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11/28/2011

King of Fighters XIII and Ultimate MvC3 are here!

I managed to get both UMVC3 and KOF13 trading them for some old games I wanted to sell anyway. I didn't take a pic of the boxes because I forgot but anyway I'm posting my first experiences with both titles. Ultimate is more of the same, I like playing with G.Rider, Vergil and Strider a lot and some of the new stages are pretty but I'm yet to see something that justifies a completely new game. I'm seriously starting to hate Capcom a lot and I've promised myself that Ultimate will be the last game of the company I buy (unless they revive Darkstalkers, which they won't). It is very cool but if you already have vanilla, wait for it to get cheaper.

The real deal is in KOF13. This is a series that I never ever tried in my life. The SNK fighter has always been VERY obscure where I live, and in the USA as well as far as I'm concerned. No one plays KOF or knows anything about it besides that it is the game that features the beautiful Mai Shiranui, but other than that, nothing. But the thing is that this game is incredible. It is made as if it were an older game, from the PS1 era maybe, but the animations on the characters are top notch and the gameplay is awesome. You have two buttons for punches and two for kicks and doing combos with them is very hard. The timing of the button presses must be almost perfect. The special moves are kinda like in MvC and Blazblue, with a lot of "quarter moons", "Zs" and "half-moons".

I'm currently playing it with Mai (of course!), Kyo, K', Athena and King but there are others that I'm interested in like Kula, Ryo and Leona. I really really hope that my friends like it as much as I do and buy it because I don't want this game to suffer the same fate as MK9 which I loved (and still love) but I just don't have ANYONE to play it with so I simply abandoned it without wanting to. I haven't tried the online modes because I'm having SERIOUS internet problems right now but according to most reviewers, it runs nicely, unlike the disasters that are MvC3, Blazblue (Platinum <3) and MK9... I'll keep posting my opinions on both games and expect more reviews for games and anime coming soon.

REVIEW: Forza Motorsport 4 (Xbox 360)




Forza Motorsport 4 is the latest entry in the racing-game series developed by Turn 10 Studios. It is an Xbox 360 exclusive title that comes from a franchise that has always been famous for having beautiful car models from dozens of brands in the world, a lot of varied tracks and game modes and especially, a very realistic gameplay design that allows for both newcomers and pro gamers to enjoy it equally. The fourth game is no different, it takes all those aspects to a whole new level making it one of the best, if not the best racing game in the console and the entire generation.

The game features several distinct gameplay modes in which you can play either solo or with friends online or locally. The most important single-player mode is Career, where you start out as a level 1 driver with zero affinity to any of the brands available in the game. A narrator will take you in a set order to different locations in the world where you will have to race many types of races like muscle car, drifting, bowling and the like to earn credits to buy new cars or upgrade the ones you already have, experience to level up and points to increase your affinity to the brand of the car you’re driving.

The cars in the game are divided in several categories depending on their power and skill, they go from F to A and then to the R+ categories, the highest ones in the game. Each time you level up your driver skill, the games gives you a new car as a gift. The first ones will be of the “F” category, but as your level goes up and up, the free cars will be better until you start receiving come of the best cars for free. The affinity, on the other hand, is a separate level-up system that works independently for each brand, when you raise the affinity level with, for example, Peugeot, you will get discounts and free parts for the cars of that brand. So the game rewards your faith in your favorite cars.

In Career mode you can also tune your car to make them better. The game kind of works like an automobile encyclopedia because each time you highlight a specific part, like suspension, tires, brakes and such, you will get an explanation of how they work and how can you upgrade them. It’s a very interesting way to learn more about the racing world and the results of choosing the best parts for your cars are very rewarding in the races. But one of the most impressive things is how (like in Forza 3) you can decorate the cars with thousand of patterns, drawings and logos of hundreds of colors to really personalize them. You can even save your design and offer them up online for people to download, or of course, download and use the ones someone else shared.

There are other modes like Community, where you play online with other people and share content like cars, parts and designs, Free Play, where you can play Split-Screen with a friend on any of the tracks the game offers, Time Trial to try and beat a set target time or a Quick Race against AI opponents with the rules and settings that you choose. The downside of the Free Play mode is that you don’t get many prizes for racing and Career is a better option if you want to level up and get better cars for free.

One of the most curious and pretty game modes is Autovista. On it, you can take a look at several cars inside the game, around 20 of them and look at them from any angle, open their doors, sit inside the pilot’s seat and really feel how the car is in real life. This mode works better if you have the Kinect sensor since you can control the angle of the view, doors, steering wheel and such as if you really were sitting on the car. But the truth is that it’s not very fun and it only works as a way to show the graphics of the game and an excuse to somehow use the Kinect sensor.

Graphically, the game is definitely one of the best titles in the Xbox 360. It takes the visuals of Forza 3 and other racing games and takes them to a whole new level. The anti-aliasing, lighting effects, FPS, environments and cars are almost photo-realistic and sometimes can even fool you to think you’re watching a real race on HD television. When the cars crash on the walls or at each other, they will get damaged and though the hit spots are not perfect, they make an excellent job at recreating the fact that the car is damaged, sometimes even affecting the performance of it in a race. Only for the visuals, the game deserves a perfect score. It takes the power of the console to maximum.

Forza 4 runs at a solid 60 FPS as well, making it look very smooth and realistic, especially on the high-speed races with the most powerful cars. All of the vehicles in the game offer cockpit view and they’re insane, the movements of the pilot’s hands steering the wheel and controlling the gearbox are stunning. If you don’t like racing games, this one will truly change your mind about the genre. It’s epic and beautiful in that way.

Sound-wise, the game is excellent, the cars’ engines are amazingly represented, especially the iconic sounds of the Ferraris or Lamborghinis. The drifting sounds are insane as well as the environmental ones. Everything sounds like the real deal, making Forza 4 the first game that probably feels and plays like a real racing scenario. The music is also great; it has many different kinds of pretty and varied songs in the menus and the actual gameplay. Though the epic menu songs from Forza 3 are gone, these ones never get repetitive and bother you while playing so there’s no real need to turn it off or switch to a custom soundtrack.

In gameplay, Forza 4 manages to take the “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master” saying to a whole new level. The game is easy to handle at first and offers several different assist for newcomers like braking assist, ABS controls, automatic gearbox, traction control and things like that.  But as you start playing without using those, the game slowly becomes harder and harder to control and will take a lot of practice to master a single car, and there are hundreds of them in the game, each one with its own potential and capabilities. The downside is that the AI is kind of dumb sometimes and even if you’re not driving in an excellent way, the cars ahead of you will sometimes crash in weird ways or turn horribly in a corner like they want to let you pass. Of course, that doesn’t happen online since you will be playing against people who want to beat (or crash) you.

With all the modes, hundreds of cars and variations of tracks the game offers, you will literally have an infinite amount of replay value in Forza Motorsport 4. Other racing games do have online multiplayer but the tuning, cars and gameplay tweaks are nothing like the ones in here. This is most likely the most complete racing game ever created and as mentioned before, it will even change the mind of those out there that, for some reason, are not fond of the genre.

For closing comments, Forza Motorsport 4 is one of the exclusive games the Xbox 360 was lacking. Everyone who owns a console must try their hands at it. The visuals, gameplay, sound and DLC are of the best any of the console’s games will offer and you’re guaranteed to have a blast with it. This is the definitive racing game. 100% recommended.

Pros:

-          Excellent graphics and visuals make the game look almost photorealistic
-          Gameplay design is like driving an actual car
-          Assist will manage to not scare casuals away
-          Hundreds of different cars to choose from
-          Decoration options are limitless and the mode is very fun by itself
-          Multiplayer runs very smoothly both online and split-screen

Cons:

-          AI acts retarded sometimes, even on the higher difficulties
-          Mastering the game without any assists will be very hard and time-consuming



-          Graphics and Visuals………..10
-          Music and Sound Effects…...9
-          Gameplay……………………10
-          Replay Value………………..10

-          Overall Score……………….. 9.8 / 10

11/23/2011

Skyward Sword First Impressions

After spending three and a half hours into the newest Zelda title, I have a lot of mixed reactions and opinions about it. I play my Wii plugged to a small Sony Bravia in my room with component cables, they make most Wii games look fairly nice. I've played both Mario Galaxies, Smash Brawl, Donkey Kong and others in there and the truth is that Skyward's graphics are not being impressive at all. The environments are very pretty but to be honest, I don't think the game looks much better than Twilight Princess. 

I got really pissed off at the mere fact that at the end of 2011 the series still doesn't have voice acting. It still uses the extremely dated and now lame text bubbles to tell the story and it's becoming quite a pain to read through the entire thing when it could simply have voice acting with subtitles and Link as a mute hero at the same time without any problems. I remember back in 2001 when the fanboys were bitching about FFX introducing voices to the series and it worked perfectly. Zelda should do the same.

The introduction to the game is extremely long, just like in Twilight Princess. It takes way too freaking long for things to get interesting. In Ocarina and Majora, Link was already doing awesome shit after five minutes of starting the adventure. In here, it took me almost an hour and a half to get my sword, "something important" to happen and dress with the iconic green outfit. The town where Link lives is very pretty and it's cool to explore it but the story in the beginning of the game moves way too slowly for my liking.

After Link starts the actual journey, the quality of the game increases by a lot. You can control the sword swings with the Wiimotion Plus and the character follows your arm movements almost perfectly, sometimes he doesn't do what you want him to but it's pretty cool. Especially when the enemies start blocking at a set direction and you have to hit them on an opened spot. The shield can be controlled by moving the Nunchuk and you can even shield-bash your enemies to stun them, as well as shoot slingshot seeds like in Ocarina of Time, only that this time, you aim with the Wii Remote and the way the game allows you to move Link in a classic way while taking a lot of advantages from the motion controls is very innovative and I'm liking it a lot. I didn't expect myself to enjoy the motion controls that much, but fortunately, I am.

Now, the thing that really has me disappointed is the recycling of the same formula. I think that Legend of Zelda is one of the gaming franchises with the most potential in the market, but Nintendo keeps reusing the same quest-dungeon-boss-repeat formula over and over, no matter if the game is for a console or portable, 2D or 3D. This needs to stop. Nintendo seriously needs to start trying out things that appear in other games from the genre, like sand-box formulas, combo-based combat like in Ninja Gaiden, climbing skill for Link like the ones Nathan Drake has and different difficulty settings so people who want an actual challenge can have one.

So far, Skyward Sword is just being another common Zelda game with many cool motion controls to test out and enjoy. I really really hope the story becomes interesting and the environments get much better than the stupid forest-based area all the games in the series use. If you enjoy the formula and don't mind the lack of voice-acting in a Wii game that came out last Sunday, buy it. But the truth is that RIGHT NOW, I'd recommend to rent it or play it at a friend's house first without making a blind purchase like I did. I'll keep posting my opinions as I go.

11/21/2011

My own story

I've been a little busy with university stuff, as I've mentioned before but besides all that. I actually grew some balls and started something I wanted to do since I was about 15-years-old. Write my own story. This is probably going to sound kind of cliche but I don't really give a damn. I've played video games, watches movies, TV shows, anime series, read books and comics and the like my entire life so it's just logical that after those countless experiences I'll always think things like "I'd like to see a story based on THIS or that where something like THIS happens with THIS kind of characters" and over the years. I've imagined something that I actually started writing eight years ago. I know this because I recently found the original Microsoft Word files where I wrote the stuff, and it dates back to 2003. 

So now, I've actually restarted writing the thing, taking a little step every time, without rushing it and knowing that this is a project that could take several years, even on a constant pace. I'm a little paranoid about my ideas being stolen and used by someone else so I probably won't talk about anything specific but it is something of a sci-fi story mixed with medieval things and even a little fantasy here and there. I'm well aware that this is my very first attempt at actually writing something big but since my journalism studies will most likely make me spend my time writing, I thought that I might as well start with something I'd actually like to see on paper. Who knows? Maybe I'll get lucky and even get my story published one day. After seeing so many shitty books on shelves now days I believe that a novel written by a rookie writer has a strong chance of being published as well. Still this would be a very-long-term project. Anyway, I just thought I'd share what I'm doing. 

The gaming articles will resume of course, I think I'm ready now to finally write reviews for Forza 4 and F1 2011. I love those games so I'm pretty sure my articles and analysis about them will be very cool. I'm also expecting to write small "First Impressions" articles about Halo CEA and Skyward Sword during the week. I'll update the blog projects page immediately so everyone who actually reads me and myself can know what content to expect in the blog before the year ends. I've only got about one more month of classes and I should go on vacation on December 16th or something like that. I'm going to try my best to have all the unwritten game and anime articles ready by then. There are a lot of them so just give me time. I run this place alone.

NEW PURCHASES!

I got a few new games! Probably my last ones for the rest of 2011 (with the exception of UMvC3). I got a Forza 4 Collector's Edition from some friends. It comes with an amazing metal case and an art book with concept images of the cars and specs for about 20 of them. It's an really cool collector's edition. If you can get the game this one, do it because it is worth it. So I now have two copies of the game. I'll try to trade the normal version of something else. Probably a Call of Duty¿ I dunno. 

Today I got my hands on Halo CE Anniversary and Zelda: Skyward Sword. I've only played Halo and it's exactl the same game from 2001's entry with awesome new graphics, I love it! I'm currently sniping careless grunts and elites on Truth and Reconciliation. I'll try Zelda in a bit and post about it tomorrow!

Pics:






11/14/2011

Code Geass is... awesome.

I just can't believe what I'm going to say but the anime series Code Geass is proving to be really good. I started watching it in June when I bought it but stopped someplace in the early episodes because one of my best friends told me it was a yaoi. But recently, I decided to resume it and holy fuck it is an awesome series with a great plot, animation and fights. 


I've watched around 25 episodes or so and there's no yaoi to be seen anywhere. The series is about a huge military empire called Britannia who invades Japan and changes its name to "Area 11" and there's a resistance group made up of all kinds of people like journalist, students, engineers, etc trying to fight them to liberate Japan. Sounds cliche but the characters are awesome and the plot (so far) is very well told. I'm really surprised to have encountered a popular series as good as this.

I'm about halfway through it and I'm so excited that I'll most likely watch a good bunch of episodes each night until I complete it. Of course, I'll write an article about it once I'm done (and I haven't forgotten about the Burn Up W one).

REVIEW: Virtua Fighter 5 Online (Xbox 360)




Virtua Fighter 5 Online is the last installment in the flagship franchise of fighting games made by SEGA, who started way back into the company’s old consoles when they still made hardware. The series has always been in the shadows of more famous ones like Tekken, Soul Calibur and others but has always gotten a lot of respect from the media, developers and players in general.

VF5O is a 3D fighting game, which plays very similar to Tekken, Soul Calibur and especially Dead or Alive. Having two characters beat each other out with different martial arts styles on a full 3D environment. Like in DOA, VF5O only uses three action buttons, one for punches, one for kicks and one for blocking and with that, the game manages to provide an insanely high amount of actions and possibilities to the players.

But what makes Virtua Fighter a very obscure franchise is the complexity and learning curve. It is very hard to manage to play correctly with a character given the tons of movements each of them have and learning to take advantage of the rules of the game, like sidestepping, juggling, stunning and blocking is no easy task at all. All these make most of the fighting game players avoid mastering it despite admitting that most of the aspects are of great quality.

Graphically, VF5O looks very good. The character model are very realistic, with tons of details on them, for example, the “aged” characters like Lau Chan or Shun Di have tons of wrinkles on them which makes them look like real old people. The clothes are amazing and most of them fit perfectly, they have movement effects to simulate physics and seem very real. The stages are very beautiful; there are tons of variations, one for each character. You can fight on a beach, a Shao Lin temple, Chinese streets, an abandoned dojo and the like. They look very cool, with tons of quality lightning effects, anti-aliasing, colors and even things that give them more life like a bunch of people in the background cheering or birds flying around.

The game plays very smoothly, running at a solid 60FPS at all times, which allows for each character to have amazing animations that simulate all the varied and curious fighting styles each of them use. As mentioned before, there are only three action buttons besides the movement ones and with those; each fighter will have around a hundred different moves at their disposal. Like in most fighting games, each character will be able to combo mixing punches and kicks, block attacks, move freely around the stage and use awesome throws to damage their opponents. But doing these actions correctly is hard, given that many characters have complicated command lists and the game uses a very strict system of rules that require hours and hours of practice in order to understand and better yet, use them.

Each fighter has a unique fighting style with an exclusive set of moves, for example Akira, the mascot of the game, uses a fighting style named Bajiquan which allows him to land accurate and extremely strong blows in short combos that can KO an opponent in just a small number of hits, his movement is rather slow and has a very complicated command list but can be extremely satisfying to win with him once you start learning how to use him. There’s also Pai Chan, a Chinese girl who uses the Mizongyi fighting style which is way faster and easy-to-use than Akira’s but her blows are weak and she needs more hits to KO an opponent. Characters like her or the loud and rather annoying Jeet-Kune-Do user Jacky can be perfect characters to start playing the game.

Then there’s Wolf Hawkfield who is a huge pro-wrestler from Canada or the Pankratium user Jeffrey who have a very slow movement set-up but each of their blows and extremely varied throws hurt a lot. The characters are so different that once you get used to play as one, switching to another requires a lot of focus and trying to re-learn the rules of the game from scratch, but part of the beauty of the game really comes into play in that, the insane variety of gameplay styles.

Virtua Fighter 5 Online features several game modes like Arcade, where you try to beat a set number of AI opponents before fighting a final challenge, Versus, where you can play either offline or online with players worldwide (though the online now days is deserted, sadly), Dojo, where you can train and practice your moves against a training dummy, Options, and a very curious one called Quest.

In Quest mode, you create a file with a given character and will simulate a real-life player going around arcade places fighting hordes of infinite AI challenges of different levels of difficulty. In this mode you have a map where you can choose from around eight arcade places, each with a difficulty setting and by winning matches, you will rank up, unlock clothes to customize your character, earn emblems and even get invited to tournaments for other different prizes. Quest mode is very fun and works wonders when you just want to try out a character against AI opponents of different levels and want to mess around in the customization modes where it’s possible dress your character in thousands of unique ways so they look exactly as you want them to.

In Customization, each character will have four base costumes and from those you can buy or earn tons of clothes like hairstyles, shirts, pants, gloves, shoes and the like to personalize all of the fighters in many unique ways. Customizing your character can be a lot of fun by itself and making the results fight each other is very cool to watch and sometimes even seems funny, especially for a game as hardcore and difficult to master as Virtua Fighter 5.

The sound effects are awesome for the most part, especially on the stages where there are many ambient sounds for water, cheering crowds, wind, thunder and the like. The character’s voice acting is very good for the most part with few exceptions like the extremely annoying “Oh yeah!” coming from Jacky or some of Eileen’s lines. There’s a curious narrator that tells what’s happening in the fight as if you were watching a TV show but though it is a very nice addition, you will most likely grow sick of it rather quickly and turn it off. The same happens with the music which seems pretty at first but turns extremely repetitive way too fast. Fortunately, like all Xbox 360 games, Virtua Fighter 5 music can be completely replaced by a custom soundtrack from either the HDD of the console or an external device plugged via USB to enjoy the game with your favorite music.

Sadly, the Virtua Fighter series is a very obscure one and though it is clearly one of the best fighting game series out there, it has never gotten the respect it deserves. But in the near future, the “Final Showdown” version of the game will be available for both the PS3 and Xbox 360 as a digital download; the final version of the game has many gameplay tweaks and even a couple completely new characters. With luck, the game will finally gather a big crowd and possibly enough population for a solid online and offline community to develop.

But until then, VF5O for the Xbox 360 is an amazing and very cheap fighting game that everyone with the console should definitely try their hands at. It is very hard to play at first, yes, but with patience and perseverance, every player out there can learn and use at least one character to his/her advantage. The game has great graphics, sound effects, game modes and one of the best gameplay mechanics in the genre.

Pros:

-          One of the best fighting game mechanics in all the industry.
-          Extremely varied roster of characters, each with a unique set of moves and martial arts style.
-          Quest mode provides hours and hours of fun and is perfect for practicing and trying out new fighters.
-          Customization mode is rather deep and provides almost limitless options.

Cons:

-          The music can get very repetitive and annoying quickly.
-          The game is very hard to master.
-          Losing a round from a ring-out is really disappointing.



-          Graphics and Visuals………...9
-          Music and Sound Effects….....7
-          Gameplay…………………...10
-          Replay Value………………..10

Overall Score……………….. 9 / 10

11/11/2011

Uncharted 3 finished!

I realized that I didn't make any posts about me getting Uncharted 3. But I just finished the game and I'm in AWE. It is incredible, Naughty Dog did it again. It is definitely one of the best titles in the PS3 and everyone should get it.

The graphics are much better than Uncharted 2, thing I didn't think it was gonna be possible taking in count U2's amazing visuals but the developers managed to make a much better game in terms of graphics, especially in the faces of the characters like Nate, Sully, Elena and Chloe. I haven't tried the multiplayer yet so I can't post an opinion but the campaign is awesome, I personally liked the one in the second game more but this one is amazing, full of chases, tight firefights and insane platforming, just like an Uncharted game should be, I'm definitely not disappointed. Here's a pic of my game:


Changing subjects, I resumed my run of Code Geass. The series is getting good and pretty interesting and I think I should finish watching it in about two weeks. Of course I will write an article about it but I'm way behind in others I wanted to start first so I'll take care of those one before the anime reviews most likely.

Finally, I don't remember if I mentioned it in my last post but I'm reading the Ico book and it's awesome, full of parts of the story that the author made up to fill the plot holes the PS2 game left like where Ico comes from, how his village is and the backstory of some of its inhabitants. The narration is smooth so it never becomes boring to read it. I really recommend it.

11/10/2011

Update

I haven't updated the blog in a few days. It's just because I've been very busy with university stuff, preparing a few essays and presentations for my classes. The truth is that gaming-wise I don't have much to say, besides a couple hours of Dimensions and Uncharted 3 (which I bought sometime last week but haven't played much). Besides all that, I read the Halo book "First Strike" and it was awesome. Now I'm attempting Ico and the first Game of Thrones book. They're both very cool but I haven't had much time to read them because I haven't been home at all. During the weekend I will start writing articles and try to get the ones I wanted to upload last week. 

11/02/2011

Plans for the week


This post is to announce some little things that will get posted on the blog during the week. The first will be a Virtua Fighter 5 review. I'll be analyzing the Xbox 360 version of the game, also known as Version C and like in all my reviews; I’ll talk about gameplay, presentation, graphics, music and such. I’ll most likely have it ready tomorrow night so expect it.

In the anime department I’ll be watching Burn Up W, the prequel to Excess which I already reviewed. It only has four episodes so watching it and writing the article shouldn’t take any long. I’ll probably watch the thing tomorrow afternoon before going to class. In fact, that’s the plan.

Then I plan to write an article about the Unreal series, focusing more on the original 1998 game. I as planning on doing this for Christmas Eve but I think that I’ll be way too busy with Uncharted 3 and the other November games on holydays so I’ll probably just take that out of my plans and get it done during this week.

Unreal Tournament III appreciation

A friend of mine let me borrow his copy of Unreal Tournament III for the Xbox 360. I installed it today and wow I love it. I did own the PS3 version until about three years ago but for a reason I don't remember, I sold it. Now I totally regret the decision. 

UT3 is a very fast paced and intense multiplayer-only shooter with a wide variety of weapons from the original Unreal and characters. There are a lot of maps and several game modes to choose from and from what I see, the game is extremely varied. I especially like the graphics a LOT. I used to think it looked better than Gears of War 1 and 2 and I still think that. I can't say about Gears 3 because I haven't taken a good look at it though.

I'm going to try and play it as much as I can while my friend lets me have it and try to get used to the insane devastation of having ten characters in a small area shooting at each other with the Flak Cannon, Rocket Launchers, Enforcers, Bio Rifles and all the cool weapons from the Unreal universe.

Now that I FINALLY found a good update patch for the original Unreal and that I'm playing UT3 again I definitely want a remake of U1's campaign. I know it probably won't ever happen. But I found several downloadable campaigns and single player maps for U1 and the original Unreal Tournament so there's pretty much infinite content regarding the series for me.

11/01/2011

Unreal Books Impressions


I just finished reading both of the Unreal books based on the old classic PC shooter from 1998. The truth is that I liked them. They both have very interesting stories, characters and events but I can’t help but feel that the two novels could and should have more content in them based on the things we see and the places we visit during our journey through planet Na Pali in the video game.

Let’s go back to 1998 for a bit and talk about what Unreal’s story is. The game takes place in a very interesting sci-fi world. You are a human prisoner on a prison ship named the Vortex Rikers scheduled for a death penalty on a moon called Kira, which is controlled by the human race. During the ship’s space voyage, they come too close to a planet named Na Pali which is one of the largest deposits of a mineral called Tarydium which damages all electronic systems and causes the Rikers to crash on the planet’s surface.

In the game, we players take control of a surviving prisoner we create who is only known as “Prisoner 849” as the ship’s alarm call him/her when we get out of the cell. And we journey through several awesome and very beautiful locations on the planet, learning that the its natives are called the “Nali”, a humanoid species with four arms and they are being dominated and enslaved by a much advanced race of Reptile-like monsters called the Skaarj who look a lot like the Predators.

The game doesn’t have any dialogs or cinematics and tells the story with some texts on an item called the Universal Translator when we walk right past a key point, just like when we scan something in the Metroid Prime games. It has awesome enemies, music, weapons, location and (for the time) graphics that combined made most of the critics say that the game was extremely advanced for its time. The game’s success made the developers span a very cool expansion to the campaign called “Return to Na Pali”, a series of multiplayer-based shooters (Unreal Tournament) and a very bad sequel not directly related to the Na Pali’s events.

Now, there are some things about the books that everybody needs to know and I explained them HERE. If you don’t know about them, I suggest reading that small article first. But now that both have been read I can finally give a final opinion. Prophet’s Power is a much better book than Hard Crash because in one story, we get to see a little of how Na Pali was before the Skaarj first invasion several hundred years before the Rikers’ crash. We get to know how the Nali lived, who they are and interesting information about the planet itself, like the fact that it is a planet-wide graveyard for starships of all kind that have crashed on its surface for Millennia.

In fact, one of these crashed ships is one of the key elements to this first story, because it contains a very, very old artificial intelligence that predicts the future and talks to the main protagonist, a Nali named Haute. It shows him through visions that the Skaarj will arrive, how to prepare to fight them back and even how, many years after his own death, an “avenging angel” coming from the stars will finally drive the Skaarj away from Na Pali.

In the other story, we get to know how the Vortex Rikers operated before the crash and how the prisoners lived inside it until the accident occurs. Everything focuses on a group of three human survivors named Zofia, Gerrick and Boris and a Nali resistance member called Melnori who try to survive and help the natives defeat the Skaarj once and for all.

As I said, the stories are actually quite interesting and cool but there are almost no relations with the game’s content at all, other than the obvious Rikers’ crash and the name of a few locations and weapons. There is no mention at all about prisoner 849, I understand that he/she didn’t have to participate in the story at all, but at least a mention of the ship’s alarm when the game’s character escapes or small stories about a lone human journeying around the planet would have given the video game justice. Also we never get to know if any of the humans in the book are the prisoner 327 we listen to the ship’s alarm mentioning during the game’s beginning.

Also, none of the game’s jaw-dropping locations get visited or explained at all. During the Na Pali journey in the game, prisoner 849 travels through a temple build for a Nali goddess named Valmora, a beautiful castle called Bluff Eversmoking, a crashed spaceship of another alien race called Terraniux, an insanely high tower called the “Spire”, another human crashed ship called the ISV Kran and a bunch of mountains floating in the air with castles and houses built on them. None of them appear or get visited which give a truly lame feeling that the authors of both stories probably didn’t play the game at all because if they had, they would have definitely incorporated these locations to their stories.

The same happens with the other races. The books focus completely on the Nali, Skaarj and the Humans with small and not important mentions to the Kraal here and there but the other alien races we get to fight in the game don’t even get mentioned. The brutes with the rocket launchers, the mercenaries inside Terraniux or the green monsters that spit acid, I can’t help but feel that all of them should have taken some part in both Haute’s and Zofia’s story.

Another aspect I found very negative was the fact that in both stories, the alien races feel way too human. They talk, act and react to things as if they were human which shouldn’t be that way because they feel as if they weren’t well developed by the authors, they even use tools that should be human exclusives like pens, paper, knives and the like. I felt this strongly on Haute’s story and the parts of “Second Occupation” that focus on the Skaarj warlord named Karrikta.

Again, both of the books are good if you overlook the printing problem (which is really hard, especially if you try reading Hard Crash first like I did) and especially if you liked the game like me or are simply interested in a somewhat cool sci-fi story about an alien war. They’re very short, around 230 pages each and should be a quick read even if you are a slow reader like me. Still, I definitely suggest going through the game first if for some reason you still haven’t. It is a very old first-person shooter from 1998 that will run in literally any computer now days and if you like it and are more interested in expanding on the experience and the Na Pali story, go get the books which can be purchased in many websites for insanely cheap prices.