Tag Archives: Wii

Fantasy Zone II Review

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Not too long ago I finally managed to snatch up a gem. It’s probably no surprise that this is a gem. In fact, if you have a means to play this one, you should probably stop reading, and go buy this right now. It really is all of the good things you’ve heard. It will please Golden Age fans. It will please shmup fans. It will please hardcore SEGA fans. If you dig video games at all, period. You’ll probably dig this game.

PROS: Colorful graphics. Great characters. Wonderful music. Pure joy.

CONS: Very difficult. But don’t let that stop you.

CONTROL STICK: You’ll want to use this (Or a Genesis Arcade Stick) over the stock pad.

Fantasy Zone II is the sequel to Fantasy Zone, a game I have yet to acquire on the mighty Sega Master System. It’s regarded as one of the earliest examples of a cute ’em up. A shoot ’em up where everything is bright, cheery, colorful, and cartoonish in aesthetics. You’ll notice this the second you see the title screen. Your ship, the Opa-Opa is a cute little pod with bird wings on it. Enemies are everything from flowers to flying turtles.

The game is a mixture of both Golden Age arcade shooter conventions, and the side scrolling shooter arcade games that followed. Every level sees you going along a backdrop that continually circles around itself. Basically, you’ll spend a ton of time blasting enemies with your lasers, and bombs. One button shoots the laser guns, the other drops the bombs. So you’ll cycle along the play field killing enemies, and then collecting the money they drop upon their deaths. Before long, you’ll discover some of the larger stationary enemies will open warp doors. These doors will take you to new sub-levels that basically work the same way. Every level has a store hidden within it too. Here you can upgrade your ship with new weapons, and abilities with the money you’ve collected.

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Once you’ve defeated every stationary enemy in the level, the door to the boss room opens up to you. Ideally, you’ll want to enter these encounters fully beefed up with extra power ups, and weapons. Because the boss encounters are where the game gets very challenging, very quickly. That isn’t to say the levels themselves don’t get difficult. They do. In a lot of ways they feel like an even harder version of Defender. Defender is a notoriously difficult arcade game. As every board just throws more, and more at you as you play. Fantasy Zone II, also does this. But on top of that, every enemy has its own attack pattern, and often times you’ll find yourself going after three or four enemy types at the exact same time.

The other major element of difficulty is in the power up system. Many of the upgraded lasers, and other items are timed, or give you a limited number of shots. So if you don’t hurry up, or you waste them on low-level grunts, you won’t have the extra might for the boss encounter. Moreover, if you lose a life, you’ll also lose any powers you purchased from the shop. Which means you’d better spend another ten minutes grinding money out of grunts so you can re-buy those power ups before fighting the boss.

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Here’s the crazy thing though. While all of this sounds like the kind of thing that would make you rip your hair out, and smash your Master System, it won’t. This game is quite honestly one of the hardest games you’ll ever play. Well unless you happen to eat, sleep, and breathe shmups. Then it may not crack your top ten. But for the rest of us, this game can be downright brutal. But it’s also downright compelling. Just like Defender did for so many of us growing up, Fantasy Zone II can be very addicting. Quite frankly, it is one of the most fun games ever. True, you’ll die, over, and over again. But you’ll probably play it fifteen times before giving up, and playing something else. Considering you’ll get better the more you play, that can add up to a couple of hours a session.

And as you improve, you’ll get to see more of the aforementioned boss encounters. Which just seem to add more craziness to the stew with every reveal. You’ll fight a killer space log in the first stage. Later in the game you’ll see the dragon boss from Space Harrier. There’s also a Mega Man styled boss rush for you to contend with at the end.

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As tough as this all sounds, things can be mitigated if you have the right tools for the job. Namely, a better option than the Master System’s stock game pad. I recommend using either a Genesis game pad, the Sega Control stick, or one of the arcade stick controllers that came out for the Genesis. It makes things much easier to play, as the stock pad’s D-pad just doesn’t have the precision required. Beyond control issues with the stock controller, I really don’t have much to complain about. Again, there is a high difficulty on display, but it’s also fair. When you die, you’ll know it was a lack of talent on your part nine times out of ten. It’s very rare, I’ve felt a death was cheap, or a fluke. I don’t think I ever ran into severe slowdown the way I have in some other games on the console either.

One of the other really great things about Fantasy Zone II is the soundtrack. These are some of the addictive chip tunes ever played back on the Sega Master System. If you have a modified console with the FM Sound Unit, or the Japanese Mark III with the FM Sound Unit accessory the soundtrack is even better.

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Fantasy Zone II isn’t the cheapest game you can find for your Master System these days, but it’s worth tracking down a copy. It isn’t anywhere near the cost of something like Power Strike (Aleste). But it’s going to cost you more than something common like Out Run, or After Burner will. If you don’t own a Master System, or a Mark III, or a Power Base Converter for your Genesis, there are alternatives. The game was ported to the Famicom, MSX Computer, and was also re-released on the Wii Virtual Console. If you have a PlayStation 2, there was a remake as part of the Sega Ages line. Sega also updated the game, and released it to the Arcades. Subsequently there is a version based loosely on that version for the 3DS. Fantasy Zone II comes highly recommended.  If you’re building a vintage Sega collection, or you just love old school arcade games this should be on your radar.

Final Score: 9 out of 10.

Ghost Squad Review

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People often remember two things about the Nintendo Wii game library. First, the plethora of great Nintendo games. Everything from the Wii Sports pack in, to Super Mario Galaxy. Second, the walls of shovelware covering the platform section in their local game stores. But astute people know the system was home to a lot of really neat gems. It was also home to the resurgence of on-rails light gun shooting.

PROS: An excellent port on an excellent arcade game.

CONS: Short. Hokey voice acting.

WEAPONS: The variety here is staggering. Provided you replay it a lot

Ghost Squad sticks out in that ocean of light gun games, because of several reasons. First, it’s a port of an underrated arcade machine. Sega’s Ghost Squad feels like an evolutionary step above Vitrua Cop. It has that same twitch game play. Move into an area, stop. Then blast enemies as they appear. It has the same goofy delivery in its voice acting. But it has a distinct charm for that. The shooting requires speed, and accuracy like pretty much all of Sega’s arcade shooters have.

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On the Wii, it’s a pretty close conversion. The graphics are about on par with the cabinet, and everything feels nearly 1:1. That’s also a great thing because most people have never had the opportunity to play Ghost Squad in the arcade. Outside of Dave & Busters, not too many areas have a place where they can go spend an evening with friends plopping quarters into cabinets anymore.

As for the game itself, it’s a great light gun game, that takes a few risks, and innovations few other light gun games have taken. In Ghost Squad, you, and friends take the role of a private military force who are sent in to take out terrorists,  and rescue hostages. The game is only three stages long. But before you throw your hands up, and walk away, there are a lot of variants on those three stages. Upon your first play through you’ll only see them crop up occasionally, as the game gives you an option of which path to take. Depending on your performance of each mission, you can unlock new paths. This gives an otherwise short game, almost as many stages as other games of its ilk.

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Ghost Squad has three difficulty settings, and all of them manage to present a challenge. The game works almost exactly the same as Virtua Cop, in that when an enemy appears you’ll see a ring appear around them. When this happens you only have a brief moment before you’re hit, as this means you’ve been locked on. Harder difficulties make this happen faster, so get in the habit of trying to shoot them before the rings even appear. You can also shoot background items to find secret health power ups, and weapon attachments. But you have to be quick, and balance that between hitting the bad guys in time.

A lot of the game’s branching paths can be really interesting too. There are some that will see you rescuing a lot of hostages. In these the game goes out of its way to make you mistake a hostage for a villain. So you really have to pay attention, as shooting hostages is very punitive. Especially on higher difficulties. Other branching paths let you use cool gadgets like night vision goggles.

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The Wii version also has a few things over the arcade machine. Up to four people can play it together, making it great for parties. There are also a bunch of silly costumes you can unlock, and there are also modes. Paradise mode, that turns the enemies into swimwear clad beach bums, and your weapons are replaced with water guns. As well as Ninja mode, that replaces your bullets with shurikens.

Each time you play through the game you’re given a rating on each stage based on your score, whether or not you completed the objective, and your time. The higher your score the faster you can level up your character for playing through the game again. As you level up the character the game begins giving you extra rewards. Shotguns, SMGs, and other weapons, along with aforementioned costumes. You can also turn off the crosshairs in order to add more challenge to the experience. Doing so also rewards you with a much higher score.

The pointer controls are also perfect for a game like this (part of the reason why the genre saw such an uptick on the Wii), and in the case of Ghost Squad are implemented very well. It still isn’t the same as holding a plastic gun in an arcade, but it does manage to get close to replicating that feeling. It isn’t going to suck up hours at a time the way other games might, but it certainly can scratch an itch for parties, and family gatherings.

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Aside from the game’s short length, and blocky graphics there isn’t much to really complain about here. The branching paths do add some length to mitigate the issue, and the visuals aren’t the most horrible thing you’ll see on the system either. Really, the issues are relatively minor. Though with most of the internet functions shut down these days don’t expect to be able to use the worldwide ranking system.

If you missed out on this game in the past, I highly recommend picking it up now. Especially if you miss the bygone days of things like Operation Wolf, House Of The Dead, Virtua Cop, Lethal Enforcers, or the Terminator 2 Arcade machine. It’s a lot of fun to play, especially with friends, and it can be had ridiculously cheaply these days.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Sin & Punishment Star Successor Review

Treasure revisited their Sin & Punishment property many years after it appeared on the Nintendo 64. Fans would wait an entire console generation to see what would happen after the events of the first game.

PROS: Everything has been greatly improved.

CONS: High difficulty will turn off some. Co-Op feels like an afterthought.

MERCY: Don’t expect very much of it.

Sin & Punishment Star Successor takes place many years after the events of the Nintendo 64 original. Following the exploits of Isa Jo. The offspring of the original game’s protagonists. It turns out that the world of Sin & Punishment is actually a two-pronged multiverse split across two dimensions, Inner Space, and Outer Space. Within them a multitude of Earths. Inner Space is watched over by deities known as the Creators. The Creators seek to keep peace, and balance in the multiverse. They guide the humans of the Earths to defend themselves. A faction from Outer Space sends a spy under the guise of a human to Inner Space. The spy loses her memory however, and becomes infatuated with Isa. When Isa Jo doesn’t kill her, the Creators send an army called the Nebulox to kill the both of them. And so most of the game you will be playing fugitive.

The game is a rail shooter in the vein of the original. Only things are vastly improved here. Off the bat, you’re going to see the stark contrast in the graphics. This should be expected going from the Nintendo 64 to the Nintendo Wii. Gone are the blocky models, replaced with more detailed models. Stage textures, are also a huge step up. And while the Wii didn’t have the tech of its competition, Sin & Punishment Star Succesor, is still a beautiful game. Six years later it still holds up as one of the best looking games published by Nintendo. The game also runs even more smoothly than its predecessor. Almost no slowdown ever occurs, and everything is quite brisk. But the best improvement the game has over its prequel is the pointer control scheme.

The Wii was often criticized for games that poorly implemented gyroscopic movement. But this game makes the case for them, as moving the cursor is almost as great here, as it is on a mouse. The control layout is also able to be reconfigured. By default you move with the nunchuck’s stick, jump with the C button, and perform dodges with the Z button. You can move the cursor with the Wiimote pointer, and fire away with the B button trigger. Double tapping the trigger performs the melee attack that carries over from the original game. If you absolutely cannot stand to use the Wiimote the game does let you use either a Classic Controller or a Gamecube Controller. These work similarly to the Nintendo 64’s control scheme from the first game. But the accuracy is much better using a pointer. If you can get used to it, I highly recommend you go with it, as it makes aiming much easier.

Speaking of easier, the game also has three difficulty settings. There should be no shame in playing on the easiest setting here. As in the original game, Treasure brought a very high level of challenge. Even with unlimited continues, you can expect to spend a long time on the campaign your first time getting through it. Being an arcade experience, it isn’t a long game. Just like the last time around, a good player can clear it in a short period of time. But for those who don’t have the same level of hand, and eye coordination, it will be a big challenge. Even on the easiest setting. The game has plenty of bullet hell moments especially near the end of the game. Fortunately the game has some well thought out checkpoints to make things fair.

For those who seem to master shmups, and rail shooters though, the added difficulty settings should appease you. These greatly increase the enemies’ strength, numbers, and powers. But without falling into the trap of being cheap. It isn’t a case of simply throwing more at you. It’s done in a way that makes you approach things differently than you would on the lower settings. This allows things to feel fresh for those who plan to replay it a lot. The game also lets you play as either Isa Jo, or Kachi, the recon unit sent by Outer Space. If you play as Kachi your charge shot works a little bit differently. If you meet certain conditions during the campaign you’ll unlock the ability to switch between the characters during the campaign rather than choosing to play as one or the other.  There is an incentive for doing this. Because in order to see the game’s true ending you have to complete the game in that specific mode.

The campaign isn’t going to be as long as the typical console outing, but it is also a bit longer than the arcade games it is inspired by. The game has one especially nice thing about it, and that is its use of seamless camera transitions to change the kind of shooter experience on the fly. One moment you’ll feel like you’re playing a Star Fox game, as you’re riding along a Z-axis plane. But something will happen, and the camera will tilt around turning things into an overhead shooter. Or a horizontal one. Or a vertical one. There is always something new happening when you go through it the first time. Still, some might feel a couple of the stages drag on a little bit longer than they should. But in spite of that, the game doesn’t drag to the point of monotony. You’ll be blasting everything in sight most of the game, and yet it rarely feels old. It’s a fun, if fairly difficult ride with as many scenery changes as the original game has.

Another addition here is the inclusion of a two player mode. A second player can control a second cross hair on the screen, and help take down the hordes of enemies. Oddly enough though, the second player cannot play as an actual character. It takes away from the experience as player 2 can’t really have the same level of complexity going on as the first. In the end it feels tackled on, and it’s a shame as a full-fledged cooperative play through would improve an already great game.

Larger than life bosses are back. They once again require a combination of dexterity, and pattern memorization to defeat. Many of them will take several attempts to defeat when you first encounter them. If, and when you get to the game’s final boss you can expect one of the most stressful challenges you’ve ever seen. On the plus side it will force you to use every ability the game has to offer. On the flip side, it isn’t going to be easy. Again, even on the lowest difficulty setting, you’re going to be met with a very hard fight. But the perseverance is going to be worth it. The soundtrack makes a change too. In this game things veer further into Electronica. House, and Techno tunes thump along to the action while you hear some really great sound effects. Lasers, explosions, voice over, and roaring of the beasts complement each scene. This is especially true during the aforementioned boss encounters. All of it leads to a true sense of dread as many of these encounters are with bosses that have seemingly infinite life bars. Blue. Purple. Navy Blue. Green. Yellow. All before you get to critical red. While you’re trying desperately to win these fights you’ll see your life bar is not only a two color run, but the meter is smaller. Memorizing all of the moves at your disposal, and patterns are two of the biggest keys to victory.

Sin & Punishment II, also had an online leaderboard. With the Nintendo Wi-Fi service gone you won’t be able to use it. It doesn’t really impede the fun factor, but it was a nice feature in that speed runners could have an official record of score, and time. Fortunately for those with capture devices this can be done on streaming services, but that isn’t an option for everyone. Still, for most people it wasn’t a big draw upon release, and it shouldn’t impede your enjoyment of playing it. Sadly Sin & Punishment II, didn’t receive the attention or sales it deserved when it came out. It didn’t take long to see it slowly disappear at retail. It’s a shame because, the game is one of the best rail shooters to have ever seen release. It has all of the hallmarks of the genre, and a compelling, if strange storyline to boot.

These days the game can be found fairly reasonably, but don’t be surprised if it eventually follows the trend of Treasure’s other cult games. Someday it could become a hard to find collectible as more, and more fans discover it. If you stumble upon a copy pick it up. It improves on the original in every way, and is also one of the Wii’s best games. Sin & Punishment Star Successor should be in any shmup or rail shooter fan’s collection. It should also be in any Nintendo collector’s library.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Sin & Punishment Review

Treasure. A developer long known for cult favorites, was one of the kings of shmups. Unsung kings. By the time the Super NES, and Genesis came around, everyone knew of heavy hitters. Gradius. R-Type. Raiden. Contra. But Treasure put out many great games that were under the radar at release, but became sought after later. Nowhere was this more true than on the Genesis. Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Headdy, and Alien Soldier went on to be cult classics. Even today they’re popular enough that a loose copy of Gunstar Heroes goes for as much as a newly shrink wrapped release. After the Genesis, Treasure would make games for Saturn, Dreamcast, and even Sega’s rival Nintendo. Sin & Punishment is not only one of the best rail shooters on the Nintendo 64, it’s one of the best you will ever play.

PROS: Fast, smooth game play. High, rewarding challenge.

CONS: Difficulty may turn off some.

MOD: It was a Japanese only release. But it is on the US Wii Shop Channel.

Sin & Punishment never made it outside of Japan. It was released in 2000 at the very end of the Nintendo 64’s lifespan. Though acclaimed, Nintendo never brought it to North America. It was intended to be released here, but due to the Nintendo 64’s decline by that point it wasn’t. If you’re really worried you won’t be able to navigate the game, you shouldn’t fret. You don’t have to know a single word of Japanese. Though you may have to experiment with the main menus to get into the game. Something that takes all of five minutes. Similar to the Super NES, The Nintendo 64 also had different tab placements in the system to prevent games being inserted from other regions. If you don’t mind tinkering with some pliers, you can remove them. This will make your N64 capable of running imported cartridges.

For those unwilling, or unable to mod their console, you can also use a Game shark as a pass through device. Or if you don’t want to go through those steps, and you own a Wii, there’s another option. As of this writing Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel is still around. While you may not be able to play Wii games online, you can still buy them. The Virtual Console section is no exception. So you can skip all of the importing, and modifying should you desire.Be aware though, if you choose to play the game on the Wii (or Wii U in Wii mode), you will need to invest in a classic controller attachment if you haven’t already.

With the lengthy introduction out of the way, I’ll talk about the game. Sin & Punishment takes place in a dystopian future. There is widespread famine, and so new creatures are cultivated for food in Japan. But the creatures mutate into deadlier beings before turning on the populace. A military group called the Armed Volunteers steps in to fight the creatures, as well as another one called the Saviors. The Saviors oppose both the creatures, and the Armed Volunteers. The setup starts out like a standard action movie, but things become more, and more bizarre as you play through the campaign. The three main characters are Aichi, Airan, and Saki. Throughout the game there are in-game cut scenes that give a bit of back story for the characters, and why they’re fighting the Armed Volunteers. Without giving anything away, there is an ulterior plot that is uncovered later. Things do get pretty strange. It isn’t a deep story, but it is an entertaining one for an entertaining game.

As for the game itself, it is an on rails shooter like Star Fox. Through most of the game you’ll be dodging obstacles, and a lot of projectiles while you fire a seemingly endless barrage of fire. There are a wide variety of enemies too. Giant monsters, hundreds of soldiers, ships, tanks, and other vehicles. The best part of all of this is just how brisk, and smooth the game runs. There are only a few moments of any slowdown during a play through. The Bosses are the main attraction in these kinds of games, and Sin & Punishment’s are definitely a big deal. Nearly every stage has a couple of boss fights. Just when you think you’ve conquered a level, you’ll find out you haven’t. Best of all,the game does this without it feeling like padding. In the end it feels like just about the right amount of time. Throughout the game you get to use three main attacks. There is a gun, that has two modes. A free aim mode that does higher damage, and a lock on mode. Locking on is almost like auto-aim in a first person shooter. It makes the game a little bit easier, but it also does a lot less damage to targets. The third attack is a melee attack. If an enemy gets too close, you can double tap the trigger to stab at them.

Environments look pretty nice too when compared to most other games on the Nintendo 64. Textures seem a little bit better quality than in a number of other games, and there are a wider variety of settings. Each stage has its own particular settings, and themes. When you start the game you’re in wheat fields, with tree trunks. Soon you’re in a city. Then under the ocean, a military installation, and even space. While these are almost action game tropes, They’re all done with a unique flair. Some of the special effects are really cool too. There are great uses of colors, and translucent effects.  The main drawback here though is that the models are fairly rudimentary. This was probably to keep the frame rate up to the speed the game play requires. Fortunately the wonderful texture work compensates a lot. It is definitely not an ugly game. Sin & Punishment also has some of the best sound on the console. Voice samples come in pretty clear, explosions, lasers, and pretty much every other sound are great. The music even complements the action very well. It all blends together to make for a great experience.

It isn’t a very long game either. If you’re really good you can beat it in a couple of hours. But rail shooters don’t generally lend themselves to long experiences either. They hearken back to the glory days of arcades, where shorter but more exhilarating experiences prevailed. They are also very difficult which this game certainly is. You can expect to die, and continue many, many times. Even on the easiest setting, you can find yourself running out of continues, and starting all over again. But again, such is the nature of this type of game. The high challenge will make the determined want to keep playing, and the really good trying to beat their time. If the thought of frustration turns you off it might not sound like your cup of tea. But most of the time the game is fair. Most importantly, the game is fun.

Sin & Punishment can certainly sound like an exclusive experience, intended only for fans of the genre. But don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. The strange story, characters, and dialogue are worth seeing, and they’re built upon a really good arcade shooter. Save for a couple of minor nitpicks over models, and a couple of cheap deaths it’s one of the best games in the Nintendo 64 library.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Clay Fighter Tournament Edition Review

Ah, 1991. Capcom had given us the glorious Street Fighter II. A sequel to a ho-hum, tournament fighting game. It created a host of clones, while reinvigorating both fighting games, and arcades. Nearly every fighting game that has followed owes at least something to Street Fighter II. But with every popular idea, there is usually a parody waiting.

PROS: Nice graphics. Decent animation. Good play control. Funny!

CONS: Some of the humor dates itself. Not as fun as Street Fighter II Turbo.

THEME SONG: As iconic as Street Fighter II’s introduction music.

Clay Fighter Tournament Edition isn’t the first Clay Fighter. It’s technically an upgrade of the first game. It works in the vein of a Street Fighter II Turbo. Expanding the content, along with some tweaks. But just like the original vanilla version, it’s a parody of Street Fighter II. It also has a few jabs at Mortal Kombat, although there aren’t any fatalities to speak of. Actually, as you’ll see it mocks the entire fighting game genre.

Clay Fighter TE has its own storyline. It’s silly, and preposterous but gives you a reason as to why these characters exist. As well as why they’re beating up each other. One day a meteor falls from the sky, and completely levels a carnival. When this happens, all of the various performers are mutated into stop motion behemoths. Each of them are stand ins for the archetypes you see in other fighting games.

Bad Mr. Frosty is Clay Fighter’s Ryu. He is a snow man who spreads pain rather than joy. He is the flagship character of the series, appearing in every iteration. There are a host of other favorites like Helga, the opera singer. Taffy, who is made of, well, taffy. Bonker is a psychotic clown character. Because you can’t have a carnival or circus theme without one. But he’s honestly a pretty fun character here. There’s Ickybod Clay, a reference to Sleepy Hollow. There’s Elvis Presley impersonator Blue Suede Goo.  There’s Tiny, who of course is not tiny at all. He’s the game’s Zangief. Rounding it out you have The Blob. Who is quite literally a blob of clay.

The art, and general look of Clay Fighter is awesome. Each character has gone through a painstaking creation process. They were modeled in clay, then animated in stop motion, and then the animated frames were scanned into the game. The finished product looks somewhere between Street Fighter’s airbrushed look, and Mortal Kombat’s digitized actors. It would have been easy for Visual Concepts (Yes. That Visual Concepts) to have slapped some clones together or digitize their own actors. But the extra effort goes a long way here.

Stage backgrounds are also really cool. As with the characters themselves, the stages are mostly clay models that were photographed, and placed in the game. You can tell which parts were drawn in to go along with the photos, which can be a little jarring. But for all intents, and purposes these are some well crafted backgrounds. Moreover, the fighting system in Clay Fighter TE is pretty good. It’s clear the designers knew eventually the jokes would stop being funny. So they had to keep you playing. Rather than do it with more gimmicks, they built a solid game underneath it all. There is definitely enough here to make you fire it up every now, and again.

The fighting system does borrow a lot from Street Fighter II. Most of the characters moves are performed with similar quarter circle movements, or back, and forward charges. As for the regular moves it also borrows Capcom’s 6 button layout. There are weak, medium, and strong attacks for both kicks, and punches. Tournament Edition also takes a page from SFII Turbo by implementing a speed feature. So if you’re used to zany speeds in your fighters there’s something here for you. With that said, the game’s mechanics aren’t quite up to the level of Street Fighter II. The hit boxes around characters are a little bit more forgiving, and some characters have special moves with very similar inputs. Sometimes you might want to have Bad Mr. Frosty throw a snowball fist, only to perform his ice breath instead.

While that is certainly bad news, it isn’t so bad that it takes away from the fun. The moves do work, but you’ll have to learn the specific  differences in their commands. This way you’re consistently doing the special moves you want, instead of accidentally doing the ones you don’t. The game also does let you get in a number of combos, and two in one attacks. While you wouldn’t think a parody game could be competitive, Clay Fighter Tournament Edition actually can be. Even if it isn’t likely to be in a high-profile tournament these days. Those who simply love the fighting game genre should still find some fun in it.

Clay Fighter Tournament Edition has your basic modes. There is the standard arcade mode where you have to beat the roster, then a boss. Strangely, the game will have you re match three characters once you beat the roster. Once you’ve done that, then you can go up against the final boss. The game’s boss is a little bit underwhelming though. It is just a bunch of clay balls animated to make out a face. It can use all of the characters’ various projectile moves. On higher difficulties the boss, and the game in general is a challenge. Often times things veer into cheap territory. But if you want the game’s best endings you’ll want to play the game through on its harder settings.

Beyond the arcade ladder is the standard 1 on 1 Vs. mode. Each player picks a character, the number of rounds needed to win, and their handicap. Aside from that there is also the Tournament ladder. Here you can have up to 8 people play through a bracket to get to the top spot. Handy for the odd time you have a number of people over.

Overall, Clay Fighter TE holds up pretty well. It has a goofy charm to its silliness. The fighting system is pretty good, and it is still fun to play. It might not be able to captivate you very long in today’s crowded crop of excellent fighters. But it is a fun diversion. Plus its still miles ahead of the mediocre fighters we’ve seen over the last 20 years. If you find a copy in your area pick it up. If you have a Wii, the original is also on the Shop Channel.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

 

TTX Tech Classic Controller for Wii & Wii U Review

With the fourth Super Smash Bros. having been out on the Wii U for a few months now, many are starting to look at controller options. Of course when  you want to invite company over for those 8 player match ups you’ll need to have enough controllers to go around. Obviously the most popular set up among the most devoted fans involves two of Nintendo’s Gamecube controller hubs, and eight Gamecube controllers. But considering the rarity of the hubs, that can get pretty difficult to pull off. If you’re frugal you may want to repurpose your original Wii accessories instead.

But what if you don’t have quite enough game pads for your Wii motes, and want some new alternatives? Ever since Atari was king of the console hill there have been third-party controllers. In almost every case they’ve been barely passable options when compared with the first-party originals. But they usually seem to do just well enough to continue seeing releases. Yet every so often one comes along that is pretty close to the performance of an original controller. Today’s contender is the TTX Tech Classic Controller.

PROS: Similar form factor to the Nintendo Classic Controller with some innovations.

CONS: The altered textures on the thumb sticks take some getting used to.

LIES: Contrary to what the box tells you, it does not plug directly into the console.

The TTX Tech Classic Controller is one of the better non Nintendo branded controllers you can pick up.  For the most part it works on par with the Nintendo Classic Controller. It has the same layout as that controller, so all of the buttons will be as easy to get to as the first party option. There are also a few minor improvements to boot.  The Z buttons on the top of the controller between the L, and R buttons have a nicer click to them.  They feel more mechanical. It becomes clearer that you’ve fully pressed them down, than on Nintendo’s own controller. The L, and R buttons also have a very minor change in sculpt that some might find a little more comfortable.

Comfort is king, and that’s where this peripheral tries to make an improvement. By adding rubberized grips. To be honest, this doesn’t really do much to improve grip or comfort to the experience. It doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, but it doesn’t really feel necessary. Nintendo’s controller is already pretty comfortable, so it feels like a case of trying to solve a problem that isn’t there. Nevertheless, there are probably some who might prefer the rubberized grips during long marathon sessions.

The controller is also surprisingly durable. So often peripheral makers will cut corners by using brittle plastics that easily crack on impact. If a sore loser shows up at your gaming shindig, they may end up in pieces after a string of losses. That isn’t to say that TTX Tech’s offering will survive that kind of onslaught. But if you drop the controller, or really clamp down on one of the buttons during game play, it probably won’t break. The quality of the plastics aren’t going to be quite as good as what Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony demand the contracted factories produce for themselves. But it also isn’t flimsy stuff. There’s still a nice heft to the controller, while being light enough to retain a comfortable feel. It also has some added flex to the wiring going into the controller to prevent kinks or breaks inside the cable. Overall the construction here is pretty nice compared with other controllers.

 

On the face of the controller are the X, B, Y, A buttons,  +, -, Home buttons along with the D pad, and two thumb sticks. All of them work as you’d expect them to, performing the way they’re supposed to. The one change that sticks out here is the difference in the texture on the thumb sticks. The rubber is a heavier, thicker style. They also have a much different feel than Nintendo’s offering. The end result is that while the response time is almost identical, it might take you some getting used to. Especially if you’re already used to using the Nintendo Classic Controller.

I put the controller through the paces in Super Smash Bros Wii U. I was able to play the game with this pad just as well as I could while using Nintendo’s own pad. Even advanced techniques like combos, and pivoting were achievable using it. The different feel of the thumb sticks, again, did take some getting used to.  But for anyone other than the absolutely most unwavering enthusiast, it is a pretty good option for Smash.

 

Other games ran perfectly fine with it as well. I had no problems playing Punch-Out!!, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, or Metal Gear Slug Collection in Wii Mode at all. Tekken Tag Tournament 2,  Mario Kart 8, and  Super Mario 3D World seemed perfectly playable with it too. Even classic ROMs from the Nintendo Eshop ran fine. Mega Man, Donkey Kong, and Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts gave me no trouble. The controller had no serious signs of input lag. Nothing seemed odd or unresponsive. Certainly not enough to affect my experience playing games with it.

 

To sum everything up, the TTX Tech version of the Classic Controller is a pretty competitive facsimile. It’s on par with Nintendo’s product in almost every way imaginable. If I had any complaints with it, it would have to be the different feel of the thumb sticks, and the needless addition of rubberized grips. There aren’t any functional problems with the controller. If you’re looking for an alternative to Nintendo’s first party offerings that isn’t going to give a detrimental experience, give this one a spin. Ultimately, Nintendo’s controllers are still going to be the preferred options. But if you need to save money, or simply want to try something else, the TTX Tech Classic Controller might be what you’re looking for.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Reposted Review: Action Girlz Racing

 

(I originally wrote this for the now defunct Retro Retreat in 2012. It’s been updated.)

It’s been suggested that there are certain pieces of pop culture that are so horrible they’ve actually had a hand in creating the angry review shows we’ve come to know, and love.  Action Girlz *shudder* Racing  is the video game equivalent of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie.  

PROS: There is nothing positive about this game whatsoever.

CONS: Broken controls. Broken graphics. Broken grammar. Broken everything.

WTF?: The title screen music is eerily similar to Hanson’s Mmm bop song.

AGR is one of the worst console experiences you will ever have should you have the misfortune of playing it. It would be easy to simply point out that one look at the box should send you screaming in the other direction. From the Bratz doll knockoff mascots on the cover, to the fact it beckons Lewis Lovhaug’s “Because poor literacy is kewl” meme be printed on it’s cover as a subtitle. But the biggest thing to do this should be the fact that it was put out by Conspiracy Entertainment, and Data Design Interactive. Back when the Wii was first coming out Nintendo would relax it’s seal of quality restrictions so that more third parties might put out some material on the console. DDI would take full advantage of this, spearheading the shovelware situation that plagued the system in it’s launch year. Not content to simply push out cheaply rushed titles, DDI actually reskinned a handful of games several times over, and sold them as entirely different ones. For example,  Anubis 2 (There was never an Anubis so figure that one out), is pretty much Ninjabread Man.

Anyway, AGR continues this trend of awful. I don’t like to have things compartmentalized to the point of bullet points. But this game pretty much requires it.

Graphics.

Starting with the graphics, (as they’re the first thing you’ll notice right away) the game has a penchant for stretched out low resolution textures. Even the title screen is a mess. The actual graphics of the gameplay don’t fare much better. when selecting a racer you’ll notice the character cards look nothing like the freakish Bratz doll knockoffs presented on the title screen. Once a race begins you will see visuals that are actually worse than a bottom rung N64 or PS1 title. That isn’t hyperbole. The models are insanely blocky, without any of the charm of Minecraft or Cubivore. Games where the intentional low fi visuals fit into a creative tapestry. These models instead reek of assembly line intent. Colored polygons slapped together to make characters with barely any artwork skinned to them. The textures that are there are very grainy, and washed out. Track designs aren’t very well put together either. they’re comprised of dead ends, out of nowhere 90 degree turns, and out of place hairpin turns. Coupled with the game’s other issues races are barely playable let alone winnable. There are also a lot of graphical glitches from inexplicable texture pop in, to geometry you will clip through.

Audio.

Definitely not the worst part of the game, but certainly not very good either. A mild retooling of Hanson’s Mmm bop plays on the title (Changed BARELY enough to avoid infringement apparently) screen, and terrible background tunes accompany the races. Sometimes it’s the title screen music. Sound effects range from horrible to passable. From the car sounds to power up chimes, sound effects are forgettable at best. There are also  quips you’ll hear from your Action Girl of choice. They never reach the level of offensiveness, but they will make you give yourself pause. You’ll find yourself wondering why they would include them, or what audience they were intended for.

Gameplay.

AGR essentially has 3 main modes, with the option to have up to four profiles. There are single races, time trials, and  a championship run. It steals from Mario Kart by making you go through 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc runs. But then it also has the audacity to make three difficulty levels within each. Doing this in turn unlocks other  tracks provided of course you win. Which you won’t. Because EVERYTHING in this thing is broken. Steering is done much like in Excitetruck. Holding the controller horizontally, buttons facing yourself you tilt it left corner up for right turns, and vice versa. 1, and 2 buttons are your gas, and reverse. The A button is supposed to use the weapons you run over. NONE of this works properly at all. All of the characters oversteer to the point of either flipping the car over, and rolling, or leading you to weave back, and forth until the car loses control, and crashes. Crash you will too. Right into geometry that you will likely clip through, and fall under the map before being respawned back into place. And don’t even think about trying to use weapons because most of the time they won’t work. When they do you’ll find they don’t have the place shuffling gravity of Mario Kart, Blur, or even Crash Team Racing.

The only thing that helps a little, (but still not enough to make things playable) is the fact that you can press the D pad to go to a car bumper camera. Thus, making wobbling back, and forth ever so slightly more manageable. Other characters are unlocked by collecting a ton of flower icons by driving over them. None of the extra characters are fun to use or very interesting. They all have the same soulless look to them, and spout off similar insufferable quips. Time Trials, and Single Race are pretty much useless modes unless you can find someone masochistic enough to play this drivel with you. Like most racers you can time trial to beat your own times but you really, really won’t want to waste your time on it when there are so many better games you could be playing. Again, the problems will impede any ability you have at doing so. Yes this horribly broken title includes split screen multiplayer. You, and up to 3 victims can convulse your terrifying dolls through a glitch filled wonderland if you’re out of forks to jam in each other’s eyes.  If by some miracle you can get past the initial cup in championship mode by coming in first my hats off to you. That said, it probably means Action Girlz Racing is the only game you own, and for that you also have my condolences.

Fun Factor.

Normally glitch filled, rushed games at least give the guilty pleasure feeling of  “This game is so horrible, and yet it is so much fun to mock it for all of it’s stupendously grand failures.”. This game’s only reward is pain. Any success you do find in it, is quickly replaced with more anguish. Take the worst film you’ve ever seen. Granted it’s a subjective question, as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. (Although I’d have to question the sanity of any man, woman, or child who found enjoyment upon playing this travesty, and I don’t say that lightly.) Ask yourself to remember how many minutes it took you to walk out of the theatre. If you didn’t walk out of the theatre try to remember how you felt not only emotionally, but physically. Action Girlz Racing will double those feelings without breaking a sweat.

AGR is one of the worst titles I’ve ever played if not THE worst game I’ve ever suffered through. It is THAT BAD. “But Deviot!” You may exclaim. “You reviewed Scene It?: Twilight Edition! Surely, it can’t be worse than that game!” Oh but it can. Quite simply it is. Granted, S.I.T.E. was a poorly executed trivia game, but it still had SOMETHING for fans of it’s license. AGR is a train wreck in every sense of the euphemism. Avoid this like the plague, and if you see someone contemplating it as a gift for their child or grandchild you slap them on the wrist, and exclaim “NO!”. Avoid Action Girlz Racing at all costs.

Final Score: 0 out of 10 (Perish the thought!)

Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL Review

Say that title five times fast!

Anyway, as we all know, knockoffs are nothing new. We see them in everything. Everyday household items. Appliances, and of course creative media. Including obviously, video games. Over the last thirty or more years we’ve seen Pac-Man clones. Space Invaders clones. Super Mario Brothers clones. Street Fighter clones. Doom clones. Basically, one could spend a lifetime talking about the concept alone before even getting to the examples. Some of which I’ve already reviewed. Many knockoffs aren’t worth a second thought. But as Mortal Kombat, Saints Row, and others have taught us, sometimes they are. Taking a proven formula, and putting their own spin on it.

PROS: Nice graphics. Decent mechanics. Controls well.

CONS: Saves can’t be brought to another system. Unbalanced.

CAPTAIN PLANET: He’s our hero! Going to take pollution, down to zero!

Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL does just that. This time the target is Super Smash Bros. The SSB series looks like it can easily be copied at face value. The core concept of keeping combatants off of your hill or out of your ring seems simple. You have a cast of characters who are unique, yet share a simplified movement set.

Moving beyond that, Smash has also employed campaigns in past games. Such as Melee’s Adventure Mode, or Brawl’s Subspace Emissary Mode. Smash has a ton of different items you could add in for random fun. Or assist trophies, that enable NPCs to help you win. Nintendo’s series even has a lot of individual mini game challenges throughout the series from target smashing, to sandbag beating. All with mechanics that hyper-competitive players find quite deep. Today, the series has hardcore fans, and countless tournaments where the best players win enough cash to live on. It’s one of the most watched series on Twitch. Its reputation has reached the heights of games like Street Fighter, and Tekken.

To say that CNPTEXL has some lofty goals is an understatement. Does it get anywhere near the pedigree of Nintendo’s mascot party fighter? No. But is it a bad game? Shockingly, the answer is also no. This game takes Nintendo’s approach to mascots, and applies it to Time Warner’s Cartoon Network. The game was published  a bit before the channel’s power houses Adventure Time, and Regular Show. So you won’t be playing as Benson or throwing down with Finn. However the game’s roster does go pretty far back to the channels early days. Dexter’s Lab, The Power Puff Girls, Samurai Jack, and Johnny Bravo all make appearances with many of their characters. Some of the later hits like Ben 10 & The Grim Adventures of Billy, and Mandy are here. And even some of the lesser known shows are represented.

The game has a campaign mode in the vein of Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary mode. The story is told by a narrator (Voiced by Space Ghost’s George Lowe), which follows the convergence of all of Cartoon Network’s shows. This follows a formula similar to Brawl’s. You will go through side scrolling platformer stages with brawler elements. Depending on the stage, you can use a certain number of characters. When you get to the end of the campaign it is revealed that the narrator’s TV remote has gone rogue, and is responsible for the merging of the realities. Of course, this remote is the final boss.

Along the way you’ll also unlock characters for you to use in the other mode. Again, much like the Subspace Emissary. The difference is that you use currency to do it. CNPTEXL has a Store option where you will find not only the bonus characters, but stages, alternate costumes, and clips from the various Cartoon Network shows. Clearing the game or playing enough in the other modes will give you points that can be used to unlock them. Once unlocked, the characters, and stages can be used in the Story mode or the Battle mode. There is a vault where the unlocked clips can be viewed, along with the character models. It works kind of like a cut down version of Smash’s trophy room. You can get info on the characters, what shows they belong to, and their original appearances. It isn’t nearly as deep as what you will find in Nintendo’s games, but it still gives you something to look forward to if you are a fan of the CN shows. The clips are DVD quality, and most of the clips are from some of the better shows’ moments.

 

The meat of the game is in its multiplayer. Battle mode is up to four players, and also allows you to use a variety of controllers. If you’re playing the Wii version you can use the Wiimote, and Nunchuck. Or you can opt for either a Classic Controller or a Gamecube Controller. As I’ve mentioned before, the core concept of CNPTEXL is the same as the Nintendo franchise it cribs from. Each of the game’s 26 stages will see players trying to keep each other off of the arena. You do this by attacking one another, to build up damage. The more damage you take, the farther you are knocked back with each successful hit. Each stage has a knockout zone around it. Going beyond it, or being unable to otherwise make it back to the arena results in a death.

The object of course is to be the last one with any lives left. The game plays as one would expect. There is a primary attack button, a special move button, a shield button, and a button for your finishers. Each of the main three buttons can be combined with directions. So as in Smash, you can get different moves based upon what direction is used with each. It also has smash attacks of its own. So pressing a direction with the attack button at the same time will dish out more knock back. The shield also allows you to roll out-of-the-way, and perform parries as in Smash. Many of the tactics employed in Smash like edge guarding can also work here. Even holding the shield for too long will break it, leaving you open to punishment. The finisher button is novel too in that you don’t have to chase down a smash ball. The one thing this game does to carve itself out a niche is  the use of a gem system. Beating up on your opponent will cause them to drop gems. Collect enough of them, and you can use your finisher. Most of the finishers are pretty cool, and have anime inspired animations leading up to the attack.

In addition to the primary battle mode, there are a handful of variants. Choosing a custom match is similar to the way custom matches in Smash games work. You can turn assist trophies on or off, set the frequency of items, and set the time limit or number of lives. It does not let you go over each individual item however.  Beyond the custom mode, there is a mode called Drones where the game will throw a bunch of NPC enemies into the match. Instead of scoring you on stock or knockouts, it instead scores you on whoever defeated the most computer controlled combatants.

There is also a variant called PTE mode, where you collect energy orbs. Think of it like the coin mode in the Smash series. Finally, there’s the arcade mode. This plays like the arcade mode in Smash. The game puts you in a ladder, against other combatants, and you’ll get a different ending for each character you beat the mode with.

As far as the look, and sound of the game go, the visuals are pretty nice, while the sound isn’t. All of the characters models look pretty good considering Papaya’s probable budget constraints. Backgrounds aren’t very detailed. Muddy textures cover most of the background objects, and small details are lost in the shuffle. Although one has to be impressed with some of the destruction, and transition that goes on in certain stages. Again, the finishing moves are actually pretty impressive. Especially if you’re a fan of some of these old shows. Audio is lackluster however. Aside from the voice samples, and quality during the unlockable clips, there isn’t much to recommend. Music isn’t all that memorable, and none of the effects will really wow you.

Despite all of the similarities with Nintendo’s games it still doesn’t hold a candle to Super Smash Bros. That’s the biggest trouble with Cartoon Network Punch Time Explosion XL. The roster isn’t as large, and as great as many of these shows were, it simply isn’t as fun to pick up Johnny Bravo, as it is to pick up Donkey Kong. What’s worse is that the roster you do get isn’t really all that balanced. There are a handful of characters you’ll stick with if you do decide to play this with friends even remotely regularly. While every fighting game ends up with one or two characters that have more versatility, the best fighters still make everyone viable. This game really doesn’t. It was clearly made to be a Smash clone for people on a budget. Or at least for Cartoon Network fans who couldn’t get enough Smash-like experiences. Unfortunately while it does succeed on those merits, it won’t succeed in keeping you away from Nintendo’s franchise for very long. The fact you can’t unlock everything on your own, and bring it to a friend’s is disheartening too. Especially since, at least on the Wii, you can back up your save file to an SD card.

Still, if you do like some of these classic cartoons, you might want to check the game out anyway. It is by no means a terrible game, and it is a fun ride as far as licensed games go. But you aren’t going to drop Super Smash Bros. for this. Nor are you going to fool yourself into thinking you’re playing Super Smash Bros. if you pick it up on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.  It’s average. But sometimes that’s enough.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

 

Tournament Of Legends Review

It wasn’t supposed to be this way!

PROS: Some ambitious design ideas

CONS: Small roster, unbalanced, fails to meet its goals

I’M CONFUSED: Why is there a Steampunk Robot in this thing?

Originally, titled Gladiator A.D., Tournament Of Legends was to be a gritty, cross between Soul Calibur, and Mortal Kombat. A game that would have featured all sorts of Greek, and Roman mythology inspired combatants. But in deadly, epic one on one sword battles in the vein of the old Commodore 64 classic, Barbarian. High Voltage Software had already shown the world that a competent, fun First Person Shooter could be done on the Wii with The Conduit. Which, along with its sequel, really drove home the fact that IR controls could best analog controls if done properly. Gladiator A.D. seemed like it might be HVS’s chance to do the same for fighters.

Eventually however, it was revealed that Sega wanted the game to be a little brighter, and a bit more fantastical. So characters were mildly altered, and early previews showed some colorful arenas. Then later on, word came out that they were going to try to make a game that could be both easy to learn, and difficult to master. What we received was Tournament Of Legends.

To be fair, after having been out for a while now, (and after hours of my own play time) I can tell you Tournament Of Legends is not quite as bad as many people would have you believe. There are indeed, a number of interesting, and different things Tournament Of Legends has to offer. The bad news is that these things don’t elevate the game to a level that would make anybody excited about playing it.

Tournament Of Legends has a fairly nice look to it, although it’s uneven at times. Some stages really shine, showing off what the Quantum 3 engine is capable of. Other stages are decidedly drab, and look reminiscent of early PS2 titles. Character models look a lot better, showing off a lot of little details. But they are also uninspired. Nothing really stands out here except maybe Volcanus, a Steampunk meets Gladiator character who is actually controlled by a gnome driving a cart in the stage background.

Voice acting is pretty bad. All of the delivery is hokey, and the voices simply do not meld with the characters being displayed on the screen. But all of these things are trivial. What you’ll want to know is how functional the fighting mechanics are.

Tournament Of Legends borrows mechanics from Soul Calibur 2, Street Fighter IV, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, and Fight Night. To say it’s different from the norm is an understatement to say the least. The game separates rounds into what it calls acts. The object of the gameplay is to knock an opponent down 3 times to score essentially a technical knockout. If for some reason your opponent can’t get up you’ll score a KO. Like Fight Night, and Punch-Out!!, you’ll control both arms for attacks. Swinging the nunchuck will move the left arm, while moving the wiimote controls the right arm. The control stick on the nunchuck moves your character around the play field. Here’s where the other borrowed conventions begin to come in. Like SC2, you can do overhead attacks, or side attacks. This is done by swinging either controller up & down, or left & right. There is also a dodge button (B) you can hold to sidestep, or do double taps while holding it to dash. You can also swing while holding dodge to do a dodge attack which can actually turn the tide for you in battle.

Like Street Fighter IV, there are special & super meters. They build throughout the match as you attack, and take damage. Pressing projectile (C by default) will drain the special bars, but allow you to throw projectiles at the opponent. The game also implements a little bit of RPG into the mix by allowing you to use spells called Enchantments. These basically act as your supers. When you press the minus button it will drain the Super meter as the Enchantment does its magic. Enchantments can do anything from give your attacks more power, to giving you your health back, to freezing your enemy in his tracks.

Going back to SC2, as you play through the game you’ll unlock different weapons to pick from, as well as various enchantments. The combatants on the play field will have a foreground/background stance, as opposed to most games where one is on the left, the other on the right. Or other games where it’s dynamic based on how players move through the 3D space. Players in the foreground have a slight advantage, and so doing aforementioned dodge attacks while in the background will cause the disadvantaged to switch places. Characters have their own colored line on the floor in front of them as well. The closer they get to each other the wider the lines become, which increases the odds their attacks will land.

Finally there is a block button. Pressing Z will enable players to block regular, and some special attacks. Dodge attacks, specials, and supers can get through blocks, although timing your block will start what the game calls a Critical block. Again cribbing from SC2, these temporarily stun opponents allowing for a chance at a combo.

To mix things up a bit, Tournament Of Legends also has a few mid round mini games that can help players, or harm them. For one, there are Quick Time Event based Stage dangers. Sometimes a creature, or cataclysm will arrive, and pulling off the QTE will allow players to escape. After being knocked down a player will also enter a QTE. During this they have to shake their controllers to not only get up, but this will restore more health. While this happens, separate QTE’s occur allowing the standing player to recover armor.

Speaking of armor, all players have some armor. Surrounding the mug shots under the life bars are armor bars. When the player takes enough damage armor falls off, these bars disappear, and further attacks do even more damage. The good news is that if you survive an act without 3 knockdowns occurring to you there is a mini game where shaking the wiimote restores some health, and spinning the control stick in a frenzy rebuilds some of your armor.

I should also note that like The Conduit Series, HVS gave players the option to remap all functions to whatever buttons they wish. They even allow players to use the Classic Controller.

Now, that I’ve explained all of those intricate little details I am going to blow your mind. Because all of this does indeed ON PAPER make for a wonderfully deep fighter. “Wow!” You might be telling yourself. “What strategy! I can go for broke mixing up specials, and swings. Conversely, I could master dodge attacks, and use my supers to make for a crazy upset! Tournament Of Legends sounds AWESOME!”

None of that matters. None of it. All of the depth, and creative play style will go out the window once you realize that any round can be won by shaking the controllers as if you were going into a seizure. There really isn’t much to elaborate on this point for. After learning all of these intricacies, you will go up against friends to find they school you faster than you ever beat them in Tekken 2 mashing buttons with Baek.

Moreover, there really isn’t much in the way of balance here. While there are only a handful of characters to choose from (2 of which need to be unlocked) Some of them are so overpowered it limits the selection even further. Flailing to win with these characters exacerbates the situation.

There are a few other things about the game I should go over out of formality, as other fighters have them, and so Tournament Of Legends’ should be mentioned.

First off is the story. You really won’t care. It’s been done in countless other games. The basic gist of it is various legends throughout the time period battle one another to achieve immortality. Some wish to do good things with endless life. Some wish to do evil. Even the manual completely ignores it merely mentioning the synopsis, and the fact that there is a story. When you start the story mode, and beat it for each character, you are treated to some respectable artwork you may find some passing interest in. But again, you probably won’t stay interested in the game long enough to bother.

Secondly, and lastly are the extras. The game has 2 unlockable characters. You can unlock the final boss to play with, and a super secret character. Both of these look awesome, but looking awesome alone, good characters do not make.

Tournament Of Legends is another one of those games where it pains you say it isn’t very good because you can tell a lot of hard work went into its creation. Had the underlying gameplay not been cancelled out by flailfesting, and some balancing gone into the characters Tournament Of Legends could have really turned out to be a sleeper hit. An alternative to traditional fighters with the underground fanfare relegated to titles like Guilty Gear, Blazblue, and SNK fighters genre lovers hold so dear. Instead, it will end up like other forgotten games that never realized their full potential, joining the ranks of Bio F.R.E.A.K.S, WarGods, Dark Rift, Dual Heroes, and Vs..

In many ways Tournament Of Legends is much better than those failed fighting experiments of yesteryear, but not better enough to warrant a recommendation.

Final Score: 5/10

Conduit Retrospective Part Two: Conduit 2 Review

The Wrath Of Kahn. Empire Strikes Back. Judgment Day. Sequels sometimes do surpass their precursor stories in every way possible. All while continuing the overall arc. Other times not so much. Conduit 2 is a lot closer to the former. At least for most of the ride.

PROS: Improved graphics. More controller options. Split Screen Multiplayer.

CONS: Voice actors from the first game have been replaced.

HA, HA, HA: The ending is out of left field, and unintentionally hilarious.

When you first start up Conduit 2 you will be thrown into a brief montage of the end events of the first game then find yourself on an Oil Rig near the Bermuda Triangle. Right away you’ll notice that HVS significantly upped the ante on their Quantum 3 engine. Bump mapped water, reflections, and other lighting effects give the game some of the highest visual effects seen in a Wii game.  Player models, and environments are still low detail, and even drab in some spots, but the texture work is vastly improved which hides away some of these imperfections.

Environments are also much more varied in their settings this go around. This is due to the storyline that takes you all over the world. No longer confined to Washington, you’ll be in snow-capped mountains, jungles, the ocean, and more.

The control options are just as customizable as in the last game allowing for players to find the right feel for themselves. Once again you can reconfigure the look of the Heads Up Display, the sensitivity of the pointer controls, and remap the button layout. The game also takes full advantage of the Wii Motion Plus accessory. Enabling it in the options makes the pointer much more accurate, improving its tracking. For those who could never get behind the idea of using a pointer in a shooter, Conduit 2 does allow them to use a classic controller. People used to playing on twin stick controllers may feel a bit more at home. This is also fairly customizable allowing those players to remap the button layout in addition to the sensitivity of the thumb sticks.

This review is also going to be a bit spoiler heavy. Mainly because there is an aspect of the campaign that cannot be ignored. That aspect is the ending. Which we will get to. Of course in order to show you just how far the beyond the shark it is, we will need to talk about the storyline.

At the end of The Conduit  Michael Ford escaped John Adams’ secret bunker through a conduit portal with the ASE. Prometheus absorbed his consciousness  into the ASE beforehand. During the rolling credits we find out that Adams is actually a shape shifting alien Reptoid. He was sent by his race to take over the world, and some of the Drudge were beings based off of Prometheus’ alien DNA structure but intertwined with human DNA.

Right out of the gate, the game begins at the end of an exit conduit. You come out of the conduit to find yourself on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. After you fight your way through hordes of hired mercenaries the oil rig is attacked by a Leviathan. This is one of the moments when Conduit 2 really shines. This boss fight is everything a boss fight should be. It involves running around the top of the oil rig, and manning turret cannons to bring it down. While this is going on however, small grunt enemies will come out to attack you. So you will be bouncing between avoiding the Leviathan’s attacks, and dispatching grunts before going back to fighting the boss.

As you go through the rest of the campaign you’ll travel the globe. This begins when you stumble upon Atlantis, which turns out isn’t a sunken city, but an ancient extraterrestrial  war ship. The ship’s defenses come on while you are inside, so you will have to defend yourself against them. As you fight your way through it you have to find a woman named Andromeda, and take her out of cryogenic sleep. It turns out she was led to believe Prometheus betrayed her eons ago, and you convince her over time otherwise. When you free her you are given a special battle suit in the vein of Metroid heroine Samus Aran.

Andromeda also pilots Atlantis which has the ability to open up Conduits of its own. This turns the ship into a hub level where you will return between stages. It also allows you revisit past stages, and bonus training stages. At one point you return to Washington DC to find the Drudge are in a civil war.  Some of the creatures are liberating themselves from the group, while the rest swear their allegiances to the Trust. You’ll end up saving one of the free Drudge named Thex. He then helps later in the mission, by bringing in his forces to help you in one of the larger scale fights the game has to offer. Prometheus also gives exposition about other aliens, called Progenitors. These beings are involved in secret societies around the globe who must also be convinced Adams needs to be stopped.

It is revealed that Adams intends to murder all of the Progenitors, and consume their souls.  In doing so, he can take their powers, and add them to his own. So your job is to find each of the Progenitors, and warn them of Adams’ plot to kill them for their power which he will use to enslave the Earth.

You will then go to China to confront another alien named Li who doesn’t believe Adams is much of a threat nor does he believe you are the true bearer of the exosuit. The China stage has some of the cooler moments in this game. Statues come to life, and attack with powerful melee moves, while other enemies try to gun you down. Li is also another huge boss with an old school pattern you have to discover to take him down. He can also recharge his life bar.  While it is an overused, game convention, it is implemented at a level that doesn’t make him impossible to beat either. When you do defeat him you absorb his consciousness into the ASE. You’ll find this becomes a running theme.

The trail then leads to Siberia where you travel through mountainous terrain, discovering hidden military bases, and labs. It is here you will have to free another alien leader named Katarina. Things become really dicey however. So she will sacrifice herself in order to keep you alive. Like previous alien leaders she too sends her consciousness into the ASE. The trail then leads to Central America where you’ll discover the Lost City of Z. While there you’ll find another top ranking alien has died, and again absorb them into the ASE.

The last mission takes Ford back to the Atlantis where John Adams invades in his human form with a small army. This results in a huge horde battle, and Ford quickly dives into a conduit after Adams who tries to escape in the classic movie villain trope. In classic video game fashion however, this really leads to a second boss fight against Adams who shifts into his true form. This fight is actually a bit of a let down, as it’s not one of the more strategic gun battles as you’ve had thus far. There’s not much of a puzzle element, just one of those fights where you hope for the best. Like in the original Doom when you first found the Cyberdemon. Be prepared to empty whatever rounds you have, and hope it is enough.

Once you do defeat Adams though you find you can also absorb his consciousness into the ASE. This leads to one of the most over the top endings in any game you’ve ever, ever, (and I mean ever) played through. It turns out that the reason Thex had you absorb all of these beings into the ASE is so you could beat Adams with their combined might. However absorbing Adams into the ASE causes it to overload, and send an emergency beacon into space, where a Borg inspired spherical planet begins to travel toward Earth. No sooner does Ford find himself completely perplexed when some people pass through a Conduit to tell him they’re here to help.

Those people aren’t another group of aliens, an extraterrestrial task force, or an as of yet introduced government agency. It’s our first President George Washington, and our sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln. Both of whom are dressed like space marines. Other former Presidents, and historical figures then come piling out of the Conduit. All of whom are sporting the biggest armor this side of Warhammer 40,000.  The Conduit 2 logo then flashes in front of an outer space backdrop, and the credits begin to roll.

Now the storyline involves on an alien plot to take over the world, and the antagonist is one who shares a name with our second president. Plus it’s hinted he may have been one in the same. It’s silly, and a bit campy. But it’s still presented seriously enough where the suspension of disbelief allows most people to get invested. At least enough to want to see the story through. There have been movies, and TV shows with less plausible ideas, that many of us have been invested in. Here is the thing though. Are we supposed to buy that all of our Presidents have known about this plot, and are also hundreds if not thousands of years old? Why would all of them be dressed like Captain Titus? How did the Presidents fake their deaths so well? A little bit of camp in a story that centers around conspiracy theories can be a nice dose of comic relief. But this ending is  so over the top, and so campy, that most anyone playing it will either: A.) Laugh. B.) Ask “What the hell?” or any number of variations on the question. Or C.) Both.

Bad ending aside, the campaign really is a good time. Certainly if you love exploration in your First Person Shooters. Especially if you are the type who loves to read up on conspiracy theories. Not only do secret messages return from The Conduit, but High Voltage Software went through hours of researching conspiracy theories to implement a ton of objects referencing them. There are secret plans for H.A.A.R.P., evidence that the Dropa Stones were of extraterrestrial origin, and touch on many other conspiracies.

The artifacts you discover from these conspiracies are a really nice touch. They add more to the narrative than the campaigns script does at times. Sci-Fi fans of shows like X-Files, Alien Nation, and V will find themselves enjoying the references. After you beat the game you can go back to any stage to find any secrets you may have missed, and even play through bonus stages you may have unlocked by finding hidden coordinates. Stages are a lot more open than other shooters that have come out over the last few years. Some have branching paths, and the freedom is an appreciated touch, after the me too linearity seen in the original game, and so many other games this generation.

The role of the ASE was also expanded in this game. The last game limited it to being a key for weapon closets, a graffiti translator, and cloaked bomb detector. This time, it is used to find artifacts which, as described earlier, tell more of the story. It also finds coordinates, and weapons. The ping system has also been changed from an automatic ping to a manual one. So it won’t be going off on its own whenever you stand near a possible cloaked threat or a secret. It’s a small change, but it does make hunting for secrets something you’ll want to do.

One thing that may disappoint you (aside from the ending) in Conduit 2, is the voice acting. The entire cast was changed. Most notably Mark Sheppard was replaced with Jon St. John, while Max McGill, and Sam Mowry were cast in place of Kevin Sorbo, and William Morgan Sheppard. The new cast isn’t bad. But they bring very different portrayals of Michael Ford, John Adams, and Prometheus to the series. Jon St. John brings a vocal flair similar to his Duke Nukem performance to Michael Ford. It isn’t exactly like Duke Nukem, as it isn’t as deep. There also aren’t a lot of witty or crude one liners in the script. But the character still has a lot more bravado in this installment as a result. It certainly isn’t a terrible performance by any means. But because it so different from what was presented in the first game, it can come off as jarring.

McGill, and Mowry don’t fare quite as well. Prometheus ends up sounding a lot more mechanical here. Adams is a little bit closer in terms of the character’s over confidence. But the delivery still ends up being a far cry from what we saw in the original game. Again none of the performances are absolutely dreadful. There were certainly well-intentioned efforts put into them. But because the new cast are different people who had different ideas on how to portray these characters, obviously the result is different, and different enough to turn some people off.

By contrast, the biggest improvement to Conduit 2 has to be its multiplayer. Once again, seeing how the game’s online multiplayer is no longer functional, you won’t be playing it. Over the course of the three years it was playable over the internet, the game  received several patches. The developers made a commitment to reduce cheating, implemented a customizable system for players to have specialized load outs, and even costume designs. The game also has a Call Of Duty inspired levelling system allowing the truly devoted to unlock, and level up weapons. There was again an achievement system, and the game allowed you to pick friends, and rivals through your non private games which allowed you to essentially friend them without having to get their friend code. Sadly you didn’t get as much in the way of game type tweaking in non private games. You could only pick from a few grab bag modes.

The modes that were present were the typical Free For All Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Last Man Standing modes. ASE Football returned, along with a horde mode, where players tried to survive waves of enemies. All stuff you’ve seen before. But it was really well crafted. Map designs were built around the modes. There weren’t nearly as many lag, or performance issues as in other Wii online multiplayer titles.

Fortunately, Conduit 2 added in 2 to 4 player split screen multiplayer. So all of the mayhem you could experience online, can at least be played locally with friends, and relatives. Some of the multiplayer maps are truly great romps. My favorite being the crash site where you can climb into the crashed space craft, and turn on its afterburners. Anyone foolish enough to stand behind it is burned to death pretty much instantly. Some of the new weapons in Conduit 2 are also really cool. One of the best is the mobile turret, where you can place the turret, then through secondary fire go to a completely different area with a tablet, then use the tablet to remotely fire upon enemies through a camera app.

Conduit 2 is one of the best games you haven’t played, and one of the better games to come out near the end of the Wii’s run. If you own a Wii or a Wii-U you owe it to yourself to check this game out. If you are a multi platform owner who likes shooters  it’s worth a look. If you love stories about conspiracy theories, and Sci-Fi themed B-Movies it’s probably also something up your alley. Provided of course, you can deal with such an out of place ending.

Still, one can’t help but wonder if High Voltage Software will ever be allowed to show us where the Conduit could go from here.

Final Score: 8 out of 10