Is It About My Cube?

Posted on Nov 18th 2011 at 12:26:44 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Nintendo, Dolphin, Retrospective, Anniversary



Note: Alright, I have to say something, everyone. I'm sorry that I haven't been able to keep up with the blog for the past several months. I have just started college, so my free time has been scarce. I also didn't bring my Gamecube to college, in the interest of saving space. In retrospect, that was a mistake; I brought my PS3, and haven't touched it once since I got here. So, next semester, I will bring up my Gamecube, and the articles will continue! So, regardless of my busy schedule, this is one event that I wouldn't miss for the world.


Ladies and gentlemen, today is a grand day, indeed. On this day, ten years ago, the Nintendo Gamecube was released in North America, and a legacy was born. So, let's take a look at the console's conception, and follow it through its whole life, starting all the way back in the tumultuous era of 1998, when development started on Nintendo's Project Dolphin, a successor to the Nintendo 64, released two years prior. Nintendo saw that the time had finally passed for physical media in home consoles, seeing the success of the Sony PlayStation (and in Japan, the Sega Saturn), and despite many quality games and the most powerful system on the market at the time, was left in the dust in the console race, having come in second in North America, and dead last in its native country of Japan. Nintendo had lost a lot of big-name developers like Capcom, Namco, Squaresoft, and Enix with the Nintendo 64, all of which showed little to no support for the system, and seeked to win them back in the next generation. In response to the former, and to keep up with Sega's peppy new challenger the Dreamcast and its head start to the market, Nintendo started development on Project Dolphin to alleviate the shortcomings of their current system. Things got even more complicated when the software partnership between Sega and Microsoft broke off, and Microsoft decided to try their hand in the console market with the then-named Direct-X Box, later renamed the Xbox. Then, soon after, Sega was tragically crushed under the weight of the PlayStation 2, and just like that, the console war was back to 3 factions again. In 1999, the Dolphin was revealed to the gaming public, and had many gamers salivating at the sight of the capabilities of Nintendo's new hardware. After some various name changes in development from the initial Dolphin, to the Starcube, it was eventually given its true name, the Gamecube.

Nintendo certainly had their work cut out for them with the Gamecube The PS2 got a huge head start on them by releasing in 2000, but due to hardware and software shortages on Sony's end, Nitnendo was able to maintain a strong foothold during the Christmas season with their N64 with new titles like The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and Banjo-Tooie. However, it was a minor victory, as future Nintendo 64 releases would quickly slow to a trickle in the coming months, to a point where there were no new releases for several months prior to the Gamecube's launch. In contrast, it was nowhere near as bad as the drought of games between the Saturn and Dreamcast, something Nintendo can surely thank their lucky stars for. In a surprise move, in an attempt to grab some of Nintendo's early adopters, Mircosoft launched their Xbox 3 days before the Gamecube, making the 'Cube the last-released 6th-generation game console. The Nintendo Gamecube was finally released on November 18th in North America, preceded by a September 16th Japanese release, ushering in a fresh new start for Nintendo.

Nintendo tried many different hardware concepts in development for Dolphin, even some very forward-thinking ideas like hardware-supported Stereoscopic 3D, which actually made it into the final hardware for the Gamecube, but Nintendo never allowed any game to use it due to the rarity of 3D televisions at the time. (However, it was left in the code for launch title Luigi's Mansion, but was left disabled in the final build of the game.) Speaking of which, the hardware of the Gamecube is actually something quite special; in a technical sense, it was significantly different than the PlayStation 2, which relied on software workarounds to utilize graphical tricks like lighting, graphical filters, or multi-level anti-aliasing, all of which was built into the hardware itself on the Gamecube. This allowed for developers to offload system work that would otherwise have been handled by an already-busy CPU, like in the aforementioned PS2 setup. This made the Gamecube a very easy system to develop for in the eyes of developers. Not to mention already being more powerful than the PlayStation 2 in raw statistics, this allowed the Gamecube to achieve Xbox-level graphical fidelity. Many developers even were so bold as to say that the Gamecube was, in a practical sense, equal to the Xbox due to the Xbox's unoptimized and inefficient methods of processing code. This has sparked no end of debate amongst graphics junkies, and remains a topic of controversy to this day. The only thing about the Gamecube that has been a major hindrance that has kept it from the same games as its contemporaries was its limited storage medium, the mini-DVD.

Nintendo was eager to rush into the 6th hardware generation with optical media in the forefront of their minds. But, in order to attempt to keep the many advantages of cartridges, such as fast loading times, durability, and a proprietary game format, Nintendo opted for another controversial and unorthodox approach. What was born was the Mini-DVD, a semi-proprietary disc format created by Panasonic. It was significantly smaller and had a much lower capacity than a standard DVD, weighing in at 8 cm (~3 in) and 1.4 GB. Although the Gamecube's disc drive was technically capable of reading standard-sized DVDs, due to the laser's metal reading track, it cannot read past the length of a mini-DVD. Because of the medium's small size, the disc drive could spin at a faster rate, and data could be read off the disc faster without fear of damaging the drive with larger discs. This is why loading times are generally very fast on Gamecube games compared to their PS2 ports. This decision was also made to keep in sync with the overall aesthetic of the system, which was intended to be one of a compact design. In the end, this decision probably caused Nintendo more problems that it solved, as the lack of disc space lost Nintendo some very big 3rd-party games like Grand Theft Auto 3. Thus, the storage medium nightmare of the Nintendo 64 began anew. The medium did have some notable advantages, however. The large, open world of games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker would have never been possible, or at the very least, severely hampered if not for the fast loading speeds granted by the mini-DVD, continuing Nintendo's long-standing design tradition of lightning-fast loading times for first-party games; we all know the amount of care Nintendo puts into their first-party endeavors.

Even though the Gamecube was an amazing little machine in terms of specifications, it is really the software that stands out about the system. I've said this a few times before, but for Nintendo's in-house development, the Gamecube was a very experimental system. They did things that were actually pretty crazy when taken into perspective. A Mario game where the main focus of the game is not on his own jumping abilities? A Metroid First-Person Shooter? A Kirby Racing game? That weird-looking Zelda game? A Donkey Kong platformer that used a rhythm game controller? And weirdest of all, launching the console with a Mario game that doesn't star Mario? Insanity! These are all things Gamecube owners probably said at some point during the time they owned their system. It helped Nintendo try out a lot of concepts that they normally would never have been able to try. This is why the Gamecube is such a fascinating console; it gives the player unique experiences that they wouldn't ever find anywhere else, even on other Nintendo platforms. I'm not going to go into too much detail about the games here (each one really does deserve its own post), but the main point I want to convey is that the Gamecube is different. Who knows; if Nintendo had not gone and taken risks with the 'Cube, they may not have learned enough to make the Wii what it is today. That's not to say the Gamecube doesn't stand on its own merits; it more than does that. But, its influence extends far beyond what many people remember it as.

The Gamecube lasted almost 6 years before being discontinued in favor of the Wii. While it was outlasted by both the Xbox and by a much longer period, the PS2, its name will live on in gaming history. It is a console that deserves a lot more respect than it gets. But, the people who do appreciate it know exactly why it is such a great system. It epitomizes what makes Nintendo who they are. If nothing else, the Gamecube should always be remembered as the console that gave us something new and fresh, from a company that is so often criticized for being stale and predictable. All this is why I feel that the Gamecube represents one of Nintendo's finest hours. So, in closing, I want you to do something today. Something many of you may not have done in a while. I want you to play your Gamecube. Show it some love. What better way to close out an era than to go back to the very beginning, and remember what the Gamecube really is. Fun.



This is Lisalover1, and now you know the rest of the story.

P.S: There was a lot of stuff that I wanted to add to this article, like a top ten GameCube game list, or going into the various accessories for the system, but I just didn't have time. Maybe some other day, but right now, this will have to do.



Posted on Aug 6th 2011 at 02:32:40 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, THQ, Platformer, Cartoon Network, Licensed, Review, Classic Gaming



There is something so timeless and charming about a 16-bit platformer that makes them so cherished to gamers. The bright colors, simple goals, and addictive gameplay cement themselves into our memory. However, the 16-bit era is long past, and gaming as an industry has moved on. However, that does not mean that their unforgettable spirit has passed with it. It still lives on to this day in newer games, just with a fresh coat of paint. I am happy to report that Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights effectively carries the spirit of a 16-bit platformer. Even more shocking, considering it is a licensed game, which, as I have previously mentioned, have a less than sterling reputation. Very few of these games ever achieve greatness, mainly because there is little reason for the developer to make a truly great experience when its intent is just for cashing in on the licensed property. But, it is a bit more common for a licensed game to be "pretty good", notable, and worth playing. Scooby-Doo is one of those games, so let us examine the how and why.

Gameplay

Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights is in many respects, a standard 3D platformer that doesn't bring anything new to the table in terms of gameplay. But, that may be its greatest strength. It plays off the hackneyed gimmicks of every other platformer ever, but in an endearing and almost referential way that makes them work spectacularly. Any given game mechanic from a 2D platformer has probably found its way in some form into this game. Even a couple 3D platformer elements have made their way in, such as the "Collect-A-Thon" staple that requires you to collect a certain amount of an item in order to progress to new areas; in this case, Scooby Snacks. This is a game that is far and away greater than the sum of its parts. Because of its mechanic recycling, it really does feel like a 16-bit platforming game in that it has that intangible charm and personality that makes it so fun to play. It isn't really something I can describe accurately, other than anyone who played video games during the 16-bit era will know immediately what I am talking about upon playing the game. Bosses with attack patterns to memorize, permanent power-ups, backtracking, the works. Heck, I don't want to give the game too much credit here, but with the game almost plays like a watered-down "Metroidvania" game, with new power-ups attained after major events that allow you to access new areas in previous zones to get more items, as well as the fairly open-ended level structure. If the idea of a game with the underpinnings of a Metroidvania with the style of a generic platformer, then I would definitely check this game out. Really, the only way to describe this game accurately is to use other games and genre conventions as reference points. It has some parts that are open-environment 3D areas akin to early 3D platformers such as Super Mario 64, whereas most of the game just takes place on linear, 2D-based segments where you have to get from A to B, with several distractions and branching paths along the way. One more thing I have to mention is that the power-ups in the game are actually quite entertaining. You get a lampshade and a pair of slippers for sneaking past sleeping enemies, spring shoes for double-jumping, etc. It is a nice touch that makes the game more enjoyable.

Gameplay: 8.5/10



Story

Once again, nothing quite special here, but the story is at least better explained than in most games in the genre. Basically, Scooby and his friends are called to investigate a disappearance at a place called Mystic Manor. Upon arriving, they find out that a villain named The Mastermind has rounded up every villain that the gang has ever faced into once place in an attempt to stop them for good.  Soon, everyone except Scooby is kidnapped, and he has to go rescue them all before The Mastermind can finish his plan. Standard far for the show, but where the game really shines is its presentation of the story. The game never tries to be anything more than what Scooby-Doo should be; silly, basic slapstick humor. In this way, the developers absolutely nailed it. Nothing ever goes over the top and it rarely feels underwhelming, so it really feels like you're watching an episode of the cartoon. The cutscenes are a natural extension of the rest of the gameplay, running with the pervasive humor of the game and making it work very well. There's not much else I can say here that won't be addressed later, so let us move on.

Story: 8/10



Sound

The soundtrack from Night of 100 Frights is exactly what you expect it to be, if you have ever seen the show: Effective use of various string instruments, Trombones, Keyboards, etc. to create some lighthearted and spooky audio that comes off as completely appropriate and quite charming. The only thing that I could think of being analogous to it in other games is some of the songs from Banjo-Kazooie. There are unfortunately only a few tracks in the game, so you will hear them re-used a lot throughout different areas and levels. Fortunately, said tracks are unobtrusive and pleasant enough to listen to that you probably won't notice. Still, some diversity would have been nice. One thing that I absolutely have to mention about this game is something that I found to be an unprecedented and wonderful addition: The laugh track. Yes, Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights has a laugh track. It doesn't add anything to the gameplay, but its inclusion was a stroke of genius on the developers' part. They went out of their way to ensure the game was for all intents and purposes, an interactive episode of the show. There's not much to it; whenever Scooby does something funny, the off-screen "audience" can be heard laughing. It was a cute addition to the game that was certainly welcome.

Sound: 8/10



Graphics

Don't expect much in the way of eye-candy in Night of 100 Frights, or you will be sorely disappointed. Being a relatively early Gamecube game from a newer 3rd-party developer, it isn't too much of a surprise. The graphics are not pretty, but they only really become noticeably so during the cutscenes, where the disconnect between the game and the TV show becomes apparent through low-quality 3D models and slow animation. This wouldn't be a problem for most licensed video games, but for a game that prides itself on its faithfulness to the spirit [no pun intended] of the source material, it breaks whatever immersion you had in the game during these segments. A little more time spent improving the graphical fidelity with smoother models and more believable animation would have gone a long way in making an already very good game a great game. As for the aesthetics of the game, everything is focused and appropriate for a Scooby-Doo game. Levels take place in suitable environments, set pieces are custom to each area you enter, and the backgrounds, while not much to look at, do give a nice sense of depth to an otherwise 2-dimensional platformer. The only complaint I have in this aspect is that a good chunk of enemies are recycled throughout every area of the game, breaking the trend of different enemies in different levels. Other than that, everything in the game looks just right for Scooby-Doo.

Graphics: 6/10



Extras/Value

There's really very little in  the way of bonus content in the game, save for the Scooby-Doo movie trailer and some Easter Eggs, such as different textures are used if the game is played on certain holidays, including costumes for Scooby during gameplay. Some unlockable content would have been nice to enhance replay value a smidgen. The game is a bit on the expensive side at Gamestop, as well, where it is currently selling for $10. I was able to find my copy for $3, so I would recommend looking elsewhere to pick it up. It is a good game, and I would definitely say you should pick it up eventually, but I would probably wait until you can find it for $5 or less. There is a good ~15 hours of gameplay in Night of 100 Frights, so it is on par with a good number of platformers. If you can find it cheap enough, it is worth your money.

Extras/Value: 6/10





Overall

Make no mistake, Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights is a fine game. In fact, I believe that with a bit of spit-polish on the graphics and some padding to the length and extra content of the game probably would have elevated this game to the status of a hidden gem. In terms of game mechanics, does pretty much everything right, despite not bringing any original ideas to the table, which is definitely the game's strongest point. The rock-solid aesthetics of the game really bring it together as everything a Scooby-Doo game should be. The tight controls, simple gameplay, and humorous content are sure to make you smile. If you are looking for a comfortingly-familiar platformer for the Gamecube that still holds its own when held up against its contemporaries, then this might be right up your alley.





Overall: 7.75/10

This is lisalover1, and I swear I saw the Mystery Machine once when driving on the highway.



Posted on Jun 16th 2011 at 02:49:46 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Sega, Multiplayer, Racing, Avoid



Here at Is It About My Cube, it is certainly my job to inform you of good games. I enjoy talking for paragraphs upon paragraphs about games that I honestly believe are worth your time and money. That goes without saying. However, it is also my duty to warn you of bad games. This is the tough part. I went into Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions expecting a slightly watered-down Yakuza game for the Gamecube. I wanted to beat up punks and thugs on the streets of Tokyo, the kind of things that the series is loved for. What I got was something very, very different. Fellow Gamecube fans and gamers at large, let me say with complete assurance that this is not Yakuza. Do not be fooled by the title; it means nothing. So, in that case, what is Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions? Let's explore this mess to find out.


Gameplay

From the moment I started playing Wreckless, I knew something was wrong. Actually, even well before that, I knew something was wrong, but since this section is about gameplay, we will leave that for later. When I started to play the first mission, the first thing I noticed were the controls. Let me preface this by saying that Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions is meant to boil down all the fun of the Yakuza games into driving missions alone, with most of the missions centered around destroying other vehicles or objects by ramming your car into them. Sounds passable on paper, but in reality, it makes for a disaster. Whenever you make even the slightest movement on the analog stick, your car goes fishtailing and careening into a 90 degree turn. Unless you gently tap the stick a little bit to turn, then you will crash into a wall, and essentially have no chance of completing the mission. Speaking of crashing, if you do hit a wall, then your car will spin out, come to a complete stop, and only then can you start driving again. In a game that is meant to be about crashes, this makes for insanely frustrating gameplay. It really feels like the developers didn't think about how the game was meant to be played in the context of the goals set out for you; it is more akin to a racing game, where crashing is meant to be a punishment of poor performance, as opposed to games like this where it is an inevitable part of gameplay.

Another badly-thought-out aspect of the game is the missions themselves. Almost all of the missions presented are single-minded in their goal: "Wreck this object, then go and wreck another object, but now you're being timed." The game presents a cripplingly narrow scope of mission objectives to complete, and many of them feel just like blatant copies of each other. They are uninspired, bland, tedious, and annoying to play. Adding this to the awful controls makes each mission a nightmare to complete. I have to admit that I was for once unable to finish this game before reviewing it; something that I usually will do out of principle. I apologize for this, but I simply could not force myself to play it any more, and it did not seem like it was going to get better anytime soon. Besides, with the missions being so repetitive, I feel like I could just replay the ones I had already beaten, and essentially have gotten the same result as playing through the rest of the game. It is a terrible shame to see such restriction brought on a game that is part of the Yakuza series; one known for its interesting and creative gameplay, being akin to a Japanese Grand Theft Auto. Wreckless, however, is nothing more than a terrible Burnout clone.

Gameplay: 3/10



Story

Instead of following the standard Yakuza game formula of allowing you to play as a member of the titular Japanese Mafia, the first story mode puts you in control of the Flying Dragons police squad, assigned to stop the local Yakuza organization. The dialogue in the game's cutscenes are abysmal and make absolutely no sense and are inappropriate to the rest of the plot, taking on a lighthearted and silly feel that is completely out of place in a game of this genre. Actually, scratch that; it would be wrong to say that a coherent plot in this game, since it is mission-based and can be played out of order to a certain capacity. It is saying something when you actively try to do something else to occupy your time during cutscenes; not out of boredom, but out of disgust. Perhaps I am being too harsh, but it is my opinion that this game deserves such criticism. In fact, the only reason that I did not simply skip past the cutscenes altogether was for the purpose of this review. There is nothing of interest to be found in the story nor the dialogue. However, it should get a point for even existing at all, considering this is a driving game.

Story: 1/10



Sound

The music in Wreckless is certainly not good, but it isn't terrible. In fact, it may be the most tolerable aspect of the game. It is bland and entirely forgettable [I actually had to go back to the game for this segment just to remember what it sounded like], but it was not outright offensive; something the rest of the game was unable to achieve. You will likely not notice the music at all, but that also means it will not distract you, so I am willing to cut the game some slack. One area where I must cast judgement, however, is the voice acting. *Sigh* Seriously, where do they get actors like this? Not only are all the voices done in a stilted, robotic monotone, they are out of sync with the character actions. It's kind of like watching one of those old Japanese movies that received a hilariously bad dub. This is essentially the video game equivalent of that, since it is a similar situation. The voices are annoying to listen to and bland. I strongly recommend skipping or at least muting all of the game's cutscenes. In fact, unless you were previously interested, I would recommend skipping the game altogether.

Sound: 3/10


[Sorry, this was all I could find for game music.]

Graphics

The visuals in Wreckless were passable, but not particularly notable. The game was actually originally designed to be an Xbox-exclusive, but late in development, it was also ported to the Gamecube and PS2. Now, the Xbox version looks great, using many fancy graphical effects and high-resolution textures that the system could accomplish standing on its head, but something went very wrong during porting. Activision clearly didn't know their way around the Gamecube's hardware, as it actually ended up with the worst version of the game. Even worse than the PS2! It is not a matter of whether the system is powerful enough or not, because the Gamecube certainly could unquestionably handle the graphical flair present in the Xbox version, it was simply the fact that the developers were lazy in porting the game properly. But, still, these are certainly not the worst graphics I have seen on the Gamecube, but they are only good enough. Good enough to justify the fact that this is a next-generation console with distinctly next-generation graphics from the 32/64-bit era. Technically, the game is equally mediocre. The on-screen action often makes the game take a sizable framerate drop, and then jets back up to 60 FPS in a heartbeat. I am impressed [for lack of a better word] that the game can manage 60 FPS at all, but the constant fluctuation between low and high is disorienting and makes gameplay difficult.

Graphics: 3/10



Extras/Value

There are a good amount of unlockable cars available in Wreckless, each which do seem to have distinct strengths, and a great deal of the cars are outlandishly-designed and bizarre, so in that respect, the cars available in the game are certainly interesting; the game does have a decent selection of vehicles to drive, and features two separate story modes to play through, but it all turns out to be effort wasted when attached to poorly-conceived game mechanics. I do admire the game developers trying anything extra they could to make the game appear substantial, but it comes off more as trying to put lipstick on a pig than anything. There are also bonuses for completing secondary objectives in missions, such as hitting a certain number of scenery objects before completing the mission, which qualifies as the game's Hard Mode. The game also features a Multiplayer mode, but the aforementioned slowdown can make missions a bit of a chore when 2 people are playing. Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions is currently going for $1.99 at Gamestop, which is actually quite fair. You are indeed likely to get approximately $2 worth of fun out of Wreckless. This is actually probably the biggest thing the game has going for it right now; that it has a price so low that it makes ramen noodles jealous. If you are still interested after this review, then I supposed you don't have much to lose.

Extras/Value: 5/10





Overall

Unless you are a big Yakuza fan, then stay away from Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions. It is a poorly-made, uninspired game that has no resemblance to the other games in the series. But I must stress that even standing on its own, it is a bad game. Even if the other Yakuza games never existed, this would have been a disappointment. Why did it turn out the way it did? Perhaps it was because it was made by Activision, and is just a case of a western developer trying to develop for an eastern franchise. Perhaps it was a lack of budget and motivation. Perhaps it was always destined to be a quick cash-in game for the franchise. All of these are likely components of the truth, but I can say with certainty that Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions for the Nintendo Gamecube is a bad video game.





Overall: 3/10

This is Lisalover1, scaring the living piss out of driving instructors.



Posted on May 27th 2011 at 05:54:46 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Homebrew, SD Card, Hard Drive, News

A rather interesting development has been happening in the world of Gamecube homebrew lately. Before, the PS2 and Xbox were the only last-generation consoles to be able to load games from a hard drive. The poor little Gamecube was left out in the cold, cold world of writable optical media. It has been many, many years of waiting for 'Cube fans, hoping that some day, some bold developer would attain mastery of one of the Gamecube's many data ports, and give the system the backup loader it deserves, with an actual hard drive. Various new developments in Gamecube homebrew could finally make this a reality. First, let's talk hardware.



This is the Gamecube Hard Drive Loader. It works by connecting through the memory card port, as shown, as opposed to any of the 3 ports on the bottom of the system. It works essentially the same way as does the SD card .iso/.gcm loader, except, obviously, in lieu of a solid state card, an IDE hard drive is used. This will allow you to keep your entire Gamecube collection on your hard drive. Since it can only access data at the speed of a memory card slot, you probably can't expect better loading times, but that doesn't change the fact that it is a convenient way to store your collection. Now the bad news. The accessory is currently unavailable and out of production, and has not been in production for some time. If you want one, you will either have to build your own, or ask reeeeeeeeeaaaaaalllllllyyyyyy nicely to buy one from someone who has one. Also, the compatibility is only as good as the SD Card loader, but the good news is that compatibility for both is always on the rise, with most major titles being playable. Speaking of .iso loaders, let's take a look at the software that makes this possible.



Primarily, the new piece of homebrew meant to load any game from anywhere. Swiss-GC [AKA "The Swiss Army Knife of Gamecube Software"] is meant to load .iso/.gcm files from either the disc drive, SD Card, or Hard Drive. The compatibility list is quite good compared to other SD Card loaders, and the speeds are playable. The program can also rip disc images from Gamecube discs to the Hard Drive and SD Card. There are more minor features to the software, but the focus is to make the biggest homebrew loader possible for the system, like it should have gotten in its heyday.

The Gamecube has tons of untapped potential left in homebrew, and this is another important step. A hard drive is an indispensable accessory to a modern console, and it is good to see that the 'Cube can still hold its own in this regard. Hopefully, development will continue to go smoothly on both of these projects, and that someday, all Gamecube enthusiasts will be able to have the HDD be a total replacement of the disc drive. Long live the Gamecube, even after death!

Sorry that I have not been writing a whole lot lately; I have been finishing up High School, so I had a lot of things to take care of. But, now I am on summer vacation, so I will have a lot more time to write for my blog! Thanks for everyone who has been reading so far; I really appreciate it when people like my articles!

This is Lisalover1, and this post does not encourage piracy in any way, shape, or form. Gamecube games are cheap anyway, so you really have no excuse.



Posted on May 19th 2011 at 10:58:51 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Nintendo, Multiplayer, Racing, Kirby, HAL



The Gamecube has always been a controversial console amongst gamers, mainly because it was a very experimental console for Nintendo. They were trying a lot of new concepts during this period, and came out much wiser from the experience. In the process, many fans felt like their favorite series strayed too far from their paths, and became too different than what they are used to. This happened to Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and yes, also Kirby. All these series received Gamecube games that were radically different than previous games in their respective series. While all of these were arguably great games, the latter franchise's Gamecube entry always gets the most flak among this crowd. The game of which I speak is Kirby Air Ride. Many fans have dismissed it for being too simplistic, even for a kart racer. Also, of course, for not being a traditional platformer. But, does it really deserve all the hate? Is Kirby's Gamecube debut something that should be overlooked by gamers? Well, to put it bluntly...


Gameplay

The main point of contention for Kirby Air Ride was that it is essentially a one-button game. Yes, all of the game's racing functions can be performed with the Analog Stick and "A" button. Mario Kart used multiple buttons, so gamers were wondering why Nintendo decided to take an even more simplistic route. Well, just let me say that it is always better to build a game around the functions it was designed for, rather than try and shoehorn in a bunch of different ones. There is a reason why Kirby Air Ride technically only uses one button; it only needs one. Your character automatically accelerates to the fastest speed over time, and the A button is either used for breaking and boosting, or is context-sensitive based on different parts of the track. Sound confusing? Well, I will admit that it did take some getting used to, but the end result actually ends up being one of the more intuitive control schemes I have seen in a Kart Racer. The game employs a "Boost" system, which, when you press the A button, slows you down, and a meter builds up at the bottom of the screen. When the meter reaches the maximum point, you can perform a speed boost. This allows the button to function as a brake, as well. The game's tracks allow for some rather clever exploitations of this mechanic, as well. Braking and boosting around sharp turns, or boosting when you are on moving portions of the track are ways that you can use boosting creatively. As I said, the A button can also be context-sensitive. If you press the button while over a flashing green arrow on the track, you will automatically boost, even at full speed. Pressing the button over curious-looking patches of track can open up secret passageways, shortcuts, or generate different power-ups. The implementation of all these functions into one button would almost certainly spell disaster in most games, but Nintendo's masterful game design shines through as clear as day in Kirby Air Ride. All the tracks are designed in such a way that the times in which the button does not do what you intend are few and far between, creating a brilliantly simple yet adaptable racing experience.

Kirby Air Ride has three gameplay modes, all of which support 4-player multiplayer. The main mode, Air Ride, is the racing game that most people were expecting to get. There are nine tracks to choose from, and over a dozen vehicles to ride. Other than the notably well-designed and intricate tracks, there is not much else to say about Air Ride mode. If you have played a kart racing game before, then you know what to expect: Fast, fun, and cartoony racing action. Although, I have to say that the tracks in Kirby Air Ride do have a very different feel to them than ones in Mario Kart. In Mario Kart, your racer is, for the most part, not going to leave the ground throughout the whole race. Kirby Air Ride, however, has vehicles that allow you to fly for a short period after jumping, and even one that allows you to fly from anywhere. This means that you will not only be able to explore the lateral areas of a track, but the vertical ones, too. It makes the tracks feel very 3-dimensional by allowing this degree of freedom. The second game mode available is called Top Ride, a single-screen, top-down racing game reminiscent of games like RC Pro Am or Speed Sprint. The tracks in this mode are short but nicely-detailed, and should be more than sufficient for fans of this subgenre of racing games. I personally am not a fan of this kind of game, but I know that people who are say that this game mode is very good, and has a lot of personality. The last mode is possibly the best on of them all, called City Trial. This mode puts you and 3 other racers in an open city area to explore and collect power-ups for a brief period of time. After time is up, you race your upgraded vehicles in a randomly-chosen arena, track, or mini-game. I cannot stress how much fun this mode is in multiplayer. You and three other friends battling over power-ups, stealing items from one another, or even another person's upgraded vehicle makes for some hilarious and competitive gameplay. Random stage events also occur throughout the course of a City Trial match: A giant monster comes out of nowhere and wreaks havoc on the city, the nearby volcano erupts, etc. If this mode ends up being total chaos in multiplayer, then you're doing it right.

Gameplay: 9/10



Story

There is no story in Kirby Air Ride. Absolutely none. Not in the main game, not in the end credits, not even in the instruction manual. There is absolutely no explanation for why Kirby is racing with clones of himself on Warp Stars. I was kind of expecting to find something in the game, but now that I think about it, there are actually very few racing games, especially kart games, with stories to them. In fact, the only major kart racer that I remember to have a real story to it was ModNation Racers, so maybe racing games don't need a story. I am not going to be able to say much more here, as I can only stall for so long before you realize that I just wrote a whole paragraph specifically about nothing, so I will just end here.

Story: 5/10



Sound

I was pleasantly surprised by the music in Kirby Air Ride. Like Star Fox Assault, most of the music is orchestral, and very well-done. Kirby's music however, has a much more lively and perky tone to it than Star Fox. Every track is well-written, and is perfectly suited to each track. I greatly enjoyed listening to the music, and it stands out as one of the best parts of the game. I don't think I will ever forget Kirby Air Ride's soundtrack. I am hesitant to say this, but it may be worth getting the game just to hear the music. The audio quality is astounding, and uses the Gamecube Disc's enhanced storage capacity to the fullest. If you have a good speaker setup in your gaming den, then prepare for some serious ear candy. HAL put their heart and soul into creating this game's music, and it shows by passing with flying colors. It is just a shame that there was never an official soundtrack released, because I would buy it in a heartbeat. As for the sound effects, they are all crisp and clear, but my only complaint is that some variety in the effects would have helped. Different crashing sounds, etc. But, that is a minor complaint.

Sound: 9.5/10



Graphics

Kirby Air Ride features some awfully respectable visuals for a Gamecube game. The environments are detailed with features that often go deep into the fantastical and give each track its own distinct personality. The lava dragons in the Magma Flows level, the futuristic lighting in the Machine Passage stage, and plenty of other things make the game feel alive. The character models are quite good; Kirby certainly looks as puffy and round as ever, with none of the jagged edges that were in the beta version of Kirby Air Ride when it was still a Nintendo 64 game. Yes, the graphics were completely revamped for the Gamecube final version, and I am certainly glad they did. The game's textures could have used some work though; you can still see the boundary lines on the edges of some tracks, which looks awfully bizarre when compared to the good character models. If you have a component cable for your 'Cube (and you really should by now), the game can run in 480p, which helps smooth things out even more, and makes for a much cleaner picture. I will say it again; the Gamecube has probably the best-quality 480p of the past generation. Kirby Air Ride isn't the best demonstration of this higher resolution, at least, it doesn't use it as well as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, but it is a nice touch that I like to have in Gamecube games. As this is a racing game, the game has to be able to handle a lot of action on-screen at once. Thankfully, I never saw Kirby Air Ride drop in framerate even once while playing it, even in multiplayer! Behold the processing power of the mighty Gamecube!

Graphics: 8/10



Extras/Value

There is something interesting in this game that often gets overlooked, but I always regard as an important inclusion. It has somewhat of a precursor to achievements, in that by completing certain hidden tasks, you can open up squares on a grid. Some squares give you unlockables upon clearing them, such as new vehicles, characters, tracks, modes, etc. There are a ton of things to unlock, so you can be sure that there will always be something to do in Kirby Air Ride. Nintendo later re-used this unlockables grid in Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii. I don't think many people will ever legitimately complete this game, but that level of replay value certainly means you will get your money's worth. It should also be mentioned that this game was one of the few Gamecube games to support multiplayer LAN play, allowing you to hook up 1-3 other Gamecubes, and play over the wired network. I have not been able to try this, as I do not have two Gamecubes with Broadband adapters, but I can assume that it is quite fun to play. Don't forget that with the help of a program like Xlink Kai, you can actually play Kirby Air Ride online by tricking the Gamecube into thinking it is connected to a local network, when it is really online. The Gamecube's online scene is still alive and kicking, so get a friend or two to join for an online match together. If you all have Gamecubes with Broadband adapters, that is. Kirby Air Ride is currently selling at Gamestop for $20. That is certainly a bit more expensive than I expected, even for a first-party Gamecube game. This is an excellent game, but I am not sure if a used copy is worth that much. I recommend buying it, just find somewhere where it is cheaper.

Extras/Value: 7.5/10





Overall

Nintendo is arguably the king of kart racing games with Mario Kart, which all but invented the genre, but Kirby Air Ride is a good enough and unique enough game to stand on its own. It is still a kart racer at heart, but it does things different enough that it is a worthy contender for Mario Kart and other games of the genre. It is absolutely worth your time, and should be in every well-rounded Gamecube library. Nintendo may have lost the console war in the last generation, but that doesn't mean that it didn't show the Gamecube all the love that they could while it was around. Games like Kirby Air Ride show that trademark Nintendo gusto and heart that reminds us why we became gamers in the first place.





Overall: 8/10

This is Lisalover1, wishing on a shooting warp star for a maxim tomato.



Posted on Apr 30th 2011 at 10:12:04 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Global Star, Platformer, Licensed, Cartoon



The history of licensed games has not been good. That is a generous way of saying it. Very few games based off movies or TV shows have a chance of being acceptable. I must admit that this game I will be reviewing is not a great licensed game like Goldeneye or Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, but I will say that it is certainly a good game, and it is worth your time. Also, it is a game you would never expect to be good, and exploring the nooks and crannies of the Gamecube library to find the diamonds in the rough is what this blog is all about. Well, it isn't so much of a diamond as... let's say a jade, shall we? Okay, enough with the metaphors; let's examine why KND is worth your time.

Gameplay

I have always maintained that for a game to be good, first and foremost, it MUST have solid gameplay. Very few remembered and respected games ever released have had universally-recognized poor gameplay. In fact, if done right, a game can be carried almost entirely by solid gameplay. Indie games have proven this time and time again. While this is not entirely the case for KND (it has a few other redeeming features worth noting), its solid play mechanics and tight controls are certainly the best part of the game. Throughout the game, you play as 5 characters, each with different abilities specific to them, and while none of them are particularly unexpected or new, they add a good level of depth to the game through skill-specific puzzles. The game as a whole is just very well-constructed and has a inexplicable addictive element to it, and is a case study in excellent execution of game mechanics over everything else. Most of the game switches between four genres through the aforementioned 5 characters: Third-Person Shooter, 3D Beat-Em'-Up, 3D Platformer, and the most interesting of the four, 2D SHMUP. The 3rd-Person Shooter is rather generic, but the levels are generally fun and challenging to even things out. The Beat-Em'-Up stages contain the most puzzles, and have enough variety in them to keep things fresh. The 3D Platformer stages are probably the least interesting, but put a large emphasis on exploration. This changes things up and makes you re-think your strategy about how you approach a level, but for some reason, these levels feel half-baked. The final level type is perhaps the best of them all. The 2D SHMUP stages are well-designed and present a good challenge and utilize a bullet-absorbation system similar to games like Ikaruga in which you use a shield to absorb enemy fire and release it later for a super attack. These levels are always the most rewarding and fun to play, and actually measure up quite favorably to other SHMUPs on its own. Finally, the final boss battle comes out of nowhere, and is a 3D giant robot battle on the surface of the moon. It's as fun as it sounds. The game actually plays more like an N64 platformer, if that makes sense. It has that "early 3D experimental" vibe to it that makes it feel rather charming.

I do have some criticisms about the game, though. As I said, the game certainly doesn't do anything new, but instead just does what has already been done very well. Also, many of the levels tend to drag on, and generally last about half an hour. In some levels, this means unnecessary waves of extra enemies that serve only to fill out the level. Also, two of the characters you play as have essentially the same type of genre, and could have stood for one more type of level to make things even more interesting. Other than that, I have little complaints with the gameplay.

Gameplay: 8.5/10



Story

In the game, you play as 5 operatives in the worldwide military organization known as the Kids Next Door, who fight against various villains who symbolize the tribulations of childhood. For example, one villain, Stickybeard, is a pirate who "sails the seven suburbs" stealing candy from kid's houses. Another is Knightbrace, an evil dentist who controls an army of hypnotized retainer-wearing kids to do his bidding. You certainly can't fault the game for a lack of imagination in story, despite just being based on the TV show. When the game starts, you learn that all the villains have escaped from the KND's high-security moon prison, and you have to go recapture them all. Sure, it's a rather simplistic and silly story, but it suits the gameplay and the show it is based on quite well. As for the dialogue, most of the lines feel rehearsed and cheesy. There are a few good lines, and even two Star Wars references at the end of the game [I swear that I heard someone repeat "It's a trap!" in context during one of the last SHMUP levels set in space!], but for the most part, don't expect much out of the character's lines. Many of the villains are actually somewhat clever in their portrayal of things that kids hate. I named a few before, and even though they are from the show, and not made specifically for the game, they prove to be amusing and comical.

Story: 6.5/10



Sound

The soundtrack in KND is nothing special at all. It sounds like stock tunes slightly remixed and repurposed for the game, and are few ear-catching tracks; the ones that you do notice are ones done in an intentionally gaudy, 60's spy movie style that actually feel pretty appropriate. Other than those odd few tracks, the soundtrack is uninspired and bland. Th sound effects are only a little better. Just like those few good songs, the sound effects are silly and overdone, but given the nature of the game, they fit very well. Try to think of it like the sound effects in an old Batman of Hanna-Barbera cartoon. I like to think that the developers did this on purpose, but I don't think I would go that far. Overall, don't expect any ear candy from Codename: Kids Next Door. One last thing; I wasn't able to find any of the music for this game uploaded anywhere, and I'm too lazy to rip the audio myself, so I was unable to put in a sample for you in this review. I hope that's alright; here's just another screenshot. Sorry.

Sound: 5/10



Graphics

Another bland part of the game. The whole presentation is about what you would expect from a licensed game. The game runs in 480i in 4:3, the standard for Gamecube resolution. The character models are simple, but fluidly-animated. Everything looks smooth and cartoony, but that still is not excuse for a lack of detail. The framerate seems to dip when there is a lot of action on screen, which is pretty disappointing, considering the capabilities of the system. However, the game was also released for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt, and assume that it was mainly programed for the lower-end PS2, and the GC and Xbox versions are ports. A little platform optimization never hurt anyone. Nothing really stands out about KND's graphics. There were only a few real "wow" moments, and they were all on the last few levels of the game. While they were really neat, it was because it was in contrast to the rest of the game. The graphics are certainly not bad, but they're not good. They're passable, which, as I said, is about what you would expect from a licensed game. No more, no less.

Graphics: 5/10



Extras/Value

Hey, some good news! Codename: Kids Next Door has a ton of secrets and extras available in the game. In each level, you can collect things called Rainbow Monkeys (the game's equivalent of Mario's coins or Sonic's rings) which unlock various things once you collect enough of them. You can unlock concept art, training arenas, weapon upgrades, character costumes, and even the ability to play through certain stages as the villains and their minions! A game like this reminds me of early 3D platformers that had no end of secrets and extras; another reason why I believe this game plays a lot like an N64 platformer. There is a mountain of unlockables, and some do not come from collecting Rainbow Monkeys, and instead force you to scour each level to find them. Unlocking these can unlock entirely different modes, like boss rush, etc. While I don't think the unlockables are incentive enough to replay the entire game, they do entail some level of replay value, and certainly gives you a rewarding feeling to unlock them. As for the value, I found my copy of the game for $3. I don't believe any game is bad enough that it is not worth $3. Gamestop is currently selling it for $6, but I would wait it out for a better deal, if I were you. Six dollars is still a pretty good deal, but I did better, and you can, too.

Extras/Value: 9/10





Overall

If you go into this game expecting greatness, you will be sorely disappointed. There is no reason to think that this game is a tragically-underrated beacon of quality. What you will find, though, is a perfectly good game that will entertain you for several hours, and keep you hooked until the end through steady pacing and fun level design. There are just times when a game is just supposed to be fun, and this really is one of those times. If you can spare some pocket change and a few hours of your life, then I doubt you will be disappointed with Codename: Kids Next Door. It has a charming personality and plays on and with the tropes of platformers in a very good way. KND is a game that you would probably have never have even considered picking up, which is why I reviewed it in the first place. What I am trying to say is, if you play KND, you will easily get your time and money's worth, and it will probably put a smile on your face, too. Smiley





Overall: 7/10

This is Lisalover1, making high-level artillery out of soup cans and 2x4's.



Posted on Apr 29th 2011 at 09:36:02 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Controller, Clay, Sculpting, Art

I have been taking a ceramics class at my school, and I had some leftover clay and leftover time from my last project, so I decided to do something cool. It didn't take long to decide what to make; I took out some tools and started molding the shape of a Gamecube controller and console. After about 3 class periods, I finished sculpting, firing, and painting my controller, and while it is still a noticeably rushed job, I am pretty happy with it. Smiley The console took a bit longer to complete, but I had more attention to detail, and I am ultimately more proud of it. Unfortunately, it was originally going to be a single, closed unit, but the top broke after drying, so I had to make it just a Gamecube-shaped pot. Oh, well. I think it actually came out better this way.
So, without further ado, I give you my epic creations!

Before painting:

After Painting:

After Glazing:


My Gamecube Pot:

Before Painting:


After Painting:





Sorry about the huge blurry images; I took these pictures with my cell phone. Now that I look at these pictures, I don't really like the look of the controller; it feels sloppy. Still, it is something totally unique that I can add to my Gamecube collection.

This is Lisalover1, considering making a bust of Mario's head. Someone take this %&$#ing clay away from me.



Posted on Apr 26th 2011 at 10:08:30 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Paper, Mario, Nintendo, RPG



Nintendo is well known for taking Mario and putting him into games of unexpected genres, and usually adding their own unique twist to that genre. One of the best examples is the Paper Mario series, a simplified take on RPGs that has secured a distinct following in the gaming community. Starting out on the Nintendo 64, it became one of the few RPGs for the system, which continued with a sequel on the Gamecube. Unfortunately, the latest entry in the series has abandoned the RPG elements in lieu of standard 2D platforming. So today, I'm going to review the last RPG in the series, and one of the most fun games for the Gamecube.

Gameplay

Paper Mario 2 [or Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, if you're not into the whole brevity thing] is a very different kind of RPG. It is still turn-based, like most games in the genre, but it includes much more user input than most. During battle, you can press buttons at certain times in order to make an attack more powerful. Most attacks actually depend on precisely-timed button presses for maximum damage. This works very well for keeping you interested and engaged in the battles, as you have to pay close attention as to how you execute your moves. You're not just going through menus; it really feels like you are doing the actual fighting. Another abnormal aspect of the battle system is the low scoring, in that even late in the game, you probably won't reach a maximum of 100 HP. In fact, the toughest boss in the game, which is a hidden one, at that, only has 200 HP. If you're used to playing RPGs with comically-high status numbers like Disgaea, get ready for a bit of a shock. But, after getting used to the system, I came to the conclusion that it works just fine for this type of game. Paper Mario 2 is meant to be a simple, entry-level RPG, and it succeeds greatly on this level. A nice touch to the battles is that you can see enemies on the screen, and launching a preemptive attack on them gives you an edge in the coming battle, much like in the Persona series, only much more lenient. You can tell that a heavy emphasis was put on interactivity in the battles, and that Nintendo wanted to stay as far away from the stereotypically dull battles of most turn-based RPGs. The world map is also atypical, in that it is not an actual map; just an overall collection of normal screens. It is an odd, but effective way to make the world seem big. Instead of conveying it artificially by a world map, it really makes you move across the world by yourself, if you can see what I mean. There are warp pipes that let you go long distances, but that is about it. The gameplay in Paper Mario 2 is best described as unique, and is much better for it. It always keeps you interested, and coming back for more.

Gameplay: 10/10



Story

Since Paper Mario 2 is an RPG, I can't use the standard cop-out here. Luckily, there is actually a very good story, but, in true Mario fashion, in anything but an ordinary way. Instead of telling a dramatic, epic tale like in most games of the genre, it goes for a much more lighthearted and humorous approach that is quite refreshing. The characters are witty, colorful, and interesting; the villains in particular are a total riot, and it is almost a shame you have to fight them! Another nice part about the game is the fantastic locations you visit. A floating vegas-esque city, a monochromatic giant tree, and even the moon! There is an unbridled sense of creativity in the game, making it always a joy to play. As I said, the dialogue is entertaining, the locations are unique and interesting, and everything is just plain fun. Kudos to Nintendo for doing something different, and making it work.

Story: 9/10



Sound

As you might expect, the audio in Paper Mario 2 has a perky, whimsical quality. It's anything but serious, and suits the game nicely. Nintendo gave it a whole lot of personality, even in the [relatively] dramatic moments, it still sounds funny, in a good way. The sound effects are also humorous, making the entire audio experience in Paper Mario 2 to be something humorous and quite fun. Few of the tracks feel truly out of place, so for most of the areas you will encounter will be accompanied by a suitable tune. The only bad thing I can say about the audio seems awfully low-fidelity for a Gamecube game; sounding more like its Nintendo 64 predecessor than other disc-based games. Other than that, you are in for some nice tunes in Paper Mario 2.

Sound: 8.5/10



Graphics

The Paper Mario series employs a unique art style that can best be described as faux-3D: 3D models that look like 2D sprites. It gives the game a certain charm that few other games can match, and allows for some incredibly expressive animations, mostly from Mario himself. Everything looks full of life and is vibrant and colorful, and even the one level that is intentionally monochromatic is still infinitely more interesting than most games that are unintentionally so. I cannot overstate how great the animations are in Paper Mario 2; they give a great amount of characterization, and can describe a character just as well as dialogue. Since the game supports progressive scan 480p, the faux-2D visuals look especially nice at a higher resolution. Yet another reason too seek out a Gamecube Component Cable. Wink Another excellent aspect of the graphics is the amount of models that can be on the screen at once; the game obviously borrowed some ideas from the famous 'Mario 128" Gamecube tech demo, as some scenes can have around 100 models on screen at once! I was very proud that the 'Cube could handle such a feat.

Graphics: 9/10



Extras/Value

Sidequests are the name of the game in Paper Mario 2, with over half a game still left after you finish the game. Among other things, you can participate in a cooking minigame with dozens of recipes to find, take personal requests at the hub city's "Trouble Center", searching for all the hidden star pieces and shine sprites in the game, or undergo the "Pit of 100 Trials", a hidden dungeon in the game that is exactly what it sounds like. Standard RPG fare, but it is appreciated to have so much of it in the game. Also, most of the sidequests are actually enjoyable, as opposed to endless and boring rare monster hunts seen in other games. Finally, and possibly the most fun, are the missions that take place at the end of each chapter, in which you play a short stage with Bowser, who mostly retraces Mario's steps about 1 chapter behind the plumber. The stages are quite varied, and the dialogue is some of the best anywhere in the game. In other words, you will be looking forward to them, in particular. The game is currently going for $15 at Gamestop; not bad at all for a Role-Playing Game AND a First-Party Gamecube title. I would highly recommend picking it up if you enjoy RPGs, or are just Nintendo fans.

Extras/Value: 9/10



Overall

The Gamecube was pretty starved for RPGs, but in all honesty, it got some of the best ones of the generation, and Paper Mario 2 is a great example. It had buckets of personality, dashing visuals, and simple-yet-fun gameplay that is unconventional for the genre. It is an awesome game that deserves to be played by every Gamecube fan, and at least tried out by every Gamecube owner. If you care about RPGs and have some spare cash, put this near the top of your purchase list. You won't regret it.





Overall: 9/10

This is Lisalover1, folding some origami to simulate a boss fight.



Posted on Apr 24th 2011 at 05:57:47 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Nintendo, Simulation, GBA, Multiplayer



[Note: This post was originally written in late November, hence the mentions to Thanksgiving.]

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in America [and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to Canada]! You're probably going to be with family a lot over the holidays, so I'm going to review a classic Gamecube game that you can show everyone. Every now and then, we need a break from all the action that most games give us. We need a break from the high-octane power fantasies that are most prevalent in gaming today, and simply try something more soothing. We just need something to calm our nerves. I heard someone say once [although I don't quite remember who] that Animal Crossing is not just relaxing; it's practically healing, which is why it is good that games like it exist. Animal Crossing fills a much-needed gap in the gaming world, and it is appreciated for that. So, what exactly makes Animal Crossing not just a good game, but a necessary game?

Gameplay

Animal Crossing is a Life Simulator, in the same vein as titles like Harvest Moon or The Sims. You go about the game day-to-day, talking with neighbors, collecting items/furniture, making money, decorating your house, etc. There's always something to do, so you're sure not to get bored for some time. The game was first advertised as "the game that keeps playing, even when you're not", and it really lives up to that idea. Everything in the game happens in real-time, so when the sun rises/sets in real life, it will probably also do so in the game. Certain activities are only available at certain times on certain days, while many very rare events happen randomly, in which case, you just have to keep looking for them every day. Holidays in Animal Crossing generally involve some sort of festival in which every member of the community participates. It's actually quite fun to play on these days; some of the outcomes of festivals may even get you a really rare item. And therein lies the core of the gameplay; item collection. Your ultimate "goal" in Animal Crossing is to pay off your debts, expand your house, and decorate it. There are other goals to accomplish, such as completing every entry in the town museum, but as I said, the main goal is to make your house awesome. There are hundreds of different items and pieces of furniture to collect, and you can make your house look like whatever your imagination and pocketbook will allow. You can even collect miniature NES systems that include certain games, which is a really nice touch. Some items can only be obtained through extensively complicated and difficult means [more than one has you participate in an event on the Animal Crossing website!], but usually these items are really interesting and fun. As with all Life Sim games, Animal Crossing is extremely addictive, meaning you can easily log months of game time in, seeing everything the game has to offer. Also, when you're done in your town, you can visit a friend's town, too. All you need is their memory card, and you can visit, meet your friend's neighbors, check what is available in their shop, etc. These things add infinite replay value to the game [if you could call it replay value; the game never really ends]. Animal Crossing also features a certain level of multiplayer; up to 4 players can live in the same town, so if you'll forgive the horrendously-overused cliche, it really is a game for the whole family. I do wish Nintendo would have incorporated direct online features into the game. The Gamecube needed to prove its worth in this area very badly during its life, and it was never utilized very well. A feature where you could download new holidays, events, items, or neighbors would have been a great feature, and would have given the game even more play time, and always give you something new to do. The sequel, Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS had online functionality, but only to visit other player's towns in multiplayer. This was still a great idea, but I just wish it, along with the DLC, would have been with the series from the start. It would be the final piece in the puzzle of a truly living, breathing world in your 'Cube.

Gameplay: 9/10



Story

In Animal Crossing, you play as [insert name here], a new citizen in the quiet town of [insert name here]. As you progress though the game, you meet new neighbors, such as [various] or the ever-cheerful [to be determined]. Okay, enough with that joke. As you can see, a lot of the game's story is either nonexistent, random, or player-determined. The only things that remain predetermined are certain NPCs that stay in town regardless of what events happen, like the extortionist asshole shopkeeper, Tom Nook [to whom you must pay back your SUBSTANTIAL house debt], the incredibly lazy museum curator, Blathers, and the absolute bane of my existence, Resetti, an unbelievably long-winded mole that shows up every single time you neglect to save your game, and whose lectures get exponentially longer and more irritating each time you do so. Your normal neighbors are much more manageable, and are actually nice to you. There's really not much else to say about the story in the game; there is none. This doesn't mean that the Life Sim genre is universally devoid of story, though. Certain games in the Harvest Moon series have completely demolished this barrier. Once again, a game like this doesn't need a story, because the gameplay is more than enough. I'm starting to sound like a broken record, aren't I?

Story: 8/10



Sound

I'm going to be honest; I din't like the music in Animal Crossing. It came across as bland, repetitive, and even irritating at times. The sequel's music was actually much better, and conveyed a more soothing, pleasant tone. I don't know what happened with the Gamecube version, though. The whole thing just feels wrong. It feels like Nintendo wanted to create an almost comical effect with the audio, but it really falls flat for such a slow-paced game. The one good thing I will say is that each tune seems to fit the situation well; they are just for the most part not very good songs. There a few nice ones in there, like the rainy day song, which I posted here, but overall, it's just not very good. As I said, the music in Wild World is leaps and bounds better, so don't get too discouraged. Nintendo should have gone back and taken another look on what this series is really about to make good music for it. As it stands, the music is mostly tolerable, but certainly not great.

Audio: 5/10



Graphics

Animal Crossing actually originally debuted on the Nintendo 64 in Japan, where it was called Doubutsu no Mori, translated into Animal Forest. There were several differences between Forest and Crossing, but the core game remained the same. The good news was that Animal Forest was a really great-looking N64 game, which translated into a good-looking Gamecube game. Also, the updated Gamecube version supports 480p, a higher resolution than the N64 version offered. But realism isn't everything. Far from it; the best thing about the game's graphics is its charming art style. Everything in the game is presented in a cartoony fashion, with basic, pastel textures and definite angles, which are all very easy on the eyes. While the game failed in finding suitable audio, it greatly succeeds in a suitable art style. Some of the objects in the game, particularly background objects, are in 2D, which help even more with the game's aesthetic. While the game's graphics won't blow you away, they certainly fit the gameplay like a glove.

Graphics: 7.5/10



Extras/Value

I mentioned before that there are a bunch of neat easter eggs in Animal Crossing, like the collectible NES games, for example. There is a bunch of hidden furniture to collect, which gives you a real sense of accomplishment when you collect a whole set. There is also an island that you can visit off the coast of your town, which can only be accessed on a Game Boy Advance via a Gamecube-to-GBA Link Cable. It's a nice little bonus feature, and there are some special items that can only be obtained on the island, so if you want to get something really rare, you might have to hook up your GBA. There's another function that the GBA has in the game, though. You can use the E-Reader device for the system, and scan cards on it to unlock even more things in the game. While the E-Reader may have been a commercial flop, it is still a cool idea, and demonstrates Nintendo's resourcefulness. There is so much to unlock in this game that I don't think anyone has ever legitimately unlocked everything. Even if it has been done, it might take a couple years of play. You're really going to get your money's worth with Animal Crossing. Speaking of which, the game is currently $10 at Gamestop; not too shabby.

Extras/Value: 9/10





Overall

Animal Crossing is not meant to be a game that is played constantly [although many people do so]; it is meant to be played in short bursts, and is designed around that style. It is a game that you can put countless cumulative hours into, perfecting and completing everything over time. Nintendo really made a good move in localizing this oddball title, because it is really something unique and fun. Of course, it has now become a lucrative series, but it was a bit of a risk back when it was first released. I can now honestly say that this is one of the 'Cube's best time-wasters, and is a joy to play. If you haven't tried Animal Crossing before, you should probably try Wild World first, but the Gamecube version holds up well, too.





Overall: 7.5/10



This is Lisalover1, and I know you cried a little at that last image. Smiley



Posted on Apr 24th 2011 at 05:43:05 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Nintendo, Star Fox, Action, Multiplayer



Star Fox has caught a lot of flak from gamers over the recent years, for very little good reason, besides the derivative Star Fox Adventures, also on the Gamecube, which was negatively received. But Assault is different; it has the same rail-based 3D shooting that the series is famous for, along with several other modes. So, why did nobody give Assault a chance? Why is it never included in people's lists of best 1st-party Gamecube games? To be honest, I'm not sure. Keep reading to find out why Star Fox Assault is worth your time.

Gameplay

Star Fox Assault starts out with an intense rail-shooter space battle, much like the previous games in the series, and certainly shows that it is out to prove that the franchise is still alive and kicking in what it does best. The control is smooth and responsive, and all the standard attacks [Shot, Charge Shot, Bomb], so anyone who has played a Rail Shooter before will know what to do. The only issue I had with the controls while piloting were that the Y-Axis control was inverted, and not the X-Axis, but you can change that in the options menu. The piloting sections are cool, and if any of you Gamecube owners out there were ever jealous that Panzer Dragoon Orta was an Xbox exclusive, then these stages will ease your pain. There are also missions that take place on-foot, that allow you to use multiple weapons or a tank to shoot your way through enemies. These levels are very fast-paced and have a fair bit of diversity among equipping weapons; Pistols, Rocket launchers, Sniper Rifles, Grenades, etc. You wouldn't expect to find more than one or two extra weapons in a game like this, and to be honest, you don't really need them, unless required by mission parameters, but they are a ton of fun to use. As I said, you can also drive a tank, if you like. The tank cannot use the extra weapons, but has better defense, can hover for a brief period, and can kill weaker enemies by running over them. These missions reminded me a lot of Capcom's PN-03, another Gamecube exclusive, which is a very good thing. The third type of mission is an aerial dogfight mission, which is like the pilot missions, but gives you total freedom of movement. This mode is nice, too, and is on par with many other aerial combat games, but doesn't bring anything really new to the table; it just does the essentials notably well. There are also a couple of different sub-missions that occasionally take place after a main one, and sometimes ground and dogfight missions are combined, having you hop in and out of your Arwing to manage enemies in the air and ground. The worst part about the game, though, is its length. There are only 10 missions, so you can finish it in a day, which is a real shame, because this game has a lot of great ideas, and the gameplay is just fun in its purest form, but you only get a few short hours of it. I would have loved to see at least another 10 levels; more if possible, but I guess beggars can't be choosers.

Gameplay: 8/10



Story

I was seriously surprised by Star Fox Assault's story; it was much deeper than I expected from an action game. I have never gotten very far in a Star Fox game before, but I always assumed it had little story, and didn't really need one, but this game's story totally came out of left field. I'm not saying it's anywhere near what you might find in an RPG or an Adventure game, but it stands heads and shoulders above other action and shooter games, making it feel more like an action movie. Now, don't get me wrong; I don't want to make this out to be any more than it is, but I still think Nintendo should be commended for writing up something quite different. I had some issues with awkward dialogue in the game; mostly from the fact that it was written with kids as the primary audience, so it is jarring [and kind of funny] to hear frequent profanity substitute words. It just feels really out of place. Other than that, I think Star Fox Assault has a relatively good story when compared to the rest of the genre, but once again, it is crippled by the disappointingly short length of the game.

Story: 8.5/10



Sound

What do you know? I was surprised yet again by Star Fox Assault. Since this is a science fiction game, I expected a soundtrack heavy with rock and techno tunes, but all the music in the game is actually orchestral! It sounds very good, too; I can tell that a fair bit of work was put into the music. I thought the orchestra music would sound out of place in a game like this, but with all the huge battles going on in each mission, it fits like a glove. The sound effects, on the other hand, sound pretty generic and basic, but in retrospect, it's probably better that they didn't interfere with the background music. The voice actors for the characters seem different than the ones I remember in Star Fox 64, but then again, I remember them being much more annoying in that game. All the actors are well-suited for the characters they represent, so no complaints there. Overall, I seriously enjoyed Star Fox Assault's soundtrack; maybe not enough so that I would put it on my MP3 player, but enough to make me come back to the game.

Sound: 8/10



Graphics

The graphics in Star Fox Assault are all right when doing ground missions, and are great when doing pilot missions. All the chaos going on in the background of the latter mission type really gives you the sense of an epic battle in space. That, and the detail on each ship looks nice, making it all the more shocking to see all of this happening at a quick, steady framerate, especially on missions where two both aerial dogfights and ground combat are going on at once. Thus, it isn't the game's graphical detail that is impressive; it is the amount of action going on at any given time that makes you wonder how it is possible. It just all comes together to a game that has much more technical than visual prowess. The graphics are still above average, though, especially during cutscenes, where everything is bumped up to a much higher level of detail. I would still say that the in-game graphics are a step down from its predecessor, Star Fox Adventures, but it is likely just to allow for faster action and a better framerate; because of this, I think it is a fair trade-off.

Graphics: 7/10



Extras/Value

In order to offset the disappointing length, a 4-player battle mode was included that, honestly, is one of the best multiplayer experiences I have had the chance to play on the 'Cube. The mode is fun and addictive, and move along at a speedy pace, like the rest of the game. Unfortunately, there is no option for CPU-based multiplayer, so you're going to actually need some friends with you to play. But, it isn't that big of a deal; it is worth getting everyone over for some good shooting action. Just like the main game, Dogfight mode, Ground mode, and a mode that combines the two are available for multiplayer, which can lead to some really interesting and clever strategies that add a lot of depth to the game. I'm going to go so far as to say it may be worth it to buy this game just for the multiplayer, as it is just that much fun. I haven't had such a good time with a local 4-player game since Super Smash Bros. Melee. A lot of people don't know this, but it was actually Namco that did most of the development work on Star Fox Assault; Nintendo only did a bit of the development work, and all the publishing work. Thus, completing the game on Normal mode unlocks Namco's classic SHMUP, Xevious, for you to play. It's just a nice little extra cherry on top that isn't necessary, but is appreciated nonetheless. Star Fox Assault is currently selling for $15 at Gamestop. Despite how much fun this game is, I'm still going to have to recommend that you try and find it cheaper; maybe around $10 or so, due to the game's length. I have seen many copies sell for about $5, so you should have no trouble finding one. But when you do see the game, by all means, buy it, especially if you are planning a game night with some of your friends, and need to stock up on good 4-player games.

Extras/Value: 7.5/10





Overall

Star Fox Assault, at its core, is a great game with a ton of neat and creative ideas, but all of that is cut short by its terribly brief length. The multiplayer mode offsets this, but there is no excuse for a short single-player mode. If Namco and Nintendo had put a bit more time into this game to add at least 10 more levels, this would be less of a problem, but as it stands, this game was too much crammed into too little of time. It is still an extremely fun game, and is definitely worth a purchase, but unless you frequently play games with your friends, you will just beat the game and move on, which is just a tragedy for such an otherwise good game. But, as I said, I am pretty sure you will still love Star Fox Assault, with its fast, furious, and exciting gameplay, so give the game a shot when you happen to see it for sale.





Overall: 7.5/10

This is Lisalover1, repeatedly shooting the obvious glowing weak spot.



Posted on Apr 24th 2011 at 04:55:31 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Audio, Video, Accessories, Hardware, Mods



There are a lot of ways to get A/V output from an electronic device. Tons of different cables, connection setups, television inputs, sound systems, etc. If you don't know what you're doing, things can get confusing in a hurry. After hearing some requests for clarification on Gamecube A/V setups on Racketboy Forums, I decided to make a post that goes through the many options that a Gamecube owner has to get the Audio and Video connections that bet suits their needs. So, let's see what the good old 'Cube has to offer!



RF Adapter



We're starting with the most basic connection available; RF [Radio Frequency]. This gives the worst-quality video and audio, only offering Monoral sound and a very blurry picture. In my opinion, the RF Adapter should only be used when all you have is an old TV. Using RF cables on an old Tube TV will make the image tolerable, but using them on a new, flat-screen TV, especially on a big screen, will look terrible, so avoid an RF Adapter at all costs if you have a television that supports better connections. If you have a Super Nintendo or Nintendo 64, it probably came with an RF Adapter. Since the latter consoles and the Gamecube all use the same A/V connection, you can use the same RF Adapter across all the systems. Anyway, like I said, avoid this cable whenever possible.


Composite Cable



Composite is the standard Audio/Video connection in use today; it comes bundled with most devices that require A/V output, as most TVs support it. It offers slightly better video quality over RF, and much better audio quality, as it supports stereo audio. This is the cable that came with the Gamecube, so it is likely the one you are using. It uses 480i as its highest resolution, which is relatively low on the scale of resolutions. That's the bad news. The good news is that all Gamecube games, and modern games in general require support for at least 480i, so there is no chance of incompatibility. Also, some developers use this low resolution to hide graphical impurities, like what Konami did with Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation. This is less common these days, but crafty [or just lazy] developers can still make use of this technique to make games look better to the eye than they do to the machine. That doesn't mean that games will look worse with better connections; game developers know that they should institute backup plans for higher resolutions; they just might look different. Composite video's most infamous failing is dull, washed-out colors.

Even in games that do not support native 480p, there is a noticable difference between Composite and Component [I had an image for this, but I can't seem to find it right now, so this space is just a placeholder for now]. The image in the Composite and S-Video pictures is noticeably darker and blurrier than the Component image. Composite video is certainly not optimal, but it is a step up from RF, so if you're comfortable with the standard resolution, then stick with Composite.

S-Video



S-video, while still set at a 480i resolution, delivers a much clearer image than Composite, and is the preferred connection type for older consoles, because it is common, yet still a definite graphical enhancement. I can't say I would normally recommend S-Video for a Gamecube A/V setup. If you want a better image, in my opinion, you should just find a Component Cable. The only two reasons I could recommend it is if the most advanced connection your TV takes is S-Video, or you are unsure about buying a component cable, due to the prohibitive cost. I can understand that, but S-Video isn't really that much of a graphical leap up to justify a new cable purchase. Trust me, it's worth it to go for the Component Cable. Get an S-Video cable if you want the best video signal available for a North American Gamecube, without buying the former.

SCART



This one is for European and Japanese Gamecube-owners only. SCART is more or less the international version of S-Video, although that may be an oversimplification. Technically, SCART is superior to S-Video in image quality, but still inferior to Component. It is the best-quality 480i image you can get, and is cheap. As I understand it, European Gamecubes do not have a Digital Video port, so this is the best connection available to them. A SCART connection carries both audio and video, so you don't need a separate cable for audio. Because of this, many regard it as the precursor to the more modern HDMI cable.

Component Cable



This is arguably the best video cable available for the Gamecube, given the factors of quality, rarity, region, and game support. The Gamecube Component Cable was released only in Japan, but it works just fine on North American televisions. It supports 480p resolutions, and many games released in the NTSC-U regions still support it, despite never seeing an official release. Games that support it tend to see a dramatic increase in image quality over Composite, so I wholeheartedly recommend it if you want to see the Gamecube pushed to its graphical limits. Here is a picture showing the difference between Component and Composite video for the game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:



As you can see, the difference is night and day. The only drawback to this great accessory is that it is ridiculously expensive; it can easily go for around $50. If you're patient, you could surely find one for less [I got mine for $15], but you may be waiting a while. But, if you really care about image quality, then it is my opinion that the Gamecube has the best-quality 480p graphics of its generation, and it is worth every penny. An absolute must for any GC collector. Plus, it upscales games played via the Game Boy Player to 480p! Two very important things to remember, however: 1. DO NOT GET A 3RD-PARTY COMPONENT CABLE. Only the official Nintendo cable supports 480p and uses the Digital Video port, so any others are just a waste of money. 2. If your Gamecube lacks a Digital Video port, then you cannot use the Component Cable. You can check your Gamecube by looking to see if there are 3 ports in the back of it. If there are, then you can use the cable. If not, then too bad; I'm very sorry for you.

D-Terminal



Getting even more region-specific, D-Terminal cables are only available in Japan, and only for Japanese TVs. It supports both 480i and 480p, so it is as good as a component cable, but only a fraction of Gamecube-owners will have a TV that supports the connection. D-Terminal actually supports up to 1080p resolution, so technically, it is superior to Component, but not on the Gamecube, where both are capped at a 480p resolution. It should be noted that this cable is as expensive, if not more expensive, than the GC Component Cable, so unless you're a 'Cube collector or own a Japanese TV, I would recommend skipping out on this one.

VGA Cable



This is where you have to be more careful. VGA is the connection generally used to connect a computer to a computer monitor, but it can also be used for game consoles. The trouble is, there was never an official VGA Cable released for the Gamecube, so you are going to have to rely on 3rd-party solutions. Unfortunately, not all VGA solutions are the same. The most common type you will find are VGA boxes, which, while still allowing you to connect to a monitor, do not use the Digital Video port, and thus, cannot do 480p. Fortunately, VGA boxes are cheap and plentiful. I have not had good experiences with the image quality of VGA boxes, but if you absolutely must connect your Gamecube to your monitor... keep reading. The other solution takes a bit more time and effort, but may be worth it. It is possible to modify an official Component Cable into a VGA Cable; you just need to have a bit of experience in console mods to make it happen. Since the official Component Cable costs so much, and this is a bit of a risky procedure, I would recommend having someone else who is more experienced handle the project. It will cost more than a VGA box, but if you are in a situation where you need to connect your GC to a monitor, and still want the best image quality, consider this route.

Portable Screen



There are two available types of the Portable Gamecube Screen. Most of them use the standard Composite connection, but I believe the screen made by Interact supports the Digital Video port, so you should be able to get 480p video on that screen. Now, be warned; most portable screens are very low-quality, regardless of the type of connection you use. Still, it is a great solution for those who want to play their Gamecube on the go. For those who want to go a step further in their quest for a mobile 'Cube, you can get the Gamecube Rechargeable Battery Pack, which plugs into the bottom of the system, like a Game Boy Player. It only gives two hours of battery life, but by combining the screen, battery pack, and a wavebird, you will have a completely wireless setup! Finally, for those just wishing to show off, there is the Gamecube Hip Screen. Ever wish your GC had VMU functionality like the Dreamcast? Well, this is probably the closest you are ever going to get. The Hip Screen is a special controller with its own tiny monitor on top of it. It is insanely expensive, and not worth it at all for the non-collector. But it still is quite awesome; that, you cannot deny.

Video Capture Device



If you want to play your Gamecube on your laptop without emulation, this is your only option, and it's a doozy. A video capture device is technically only supposed to record video from a device, but it can be used to view it, too. You can get a USB video capture device for most connection types; a Component one is shown above. These capture devices can be really expensive; the one shown above is about $150. I honestly can't recommend the latter to anyone because of this, unless you absolutely, positively have to connect your Gamecube to your laptop screen. There are cheaper capture devices out there that only support S-Video/Composite, so you can save some money there, but, as I said, I would avoid this route altogether, if I were you.

Optical Audio



Get out your soldering irons again, because this is another one that will require a mod. Optical audio, also known as SPDIF, is currently the highest-quality method for getting Gamecube audio, but no cable ever supported it, and technically, the Gamecube shouldn't support it; the Digital port on the system is for Video only. But, through the magic of console mods, you can get perfectly clear audio from your purple lunchbox. Once again, I suggest sending your Gamecube to someone more experienced with this mod if you plan to do this. I can't say I have tried this myself, but I have heard from others that the sound is gorgeous, compared to standard stereo. Oddly enough, many games in the GC library support Dolby Pro Logic I/II for surround sound, such as Resident Evil 4 and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. This is a necessary mod for all you audiophiles out there, so if you're interested in the best sound possible from the system, get cracking! [Or hacking, as it would seem]. Before you start on this, though, you should know that you can only use optical audio if you have a compatible speaker system and reciever. You can't just plug the cable into your TV.


There you have it; those are pretty much all the ways to get Audio/Video signals out of a Gamecube. The best possible setup would be a combination of a Component Cable and an Optical Audio mod, but I have a feeling that few Gamecube owners have actually done this. If you do, you might just have the most enviable Gamecube around, and you will certainly have the best-looking and sounding one. I hope I helped clear up some confusion about possible A/V setups, and now it is up to you to decide which one best fits your needs. I am including a couple links below about some of the more unusual things I mentioned in the article.

Gamecube A/V Mods: http://forums.benheck.com...7&t=5035&start=75
Gamecube Hip Screen: http://www.amazon.com/HIP...ad-GameCube/dp/B000078D1V
Video Capture Tutorial: http://dvr.about.com/od/t...capturemethods/ht/ht1.htm


This is Lisalover1, exploring the vast jungle of cables behind my TV.



Posted on Apr 24th 2011 at 04:26:44 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Capcom, Survival Horror, Review, Resident Evil



There are a few games in every generation that will be remembered forever. Games that not only surpass the barrier of the humdrum and shovelware, but break it into a million little pieces. These games make us remember why we pick continue to pick up our controllers, and immerse ourselves in a virtual world. They remind us why we loved games in the first place. Resident Evil 4 is one of those games. It is the game that convinced thousands to pick up a Gamecube, and that Nintendo might just have a place in the hardcore market, after all. I won't be answering any questions in this review. You know this game is great, I know this game is great, and everyone else, except Survival Horror genre purists, knows this game is great. I just am going to clarify why.


Gameplay

Resident Evil 4 is a major departure from the first 3 titles in the series, in an innumerable amount of ways. The first being the most noticeable; instead of the fixed perspective found in games 1-3, the camera now was fully adjustable, and allowed for much better control and exploration. While some complain that giving the player more control takes away from the fear in a Survival Horror game; I am going to have to disagree. A genre should not list weaknesses as strengths; while there are some exceptions, universally-accepted categories such as control should not be excluded. Why? Think about this: How many great games have you played that had bad controls? Not many, I bet. Speaking of controls, Resident Evil 4 makes full utilization of the Gamecube's dual analog sticks, and allow for quick, precise movement. This is especially necessary when it comes to weapon aiming. When preparing to fire a weapon, you are given an over-the-shoulder view of the area, along with a [very, very VERY useful] laser aim that pinpoints your bullet's path. You're going to need it, too. RE4 requires you to be very conservative with your munitions, so headshots are necessary to kill enemies as efficiently as possible. This can get quite hectic later on, when enemies are faster, more numerous, and take longer to kill. But, that's all part of the fun. They don't call it Survival Horror for nothing. Throughout the game, you can purchase a variety of weapons with which to dispatch enemies, ranging from simple pistols to shotguns, sniper rifles, Grenades, and even Rocket Launchers and Mine Throwers! But, that's not to say Leon will become a walking tank. You cannot carry an infinite amount of items; everything is managed via a grid-shaped inventory screen, in which you can re-arrange items to fit everything in. Clever packers will be able to make good use of the system to manage weapons, healing items, ammo boxes, and accessories effectively. The game isn't just action, though, but there is more of a focus on it than in other games in the series; there are also numerous logic puzzles to be solved to progress through the story. Some can be solved with a glance, but others present a greater challenge; there is one "Sliding Tile" puzzle in particular that was positively infuriating, but none of them are completely unfair, and they can all be solved with a little brainwork. There was one thing that really stood out to me about the gameplay, though. It is a very rare quality that few games have, but the ones that do are phenomenally better for it: Flow. Allow me to explain. In Resident Evil 4, you are never left in the dark [metaphorically, of course] and wondering what to do next. Your next destination is always either obvious, or marked on the map screen. I didn't have to look at a guide once throughout the game's exploration sections. And that's what flow is; an addictive, perfectly paced element in a game's progression that makes it hard to put down, and RE4 has it in spades. If you're like me, and have a laughably short attention span, and can never bring yourself to finish most games, then this game is definitely for you. Resident Evil 4 is a great example of several new gameplay risks balanced perfectly with rock-solid core gameplay. Whatever complaints I had with the game were minimal, and were drowned out by the overwhelming great aspects of the game. But, for the sake of critique, I think I should say them, anyway. I stated earlier that the camera was a huge improvement from previous games. While that is true, there were still some problems with it. For one, the 3rd-person perspective innately comes with the problem of the character obscuring a portion of the screen, which is not a problem for the most part, but can become annoying in tight passageways and when aiming. Also, the camera sometimes defaults to an awkward position in certain hallways, so I have to keep holding the C-Stick in a certain direction to have a normal camera. But, as I said, these complaints are minimal. RE4 is a triumph.

Gameplay: 10/10



Story

Leon Kennedy, previously seen in Resident Evil 2, is a US government agent sent to a remote Spanish village to rescue Ashley, the president's kidnapped daughter. When he arrives, he finds that the townspeople are violent and hostile, and want him dead. Having no choice but to kill them, he proceeds through the village to look for Ashley, and eventually gets tangled up in a huge mess involving a militant religious cult, an ancient virus called Las Plagas, and even the ominous plans of the series' main villain, Albert Wesker. There is much more to the story, but I don't want to spoil anything. What I do want to talk about are the incredible boss battles in the game. Most of the bosses are horrific experiments conducted using Las Plagas, including a giant fish, ogre-like titans, and many things that are so grotesque, I'm not even sure how to describe them. The game has many cutscenes, and many have such good graphics that you can't be sure if they are FMVs or if they use the game engine. I sure couldn't tell. But, I'll get to that later. A bit of the story is told through various notes and journals that you pick up throughout the game. They are optional, but are interesting, and provide a backstory for the events in the game, and sometimes even provide hints on how to progress through upcoming segments. the story in RE4 is definitely more well-handled than I expected, but it's not mind-blowingly spectacular. There are several Action and Survival Horror games with better stories.

Story: 7/10



Sound

I'm coming to realize that there is a reason that there isn't much music in Survival Horror games. It is a matter of atmosphere, making the player feel alone and scared. While that's all well and good, and I think I understand it a bit better now in the context of the genre, there's still not very many different tracks in Resident Evil 4. But, like Luigi's Mansion, the songs that are in the game are phenomenal, and suit each situation perfectly. There are songs that send chills down your spine, and several that just give an eerie presence. The songs are re-used a bit too often, and it is very common that there is no music at all. But, I have noticed that whenever this happens, there is a very good reason. For example, when you are supposed to pay more attention to the environment around you, or when a boss battle is coming up. The game's dialog is good enough, but Leon seems to have an infinite stockpile of cheesy one-liners, which make some cutscenes cringe-worthy. The voice actors, though, are well-chosen, and speak their lines believably. The sound effects are awesome, like they should be in any game where atmosphere is a primary concern. RE4 uses Dolby Pro Logic II, just like Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, so every sound in the game can be "heard in the right direction", even if you don't have a specific speaker setup. The surround sound helps quite well when trying to pinpoint the location of a hiding enemy. Overall, RE4's audio is terrific, and stands out when coming through your TV/Speakers.

Audio: 9/10



Graphics

Now we come to the biggest part of the game, or at least the most-discussed part of Resident Evil 4; the graphics. And they are impeccable. I seriously had to think if I had ever seen any oXbox games that looked this good! They blow everything else I have seen on the system out of the water, with maybe an exception or two. RE4 uses every trick in the book, and then some, especially the gorgeous 480p resolution. It isn't something I can accurately describe with words; it is something you have to experience to understand. Despite the unmatched graphical prowess, I never once encountered slowdown, and the game always ran at a steady framerate. This is the Gamecube being pushed to its absolute limits. The oXbox was never pushed to such an extent, as far as I know, and even though the PS2 was, it never even came close. I don't think that the 'Cube was ever intended to do graphics like this, but RE4 proves that it is not only possible, but they made it look easy! I cannot stress enough how amazing the visuals are. If for no other reason, the game is worth a playthrough for them alone. "But, there was a PS2 port, wasn't there?", I'm sure you're saying. Well, you would be correct, but I played a bit of the PS2 version, and quickly discovered how noticably inferior it is to the Gamecube version. The loading times are longer, the graphics are much worse, the colors are more washed-out, the controls are more finicky, and it is overall an inferior game. You wan't proof? Check out the video below.

Graphics: 10/10



Extras/Value

Capcom always likes to add a little something extra to their Resident Evil games, and the tradition lives on in RE4. Upon completing the game, you are given two new modes: Assignment Ada, where you play a series of short missions starring Ada Wong, a character you meet up with in the second half of the story, and The Mercenaries, an arena survival mode where you must kill as many enemies as you can before your rescue chopper arrives. This mode allows you to play as 6 different people, so you're not restricted to just Leon. Also, upon completing Assignment Ada, you are given another series of Ada missions, entitled Separate Ways. There are also various costumes and new weapons to unlock, so you can be sure that there is plenty to do after you have finished the main story. The extra modes are surprisingly deep; the Ada missions can go on for longer than you would think, and it is fun to play as different characters in The Mercenaries after seeing the back of Leon's head the whole game. There was also a special edition RE4 Gamcube released, but I believe it was exclusive to Europe. Resident Evil 4 currently goes for $15 at Gamestop, so you have no reason not to pick this game up. It is criminal that someone is selling this game for so low; it should be at least $20. Also, another way to tell that the 'Cube version of the game is superior to the PS2 version is that the latter goes for $6 less. Yeah; stay away from that port.

Extras/Value: 10/10





Overall

There's no mistaking it; Resident Evil 4 is a classic, and one of the best titles to grace the Gamecube, and as many say, of all time. Capcom put their heart and soul into creating it, and remains as a shining example of what electronic entertainment should be. Everything is polished to a blinding finish; it all comes together to be something that can only be described as a masterpiece. The only reason I had never played it until now was because I never was fond of Survival Horror games, but now I'm giving the genre a second try. So, even if you were like I was, you should still play RE4. Every gamer should at least give it a try, since it is a game with such universal appeal. In short, you MUST play this game.




Overall: 9.5/10

This is Lisalover1, thinking Leon looks preeettty hot in that jacket. Not so much in the zombie blood.



Posted on Apr 24th 2011 at 04:00:38 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Survival Horror, Nintendo, Review, Mario



The Gamecube is an odd console when measured against the other consoles in Nintendo's history. For one, it was the first of their systems to launch without a Mario platformer, a move which some claim was ill-advised, given the competitive state of the market at the time, when the 'Cube seriously needed early adopters. But the Gamecube launch was not completely absent of Big N's star franchise; we got another thing that was very odd and certainly different. A survival horror game featuring Mario's little brother. It was ultimately overshadowed by other launch titles such as Wave Race: Blue Storm and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2, and was criticized for not being a "true" Mario franchise title. So, were the ignorant hordes right on that claim, or, like Luigi himself, can Luigi's mansion stand on its own? If you couldn't already tell from the previous sentence, the answer is the latter.

Gameplay

In Luigi's Mansion, you obviously play as Luigi, who has to work his way through said mansion, sucking up ghosts in his Poltergust 3000 vacuum. You go through 23 different boss ghosts in the house, along with 50 mini-boss Boos. The combat system is really something unique and fun; to capture a ghost, you must quickly shine it with a flashlight, then suck it up with the Poltergust, holding the control stick in the opposite direction, until the ghost's HP reaches 0. Boss ghosts, however, take a little more cunning; they will usually disappear when you look in their direction, so you must figure out their unique weakness before you have a chance at fighting them. It is a very interesting gameplay mechanic that integrates puzzle gameplay into action gameplay. It never gets old, especially when Luigi acquires fire, ice, and water power-ups later in the game, adding other layers of strategy to the process. It is always satisfying when you defeat a boss, especially some of the later ones. As I said before, there also mini-bosses in the form of Boos, that, while not as difficult to catch as boss ghosts, escape if not caught on the first try. The gameplay is overall just very fun; I would say that this is the closest we will ever get to a good Ghostbusters game, but since a new one was released a while back, I can't say that anymore.

Gameplay: 9.5/10



Story

In Luigi's Mansion, Luigi is sent a letter saying he has won his own mansion, despite never entering any contest in the first place. Mario gets the letter before Luigi, and finds it suspicious, so he goes to investigate. Luigi is worried when Mario does not return for a while, and finds the letter himself, and also goes to look. Upon arrival, he finds that the mansion is haunted. Inside, he is attacked by some ghosts, and is saved by Professor E. Gadd, who fights off the ghosts using a special vacuum he invented called the Poltergust 3000. They both run back to Gadd's house afterward, where he tells Luigi not only that the mansion only appeared a few days ago, but that Mario is trapped inside. Thus, Luigi volunteers to use the Polturgust to rid the mansion of ghosts, and save his brother. See? The game has a story! But, that's about it; not that it matters in an action game. It does have that distinctive Nintendo charm, which is evident throughout the entire game. The story in Luigi's Mansion is not anything special, but like I have said for all action games, it doesn't need to be. Simplicity is key.

Story: 8/10



Sound

I have good news and bad news here. The bad news is that there really isn't much music in Luigi's Mansion. It is mostly just silence and sound effects. The good news is that when there IS music, it is very well-done, and sets the eerie, yet comical mood quite well. It is certainly creepy, but not in a Resident Evil sort of way; it is certainly a more lighthearted horror game, so the music must reflect that. If only there were a bit more music, though. Maybe I'm missing something, and horror games don't need a lot of music, but I think I'm on the mark. The sound effects, however, are very well-done, and take advantage of the Gamecube's audio capabilities. The fidelity is great, and it really helps immerse you in the game. I know I've said this before, but since the 'Cube was the first Nintendo game console to use discs, audio quality took a huge leap from cartridge audio quality. That's not to say that cartridge audio is bad; quite the opposite, because we all know that it is isn't the quality of the audio file, but the artistic quality of it that matters. Luigi's Mansion succeeds on this front, but like I said, I just wish that there were more songs.

Sound: 7/10



Graphics

As one of the launch titles for the Gamecube, Luigi's Mansions had a lot of expectations to meet to show off the potential of the new system, and justify a purchase to potential buyers. Fortunately, Luigi's Mansion looks great. It is an effective tech demo for the 'Cube, showcasing multiple physics, lighting, and smoothing features that makes this game one impressive piece of software. Obviously, one of the most prominent graphical effects in the game is lighting, and the game comes up with some creative methods of using lights in dark places that makes environments feel more natural. Luigi's flashlight is another demonstration of the effect, and it can be used anywhere. Another obvious effect is transparency, for the ghosts. It isn't anything special; the Playstation made a big deal about 3D transparency effects when up against the Saturn, but the effect is greatly improved in this game. Physics also come into play a little bit. You can vacuum up things like sheets from different angles, which is so cool-looking that it seems almost out of place in a Gamecube game. Yes, Luigi's Mansion indeed turned a few heads at launch, if for no other reason than for its graphical prowess.

Graphics: 9/10



Extras/Value:

If you beat Luigi's Mansion once, you can unlock the "Another Mansion" mode, where some minor changes are made to the mansion and boss battles, so it is not a true second quest mode, a la Zelda, but it is still some incentive to play through again. Also, upon completion, you are given a grade, determined by the amount of money you collected while playing. If you get the highest grade, then Luigi gets the real mansion that he was promised! No more living with Mario! One more thing is that you get different award levels depending on how efficiently you capture ghosts; so if you're a completionist, you will want to get the gold award with every boss. Other than that scoring system, there isn't much else to do after completing the game. The game currently goes for $15 at Gamestop; not bad for a 1st-party Gamecube game. I would try and find it cheaper if you're only slightly interested, but otherwise, go for it.

Extras/Value: 7/10






Overall

Luigi's Mansion was a good example of taking one of their existing franchises, and doing something very different with it. Nintendo has always had that sort of bravery with their series. It doesn't always show, but when it does, the result is usually surprisingly good. Metroid: Other M is a fine example. People always accuse The Big N for resting on its laurels, but I think that they are quite open to new ideas. In short, leave them be; they know what they are doing. If you are looking for something different to add to your Halloween survival horror game lineup, give Luigi's Mansion a shot. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.





Overall: 8/10

This is Lisalover1, knowing who to call when there's something strange in the neighborhood.



Posted on Apr 24th 2011 at 02:51:16 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, SHMUPs, G.Rev, Treasure, Genre, Multiplayer

The Shoot Em' Up genre is one of the defining genres of hardcore gaming. The best of the best can still get their %&$ kicked on a regular basis. This is one of the most appealing aspects of the genre, since only the most devoted will ever take down the final boss. A delicate combination of dexterity, decisiveness, and luck are necessary to survive a Shooter, and, dare I say, no system is complete without at least one good SHMUP. That being said, the best systems have a good library of these games, and the Gamecube is one of those systems. So, without further ado, let's start on the list of Gamecube SHMUPs!


Ikaruga



The most well-known shooter on the 'Cube, and certainly the most well-respected, Ikaruga is what happens when a shock of innovation is given to the genre. In the game, you have a ship that can switch between a white mode and a black mode. While in white mode, you can absorb white bullets, not being damaged by them. However, you can still be damaged by black bullets, and vice versa. However, shooting bullets of the opposite color of an enemy does more damage, but obviously leaves you more susceptible to damage. It is an interesting system of risk and reward that really gives the game personality. The other reason Ikaruga is so revered is its difficulty. To be blunt, Ikaruga is mercilessly brutal, but it is that special kind of difficulty, that, while frustrating, is always pushing you to keep trying and go "just one more round". The controls are also perfectly executed on the controller, with notably precise movement and response time. As we know, good controls are essential to an enjoyable game. To put this another way, if you die in Ikaruga, it's your own darn fault. The game also looks fantastic, running in 480p, despite it still being in arcade screen mode. There are options to have fullscreen gameplay if you have a screen tilted on its side, but I never got a chance to test that out. Once again, I must say that Ikaruga's visuals are stunning. A lot of the graphics look like they belong in a mid-to-high-end Xbox game, expecially the detailed backgrounds. All this can be expected, since the game was made by Treasure, a company with a long-standing pedigree for making outstanding games, such as the spiritual predecessor to Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun; another extremely fun SHMUP, and an exclusive to the Sega Saturn. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking it up. Anyway, Ikargua is one of the best shooters of the previous generation, and was not available on the PS2 or Xbox; a scenario where usually the opposite was true. the Gamecube did not have too many SHMUPs, but the ones it did have were quite good, as you will see later on in this post.


Chaos Field



Chaos Field is a very different kind of shooter. In most games in the genre, you must go through several waves of enemies before you reach the boss at the end of the stage. Well, in Chaos Field, there is no small fry. Only bosses. That means no enemies that die with a few hits, and no legions of tiny ships that you can easily mow down. In many ways, Chaos Field is more of a SHMUP trainer than a true-blue shooter, in that the parts of the game that train you to be a better player; the bosses, are all you get. You get right down to Bullet Dodging 101 at If It Moves, Shoot It University. Basically, if you can survive Chaos Field, you can succeed in most shooters. Anyway, in this game, you choose between 3 ships with their own individual pilots and shooting styles. Pretty standard in terms of a shooter. But one of the nicer game mechanics in Chaos Field is what I call the "Windshield Wiper", a beam of light that circles around your ship that, while clearing all bullets in the immediate area, does not allow you to shoot. This is a handy tool for when things get too hectic, and traces back to my idea that Chaos Field is a SHMUP trainer, as opposed to an all-out bulletfest. That doesn't mean that the game is bad; it is very enjoyable when measured up against the genre's high standards, but I think a little more effort could have been put into the presentation. The graphics are good enough, but after playing some of the better-looking games on the 'Cube, Chaos Field really starts to look mediocre. It is nowhere near being a dealbreaker, though.


Radirgy Generic



Don't let the name fool you; this game is anything but generic. Radirgy [a.k.a Radio Allergy] is a stylish SHMUP released for the Gamecube, Dreamcast, PS2, and will soon be released on the Xbox 360. The game's visuals are fresh, virbant, and colorful in comparison to most games; the visuals have the same "techno cel-shaded" feel as in games like Jet Set Radio, and it certainly makes the game interesting. To accentuate this, the game also runs in 480p. However, the game still retains its arcade screen size, so the areas to the left and right of the game window are not used. Shooter purists won't mind this, but personally, I always liked my shooters to take up the whole screen, even if they are vertically-scrolling. But, that's just my opinion. It isn't really an issue once you get into the game. The gameplay is fairly standard, but you are given a few different extra features with which to dispatch enemy ships. The first is an energy sword-like attack that deals quite a bit of damage, but you must be at point blank range to use it. Another nice feature is your special move. Instead of a bomb that takes out everything on the screen, you get a forcefield that absorbs bullets, and retaliates against enemies. The more bullets it collects, the more powerful your attack will be. It is a neat attack, and can be surprisingly effective when used correctly. The music in Radirgy is cool, and has a distinct futuristic theme that fits well with the game. Once again, the game really reminds me of Jet Set Radio in its overall presentation. One thing I should mention, though, Radirgy was not released on the Gamecube outside of Japan. It was very, VERY close to getting a US release, but was cancelled at the last minute, and added to the "Ultimate Shooting Collection" for the Wii. There are supposedly finished copies of the localized game available, and several beta discs. [Say, if you happen to have one, let me know; I'd be glad to buy it from you]. It was a real shame that it was never released; it would have been the last truly great Gamecube game.


Shikigami No Shiro II



Let me just get the history of this game out of the way, first, because it can get confusing. Shikigami no Shiro was originally a PS2 and Xbox game, and got localized under the Name Mobile Light force 2 in the US, while the original Mobile Light Force was actually a port and localization of Gunbird to the PS1. The insteresting thing is that both games used almost the exact same box art, which looks more suited for a Charlie's Angels game. However, Shikigami no Shiro 2 was released for the Gamecube, Xbox, and PS2, and was localized in America for the Xbox and PS2 under the roughly translated name Castle Shikigami 2, despite never receiving a game with the name Castle Shikigami. Europe only got the PS2 port, which was renamed Castle Shikigami 2: War of the Worlds, not to be confused with the Science Fiction classic. The Gamecube version was never localized at all. Then, Shikigami No Shiro 3 was released for the Wii and 360, where it was only localized on the Wii, and got a slightly more correctly-translated title, as Castle of Shikigami 3, making the 3rd one the only game in the series localized on a Nintendo platform. *Whew*! That was the most complicated game series chronology I had to explain since Adventure Island! Anyway, back to the subject. Shikigami No Shiro 2, as I said, is import-only, just like Radirgy. But, the game is still worth checking out. For one, you get a larger-than-normal number of players to choose from, all with distinctly different shooting styles and strengths. Yeah, that's right; I said "players", not "ships". In Shikigami No Shiro, you play as a person who flies and shoots with psychic powers. Well, it's different, I'll give it that. The backgrounds are all in 3D, and they move around a lot, giving a surprisingly cool effect when moving through an area. The background moves like a roller coaster, and is a nice supplement to the action. Other than these things, Shikigami No Shiro 2 is a fairly standard shooter, with a few extra difficulty modes to make things easy for newcomers, but still give veterans a challenge.


Hudson Selection Volume 2: Star Soldier



Now we're talking! Star Soldier, in my opinion, is the absolute pinnacle of Gamcube SHMUPs. I used to give that honor to Radirgy, but only recently have I played Star Soldier, which blows it out of the water! I have no idea how I missed out on this awesome remake, but I'm glad I discovered it when I did. Star Soldier games always have a knack for finding their way onto Nintendo consoles, and the 'Cube is no exception. This game is actually a remake of the original Star Soldier, with updated graphics, sound, and everything else. I honestly didn't expect much going in, despite knowing that the original was a classic, but I was shocked to see the effort put into remaking the game! The music is pure awesome, with tons of hard rock to get you pumped up, and is easily one of the best soundtracks I have heard in a shooter. The graphics are great, too, with a good amount of detail put into enemies and scenery. Nothing mind-blowing, but it is cool, nonetheless. You really can't tell it is a remake; it looks as good as most Gamecube games. The control is absolutely perfect. The analog stick works quite well, but the D-Pad is even better. If you happen to have a Hori Classic controller, prepare for gaming nirvana with Star Soldier. It is so tight and responsive, it makes most other SHMUPs feel inferior. Everything in the game is polished to a blinding point, and as far as I am concerned, it easily makes it the Gamecube's best shooter. You want to know the best part? When the game was released, it was a budget title, meaning it sold for much less than a normal game. It sold for 3,000 yen at release; about $30. If has escalated in resale value since then, for obvious reasons, but still, this could have easily passed as a full-price game. It would still be worth it. Hudson released 3 other remakes for the Gamecube and PS2 under the same pricing structure, and they were all superb. So, if I have not been perfectly clear, if you are a shooter fan and own a Gamecube or Wii, you have to get this game. It is another import, so you will have to find a way to play it on a non-Japanese system, but trust me, you will NOT regret it.


So, there we have it. The best Shoot Em' Up action the Gamecube has to offer. The library may not live up to the sheer number found in that of the Saturn, PS1/2, or TurboGrafx, but Nintendo's lunchbox can still stand tall and say it has an admirable SHMUP library. I would really recommend tracking down some of these titles; while only 2 were released outside Japan, they are still fun and certainly worth playing. So go give your 'Cube some shooter love today.


This is Lisalover1, inserting another $%#& credit.



Posted on Apr 24th 2011 at 01:58:29 PM by (lisalover1)
Posted under Gamecube, Zelda, Nintendo, Action, Review, GBA



It has recently come to my attention that many of you, despite owning a Gamecube or Wii, and being fans of the Zelda series, have still not played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. If I may ask, what the hell have you been doing with your life?! This discrepancy in the gaming community is shocking, and I will not stand for it. So, let's fix that. I am going to show you today that this is not the black sheep of the main Zelda franchise, and why you need to play this game. Aside from Majora's Mask, The Wind Waker is likely the most controversial title in the series, which is likely the reason people stray away from it. But, I'm not only going to tell you that this is a legitamite title in the series, but how it may be one of it's best.

Gameplay

The Wind Waker plays similarly to its Nintendo 64 predecessors, The Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, which is a very good thing. You can still assign weapons to 3 different controller buttons [X, Z, and Y, in this case], and the controls remain similar, except for a few improvements. There is now a much easier-to-control difference between tiptoeing, walking, and running, because of the Gamecube's more accurate analog stick. There have been some rather nice changes to combat, as well. Link can now perform actions such as parry attacks, which let him dodge an enemy's attack, and strike back. For some enemies, this is a necessary tactic to defeat them, but for the most part, hacking and slashing will do just fine. So, yes, the combat remains mostly unchanged from the standard Zelda formula. But that's not what I want to talk about. The thing that really sets Wind Waker apart from the crowd; sailing. As you probably know, the game allows you to sail around a huge world map to 49 different islands. I always thought that this was the game's strongest point. Zelda games have always tried to give the player a vast world to explore, and this is the epitome of that idea. You could spend hours traversing the Great Sea, searching in every nook and cranny. I spent a good few days just completing the map! While some may find it boring, I think it gives you a real sense of adventure that is uncommon to find in most games. I should probably move on before I start to ramble about this, though. You will find equipment similar to what you have used in previous games, so it should feel familiar. One of the bigger additions to the game is the Wind Waker itself; a baton that you use to control the direction of the wind to sail more effectively, or solve puzzles. The method of doing so is similar to Ocarina of Time, where you must memorize musical patterns, and play them back. Nothing new there, but it is still just as good.

Gameplay: 9.5/10



Story

Little has changed about the central plot of Wind Waker in comparison to the other games in the Legend of Zelda series. You still play as a young, nameless boy [although most people just prefer to call him Link] who wears a green tunic, and must kill the evil Ganondorf/Ganon and save Princess Zelda. Now that that's out of the way, let's look at what is unique to The Wind Waker. Link is a boy living on Outset Island with his sister and grandmother. But one day, a giant bird flies over the island, carrying the captain of a pirate ship. Link goes off to rescue her, which eventually leads to the bird capturing Link's sister. The pirate crew allows Link aboard so he can rescue his sister in the bird's lair. That's about as much as I can say without giving any spoilers, but as you progress, it eventually leads to Link having to save the entire world from Ganon's plans. Standard fare for the series; it's what we have come to expect from a quality Zelda title. It doesn't have the deep, emotional narratives of an RPG, but it is what it is, and it is still a great one.

Story: 8/10



Sound

I'll cut right to the chase; The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has arguably the best soundtrack of any Zelda game. That's a controversial statement, I know, but I can back it up. Since the Gamecube was Nintendo's first disc-based console, they were free to use that extra space to make disc-quality audio. This makes for a truly sublime soundtrack that captures the moment of every single situation in the game. Sometimes, I just leave the game sit at the title screen so I can hear the main theme! Now, don't get me wrong; there have been some breathtaking soundtracks in the Zelda series, but it is my opinion that The Wind Waker takes the cake. There are just so many songs that give an adventurous, bold, yet fun feeling, which is the embodiment of the Zelda series as a whole. Never have the songs in a Zelda game felt more powerful and suitable. You have to hear it to believe it, and when you do, my arguement will start to make sense. The music in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is on an entirely different level than most games. It's just not something you find everyday, and you appreciate it when you do.

Sound: 10/10



Graphics

One of the most controversial aspects of The Wind Waker was its drastically different art style. The Zelda games on the Nintendo 64 seemed to strive as much as they could for realism, but The Wind Waker adapts a more cartoon-like style. This decision has divided the Zelda fan base since the game's unveiling. I'm here to tell you that the only people who don't like The Wind Waker's graphics are people who haven't played the game. It is obvious that Nintendo put a lot of time and effort into creating some of the most artistically pleasing graphics on the system. The Wind Waker's visuals are clean, well-defined, and polished to no end. The draw distance while sailing is phenomenal; the Great Sea really seems to on forever, and you can see islands from several miles away, not counting what you can see with the telescope. It's incredible to actually be able to see your destination well before you're near it. In this way, the art style was a good decision not just in appearance, but was actually some elegant programming and system resource management. There aren't many complicated textures in many of the graphics, especially in the ocean, so the draw distance and framerate would benefit greatly. Well done, Nintendo. Oh, and the game runs in 480p if you're lucky enough to have a component cable, and it's a fairly big improvement, especially in 2D sections like the menus, where it is a night and day difference. If you got a component cable just for this game, it would already be worth it. So, The Wind Waker's graphics are both an artistic and technical triumph.

Graphics: 10/10



Extras/Value

There are plenty of side quests in The Wind Waker, so you'll always have something to work towards. After completing the game once, you unlock the second playthrough mode, which gives you special bonuses such as Link wearing his pajamas throughout the whole game, letting you use the Color Pictobox [Camera] from the start, and translating all Hylian text into English. There is also a figurine-collecting quest that requires you to obtain photographs of different things in the game to have them made into figurines. In case you were wondering, yes, it is very difficult to collect all of them. Also, there is the Zelda tradition of the item trading game. The Wind Waker is currently being sold for $20 at Gamestop, but it doesn't matter what the price is. Buy it. You will not regret it; I assure you.

Extras: 9/10





Overall

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is one of the definitive titles for the Nintendo Gamecube, and it certainly deserves that accolade. The game is a masterpiece, with polish and craftsmanship apparent in every single one of its aspects. I have completed it three times already, and I loved every minute of it. The game is completely undeserving of all the hate it has received. If you have yet to play The Wind Waker, now is the time. Stop ignoring the game because of its art style, or whatever preconceptions you may have, get yourself down to a game store, buy the game, and play it. It's about time you did.





Overall: 9.5/10

This is Lisalover1, trying to pretend the CD-i Zelda games don't exist.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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