Saturday, April 7, 2012

Kid Icarus: Uprising Review


Ah, yes. I stated in my Sonic 06 review that this would be coming soon, and, well, here it is. Anyway, Kid Icarus Uprising was one of the first games announced for the 3DS at E3 2010. It quickly became one of the most highly anticipated games of the 3DS’ line-up, partially because it was the first Kid Icarus game in around twenty years and partially because it actually looked really good. I, myself, had never played either of the two Kid Icarus games beforehand, but that doesn’t really matter considering Uprising is probably almost nothing like them. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Kid Icarus: Uprising is not only the best game to come out on 3DS thus far, but probably even…one of my favorite games in general, at least at the moment. Let us not dawdle any longer; this is the masterpiece known as Kid Icarus Uprising.

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Kid Icarus: Uprising stars Pit, the right-hand man of the Goddess of Light Palutena. The evil Medusa has returned after her defeat in the original game, and with a whole slew of Underworld forces at her command. As such, Pit and Palutena once again find themselves in a gigantic war between light and dark. Proving a bit of a hindrance is the fact that Pit actually can’t fly on his own and must rely on the Goddess Palutena to do so, and even then the Power of Flight only lasts five minutes. Also, further complicating things is that a dark doppelganger of Pit known as Dark Pit is running amok after Pit accidentally created him in the process of destroying the Mirror of Truth, a mirror that was being used to create more and more Underworld forces. And as Pit and Palutena will soon find out, there’s more to Medusa’s return than they may be taking for granted.

The storyline of Uprising is actually really good. It will come off as simple at first, but as the game goes on it becomes really interesting and even surprisingly complex. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, either. While the plot has its more serious elements and moments, the tone of the game remains very lighthearted and fun. Also, the writing of this game is actually really funny. Not only is it just generally humorous, but it’s incredibly self-aware to the point that there is no fourth wall whatsoever and there are also a lot of great references to other Nintendo games and franchises. The voice acting is really good, too, and characterization is very strong. The main cast is very likable and even the one-off villains are very well-written and enjoyable. In addition, most of the dialogue and story will actually take place during the gameplay, a choice which suits the game very well, as you will see when you play the game.

Uprising is also great in the aesthetics department. The orchestral soundtrack is simply fantastic and as one of the first games announced for the 3DS at E3, it did a great job of showing off what the handheld could do visually and still does and the 3-D effect, while not as good as, say, Super Mario 3D Land, is pretty nice. The wow factor of this game’s visuals actually comes less from the environments and more from the setpieces. The on-rails sections, in particular, have a great deal of amazing setpieces that really do a fantastic job of keeping things exciting and interesting.


Which brings me to the gameplay, and essentially, Kid Icarus Uprising can be thought of as Star Fox Assault if it was actually really amazing. The game features both rail-shooting sequences and ground combat sequences and while both play styles are pretty different from each other, the controls remain similar enough that switching between them isn’t jarring at all. The default control scheme has you using the Circle Pad to move, the stylus to aim the reticle and the “L” button to fire your weapon or perform a melee attack if you’re close to an enemy. During ground combat, you also slide the stylus along the screen to change the camera angle and you can tap the Circle Pad twice in any direction to dash, much like in Super Smash Bros., as is pointed out in the tutorial. If you tap the Circle Pad twice just as an enemy attack is about to hit you, you will do a dodge. There’s a slight learning curve, but once you get used to the controls, they work great, being very precise and responsive and allowing you to keep up with the game’s fast-paced action.

And there will be a crapload of that, rest assured. The fast-paced, over-the-top action of Uprising on top of the solid mechanics and controls are really what make it an amazingly fun experience. The rail-shooting sections are absolute mindless fun and, as I said before, the setpieces are amazing. This game seriously makes Star Fox 64 look dull. I'm not even exaggerating. Just try to go back to Star Fox 64 after playing this game; it will feel dated by light years. The ground combat sections aren’t quite as fast-paced, but are just as much fun because they have more to offer. The areas feature a great deal of variety in the challenges they pose and vehicle and rail-grinding segments do a very good job of changing things up when they appear. Boss battles are also superbly designed and feature a lot of variety. In short, really, really amazing stuff.

One really interesting thing about Uprising is the fully controllable difficulty level. It’s actually sort of a high risk, high reward type deal. As you defeat enemies, you gain Hearts, which are basically money. You use these Hearts to buy weapons and such, and unwanted weapons can even be converted to Hearts. So, how does this apply to the game’s difficulty level? Well, every time you start a chapter, you’re allowed to adjust the Intensity, or difficulty level. Raising it and even lowering it beyond a certain point is going to require more and more Hearts. Playing chapters on higher Intensities will get you better treasures and rewards and there also Intensity Gates in the levels, which you can only open if you’re playing on a certain Intensity or higher. Behind these gates are usually really good treasures. Difficulty still does curve naturally, but what will ultimately affect your experience the most is the Intensity you’re playing on. If you die, however, you will not only lose some of the Hearts that you bet, but the difficulty will also be knocked down a bit. It is a really nice idea that adds a great deal of replay value to the game and gives you a lot of incentive to improve your skills.


Oh yes! There is one more thing that needs to be covered! With Kid Icarus: Uprising, Nintendo decided to not be lazy and gave the game online multiplayer! And the online multiplayer is not only un-sucky, but it's really fun and addictive! There are two modes – free-for-all and Light vs. Dark. Free-for-all is just what you would expect: a gigantic brawl between several players. In Light vs. Dark, players are organized into a light team and a dark team and have to duke it out. Every time a player is killed, that player’s team’s gauge decreases. When said gauge is decreased all the way, a team angel will appear, and the first team to kill a team angel is the winner. You can use the weapons and upgrades you get in the single player mode in the multiplayer mode and vice versa. Overall, it’s a very fun multiplayer mode that almost makes me not care that Star Fox 64 3D didn’t have online multiplayer. Almost.


Still not letting it go.


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Kid Icarus: Uprising is…wow. I didn’t actually expect this much from it, but it thoroughly blew me away. Even the story was really good, and it’s surprisingly long, too. It’s surpassed Super Mario 3D Land as the best 3DS game, and I would honestly put it up there with my favorite games of all time. It is a legitimately amazing game and I can’t really think of any real complaints I had with it. If you own a 3DS, you have no excuse not to get this game.


*sigh* Well, I guess it's time to stop being lazy and get to work on 358/2 Days.


Grade: A+

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Games That Suck: Sonic the Hedgehog 2006

-------My Rating System-------

A(-)(+) A top notch experience all the way through. It may not necessarily be perfect, but whatever flaws it does have won’t take you out of it or make it any less worth your time. (Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2)

B(-)(+) A very fun experience bogged down by some significant problems, whether they’re related to the story, gameplay, or both. However, it’s still a good or even great game and worth the price of admission. (Kingdom Hearts: Recoded)

C(-)(+) A mixed bag. Generally fun to some extent and may shine in some areas, but is either too flawed to fully recommend or far too short for its price. Conisder it for a reduced price, at least if you’re a fan of its genre. (Rayman 3D)

D(-)(+) Subpar. It may not be terrible, but it is severely flawed and whatever it does well ultimately fails to save it. Even if you’re a fan of the genre, this is barely a bargain bin purchase. (Sonic Heroes)

F Insipid, disgusting, despicable, and insufferable. It is a scar on the face of human accomplishments that time shall never heal. The best thing we can do is avoid playing it at all costs. It is the only way to prevent its parasitic disease of awfulness from spreading. (Shadow the Hedgehog)

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Ah, yes, Kid Icarus Uprising. Kid Icarus Uprising was one of the first games announced for the 3DS at E3 2010. It quickly became one of the most highly anticipated games of the 3DS’ line-up, partially because it was the first Kid Icarus game in around twenty years and partially because it actually looked really good. I, myself, had never played either of the two Kid Icarus games beforehand, but that doesn’t really matter considering Uprising is probably almost nothing like them. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Kid Icarus Uprising is not only the best game to come out on 3DS thus far, but probably even…one of my favorite games of all ti-

You know what? Pretty much every one of my reviews is like this. Lots of A’s and a handful of B’s. There have only been two or three average reviews on this blog and only one negative review – two if you count my pre-emptive strike on Final Fantasy XIII-2. I think it’s time for that to change. Thus begins My Games That Suck: reviews of various games that I have amassed in my extensive library that, well, suck. I don’t know how often I’ll do it, but it needs to be done. Because sometimes, even I would rather have a buffalo take a diarrhea dump in my ear. Though the Uprising review is coming soon, I believe I should first do this. And boy, do I have a special one for us today. I wanted to avoid reviewing this one, to avoid experiencing this abomination again. I even stated in my Sonic Heroes review that I wouldn’t do it. But alas, I knew I couldn’t avoid this fate forever. This was a game that was begging for a thrashing and though it’s been done a million times before, it deserves to happen again, and this time by my hand. Ladies and gentleman, I proudly present to you my review of Sonic the Hedgehog 2006.



Good Lord, even looking at the box makes me cringe.

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*sigh* Well, I suppose I should begin by describing the incomprehensible, horribly written mess this game calls its “story”. Princess Elise is the ruler of a nation known as Soleanna. One day, during a festival celebrating…something…she is attacked by Dr. Eggman, who has somehow become horribly disfigured since the last game. Either that or it’s an incredibly poor attempt at making him fit in with the “realistic” setting of the game …Yeah, it’s the latter.


Why.
So Eggman states that he has come for the Flames of Disaster and the blue Chaos Emerald, which she somehow has kept with her since childhood despite the fact that Sonic and friends have used it on numerous occasions. Speaking of which, Sonic immediately swoops in to save the day. Unfortunately, he is briefly distracted by Eggman’s robots, which causes Elise to get captured immediately after being saved. Then he rescues her again, and they start to develop a…*shudder*…romance. Oh, but things get a bit more complicated when Silver, a hedgehog with psychic powers, steps in. See, Silver comes from a totally not clich├ęd post-apocalyptic wasteland in which a demon named Iblis has destroyed everything. Silver has been fooled by this shadowy (no pun intended) guy named Mephiles into thinking that Sonic is the “Iblis Trigger”, or the one who would release Iblis. Mephiles himself was trapped in a Scepter of Darkness before he was accidentally released by Shadow, whose form he takes. Oh, and he really hates Shadow, too. And he can time travel for some reason. Whilst fighting Silver, Sonic loses Elise – again – and must go to Eggman’s base to save her – again. When Sonic and friends finally reach Eggman’s base, Eggman uses his latest invention to send them forward through time to Silver’s horrible post-apocalyptic future, where they meet up with Shadow and Rouge, who had been put there by Mephiles. And then more stuff happens.
Our main villain, folks. He makes Maester Seymour from Final Fantasy X look not-ridiculous.
I could write an entire book on the incredibly numerous massive, gaping plot holes that this story falls into, but even without those, this plot is just bad. For one thing, Elise is a human that falls in love with Sonic, who is an animal. At one point, Elise even kisses Sonic. This is horrible. This is despicable. This is disgusting. This is a bad idea. It doesn’t help that the romance receives no development whatsoever and that Elise is a character that makes toast seem interesting. Silver is a similarly awful character. In fact, Silver kind of reminds me of a really bad fancharacter made by a 12-year-old. He’s just as bland as Elise, his design is one of the dumbest I’ve ever seen – ever – and his back story is a pretty blatant ripoff of that of Trunks from Dragon Ball Z. Characterization in general is crap; even our cocky blue hero isn’t interesting or enjoyable in the least. The plot, as a whole, is needlessly convoluted for a game about a talking blue hedgehog, relies on Princess Elise getting captured far too much and features writing that makes Stephanie Meyer’s work look masterful on top of some of the absolute worst voice acting you will ever hear in your life.

This is Silver. He makes Cloud Strife look normal.

And then we get to the aesthetics, and while Sonic 06 sucks less here than in other areas, it’s still pretty sucky. The hub worlds look incredibly bland and the in-game character models are terrible. Their heads look glued on to their bodies and their arms and legs are ridiculously long and thin, which makes them look even more awkward. The game also decided to populate its world with “realistic” humans, though they’re less “realistic” and more “soul-devouring abominations”. The stage environments look okay, I suppose, but up close, a lot of the textures are really blurry. The CGI animated FMV sequences actually look very nice – aside from Princess Elise, who looks like a zombie in pretty much all of them. However, when you watch the other cutscenes, it begins to look like they blew the entire budget on the FMV’s. In-engine cutscenes look simply awful. The characters move like puppets and facial animations look like crap. They hardly show any emotion whatsoever, giving them all this really creepy, zombie-like stare, and lip-syncing wasn’t even attempted. Visual effects, especially “slow motion” moments, are also laughably bad. Oh, and if there’s one aspect of Sonic games whose quality generally remains constant, it’s the soundtrack, but honestly…I don’t even like Sonic 06’s soundtrack that much. I mean, it’s not bad – well, aside from the vocal tracks – but it doesn’t really do much for me either.



And now it’s time to talk about the gameplay, and let me start by saying that this game is broken. Not unpolished, not unrefined, but broken. Scripting is horribly done. If you go into some scripted areas too far to the left or right, you can actually end up dying or getting hurt. Some of them require you to hold the control stick forward, or else you will fall. You can go back to areas featuring scripted events or even jump over any dash pads that initiate scripted events and watch as your character magically defies gravity by walking up loops or walls. Sometimes, characters won’t be able to jump off of rails, you can do light dashes backwards, or the homing attack can stop in mid-air. Collision detection flaws abound, and the physics are simply disgusting. You can stand upright on the sides of things, objects sometimes behave erratically when destroyed and the jump is ridiculously slow and floaty and kills all momentum. At higher speeds, controls become fatally twitchy, making it all too easy to find yourself careening into walls or even a deadly abyss. The camera is bad, as usual, and expect to be spending almost as much time staring at loading screens as you will playing the game. Loading screens occur with remarkable frequency and last a very long time. Simply inexcusable. Oh, and don’t expect a serviceable framerate, either. Of course, none of that is getting into how the game plays. There are three main playable characters – Sonic, Shadow and Silver – and several side characters that you will switch to during gameplay, and all of them suck in their own special little ways. Let’s start with Sonic, whose gameplay is probably the least terrible of the bunch.

Sonic plays similarly to how he did in the Sonic Adventure games. You run to the end of the level, collecting Rings and destroying Eggman’s robots with homing attacks. The difference is that this time Sonic is slow. Despicably, terribly, horribly slow. The only “fast” moments take place when Sonic is being propelled forward by dash pads. However, as I mentioned before, such moments control like crap…that is, when you CAN control Sonic. Sonic’s stages overuse fully scripted sequences to a ludicrous degree, possibly even more so than Sonic Heroes. These sequences don’t even serve any purpose beyond showing off the game’s motion blur effect; they’re still not very fast and they’re completely unspectacular. Sonic Adventure had some similar scripted sequences in its levels, but they were short, fast and looked awesome. Sonic 06’s scripted events are long, slow and boring. Therefore, it’s not okay. Sonic’s stages also feature on-rails sections called Mach Speed Zones where Sonic speeds up a bit, but they, like just about everything else in this game, are terrible. The difficulty is extremely cheap; Sonic loses every one of his Rings upon hitting an obstacle even once, and obstacles tend to come before you can even react to them. You also can’t stop Sonic or turn him around, meaning that if you miss the path forward or get stuck on a wall, you will die. Oh, and don’t forget that the game is generally broken.

The level designs of Sonic’s stages, outside of the Mach Speed Zones anyway, are the main reason why I consider him the least terrible out of the bunch. Of course, that’s not to say that they’re good. Like Sonic Heroes, the game relies on beat-em-up sections far too much, and they aren’t any good at all. See, Sonic 06 suffers from what I like to call “the Rayman 2 fallacy”, in which enemies take several hits to defeat, but combat is essentially just brainless, boring button mashing. Basically, all you have to do is mash the “A” button (or once you get the Bounce Bracelet, the “X” button) over and over again until an enemy is dead. Aside from that, level design is generally bland. While the levels do get points for being large with plenty of alternate routes, the game shoots itself in the foot by making the fastest pathways the most obvious and easiest to take and Sonic is all about getting to the end of the level as fast as possible. Platforming is also bland and blocky and lacks any semblance of challenge, but probably wouldn’t be much fun anyway thanks to a slow and floaty jump. Homing attack chains are also overused, and the homing attack also sucks now because Sonic takes a stupidly long time to recover from it, a decision which downright baffles me.



Oh, but it gets worse. After Sonic’s story, we have Silver’s story. Silver, like I mentioned earlier, has the power of psychokinesis. Though I’m pretty sure the correct term is telekinesis, that’s not what the game calls it, so whatever. Regardless, this translates to the gameplay by allowing Silver to pick up and carry huge objects with his mind and throw them at enemies, or even stun and then catch the enemies themselves. In concept, it’s actually not such a bad idea, but in execution, it’s absolutely insipid. The gameplay is unforgivably slow-paced and gets extremely repetitive and boring very quickly, amounting to nothing more than picking up objects and throwing them at enemies until said enemies are dead. Not to mention that levels can literally drag on for more than ten minutes and there’s hardly even any legitimate platforming, and what little it has is even easier than Sonic’s thanks to his hover ability. Even the primary gameplay mechanic is broken. Hit detection isn’t worth crap and the auto-aim is even more hit or miss than the guns in Shadow the Hedgehog. That’s saying a lot. Objects also tend to brush up against each other when you’re carrying them, meaning that often when you attempt to throw an object, it will just drop to the ground. Just...what?

But even Silver isn’t the worst of what this game has to offer. That would instead be Shadow, whose gameplay might just have you running back to his own revolting semi-spinoff. The gunplay is gone, but it has been replaced by “hand-to-hand combat”. By “hand-to-hand combat”, I mean more mindless button mashing. Shadow’s gameplay gives so much emphasis to the beat-em-up elements that they take priority over almost everything else, and that’s a big part of why his storyline is the worst. Oh, but that’s not the only reason! Shadow’s gameplay still has vehicle segments. However, while they were mostly optional in his self-titled game, in this game they’re mandatory. And they’re even worse, thanks to the fact that each of these vehicles controls like absolute garbage. He also runs even slower than Sonic and recovery time for the homing attack is even longer. Oh, and the homing attack has a much longer range, which results in plenty of cheap deaths when you attempt to use it to make your way across a small gap. Level designs even aside from beat-em-up sections are also horribly bland, even more so than Sonic’s, and, much like Silver’s, his levels drag on for far too long. It’s just…horrid.


Ah, yes, as if three horrible playable characters weren’t enough, there are six “Amigo” characters that you will occasionally switch to. Tails is the absolute slowest character in the game both on the ground and when flying and his only method of attack is a “dummy ring bomb”, for which the hit detection is terrible. The game is so broken that Knuckles and Rouge can hardly get off of walls, much less provide any sort of substantial gameplay experience. Amy’s hammer’s attack range and recovery time are so bad that you’ll probably get hit yourself long before you hit an enemy, and E-123 Omega opens the door to more wonderful button mashing. Blaze the Cat, though, is…actually probably the best-playing character in the game. She’s the fastest – not that that’s saying much – her homing attack has no recovery time whatsoever and she has a double jump. Of course, this being Sonic 06, she still plays like crap. Also, the areas designed around these “Amigo “characters are even more bland and boring than those designed for the main cast.

There are only two more things that deserve mentioning. Bosses in this game are a test of the limits of your patience rather than your skill. They consist of waiting for some chance to attack and repeating this process four times. There’s no challenge involved; merely much boredom and frustration, and some of these bosses take forever to kill. Special mention goes to Iblis Phase 2, which feels less like a boss fight and more like a horrible waiting game. Also, the hub worlds of the game are needlessly large expanses with absolutely nothing of value to do in them. Oh, sure, there are “Town Missions”, but they’re just as boring and frustrating as the rest of the game.

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To call Sonic 2006 a bad game is a severe understatement. Even when you don’t look at it as something that came out of a franchise as beloved as Sonic the Hedgehog, it is quite possibly one of the worst games ever made, period. When you do look at it that way, it’s an insult to the Sonic fanbase, an insult to the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles, an insult to the gaming population and an insult to mankind as a whole. I doubt I have ever played a game quite as insipid, quite as disgusting, quite as all-around terrible as Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. I truly can’t compliment a single aspect of this game. Please, do yourself a favor and never touch this game. Ever.

So, now that I have finally given all of the bad mainstream Sonic games a proper beatdown, it’s time to move on and forget abominations like this ever existed. As of Sonic Generations, Sonic games are officially awesome again and a far cry from awful games like this. Sonic Colors and Generations are both great games and I would even say that Generations is in my top ten favorite games of all time. Let’s just be thankful things aren’t like this anymore, pray that they stay this way and look toward Sonic’s future with optimism. In the meantime, here’s a fitting song from Shadow the Hedgehog:




Yes, it's cheesy, yes, it's stupid, and yes, it's from a terrible game, but it fits perfectly.


Grade: F