First of all, this is not the Soul Caliber we’ve come to know and love. You will not be facing opponent after opponent, waiting to see who lives and who dies (or, as the case may be, who lives and who accidentally jumps off the edge). The gameplay is vastly different, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you’re looking for more of the same, well, SCIV is coming out in a few months.

I’m not going to touch on the sound and graaphics of this–if you’ve played SCIII you already know what to expect. The models are about as good, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not at least partially lifted from that game (which puts the graphics level above almost everything else we’ve seen for the Wii so far). For some reason, Lloyd from Tales of Symphonia has been added, and the style is different enough to look out of place. Otherwise, nothing really to quibble about.

Story

This game takes place after a younger Sigfried obtains Soul Edge from Cervantes. He is then recruited by the leader of the Holy Roman Empire to help them fight off an invasion, and he needs to find the shards and restore Soul Edge to do so. Initially, the story is jsut about finding the shards, though you will meet allies along the way. Some also want the sword’s power, some want to destroy it, some don’t give a flying fudgecicle. (Hey, there’s enough swearing in video game culture already.) Most of them should be familiar to fans of the series.

One interesting twist is that the leader of the invading army also wields a powerful sword…Soul Caliber. This raises a lot of questions about what role the two swords play in this scenario.

Gameplay

Buttonbashers, rejoice!  Or at least keep a bottle of water handy, because it’s easy to get quite a workout with this game.  Rather than complex combos using numerous buttons, in Legends you attack by swinging the Wiimote, which makes the basic swings very intuitive.   There are still combos to be performed, and many signature attacks from previous games are still here, but for the most part you can swing the controller wildly to get the job done.    Step attacks can be a royal pain though, as they involve also moving the nunchuck, which is much less intuitive (I just ignore them and sidestep with C).  Other than that, the controls are pretty easy to work with.

As far as levels go, in most  you’ll simply have to deal with a multitude of enemies to get to the end–there isn’t much more than that.  Some bosses are trickier, but not every level has one.  There are also some small puzzles to be figured out, but nothing too tricky, at least as far as I’ve player–I’ll confess to not having finished the game.  Overall, it’s pretty basic.

The 2-player mode suffers from the different gameplay though.  There are both co-op and competitive missions, and more to be unlocked via the story,  but they all suffer from one thing–split screen.  Especially on a 4:3 screen, this affords you a very narrow field of view, and really kills this mode for me.

Nostalgia

Has nothing to do with the gameplay, but I got a nice dose of nostalgia from this game.  The initial shot for the Wii menu brought me back to the NES/SNES days, as did the opening cinematic.  Well, cinematic might be overstating it a bit–it’s mainly stills, but very, very pretty stills, which again brought me back to the SNES.  This theme carries over into the game too, as between levels you’ll mostly see stills of the different characters talking over the world map.  Unfortunately, just like many SNES games, they are often posed awkwardly, so that despite the pretty graphics, they’re a bit annoying to deal with.  There are some FMVs in the game, so take heart but if you’re the kind of person for whom the graphics make the game….you might want to rethink this one.  If you’re the kind who still has a working NES hooked up to the TV, on the other hand, I think you’ll like this game.

Overall, I found it a decent experience at best.  I did enjoy the game, but there is nothing that really makes it stand out for me. It’s a difficult game to play for long periods of time (mainly because my arm gets tired from swinging wildly) which kills some of the immersion.  The difficulty also isn’t that high, and while some skill is required, it does get a bit tedious at times, especially in areas where there are waves of mobs to be dealt with before moving on.  The main draw, I think, is filling out the story behind the SC series.  If you’re not a story-driven person, I’d give this a pass.

Sometimes a line of games comes along that grips you and you just have to get every version that comes out.  For me, one of those lines is the Mario RPGs.  I’ve enjoyed every one of them so far, so of course when I got my DS I knew I had to get Partners in Time.

Graphics

If you’ve played Superstar Saga for the GBA, you’re not going to be surprised.  The graphics are not a bit better, and could have just as easily been done in the previous generation.  That’s fine though, because they didn’t need to be any better, and any attempts at improvements would have probably yielded a worse result on such a small screen.

Both screens are made use of.  In battle, the top screen is mostly just scenery, but some enemies will attack from the top screen.  In the world it usually shows a map of the area, but occasionally the babies will have to crawl into small spaces to navigate a puzzle, and in those cases their adventures will be shown on the top screen.  I wish a better use had been found for the top screen than an area map though, it brings the difficulty level down too far.

Sound

If  you’ve played Superstar Saga, you know what to expect.  The sound really isn’t much different.  It fits quite well, and I guess Nintendo decided not to mess with something that wasn’t broken.  Nothing sticks out in my mind as wrong, so I guess it was pretty good.

Story

Guess what, Peach has been kidnapped again.   What a shock.  THis time she went to the past, and didn’t come back.  So Mario and Luigi go back to find out what happened.  Well, Mario goes to help her–Luigi happens to fall into a time warp.  When he tries to help he screws up, when he tries to stay out he gets dragged into it, poor fella (I guess).  They meet up with their younger selves (who have already kicked Baby Bowser’s butt), and the younger Peach and Toadsworth, all of whom they wind up bringing back with them.

Anyways.  A bunch of time warps have shown up in Peach’s castle in the present, each leading to a different area of the world in the past.  Each one leads to a piece of the blue star that blew up and created the time portals in the first place.  So the four Mario brothers have to trek out and find them, beat some baddies, get eaten…oops, getting a little ahead of myself.

The story is, unfortunately, rather short.  The game can easily be finished in under 20 hours.  Replay value is pretty low too–I haven’t touched the cart since I finished it.

Gameplay

Oy vey.  This is where things really start to take a downturn.  As in the previous game, each brother is basically controlled by a different button, A and B for the older two, and X and Y for their younger counterparts.  While it works, it also makes it a little less intuitive as you try and remember what button controls each brother, and which ones need to be hit to pull off certain moves (fortunately, at least for puzzle solving you have plenty of time to figure things out).  I can’t count how many times I’ve pulled off the wrong combo on the world screen.  The touch screen gets virtually no play aside from 5 seconds spent wiping off a dirty map, as if to say “See, we didn’t forget about it”.

The real downfall to the game though is how railroaded the plot is.  No area (except the present day castle) is visited more than once, and there is literally an arrow on a map pointing you to where you need to go next, which destroys most of the fun of exploring the world.  In other words, it’s pretty much impossible to get lost, especially as the top screen is displaying said map 98% of the time.  If I needed my hand held I’d call my mother thankyouverymuch.

Overall, after Superstar Saga this game was a real letdown.  Between the shortness of the game, the handholding, and the fact that it barely requires better than GBA capabilities, this game is more of a rent than a buy.  If you’re looking at buying this, I suggest Superstar Saga instead.  It was a much more fulfilling game.

I’m not sure what it is, but something about this game is insanely fun.  Maybe it’s shooting from planet to planet like a grasshopper on steroids.  Maybe it’s running around in more dimensions than I thought possible.  Maybe it’s just that amusing sound the lumas make before they transform.  Either way, I’m pretty hooked.

Gameplay

When I first saw footage of this game, I was a little skeptical.  It looked a bit gimmicky, and impossible to navigate–lets face it, most of us don’t know how to navigate well in 3D on a 2D screen.  Okay, so it is a little difficult at times.  Fortunately, the camera AI is pretty smart, and 99% of the time you’ll have a good view of where you’re going without having to move the camera (the other 1% usually happens on thin planets, or planets with holes in the middle).

Controls work as follows: The pointer is used for collecting things called ‘star bits’ (not really necessary, but needed for bonus areas and the occasional Luma Shop) .  A second player can also jump in to help with collecting.  A is jump, B shoots out a star bit, shaking the Wiimote makes you spin–one of your basic attacks–the nunchuck is used for movement and Z is a ground pound.  Pretty simple to get the hang of.  Spinning as an attack can be difficult sometimes.  The radius of the spin isn’t much wider than Mario’s body (he needs longer arms) so with enemies that don’t come towards you it can be hard to get in range.  Jumping is often easier, but it doesn’t work on all enemies and when upside down getting the angle right can be a little tricky.

There’s also a number of new mushrooms with new Mario types, such as Bee Mario (my husband likes to say that in Waspinator’s voice, that’s all I can hear when I think of it).  Fire Mario also makes a return.

Story

Wait, there’s a story?  Given that it’s a Mario game, I think we can guess the gist of it, but I’ll spell it out anyhow.  Mario gets invited to visit Peach (the game opens with a rather amusing shot of him heading towards the castle).  Bowser attacks the town around the time Mario arrives, and steals the castle (Along with everyone in it, including Peach of course, who for some reason I haven’t figured out is holding a luma) before Mario can stop him.  Mario then gets recruited by the lumas and their ‘mama’, a girl named Rosalina, to gather the missing stars from their galactic observatory to give it back the power to fly around the universe.  Guess who has the stars?  Yup, Bowser!  Mario has to alternately fight him and Bowser Jr. to get the Grand Stars back to power the observatory.

Pretty basic.  There is a bit of a background story on Rosalina which is told through a storybook, for anyone who was wondering why there’s one human with all those lumas (we still don’t find out why Mario, Luigi and Peach are the only humans among the toadstools though), but it’s not essential to the plot and can be skipped as well.

Luigi also shows up later on, and helps Mario out by finding stars that Mario has missed.  Unfortunately, he always manages to get himself stuck, and needs Mario to help him get back.  And for some reason I have yet to figure out, by some means that is equally elusive, Peach will occasionally send a letter and some 1UP mushrooms.  Aw, isn’t that sweet.

Graphics

Alright, obviously we can’t expect Square-style cutscenes, but for the Wii it has some of the best graphics yet.  It retains the traditional style of the Mario line, but is fairly detailed for being that cartoony.  It’s also quite colourful, in true Nintendo style.

The imaginations of the designers obviously ran wild when designing the levels.  Every galaxy has a different theme, from ghosts to gardens to toys, and you’ll often encounter planets with interesting shapes, such as Yoshi’s head.  Other galaxies will only have a few larger planets, which gives a bit of a different feel to them, but I don’t find them as much fun–they tend to be more puzzle than action, and have the added disadvantage of being able to fall off (most times, you’ll wind up in somethings gravity well, making it harder to fall).  But, you won’t get vertigo either.

Sound

Less imagination here, but much of the music is copied from older games, so you get a nice dose of nostalgia.  The quality is quite good, and it lends a nice atmosphere to the worlds.  The lumas make some amusingly cute sounds when you talk to them (fortunately, you don’t often have to interact with them, because I can see it easily going from ‘amusingly cute’ to ‘annoyingly cute’).  There is very little in the realm of voice  acting, but there being any is a bit of a miracle for the franchise.  It’s probably a good thing there isn’t much though, because the voices would probably grate my nerves very quickly.   The quality is again good, but when no one says more than one line, and they say it anytime you get near…well, just don’t stick around the observatory too long.  Actually, that’s a good idea anyways because the music for there, while fitting, will probably put you to sleep after a while.  It sounds a lot like a lullaby.

One neat aspect that was added was that in certain areas music notes will appear, and as you run through them a song will play from the NES days.  If you run through fast enough, it’ll play at normal speed.

Overall, it’s a damn fun game, and there’s no real flaws that I can find.  The ability to have a second player help collect star bits is a nice touch, so that anyone watching has something to do.  It’s worth picking up.

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System tip:  Get a pair of charger stations for your Wiimotes.  One station comes with batteries for two controllers, and it makes it easy to make sure you always have a charge.  It doesn’t work well with the remote covers though (We cut out part of the backs of ours) because they cover the charge connector and affect the way the remotes sit in the charger.  $50 will cover four wiimotes, and will quickly pay for itself in the number of batteries you don’t have to buy.   Plus, it’s better for the environment 😉

I figure I might as well start with this game, because I got my DS solely to play it. For anyone who’s not familiar with Dance Dance revolution, it’s a music game where players stand on a four-button pad and hit those buttons as they show up on the screen. They do this while listening to music (hence the ‘dance’ in the title), and generally the step patterns follow the beat or melody. It doesn’t look a bit like real dancing, but no one really cares because it’s fun. It’s also good exercise, a rarity in a video game.

Elite Beats Agents takes this basic formula, strips out the exercise and makes it handheld in a great use of the capabilities of the DS. Instead of the floor pad that DDR uses, EBA has numbered circles and lines that appear on the bottom screen, which have to be touched with the stylus at the right times. Circles will close in on the numbers to let you know when to hit each spot. There are four levels of difficulty and 19 song total, which should keep you busy for a little while. And as any DDR fan can tell you, this type of game has a lot of replayability.

Sound

Being a game where the entire play revolves around music, this is a pretty crucial area, and EBA doesn’t disappoint with mp3 quality. One nice change from DDR is that the NA version has songs that are familiar to its audience, and a nice variety at that. There’s everything from recent hits such as Avril Lavigne and Destiny’s Child, to older groups like the Jackson Five and the Village people. Yes, that old classic YMCA is in there. The quality also does the songs justice in what is probably the best sound I’ve ever heard coming from a handheld. It sounds a little synthetic with headphones–I suspect that’s a hardware issue–but it’s worth putting up with to be able to hear all the nuances that can’t be easily made out with the speakers. (I did, however, discover that the headphone jack is in a bit of a weird position when holding the stylus in your right hand)

It also bears mentioning that all of the music in this game is covered by other artists, which makes the sounds quality even more impressive. Most of the recordings are almost indistinguishable from the originals (Indeed, I didn’t even realise this until reading the end credits), and the rest are still damn good. Overall, and excellent job was done here.

Graphics

In short, good enough. Most of the images in the game are stills, but they’re used quite well for storytelling. The style is cartoony enough to match the theme of the game, but good quality, and there is still an illusion of motion, so overall it works quite well.

The bottom screen also makes use of the 3D capabilities of the DS. While you’re playing, there will be three agents in the background dancing. The quality is about as good as can be expected, given the size of the screen and that they’re not pre-rendered. The dance moves match quite well to whatever you’re doing on the screen, assuming you’re able to pay attention while playing. Overall, the graphics are as good as they need to be, not the flashiest but nothing to quibble about either.

Story

There’s a story? Yes! 18 of them, actually (I’m counting the last two episodes as one story, since they go together). The basic idea is the the Elite Beat Agents through some mechanism that will be from now on referred to as ‘magic’ can aid people in trouble by dancing. The better they dance, the more help the can give. Each song has its own story, and there will be periodic cutscenes on the top screen that turn out either good or bad depending on where you currently are on the meter at the top of the bottom screen. Gameplay stops for these sections, so you can actually pay attention. If you finish a song, there will be a happy ending, but there are two endings (and in one case, three) for each episode, with the better one playing if you get a happy result at each cutscene.

The episodes themselves run everywhere from almost sane (football player using his moves while babysitting–yeah, that works) to completely whacked (retired baseball player using his skills to defeat a giant lava elemental at a theme park), with episode 12 being quite touching.

There’s also multiplayer functionality–up to four players can play using one cart (only five songs are avaliable though–if everyone has a cart then they’re all avaliable), and you can also save game replays to test yourself against later, or trade with friends, essentially adding a one-player multiplayer. Since in these cases there’s a competitive element, different stories are added, possibly even crazier than in the main game.

There isn’t much of an overarching story, but it’s still fun as hell. A number of the songs are also well matched to the stories, although some have no relation that I can determine.

Gayness

Alright, so it’s not a usual point that gets talked about, but when you have three men in suits dancing to pop music…well, you get the idea. The first level isn’t too bad, with Agent Spin, since the dance moves are very simple at this point. The second level you get Agent J, and more complicated moves, so the gay factor goes up a little bit. The third level you get Agent Chieftain (a big guy with long hair and a cowboy hat), and while the moves are more complicated than before, he’s macho enough that I don’t think it’s possible for him to look gay. Then, on the forth level, you get the Elite Beat Divas, three girls in red leather chaps wielding pompoms. They look a little…actually, I won’t go there, but obviously the gay factor goes way down here.

Once you finish the forth level though, you unlock Khan mode, which is basically a alternate version of the forth level where the blond chick gets replaced by Commander Khan himself. And he does the same dance moves as the girls (only, without the pompoms).

And that is absolutely the gayest thing I’ve ever seen in a video game. Not that it detracts from the fun, but, well…it’s hard not to snicker at that point.

Overall, it’s a pretty fun game. The song choice is broad enough to appeal to most players, the difficulty ramps up nicely, it makes excellent use of the touch screen, and even after you’ve finished you can go back and try for higher scores to attain the highest possible rank. I recommend it to just about anyone.

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System tip: I got a DS travel case for Christmas, and I absolutely adore it. It’s made by Realtek, with space for a number of games (including a few GBA carts) and a bunch of accessories, including, of all thinks, a car adapter. Yes, I can plug my DS into the cigarette lighter if the batteries run low. Very handy.

I’m not one for small talk so I’ll just jump into what this blog is for. I play video games. I’ve played them my whole life. While I’m not the type of gamer most people think of (I’ve never played Halo, for example, and I plan to keep it that was), I have played a fair number for various systems. More importantly, I inherited my mother’s opinionated personality, as well as her tendency toward talking a lot. I know there’s a lot of game review sites around (I hear some people even get paid–they’re on my hitlist until I become one of them) but frankly, I don’t care. So I’m making my own, because I feel like sharing my opinion with the world, whether it wants to hear it or not. And I might as well head a few questions off at the pass, and also let you know a bit more about me.

Why should I read this?

You’re here, aren’t you?

Why should I care?

I dunno. I don’t care if you care or not.

Will you review <x> game?

Maybe. I don’t keep up with the most current games generally, although my husband does so a few might slip in. The games I review will be games I’ve played and most likely have. I may have spent hours upon hours finishing them, I may have spent only one–and trust me, for certain genres of games, me playing that long is a miracle.

What type of games do you play?

Generally puzzle, strategy and RPG. I seem to be playing a lot more adventure games these days too though.. My husband also likes fighters and party games, so I’ve been playing a lot of those as well.

Will you date/marry me/bear my children?

See above references to a husband.

How long have you been playing video games?

Pretty much my whole life. I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t.

What systems do you have?

Currently, a DS, Wii, and a PS2. A 360 is also likely in the next few months, since Soul Caliber IV isn’t slated to be released on the Wii. I’ve also had a PS1, N64, GBA, GB, and an NES in the past. Actually, I still have all of those, save the NES, and that one is only gone because it stopped working.

I also have a PC, but it’s mostly used for World of Warcraft and web surfing.

Eh, anyways, I guess that’s it for now. Reviews will go up somewhat randomly, depending on my mood and what games I’ve been playing recently, but I plan to have at least one up tomorrow.