GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK (2007) – RED OCTANE
NOTE – Although I’ve had the pleasure of playing the Xbox 360 version many times, this review is for the PS2 version of the game.
When I reviewed the original Guitar Hero, I mentioned how its greatest achievement was that it managed to make even the most musically inept player feel like a rock god as they strummed along on a plastic instrument – a major feat that created a thirst not even the excellent soundtrack could fully satiate. A sequel therefore was inevitable, and Guitar Hero II duly obliged; but while II subtly improved the gameplay experience (including the addition of a Training mode), personally I was never won over by the soundtrack. Sure, the likes of ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ & ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ provided the classic riffs and ‘Jordan’ became a legendary test for expert shredders, but overall it never reached the consistent heights that the first game reached. The dilemma that would always rear its ugly head therefore was do I play the better songs on the more unforgiving first game, or enjoy the gameplay but sacrifice the enjoyment on the second?
The release of an inevitable tie-in game for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has reopened an old can of worms – the debate as to which is the web slinger’s best outing on consoles.
For most, the licensed games of the 1990s are near the top of the pile; in particular the side scrolling beat-em-up Maximum Carnage for the SNES, and the terrific PS1 installment simply called Spider Man (tapping into Spidey’s massive popularity during the decade, enhanced no doubt by the excellent animated series with that intro theme). Others have championed some of the more recent glut of titles produced under Activision’s hand that have somewhat paled in comparison to the quality of Rocksteady Studios Arkham games for Batman, including Web Of Shadows and the story hopping Shattered Dimensions.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is oft considered as a modern classic; a game that came from virtually nowhere to give the JRPG genre a serious lesson in style in the midpart of the last decade. Mixing the simulation of a normal Japanese high school life with a dark story and a pulsating atmosphere, it won over critics and provided the base for the excellent sequel, Persona 4. This summer, I put aside some time to go through Persona 3 and see what makes it a fan favourite. Continue reading Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Review→
Considering that it had a record development period of five years and the budget of a small Hollywood picture ($48,000,000 if reports are accurate), the first word that comes to mind when I consider Final Fantasy XII is…disappointment. It reviewed very highly upon its release, but after a recent playthrough I simply couldn’t understand the hype. No doubt it is a finely produced game, one of the best that you can find on the PS2; but for sheer gameplay it falls well short of the lofty heights reached by its predecessors. Continue reading The Gambit That Got Away – Final Fantasy XII Review→
The Guitar Hero franchise is one of few game series that I have played that has the rare power to completely adjust reality. From the outset, you know it looks daft: holding a small plastic guitar, you klack along to notes running across a screen while onlookers watch in amusement and shout at you to learn a real instrument. But within seconds, as soon as you enter the groove it feels like the real thing – instead of standing in your living room, you are the guitarist from the song, belting out the tune. And the result of this is cramped fingers and more importantly, a big grin across your face. Continue reading Hendrix, Ozzy & Brian May…Live From Your Living Room – Guitar Hero Review→
When Insomniac Games announced that they were done with Spyro The Dragon at the start of the millennium, their fans (myself included) eagerly anticipated the results of their next project. The eventual outcome was a new platforming duo, Ratchet & Clank, who continued Insomniac’s great run of form and became part of a trio of mascots (alongside Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper) who would keep the platforming genre alive on the Playstation 2. With the recent release of the original trilogy of PS2 games in high definition for the PS3, I went back to play the original three to see how they have held up over time. Continue reading Ratchet & Clank, Going Commando & Up Your Arsenal Collected Review→
The music genre in video games is a veritable mixing bowl of different ideas and concepts. You can dance to music (Dance Dance Revolution/Just Dance), create music (Music 2000/Mario Paint), or have a downright quirky experience with music (Vib Ribbon/Rez). In the midpoint of the last decade, Guitar Hero carved out an entirely new niche that allowed you to play music, allowing individuals (like myself) with no music talent to pretend they were rock gods.
Using a custom guitar controller, Guitar Hero gives players a setlist of songs to play through using a rhythm tap function to simulate the notes of a guitar in the actual song. With varying difficulties to play through, players can start off slow, and then advance to an even closer simulation of real life guitar playing…albeit with only five buttons in this case. An ace setlist of songs combined with a scoring system for playing better made this the new must have party game for consoles, offering something different in a market that was increasingly becoming dominated with shooting games.
Guitar Hero’s spot on this list comes because of a twofold reason. First off, it led to a renewal of interest in the music genre spawning other projects such as Rock Band which brought different instruments such as drums to the party, and also had a surprisingly unexpected impact on music culture in general, highlighting old artists and helping to boost record sales in some cases. The other reason is mainly negative though; Guitar Hero created a franchise that showed what happens when you flog a series to death. In five years, the Hero franchise of music games gave us five direct sequels, three games based purely on a single band, two spin off games and numerous portable titles – 24 games in all. Little wonder then that the music genre became oversaturated and essentially ceased to be of interest to developers about a year ago. Consumers have taken this example to look at other game series and campaign for quality over sheer quantity.
18 – WII SPORTS (2006) – NINTENDO
The best way to answer your critics is to make them eat their own words. The gaming press was by no means unified over whether or not the Nintendo Wii would attract enough players with its motion control gimmicks when it was released in 2006, but they had not anticipated the title that would be bundled in with the console – Wii Sports may be nothing more than a collection of demonstration minigames, but its hard to think of anything that could have shown off the appeal of the Wii so effortlessly.
Giving players the option of five sporting events to play through (Tennis, Bowling, Golf, Baseball and Boxing), players use the Wii remote and nunchuck attachment to simulate actions such as swinging a tennis racket or throwing a punch, which are then replicated in game by Mii’s (custom avatars created and stored on the console). The design of Wii Sports makes it so that both experienced gamers and novices can get involved straight away with ease, and it is a game that for once does not lie with it advertising; anyone from young children to grandparents can get involved.
I heavily doubt the launch of the Wii would have been as successful as it was without Wii Sports bundled in. The inclusion of software that could be easily played by the whole family straight from unwrapping the box at Christmas was a masterstroke on Nintendo’s behalf. It’s not just that it works though; Wii Sports really is good fun for the whole family. The game holds the title of the best selling video game of all time pushing the near 80 million mark, and inspired a range of in house titles utilising the Wii’s motion controls, including Wii Play, Wii Music and a direct sequel, Wii Sports Resort. Motion controls may still be in need of refinement for it to become a fully viable replacement for handheld controllers, but Wii Sports was instrumental in showing that a new way of playing games was possible.
The idea of playing God has always been an alluring concept – the power to essentially do what you want, when you want also happens to translate to a very popular gaming concept. Before the turn of the millennium there were quite a few games (all of them noticeably using the superior logic and processing abilities of the PC) that had cashed in on the stratagem, including the likes of Populous: The Beginning (1998), Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991), and Sim City (1989). The designer of the latter game, Will Wright, created The Sims in 2000; a game with no perceivable end point and no objectives to complete. Instead, The Sims gives you complete dominion over a small neighbourhood and the individuals that live there. You can make them eat, sleep, get a job, pay taxes, get married, or even let them die. Alongside this, you can fashion the houses they live in, and shape the relationships with other Sims. It’s a virtual dollhouse that you can alter at will.
The Sims captured the imagination of the public in a way that few other games had done so before, and achieved the status that all games pray for – it became a mainstream phenomenon. Two years after its release it became the best selling PC game to date, and after seven different expansions it would shift over 16 million copies – noticeably, it was estimated that near to 60% of the audience for the game was female, making it one of the first games since Pac-Man to get the attention of the female market in a industry dominated by male orientated games. The Sims changed the playing field by demonstrating that you didn’t need flashy graphics or an Oscar winning plot to succeed; sometimes simply tapping into subconscious ideas can do the trick just as well.
14 – GTA III (2001) – ROCKSTAR NORTH
Seeing GTA III running on a PS2 for the first time was nothing short of a revolution. The GTA series, which had formerly featured cartoonish violence from an overhead 2D perspective, made the jump to 3D and pretty much single handedly created the sandbox genre. Whereas games before held your hand and pushed you in very obvious directions, Rockstar gave players the city of Liberty City to explore at their own will, and the tools to cause utter mayhem in the process.
It wasn’t just the freedom that impressed; it was the way that Liberty City felt like a fully functioning world inside of your television. Travel from one side of the city, and people will be living out their normal lives, driving to work and chatting on street corners. Commit a crime and the local authorities will be hot on your tail. Hop inside a car and you can tune the radio to listen to real life tunes. And when you got bored of the world, you could engage in the mission based structure of the game that let you go about completing things the way you wanted. GTA III spawned many clones, but none managed to perfect the formula until Rockstar released outstanding sequels in the form of ViceCity (2002), San Andreas (2004)and GTA IV (2008). Every sandbox game since the start of the millennium owes its dues to GTA III for taking the great leap in the first place and getting so much right at the first attempt.
As far as alluring concepts are concerned, being a space pirate has to rank up there with the best of them. Just imagine; trawling the widest reaches of the universe for fantastic treasures – it’s enough to bring to out the adventurous kid in anyone. Rogue Galaxy (which was an original project by Level 5) aims to capture this feel, and set it within a RPG mainframe. The end product is a very nice concept with several praiseable qualities, but a product that ultimately does not deliver the satisfaction that you were perhaps expecting from it. Continue reading An Average Trip Through The Starry Seas – Rogue Galaxy Review→
Do you ever get the feeling sometimes that something great has happened but you have been left out of the loop? For me, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 represents that exact feeling. For years, I have read lists that have constantly cited this game as one of the great modern RPG’s, and yet wherever I looked I was unable to find it for sale. Then last November, the game was made into an anime, which I was encouraged to watch with a few close friends. Having the seen the first episode, I decided to bite the bullet and scour the interwebs for a copy. Happily, I found one for a cheap price and in mint condition – and I’m ecstatic that I did, because Persona 4 (hereafter called P4) is arguably the best game I have played in years. Continue reading ‘So Who Wants To Talk About Murders?’ – Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 Review→