Gaming banner

2/29/2012

REVIEW: Mario Kart 7 (3DS)



Mario Kart 7 is the latest entry to the famous racing franchise made by Nintendo, and the first to ever appear in the 3DS. It is a very charming and beautiful game that mixes many of the aspects that have made thousands, and even millions of people worldwide love the series.

As usual with racing games, MK7 is all about reaching the finish line before the competition, but unlike other “more serious” games in the genre, this one forces the players to use items to hinder their opponents, the red, green and blue shells are there, just like the bananas and power stars. Each of these items has a different effect in the race and using them correctly mixed with good driving skills is the key to win.

The game looks incredible, very beautiful to look at. It has awesome cartoony textures to make the most famous Mario characters come to life once again in an excellent way. All of them have great animations when they drive, cheer and even when they’re being hit by a dangerous item used by someone else.

It has excellent 3D effects where the karts, items and many other objects truly feel like they’re outside the screen and it all feels really smooth, even when playing with the 3D fully on, the frame rate never slows down which is a great proof that Nintendo really knows how to develop for their own consoles.

There are 30+ tracks to choose from, each one very different than the others and some of them even allow for the karts to glide or move underwater, depending on which route the player chooses. It is also possible to revisit old tracks from the previous games in the franchise, and they will be identified with the console they came from.

Sound-wise the game is very cool as well. It doesn’t have any voice acting except for the usual yelling of some characters when they say very short things but since this is a Mario game, the lack of voice acting doesn’t really feel bad. The other sound effects, while cartoony, are good and make the races come to life in a great way.

It has a great soundtrack to accompany the races, some of them are recognizable versions from previous titles and they accompany a good bunch of new songs for both the races and the menus.

Mario Kart 7 plays in a very good way, the controls are easy to grasp and very responsive. The players only need to steer, accelerate, break, jump, drift and use the items and they’re set. There’s no manual gameplay mode or vast kart customization like in other racing games. But, by playing and finishing the one-player-modes, several different parts for the karts can be unlocked and each have their own attributes, the players can change the form of the kart itself, the wheels and the wings they’ll use in the gliding sections of some of the tracks.

Besides the races themselves, the public can enjoy the Time Trial mode to try and beat a set target time in a track, Balloon Battle where the racers shoot items at each other until only one kart is standing with a balloon or Coin Runner where the characters drive around an arena trying their best to pick up as many coins as they can before the time runs out.

Each of those modes are very cool and add tons of variety to the game, they can be played in either local multiplayer, which runs excellently and online, which isn’t very good and crashes completely sometimes without any explanation.

But a negative thing in the gameplay has to be the item balance, which is truly bad in Mario Kart 7. In a normal race, the players who are losing will always, without mistake, get the best items which feel a little broken. The blue shell that hits the player in 1st place without missing, the power star that gives extra speed and the ability to run everyone over or the thunderbolt that turns every other player into a small version that can be splattered are only some of the items that unexplainably change the result of a race in seconds.

Even if someone has a great skill and drives perfectly, his victory will come only if the game randomly decided to give him good items or if the losing players don’t get many broken ones. All these make the game feel a little too casual and random at times. The players with the best skill don’t always win and that’s definitely a bad thing.

Overall, Mario Kart 7 is a great game. It looks excellent and plays and sounds very nice. The different modes and ways to enjoy them make it a really varied game that can be enjoyed for either a couple minutes or several hours; whether alone in online multiplayer or with some friends each with his/her own 3DS. But the gameplay has a lot of balancing issues that definitely hinder the enjoyment of what could have been the best Mario Kart game yet. That title still rests in Mario Kart DS.

Pros:

-          Great visuals and 3D effects
-          Tons of characters to choose from
-          Varied kart customization
-          Different modes and tracks to enjoy

Cons:

-          Terrible item balancing
-          Online performance is laggy and crashes a lot
-          Not enough to please hardcore racing game fans


-          Graphics and Visuals…….…..9
-          Music and Sound Effects….....7
-          Gameplay……………………6
-          Replay Value………………...8

-          Overall Score……………….. 7.5 / 10

More Skyrim progress

Now that I'm back, I've spent the last two days really glued to Skyrim, to the point that I haven't played any FFXIII-2. I'm still playing with my first character, a High Elf focusing solely on magical skills. Today I reached expert-level in Destruction and Conjuration so I'm now able to conjure Dremora Lords and Storm Atronachs as well as deal huge amounts of damage with shock, frost and fire spells. 

I managed to find a great balance to level up the five schools of magic so Alteration and Illusion are now really useful to me, which is great because I hated them at first. I also feel that I should have a bigger Restoration skill but that school levels up way too slowly.


So, my plans for the High Elf are to finish the main quest and the Dark Brotherhood with him and then I'll create another character (I want a Khajiit) to play the Companionship, the Stormcloak side of the civil war (because I joined the imperials with the Altmer) and the Thieves Guild. After that, who knows? I'll probably even play a third character.

I'm back!

I'm back from my trip. I was away with my family in Margarita Island for a week so I couldn't post anything. It was very nice and I even got a some new games. I bought Dead or Alive Paradise just to keep it in my collection, Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection for the PSP as well and Fallout New Vegas with all its DLC included. 

Gaming-wise, a really shitty thing happened to me during the trip. My GBA copy of FF5 started to refuse to save and I lost 27 hours of progress... I was almost at the end of the game, I think. I'm really pissed off at this because I was so hooked into the game. Fortunately, I own the PSN version and will have to stick to that one now that the GBA works but doesn't save for shit.

Besides that I finished (unlocked all songs) Project Diva 2nd. It's a very cool and charming PSP game that I recommend. I'll be reviewing it during the week along with Mario Kart 7 and FFV. So expect me to start posting regularly again. I'm finally back!

2/21/2012

I am away!

I'm currently away from home. In a little trip around Margarita Island with my parents. I'm posting this from my iPhone's Blogger app. This place is really beautiful so I'm having a great time here. Since I'll spend most of the time in our apartment, I resumedy old run of Final Fantasy V for the GBA and now am hooked to it. I'll be checking the local stores around here to see if I find any good games at a decent price. I don't think I'll be posting more until I get home but if something worth talking about happens I'll mention it in another small post from the phone.

2/15/2012

The PlayStation Vita comes out today

I think today is the release date for the PSVita. It looks like a very awesome machine but as usual with Sony consoles, it doesn't have enough good games for me to purchase it just yet. I do want some of them but I'm not really that desperate. Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Wipeout 2048 and Resistance Burning Skies look pretty interesting but until exclusive and good shit comes around, I don't think I'll be buying the console just yet.


Still, I'll probably be trying it out when it arrives at the local store so once I do, I'll write a small article with my first impressions, what I like and what I don't.

2/14/2012

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Collector's Edition pictures

My copy of FFXIII-2 is here! Just in time after I finished XIII just last night. I'm extremely happy about the presentation of the game. As usual, Square-Enix did an excellent job with the physical presentation of the Collector's Edition. I got the guide as well and its hard cover looks a lot like the one I have for the original Final Fantasy XIII so they look perfectly together. 

The game itself comes with the entire soundtrack in four discs, a small but very pretty artbook and a bautiful box with everything on it a a few artistic images of the game. I haven't actually played it yet but I downloaded the update so I'm able to start it easily in a bit. 

Look at the pics!





Final Fantasy XIII second playthrough over!

I just finished Final Fantasy XIII for the second time. I'm really happy about having played this game again, it's incredible, fantastic, spectacular. I can't really understand why it got so much hate from the ignorant and inferior masses. But oh well, nothing's perfect.

I didn't have any trouble going through the last areas of the game, I thought I was underleveled but I managed to become victorious using great Paradigms with Saboteurs and Synergists in them. I won the three final battles with Lightning, Hope and Vanille. Would like to try again with a party with Snow in it since I like the guy a lot. Now I really feel ready to start XIII-2 as I'm supposed to, with XIII's storyline and gameplay mechanics completely fresh.


In fact, I recently saw a joke image on the internet about we gamers feeling our lives "empty" when we finish an awesome game. That's exactly how I feel about FFXIII right now, if it weren't for XIII-2's soon arrival, I'd definitely just start a new run of it or try and complete all 64 Cie'th stone missions again.

If for any ilogical reason, you own a PS3 or Xbox 360 and haven't bought or played this game, stop whatever inferior crap you're playing and buy Final Fantasy XIII. If you are a true good gamer, you won't regret it. I totally recommend this game, It's definitely in the Top 10 of this generation.

2/13/2012

My next reviews

It's been around three weeks or more since I wrote my last game review (Super Mario 3D Land). I've really been wanting to review Mario Kart 7 but I just don't like the game enough as to pick it up again and unlock the rest of the content and reviewing it without having played those seems unfair. But I guess I'll just have to do it during the next days since I'll be free from college. Another game I definitely want to write about is Project Diva 2. I have it pirated for my old PSP 1000 and it's a blast. I'll try to write a good review for it this same month. It'll hopefully bring more readers to the site.


But the most important short-term reviews I'll be writing are definitely Skyrim, Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Modern Warfare 3. I still have to play MW2 but I don't think that'll take much since Call of Duty games are not very long. I'm already into Skyrim but still don't feel like to write a review since I haven't seen many important part of the game and I don't even own FFXIII-2 yet.

So, the reviews will continue. Stay tuned.

PSN Final Fantasy games purchased

I got a couple of 20$ PSN cards for an incredible price from some friends so I spent them in a few of the Final Fantasy titles available in the PlayStation Store. I got Origins which includes I and II, FFV, FFVI and FFIX. I still want to buy FFVIII but I'll leave that one for the near future. I also have the Virtual Console version of FFVI but I wanted to have it available on my PS3/PSP so there.

I also have the PSP versions of FFI, II and IV (complete collection) in my Amazon wishlist to see if I order them soon. The three games bundled are for 39.99$ so it's an excellent price. That'd leave me perfectly ready for my run of the entire franchise I want to do during 2012. 

With luck, my collector's edition copy of XIII-2 will arrive either tomorrow or Wednesday. I'll post the pics once it gets here.

Dead or Alive 5 button configuration revealed!


A little while ago, my buddies at www.freestepdodge.com got this pic showing the default button configuration for the alpha demo of Dead or Alive 5. As you can see, it shows both consoles and it doesn't seem to change much. One of the new things is the "Powe Blow" which we all assume are the flashy ultras Busa and Hayate did in the trailers and they need to be charged. 

The hold system seems to have been changed back to three-way like in DOA2, 3 and Dimensions. But there are new "advanced holds" to counter mid punches and kick and all the characters will have them. Finally, DOA5 is implementing the sidestep system seen in Virtua Fghter 5 where all fighters are able to dodge attacks if they press up or down twice to move horizontally and get out of the way. This is definitely good news.

The demo will be available on March 20th for  us who preordered Ninja Gaiden 3 from either Amazon.com or Gamestop. I personally am sure about getting Hayate and Ayane but will still try my best to get my hands on Hayabusa and Hitomi from anyone I know with an extra code.

2/11/2012

Most underrated games (part 2)

Ok, continuing with my Most Underrated Games list. I came up with another five titles I've enjoyed during my life as a gamer that I haven't seen getting much love from the public. These are very solid and awesome games that never got the respect and praise they deserved in my opinion.

6) Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox)

This game is the only reason why I never really paid any attention to the Star Fox series. It's a shooter on rails where you play as a dragon that changes form and shoots laser beams with a girl riding on top of it. It has an amazing story, narrative, gameplay , it's own freaking spoken language and one of the richest worlds I've ever seen created in a video game. It's a "sequel" to other even more obscure titles like Panzer Dragoon Saga and Panzer Dragoon Zwei that came out for the Sega Saturn. 

Orta was my very first Xbox game and even after I got Halo and DOA3 a few days later, I still kept playing it a lot until I 100%ed it several times. There is a downside. The game is really short with only a few missions but ironically, there's a "library" mode of some sorts with tons of things to read about the post-apocalyptic world with evolved bio-engineered creatures the game takes place in. Also, the game comes with an unlockable version of the original Panzer Dragoon for the Sega Saturn. Trust me, it's AWESOME. Much better than the Star Fox franchise and always lived in the shadows. 












7) Little Samson (NES)

I'm seriously starting to think that the existence of this game is a product of my imagination since literally no one I know has any knowledge of it. Like most of the NES games, Little Samson is a 2D platformer/action-adventure title where the player uses four characters: a kid who throws rocks, a small mouse, a fire-breathing dragon and a stone creature like The Thing. Each one had their own abilities, powers and weaknesses and using them effectively was the key to pass the levels without dying. As usual with the NES games, it was very hard and unforgiving but I've always seen a lot of potential in this game. Sadly, it never got famous.













8) Racedriver GRID (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

I know that Codemasters racing games are actually really famous and praised but where I live and pretty much in the internet in general, I never saw GRID taking as much media coverage as its brothers DiRT and F1 20XX. And the sad thing is that it's probably even better. GRID is more about street racing but has many  other modes like Destruction Derby, Drifting (real drifting, not the abomination present in DiRT 3) and Formula 3 cars. Each time you get an event, the races will be different and there's a very cool system about teams and selling cars that worked perfectly for it. 

The graphics were great though the game was not very colorful but still very beautiful, it's not a pretty as DiRT 2 or 3 but looks much better than other games like Need for Speed, Sega Rally or Test Drive. Being a recent game, it's really easy to find it nowdays and also very cheap so I truly recommend giving it a try, especially if you enjoyed DiRT and Formula 1 by the same developers.











9) Bomberman 64 (Nintendo 64)

I don't know about the rest of the world, but in my country, people in the N64 times used to spend their time mainly on Mario Kart, Goldeneye, Zelda and the rest of the mainstream games. But while I do consider those superior to Bomberman 64, the game still had a lot of potential and was very cool to play. It's the very first game in the series with a given storyline about some alien warriors trying to find the "Omni Cube" to gain a huge power so Bomberman tries to stop them with the help of another cosmic warrior who ends up betraying him in an optional secret world. 

The gameplay was very simple, all the hero could do was throw bombs and run around without jumping, so to get to higher places, we all needed to build "stairs" with the bombs so he could bounce on them to get around. There were many enemies, cool bosses and a very catchy soundtrack. But the best of all was definitely the four-player competitive multiplayer where you a your friends could go to an arena and throw bombs at each other until only one was left standing. It was pretty cool and it had a few crazy rules to make every match very intense.













10) Final Fantasy XI Online (PC, PS2, Xbox 360)

Yeah, another FF title in my top 10 underrated games. I really think this game got way too much hate, more than it deserved. It's very good, trust me. This comes from someone who actually spent two and half years on it and did most of the things the game offered. I really do admit WoW's superiority in many aspects, but the charm and attitute of the players in FFXI made the experience fantastic and unforgettable for me. I played mostly as a Tarutaru Black Mage, but I managed to get good levels with White Mage, Puppetmaster, Warrior, Monk and Bard and they were all very cool. It focused a lot on the grinding but I personally enjoyed it. 

My friends used to make fun of me for playing this when they were hooked to WoW but I really don't regret it. I even keep in touch with many of the players who traveled with me around Vana'diel and some of them are still active in the game. I had to leave shortly after the Wings of the Goddess expansion came out so I never got the opportunity to try out the Scholar and Dancer but managed to fight alongside many. Today, it must feel extremely dated and I really wouldn't recommend it to anyone who's not a die-hard Final Fantasy fan like me. Players looking for a more modern MMO should try their luck with Conan, WoW or something like that. But I'll still defend FFXI and will probably even return to it someday using one of the free-months.
























Yeah, the screens are actually from my character from when I used to play it.

2/10/2012

PHOTOSET: Lineage II Elf second edition

Ok so the Lineage II Elf is finally here, she's very pretty, definitely one of the best figures that I own (and the most expensive...). I took a little set of pics to her to share them here. There are many galleries out there but they usually show the blonde version (first edition), so here goes a small one of the second edition, or pink haired Elf. She comes with two different weapons than the blonde one. One looks like a mace of some sort and the other like a small staff or wand. The thing is that she looks beautiful with either equipment. 

When I compare her to the bootleg, the changes are huge. First of, the skin is much more white in the original. The bootleg has a normal skin color, which looks nice but the original is more pale or whitey. In my opinion, that skin color makes her look more elf-like or magician. Second, the hair is much more better done in the original. The bootleg has a weird brightness on her hair that doesn't look very nice when there's much light in the room. 

Besides that, her jacket and skirt have many more details. And they're completely removable. (The bootleg's skirt can be taken off but not the jacket, at least in MY figure) though it's a bit difficult to do so and since she's so expensive I won't be handling her equipment very much in case something breaks. Her eyes are smaller and look much more natural and pretty, same with the lips. The hands and arms are almost perfectly detailed and her bracelets are well painted, the bootleg has small inconsistencies here, same with the golden things below her  knees. And finally, the feet on the original are much more prettier and detailed.

So, it's an awesome figure that looks excellent no matter if you're a fan of the game or not. This is the proof that the Japanese are one of the best at making figures, she has a lot of details and even the pose is beautiful. Personally, I put her besides some Halo, Spawn and Final Fantasy figures and she looks fantastic there. I recommend buying the second edition because it goes for half the price than the blonde one and the only real difference I can see is the hair color which looks better in pink in my personal opinion. Enjoy!