Review: Sonic Generations (Multi)

Originally Posted on November 10, 2011: Link.

There is nothing that can keep a good hedgehog down. Sonic has been the poster child of reckless abandon ever since he left the confines of South Island to seek out the evil Dr. Eggman and stop him from taking over the world with the Chaos Emeralds. In his first outing on the Sega Genesis way back in 1991, Sonic became Sega’s cherished mascot, and with his legendary agility and laid-back coolness, quickly became a stark contrast to Mario’s slow and careful drudgery. Of course, the amazing music and surprisingly grim level design were all some of the best the industry had ever seen up to that point. Continue reading

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E3: Tomb Raider Impressions

Originally Posted on June 17, 2011: Link.

Before we start this preview of the Tomb Raider reboot, I need you to do something for me: completely disregard everything you ever thought or knew about the old Lara Croft. Forget about the twin pistols, the short shorts, the ponytail, and the killing of dinosaurs. You can also forget about locking your butler in the freezer in your mansion (I know, I’ll miss that too). Continue reading

E3 2010: Yakuza 4 Hands-On

Originally Posted on June 16th, 2010: Link.

Right off the bat, I was not expecting Yakuza 4 to be at E3 at all. Yakuza 3 only came out in March! Let me just say though that Yakuza 4 had to be one of the best demos of the day for me.

In the demo, each of the four playable characters (yes, four) got a chance to show their fisticuffs as they battled the scum of the streets in their own unique fighting styles. They may all be rough and heavy men, but each of your choices vary in their stats. You have the highly agile, the slow and powerful, the grappler, and, of course, my main man Kazuma, the all-arounder.

I can already tell that being able to play multiple characters will certainly add dozens of gameplay hours to the completionists everywhere. Using any of the assorted weapons on the ground with the game’s over-the-top special moves also left me smiling from ear to ear the entire time that controller was in my hands. It was a short demo, but that is all it took to really get me hooked!

I am a huge Yakuza fan, and I consider it to be Sega’s best human-oriented franchise in the company’s storied career. To me, it basically fills any sort of void a Shenmue III A lot of people had their problems with Yakuza 3, namely the stuff that they ommitted. Talking with Sega’s Community Manager, he explained that the first thing brought up during the board meeting to discuss the sequel was this problem and how they wanted to remedy it.

For us Americans, it means the inclusion of the hostess bars. Fear not, young ones! You will dine with these fine ladies, or lie to your significant other and say that you are only there for a business meeting. Just don’t expect those Japanese trivia games, though. In some of the questions, characters are traveling across the screen which would take the developers months to do, and really, who is up-to-date on their Japanese culture and history? It’s hard enough for us Americans or Europeans to remember our history.

Yakuza 4 will be coming out exclusively for the PS3 in Spring 2011. Wha-wha-what? Two Yakuza games in the same number of years, and we won’t have to wait years after it comes out in Japan to play it? Yes sir! Look forward to it, because I will be!

E3 2010: Epic Mickey Hands-On

Originally Posted on June 16th, 2010: Link.

I had a great time being able to try the upcoming Disney title Epic Monkey. I was able to speak with one of the game’s animators, and she gave me the run down of this very stylistic title that is just oozing with cool. Even the cutscenes are amazing and reminiscent of something you see during the credits of a Pixar movie. They have this storyboard look that the developers created, and the end result was simply stunning.

Players will be able to run around Disney environments that have been modified to fit inside the bleak world that Mickey finds himself in, nicknamed the Cartoon Wasteland where rejected cartoons go to die a silent death. For example, I was playing on Skull Island, which is a twist on Skull Rock from Peter Pan. I was tasked to raise the boat that had sunk into the sea in order to go after Hook, the villain of Peter Pan. In order to get around from place to place, characters will be able to jump into these projector screens and visit gone-but-never-forgotten cartoons, like inside the world of Steamboat Willie.

With brush in hand, Mickey will have a myriad of tools made available to him as the game goes on. During the demo, the two major tools were used — Paint and Paint Thinner. There were many opportunities to use these tools around the environment where you will find things missing, like an outline of a bridge to the next area, or just something that is just plain blocking the way, like a giant boulder covering a cave. Basically, Paint restores, thinner removes. Characters will also use the paint to charm enemies, which comes in real handy when the stakes are against you, and thinner to destroy them which comes in use against foes like robots whom are immune to your mind-bending paint.

More tools will become available as the game goes on to help your way through the Cartoon Wasteland. How you use these tools during story objectives affects the outcome of the game completely. For example, during the demo, if you use paint to fill the machines that are creating these robots, you are able to turn these things back into human beings. If you fill it with thinner, you destroy these robots, and they will obviously not be skin and bone ever again. Based on your decision, the people you meet in the world will react to you differently when you speak to them, a great dynamic that really makes you think before you act. It is certainly different to see a morality system inside a game of this nature, but it just feels natural that works great in motion.

You could really see the mark that Warren Spector made on the game with the deep, deep character development and masterful storytelling. The game also had a lot of charm to it with all of these characters I remember from my childhood that I had nearly forgotten altogether (something the developers are deliberately doing, so don’t expect to see too many typical characters of the Disney pallate). The whimsical music only enhanced the already compelling atmosphere. But really, what did you expect with all of the hype surrounding a game of this nature? Ladies and gentlemen, we may be looking at the best Mickey game yet, maybe even better than Mickey.

Epic Monkey is set to be released exclusively for the Wii during the 2010 Holiday season.

E3 2010: Sonic Colours Hands-On

Originally Posted on June 16th, 2010: Link.

My first real taste of the showroom floor was at the Sega booth and Sonic Team’s upcoming entry into their mascot’s fabled career. Both the Wii and DS versions were on display.

Sonic Colours on the Wii pretty much played exactly how I expected it to play. It was Sonic Unleashed, but without the controversial night-time Werehog mode. The action was fun, fast, and intense at times. What I enjoyed is how Sega understood the things that fans were asking for and were able to capitalize it by focusing on the blending of 3D and 2D. There was only one level to play on the Wii version, but it appeared to get what was decent about their most recent games. There was also a boss mode directly following it, where in order to get to the boss you had it take it across two sets of ferris wheels.

Overall, the game came across as way too simple and very easy. When I play a Sonic game, I want a good degree of difficulty to keep me wanting to come back and try again. That was one of the real draws of the old Sonic games (like the Megaman games), and I think it is something that has kind of gone lost in its transition to 3D, where the only real difficulty it had was dealing with a tricky camera or confusing level design.

The DS version, however, really showed that in the 21st century, nothing on the consoles can match what their handheld titles have to offer. It was an absolutely incredible experience that really brought that nostalgiac factor when I was a kid playing these games around my family. The best part is that they put a neat little twist on the gameplay where elements such as powerups and the use of flight comes into play. Aside from the Dash feature present on other Sonic handheld games, you can now control the element on fire, being able to jump multiple times in the air and get through these tubes to get through the stage. For flight, players can use a rocket to shoot around through the air, or a hand glider that cuts to a camera to a diagonal camera around the player to collect rings and avoid obstacles in the air. Even the boss fight, simplistic as it was, was a good time all around. I can really see myself playing this game as soon as it comes out, and I believe is doing a lot more in this space than anything I have really seen come out of Sonic 4.

Am I saying that Sonic has no real place in the 3D realm? Absolutely not. I actually really enjoyed a lot of their recent titles, but if Sega hopes to have its mascot on the top again, it needs to have a real masterpiece. They just need to stay true to the fast and furious roots of the SOnic franchise, but understand that people really loved that certain difficulty curve and amazing stage design (with a hint of strategy because it can’t just all be about the running). I don’t think Sonic Colours is that masterpiece, but it certainly is the step in the right direction that is bringing them closer and closer to reaching that mountaintop.