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Hey folks, welcome to Gamer's Pub!  This is a site made and contributed to by the gaming community.  Our mission is to provide you with unbiased and honest game reviews; have no fear of bias and misinformation here.  Our scoring system is from 0 to 10, with increments of .5.  Also, enjoy the reviews by our newest contributors, -Beck- and L-ZERO-PEZ, from the forums!

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Wipeout Pure

By Noir

Developed and Published by Sony Computer Entertainment

Genre:  Racing

  I had never played any of the previous Wipeout games before, so Pure was new uncharted territory for me.  Skeptical at first, I was not sure if this was just going to be a rehash of the last couple futuristic racers I had played.  I can safely and confidently assure you, however, that if you are a PSP owner, Wipeout Pure is a must-play.

  Wipeout Pure is a futuristic racing game utilizing anti-gravity aircrafts as mode of transportation.  If you have played a racing game before, chances are you will be familiar with at least a few parts of this game.  Play modes are seperated into two groups; Single Player and Multiplayer.  Single Player consists of a decent selection of play options, most of which are standards for racing games, futuristic or otherwise.  There is Single Race, Time Attack, and Tournament, but there are also some other interesting ones, like Free Play and Zone.  Free Play allows you to race around any of the tracks you have available, with no competition and no requirements.  This really helps the player practice getting used to the controls and take in the beauty of the courses.  Zone is an interesting mode; the object of it is to race in what seems to be a nearly endless track, going faster and faster as you progress through the Zones on the track.  It starts off a little slow, and quickly grows to be a frantic struggle to keep control of your craft and survive for just one more zone.  Unlockables come in good supply as well, including more ships, tracks, and even concept art.  Multiplayer is available, but only for Ad Hoc wireless play, so if you were hoping to play your AIM buddy in Texas, you're S.O.L.  All in all, though, multi play is solid.

  The gameplay in WP is stimulating and very addictive.  As you fly through each course, you can pass over two different pads that will help you during the race.  One pad will give you a boost of speed, which may give you that little edge you need to blast past an obstructing opponent.  Use caution with this one, though, as one wrong move can send you smashing into a wall, totally messing up any plan for victory you may have laid out.  The other pad will randomly provide you with a power-up or a weapon.  Some power-ups include protective shields and super speed boosts, while weapons include walls of flames and spiked mines.  All the items are essential to obtaining victory, and any items picked up by other ships can and most certainly will be used against you.  If your ship is seriously damaged, the press of the circle button will cause the ship to absorb whatever item you may have at your disposal, using it to repair the ship on the fly.

  Control over each craft is tight and responsive, but varies based on the simple stats of each craft.  Don't expect an easy ride, though, as the intense pace of the game can be overwhelming, making it very easy to crash at times.  WP is very easy to pick up and play, with simple controls that can be learned in a flash.

  The two best parts of this game have to be graphics and sound  Wipeout pure really flaunts the power of the PSP, with amazing visual effects, including detailed futuristic backgrounds and weird geometrical ships.  But it's the little details that really make your jaw drop.  Snow fall, glowing neon signs, rain fall pattering on the camera lens, and the shimmering ripples of water reflecting on the track in an underwater tunnel left me in absolute awe.  But that's not all.  Weapons have stunning lighting effects that are sure to amaze you as soon as you launch them.  A fiery blast rages on past your ship, while blessing all that surrounds it with a red glow.  Get hit with a missle, and notice how smoke clouds up above your ship.  Such details really show how much care was taken to polish this game.

  Sound is awesome, with a solid collection of intense, adrenaline-pumping Electronica/Techno music, done by various artists.  There are a few voiceovers, which are all well done, with an echoing announcer and roaring crowds, cheering on the competitors.  Let's also not forget the sexy female voice with a British accent; a must for all futuristic games.  All other in-game sound effects are very well done, and fit the game perfectly, including speed boosts and weapon explosions.  This is an absolute must to play with headphones.

BOTTOM LINE:  Wipeout Pure is absolutely fantastic.  The racing action is intense and fast-paced without becoming mindless, and while the game modes may not be extremely varied and innovative, there is plenty of fun to be had with the ones that are there.  The controls can be a bit touchy at times, but are easy to learn and make second nature.  The graphics are mind-blowing, even giving serious competition to many console games out there, and the sound is no different.  I highly recommend picking this game up if you have a PSP, especially since it's about ten dollars cheaper than other launch titles.  Wipeout Pure earns a well-deserved 9 out of 10.


Gran Turismo 4


For Playstation 2

Developed by Polyphony Digital  

Published by Sony Computer Entertainment

Genre:  Racing

  The most anticipated game of the year is here; Gran Turismo 4.  This is one of, if not the most in-depth racing games I have played since the last GT game.  With all the different types of racing games out there, this offers a full experience as a racer, unlike arcade racers.  GT4 brings it all to the table if you are looking for realism, other than the fact that the cars don't take damage.

  The gameplay varies from many different levels.  This is a very in-depth game with many different makes, models, and parts to choose from.  Racing and winning earns you money and cars.  The money you earn from your winnings can be put towards a new car, or upgrading your current car with turbo, engine and brake upgrades, as well as many more.  There are a ton of different race types to choose from.  There are FWD (4 wheel drive) races, special condition races, which vary from dirt tracks to snow to street tracks, among many other races to choose from.  The driving is solid, and you pay for your mistakes on the track.  The game has a great feel for the speed you are going.  The were very basic and very easy to grasp.  The game can seem tough at first, but once you get a feel for it, it's really not hard at all.

  The sound in the game is awesome.  Gran Turismo 4 has a great soundtrack.  The soundtrack ranges from funk (Earth, Wind and Fire and James Brown) to rock (Jimmy Eat World and Papa Roach), as well as some classical and techno tracks.  The sound of the cars is also done very well.  When the tires screech off the pavement and onto the dirt or racing on snow, it all sounds like I would imagine it if I were there doing it.  Great sound overall.

  The graphics are amazing.  This is one of, if not the best looking racing game out there.  All of the cars look great; so great that I almost mistook a screen shot as a real car.  The tracks are beautiful in design and very detailed.  These are some of the best graphics out, but I would love to have seen my car take some damage.  That's probably the downfall of this game.

  With all the detail Polyphony Digital put into the GT series, you would expect them to finally give us a damage engine, but it's still not there.  That wasn't enough to stop me from playing this game 6 hours straight every night almost all weekend, but with everything going on with so much realism, that might take you out of it.  It's still a great game; go buy it if you're into racing sims.  If you're an arcade racer, you might want to give it a rent.

I give GT4 a 10 out of 10.

Burnout 3

By -Beck-

For PS2 and XBox

Developed by Criterion Games   Published by Electronic Arts

Genre:  Arcade Racing

  Racing games have evolved from their simple beginnings such as Pole Position and Rad Racer.  Now, everyone strives for realism with the most actual manufactured cars and tuning features.  I'm glad that Criterion decided to go back to the genre's simple but rewarding roots with some modern day twists.

  Driving in Burnout 3 isn't just interactive, it's an experience.  From the anticipation of the starting line, to weaving in and out of traffic and causing your opponents to wreck, and then sliding into the finish, Burnout 3 is a heart-stopping ride that doesn't let go.  Controlling the cars can be difficult for first timers to the Burnout series, but isn't so difficult that they are uncontrollable.  In fact, the game provides two training modes for you to hone your skills with first.  After training, there are a few different game modes.  There's World Tour, which is the main part of the game, where you jump from the U.S. to Europe and Japan for all of your racing needs.  All of the tracks are given a description by Stryker, from Los Angeles-based station KROQ.  He can get a bit annoying after a while, but that's OK, since there is an option to shut him up.  Next, there's Single Event, which has Race, Time Attack (both of which are standard racing game fare), followed by the game's unique modes, Road Rage and Crash.  Road Rage is a single race where the objective is to cause as many Takedowns as possible (a Takedown is the game's name for causing your opponent to crash).  Get enough and you can earn all kinds of rewards.  Crash puts you on a certain section of the game's many courses, and the objective is to find the perfect thing to crash into and cause a huge pile-up.  This is one of the best parts of the game.

  Online mode is a huge aspect of this game.  You can eran big rewards very quickly online, wjile having a great time competing against the world.  Headsets are available for the PS2, which is great, considering many folks online with this game are very personable.  You can play all modes online that you can offline.  Road Rage turns into a game of cat and mouse.  It seperates the players into two teams, where blue races and red chases.  Red has to takedown all blue's cars in order to win, but if one blue makes it to the finish line, the blue team takes the trophy home.  Road Rage is the best mode to play online.  Everyone brings their game, and the competition is fierce.  Race mode online becomes more of a technical mode than an arcade one, but Takedowns are still totally allowed.  There is never any slowdown on the PS2 or XBox, which is quite a feat, considering everything that happens on-screen.  The only problem with the online play is that there are frequent disconnects from EA's crappy servers, and some foreign games are incompatible with U.S. televisions.  Otherwise, the online play is a lot of fun.

  The game is quite a sight.  When using boost through a level, the motion blur effects are incredible, and when you crash, tiny pieces of all cars involved go flying in every direction.  There is a first person mode that allows you more on the action directly ahead of you, considering any Takedowns going on around you will be a huge distraction.  When you cause a Takedown offline, the game makes it very cinematic by turning widescreen and slowing down.  It really gets you pumped and is a great visual treat.  Sometimes, there are cheap crashes caused by invisible wall problems, and this can be taxin in Road Rage, considering you try your best not to crash.  That could have been taken care of.  The mood of the game is set by EA's in-game radio station EA TRAX, which is also hosted by Stryker.  Unfortunately, the music does not suit the game well.  Where a soundtrack of intense electronic music could have done the game serious justice, EA opted instead for a soundtrack comprised entirely of modern "punk" music, the likes of which MTV would be proud to have.  There are also many of the terrible sub-genres present, including emo, screamo, and other such multi-word names for music.  There are a few decent tracks though, such as Franz Ferdinand's "This Fire", and The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated", but this is not enough to redeem it.  The music really kills the mood.

  Overall, I'm going to give Burnout 3 an 8.5.


Beyond Good and Evil

By -Beck-

For PC, PS2, XBox, and Gamecube

Developed and Published by Ubisoft

Genre:  Third Person Action Adventure

  Over the years, there tends to be spots where gaming grows stale.  As has been the tradition for the past few years, all of the best games come out during the holiday season.  Christmas 2003 was no different in this respect.  One game surpassed the rest that year, but was sadly overlooked.  Beyond Good and Evil is a very specific type of game.  It owes a big thanks to the Zelda games on the N64, but is also its own game, considering many actions are context sensitive.  Context sensitivity is where you only need to push a button to perform an action when an on-screen prompt tells you to.  Many find this type of gameplay to be boring and that it takes away from exploring things on your own.  Yes, it does take away from exploration, but it also allows you to keep moving when the game gets rough.  There's never a time in BG&E when something seems impossible; instead, you know it's very challenging and can be done.

The story is set on a planet called Hillys (pronounced hill-is), where there seems to be alien attacks on a constant basis.  The government agents there, called the Alpha Sections, keep citizens safe from these attacks, or so it seems.  You play as Jade, a young woman who keeps many orphans in her home, is a budding mechanic, and has aspirations for adventure.  Her best friend and father-figure, Pey'j, a bipedal pig with a southern drawl, is always around to help in times of need.  Jade has never trusted the Alpha Sections, and her suspicions are confirmed one day by a message she recieves.  She is told to come to a remote part of Hillys and that there is a reward for her services.  And so it begins...

There are many kinds of gameplay throughout BG&E.  The standard mode of play is a simple yet ample platform game.  There is also driving in a hovercraft, flying spacecraft, and photography.  Taking photos is an integral part of the gameplay.  By taking photos of every creature on the planet, you earn pearls, a black market form of currency which you need in order to purchase ship upgrades from local shop Mammago Garage, whose owners are bipedal Jamaican rhinos.  Controlling the hovercraft takes very little effort, and exploring the planet is a reward in itself.  You can find more pearls, take photos of sea life, find caves of treasure which challenge your piloting skills, and participate in races.  Winning races earns pearls as well.  Keeping your health up is never really a problem, but smart management of your supplies comes in handy.  In every area of the game there are vending machines with various supplies that you can purchase with credits.  The fighting system is simple yet robust, as it challenges you to find the best strategy for each creature.  Your main weapon is a bo staff.  Jade swings it to and fro like an expert martial artist.  There are special moves that you can upgrade her with, such as slow down to target your enemy easier and knock him out of the park, and a jumping attack where Jade spins in the air and shoots beams of energy all around her.

  The graphics, for their time, were stunning.  While they are aging well, some might be disappointed.  The game has a unique visual style that's very appealing.  The game is also played entirely in a widescreen format, regardless of your television.  Believe it or not, this does not hinder gameplay, but makes it feel more like an interactive movie.  After about an hour of playing the game, you get so used to the widescreen that you never even notice it, and come to realize that you don't need the entire screen.  The performances by the voice actors are well done.  They can be gravely serious or big jokers.  One character in particular turns out to be a little cheesy, but it suits him well.  Overall, the voice work is very good.

Overall, considering the game has an excellent story, great graphics, interesting gameplay, and some cool replay value, I give it a well-deserved 9.5 out of 10.  The only thing that keeps it from getting a ten is the fact that we'll never see the much-needed sequels.  The game was built as a trilogy, and the ending shows it.  If you can deal with that, or even if you can't, BG&E is a must buy, especially now, since it will be under .

Oddworld:  Stranger's Wrath


For XBox

Developed by Oddworld Inhabitants  Published by Electronic Arts

Genre:  Third-Person Action Adventure

  There have been many Oddworld games in the past for the Playstation.  Stranger is the first of a new Oddworld series to come to XBox.  Stranger is not related to the previous Oddworld games; the only thing they have in common is that they are both set in the same universe.  You take on the role of a bounty hunter named Stranger in a Western-themed location.

  The gameplay is very original and innovative.  You have a few different melee attacks you can perform, as well as a crossbow.  The crossbow shoots live ammo; when I say live, I mean live, because you are shooting various animals at your foes.  The different animals have different effects on your foes.  For example, Bollamites wrap up the enemy in a spider web.  Now onto one of my favorite parts; capturing your bounties.  You can bring them in dead or alive, alive being worth more than dead.  But the cool part is how you keep them.  You suck them up into this little thing that stores them for you to take to the bounty store.  There, you can get moolah to buy weapon upgrades and so forth.  There are boss battles; some of them can get pretty tough.  The boss battles are very fun and creative; they never get repetitive or boring.

  The story is good, as you are Stranger, somewhat of an outcast looking to belong.  The boss battles tie into each other, but at times it gets a little mixed up.  Early in the game, you find out that Stranger needs moolah for a surgery.  It isn't clear what kind of surgery; that kind of remains a shadow for about 75% of the game, but it's interesting.  There are a few little side things you can do, as the game is somewhat open ended.

  The controls are great.  Going into first person to shoot and walking around in third person is very simple.  There's nothing too tough about controls; no tricky combos need to be learned, it's very simplistic.  It feels somewhat like the controls of a platformer, with jumping, punching, shooting, and running.

  The visuals of the game are amazing.  It's a great looking game that really shows the power of the XBox.  The movement flows nicely, and the cutscenes look great.  The only bad part about this game, in my eyes, is the voice overs; they were a little rough.  Not as to sound quality, but more of the voices.  Stranger sounds like he is on slow mo, and the townsfolk sound very annoying.  That's the only bad part of this game.

Stranger's Wrath almost got a 10 from me, but I gave it a 9 out of 10.  I loved eveything but the voice overs.

Fatal Frame 2:  Crimson Butterfly

By Noir

For Playstation 2

Developed by Project Zero   Published by Tecmo

  Survival horror fans, rejoice!  The latest installment of the Fatal Frame series is arguably one of the best horror games made to date.

  In Fatal Frame 2, you take on the role of Japanese twin sisters Mio and Mayu.  The story begins with the girls relaxing by a clear stream in the middle of a beautiful, lush forest.  Without notice, Mayu strays away from her sister in pursuit of a bright crimson butterfly.  Mio goes after her, only to become trapped in a mysterious, desolate village forever cloaked in nightfall and plagued with ghosts.  The girls must find a way to escape, but doing so is not so simple.  Along the way, they learn more about the shadowy secrets of the village, particularly those of a sacrificial ritual involving (get this) twins.  All in all, the story is very well developed.  Playing as a "weaker" character such as a young girl adds to the sense of dread and helplessness this already frightening game holds.

  All is not lost for the girls, however, as they come across the series' trademark camera, which has the power to exorcise ghosts.  If you have played the first Fatal Frame, then you will pick up on this game easily.  The controls are familiar and still a bit shaky, particularly for the first person camera mode, but don't have a very steep learning curve at all.  As with many survival games before this one, Fatal Frame 2 also has some bad camera angles, and many of the backgrounds have a slightly prerendered feel; camera angles, for the most part, are fixed.  However, they are used in a smart way, giving you a sense of paranoia as to when and where ghosts will pop out at you.  The game's slower pace helps add to the fear that a ghost might attack at any given moment.

  One of the absolute best parts of this game is the graphics.  The cinematics are absolutely beautiful, especially the opening cinematic.  The game feels rather heavily inspired by Japanese horror films, such as The Ring and The Grudge.  Ghosts are very detailed, and do everything from pop out from walls to damn near falling on you, all the while having cold emotionless expressions on their faces that signal you of impending death.  The game also sports an old-film look, with lots of flickery effects and a dirty lens effect.

  The other part of this game that truly shines is sound.  Music is almost completely nonexistent, in place of eerie ambient sound effects.  The voices of actual human characters are good, but the ghosts have a truly spooky tone to their voices, giving a true feel that you have encountered something from beyond the grave.  Playing this game in a dark room with stereo speakers or headphones not only puts you so into the game, it also puts you through mental torture, but in the good way.

  BOTTOM LINE:  Fatal Frame 2 is an excellent addition to the more recent franchise.  While the controls and camera angles are a little clunky at times, it's nothing that ruins the total experience of the game.  The story, graphics, and sound make a totally enthralling experience that will scare the absolute crap out of you, and you'll love every minute of it.  Should Project Zero fix up the controls a little bit, make the camera angles a little less confusing, they will meet with success for this franchise for many years to come.  I will give Fatal Frame 2:  Crimson Butterfly an 8.5.

King of Fighters:  Maximum Impact   2/3/2005

By Noir

For Playstation 2

Developed and published by SNK Playmore

  The decade-old King of Fighters franchise has returned in a rather bold, but weak attempt at putting truth in its moniker.  However, while KOF: MI has its good points, it proves once again that the franchise is far from capturing the title it claims to have.

  The story, what little there is, goes like this; Fate, a powerful mob boss in Southtown, has been knocked off and replaced by the mysterious Duke.  Two brothers, Alba and Soiree Meira, were raised by Fate after being orphaned, and want to exact revenge on Duke, thus taking over the criminal underworld once more.  All of the characters' storylines are seriously underdeveloped and barely existent.  Which is sad, considering that Arcade Mode is pretty much a story mode, where all you do is talk to some guy in an alleyway to advance the story, which for most characters consists of nothing more than, "your next opponent is (insert KOF character here)".  One would think that this aspect of the game would be much more fleshed out, as the developers brag about the interesting and new storyline on the bonus DVD (more on that later).

  Other modes of play are limited, including an incentive-lacking Mission Mode, which gives you certain limits or rules that you have to rise above to win the fight.  While these can be interesting and challenging, the incentive to keep plowing through them is limited, as you only really get extra costume colors.  You also have your standard Versus Mode, which allows you to play with three characters as well as just one-on-one.  My personal favorite mode was Time Attack, which felt more like an Arcade Mode than any other.

  The controls stick to the 2-D fighting roots of the series, while throwing in some limited 3-D movement.  If you have played a KOF game before, then chances are you'll do just fine with this one.  However, the 3-D movement, such as evasion or sidestepping, has been done better in many other fighters.  The combos are rather awkward, no matter what character you play as, because of the timing required to press the buttons.  It did not match the more responsive and tighter controls of, say, your Virtua Fighter 4 or Soul Calibur 2.  Still, the gameplay is really fast-paced, and can still make for an exciting match.  One of the biggest problems, though, is that some characters require a myriad of cheese moves to be beaten, for they will mash you into a corner (including the uber-cheap final boss) and destroy you within seconds.

  Many of the KOF favorites return in this game, including Iori Yagami and Mai Shiranui, and special attention has been paid to making the characters look like their 2-D counterparts.  The new characters, including the Dante ripoff Alba Meira, fit right in with the regular cast.  However, the animations are rather stiff, and the English voice overs are just plain bad.  If the developers really wanted to make the game stick closer to its roots, Japanese voice overs would have fit perfectly.  The fighting arenas are well designed, but some flaws like invisible walls sort of take away from the look of the game, making what should be spectacular, devastating combos come off as odd looking.  Background music is rather low-key, and most of the tracks aren't very intense; they just don't fit well with the fast pace of the game.  Perhaps some remixes of older KOF music would have been an improvement, if only to give a sense of nostalgia to fans.

  Finally, there's the bonus DVD, which is supposed to be a behind the scenes look at the game.  While some of the factoids presented in this disc are interesting, the DVD honestly felt like a cheap attempt to boost initial sales of the game.  I got better stuff in my Happy Meals when I was a kid.  The DVD also came with a booklet that contained all the characters' moves...  I'm not sure about you, but I kind of figured that this was necessary for a good fighting game, not a bonus.

BOTTOM LINE:  King of Fighters:  Maximum Impact has a fun and fast-paced 2-D fighting system, not to mention a wonderful mix of colorful classic characters and interesting newcomers.  The biggest problem with the game is that it lacks so much polish, so much attention to detail that, nowadays, is necessary in a fighter, as it is a standard set by the industry's best.  I am thoroughly disappointed that SNK did not make more of an effort to make a comeback with a splash.  KOF:  MI gets a 5.5 out of 10.

Guilty Gear Isuka  1/31/2005

By Noir

For Playstation 2

Developed by ARC System Works  Published by Sammy

  Guilty Gear returns to the PS2 with this newest installment in the series, but sadly, does not pack the overall punch of its predecessors.  Guilty Gear Isuka is, like the previous titles, a 2-D fighting game, but with a twist on the series' near-perfect formula.  This edition features the ability to fight up to 3 other players on-screen at a time, which is both an exciting blessing and an aggravating curse.

  Isuka does not continue on with the story of the series; it seems to be more of a mod to Guilty Gear X2, which is a disappointment, what with the depth of X2's Story Mode.  The real twist to the game is how the controls are set up.  No longer do characters turn around automatically when getting behind an opponent.  Instead, this action is controlled manually with the R1 button.  Another new change is the use of multiple tiers, a la Fatal Fury.  There are two tiers, the foreground and the background.  Using the R1 and square buttons, you can alternate between the two, allowing some interesting evasive tactics.  This only becomes cause for confusion, however, when three or four characters are bashing the living hell out of each other at a time.  It is possible to become disoriented and not really understand what your character is doing.  The game tries to make up for the difficulty of having three characters bouncing you around helplessly like a tennis ball, it lets you have more "souls", which refill your life bar once or more (depending on your setting in Options), but this only delays the inevitable; an endless number of KOs, where the AI owns you like Michael Jackson on a schoolboy.  This is especially apparent when you fight Arcade Mode's big boss, the insanely designed (and incredibly cheap) Leopaldon.  While this mammoth boss is an interesting sight, it becomes an object of pure hatred after the twentieth attempt at killing it.  These things really dumb down the beautiful experience that I have always considered Guilty Gear to be, where every battle became a work of art, with smooth combos and bright, stylish special attacks.  Most of the game is won through cheap shots, by you or the opponent.

  The other modes that really stands out in this game are Boost Mode and RKII Factory Mode.  These modes sort of work in conjunction with each other, in that you get a customizable, robotic version of staple character Ky, which you can run through the Final Fight-like Boost Mode.  Monotonous and uninspired-looking gangsters and punks come at you in droves, taking cheap shots as they go.  You have to complete certain requirements to finish a level, along with a boss battle.  Doing this will earn you points in RKII Factory Mode, allowing you to purchase ability upgrades and, most importantly, many of the moves of all the other fighters.  This is definitely an interesting part of the game, and it's really fun to see the versions of all the characters' moves that Robo Ky II has.  Alas, the gameplay of Boost Mode is not as rewarding, as some complexities as having to press L1 to jump make Boost Mode uncomfortable, if not painful at times.

  Two of the franchise's greatest points are still here:  Awesome graphics and excellent, adrenaline-pumping music.  The hand-drawn sprites are still bright and loaded with detail, and all the moves are silky-smooth.  This is as close to "playing an anime" as one could possibly get.  The backgrounds are rather limited in variety, but the selection you get is filled to the brim with little animated details, making Isuka still fun to watch.  The music is still of the Rock/Metal style, which is only bad if that genre isn't your bag.  The soundtrack is still as adrenaline-pumping as it ever was, and really sets the mood for an intense and fast-paced battle.

BOTTOM LINE:  Guilty Gear Isuka is a step back for the series, in several ways.  The control and overall quality of gameplay have suffered in that so many things have become a frustrating pain in the ass to execute.  The four player action for a 2D fighter is very intersting, and score points for the game, but most certainly should not have been the staple of gameplay; inserting this into just Versus Mode would have done nicely, which is where the concept reaches its full potential in this game.  There is still plenty of fun that can be had with this game, but be warned; this is NOT for the impatient.  Guilty Gear Isuka gets a 7 out of 10.

Feel the Magic  XY/XX  1/19/2005

By Noir

For Nintendo DS

Developed by Sonic Team  Published by Sega

  Produced by Sonic creator Yuji Naka and developed by the legendary Sonic Team, Feel the Magic is definitely a step off the beaten path.  This unusual little title is comprised of dozens of mini-games, a la Wario Ware, but with a story to tie it all together.

  The story starts off in typical fashion:  an average guy wearing what seems to be a bicycle helmet of sorts walks past a beautiful woman on the street, and falls in love with her at first sight.  This is where the normalcy ends, however, as the bunny-ear clad leader of the special performance group The Rub Rabbits hops onto the scene with goldfish bowl in tow.  The hero joins this group in an effort to win his dream girl's heart.

  Feel the Magic makes wonderful use of many of the features of the Nintendo DS.  There is little to no use of the buttons whatsoever; just about everything is done via the touch screen.  All of these little games are quirky, yet smartly designed.  Right from the start, you have to help a man barf up goldfish by using the stylus to push them out of his stomach.  That's not all, though.  The touch screen is also used for spray painting and bowling, while the microphone is used for blowing out alien candles and sailing a sailboat.  All of the games are simple, and completing them in the game's Story Mode gets you unlocked versions of them to play, along with love points, getting you closer to the girl of your dreams.  Screw one up, however, or poke the girl with the stylus in the menu screen (yeah, I did it), and you'll lose points, making it harder to win her heart.  Don't be too worried, though, as all of the mini-games are pretty easy to get the hang of after a couple tries, if any.  There's also Maniac Mode, where you can play dress up with the hero's soul mate using costume parts you unlocked, either from the other game modes or by having certain GBA games inserted.

  The game has unusual but very stylish and interesting graphics, with lots of odd 2-D background designs and 3-D silouhette-style characters.  The story unfolds in a mix of 3-D cutscenes and 2-D comic book boxes.  The music only adds to the quirkiness, but it gets rather repetitive.  There certainly could have been more variety.  Feel the Magic is all about simplicity, though, and is meant to be played when you have a couple minutes to kill.

  BOTTOM LINE:  Feel the Magic is a strange and fun little game that will most likely either put a smile on your face or raise your eyebrow in confusion.  It does, however, feature a lot of innovation in utilization of the touch screen, and has a decent amount of depth to keep you playing, if only for a while.  If you liked Wario Ware, pick this one up.  If you've not tried a game of this sort, give it a shot.  I give this one a 7.5.

Super Mario 64 DS   1/10/2005

By Noir

For Nintendo DS

Developed and published by Nintendo.

  Super Mario 64 was arguably one of the greatest N64 games of its time and still stands as a pinnacle of gaming today.  So to hear that this timeless classic has been remade for the DS made me excited yet a bit skeptical at the same time.

  Fear not, however, as most of the changes made to the DS version do nothing but add more fun and depth to an already awesome title.  Players can take control of 4 different characters this time around:  Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario.  Each character has different abilities, powers, strengths and weaknesses that make the gameplay much more intuitive.  Some blocks, for example, can only be broken by Wario, while some gates can only be passed when Luigi wears a Vanish Cap.  The story is about the same as the original; Princess Toadstool has made a cake for Mario and gets captured by Bowser, so Mario once again sets out (but this time with Luigi and Wario) to save her ass.  You actually start the game as Yoshi this time, and must reunite with Mario and crew.

  The graphics have been captured perfectly on the DS' small screen, and the new characters are well rendered, fitting perfectly into the world.  It is absolutely amazing just how smooth the game really flows.  The camera angles are not typically problematic, but are easy to adjust with use of the touch screen when they are.  Controls are a bit difficult due to the lack of analog control, and can be a bit frustrating at times.  Nintendo tried to make up for this by allowing you to use the touch screen for control (stroke the stylus or thumb pad on the touch screen's overhead map), but this often comes off as clumsy and more irritating.  I recommend just using the D-pad.

  SM64DS also comes packed with a host of mini-games, unlocked by catching rabbits hopping around various parts of the castle.  All of these utilize the touch screen in interesting and innovative ways, ranging from a Where's Waldo style game to a mini-game that resembles Tiger Electronics' Lights Out.  All of these little games are fun and have plenty of variety, making it exciting to see which new game you have unlocked.

  Versus Mode is an interesting free-for-all game where players scramble to get stars placed around one of four courses.  It allows you to also beat up on your opponents to hinder their progress.  While this mode is fun, it could have used a little more work.  I would like to have seen more Power Stone-style gameplay for this mode.

  BOTTOM LINE:  Super Mario 64 DS is a wonderful remake of quite possibly the best Mario game ever, adding a good deal of depth while not straying at all from the original's formula.  The controls are a tad shaky, but are not so hard to get used to that you'll be throwing your hands up in disgust.  The extras are also a nice touch that help keep the game fresh.  This game gets a 9.5.

Asphalt Urban GT  12/31/2004

By Noir

For Nintendo DS

Developer - Gameloft     Publisher - Ubisoft

  Asphalt Urban GT is more of an arcade style racer, with tighter, sharper controls than, say, your Gran Turismo.  The game also features a good selection of well-rendered licensed cars, ranging from the Lamborghini Diablo to the Hummer H2 to the Volkswagen Golf.  Each car does control differently, and some (like the Hummer H2) take a little getting used to.  To add to the arcadey gameplay, there is a turbo feature, where you acquire turbo boosts by narrowly passing cars, much like you would in Crazy Taxi.  As you do this, a small meter in the lower left-hand corner fills up.  You're going to need every turbo boost you get, and use them wisely too, because it is extremely easy to crash and a real pain to catch up.

  The courses are absolutely beautiful (at least by handheld standards), with tracks ranging from colorful cities like Miami and Las Vegas, to more unusual locales such as Bogota Airport and Chernobyl, Ukraine.  I couldn't help but think I was playing GTA:  Vice City while racing in Miami.  You have four camera angles at your disposal; two behind your car, one driver view, and one rear view.  There is also an attempt at some cinematic flair during races, like the camera switching angles when you hit a ramp or spin out.  This can be a bit of a drawback, however, as the camera will switch back and leave you a little confused, sometimes crashing into walls.

  There are plenty of modes to keep any racing fan happy.  If you just want to kill a few minutes, you can select Instant Play and be randomly given a car and course to race in.  Road Challenge allows you to select a car and enter a mini-championship.  This mode is useful if you have a little more time to kill.  Free Race is pretty much the same as Instant Play, but you choose the car and course.  You also have your standard Time Attack.  There's also Cop Chase, where the object is to "catch" other racers by locking on to them with a radar and track them.  Finally, there is Evolution Mode, which is a rather average sim mode; win races, get money, unlock cars, so on and so forth.  It's decent, but don't expect anything revolutionary.  You've likely done this time and again in various console racers.  Versus Mode is fun, allowing up to four players to race at once, but the drawback is that all players must have a copy of the game to race in multiplayer.

  The sound is good for a handheld game, with well done sound effects and fast techno and rock paced music that makes you want to race.  As far as quality, think early PS1.  The touch screen offers little functionality other than a map and menu screen, but that is not much of a problem, because it makes the map easily visible and helps keep the top screen from getting cluttered.

  The main problem I really have with this game is that I have to change the control scheme every time I play.  Unfortunately, Gameloft forgot to allow you to save your button configuration, thus screwing people with bigger hands like myself.  However, as a casual racing gamer, I don't care all that much.

  BOTTOM LINE:  Asphalt Urban GT is a fast and fun racer at the core, with awesome visuals, a cool selection of licensed cars, and lots of unlockables.  However, it has just enough minor problems that you'll most likely want to hold out until Ridge Racer DS comes out.  But if you absolutely need a racing fix and can sweat the small stuff, you'll enjoy this game.  My Score is a 7.0 out of 10.  However, if there are plans for a sequel, the kinks had better be ironed out, or this franchise is doomed.




  When we get new games, you can bet we'll keep you posted.



All games are copyrights of their respective publishers/developers.  Contributed reviews are written works copyright of their respective owners.  All other written works are copyrights (c) 2005 of Mark Morgan.

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