Review: Lightning Returns – Final Fantasy XIII

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A blizzard is the perfect time to catch up on some backlogged gaming. This year, during the big snow-in, that’s exactly what I did. I managed to finish my playthrough of Final Fantasy XIII – Lightning Returns. The third and final chapter in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy.

I purchased this game when it was released, but this was my first time sitting down to play. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect with this title, I had heard it was very different than the first two XIII games, and indeed it was. Admittedly, I was quite confused for probably the first 4 or 5 hours of playtime. I couldn’t quite figure out the mechanics and flow of the game. It felt very foreign to me. Eventually, it did all begin to fall into place. But before I dive into all that, let’s first take a look at the storyline.

This game takes place 500 years after Final Fantasy XIII-2. During that time, the people of the world of Gran Pulse have been gifted with near immortality. However, the world itself has been consumed by mysterious dark force and mostly destroyed. At the time in which this game takes place, only a few small patches of land are habitable. This world has been rebranded as “Nova Chrysalia” by it’s inhabitants. As chaos continues to consume what remains of the world, the end of time is mere days away. Those who played the previous game, will be aware of the fate of both Lightning and her sister Serah. Spoiler Alert, for those who may not have played it, at the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2, Lightning is transformed into crystal, assumingly for all eternity. But now, something has changed. A new god known as Bhunivelze has decided to craft a new world. His desire is to populate it with human souls. To do so, he will need someone to reap the souls of the living. To accomplish this task, Lightning is brought back from her crystal statis, with the promise of having her sister resurrected if she will assume the role of “Savior”.

Only thirteen days remain before the end of the world, and Lightning must do her best to help ease the suffering of the people of Nova Chrysalia before the end of the final day if she wishes to be reunited with her sister again. This mostly consists of undertaking various quests and solving problems for those in need. But of course, during the course of the story, Lightning is sure to encounter some familiar faces.

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As mentioned above, the main objective of the game must be accomplished in thirteen “game days”. This means, that a large part of this title involves trying to get as much done before the clock runs out. When I first started playing, this was very unnerving to me. It became apparent pretty quickly that some content in the game is time-sensitive. Certain objectives only occur at certain times, so it’s a constant race against the clock. I dislike this mechanic in games very much and I was worried that I would end up missing some critical content as a result. But, after spending a lot of time with Lightning Returns, I’m happy to say this is not really as big of an issue as it first seems. In reality, there’s more than enough time to accomplish everything in the game that needs to be done. In fact, if you manage to complete enough sidequests, you can even extend this deadline by one full day.

While the timer is certainly one of the biggest changes to the game mechanics, that’s not the only thing. The combat system in this game is radically different from anything seen in Final Fantasy yet. Gone is the paradigm system that has so far been a staple of XIII, now we have something called the Schemata system (or as it is official known, the Style-Change Battle System). It’s best described as a mix of the XIII Paradigms and the Dressphere system from FFX-2. Essentially, Lightning can set up three different active roles to switch between during combat. These roles are customized based on her weapon, clothing, accessories and skills. The Garbs (or outfits) are the core to this system. New Garbs can be obtained through NPC merchants, quest rewards, and DLC.  The combat itself is very action based. Each role has it’s own Stamina Meter that is depleted as Lightning executes actions. This meter recharges as actions go unused. The key to mastering this system is to create a balanced set of Schemata and learn how to make the most appropriate use of them depending on the enemy you are encountering. I found the whole thing to be a bit confusing at first, but after a while, it started to click.

As I mentioned above, some outfits are available via DLC. Yes, this game does feature downloadable content, but unlike Final Fantasy XIII-2, it’s all optional items. The entire game story is included with the purchase of the game itself, so you don’t have to spend any extra money to experience the entire game. The garb that is available in the store is largely cosmetic, but there are a few useful pieces. Personally, unless you really want to play dress-up, I see no reason to spend your money. The Garb that is available in game is more than enough to accomplish everything you’ll ever need. That being said, there are a few free pieces you can acquire if you happen to have XIII, XIII-2 and FFX-HD saves on your PS3. (This might be true for Xbox users as well, I cannot personally confirm).

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Aside from DLC, the game also features a rather novel Online function called the Outerworld Service. This service, if enabled, will occasionally place avatars for other players in your gameworld. When talking to them, you can view a gameplay screenshot that they’ve shared, and sometimes even purchase items and weapons that they’ve decided to sell. At one time, Outerworld would also connect to both Facebook and Twitter, but SE pulled the plug on this option last year. Also worthy of mentioning, enabling Outerworld Services also rewards you with free DLC that was previously only available to those who played the Lightning Returns demo.

As I mentioned earlier, this game is very different from others in the series, and as a result can be a bit confusing at first. But if you go in without any expectations and keep an open mind, everything soon falls into place. It wasn’t long before I found myself drawn into the game itself and having quite a good time with it. Lightning Returns is certainly it’s own game, and it’s not a bad game at all. But to me, it didn’t really feel like Final Fantasy. Yes, there’s moogles, chocobos, and a number of other classic FF throwbacks, but it just doesn’t feel like Final Fantasy to me.

No matter what changes may exist here, this game does stay true to one constant in the Final Fantasy universe: there’s plenty of optional content. As always, I made it my goal to unlock and defeat every optional boss the game had to offer. (One of which, can only be done ensuring you have access to the missing 14th game day). The trophies I earned for defeating these battles were well deserved if you ask me.

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Difficulty: Variable –  This title comes with a Normal and Easy mode option out of the box. Once you have completed the game, Hard mode will be unlocked. Based on my experience, Normal mode is not really that much more difficult honestly. So this choice is really up to the player. Regardless of which option you choose, the time limit will still apply and the game can still be challenging in spots.

Story: The story presented here is actually very rich and enthralling, if you can manage to make it far enough into the game for all the pieces to start to fit together. For me, at the beginning, it was a confusing mess. It’s unclear at first why so much time has elapsed, yet everyone from the last game is still alive and kicking. Not to mention the sudden new deity everyone is so worked up about. But, as I said, if you hang in there, it’s all answered in the end and once it’s all said and done, it really makes a wonderful capstone to the Final Fantasy XIII mythology.

Originality: While many of the gameplay ideas founds in Lightning Returns are not fully original, they are certainly new to the series itself and really make for a new experience. The outerworld services are a neat touch, but I feel like they could have been implemented better. Combat in this game is certainly different than what we’ve seen in the series thus far.

Soundtrack: The soundtrack here is a mixed bag. Some of the new musical pieces are very well done and hold their own with many of the other Final Fantasy classics. Others are a bit drab. A good bit of the background music is ambient type stuff that is appropriate for the game, but not very rememberable. Thrown into the mix with all of this, are reworkings of other XIII and FF songs.

Fun: I admit, at first, I was not impressed with the title and was not enjoying it very much. But I’m happy to say that this changed about a quarter of the way through. Once I hit that point, I had quite a good time with this game. Many of the sidequests are quite a bit of fun.

Graphics: This game uses the same graphical engine as XIII and XIII-2 and looks just as good if not better than the previous two. It seems that by this point, SE has had plenty of time to really tweak their Crystal Tools engine. Again, the PS3 has a slight edge over the 360, but not by much.

Playcontrol: No real complaints here. The game controls work as expected. The camera controls are natural and precise, the button mappings are intuitive.

Downloadable Content: YES – Downloadable outfits for use in the game. Some of these are nice to have, but offer no major tactical advantage. Somewhat overpriced. (PC users can snag most of this for free)

Mature Content: Minor language, skimpy outfits, heavy anti-religious overtones (fictional).

Value:  I purchased the game at full price when it was released. I feel that there’s enough content in the game to make it worth the amount that I paid. These days it’s often available for around $20.00. Certainly a great bargain at that price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Lightning Returns is good game, but it doesn’t rank with some of the other games in the series. Fans of XIII are the most likely to enjoy this one.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: Final Fantasy XIII

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I am slowly but surely reaching the end of my Final Fantasy playthroughs! As much as I hoped to be finished with the entire series by the end of this year, it seems I may miss that goal by just a hair. Regardless, I present to you my review of Final Fantasy XIII.

FFXIII is an interesting game. It’s one of the most popular, yet also most controversial entries in the series to date. It is the first title in the mini “Fabula Nova Crystallis” series (a subset of Final Fantasy Games – much like the “Ivalice Alliance” of FFXII-related titles). It was the first “modern generation” entry in the series. Meaning, it was released on platforms that are still available today: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. As a result, here we have one of the most beautiful entries in the series so far. But we before we get too far into the particulars, let’s touch on the story,

Final Fantasy XIII, like all other titles in the series has a deeply rich storyline. The world of XIII is a planet called Gran Pulse, but the game actually begins on an artificial moon of sorts that floats above the planet called: Cocoon. Cocoon is ruled by a theocracy known as The Sanctum. The leaders of Sanctum are strange godlike beings called fal’Cie. Occasionally, these fal’Cie will select people for a specific task (or Focus)- these individuals are then (literally) branded as l’Cie. If a l’Cie does not manage to complete their focus within the allotted time, they are cursed to become mindless monsters. While those that do, are supposedly blessed with eternal life. – Wow. That’s a lot of funny names.

When the game begins, we learn that to the people of Cocoon, Gran Pulse is somewhat of an anathema. People on Cocoon are taught that Pulse is filled with monsters and anything related to the word below should be shunned. Just prior to the events of the game, we learn that an unfortunate individual has come into contact with a fal’Cie from the world of Gran Pulse.  As a result, the Sanctum is currently undertaking a “Purge” – forcefully sending those involved away to live on Gran Pulse. A fate supposedly worse than death. The main hero in the game is the character known as Lightning. Lightning is actually in service to Sanctum, when she learns about the Purge taking place in her hometown. As the game progresses, Lightning meets a number of other characters and over time begins to piece together the secrets surrounding both the fal’Cie and the truth about Cocoon.

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While the summary above may seem a bit confusing, the game itself does a fantastic job of explaining the lore behind the title as well as giving each main character a proper introduction and backstory. Each character in the game has their own overall role, but characters can be customized greatly as one would expect. In Final Fantasy XIII, character customization is handled by something call the Cystarium. This very similar in many ways to the Sphere Grid concept of Final Fantasy X, but with a slightly different twist. In FFXIII, there are no pre-determined character “classes” instead, there are various roles or “Paradigms”.  Any character can take on any Paradigm at almost any time in the game. So when leveling up, you can choose to spend your Cystarium points on different skills in different paradigm trees. When engaged in actual combat, characters can execute actions that they have unlocked from the role they are currently assigned to.

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It may seem confusing at first, but the game does an excellent job of explaining and coaching you through these concepts early on.  For the most part, combat in Final Fantasy XIII takes place with three characters at a time. During combat, you only have direct control over the main character. The other two are AI controlled, but will function in accordance with the role they are currently assigned. Mastering the Paradigm system is really the key to the entire game. Knowing when to shift your character from one Paradigm (aka: swapping roles) to another makes all the difference between success and failure. FFXIII makes it easy to gauge your skills in this area as well, as your performance in every single fight is rated. The higher your rating, the better rewards you may yield when defeating your enemy.

You see, in Final Fantasy XIII monster will often drop material that can used to enhance your current weapons. So it’s important to collect as many materials as you can. You never know when you may need a certain item so you can get that perfect weapon.

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Final Fantasy is often criticized by many for being very linear, or as some have labelled it “on rails”. To an extent, critics have a valid point. Especially, in the early parts of the game exploration is very limited. Players are very restrained in where they can go and what they can do. But as the game unfolds, these restrictions are lifted one by one. By the end of the game, your characters will pretty much have access to the entire game world. And as expected with a Final Fantasy title, there are plenty of areas and activities to explore that are not part of the main storyline of the game.

I’ve often been quoted as saying; to me, Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t start until you beat it. My favorite activity in the game ended up not being that main scenario progression but rather participating in Marks (bounty hunting) – a throw back to a side quest from Final Fantasy XII. This series of optional objectives (known a Cie’th Stone Missions) are both challenging and rewarding. Most of the optional bosses found in FFXIII are available through this series of quests. As usual, I made it my goal to ferret out and defeat every one.

All in all, Final Fantasy is very unique entry in the series. Personally, I don’t understand the huge backlash the game experienced on release. Yes, it is very different from what most would expect from a game bearing the Final Fantasy title. But I also found it to be quite refreshing. The game is beautiful, the graphics in this title are the best the series has given so far. The music in the game is outstanding. The combat and game mechanics are fast paced, interesting and unlike anything we’ve seen yet. Personally, I think XIII is a notable entry in the series. I enjoyed it when it was released back in 2010, and even now, revisiting it again five years later – I found the game to be a pleasure.

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Difficulty: Medium –  For the most part, Final Fantasy XIII is fairly middle of the road in terms of difficulty. Some boss battles can end up being a bit tough compared to the rest of the game. However, taking the time to learn the Paradigm system is the key to success. Like most FF games, the biggest challenges are optional bosses and side quests. Achievement/trophy hunters will not have an easy time.

Story: The scenario presented in XIII is very unique. The concept of Cocoon and “lost world” below really struck me as interesting. With XIII, Square was not at all afraid to introduce a rich and original storyline filled with lore and the game really benefits from it.

Originality: In many ways, XIII feels like XII – done right. The combat seems to hit that sweet spot of automated yet still controlled. The character customization, while reminiscent of X is unique enough to stand on its own. SE always has a tough time balancing the need to keep the series from getting stale while pleasing their hardcore fans. But in the case of XIII, I feel they managed this masterfully.

Soundtrack: The score in XIII is very different that what we’ve seen in any other Final Fantasy title so far. I don’t think there’s a single original Uematsu track in the game. But despite this, I love the music here. Its catchy, fitting and all around good stuff. Music aside, the voice acting in the game is very well done as well. (Even if Snow sounds like Keanu Reeves on downers).

Fun: I personally enjoyed this game A LOT. XIII gets a lot of hate for being very non-traditional when compared to other FF games, but I just don’t see it. The main scenario is entertaining and the optional content is fun and engaging.

Graphics: Breathtaking. The best in the series so far. PS3 players have a slight edge here over 360 users,  but not by much. The game looks amazing on either system, truth be told.

Playcontrol: It seems that every time I play 3rd person game, the camera controls feel foreign for a while. But after an hour or so this goes away and begins to feel natural. Everything else in the game seems to just click. No real issues to report in regards to playcontrol.

Mature Content: Minor language, skimpy outfits.

Value:  To me, this game is worth the purchase. I bought it on day one at full price and never regretted it. These days, it can often be found on sale or at a reduced price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I’m the weirdo who thinks Final Fantasy XIII is a top-tier title. Many others may disagree with me, so feel free to seek out the opinion of others. But if you ask me, XIII is certainly worth your time and money. The series has matured over the years and with maturity comes change. I welcome it.

Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Steam

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: Final Fantasy X-2

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The Final Fantasy playthrough initiative continues! Next up on my list is the original black sheep of the series, Final Fantasy X-2. That’s right, Final Fantasy 10, part 2. Confused? Well, so were lots of people. Until the release of this game, no entry in the Final Fantasy series ever had a direct sequel. Of course, now that is not really the case. XIII has three different entries, with a few spin off games and we’ve since see a number of side games to the ever-popular Final Fantasy VII. To make things even more confusing, this game (10 part 2) was actually released a few months AFTER Final Fantasy XI, but that’s another story… I purchased this game on PS2 back when it was originally released, but I admit, I never got more than a quarter of the way through it until now.

Now, let me state up front that since this game is a sequel to Final Fantasy X, some plot points I’ll be discussing in this game might be considered spoilers to the original. So If you have not played FFX and don’t want any plot points ruined, you may wish to skip this review for now.

This game picks up about two years after the end of Final Fantasy X. Sin has been destroyed and the people of Spira are left picking up the pieces of their shattered day to day lives. Yuna has left behind her summoner ways and has teamed up with Rikku and a new partner named Paine. The trio have become Sphere Hunters; a team that scours the world looking for rare and valuable movie spheres. Yuna’s team calls themselves the Gullwings, and along with the help of a few other companions they have developed a unique invention called the Dress Sphere. Dress Spheres are special items that allow the user to adopt skills and abilities of certain roles. For example, there’s a Black Mage sphere, a Dark Knight sphere, etc. Each job offers a unique combat style and when combined with another mechanic in the game; the Garment Grid, make things extremely customizable.

At the start of the game, it is explained that Yuna decided to join the Gullwings after coming across a sphere that appears to show someone bearing a strong resemblance to Tidus. The young man in this sphere is imprisoned and screams out something about a summoner. Naturally, this ignites a small spark inside Yuna that perhaps Tidus is somehow still alive and out there in Spira somewhere. Hence, her desire to seeks out more sphere in search of clues. The story of the game focuses on Yuna seeking out clues on the origins of the sphere and as time passes, she becomes entangled in the events behind this mystery sphere.

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So now that we’ve laid the groundwork for the game, let’s talk a bit about it. FFX-2 was originally released on the Playstation 2. Now, it is also available as part of the Final Fantasy X HD Remaster. This is the version I played for this review. The Remaster contains the entire original game, with updated graphics plus all of the exclusive content previously only available in the International Version of the game. PLUS, the disc also contains a short follow-up game called Final Fantasy X-2: Last Mission.

I mentioned at the beginning that this game is often labeled as a “black sheep”, if you talk to Final Fantasy purists, many will be quick to tell you how terrible this game is. A few more will even refuse to acknowledge its existence. Well, to be fair, this game is quite odd. It’s a radical departure from most other games in the series and a VERY DIFFERENT game than the original FFX. To start with, aside from the three lead characters, nearly every other character in the game seems a bit ridiculous. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part you feel like the only sane person is a world of cartoon characters. Not to mention the overall tone of the game is a radical departure from what we’ve seen before. Final Fantasy X had a very mystical feel about it, whereas this game, actually starts with a stadium sized pop concert… seriously. If you need your daily dose of J-Pop, you’ve found it.

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All of that aside, the game itself doesn’t feel much like a Final Fantasy game. At least, at first. The combat is very different than anything seen before and it takes quite a bit of getting used to. Once you get your mind around it, the Garment Grid and Dress Sphere system is actually quite ingenious, but the presentation is overly complicated. Next thing worth mentioning is the game soundtrack. This is not the type of music fans of the series are used to. You’re fooled at first by the wonderful piano melody at the title screen, but after that you’re smacked upside the face by a song by Japanese pop-artist, Koda Kumi. This is followed by the quirkiest disco/techno/jazz music you’ve ever heard. This gripe aside, the game does feature some really good tracks that are on par with anything from FFX, but you don’t hear them often enough.

The next thing that makes this game feel a bit out of place is way you play through the main story. Most of the games in the series are either very open or very linear in their progression. This game handles things a bit differently. Once you have completed the introduction to the game, you are given immediate control of an airship with a list of possible destinations. You can visit any of these places in any order that you wish. Essentially, each location provides you with a mission or task to complete. Eventually, completing one of these will progress you to the next chapter. But be wary, each time you move into a new chapter, the missions available at each location also change. Some very valuable items are only available by completing certain missions. So it is important to try to clear every mission for every location before moving on the next chapter. As I said, this is very different from the other games so far, but it’s not really a bad thing at all. In fact, once I got used to it, I thought this was actually kind of neat. Seeing as much content as possible is also crucial because as you play the game keeps a percentage of how much story you’ve experienced. If you can manage to 100% of the game, you will unlock the true ending.

The final thing that really makes X-2 feel a bit out of place is the number of mini-games scattered throughout the title. Many of the missions mentioned above actually up being mini-games of sorts. Some of these are straight forward and well done, others just seem… strange. For example, there’s actually a mini-game for massaging someone’s back. Ummm… What? It really feel likes the dev team had a handful of previously rejected ideas from other games and decided to just dump them all here.

In a nutshell, the radical difference between this and other FF games chased many fans away. Even I felt put off the first time I played this game. But, this changes once you reach the half-way point. If you can manage to reach this portion of the game, you’ll soon realize that this game is very much a Final Fantasy title. Its just presented in a very different wrapper. The regional missions become addictive and “sphere hunting” becomes an actual obsession as you manage to obtain every dress sphere in the game. Not to mention the story makes a huge 180 and all the silly J-pop and nonsense dissolves into the background as you uncover the true epic lore behind the game itself. During my playthrough, I managed to achieve the 100%, unlock all of the dress spheres and even conquer the optional Mega Boss. Although, note that some of this content is only available in the HD Remaster or the Japanese International Version.

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While I started off feeling really cold about the title, I warmed up quite a bit by the time I was finished. I think if fans of the series would be willing to approach this game with an open mind and a bit of patience they will be pleasantly surprised.

Final thing worth mentioning, if you do happen to play the new HD version of the game, there’s also an extra side game included that takes place after the events of X-2. This game, The Last Mission is an even stranger entry. In this game, the girls are reunited again after each receiving a letter inviting them to explore an ancient tower. They are teased with a wonderful reward if they are able to make to the top. Last Mission is very different than X-2. Essentially, it’s a linear dungeon crawl starring Yuna, Rikku and Paine. It’s shown in an overhead view and features turned based combat. It takes a little getting used to, and it’s not for everyone. But it is 80 levels of dungeon crawling fun that builds off the FFX/FFX-2 mythos. The game also serves as a vehicle to expand on the relationship of the characters and to place a capstone on the overall Final Fantasy X/X-2 story. I played and enjoyed this entry very much, but I have always been partial to dungeon delves.

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Difficulty: Medium –  The bulk of this game is on par with the majority of the series in terms of difficulty. In some places, you could say it is a bit easier but there are quite a few spots that really require a strong understanding of the Dress Sphere/Garment Grid system. A lot of the optional content and secret bosses require near perfect mastery and lots of patience.

Story: At first the storyline seems to be nothing more than a weak attempt to expand upon the original game, but as you delve deeper you soon uncover quite an epic tale that actually expands on the lore presented in Final Fantasy X. Naysayers shouldn’t be quick to dismiss this game as rubbish.

Originality: Well, we were certainly don’t have any loss of original content. Everything from the battle system to the progression of the game itself is new and rehashed. If that wasn’t enough, the International/HD version of the game also features a whole new Creature capture/training element. Yes, you can train up and include monsters in your party.

Soundtrack: Here’s where we have some problems. First, I should note this is the first game in the series with no music by composer Nobuo Uetmatsu, and it shows. If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy XI, the music in this game sounds a lot like the tunes that play in the XI game launcher. The music is odd, but not necessarily bad. It just doesn’t seem fitting for the most part. Thankfully, there are a handful of tunes that sound really wonderful, but they are few and far between.

Fun: First starting out, the game is a confusing mess. But I soldiered through it and it paid off. The game actually became quite enjoyable but it’s shame that you have to work at it.

Graphics: The original game is about what you’d expect from a PS 2 title. Overall well done, but lots of jagged polys. The HD version is much sharper and better looking.

Playcontrol: I couldn’t find any real issues with the overall control scheme. The game play feels natural and is responsive

Mature Content: No Concerns 

Value:  These days, the only new option available for purchase is the HD remaster. This can typically be found new for $20.00 or less for ps3/Vita. At this price, this is an amazing deal. Expect to pay more for the PS4 version when it is finally released.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Final Fantasy X-2 is just an odd game. But it is a good game if you give it the chance. This title should in no way represent the series, but when judging it on its own merits it actually a quite a good little bundle. This score of 3 is based on the International/HD version. The extra content included in that version of the game really adds what was missing from the original release. Without these additions, I’d have to give the vanilla release a 2.

Currently available – PS3, Vita  — Coming Soon PS4

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: Final Fantasy X

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It’s been almost two months since my last Final Fantasy review, but finally it is here. Final Fantasy X. This is one of the more popular entries in the series, and also the first game in the franchise released on the PlayStation 2. These days, an HD remake of the game is available on PS3, Vita, and coming soon to the PS4. For this review, I played the PS3 remake. This version of the game contains enhanced graphics and a remixed soundtrack. It  also features all of the content found in the Final Fantasy X International version (a Japanese exclusive). That being said, this makes the HD Remake the definitive version of the game. **note all screenshots included in this review are of the HD Remake.

The story of Final Fantasy X focuses around the character of Tidus. Tidus is a star Blitzball player from the city of Zanarkand. One day, during a match, the city falls under attack from a giant kaiju-style monster called; Sin. Admist all the chaos, Tidus is rescued by a mysterious man named Auron. During their escape attempt, Tidus blacks out. When he awakens, he finds himself washed up on a foreign beach. Confused and disoriented, he is taken in by the natives. He soon learns that he is in a place called Spira. To the locals, his home of Zanarakand is nothing but a legend. A city destroyed one thousand years ago by the monster Sin. Sin is a terror which still haunts the people of Spira today. Through a series of events, Tidus joins up with a band of adventurers escorting a summoner, Yuna, on her religious pilgrimage. A journey that will hopefully result with the defeat of Sin itself. The majority of the game consists of this journey with hopes the Tidus can unravel the connection between this world and his own.

This game is major step in evolution from the previous entries in the series. First and foremost, FFX features voice acting. All cutscenes and conversations includes an audible track. In which each character is voiced by a different actor. This certainly helps to gives each character a personality of their own in a way not possible in previous games. For the most part, the voice acting is pretty well done. Although, I do have to admit that the voice of Tidus has a tendency to be whiny and annoying.

Graphically, FFX is leaps and bounds better than anything seen in the series so far. The HD remake improves upon this even more. Although, I find the character faces in the HD version to seem a little wooden and in some ways not as expressive as they were in the original game. Musically, the game is fantastic. So many good background tracks here. This is true for both the original version and the remake. Personally, I prefer the remixed soundtrack over the original. The instruments sounds a bit more organic to me and overall just better.

Gameplay-wise, Final Fantasy X is a mix of both old and new. While they are not specifically defined, each character sort of takes up one or more of the standard Final Fantasy job roles. There’s black magic, white magic, summons, melee, you name it. It’s all represented here in one way or the other. Unlike many of the other games in the series, characters do not earn traditional levels. Instead, each character has a place on a large “Sphere Grid”. Think of this as looking a big like a giant Chinese Checker board. Each marble (sphere) on the board represents an attribute. For example, Hit Points, Magic Points, Speed, Specific Abilities, etc. As the characters participate in combat, they earn points and spheres. The points determine how many spots the can progress along the sphere grid. As they progress, they can spend spheres to unlock the new skills and traits mentioned above. As a result, they get stronger as the game goes on. When playing the remaster, you can choose between the traditional version of the sphere grid or a new expert version. (Overall, they seem mostly the same, although the expert grid does make it a bit easier to deviate from the standard path, thus opens the characters up for more customization).

In terms of storyline, Final Fantasy X does not disappoint. A large portion of the game consists of cutscenes and storyline. For the most part this is very well done, and even though there’s hours of scenes to view in the game, they move at a good pace and go by pretty quick. Like most Final Fantasy games, your hand is held pretty firmly in the beginning, but over time you get a little more freedom. By the end of the game, you pretty much have free reign to go anywhere and do anything that you please. That’s a good thing, because there is a ton of sidequests and optional content.

Fans of mini games will have a field day with FFX. There’s monster hunting, chocobo mini-games, and of course Blitzball.  When it comes to Blitzball you either love it or you hate it. Blitzball is a sport played by characters in Final Fantasy X. It’s a bit like hockey/soccer, but played inside a giant orb of water. You are only required to complete one game as part of the storyline, but of course to obtain one of the character’s ultimate weapons, you will need play and win many more. For me, I played it a bit and managed to win a tournament match, but it simply didn’t hold my interest enough to keep me playing long enough to reach the ultimate prize. If Blitzball is your cup of tea, there’s plenty to do. You can recruit NPCs throughout the world to join your team. Levels them up, teach them new Blitz-related skills, etc. It’s really a game within a game.

As mentioned briefly above, each character in the game can obtain an “ultimate weapon”. The difficulty in doing so varies greatly. During my playthrough, I did manage to obtain a few, but there are some that quite frankly just didn’t seem worth the time and effort. For example, Wakka’s weapon requires much more Blitzball than had the stomach for. Tidus’s weapon also requires completion of an insane chocobo riding minigame. To be honest, I fully planned on getting all the weapons when I started this playthrough but after spending almost 3 days on dodging lightning bolts just to obtain part of Lulu’s, my will was spent. Luckily for me, I’m not THAT achievement hungry and my desire to complete the game in a reasonable time beat out my OCD. YES. The HD remake does feature Trophys… and yes the most annoying/grindy aspects of the game all features trophies as well. Boo Hiss.

Despite not obtaining every ultimate weapon in the game, I did make sure to unlock all of the optional summons and defeat all of the optional bosses in this version of the game. There’s actually two here: Nemesis and Penance. The first is unlocked by completing the monster-arena side quest. Which is enjoyed anyway. The latter, by defeating all of the International Version’s Dark Aeons. This was new for me, as until this release of the game, I had only even played the standard American version of FFX. Let me just say, these new bosses are INSANE. But as often in these games, there’s always a trick to beating them, if you’re dedicated and prepared.

In a nutshell, there’s a lot of game to digest here. For many, FFX makes the perfect entry point into the series. Its a good mix of old and new with the polish of a modern game. Not to mention, it was the first Final Fantasy game ever to spawn a direct sequel… but more on that in the next review.

Final note – The HD Remake also contains a watchable featurette called “The Eternal Calm”. This is a mini-movie to help bridge FFX and FFX2 together. Certainly worth a watch.

Difficulty: Medium –  The majority of the game is pretty easy going. Eventually, you will encounter one or two boss fights that present quite a challenge (even for an experienced player). This can be somewhat overcome by a little level grinding, but ultimately, you will need to focus on strategy to get past a few of the encounters. Overall, this balances out to what I would call  medium level of difficulty for the game itself. The sidequests and optional content are another story. As usual, clearing a lot of this content requires a lot of work and dedication. The optional bosses exceed anything the series has had to offer so far (in my opinion) when fought normally. I do admit to finally resorting to a cheap method of defeating Penance (thanks to a little help from the Yojimbo aeon). Shh.

Story: The story presented here is fantastic and the ending has a twist that I honestly didn’t expect the first time I played it. I really enjoyed the opportunity to seeing it all unfold again thanks to my playthough of the new HD version. The tale of Spira and Zanarkand ranks right up there as one of the greatest video game stories ever told

Originality: Ten games in and still staying fresh. It’s not an easy feat, but one that Final Fantasy X manages to accomplish. New ideas like the spheregrid, and Blitzball certainly help make this game stand out from its predecessors.

Soundtrack: Nothing but good things here. The entire game soundtrack makes for an amazing experience. I listen to it when working occasionally. It’s great background music. Again, even though the original and HD soundtracks feature different recordings, either one is perfectly enjoyable, with a slight edge going to the new version. The voice acting  in the game is pretty well done, but a bit odd at times.

Fun: I had blast playing FFX again. There’s really a little for everybody in this game. Hardcore RPG players will enjoy all the optional content. Anime fans have an excellent story to follow. Even fans of sports games may enjoy the season of Blitzball that’s playable.

Graphics: By today’s standards, the original game looks a bit dated, but at the time of release it was simply fantastic. It was leagues above anything seen in the series so far. For the most part, the new HD remaster is an fantastic upgrade, although still a few steps down from most other modern games.

Playcontrol: I couldn’t find any real issues with the overall control scheme. Some of the optional content in the game does seem to feel a little wonky (chocobo racing, lightning dodging). Many people blame these gripes on the normally un-noticeable delay of modern day flatscreens. Who knows. Overall, no real issues to complain about.

Mature Content: No Concerns – Minor language/cursing, big focus on mythical religions.

Value:  These days, the only new option available for purchase is the HD remaster. This can typically be found new for $20.00 or less for ps3/Vita. At this price, this is an amazing deal. Expect to pay more for the PS4 version when it is finally released.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Final Fantasy X is one of staples in the series and really set the bar for modern day RPGs. Along with Final Fantasy VII, this title is a must have for almost any gamer.

Currently available – PS3, Vita , PS4

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: Tomb Raider (2013)

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If I’ve been a little quiet lately it’s because I’ve been busy playing the recently released Tomb Raider game.  I know that traditionally I’ve focused mainly on retro games when writing on the blog. However, it is my intention to cover just about any type of game that interests me. My recent experience with Sleeping Dogs showed me just how much fun a lot of modern games can be.. So, once I heard that Square Enix’s reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise was about to be released, I decided to make it my next purchase. I have not been disappointed.

I owned and played the first three classic Tomb Raider games back when I was in high school and college. I had them on the PC, and enjoyed them, but I always felt the controls were a little awkward and determined that perhaps I should have been playing them on a console. So I naturally assumed that this new reboot would be the same. I decided a while back that this was going to be a game I going to play, I just had to determine which would be the better purchase – Xbox or PS3? Then, I saw the game being advertised on Steam with a load of valuable pre-order content (multiplayer map and optional tomb) and I decided to take an extra look at the PC version. What I learned was quite interesting. The PC version features many graphical enhancements not present on either console system. The game engine takes advantage of modern DirectX 11 hardware in way never seen before. If you have a PC that can support it, new technologies like TressFX and Tessellation really bump up the visuals to a jaw dropping level. That coupled with good PC experience I had on Sleeping Dogs, I ultimately went with the PC route for my purchase.

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Being a reboot, this game is a complete reimagining of the Tomb Raider mythology. Long gone are the days of Lara Croft’s double-G cup boobs, and “I can do anything attitude”. Now we are introduced to a fragile, young Lara. Who is more a victim of circumstance than a swashbuckling heroine. The opening movie does a good job of establishing who Lara is and it did a quite effective job or getting me emotionally invested in the character.

In this game, Lara is a member of a expedition/documentary film crew who is search of the long lost island of Yamatai. During the journey, their ship is wrecked in a freak storm and Lara and her companions find themselves on an uncharted island. Not long after their arrival it becomes painfully obvious that they are not alone. Lara awakes, bound and hanging upside down from the ceiling of a bone-littered cavern. This is where the game begins. From here, it’s a non-stop thrill ride while Lara tries to escape the clutches of her captors, find her friends, unravel the secrets of the island and ultimately, make her escape.  Due to the recent release of the game, I don’t wish to spoil any plot elements so I’ll stop there.

I found myself feeling almost protective of poor Lara. The thrilling atmosphere of the game, combined with the fact that danger and death can lurk around almost any corner really kept me on the edge of my seat. The death scenes in the game are often shocking and gruesome. As I said earlier… SE did a fantastic job of making me “care” about our heroine.

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At first, the game seems to have a very “on-rails” feel to it. Many early parts of the game rely on button pressing combos to navigate through action sequences, but it’s not long before you are given complete control. Once this happens, the focus turns to exploration and survival. The island is occupied with hostiles, and Lara must either sneak her way through the environment or fight her way to safety. Throughout the game, Lara will acquire gear and weapons which can be upgraded using salvage materials scattered throughout the maps. Lara also earns experience points by hunting animals, killing opponents, or discovering lost treasures/items. Once she levels up, she can learn new skills and abilities.

True to it’s name, Tomb Raider also features optional tombs for the player to explore. These tombs are fairly short, and feature a bit of a break from the rest of the game. Exploration of tombs often require solving various environmental puzzles to reach the large treasure cache at the end.

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Initially at release, I had quite a time tweaking the graphical settings to get the game to run properly. I found this to be quite frustrating as I have a beast of a video card that should more than capable of running this game even on it’s highest settings with all the bells and whistles. As it turns out, there were some issues with both the game code and the drivers provided by Nvidia that were causing a problem. Luckily, both SE and Nvidia released fixes to alleviate this problem and I am happy to report that things are going smooth now.

I completed the single-player game last night and I found the whole thing to be quite a good experience. I certainly felt like I got my money’s worth. Not to mention the multi-player mode that also available. (Something I toyed with, but did not find all that interesting). I’m sure that this title will spawn a slew of DLC in the coming months (multiplayer maps have already been released), so I look forward to checking it out when the time comes. All in all, I certainly recommend this title to anyone. Old Tomb Raider fans may not appreciate the “New Lara”, but personally, I was beyond impressed.

Pre-ordering the “Survival Edition” from Steam offered the following additional content:

Guerilla Outfit – (Pointless change of clothes for Lara.)
Shanty Town Multiplayer Map
Tomb of the Lost Adventurer (Additional optional tomb to explore)

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Difficulty: Variable – The game offers three difficulty settings which apply to combat only.  As usual, I played the game on the default/normal setting and found it to be a fairly easy playthrough. There were a few situations in the game that required me to make several attempts at victory, but nothing very challenging at this setting. I found most of the puzzles in the game to be fairly straightforward, only requiring some basic out of the box thinking. I’m hoping for some more challenging tombs to raid in future DLC releases.

Story: Once again Square Enix delivers a breathtaking story. This game does a fantastic job of transitioning between cinematics and gameplay. The background story for the game is actually based on real mythology and is quite fascinating. I found it to be a perfect setting for the game.

Originality: I’ve heard many in the media compare this game to Uncharted (a title I have never played), so I can’t really be sure just how fresh many of the concepts presented here actually are. To me, I found the game to be a nice departure from anything I had played before. From the platforming angle, it is very similar to the old Tomb Raider titles of yesteryear. However, the collecting and item upgrade system are something entirely new to this title.

Soundtrack: The soundtrack is mainly ambient. Often times the music serves as a warning to impending danger. Nothing really captivating, but certainly fitting and very well done for the game.

Fun: Personally, I had a blast with the title. It was a purchase I made on a whim and was not disappointed.

Graphics: Here we go. Depending on your platform and set up, the graphic quality can vary greatly. PC users with high-end systems definitely get the better deal here. The game takes advantage of some really cutting edge tech. Video cards able to handle TressFX are treated to a Lara Croft with almost photorealistic hair, for example. That doesn’t mean that PS3 and 360 users are left out in the cold… the game looks marvelous on any system.

Playcontrol: Despite playing on the PC, I made sure to pull out out my trusty wired Xbox 360 controller. The game identified it immediately and even the onscreen tutorial reflected the correct button icons. This is a game that was designed for controllers and while there is native PC keyboard support, I think the a controller is defiantly the way to go. I experienced no real issues at all with controlling the game.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I think SE has delivered a great title. While some old school gamers fond of the original series will certainly gripe about the radical departure this game represents. I found it to be quite well done. I’m not usually a big fan of reboots, but in this case, Tomb Raider 2013 has really injected new life into a series that (while good in the beginning) grew more stale as the years went by.

Other Reviews In This Series:

TR – TR2 – TR3 – Last Revelation – Chronicles – Angel of Darkness

Legends – Anniversary – Underworld – Guardian of Light

Tomb Raider (2013)

Review: Sleeping Dogs

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After spending a bit of time with some retro classics, I figured I would change direction and give a new game a try. I decided to go with something completely different for me, so when I saw a flash sale for Square Enix’s Sleeping Dogs on Steam, I figured I had nothing to lose.

Normally, this is the type of game that I would prefer playing on a console. However, due the good price I went with the PC version and played it using a standard Xbox 360 controller.

As I said, Sleeping Dogs is not my typical type of game. But I found myself hooked within the first few minutes of play. It is one of the first very mature titles I have ever had much time with. It’s filled with bad language, so it’s not one to play with kids around. I hear the game is very similar to titles like Grand Theft Auto (a series which I have no experience with). It’s a story-driven open world action/exploration game. You play the role of a Hong Kong undercover cop; Wei Shen. His mission is to infiltrate a wing of the Chinese Triad mafia. The game features a very in-depth cinema style story that really sucked me in.

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The storyline of the game progresses as your complete various missions. Missions are completed at your pace so you have plenty of time to explore Hong Kong and undertake sidequests and other activities.

As you progress through the main scenario, Wei earns experience points with either the police department or the triad. Each branch unlocks new abilities and martial arts techniques. Additional fighting abilities are can also be unlocked through a sidequest. Throughout the game, Wei also acquires various vehicles and weapons to make his adventures more convenient. At a certain point, you unlock the ability to participate in illegal street races, another mini-game.

Combat in the game is fun but takes a little getting used to at first. Aside from the classic attack and block moves one might expect, there are combo moves and counter attacks. Experience points are increased by using a variety of attacks and also by integrating the environment into combat. In nearly all areas of the game are objects that can be interacted with during battle. Fish tanks, toilets, and phone booths all make for nice things to break apart using your enemy’s head.

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Playing this title was a real eye opener for me. The game is beautiful. The atmosphere and attention to detail really blew me away. It’s not at all what I expected and it’s really opened me to trying some more modern titles. The PC version also feature an option High Resolution Texture pack which really makes the visual in the game breathtaking. The cutscenes do not really differ much in quality from the actual game which I found to be quite surprising.

Once of my favorite aspects in Sleeping Dogs is the atmosphere. It really makes you feel like you’re in the middle of Hong Kong. The sound of the streets, the dynamic weather, etc.  I even have my favorite Hong Kong radio station on the dial whenever I’m cruising the streets.

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Like I said, I’m typically a bit behind the curve on gaming. I tend to stick with my comfort zones so I was really blown away by the experience this game offered. This game also introduced me to the world of downloadable content. Sure I’ve played some games with DLC before, but most of the time I never felt the need to really go hog wild with all the options. For some reason, this title really knew how to get my wallet. Most of the DLC offered are fluff pieces, various costumes that offer minor stat boosts. But there are several that unlock new police missions or street races.

There’s also two story add-ons available, with a third on the way in the near future (I’ll review that separately). The first downloadable add-on is called Nightmare at North Point. It’s assessable separately from the main game, but unlocks a vanity costume for the main scenario upon completion. It’s was released in time for Halloween 2012, and is a nod to old Chinese style horror movies. It features classic B-movie Chinese vampires, and a zombie apocalypse scenario.  In the end you’re led to believe that it’s nothing more than a dream.

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The second add-on Zodiac Tournament is actually integrated into the main scenario and unlocks a new area where Wei can enter a “karate island” style death-tournament. Upon activation, the game takes on the look of a bad grindhouse kung-fu movie, complete with film grain and mono 70’s soundtrack. It’s a fun nod to classic kung-fu cinema. Again, completing the scenario unlocks some helpful items for the main scenario.

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An upcoming storyline expansion called “Chinese New Year” is planned for the near future. Reports state that will extend the original storyline of the game.

Difficulty: Medium – I found the game to be somewhat easier than I expected. Most of the main scenario was completed on my first or second attempt. Several of the races were quite difficult. I’ve read online that several people find the later part of the game to be quite a challenge. So maybe I just got lucky, but compared to many of the old school NES games I’ve tackled over the years, this game was a walk in the park.

Story: The game features an amazing story. It’s like watching a good Asian cop movie, but one that you can actually interact with. I loved it and I can’t wait for the new DLC to see what comes next.

Originality: It’s my understanding that a lot of what’s found in this game has been done before. Games like Grand Theft Auto and Yakuza have covered this ground in the past. Despite that, I find Sleeping Dogs to be quite unique and refreshing. Players who have experienced similar titles may not find very many new concepts here, but there’s enough new spice added to the formula to really make this game stand out.

Soundtrack: The soundtrack to the game is quite a gem. For the most part, music in the game is restricted the radio you hear when driving or entering dance clubs and participating in the karaoke video game. All the musical selections are appropriate for the setting, and there’s some really good tunes to be found on the radio. My favorite stations in game were H-Klub and Softly radio.

Fun: I thoroughly enjoyed the game it never got old. Even after completing storyline, I found myself firing up the game to complete some races, or search for lockboxes. The game really stirred that sense of nostalgia from my time living in Asia.

Graphics: Excellent graphics. Even though I played on the PC with the High-Rez textures, I’ve seen both video and screenshots from the console ports and the game is beautiful all the way around. The game played smooth at 1680×1050 with hi-res and most settings on high.

Playcontrol: I played this game using a standard Xbox 360 controller and the game detected the hardware and adjusted the default controls and in-game tutorial accordingly. At first, the camera controls felt a bit foreign to me, but after about an hour it became second nature. Standard playing is smooth. Sometimes the car races seem to feel a bit loose, but this seems to vary depending on vehicle, so I think this is by design.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Top notch game. I was pleasantly surprised by this game and I’ve decided as a result to spend some more time with modern games in the near future. This game was such a good experience that I’m also rethinking my preference for console gaming. This title proved how good of a time I have with a non-mmo game on my PC. Sleeping Dogs is a title that recommend to anyone who enjoys a good story and a very interactive environment.

Available on: PC, Xbox 360 and PS3

Review: Double Dragon Neon

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Reboots. Love them or hate them, they seem to be a popular trend right now. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I learned that Double Dragon was getting rebooted as a downloadable title for both PS3 and Xbox 360.

Towards the end of it’s original run, the Double Dragon series had a really rough time. The last couple games in the franchise were dismal. The motion picture that accompanied the last game was even worse… it seemed like it was all over. Thankfully, the series was redeemed several years later with the release of Double Dragon Advance, a definitive telling of the Double Dragon story, but sales were below expectations. (I admittedly have never played this title).

It seemed like any chance of seeing a new game featuring Billy and Jimmy Lee was long gone. Then the announcement of Neon was made and I took interest. With Technos out of business, the rights to the series have been sold to a company I’ve never heard of; Majesco. What they have brought to the table has certainly got a lot of attention.

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Double Dragon Neon is both a clever reimagining of the series, as well a very meticulous remake. In this game, we have see several fan-favorite bad guys and levels redone with all the flair that modern graphics have to offer. Upon first starting the game, there is no mistaking that this is a DD title. Just like the original, it starts off with a group of thugs beating up and marching off with your girlfriend. Followed by the hero appearing and muttering “Awww. Not again!” This first level will be very familiar to fans of the series, everything from the name of the pub at the start of the stage, to the music is right out of the original arcade version. That’s where similarities end, however.

This game is a bit of a tongue in cheek throwback to great fighting games of the 80s. The whole thing is filled with humorous 80’s nostalgia. The lead character’s banter is a lot less Bruce Lee and a lot more Bill and Ted than I expected. In two player games, special moves are executed after being proceeded by a “totally radical high-five”. New abilities are unlocked by finding various mixtapes left behind by fallen enemies. (Each tape has an appropriately 80’s style soundtrack to go with it).

The whole 80’s-spoof concept does seem a little over the top at first but after a while, I found myself laughing along and really appreciating it. Once you find yourself beating up geisha girls on a rocketship in outer space, you know you’re past the point of no return.

Despite the zany turn of events, the game itself is very well done. It has everything that a fan of the old Double Dragon games will appreciate with a new twist and modern presentation. Just be prepared to laugh a bit. Funny or not, I’d love to see more classic games get this kind of treatment and attention.

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Difficulty: Difficult  – One thing this game has in common with it’s retro counterparts is the level of difficulty. Like most games of this type, you will have to work hard and master the controls to progress very far. However, unlike most of the older games, your progress is saved after each level.

Story: Being a reboot, the story is the same. However, this time the enemy gang is led by a supernatural wise-cracking skeleton. 

Originality: Despite being a remake of an older game, there’s actually a lot of new stuff here. The whole comedic retro concept is a very original idea. The introduction of unlocking special moves by acquiring/forging mixtapes is a great alternative to the standard fare of leveling up via experience points or level progression.

Soundtrack: I cannot say enough good things about the soundtrack to this game. In my review of the original Double Dragon I lamented over how incredible it would be to hear those classic songs done with real instruments – well this game does just that. Many of the classic tunes from both Double Dragon and Double Dragon II are present in the soundtrack for this game. Also included are original 80’s inspired pop songs and even an incredible ridiculous song during the end credits performed by both out heroes and Skullmageddon himself… The best thing about it? You can download the entire game soundtrack for free from doubledragonneon.com. Great, great stuff here!

Fun: I had a total blast plaything this game. It appealed to both the kid and the adult in me. Unless you just have no sense of humor, or absolutely hate fighting games, what’s not to love about this title?

Graphics: This game feature modern style cell shading. So the title has an overall anime/cartoon art direction. I know a lot of people don’t care for cell-shaded games, but I’ve never had a problem with them as long as they are appropriate. Cartoon style Black Ops? No thanks… but for something like this, it’s perfect.

Playcontrol: This game takes advantage of modern controllers. So gone are the days of a two or four button Double Dragon experience. Fans of the original games will need to adjust to the new control scheme, but it falls into place quickly and feels very natural.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I’m a huge fan of this game, and as a result I’m going to look a little bit further in Majesco to see what other games they have out there. For the $10 asking price, you simply cannot go wrong. This is one of the better “online arcade” games I’ve spent my money on in a long time.

Currently available on: Playstation Network, Xbox live Arcade, Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

Canon games:   DD – DD2 – DD3 – DD4

Side games:  Super DD -DD5 – DD Neon

Playstation Panic

One of the worst things about modern gaming consoles tends to be their lifespan. In the last few years, I’ve gone through two Xbox 360’s and recently I began experiencing issues with my PS3.
The problem most of these devices seems to encounter has to do with overheating. After a while, dust accumulates inside the consoles, or the cooling fans stop working and then one day, BOOM. They are fried.

What I think people tend to forget is that modern day consoles are actually mini-computers designed to only play games. However, unlike a tower PC, they are compact, and made to fit nicely in a home entertainment center. But, put a lot of heat generating devices in a small enclosed space and you’re going to have trouble.

Now, let me state, that I have never experienced this issue with a Nintendo product. I’m not being biased, just honest. The old NES certainly has design flaws that, over time, could cause some issues. But aside from that, I’ve never had a problem with a Nintendo product. I still have Gameboy Advances that power on and work as good as the day they were brought home.

Recently, I experienced a panic moment with my PS3. You see, I have an old PS3. One of the highly-coveted originals. As you may or may not know, when the PS3 was first released it was a big honking piece of machinery. It could play Blu-Ray movies, DVDs , PS1, PS2 and of course PS3 titles. The only problem was, it was expensive and it was prone of heat issues.

While I still have a PS2 tucked away in the recesses of my house, I am not ready to give up this magnificent all-in-one system. So needless to say, when my PS3 suddenly started sounding like a B-52 taking off in the middle of my Mega Man marathon the other day, I hit the panic button.

Luckily, I think I have identified and corrected the issue before my system was fried to a crisp. The biggest problem facing the original PS3, is not actually dust build up, but rather the drying up of the thermal paste on the CPU and GPU chips.

Much like a PC processor, the chips inside a PS3 need adequate cooling or they will overheat and burn up. This cooling is accomplished by attaching a metal device known as a heatsink to the chip. The heatsink is then cooled off with a fan. To ensure proper transfer of heat from the chip to the heatsink, a special thermal paste is applied to the face of the chip. Should this paste ever dry up or dissipate for any reason, it’s only a matter of time.

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    The PS3 internal chips, naked.

Luckily, a friend and I turned fixing my PS3 into an afternoon project. I’m happy to report that it seems to be running quieter than ever after the fix. Correcting this issue was not difficult at all. If you encounter the telltale signs of games freezing, and extremely/sudden loud fan noise – it may be smart to power of the console as soon as possible and either call Sony or do a google search for the instructions needed to fix it yourself.