Conversion Reviews: Skyward Sword

It's easy to forget what a revelation Twilight Princess was. For all the complaints about how the swordplay supposedly didn't evolve much past the one-button Z-targeting swordsmanship of days past, most of the controls in the first Zelda Wii game were simply sublime. It was the killer app the "weak" Wii needed on launch day. Nevertheless, it did have a few flaws, including one-dungeon-wonder gadgets and serious cases of plot hijacking.

With Skyward Sword, the folks at Nintendo EAD clearly went back to the drawing board. It wasn't enough to implement Wii Motion Plus. They (along with many fans, though I wasn't one of them) thought the Zelda paradigm had gotten stale. They wanted to radically, though not completely, change the flow of gameplay and progression. It had to be new, yet Zelda, all at once. Once again, they decided to tell an origin story, a choice that served them well once before in the iconic Ocarina of Time. Short version: it worked. Boy howdy, did it work. In fact, it worked so well that the rest of this review will be comparing it to the game that (IMO) it almost dethroned, Ocarina itself.

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Dragon Age II

Wow. It's been a while...okay, a long, long while. It's about time I posted something here.

So. Dragon Age 2.


I rarely pre-order much of anything. Video games represent the majority of my exceptions, and even there I tend to be choosy. Certain companies and franchises have won my loyalty in the last decade, though. Nintendo was doing really well until Metroid: Other M. Capcom runs hot and cold, but Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has proved that they still know how to show love for some franchises. Good old Ratchet and Clank is still going strong.

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Conversion Reviews: Chicken Little: Ace in Action

Okay, if anyone’s actually reading this blog, you’re probably arching an eyebrow while reading this dubiously, even if you read my Conduit review. A licensed prequel game that’s mostly a blatant rip-off of another series (the awesome Ratchet and Clank series by Insomniac Games), produced by Disney, and it’s good? Really?

Yes. Really. I wish Capcom were taking notes, because this could easily be the template for a 3-D Wii version of Mega Man. It is, quite simply, an incredibly fun game. There’s no blood, it’s neither serious nor meaningful, and it stars an egotistical rooster. Yet Ace Little doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the (chicken) walk, as does his entire team.

This deeply affectionate parody of sci-fi action-adventure, Star Trek in particular, stars the extremely Hollywood-ized versions of the heroes of Disney’s “Chicken Little” movie, as the name implies. This is based on the movie’s “film within a film.” It would seem at first glance that this is a recipe for disaster. To put it mildly, it is not.

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Review Nuggets: The Conduit

The Conduit was touted by its creators and a small army of Wii supporters as the full metal retort to the Hi-Def users' quips about "casual gamerz" on Nintendo's thousand pound gorilla (no, not Donkey Kong ;-). It was supposed to be the great FPS (First-Person Shooter) equalizer for the "hardcore" Nintendo fans, delighted to see their beloved Big N reach the top of the heap once more but not as happy about the supposed focus on preschoolers and grandmothers. To be fair, there are mountains of shovelware and the vastly superior (but still casually-oriented) Wii-brand titles. However, there are absolutely stellar outings for Nintendo's most storied franchises, namely Super Mario Galaxy, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3 (with a completely upgraded MP Trilogy on the way), and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Third party adventures No More Heroes and MadWorld proved that Mature games (read: bloody and fanservice-filled) could work on the Wii, though MadWorld was not as successful as Sega hoped. That's a shame, because the game is an absolute blast -- I hope to have a review for that game, er, some time this year. *sheepish grin*

IGN in particular touted The Conduit's graphical prowess, customizable controls, single-player depth in the form of the All-Seeing Eye device and killer multiplayer (deathmatch on Wii, at last). All these elements were finally supposed to throw the laughing haters' taunts back in their faces. The Conduit would, after all, provide a run-and-gun experience no standard controller could hope to match, and with High Voltage's almost-HD graphics, Wii fans would finally have a classic shooter experience to call their own.

So how did it turn out? Well...let's just say the reviews are mixed. At first, I thought this a case of anti-Wii backlash. The critics are just riding the Nintendo-hate bandwagon, I believed. They just don't want to admit that a hardcore FPS could be done right on the Wii. Then I played the game myself. Let's just say that I'm solidly in agreement with the middle-of-the-road reviews of the game. It's a solid first effort from a company with a lot of potential, but too much just went wrong to give it real praise.

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Belated console update

Morgan here. Glancing over this LJ while looking for Roland's Mass Effect review, I noticed that a rather significant bit of info hadn't been mentioned. Back in November, we became a three console household! (Edit: OK, I did mention it in November, it was just at the bottom of a Wii-related post, so I didn't notice it. Oops. *g*)

OK, we're only a three-console household until D. moves out, because the PS3 was his birthday present. Since that was his last birthday as a minor, we wanted to do something special. OTOH, since he's planning on taking my advice and doing his first two years of post-secondary education at the local community college while living at home, we'll still have access to it for a while. We're just taking the eventual division of property into account when deciding which games to get for which consoles :-).

For those who care, on the kid's advice we found a used 60MB PS3, so we've packed away the PS2 for the nonce -- having three consoles set up in front of the entertainment center is more than enough ;-).

We will not, however, be renaming this journal again, since Wii60PS3convert is just ridiculous ;-).

Review Nuggets: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

Okay, so I’m avoiding real writing for the moment. Yeah, bad idea. Still, I’m trying something different, and starting one of possibly several new categories on Wii60 Convert: Review Nuggets, short bites that cover a game in brief. They might get full reviews later, or they may not, but at least I’ll have put in my two cents worth, if anyone cares.

Today’s nugget is not quite a hidden gem, but MK vs. DC is certainly a must-have for die-hard fans of the fighting genre and DC Comics. Ironically, hard core Mortal Kombat fans might be, and many are, upset with the toned-down Fatalities. DC’s heroes have Heroic Brutalities, cool finishers that theoretically don’t kill, but everyone else – including the DC villains – do. Some are indeed less over-the-top than they used to be, and to be fair, a few are genuinely lame. Some of the supposedly non-lethal Brutalities are a lot cooler than the weaker Fatalities, and look significantly more, well, brutal.

However, the actual gameplay hits that sweet spot of easy to get the basics while having depth that only masters will truly exploit. Visually it’s gorgeous, with only a few issues of stiff hair and clothing. Capes, in particular, seem to be made of phasing cloth, as they pass through floors and walls even in cutscenes. The mini-game challenges are simply awesome to watch and pull off, even if they’re a bit shallow (and frustrating to be on the wrong end of).

Most importantly, the characters act and play as they should. The Flash is all about speedily piling on the hundred-punch super-attacks, Liu Kang has all sorts of elegant combos if you can chain them well, Captain Marvel is a powerhouse brawler with some punishing blows, Shang Tsung is a sneaky sorcerer who’s all about technique and deception, and so on. The magical crisis explains why Batman can fight Superman and the Joker can fight anyone; a magical “Kombat Rage” has weakened the most powerful characters and strengthened others. Indeed, the Joker’s entire segment in Story Mode is about him realizing, hey, he can throw down with these super-brawlers after all.

The writing isn’t Mass Effect, but there’s lots of love for both universes in the intertwining story modes. For example, anyone who knows about Billy Batson will smile when Captain Marvel acts like a big, friendly kid. That smile will stretch from ear to ear if the player also recognizes Scorpion, Baraka and Shang Tsung – whom Cap proceeds to beat the crap out of one right after another (if you win). The endings are a bit on the short side, DC’s in particular, but the final nods to each universe are neat. Story mode is no more than three-ish hours to a side, so it’s a fairly short experience.

To sum up, I really enjoyed MK vs. DC, but it’s definitely a rental rather than a purchase unless you love fighting games. If you’re a hardcore fighter, get the PS3 version (Xbox Live costs money, and the 360 d-pad is an unforgivable mess), go online, and get ready to smack down heroes, villains and kombatants to your heart’s content for hours on end. Even if you’re “just” an old-school MK fan who can deal with the toned-down Fatalities or a DC fan who wants to see the JLA in a decent game, definitely drop a few bucks to play this on a long weekend. Final Score: 85.

The meme spreads :-)

Or as our friend might have put it, the body expands...

Over the weekend, we found out that my parents had finally gotten a Wii, and last night Dylan and I went over to help them with some of the setup they were still having trouble with (turns out it was just a misunderstanding of the instructions), and to show them a couple of other games. My Dad's been an electronics geek at least as long as I can remember, so it's not like they're a couple of neophytes, but it's still not something I would have expected of them.

A little while after getting home, we get a call from Seosaidh, saying we're evil people...because we introduced them to the Wii. They just got one themselves. "We have become one with the body," as he put it. I figure it's only a matter of time before Seosaidh and Roland are playing The Conduit online...

As for us, we're about to become a three-console household in current-gen terms, at least until the kid moves out, because we bought him a Playstation 3 for his upcoming birthday (bought online, so we'll get it next week sometime). At least the one he wanted was backwards compatible with the PS2, so we can just pack that away rather than have to figure out how to fit another console into the spaghetti that is our entertainment center :-).

Belated XBOX update

Morgan here: Our replacement XBOX showed up at the door on Oct. 31, one day shy of two weeks since we shipped out the red-ringed one. Not bad at all :-). So far, it's working fine, and it was nice to be able to whack demons as Nero again :-).

Conversion Reviews: Mass Effect

Well, since we've been hit with the Three Red Rings of Death, the only way I can enjoy my Xbox games is to write about them.

Ever since Pong gave way to Space Invaders in the phenomenon department, video games have been moving, sometimes erratically, towards a more immersive, story-based experience. I don't think it's excessive to say that Mass Effect is the culmination of that movement. Until we reach true virtual reality, we may see improvements on the model, but not a true transformation of it. The folks at BioWare, famous for licensed games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, have really outdone themselves. Mass Effect is the future of interactive entertainment.

It could have happened, mind you, that the first game to develop this model would not be superbly written, professionally acted, exquisite in its audiovisual portrayal and astounding in its ability to engage the player personally. Fortunately for all of us, Mass Effect is all that and more. IGN calls this the best game for the 360, and unless your primary gaming criteria is how many of your friends you can frag online, they're hard to argue with. For those who haven't noticed yet, I love Mass Effect.

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Well, frack.

Morgan here (Roland's working on the penultimate chapter of his second Zelda fic). We are now the "proud" owners of an Xbox 360 with the Red Rings of Death :-(. I did a search online for possible fixes, decided not to attempt the towel fix (any plan vere you lose you hat iz... I mean, any "fix" that includes "be sure to have a fire extinguisher handy" is not something I'm inclined to try), did try a couple that were variations of "turn it off, disconnect something, turn it back on and reconnect" -- hey, it is a Microsoft product :-) -- but no joy. So tomorrow I call Redmond and see about getting it fixed. At least it's still under warranty.
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