Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hey an Update!

Alright, it has been awhile since I last updated here on Games and Life. But, I have a very good reason. I got addicted to WoW! So, instead of turning this into my WoW’s characters’ blog I just took some time off. But a slew of 360 games have entered the area to battle for my free time and now I am juggling them and one DS game, working on my comic book and WoW.

So here is a quick rundown and some quick impressions of what I am playing now. First of all the reason I bought my 360 has landed in my hands and that is the Bioware space epic, Mass Effect. This game has lived up to the high and lofty expectations that I have placed on it. The story like all Bioware RPGs is very engrossing and what you decide during the course of the game affects the storyline. It is simply a gem. I’m such a sucker for WRPGs, which sadly are a dying breed. This makes Bioware one of my favorite companies out there today (EA DO NOT mess this up!) Graphics are beautiful, and faces are so detailed you can catch fidgets on NPCs faces when they are lying or talking about something they don’t want to talk about. Just simply amazing.

The other game eating up my time is NBA2K8. Back when the GAFcast was in full swing I gave NBA2K7 my GOTY vote, and 2K8 picks up where 2K7 left off. They even made the game better in almost all aspects. Also, the franchise mode got deeper they even added no trade clauses so even if you can get the team to say “ok” to a deal the player might evoke his no trade clause and screw it all up. Later in the season you can also scout the up-and-coming free agent market, and depending on your scouts skills you can learn if the player is about to decline or become stagnant. Gameplay has also been tightened up loads. Offense has become a bit easier but the computers’ AI has become better so it balances out. With Mass Effect giving me the epic that I want and NBA 2K8 giving the armchair GM in me what I want I am pretty much in heaven.

My last new title I am playing is Dragon Quest IV. And to be honest I have played about 15 minutes of it and can’t really give any impressions on it besides that it is an old school DQ game that looks to be pretty promising. I should get into on the flight back on to Seattle this winter break.

I also got Assassin’s Creed which has just gotten buried for now. I love how it looks and the controls seem pretty fresh to me. Kane and Lynch is on its way to the homebase, but most likely get to that until after Christmas. I will get reviews for these games up after I put more time into each of them. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgivings and all is well for the holidays.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Reinventing the Wheel

This was another hard review to write, because I want to tell about all the great stuff I did in this game but it would simply ruin a lot of the experience. So, all me to start off by saying this is the 2nd best Zelda game ever. The crown belongs to the original NES version. This version has so many great things going for it; somehow Nintendo really recaptured the feeling from the first version of the series.

For people who have been playing Zelda for sometime now, should know that Zelda is pretty much the exact same tale told over and over again. While they are fun, great games, the formula does get tiring after awhile. Enter “The Phantom Hourglass!” It breaks away from that mold, but doesn’t lose the sense that it Zelda. The Phantom Hourglass is a direct sequel to the Gamecube’s WindWaker, which means as the game starts you have already defeated your arch-villain. So you get the feeling that this is really a grand new adventure right off the bat; no more discovering your density, or finding out about the history of the Tri-force, all that stuff is in the rearview mirror!

Basically you use the touch screen to control everything which works pretty well for the most part. However, combat can be a bit clunky at times with everything from swinging your sword to using your side weapon in combat. Luckily, the thing that makes this game shine is the focus that went into puzzles for bosses, dungeons. Within these puzzles they have used all the features of the DS; everything from the mic, to having to take notes on your map, and even having to close your DS! A special note is how awesome the use of the touch screen with your secondary weapons/items. Without getting into them too much I have to use the example of the boomerang, which is the first one you get (classic Zelda style) during your adventures. With the boomerang you simply draw the path you want it to fly and it flies that path as long as there are no obstacles in the path. This leads to some really cool puzzles and ways to kill baddies. The DS version of Zelda, just like WindWaker still has the dreaded sailing as the way to navigate over the world map, but they have made it much more interesting and a little less time consuming. They also added ship customization, while you can much your ship stronger (more health) with the right combination of gear. It isn’t practically too deep, but it does allow for you to have a little more customization than Zelda games of past.

While not as important for a Zelda title, as it is for say an FPS title; it is always great to see beautiful graphics. The DS Zelda is hands down the best looking DS to date, and I don’t see that claim being disputed for a little while yet. And like pretty much all Zelda titles the music and sound are topnotch.

I really have very little bad to say about this game outside of the combat can be odd at times and there is one dungeon you have to visit multiple times, which I felt was bad design flaw. But even with that, I still feel that this is the second best Zelda to date and has such a grand feeling of adventure and a great supporting character as well! All I can say is that this is truly a must have title for the DS and you will be missing what people will consider one of this system’s defining games in the future.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I said WoW!

Now that I have sunk more time in World of Warcraft, (lvl 20 woot!) I thought I would give some more details impressions of Blizzard’s MMO.

Blizzard has done a great job putting this MMO together; for the most part there seems to be a great balance (something that Blizzard has been praised for years!) in the game. For someone like me who has been turned off by the whole MMO genre before found this game to be very inviting. It gives you as a player a lot of flexibility for solo adventuring, which in my opinion is just wonderful. Because the last thing I need to be doing is scheduling my life around what time members of my party/guild can meet online. But with that being said my experience with other MMOs is very limited.

My only gripe with it is that it has fairly deep story with a fair variety of missions, but I never really see the fruits of my labor! What I mean is that I get sent for a mission to save a sick forest or stop raiders from killing peasants and complete the mission and the world stays the same! Now I know that logistically it would be a headache to manage something like that in such a huge MMO like WoW, but that still doesn’t make my efforts feel any less worthless. But with that aside, WoW does just about everything else correct. Career skills are a must and the balance for what kind of character you are versus what career skills you have is so important. The fighting is simple enough for people who have little video game or MMO experience but deep enough for people with loads of both not to get bored of playing.

Just a word of warning! Be aware that this game will suck your life away! I thought I was immune to the charms of MMOs but it turns out I wasn’t. But if you don’t mind that WoW might be the closest thing you can find to a perfectly balanced MMO.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Shot of Tequila

Here I was getting all set to make a Zelda review and then my copy of Stranglehold came to my house. Between Stranglehold, WoW, creating a comic to publish, and reading the wonderful novel “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke; Zelda has sadly been neglected quite a bit. But this will give me a chance to talk about John Woo’s Stranglehold!

First of all let me tell you I am a huge fan of Hong Kong cinema and during the heyday of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Chow Yun Fat (Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Tony Leung Ka Fai get mad props from me as well!) I bought more VHS and VCDs than I should have. My father, who is one of the wisest, toughest men on the planet, always gives his wisdom in great sound bites. For example about my movie buying habits “What the hell is a black man doing with all these Chinese movies. You are either fluent in Chinese or like watching people kick the s&% out of each other.” And after that I started studying Japanese.

Anyways I digress, when I heard that the two legends Chow Yun Fat and John Woo were teaming to do the “sequel” to “Hard-Boiled” I was overjoyed but still had doubts for it was being developed by the people who brought us the gem of a game, “Fight Club.”

However, I am happy to say I am glad I stayed the course and bought Stranglehold. While it has a host of problems, it is extremely fun and satisfying. The biggest complaint I have had with the game as far as playing mechanics are concerned is that they put all this great action into the game, like sliding on a food cart and doing “drive-bys” from it, but the camera and targeting doesn’t always keep up with you. This becomes rather irksome when diving back and forth between the hordes of triads trying to kill you. Also while I am nitpicking I sometimes found the level designs (from the levels I have seen so far) to be a bit of a mess. It is hard to describe, but the levels themselves look good, but are just laid out poorly with few landmarks to help you find your way through them after you have killed every single soul around you.

But even with that Stranglehold is very much like playing a John Woo movie (his good ones!) complete with doves, Chow Yun Fat and standoffs. The things that are so appealing about this title for me is that I can play it for 2 hours or 20 minutes. It isn’t a time commitment, but it is still fun and enjoyable. And it is really quite simple. I think of it in someway a 3-D version of the classic shooters I used to play, like Contra or Rush N Attack!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Getting My Farm On

I wanted to take a break from Zelda (which is something that can’t be played on the train all the time for the simple fact that sometimes I have to talk into the mic which causes people to look at me like “what the hell is this crazy foreigner doing talking to his DS?”) and I saw that Rune Factory came out semi-recently so I dusted off my Japanese copy and restarted it again. Also while I started playing I really felt the need to buy Harvest Moon for the Wii, so I am going to write up a quick double whammy!

First off Rune Factory: Rune Factory is as the title plainly says on the North American version, “a fantasy Harvest Moon.” The story lead up is a little cliché our hero stumbles into a small town and is greeted by a young lady on the outskirts of it where we promptly find out that our hero is suffering from amnesia and has no idea where he is from or what his name is; so you make one up right there. Now for people not familiar with the Harvest Moon series (you are getting a quick education on it today!) it is basically a farming sim/RPG, completely with wooing one of the town’s eligible bachelorettes. Rune Factory doesn’t stray from that formula; but it also adds magic and monsters. The young lady you meet in the beginning lets you live at her farm and work there. But once you talk to the mayor you find out that there are caves you can explore and each cave can be farmed as well. Also, each cave is one season all year long; meaning you can grow strawberries in the winter! And this is key for exploring the caves as well, because there are monsters in them, and for every 9 squares of plantlife you grow and harvest, you get a small stamina boost that allows you to fight/work/do magic longer. So you have to know where to plant stuff in the caves and when they will produce, which also means you have to take care of them until they do produce.

This leads us to all of the other stuff you can do. You have the crafting skills cooking, forging, pharmacy, decoration, and another handful of skills like mining, logging, sword, and so on. In order to get better at these skills you have to use them, over and over and over again. (and over again) But before you know it you can make sushi, swords or your medicines. The game plays quite a bit like an off-line MMO; without the updates or the massive world. So as you might imagine it can get a little repetitive after a while. But Rune Factory is still loads of fun, and is a break from the norm

Quick Harvest Moon Wii impressions: I have not put a whole lot of time into this game yet but I want to give my thoughts about it compared to the older versions of the game. This version is hands down the best looking of them yet. Beautiful colors, art, and well thought-out town layouts. I really liked the story if this one compared to the older ones feels a little more “user-friendly”, as opposed to the older ones. The best example of that is the tutorial that get you started on, it is cleverly setup by having you get a part-time job on a farm so you can handle it on your own later. My only knock on it is the controls, at least for me so far, aren’t as fluid as they are in the 2D counterparts, and even the Gamecube version’s controls seemed a little tighter. However, this might just be me not being used to the nunchaku controls.

I have been having a blast but it is too early to say if this is the best Harvest Moon yet, but so far so good!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What's on the plate

Just a quick little update on my gaming as of late. Well in full WoW mode right now, after Bioshock other consoles seemed a little bland, and I needed something epic to keep me going. My DS is getting a steady diet if Zelda and Rune Factory. And I want to say something about Rune Factory right quick; it is basically an offline MMO. I am aiming to write something up for that as well. My comic is taking a lot of time from gaming and writing about, but I will get some more stuff up. Also speaking of farming games (Rune Factory) I picked up the Wii version of Harvest Moon today, and plan to get some time in on that as soon as possible; I just love doing chores in video games!

Also, Halo 3 is getting ready to launch soon. Can’t say I am really excited, but I am sure I will buckle and pick it up in hopes that I won’t suck at it like I have throughout the first 2 games. Ok that’s about all for now, just a quicky for now!

Friday, September 7, 2007

blogs, blogs, blogs

Now that I have jumped into blogging, I have to say it is keeping me busy. I am running another blog called it is basically setup to promote a comic book that I have been working on for years with my close friend Jason Sutherland, and trying to play games to talk about here. Just started a WoW account and I am not much of a MMO guy but so far WoW is really cool!! Only level8 but have had some major fun just dinking around on it. Oddly enough it is only my second MMO I have ever played, but looks like I might be hooked! Anyways time to log back on to WoW! But please take a peek at my comic blog if you have time!