Deck is an expansive level that highlights part of the deck of the Maria Doria, which had crashed through a huge cavern.  I thought the song “Grind” was appropriate as this level is a bit of a grind.

 

Level 11: Tibetan Foothills

Static X – So Real (Wisconsin Death Trip, 1999)

Tibetan Foothills is probably my favorite level for TR II because of the fun puzzles and the snowmobile action.  The pulsing beat of Static X’s So Real fits perfectly with some cool snowmobiling across the icy mountains.

 

Level 12: Barkhang Monastery

Jars of Clay – Liquid (Jars of Clay, 1995)

Nothing echoes the feeling of exploring a huge monastery like the haunting notes of Jars of Clay’s Liquid.  This is also a favorite level, and you get some much-needed help from the monks as long as you don’t attack them.

 

Level 13: Catacombs of the Talion

Metallica – Call of Ktulu (Ride the Lightning, 1984)

Catacombs of Talion is an icy and particularly tricky level that is perfect with Metallica’s Call of Ktulu.  Because of this pairing, I love to drive in snow storms with this song on.  It brings me back to TR II.

 

Level 14: Ice Palace

Metallica – One (…And Justice For All, 1988)

Ice Palace is the last of the cold climate levels, and it definitely delivers.  It has some crazy puzzles and some tough baddies, which is why I selected Metallica’s One for this level.

Level 15: Temple of Xian

Metallica – Wherever I May Roam (Metallica, 1991)

Temple of Xian is probably the largest level for TR II, and if it’s not, it certainly feels that way.  The place is massive and has some crazy puzzles.  Metallica’s Wherever I May Roam felt perfect for the level.

 

Level 16: Floating Islands

Metallica – Orion (Instrumental) (Master of Puppets, 1986)

The Floating Islands level is a bit of a trip to play; the whole thing is quire surreal.  Because of this, I wanted a song that matched that quality, and I thought Metallica’s Orion (Instrumental), especially the beginning, really fit the level.

 

Level 17: The Dragon’s Lair

Alice in Chains – Again (Alice in Chains, 1995)

There’s nothing quite like a boss level with the completely rock-on song of Alice in Chain’s Again.

 

Level 18: Home Sweet Home

It’s such a short level that no song is necessary.

And for when you’re in post-Tomb Raider II blues after the game is completed, finish it off with:

Alice in Chains – Over Now (Alice in Chains, 1995)

By Jessica Brown On 1 Oct, 2017 At 01:17 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Editorials, NINTENDO | With 2 Comments

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Let’s face it: when The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess made its debut back in November 2006 it had some really big shoes to fill. In terms of major console releases, it was following in the footsteps of some popular pedigrees: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (one of the most highly-regarded games of all time), its 2000 sequel Majora’s Mask, and the expansive, high-seas adventure that was The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker on the GameCube. The years 2001 to 2005 also marked an explosion of very popular entries on the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance that despite their small size were very much full-on epic adventures.

When I played through Wind Waker, I couldn’t help but wonder what was next for the franchise. In some ways, the game had an air of finality to it. Hyrule had been washed away deep beneath the waves and Ganondorf had been delivered a final death blow with the Master Sword, leaving both he and it sealed beneath the oceans covering what used to be Hyrule. If anything in the series had ever felt like a final moment in the timeline, this was it. Yet, as we came to discover, Nintendo was using the time-bending elements of Ocarina of Time as an excuse to split the timeline into separate branches. Wind Waker, it turned out, was just one of the possible outcomes.

With this in mind, Twilight Princess is set many years after the ending of Ocarina of Time. In this game’s backstory, when Link returns to the time period he was initially from, he warns Princess Zelda of Ganondorf’s plans for the future. The two then convince Zelda’s father, the King of Hyrule, that Ganondorf must be punished lest Hyrule face its eventual destruction, so the King has him executed. Only…Something doesn’t quite go right, and instead of killing him they end up having to seal him within the Twilight Realm. This fact plays an important role later in the game, when we finally come to understand why the Twilight Realm is imposing itself on Hyrule, and who is ultimately motivating its de facto leader, Zant.

I’ll be honest: when it comes to my active play-time with any of the Zelda games out there, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess takes the cake. While I’m sure that I’ll eventually sink in a lot more time with Breath of the Wild on the Switch once I properly dig deep into it, at present no other game comes close to Twilight Princess in terms of time invested into it. At the time, Twilight Princess felt like a large world with a ton of things to see and do. Certainly, it was much larger than Ocarina of Time and perhaps Wind Waker as well (since a lot of that game consisted of open seas). Yet, what caused me to spend more time with this game than any that came before it was the sheer amount of collectibles and upgrades you could get. Gaining all 20 heart containers was no easy feat in itself as there were many sub-quests you had to do in order to get all of them. Also, special upgrades like larger quivers or the magical armor that would make you invincible at the expense of a constant draining of your rupees also necessitated a fairly large investment of your time. But, despite all of this, I had a lot of fun trying to fully complete the game and I have no regrets for the time spent with it.

The dungeons in Twilight Princess are both well thought-out and massive. They are also quite memorable too. The Lakebed Temple and City in the Sky were particularly challenging and interesting to explore. Also, the boss fights were both intense and enjoyable. The boss of the City in the Sky, Argorok, was perhaps the most annoying and difficult boss in the game for me. I’d even go as far as to say defeating it was more laborious than taking down Ganon in the final battle!

One of the things that I remember sticking out to me when I first played Twilight Princess was the fact that the Twilight Realm mechanic felt like it was paying homage to the Dark World from Zelda: A Link to the Past. It was interesting to me to see how the pervading twilight managed to twist and corrupt the things that it came in touch with. I also recall finding it quite refreshing that the game felt more like an epic. In some games, it felt like Link was primarily alone on his quest to save Hyrule, but here you had people that were genuinely aware of what was going on and in some cases people who were ready and willing to help. In fact, there was an entire resistance of able-bodied adults who were with him at major points in the game, even helping storm Hyrule Castle in the game’s penultimate confrontation.

It also had an ending that was a bit of an emotional ride. By the adventure’s end, it was clear that Midna, revealed to be the rightful ruler of the Twilight Realm, had feelings for Link, yet in the game’s final moments when it feels she is about to reveal these feelings to the young hero, she destroys the mirror that connects their two worlds completely. I remember being very angry with that, feeling that she owed to both Link and herself, to be honest about her feelings, and yet she went as far as to destroy any hope they ever had of seeing each other again. It was quite powerful.

While I’ll admit that I haven’t played Twilight Princess HD on the Wii U before, but the 2016 remaster does indeed look quite gorgeous! It even has some nice easter eggs and special content that was added to it to make it stand out a bit more. Obviously, it was sort of a lead-in to this year’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild (which is also available on the Wii U in addition to the Switch), but I’d certainly love to see both this one and Wind Waker HD eventually get ported to the Nintendo Switch.

Ultimately, I think that Twilight Princess managed to pay homage to Ocarina of Time in quite a meaningful way, but it also built off of the successes of that game and created a large world that actually felt alive, begging to be explored. Because of this, 2011’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword felt like a step back in some ways. The way that the overworld had to be explored felt a lot more closed off and a bit less inviting. Thankfully, Nintendo seemed to listen to its fans and critics and took Breath of the Wild in a completely different direction.

So much of Twilight Princess can be seen in Breath of the Wild that I feel like we owe a bit of thanks to this entry in the long-running franchise. If Twilight Princess was born out of a question of “Where will this series possibly go next? ” I can’t help but think that Breath of the Wild will ultimately yield some of the same questions. Perhaps, though, that will mean that it will eventually yield another amazing follow-up, just as Twilight Princess managed to successfully follow both Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker. If that pattern is to be followed once more, then I can’t help but think that we are in for yet another treat in the hopefully not-too-distant future!

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If you’ve never played The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (or even if you have!), I hope this article gave you a taste of what made it a fantastic adventure that absorbed so much of my time when it first came out. This article is part of a larger series explores the history of the series and its major entries. Be sure to check out the hub article at NekoJonez’s Arpegi for links to all the great articles and retrospectives on this epic series.

(Image courtesy of ZoeF on DeviantArt)

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As of May 1 2017 ( or May 2nd if you live in EU), it has been 15 years since the release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. In the time since, gaming has gotten even bigger and The Elder Scrolls series in particular has continued to grow, and it seems that many, while acknowledging Morrowind is a great game, don’t realize why it was.

The Elder Scrolls: Arena, the first game in the series, was a fairly average for the time CRPG. it was rooted in the D&D model and many things introduced in the game were changed in some way, or drastically expanded on to provide new explanations later on. The races were presented differently, The Daedra were not present and some key locations and didn’t have any real significance to them besides acting as shout outs to other works, such as the writings of Tolkien. The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall saw the series go into a more fluid 3D form than before, introduced the Daedra and some concepts and characters that would become important later. But it still wasn’t  quite The Elder Scrolls we know today. Those games were very much based in the typical fantasy elements that were often used, and it wasn’t until Morrowind that the series really set itself apart.

It isn’t that Morrowind had a bigger open world than the previous games. Daggerfall was much bigger than Morrowind, which is only set in part of the fictional province. No, it was that Morrowind felt alive, like it was a unique land that was a breath of fresh air from the normal tropes of fantasy. We weren’t getting a European based fantasy story, we were getting weird fiction and it was awesome. This was the game that introduced so much to the series. The Daedra got their proper personalities, we got a true backstory for the games, there was a unique cast of characters, and every choice you made had consequences.  The game began the series tradition of starting out as a prisoner, and handled the protagonist in an interesting way, that to explain it now would be a spoiler as I want you to play this game and appreciate it.

This was the game where The Elder Scrolls set itself apart from the pack, and another way it did that was through its Xbox port. It wasn’t a good port, as the Xbox simply wasn’t meant to handle such a game, but it helped expose the series to a new audience. It was this game that brought us the mystery of the Dwemer, and it was this game that took those shout outs to Tolkien and actually made them distinct and different.  The different races all became unique in their own right, and we got to learn the mythological lore of the series that still goes on in the current games. The Elder Scrolls : Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim owe much to Morrowind, but so do games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. This was the game that showed what could truly be done with Western RPGs. That they could rival and surpass the JRPGs.

So I say to you now, if you haven’t ever played Morrowind, give it a try. Yes it has dated graphics and a clunky control scheme, but mods can help with that. This game brought so much joy and so much innovation, that it deserves to continue to be appreciated today!

No GravatarEvery once in a while, there is an awesome game that comes out, and it revolutionizes the way that a person views gaming.  For me, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of those games.  It has everything that I demand in a game: a cool story, fun game play, an expansive world, and the ability to customize my game experience as I see fit.  I love the game so much that it’s one of the top games that I’ve put the most hours into, and that’s saying something because I’ve spent a lot of time on many different games.  It’s one of my all-time favorites.  Here’s why:

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open world action role-playing game that was developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.  It is the fifth game in the Elder Scrolls franchise, following 2006’s Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  Skyrim was released November 2011 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.  A remastered version is coming out for the game for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in October of this year.  The game uses the Creation Engine, which was specifically rebuilt for the game after some of the issues with Fallout 3.  Skyrim got critical acclaim and is consistently rates as one of the best video games of all time.

Set 200 years after its predecessor, Skyrim focuses on Tamriel’s Nordic area (Skyrim, hence the game’s name).  There are two warring factions at odds against each other.  The Stormcloaks consist of Skyrim’s native Nordic folk who wish to rule their own land (and are extremely racist).  The Imperial Legion represents the Empire and wishes to keep the region safe and at peace (but then the native people don’t have control of their own area).  After being almost killed by the Imperials and surviving a dragon attack, the player realizes that Skyrim is in deep trouble if dragons have come back.  Eventually, the player finds out that he or she is Dragonborn, a person born with the soul and power of a dragon.  In the main quest line, the player must find out what is going on with the reemerging dragons; however, there are tons of other side quests that jump into the rich history and politics of the region.  It’s absolutely amazing.

The main story is pretty involved, but it’s the expansive world that really shines with Skyrim.  It’s definitely got one of the best maps that I have seen (I still prefer it over The Witcher 3’s map, which is also quite expansive).  The scenery is gorgeous, especially since I play on PC with the graphics on the highest levels with a few texture mods as well.  Most of the items in the world are extremely interactive.  The people in Skyrim are interesting.  The places are fun to explore.  I’ve gone walking around the map just for fun.  I’ve even read about people who create characters and don’t even play the game; they just make up their own story and go hunting animals, collect things, and just have fun.  It’s so in-depth with lore and back-story that it’s hard not to fall in love with Skyrim.

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However, even though the open world is amazing, my favorite part of the game is actually the game play itself.  I have never quite come across anything quite like it.  For me, even another Bethesda heavy-hitter like Fallout 3 or even Fallout 4 doesn’t compare.  Sure, Skyrim is a first-person, action RPG.  A lot of games are.  The thing that really makes Skyrim stand out is the leveling and experience system.  It’s very simple: you level up what you use.  Whatever angle you want to play with Skyrim, you just have to use it to level it.  In this way, players are not pigeon-holed into a certain class.  Do you want to be a mage who has thief tendencies?  Go for it.  Do you want you want to be a warrior who also can use magic when needed?  Yep!  You can do that.  Do you like being a thief who enjoys two-handed combat?  Why not?

I love the ability to be able to do what I want, when I want.  I love that I can mix and match with the different combat styles and character niches because…why not?  I hate having to decide what class to play because two hours later, I want to change it.  Skyrim lets me do whatever I want.  When I initially played it on Xbox 360, I was a bit limited with the amount of perks that I could get, so some specialization was required.  However, on PC I can do a bit of cheaty, cheat, cheating and add perks when I run out of levels.  It’s perfect for the OCD gamer.  In Skyrim, it’s totally okay to be a warrior/mage/thief all at the same time.

The graphics hold up very well, especially if you are playing on PC and can put on some texture mods.  On the consoles, it is starting to look dated.  Hopefully, it will look great again with the remaster.  However, when the game originally came out, the graphics were hand’s down awesome.  I love the textures of the scenery.  Even though some of the color palate can be very heavy on grays and browns, the game is still beautiful.

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There is something special about Skyrim, and it may have to do with the fact that gamers can easily make fun of it without damaging the integrity of the game.  How many “arrow to the knee” memes have you seen?  How many times have people made fun of the fact that one can eat 99 raw potatoes in the middle of the battle to gain health?  What about trying to kill a chicken?  Or, my personal favorite happens to be: why are all of the lights on in a dungeon that hasn’t been visited by anyone in hundreds if not thousands of years?  It’s fun to make fun of Skyrim because it’s a game that no one has to defend as being good.  Some people might not like it, and that’s fine.  But it’s hard to argue that it’s a bad game.  Therefore, when there are some “silly” elements of the game, it’s enjoyable to point out the shortcomings because even though there definitely are some, no other game even comes close.

There are a lot of games that I have enjoyed over the years, but there are few that I truly love.  The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim is one that I absolutely will love forever, even when newer and better games come out.  I have about an estimated 415 hours on the game right now between console and PC, and I have thoroughly loved every minute of it.  I actually cannot think of another game that I have spent so much time on.  That’s the power of Skyrim.

No GravatarEvery once in awhile, I get to play a game that is just plain fun.  Not that most video games aren’t fun, but some of them focus too much on grinding or the competitive aspect of gaming.  Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of those games that is just plain fun.  The length is about right, and it’s a lot of non-stop action and adventure.  Plus, it’s got a humorous side to it as well.  Uncharted 2 is just a blast to play with the right formula to be downright awesome.

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is an action-adventure third-person shooter that was developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony.  It was released for PlayStation 3 on October 13, 2009 with critical acclaim.  It was later released for PlayStation 4 as a part of the Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection October 2015.  For the purposes of this review, I will only be concentrating on the PlayStation 3 version.

Uncharted 2 picks up with the fun and adventure that the original game started.  Nathan Drake is a world-traveled treasure hunter who is approached by some old associates, Harry Flynn and Chloe Frazer, to steal an oil lamp that belonged to Marco Polo from a Turkish museum.  This oil lamp holds the key to Marco Polo’s hidden treasure.  There’s a lot of fun and adventure, including some familiar faces like Victor Sullivan (“Sully”) and Elena Fisher.

I don’t want to spoil any of the awesomeness that is this game, but I will say that it is thoroughly enjoyable.  You get to go to cool places and do some downright cool things.  I love the fact that even though there are some dark tones to the game, the story overall has humorous overtones due to Drake’s snarky comments.  He’s just one of those cool characters in gaming that you just have to love.  It took me a long time to try this series because I thought that Uncharted was just a Tomb Raider rip-off.  That is far from the truth.  Uncharted stands on its own as one of my favorite genres: cheesy, action/adventure in the lines of Indiana Jones or The Librarian.  It’s just something that you just plan enjoy.

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The gameplay of Uncharted 2 has been much improved over the original game.  I had issues with Drake’s Fortune because of the odd save times, weird camera angles, and funky controls at some spots.  All of these issues were corrected in the second installment, making for an extremely fun game that I can just sit and enjoy.  The game is a third-person adventure game with jumps, climbing, and shooting.  Unlike the older Tomb Raider games, the jumping is significantly easier and the puzzles are more thinking puzzles than gaming skill puzzles (anyone who has played any of the retro TR games knows what I’m talking about).  The player must use Drake’s journal in order to solve these puzzles.  

There is also a significant amount of shooting, using a lot of duck and cover third-person shooting.  Drake switches between a two-handed weapon and a one-handed weapon in combat, and he also had limited access to grenades.  Drake is able to pick up different weapons depending on the situation and personal preference of the player.  There are also a few stealth enemy take-downs as well.  There are also secret treasures that are hidden along the way that allows the player to unlock certain rewards.

Besides the main portion of the game, there is also a multiplayer angle that involves both competitive and cooperative gameplay.  The cooperative is fairly straight-forward, team-based, objective-driven missions.  Teams can be up to three people (Nathan Drake and two other characters).  The competitive allows for ten people on a map (two teams of five) and has fairly standard Deathmatch, as well Plunder, Elimination, Turf War, King of the Hill, and Chain Reaction modes.  Players gain points, level up, and can purchase character skins and whatnot.  There are some hardcore players in the midst, though I’m not sure how active the servers are for PS3.

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he graphics looked pretty slick for the time frame that the game came out.  When it came out, it pushed the boundaries for realistic environment.  The amount of cut-scenes in the game were multiplied by seven as compared with the original game.  I am curious to see how it looked on PlayStation 4 whenever I finally get a chance to crack open the Nathan Drake Collection that I got for last Christmas (life got busy).  Naughty Dog also utilized motion capture with the voice actors for more realistic scenes and dialogue.  Obviously, we saw how this progressed with Naughty Dog in the masterpiece that is The Last of Us.

Overall, Uncharted 2 is just plain fun.  It’s one of those games that you can just jump into and not have to worry about.  There’s no grinding nor is there any stale points.  It’s jam-packed action and adventure with Nathan Drake’s wry, humor interjected throughout.  For me, that is one heck of a good time.

No GravatarWhen I first began playing BioShock Infinite, I had a tough time getting into it.  Not because the game isn’t interesting.  It pulls you in pretty quickly with its beautiful graphics and fascinating storyline.  I was just mad that the game was vastly different in setting and tone then the original BioShock, which is one of my favorite games of all time.  I wanted BioShock Infinite to be in Rapture or somewhere like Rapture.  I actually stopped playing the game and went back to play the original several times before I finally forced myself to play Infinite.  It was a good thing that I did too.  Infinite is an absolutely amazing game, and I shouldn’t have compared it to the original.  Trying to make a game too much like the original BioShock only ends in mediocre sequels (BioShock 2).  I think that Irrational HAD to pick a different setting in order to have an effective story.  So, after getting over that self-imposed hurdle, I found that Infinite is actually one of my favorite games ever.

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Overview

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter game developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K in 2013 for PS3, XBox360, and PC.  Is it is the second sequel of the much loved original BioShock.  It uses a modified version of Unreal Engine 3 and has also been praised for its graphics, setting, and story.  Despite being a BioShock game, it departs from the Rapture-setting and instead focuses on its own dystopia of Columbia. BioShock: The Collection comes out in September, which is a remastered version for the current generation of all three BioShock games.  For the purpose of this review, I will be concentrating on the PS3 version only.

Story

The original BioShock had an amazingly intricate story that made several play-throughs enjoyable because of all of the little details.  BioShock Infinite steps it up to a completely different level.  The story is absolutely amazing.  It follows Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton and Battle of Wounded Knee vet, who has acquired a massive amount of debt.  To repay this debt, he is hired to rescue, Elizabeth, a woman who has been imprisoned since childhood in a city called Columbia.

Columbia is not a normal city, though.  The place floats in the sky (don’t worry if it sounds ridiculous; it’s very well explained) and is run by the prophet Zachary Comstock, a religious fantastic.  Like the original BioShock, Columbia is a city that has gone wrong, but it also highlights issues such as: racism, religious extremism, socio-economic struggles, American exceptionalism, the corruption of power, and dealing with past mistakes.  As you can see, Infinite is not a one-trick pony when it comes to thematic elements.  I am not even sure what part is better: the story or the setting.  The story is amazing, don’t get me wrong.  Elizabeth is probably one of the best, well-thought out, well-developed female characters ever done in a video game.  However, I also find myself playing Infinite just to explore Columbia (it is really that cool).  I love the early 1900s/steampunk style to it as well.  It’s just overall very well done.  There aren’t many games like it, especially in the first-person shooter style.

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Game Play

If you have been following me for awhile, you know that I’m pretty picky about my first-person shooters.  I’m not really that into most multi-player games, and I hate fps campaign modes that are too short and without substance.  BioShock Infinite, first of all, is worth the price  (I think it may be on PlayStation Plus now, though) because of its length, which is perfect for a fps game.

The game play, however, is also amazingly well-done.  With Infinite, you get a fun, smooth-flowing fps game with a few added elements that push this game up to a 10.  First, there is the use of plasmas…um, I mean vigors, which gives the “BioShock” power.  Then there is also the use of infusions and gear, which give some added elements of game play, such as more health, shields, and salts as well as some special “perks” from the gear.  Second, there is the use of the sky-line hooks and open-environment that make this game incredibly fun to play.  The first time I got on a sky-line, it felt like I was on a freaking roller-coaster.  You can zip around and melee enemies from above, jump on floating air ships, and fire your weapon while swinging around.  Third, you get Elizabeth as a sidekick, who helps out Booker during battles.  The AI for her is absolutely brilliant.  It really is a new way to play an fps.

These added elements make the game so much fun.  The game never felt repetitive.  I never got bored with the game either, especially with all of the fun vigors I got to use.  Overall, I have not seen many single-player fps games out on the market quite like this.

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Graphics

This game highlights the pinnacle of what the PS3 can handle graphics-wise and was pretty much one of the best-looking games for the PS3 (if not the best).  When I got my first glimpse of Columbia, all I could do was go, “WOW!”  After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I began really enjoy how amazing the setting really is.  Even if you don’t like first-person shooters, the game is worth seeing just for how truly beautiful it looks.

Voice Acting

As you might have known, Troy Baker is my favorite voice actor.  What you might not have known, is that I had no freaking clue who the man was before I played this game (*gasps can be heard from across the Internet*).  Yep, that’s right.  No clue.  But I enjoyed listening to Booker DeWitt so much that decided to look Troy up and the rest is pretty much history.  In seriousness, though, the voice acting is top notch.  From Troy who plays the quiet, soft-spoken but flawed Booker to the very-talented Courtnee Draper, who does Elizabeth’s voice, the actors make the game that much more enjoyable.  Even the Lutece twins are pretty awesome and give some added humor to the game.  By the way, this game is still my favorite Troy Baker game.

Music

I usually do not include a game’s musical score in my reviews, but I decided to add it to this one because the music in Infinite is so great.  Besides having a great score for battles and exploring, you have the added bonus of all sorts of popular songs being done in an early 20th-century style.  There are a lot of Easter-egg tunes to hear, but I don’t want to go into it because I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t played the game yet (you should).

Overall

There really isn’t anything that I can knock this game on, and trust me, if I see something wrong, I will say something.  BioShock Infinite is just an amazing game.  I know this review is very glowing, and I can’t find anything to complain about.  For the most part, the complaints that I have seen about this game are a little unfounded.  Here are some and my response to them:

Complaint: The story is too complicated, especially the ending.

Response: Sorry, it’s not the game’s fault that you can’t figure it out.

Complaint: The game should have been third-person not first-person, since it has a lot of narration from Booker.  You are the character when you inhabit a first-person perspective, hence there should be no narration.

Response: That’s like saying if you read a book that is in first-person narration that YOU are the character.  Not so.  You are just getting it from the first-person perspective.  Even though you control Booker from the first person, you are not Booker. Sorry.

Complaint: It’s not enough like the original BioShock. (This was my original complaint.)

Response: If you want to play the original BioShock, play the original.  If the game was too much like the original, we’d get a mediocre re-hash like BioShock 2.  The game plays tribute enough to the original but is still it’s own game.

Complaint: I didn’t like the hordes of people coming at you in battle.  It felt like filler.

Response: Um, if you don’t like fighting in a first-person shooter game, then you probably shouldn’t be playing these types of games.  Just saying.

Complaint: It’s too gory.

Response: Uh, last time I checked, it was a BioShock game AND a first-person shooter.  Considering that the original had tinge of the horror-genre to it, Infinite holds up to the franchise.  If it’s too gory, may I suggest a game like Little Big Planet, instead?

Complaint: Elizabeth is too much like a damsel in distress.

Response: I think that she takes care of herself just fine, but apparently you must have missed those parts of the game.  Sure she’s trapped at the beginning, but there is a reason she can’t get out herself, and she also takes charge for a lot of the game.  May I suggest that you replay it and pay attention?

I think the biggest issue is that some of these critics want this game to not be a first-person shooter, BioShock game.  I think they are looking for something that they were never going to find and never should find in this game.  I don’t even know what to tell them there.  I enjoyed the heck out of it.  Infinite will be one of those games I will replay many, many times.  In my humble opinion, it is just that good.

By Jessica Brister On 15 Jul, 2016 At 09:01 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Featured, Games You Slept On, PlayStation, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarThere are not many games like The Last of Us.  It’s one of the few gems that really shine in a sea of mediocrity.  In a way, it is pretty much perfect when it comes to games.  When I first played it, I actively looked for things to ding this game on, knowing all of the glowing reviews it got.  However, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it.  Nothing.  The game is about as close to perfect as you are going to get.  Here are my reasons:

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Overview

The Last of Us is a third-person action/horror/survival game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony in 2013 for PS3 only.  The game engine is an in-house blend and uses the Havoc engine for the physics side.  It was one of the last games for the PS3 that demonstrated just about all the console could handle (BioShock Infinite was the other), and it was hailed for its graphics, game play, and story.  It came out again in 2014 as a remastered version for PlayStation 4, but for the purposes of this review, I am only looking at the original.

Story

The setting takes place twenty years after a fungal infection spreads across the United States, turning the infected into zombies.  The protagonist, Joel, is tasked with transporting a young girl across America to a resistance group who believes that she may be the cure to the infection.  To avoid any spoilers, there is not much else that will be discussed here.  However, one point should be mentioned:

The story is a bit depressing, being a survival horror story and all.  There are some lighter elements to it, but the overall tone is pretty dark and gritty.  This made–for me at least–it a bit hard to push through at some points.  This is probably why it took me so long to finish it.  However, this is not something that I can knock the game on.  That is just the genre, and for the genre, it is excellent.  The story feels gritty and realistic.  The characters feel real and believable.  Overall, there is nothing that could actually be better, and there are not many video games–if any–that I can say have a better quality story.

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Game play

If you’ve played any of the Uncharted games, then you will know pretty much how The Last of Us will play.   If you have not played the Uncharted games, it is a third-person action game that focuses on the elements of sneak, duck and cover shooting, and climbing and exploring.  Unlike many traditional sneak games, you can go about most areas without having to sneak perfectly.  You can go in guns-blazing if you would like, though this is not recommended on the more difficult settings (you will never find enough supplies for that).

Overall, the game play is sharp and responsive.  There is a good mix of sneaking, shooting, and climbing.  This is a characteristic that Naughty Dog has been perfecting since Uncharted 2.  Nothing felt too repetitive.  They even threw in some surprises that I wasn’t expecting, though I probably should have since it borrowed from Uncharted 3.  The game play length was perfect for the type of game as well and was overall pretty darned fun to play.

Graphics

The graphics for The Last of Us were pretty much the best that one could get for the PS3’s limitations (only BioShock Infinite revivals it).  The characters are amazingly realistic and the setting is richly detailed.  This is one of the reasons why I am still scratching my head at the fact that Naughty Dog remastered it for PS4.  What is there exactly to remaster?  I can understand older games like Final Fantasy X/X-2 being done in HD, but I am still trying to figure out why I need to re-buy this game on PS4 when it looks so beautiful for PS3.

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Acting

Probably one of the coolest elements of this game doesn’t even have to do with the game play.  It’s the fact that Naughty Dog went with voice and motion capture to do the cut scenes and picked some exceptional acting talent.  Now, if you have never read any of my articles before or do not follow me on Twitter, you may not know that Troy Baker IS my favorite voice actor.  So, you can imagine that it was an absolute treat getting to listen to him for the entire game.  It was even MORE amazing to get to see the cut-scenes where they did the motion capture.  This was what probably made all of the cut-scenes so memorable, and it also helped with the realism of the story.  Besides Troy, we also have the talents of Ashley Johnson (amazing as Ellie), Annie Wersching (from 24), and freaking Nolan North (Mr. Nathan Drake himself).  Overall, it was an amazing cast.  They could not have picked better people.

Overall

Again, I tried to knock this game on something, but I really couldn’t  One thing that I wanted to complain about was the fact that I will probably never play this game again.  For me, the story is a little bit too depressing for me to do a couple of repeat play-throughs.  Also, now that I know the ending, there’s not the same drive to try and play it again.  However, I don’t think the multiple-playability of a game should be considered in a rating.  The game was long enough that I definitely got my money’s worth out of it.

The Last of Us covers all of the areas that I demand out of a great game:  amazing story, fun game play, beautiful graphics, and the voice talent of Troy Baker.  During this game, I cried both tears of joy and despair.  I was yelling at the screen many times.  I covered my eyes at certain parts.  Some places even left my jaw on the floor.  In the end, this game did what I do require out of any good story, which is this: When it was all over, all I could do is sit there for an hour and ponder the whole thing over.  If that isn’t perfection, then I don’t know what is.

By Jessica Brister On 8 Jul, 2016 At 06:53 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Featured, Games You Slept On, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments

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Throughout the time that I have been writing about video games, I have expressed my love for Sims 3. It is one of my favorite games, and I have probably played it more than most games. Although Sims 4 was a huge let-down for me, I still play a lot of Sims 3. Since it has had such a big impact on me, I have decided to do a belated review of it (the base game only). So here it is, though it’s a bit overdue…
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The initial base game for Sims 3 came out on June 2, 2009. It was the third installment of the popular life-simulation game. Sims 3 was developed by The Sims Studio (this was a group that was split off from Maxis) and published by Electronic Arts for PC. The game was a critical and commercial success, gaining mainly positive reviews and selling over ten million copies.
The core aspects of the game play remain: make a Sim (or a family of Sims), control their basic activities, build relationships, establish careers, and create homes. However, there were many changes and improvements to the base game which include the following:

Basic game play

Just as in previous Sims games, the game play itself does not have a definite ending or goal. You play as a Sim or set of Sims until you don’t feel like it anymore. There are mini goals such as certain career or school opportunities, as well as skill-based goals (more on the new skills and careers later). There is a new reward system for accomplishing certain tasks as well. These attribute to a Sim’s overall Lifetime Happiness points, which allows the player to purchase different rewards. Tasks could include something as simple as cooking a meal all the way up to getting a promotion. Players also choose a Lifetime Wish that holds a bunch of points if the Sims achieves it.

Sim Creation

The Create a Sim system was significantly updated from Sims 2. The player can customize Sims in a much easier fashion using sliders which adjust for weight, muscle mass, skin tone, and facial customization options. Hairstyles, make-up, and color options were also upgraded. The Advanced Mode feature allows the player to get really in-depth with the amount of Sim customization. Overall, the Sims looks much more realistic than previous Sims games and even include small details such as beauty marks and freckles.
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Open World

One of the biggest changes was the switch from lot-based game play of the original Sims games to an open world concept. For once, Sims could literally walk out of their house and seemlessly go for a jog around the neighborhood. It was an amazing step in the right direction for the game play because it allowed for the typical Sims-style life simulation of eat, sleep, go to the bathroom to exploration and adventure. Now only that, but the Sims 3 allows for Story Progression, a way for all of the NPCs to get married, advance in their careers, have babies, and move. The open world system also allows for Sims to leave the town with later expansions for visits to other areas (such as in the World Adventures and Into the Future expansions). The open world concept of Sims 3 was a huge leap ahead in game play and really added to the depth of game play.
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New skills and careers

Sims 3 added more careers to the base game (and many, many more in the expansions). The main careers range from business to medical to science and anything inbetween. When Sims apply for these jobs, the player can follow them to their place of work in the open world while the Sim goes into a “rabbit hole” for the duration of the work day. Some people apparently hated this concept, but I personally thought that it was much better than the Sim disappearing off of the map entirely.
Along with new careers, there are also a slew of new skills to go with them. Some of the new skills include painting, guitar, charisma, handiness, athletics, gardening, writing, and so on. Each skill compliments a career, so the higher a Sim is at a skill, the better of he or she will perform at the career. The skills themselves have mini-goals that are based in a Skill Journal. There are challenges presented for each skill that include special perks if completed. For example, on the charisma skill, there is a “Celebrity” goal. When a Sim knows twenty-five other Sims, they will hit the goal and earn a large starting bonus in any relationship of any other Sims met afterward. The skill challenges are a great way to really get into a game that doesn’t have actual set goals or an end game. As a completionist, I have found myself obsessed with trying to get all of the achievements for each skill.
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 Advanced lots and world building tools

Although Sims 2 did allow you to add and modify different lots and venues, Sims 3 takes it to a whole different level. Anything on the map can be changed or modified to allow for complete customization of the game play experience. You can change businesses, houses, add parks, or do whatever. With the open world style with no loading screens, it really feels like a custom city when you go through the “Edit Town” feature.
As well as editing existing towns and cities, EA also included a Creat a World tool, which allows players to create their own custom worlds. It was a really neat idea that allowed those really creative players to make the game their own. Players could also share their worlds (as well as any other content they created) with other players online.

Graphics

Just like with any other PC game, the graphics really depend on the type of PC you are playing on. I’ve played Sims 3 on a laptop with a low-end graphics card up to a heavy-duty gaming PC, so I know the span of what the game is capable of. On low settings, the game will look tolerable, but at this point, the game might start to show its age. On maxed out settings, I personally believe that the game looks amazing. Sims 4 is very cartoonish with its graphics, and Maxis didn’t focus on them to make the game more accessible to everyone. Due to this, I believe that Sims 3 maxed out competes with Sims 4, which is why I don’t have an issue playing Sims 3 instead of Sims 4.
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Game engine

Although I am mostly positive about Sims 3, I will call the game out on one of its detractors: the game engine. Although I did say that I would only talk about the base game, I did want to give a warning out to anyone wanting to purchase more expansions on top of it. The game engine is fine for the base game. It runs well. It’s fine for a couple of expansions. But once you start adding a handful of expansions onto the base game, the game engine just cannot handle it. EA and Maxis pushed the game beyond what it could reasonably handle. I have every add-on available with my game, and it can be frustrating since it is so glitchy. However, for the purposes of this review, since I am only looking at the base game, this was never an issue with just the Sims 3 installed.

Overall

I do love Sims 3. It is one of my go-to games, even at its age. If you are looking to get into the Sims franchise, you may do better with getting 3 then 4 (if your PC supports it both with stats and operating system). There are some issues with Sims 3—mainly with the game engine—but overall, it is a solid addition to the franchise that adds a lot to the typical, mundane game play of the previous Sims games.

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.