Nintendo Review Archive

BAND HERO (WII)

Band Hero is the latest in the long-running “Hero” music game series from Activision, unlike previous entries this version promises more family-friendly music rather than the hardcore rock of it’s predecessors, including pop acts such as Taylor Swift, Culture Club, Maroon 5 and the Disney favourites Aly & AJ.

Coming off the back of Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero shares many similarities with that game – you can immediately jump into any song that’s playing on the start screen, every track is available in Quickplay without any unlocking, you can play a song with any mix of instruments you want and people can jump in and out of songs via Party Play. Everything that Guitar Hero 5 did well, Band Hero does just as well. So why choose Band Hero over Guitar Hero 5?

Well, first of all I play all my music games with my girlfriend, I play guitar while she sings and the Guitar Hero route of more and more obscure rock songs was a huge turn-off for her. Even when playing with my other hardened rock lovers we found it increasingly difficult to include any sort of singing accompaniment – in fact Guitar Hero 5 remains ‘unsung’ for all but a handful of songs. So the inclusion of more pop-orientated, and better still, more vocal friendly acts means Band Hero already has the edge over the rest of the “Hero” family.

Having previously played Guitar Hero: World Tour, Guitar Hero 5, Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, Rock Band and Rock Band 2 on both the Wii and PS3, and the previous-gen entries on the PS2, you’d think I’d be music-gamed out, but no… Whilst I still love the genre, it takes more to impress me these days when it comes to new entries in any of the franchises. So what about Band Hero? Does it have what it takes to impress. Yes, and then some.

For me the Wii version(s) of all the music game franchises have been second-tier to their more powerful counterparts, but in Band Hero Activision have managed to surpass all my expectations. Graphically the change in appearance has done wonders for Band Hero – the old Guitar Hero graphics haven’t changed much since the days of the PS2 and were really looking stale, but the more colourful ‘poppier’ graphics in Band Hero are refreshing and look a lot more crisper and cleaner, with (so far) the best graphics in any Wii music game. Playability-wise it’s the same improvement. I use my Guitar Hero: World Tour controller on the Wii and it has never felt as responsive with any game as it does with Band Hero.

Guitar Hero has always been seen as the more difficult of the music games – I know many people who play GH titles on medium who will then play Rock Band on Hard, this difficulty level still applies with Band Hero on guitar (I didn’t get a chance to try out the drums), however where the game has changed is in the singing. Band Hero has moved away from the ‘pitch-perfect’ style of singing to a more karaoke-based challenge. Which, whilst making the game easier, does take away some of the difficulty for the more experienced player. However as Band Hero is clearly marketed at a younger audience this can be forgiven somewhat.

One aspect of the Wii version of Band Hero I have yet to try is the Nintendo DS connectivity. Throughout my time spent on the game I unlocked a number of “fan requests” – there are 50 such requests in the game, each one opening up a task to complete on the DS. These tasks challenge players in a myriad of ways. Complete all the tasks and you’ll unlock new items for your rockers as well as adding more fans to your fan base. You can also participate in Roadie Battles on the DS. This is where a guitarist faces off against another guitarist on the TV and each has a “roadie” playing on a DS. The roadies have to tap their screens to run around backstage and sabotage the opposing guitarist while also fixing their own shredder’s equipment – much like an extension of the song battles in the DS versions of Guitar Hero.

The major addition to Band Hero, with regards to Wii/DS connectivity is DS Party Play. Here, whilst people are playing the game in party mode on the TV, you can use the DS to set the playlist and keep the party moving. If you’ve got the DS communicating with the Wii, you can look through your library of tracks, choose which ones you want on the setlist, and drag and drop the tunes into the order you desire!

With Band Hero, Activision have finally accomplished the impossible and made a Wii version that surpasses its PS3/Xbox360 counterparts. The game plays as solidly on the Wii as it does on the other consoles, which in my experience is a first, AND you get the bonus of the DS connectivity which adds a whole new aspect to the “Hero” franchise. Activision have set the bar high for Wii music games with Band Hero, it will take something special to top this. ****½ (4.5/5)

KAMEN RIDER: DRAGON KNIGHT (WII)

Kamen Rider Dragon Knight for the Wii is based on the new TheCW4Kids live action TV series of the same name from producer Steve Wang (The Guyver: Dark Hero), which in turn is based on the Japanese series Kamen Rider: Ryuki. The game is a 3D fighter/puzzle game in which players are able to play as all 13 Kamen Riders, each with their own unique Advent Cards and special abilities in multiple game modes allowing the players to battle head-to-head or fight legions of enemies as they explore Ventara and stop the evil General Xaviax.

The Wii version of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is based on the Japanese-only PS2/Wii title Kamen Rider: Climax Heroes due out this month. The game has been skinned to feature only those characters seen in the US version of the series and therefore is without the full range of Kamen Rider characters available in those games.

Let me start off by saying that being a huge fan of the Japanese Kamen Rider series I always wished I had a Jap-compatible PS2 so that I could play the myriad of Kamen Rider games available in that country. If this is the standard of games that were produced I’m glad I didn’t… I had such hopes for Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, I thought we might get a real Kamen Rider experience – I should have known from the D3 logo at the start of the game that I’d be in for disappointment.

The main portion of the videogame is a 3D fighter in the style of all the other 3D fighters you’ve ever played – with scenery looks like it has been pinched from an early entry in the Soul Calibur series, and some of the most sparse graphics I’ve seen in years (think the very early days of the PS2), there’s nothing visually exciting about the game. The graphics are dissapointing enough, but the voice acting and SFX are even worse – sounding hollow, generic and completely unimaginative, by the time you’ve heard your character proclaim “Is that all you’ve got?” for the nth time, you’ll want to punch your TV’s speakers!

There are other aspects to the Kamen Rider Dragon Knight videogame besides the 3D fighter – but not that many. There’s an option in the game to travel to Kamen Rider’s “Mirror World” where you complete a number of tasks to traverse the ‘game board’ to reach the final boss. However the majority of your tasks involvement defeating CPU controlled opponents one-on-one, or running through a 3D enviroment and defeating waves of enemies. So there’s still plenty fighting to do, but sadly this part of the game is just as unimaginative as the rest…

The major downfall of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is that it’s merely a button basher – there are very few combos in the game, and those there are usually involve holding a direction and pressing buttons a set number of times. The controls on the Wii involve usuing the nunchuk control stick to move your character, pressing the C button to call your “Striker” (think backup creature/robot), and switching between A and B for soft attack and hard attack repectively. That’s it. What’s even worse is the fact that one character, Torque, comes with a gun a hard attack – meaning you can stand on the opposite side of the arena floor and shoot your opponent to death without them EVER getting near you.

Using the Torque character means that anyone can complete the game in less than 30 minutes, even on the harder difficulty settings! Meaning that, at least in my opinion, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is a rental choice only – there’s no long term appeal to the game and definitely no re-playability factor, which is a real shame as fans have been clamouring for a Kamen Rider game to be released outside of Japan for years. Kamen Rider Dragon Knight will sadly disappoint just about everyone… * (1/5)

KLONOA (WII)

Klonoa, or Klonoa of the Wind: Door to Phantomile to give the game its full title, is a video game developed and published by Namco Bandai and is a Wii remake of the original 1997 PlayStation game of the same name.

I had originally played the PlayStation version many moons ago, but it wasn’t until I recently watched a episode of TRS (Totally Rad Show) and saw this game one of their ads for Gamefly, that I realised it was available for the Wii. As a massive fan of the game I immediately shot out to buy it and discovered to my joy that yes, Klonoa is still as brilliant as I remembered.

Klonoa is a side-scrolling quasi-3D game, divided into levels called “Visions”. You must traverse the level, battling enemies and solving puzzles to eventually reach the big boss at the end of each world, who you must defeat to be able to continue the game and travel to the next world on your quest to stop Ghadius, The King of Darkness. In order to defeat the boss Klonoa must use his weapon, the Wind Bullet – a ring that fires a burst of wind using the source of power from Huepow. If the wind hits an enemy, Klonoa lifts the enemy above his head which can then either be thrown into another enemy to defeat them, or to do a double jump to reach inaccessible places and objects. The aim of the game is to complete the worlds, defeat the bosses and rescue the songstress Lephise from Ghadius who wants his revenge on Phantomile and turn it into a world of nightmares.

Characters

  • Klonoa – (our hero) is young and good hearted kid and willing to go up against the odds.
  • Huepow – A small round sprite that Klonoa found within the ring. He instantly became Klonoa’s friend. Closer to the end he reveals that he is a prince.
  • Ghadius – The King of Darkness and the villian. He was sealed away, but escaped from this seal in order to get his revenge on those who locked him away.
  • Joker – and is a loyal servant (who looks like a Clown with no arms or legs but floating hands and feet) to Ghadius. He ends up being destroyed by the end of his boss fight
  • Grandpa – He is an old man that helps Klonoa and Huepow, but ends up being killed by Joker. At the end of the game, he discovers that his Grandpa was just a stranger pretending to be his relative, as Klonoa’s life on Phantomille and all of his memories were just a lie, fabricated by Huepow as a part of a big plot to save Phantomille from the Nightmare.

Overall this game is fun and enjoyable, if a little easy. My only gripe is the controls – there are some occassions where the analog stick on the Wii nunchuk tended to ‘oversteer’ the character, but its a small gripe in what is a great game. With a fantastic story and superb colourful graphics that make the most of the Wii’s capabilities, Klonoa isn’t going to be much of challenge to hardened gamers, but for younger gamers and fans of platformers it passes the time nicely.

TRANSORMERS: CYBERTRON ADVENTURES (WII)

Transformers: Cybertron Adventures brings the classic robot franchise to the Nintendo Wii with a unique game set in the same prequel universe as Transformers: War For Cybertron – however unlike that game, Next Level have crafted Cybertron Adventures into an on-rails shooter that plays to the strengths of the Wii and offers a Transformers experience like no other.

With Transformers: Cybertron Adventures Next Level/Activision have thrown out the Gears of War inspired game that was Transformers: War For Cybertron, instead bringing players a shooter that is set towards the end of the story found in it’s high-def big brother. The game is split into two campaigns – Autobot and Decepticon – both of which follow the same format: drive (or fly) to a location, fight a battle in typical Wii shooter style, then move on to the next fight.

Graphically the game isn’t going to blow anyone away, even for a Wii game the graphics are below-par. It doesn’t help graphics-wise that both Cybertron Adventures and War For Cybertron go for a murky, gritty feel – when translated to the Wii the graphics suffer because of said murkiness, looking low-res even for the Wii. Thank god then that the game is bolstered by some great voiceover work! But it’s the gameplay that makes Transformers: Cybertron Adventures. Split into three distinct sections the game is heavily influenced by those games that came before it. The driving portions of the game feels like the classic SNES racer F-Zero, and the flying section like the N64′s StarFox.

However the main crux of the game is the Time Crisis inspired shooter – I played through Transformers: Cybertron Adventures in Autobot mode in which you control (for the majority) Bumblebee, who is equipped with four different weapons to choose from: missiles, Gatling gun, sniper rifle and blaster. Thankfully unlike some modern on-rail shooters you can hide behind cover at any time during a battle. Being in cover mode does two things – it enables you to reload your weapon in safety (yes you do have to reload in the heat of a gunfight) and it also allows you to recover (to some extent) from any injury and damage. I’m a HUGE fan of sniper rifles in games so I was like a pig in the mud when it came to Cybertron Adventures, even if the sniper controls were frustrating at times. Frustrating in as far as the game insists you target the enemy before zooming in, if not you CANNOT move the camera in zoomed mode! An odd choice, but one that you do get used to eventually…

Transformers: Cybertron Adventures isn’t going to win any awards, however it is a solid game that will please fans of the franchise and fans of on-rails shooters.

WE SING ENCORE (WII)

We Sing Encore is the latest entry in Nordic Games’ Nintendo Wii music series. Taking off from where the original 2009 left off, the game features 40 new songs spanning four decades of pop music, offering something for all players no matter what the age.

The game itself has been overhauled, with the addition of a rewards/acheievement system for both single-player and multiplayer – with competitive or co-operative achievements for that particular style of gaming. The game also now include the defacto ‘star notes’ scoring system that is prevalent in many other brands of music video game. We Sing Encore also features a karaoke mode, which removes the scoring mechanism to allow for more of a party atmosphere; as well as a rather cool jukebox mode which allows you to arrange and play the videos on the disc as if it was your own music channel.

I absolutely LOVE music games – Singstar, Rock Band, Guitar Hero… You name it I’ve played it. However my experiences of music games on the Wii have been varied at best, some – like Band Hero – are a joy to play, whilst others… not so much. We Sing Encore falls definitely into the former category. It’s superb.

Gameplay-wise, the game is nothing we haven’t seen before in a myriad other music games, in fact We Sing Encore is remarkably similar to the PS2 iteration of Singstar, but whilst it may look like Singstar it doesn’t feel like Singstar – if feels a lot more difficult. And that’s the one thing you really notice about We Sing Encore, it’s bloody hard to hit the correct mix of pitch and rhythm! Don’t get me wrong, stick on a REALLY familiar song like Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and I’m nearly note perfect on Easy, but anything you need to concetrate on lyrically… let’s just say it gets a little trickier. It’s not like the makers of We Sing Encore have tried to make it easy for gamers – the game apparently features an anticheat system that prevents you from humming or tapping your way through a song. That’s the more difficult songs scuppered then!

For me We Sing Encore brings back everything that made the Singstar games great – buckets of fun, and a cracking mix of tunes. What more could you want from a music game? If you own a Wii, you should own We Sing Encore.

FINAL FANTASY: THE 4 HEROES OF LIGHT (NDS)

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is the latest Final Fantasy game for the Nintendo DS by the team behind the DS versions of Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV and follows the story of four young heroes embarking on an grand adventure filled with dragons, kings, princesses and witches.

In the small kingdom of Horne, Brandt awakes on the morning of his fourteenth birthday. Today is the day he becomes an adult, and the custom of the realm says that he must go to the castle to present himself to the king. Yet when he arrives at the castle he finds the kind distraught and the youngest princess missing, abducted by the Witch of the North. With no one else to turn to, the king makes a shocking request: will Brandt save the princess? And thus Brandt’s adventure begins…

Eventually he is joined by three other brave young souls. Together they will experience a journey full of joyous meetings and sad partings. Though at first they don’t always see eye-to-eye, these four Heroes of Light will build bonds of trust and affection so strong that, in the end, they may even save the world. This is the tale of their legendary fantasy.

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light sees Square Enix return the Final Fantasy franchise to it’s more traditional RPG roots, however whether it’s a limitation of the Nintendo DS’s graphics or poor quality control at Square Enix, the game doesn’t look quite finished and in my opinion doesn’t live up to the name of the Final Fantasy franchise.

The character design seems a little ‘off’ when compared to the rest of the franchise and graphically it looks very flat, and that’s despite art direction from the acclaimed Akihiko Yoshida. The biggest frustration I had with Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is the world map – the land, town and map are curved so when you walk the background disappears over the horizon causing you to see very little of your surroundings,making the game seem smaller than it is. Maybe if this game was in 2D it might have made a big difference.

Like many Final Fantasy games, the difficulty level is ridiculous – you can actually walk into battles as a level one character and face opponents that should never ever be fought by a newbie! It’s one of the games major flaws and one that could turn off the more casual RPG gamer. On the plus side, the game features a simple touchscreen interface offering easy access to the game’s extensive arsenal of physical, magical and summoning abilities, as well as a great multiplayer co-op mode via DS Wireless Play.

Approaching Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light after playing the latest entry in Square Enix’s other tentpole RPG franchise, Dragon Quest, left me really not impressed. Dragon Quest IX is light years ahead of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light in every way – graphics, story, playability, you name it – in fact you should consider the two games at polar opposites on the quality scale… And I know which franchise I prefer.

PROFESSOR LAYTON & THE LOST FUTURE (NDS)

This is the third game in the Professor Layton series, and like previous games Professor Layton and the Lost Future is a lenghty title – it took me 17 hours and 32 mins to complete the 168 baffling brainteasers and story!

The story begins when the Professor receives a mysterious letter written by his side-kick Luke…. but sent from 10 years in the future! This ‘future’ Luke warns of a terrible calamity that has befallen London and he urgently needs the Professor’s help. Earlier that week, the British Prime Minster disappeared after taking part in a special test on a time machine, which resulted in an explosion. Could this incident be related? Only you can unravel the clues to solve this intriguing mystery.

You would think by now that Level5 and Nintendo might have ran out of ideas of what to do with Professor Layton, Luke and the team, but you would be wrong! I actually found myself enjoying this game more than I enjoyed the previous two… with that being said, the question is why did I enjoy it so much? Well, just when you thought the story couldnt get more wacky, it did – with brilliant twists involving Professor Layton and his team as they save the future of London from a terrible fate, and also seeing people you wouldnt expect joining together as a group

Professor Layton and the Lost Future is a brand new adventure, packed full of mysterious twists and turns with more than 165 new riddles, brain teasers and logic puzzles await you in the most epic and atmospheric instalment yet. In this game we get to see more of Professor Layton’s past and why he is the perfect gentleman, even though Professor Layton is trying to rescue the future! All the while solving the usually complex and complicated puzzles along the way, and whether you’re a seasoned Layton gamer or new to these games, there is something to engage and delight gamers of all ages.

I simply cannot wait to see what Level5 has in store for us in the next Professor Layton title, and even though the game has already been released, Professor Layton and the Lost Future is the perfect Christmas present…

DEF JAM RAPSTAR (WII) vs. KARAOKE REVOLUTION:GLEE (WII)

Music and rhythym games are all the rage right now, from Rock Band to Singstar, from Lips to DJ Hero, the games keep coming and the public keeps buying them. Two of the latest such games to hit the Nintendo Wii recently are Def Jam Rapstar and Karaoke Revolution: Glee, so we thought we take a look at these two new releases and give them the head-to-head treatment.

The Songs
Where better to start than with the songs? Key to any good music game is the songs – a bad choice of songs can put gamers off your title faster than bad graphics or a clunkly control system. Straight out of the gate, Karaoke Revolution: Glee is the hands down winner in this category, the game has a huge range of songs featuring all the tunes and mash-ups from season one of the show to sing from the outset – in solo, co-op and duet modes. In comparison, Def Jam Rapstar presents you with six songs to sing, and you HAVE to sing a selection of those to progress and unlock further songs – yes this does up the “game” aspect of the title, but when over half of the first set of songs were less well known rap songs it’s an instant turn-off for casual gamers (and casual rap fans). I don’t think it’s applicable to the US release of Rapstar, but what the hell is with putting GERMAN rap songs in the game? If I want to sing/rap in German I’ll stick to Falco’s Amadeus! WINNER: Karaoke Revolution: Glee

The Graphics
OK, OK, yes this IS the Nintendo Wii, so graphics aren’t the high point. However with singing games there is no need for fancy graphics – just give gamers the original video with a good graphical overlay with clear lyrics and we’ll be happy. So why oh why does Def Jam Rapstar NOT do this? The game should have the advantage, given that the Def Jam label featured some of the greatest rap videos in history. However despite some great videos – from Ice Cube, Run DMC, Public Enemy et al., the presentation of the videos let’s them down. Firstly it crams the video into the centre of the screen with the lyrics etc. running below it. Secondly, the videos are all ridiculously low-res – poor quality could be forgiven, but you can terll these videos have been over-compressed with too many atrefacts for my liking. Finally, why is everything crammed in the centre of the screen? Do the makers of Rapstar think we’re all still using 4:3 TV’s? Meanwhile Karaoke Revolution: Glee favours a full screen video presentation, with clear lyrics and note bars. The only issue I had whilst playing the game was in the “shooting stars” portion of the title – when playing this section the screen fills with stars (obviously) which can lead to poor visibility of both lyrics and notes, but it’s a minor quibble, and the shooting stars section is only a small portion of the game so it won’t detract from your enjoyment of Karaoke Revolution: Glee. Plus, having the advantage of taking the videos from the series – which is filmed in High Definition – means that they’re crisp, clean and best of all… in full widescreen. WINNER: Karaoke Revolution: Glee

Conclusion
With its rich history of music Def Jam Rapstar should have been the clear winner, however the game is let down by poor presentation and an odd song choice, and whilst the song catalogue of Karaoke Revolution: Glee is much smaller, I found there’s a lot more fun to be had in belting out the hits of Glee, than rapping my way to video game “stardom.”

POKEMON RANGER: GUARDIAN SIGNS (NDS)

Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs is the third Pokemon Ranger game and it is pretty much the same as the previous two – you are a Pokémon Ranger tasked with protecting the local people and wild Pokemon and you have to capture Pokemon to help with quests and storyline but this time once a Pokemon has befriended you, you can draw a sign and request a select few Pokemon to join you and this includes legendary Pokemon.

Graphically the game looks like the rest of the Nintendo DS range of Pokemon games (both regular and Ranger), and there’s been no dramatic improvements in gameplay. The only reason to play Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs is for the new storyline, the Ranger games don’t even have any new Pokemon to shout about either! For the more experienced Pokemon (Ranger) gamer this is also a very short game – I finished it quite quickly, in fact a lot faster than even I expected.

If you’re looking for an Pokemon adventure and won’t get bored drawing circles over and over, you might want to try Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs. But if you’ve played the previous versions and hated them, this is more of the same and isn’t the game for you. Until next time… when I’ll review Pokemon Black and White.

EPIC MICKEY (WII)

Disney’s beloved corporate mascot Mickey Mouse finally gets a next-gen video game all of his own with Disney Epic Mickey. Mickey, who was the lead in what are now considered two classic 16-bit console games – Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion – back in the SNES and Megadrive heyday, finally gets to cut loose in a new Wii game that sees Mickey cross the entire of Disney’s historical landscape with a little help from legendary game producer Warren Spector!

In Disney Epic Mickey [you] guide our hero Mickey Mouse through the whimsical Wasteland, home of past Disney cartoon characters and attractions. Using the magical abilities of paint and thinner, Mickey runs and jumps across a vibrant landscape. This imaginary theme park has been pieced together from sketches of never-created attractions, vintage rides and inventive animatronics, and populated by characters that have been forgotten by time. Battling the minions of the villainous Mad Doctor and an ominous new version of Disney comic book nemesis, the Phantom Blot, Mickey eventually meets and confronts his somewhat resentful “half-brother” – Walt Disney’s first cartoon star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Boot up Disney Epic Mickey and you’ll notice something rather interesting – the game doesn’t look anything like a “typical” Disney video game. This is the antithesis of a Disney game – dark and twisted rather than light and fluffy! Strangely, while a lot has been made of the games historical aspect, this isn’t entirely a new thing – Mickey’s Wild Adventure on the PSOne took a similar stance, with Mickey travelling back in time through his old cartoons, including Steamboat Willie, Mickey and the Beanstalk and Prince and the Pauper, in a manner very similar to this game, only here there’s a lot more reverance for the history and tradition of the ENTIRE of Disney, rather than just Mickey himself.

Combining 2D and 3D platforming traditions, Disney Epic Mickey certainly lives up to its title – the game is epic, in fact possibly too epic… I found myself playing the game for hours before I even got to the core of the games at Mean Street (which is a more stylised, darker version of Walt Disney World’s Main Street). Those same early hours of gameplay were also punctuated by an over abundance of “hints and tips”, I could understand such intrusions in a kid’s game, but Disney Epic Mickey was never marketed as such, and really doesn’t feel like one either. However make it as far as Mean Street and the world (in the case the Wasteland) is your oyster, and there’s some superb, if a little simple, RPG elements added to the game in the form of quests. It’s also here in Mean Street where the paint and thinner aspect of the game ceases to be all about platforming and more about exploration, really opening up the true possibilites of the game.

Disney Epic Mickey does have some serious flaws – the camera system can be very frustrating at times, leading to problems in actually traversing the platforms and I did have some issues with the paint and erase system too – it’s sometimes not clear where you can erase, or paint on, portions of the surroundings, leading to a lot of trial and error, which too can get repetitive. Then there’s the whole Wii control system itself… Yes it works great for the “point and shoot” aspect of the paint and thinner portions of the game, but the Wii-mote is not the best when it comes to precise movement – of which the same sometimes demands. Just be prepared to fall off platforms on numerous occassions!

Despite the games issues, there’s still a lot of fun to be had playing Disney Epic Mickey, especially for the older gamer who has more of an affinity for Disney of old, and fans of Mickey Mouse of course… It’s just a shame that developers Junction Point have since been closed down – I’m sure that any issues could have been ironed out in a sequel.

KINGDOM HEARTS RE:CODED (NDS)

Jiminy Cricket is looking over the journal he used to document his first adventure with Sora when he discovers a mysterious message. He didn’t write it – so how did it get there? King Mickey is determined to find out, so he and his friends decide to digitise the journal and delve into its deepest secrets. Inside this “datascape” dwells a second Sora who is about to embark on a grand adventure of his very own.

Set after the conclusion of KINGDOM HEARTS II, KINGDOM HEARTS Re:coded offers an exciting new adventure as you revisit events and characters from the previous KINGDOM HEARTS games in order to solve the mystery discovered by Jiminy Cricket. With new game mechanics, a variety of different play systems and a custom avatar system, KINGDOM HEARTS Re:coded looks set to be another colourful and fun-filled KINGDOM HEARTS adventure.

If you’re a fan of Disney and a fan of Final Fantasy, then you should be a fan of Kingdom Hearts. If you aren’t then shame on you… I hadn’t played a Kingdom Hearts game on the DS until now (you can read my review of the PSP Kingdom Hearts game here) and I can’t wait for the next one to be released, although it did only take over 45 hours to fully complete – for comparison I’m currently at 110 hours gameplay on Pokemon Black.

In Kingdom Hearts: Re:Coded you play as a digital version of Sora and guide him as he battles, slashes and explores his way around Disney themed worlds such as Wonderland where he meets Alice, Agrabah where he meets Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie, and Olympus where he meets (my favourite) Hercules and Hades, on his journey through the mysteriously corrupted pages of Jiminy Cricket’s journal. Destroying the glitches and bugs that hide inside each world (well not really, you can’t miss the bug-gers).

During the story Sora has to complete quests (which get harder depending on exp) and gain experience as he goes. As you play you gain chips to build your circuit board and boost your abilities, create and improve your spells, and collect different Keyblades after you defeat a boss. Once you have been to all the worlds the story seems to take a twist and you have replay the levels but in a different style. Then you have the option to fully complete the game and re-enter the worlds to find the hidden back doors where there are more quests and more prizes to be found and won.

The graphics are brilliant compared to some Nintendo DS games, the only real downsides are that the character’s don’t speak (unless it is a cut scene) so you have to make do with speech bubbles, and the lack of stylus as this game is more button based. Kingdom Hearts: Re:Coded is definitely a must-buy for fans of Disney, Final Fantasy and anyone who’s an RPG gamer.

LEGO NINJAGO (NDS)

Released by Warner Bros. Interactive, produced by critically acclaimed TT Games and developed by Hellbent Games, LEGO Ninjago: The Videogame allows players to become a master of Spinjitzu, an art form in which characters spin and become tornadoes to defeat their enemies, as they restore harmony to the world. The game complements the line-up of LEGO Ninjago products which are currently flying off toy store shelves as we speak.

Before I get on with this review I have a confession to make – I’m a huge fan of ninja’s… and LEGO. So imagine how freakin’ excited I was when I first heard about LEGO’s Ninjago range. But when I heard that a video game of the new LEGO line was going to be released on the Nintendo DS? Well I was like a kid in a candy shop!

Now, a little background for the uninitiated: LEGO Ninjago is a range of mini-figures-come-game that sees a group of multi-coloured Ninjas take on an army of evil skeleton warriors using the power of Spinjitzu – in reality the figures/game feature battle cards ala Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh etc and spinners on which to place the mini-figures. Taking this fight into the video game realm, LEGO Ninjago: The Videogame is, in essence, a sequel to the LEGO Battles game released in 2009, only this time adding an element of the tradition LEGO gameplay, as seen in Lego Batman etc., to Battles’ real-time strategy gameplay.

LEGO Ninjago: The Videogame features two fairly large campaigns and a robust single and multiplayer skirmish mode and for the less demanding RTS fans out there it’s a perfect pick-up and play title. The campaigns consist of the Ninjago Campaign, which sees Sensei Wu collecting the warriors of Spinjitzu to protect the mystical Ninjago weapons; and the Skeleton Campaign, in which you help the Skulkin army revive Lord Garmadon and try and snatch the Ninjago weapons from Sensei Wu and co. Each campaign contains four acts, across several chapters,and like the more traditional LEGO video games, you’ll get to unlock several extras and bonus features by collecting parts and blocks as you progress.

Where this game differs from its big brother counterparts are the graphics. Developers Hellbent Games look to have taken the easy route when it comes to the visuals. In fact I’d say the game is almost retro in its stylings – blocky characters, over-abundance of in-game “fog” to cover unexplored areas of the game – perhaps saving having to render graphics? Who knows? The control system is decidedly retro too, with a real “Gameboy” feel to proceedings. By that I mean you spend more time using the buttons and d-pad during the game than using the stylus!

Despite the games problems, LEGO Ninjago: The Videogame is still a fun entry into the LEGO franchise. Younger gamers and perhaps the more diehard LEGO fans like myself will find plenty to enjoy, plus with two long campaign modes, and single and multiplayer skirmish modes the game is great value for money too!

HORRID HENRY: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BUGLY (3DS)

Written by Francesca Simon, the Horrid Henry series follows the adventures of Henry, a rambunctious trouble-making boy and his goody-two-shoes brother Peter. Originally a series of books, it’s been turned into a TV series, a film and now it’s very own Nintendo 3DS game with Horrid Henry: The Good, the Bad and the Bugly.

This isn’t my first experience with a Horrid Henry game, the first being an iPad app I reviewed a while ago. This time round we’re treated to a platform adventure in the style of Mario featuring three different worlds to explore as Horrid Henry sets out on his quest to retrieve Bunny, his brother Peter’s toy rabbit, by solving puzzles and defeating bosses with his goo gun and its four types of goo.

The platforming aspect of Horrid Henry: The Good, the Bad and the Bugly feels very different to the aforementioned Mario – the difficulty level is incredibly easy for one, and the jumping is less jump and more float. Then of course there’s the more simple differences like replacing coins with chocolate chip cookies (or hobblers as they’re called here)…

Less garish than its iPad app predecessor, this 3DS game is instead a more sedate affair – it’s also not as good-looking graphically, with our hero Henry rendered in a particular pixelated and incredibly tiny fashion. Of course the tiny size of the character allows for a greater scale to the levels, but at the same time it seems like a wasted opportunity: why spend the money on licensing a character for a game then render said character too small to even make out?

The 3D works for the most part, there is the odd occasion where the 3D seems to go blurry of it own accord (and not when you move the 3Ds out of the sweet spot), but of course Horrid Henry: The Good, the Bad and the Bugly is a kids game and as such will probably please the young gamers out there – if only because they get to play such a beloved childrens character.

PRINCE OF PERSIA (3DS ESHOP)

Prince of Persia is considered a pioneer in the platforming genre and now Ubisoft have unleashed the classic game on Nintendo’s 3DS via the eShop, allowing gamers new and old to venture through sprawling levels, dodging deadly traps and engaging in swordfights, before facing the evil Grand Vizier, in order to rescue the princess.

When I look back at the gaming days of yore, I always remember video games being a lot harder to play and particularly a lot more unforgiving. Now I often put that down to memory, inexperience of youth but – as this re-release of Prince of Persia reveals – that is not the case. Games were a lot bloody harder!

As with all eShop/virtual console releases this is a perfect recreation of the original Gameboy Colour version right down to the classic chiptune theme music and the two-button control. And talk about being hard, you have one hour, yes just one hour, to complete the entire game and rescue the princess – and that includes if and when you die, there’s no stopping that damn. Even the ‘suspend’ feature that lets you create artificial save points in the game keeps to the same time. You have one hour to save the princess, and that’s it. And believe me you’ll need every one of those 3600 seconds…

But despite the seemingly difficult time limit you have to complete the game, the one thing you need to be successful in your quest to rescue the princess is patience. There’s no storming your way through this Prince of Persia, each “level” must be approached with a modicum of control, lest you fall foul of the games many traps. Then there’s the sword fights – seemingly clunky uncontrollable messes at first, once mastered they become a ballet-like in their skill.

It’s a testament to just how good this original Prince of Persia game is that the character and the franchise are still going today and it’s easy to see where that other parkour franchise (I’m talking about Assassin’s Creed) gets its inspiration too.

If you’ve only ever played the modern versions of the game on PS2/PS3 and Xbox/360 then you owe it to yourself to give the original, and still the best, a try. If you remember playing it back in the day, then give it a go again, you won’t be disappointed.

TEKKEN 3D (3DS)

The much-maligned fighting franchise, Tekken, makes it’s 3DS debut with Tekken 3D: Prime Edition – a (very) scaled down version of it’s Playstation 3 big-brother, Tekken 6 – featuring the same character roster and plenty of familiar faces including Yoshimitsu, King and my personal favourite Devil Jin… I say scaled-down, but that only applies to the in-game modes rather than the graphics which are some of the most visually stunning to grace Nintendo’s handheld and makes full use of the 3D which runs at a smooth 60 frames per second.

Sadly compared to it’s handheld forefather, Tekken: Dark Resurrection on the PSP, Tekken 3D is sorely lacking in a number of key areas. For one there’s no story mode, which for someone like myself who enjoys at least a little story with his butt-kicking (if only so that I can hone my skills in story mode before attempting multiplayer modes) is a huge disappointment. There’s also no tutorial for new gamers either, which means its a case of being thrown in at the deep end when it comes to learning moves – but when it can be as easy as repeatedly pounding the light punch button to defeat an opponent, there’s no real need to learn! There is however a “practise” mode alongside the Special Survival and Quick Battle modes for single players.

Quick battle is where I’ve spent most of my time with Tekken 3D. The nearest to story mode, this mode sees you compete in an arcade-style 10-fight gauntlet during which you can increase your rank through promotion matches (you start at 9th Kyu). Special survival mode is very similar, only here you compete – marathon style – against a set number of opponents, from five to one hundred. The most interesting part of the survival mode is those opponents which have to be killed while being juggled or who starts off enraged, otherwise it’s pretty much more of the same.

For some strange reason Namco seem to have crow-barred a Pokemon-style Tekken Card system into the game that allows you to trade collectable cards with others via Streetpass. It’s very much a non-entity as far as I’m concerned – I’m playing Tekken 3D for the fight game experience not to collect and trade cards Pokemon-style.

Don’t get me wrong, I may be pointing out a number of flaws in the game, but at the same time I’m still loving the quick battle mode, working my way up the ranks and trying to keep my win/loss percentage above 80%. As a fight game on the 3DS Tekken 3D is still up there with Dead or Alive Dimensions, it’s just with a little more forethought and tweaking this could have been something great. As it is, this is a quality fighter that manages to capture both the spirit and the graphical finesse of Tekken on a handheld.

Plus the Prime Edition includes a complete film, Tekken: Blood Vengeance as a bonus! What’s not to love about that? Tekken 3D: Prime Edition is out now on Nintendo 3DS.

BIT.TRIP SAGA (3DS) & BIT.TRIP COMPLETE (WII)

Gaijin Games’ Bit.Trip franchise finally makes its official European retail debut with Bit.Trip Saga on Nintendo’s 3DS handheld and Bit.Trip Complete on the Wii. In another first, this is also the first time that the Bit.Trip games have been available in 3D! Released by one of my favourite games companies, Rising Star Games, the Bit.Trip franchise feature retro-styled, Atari 2600-esque graphics, and fantastic chip-tune soundtracks, creating games that seamlessly blend shoot-em-ups, platformers and music games into one awesome experience.

I’ll be honest, I’d had heard of the Bit-Trip games prior to the release of these two titles but had never had the chance to play them. After playing them I kind of wish I still had never had the chance. Why? Because they are some of the most addictive games I’ve played – yes there are games that feel like time-sucks, but this is the first time (since Uncharted 2 in fact) I have literally lost track of time playing a game!

Both releases feature six complete games (all of which were originally released via Nintendo’s WiiWare service): Bit.Trip Beat, Bit.Trip Core, Bit.Trip Void, Bit.Trip Runner, Bit.Trip Fate and Bit.Trip Flux.

Of the six, my personal favourite, and the one I’ve been spending the majority of my time playing, is Bit.Trip Runner, a side-scrolling platformer that sees you jump, slide, kick, block and leap across an increasingly difficult landscape, collecting gold as you go. Collect it all and an extra bonus level is unlocked, which looks and feels just like the classic game Pitfall from the 2600 era. The game is frustrating, annoying, addictive and a whole lot of fun!

Of the rest of the included games, Beat marks the beginning of Commander Video’s epic journey and is obviously inspired by the classic video game Pong as you move the “paddle” at the side of the screen to hit the “beats” (rather than the balls found in Pong); Core is the second installment in Commander Video’s quest and is easily the least of the six, it sees you aim a laser in either north, south, east or west in order to blast beats; Void continues Commander Video’s epic journey in an ultra-minimalistic game that bizarrely is also one of the most fun – you “eat” black beats and must avoid white ones, the only problem? The more beats you absorb the bigger you become, until it’s nigh-impossible to not get hit by a white beat; Fate is the penultimate chapter in the six-part Bit.Trip series and is essentially a shoot-em up set *literally* on rails, which isn’t as easy or as enjoyable as you might think; and finally the series comes full circle with Flux, Commander Video’s final adventure that echoes the original game in another Pong-inspired game.

Of the two releases, Bit.Trip Complete on the Wii offers the most value for money as in addition to the six games it also features a soundtrack CD with 18 chiptune tracks, 120 new gameplay challenges, new difficulty modes, and unlockable audio, video and art galleries. Meanwhile the 3DS edition is sans the extras but does present the games in 3D (although I spent most of my time playing without the 3D switched on).

Whilst the Wii version offers more than it’s handheld counterpart I found myself enjoying Bit.Trip Saga on the Nintendo 3DS a LOT more. The games lend themselves a lot more to the pick-up-and-play aspect of handheld gaming, plus playing with headphones on the 3DS the Bit.Trip games become a truly immersive experience.

WE SING POP! (WII)

Whilst most rhythm game franchises are dying a death, Nordic Games’ flagship We Sing titles keep going from strength to strength. My Wii game collection is virtually bulging at the seems with We Sing games, from the original We Sing to We Sing Encore, We Sing Hits, We Sing Rock and now, We Sing Pop!

This latest edition, as you can probably tell by the title, features a mix of pop songs – this time from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and now, the entire musical gamut is well an truly run. If you’re a fan of cheesy pop there’s something for you, if you like a decent dance tune, then there’s something for you. Ballad? We Sing Pop! has you covered. Wannabe rapper? The game even has a song or two for you too!

Like it’s predecessors, We Sing Pop! supports four players in any Party mode, using four separate microphones. Party mode includes We Sing, Versus, Group Battle, Pass The Mic, First to X, Marathon, Blind and Expert. There’s also Solo mode, which now features Blind and Expert mode for the first time in a We Sing game, and Karaoke mode, which strips the track of vocals to really challenge players, or those that fancy an authentic karaoke experience.

As I always say when reviewing a new We Sing title, nothing much – bar the tracklisting – has changed about the game since the early days but that’s a GOOD thing. You know what you’re getting with a We Sing game – a decent karaoke vocal challenge and heaps of fun with your mates! Unlike some of the other big-name music party games Nordic Games know not to mess with the formula and, better still, know what makes for a good mix of music. For that they have to be commended.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG: TRIPLE TROUBLE (3DS Virtual Console)

While the evil genius Dr. Robotnik is testing the ultimate destructive weapon, one of his assistants makes a mistake, causing his lab to explode and scattering five Chaos Emeralds across the planet Mobius. Sonic and Tails spin-dash to rescue them. Tricky Knuckles streaks right behind, with sticky-fingered Nack the Weasel joining the hunt. It’s a triple-threat race to see who will get the Emeralds first. Loop, blast and super spin-dash through six zones, five bonus rounds and a wild 3-D stage.

Retro-gamers rejoice! Some of SEGA’s greatest 8-bit releases are making their way to the Nintendo 3DS. First up is Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble, the 1994 iteration of the classic blue hedgehog which, until now, was exclusive to the Sega Game Gear. Cue some 18 years later and the spiky speedster is now available via the Virtual Console on Nintendo’s flagship handheld. Has it improved with age? Not really. But it’s still one of the best 8-bit outings for the character…

Whilst the game remains very much the same as it was on the original Game Gear, one thing that has changed is the ability to use either the D-pad or circle pad to control Sonic. Nintendo have also seen fit to give the new Game Gear VC titles options for adjusting the screen size, performance, button settings, and even adding a blur effect. Thankfully the Virtual Console version of Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble comes complete with a restore point – because once you die in this game it’s right back to the beginning with you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>