Video Game Reviews

So right now we will have our video game reviews posted here.  We might end up making a separate blog or something just for reviews, but for right now we will stick with this.  Sorry, only officers can post reviews here, but everyone else is free to comment or make there own reviews elsewhere.

Table of Contents

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Stop what has been unleashed from the sands.

The Positive
- Great graphics   - Memorable characters   -Fun sword fighting that isn't too hard or too easy
- Nice story         - Fun puzzles that make you think and test your reflexes

The Negative
- A bit too short     -Bosses are not that hard    - Has a bit too much of a "game" feel instead of a story feel

The Prince is back and this time he is visiting family.  The Prince in this game is sent by his father to learn from his brother who is in charge of a fortress in Jerusalem.  After a long journey, he finally arrives at his brother's kingdom...just as it is under attack!  The Prince immediately springs into action to help his brother and the game begins!

For those of you who don't know the story of the Prince of Persia, this game is set in between The Sands of Time and The Warrior Within in the franchise.  The Prince in the Sands of Time is just starting out as a warrior and is charming, honorable, and hilariously sarcastic.  The Prince in the Warrior Within is older, darker, and much more ruthless.  This game kind of mixes both versions of the Prince but definitely leans more towards the Sands of Time Prince.  I personally felt this was the right choice.  The Prince in this game is compassionate and funny but also shows his tough side.  It is much easier for the player to empathize with him and want him to succeed but also smile and sometimes laugh at his comments as he progresses.

The story of this game is pretty traditional but done well.  The Prince's brother is losing the battle and so decides to turn to a last resort, the Army of Solomon.  This army is supposedly unbeatable and his brother is very eager to unleash it on his enemies.  The Prince, having had bad experiences with all things magical, thinks this is a rash and dangerous thing to do and suggests a much safer plan of retreat.  Pride sets in and his brother unleashes the army anyway.  Unfortunately for him, the army is not on his side and promptly destroys everyone but him and the Prince, both of whom are protected.  With the help of a djinni, the Prince must seal away the sand army before it unleashes destruction on the world.

The characters, in my opinion, are well done and there is good voice acting for everyone, but occasionally there lines seem forced.  Overall though, definitely a thumbs up.  The story progresses rapidly and is somewhat predictable, but it is still engaging enough that I appreciated it.  It did not quite live up to the stories and characters of the previous games though, especially the first, but then again, it is very hard to top the first game's story and story presentation.

The game consists mostly of sword fighting, acrobatic puzzles, and more traditional puzzles.  There is also an experience tree that lets you unlock health and powers the more enemies you slay.  The most useful power is also the staple of the franchise: Time Reversal.  It is very easy to mess up on some of the acrobatic segments and be dead, but fortunately you can reverse time and try again.  This isn't limitless though, and eventually you will have to go back to a checkpoint if you die.  Same goes with your health.  The Prince can take quite a bit of punishment, especially as you gain more experience, but a few good sword combos on him and he goes down.  Good sword fighting and use of your sand powers are crucial to completing the game.  The sword fighting was not quite as entertaining as in several of the other games, but it was still fun.  Using the powers after leveling them up to there strongest rank was also really fun to watch. However, an aspect I didn't quite like was how the prince regained power and health.  When you kill some enemies and break crates and vases, red and blue balls light balls will fly out and give back the prince a bit of health and sand power energy.  I felt it was a marked contrast from the previous games method of drinking water and soaking up sand with your dagger.  Each time the balls came out, it broke my immersion in the story and made me think of it as an arcade game.  I did not approve and wished they had kept the old formula.

Quite possibly the funnest part of the game is the acrobatics.  The prince gradually gains powers over the elements, one of which is to freeze water so as to help him get from place to place.  All the acrobatic puzzles require thinking and quick reflexes and you will be so happy for your time reversal power.  Sometimes will be super frustrated as you attempt to get past a particularly nasty section, but you will feel accomplished when you do.

One last part of the game that can not be left out is the fantastic scenery.  The sky and structures look beautiful, and the light is very well done.  Haunting images of ruin are everywhere and help you feel the Prince's urgency in setting things right.  Of special mention however, is the sequence right before the last battle.  I was incredibly impressed and thought it looked excellent!  I can't give away too much about it without spoiling too much, but it is definitely a sight to behold!

To sum it all up, this is a great game that will be enjoyable both to new players as well as those who have played the other Prince of Persia games.  Despite its flaws, it cleans up nice and is great entertainment.

Final Score: 8.5

Josh Matern
Gaming President


History is (re)written by the victors...

The Positive
- Excellent story with good use of time travel    -Genuinely suspenseful and scary     -Sweet weapons
-Freaky and satisfying enemies                         -Great atmosphere

The Negative
-Stupid invisible walls               -Have to wait for save points

You are Captain Nate Renko.  You and a small team have been sent to investigate a small island off the coast of Russia that does not exist on any maps and investigate strange readings coming from there.  Naturally, everything goes smoothly and nothing unusual at all happens. Nothing at all.

Singularity is a very intense FPS that takes place on Katorga-12.  In 1955, the whole island was dedicated by the Soviet Union to the research of a unique element only found on that island, element E99.  The element was so powerful, it had the ability to warp time.  However, disaster hit and the island became a post-apocalyptic Soviet Russian nightmare.  This is where you find yourself.  The buildings are old and ruined, the environment is dark and twisted, and strange, unnerving sounds are heard everywhere.  Just like home!

Right from the get-go, time travel becomes very important.  At specific instances, you travel back and forth in time to 1955, when the event, the Singularity, occurred.  The Singularity screwed up time on the whole island and mutants, super soldiers, and Soviets are all out for your blood (sometimes literally).  Thankfully, you have an ace up your sleeve.  The TMD (time manipulation device).  This device lets you control time and space.  You can age enemies to dust, revert them to horrific looking creatures, blast them with a force field, freeze them in time, and even use the TMD like a gravity gun to pick up items.  In addition, you also have an arsenal of weapons amplified with the power of E99, and boy will you be glad to have those!

Singularity plays in a decidedly linear fashion where you are on the whole trying to get from one side of the island to the other, with many objectives in between that help you get there.  Although it is very linear, that does not mean that exploration is not encouraged.  Lots of hidden goodies can be found by the determined player.  In fact, if you want to be able to upgrade your weapons and TMD effectively, exploration is critical.  In addition, tape players can be found everywhere that tell you a lot about the history of the island and its inhabitants, and occasionally, ghostly visions of the past will appear.  Some of these are quite shocking, especially when you see the present day corpses of the people you just saw alive.

If all of this sounds somewhat familiar, it may be because it has a lot of similarities to Bioshock; however, don't think that it is just a ripoff of it.  Singularity and Bioshock play very differently, and those who liked Bioshock will certainly like Singularity.

Time travel and manipulation is very thoroughly explored and is critical to the plot.  I thought it was one of the best presentations of time travel in a story that I had seen, and it definitely twist your mind around trying to make sense of all the time alteration.  In addition, the characters are also really well made.  You really want to put a bullet between the eyes of the villain for the complete monster that he is.

The TMD is very well used too.  It is of course an excellent combat device, but it is not all powerful.  It has an energy meter that slowly reloads or can be charged, but it goes pretty fast.  You will be relying on your guns a lot.  The TMD is also used to navigate the environment in creative ways.  Stairs missing? Just reverse time and it is brand new!  Giant mutant plant in the way?  Turn it back into a seed!  Don't know where to go?  Use the chrono flash and see where your footsteps will be going.  There are also many puzzles that will require moving objects around for steps and the like.

The enemies range from standard black op soldiers to disturbing, grotesque mutants.  The game keeps the horror feel throughout, but it is noticeably stronger at the beginning, partially because you barely have any way of fighting back.  The mutants and soldiers fight each other and you, and it is always nice going back to 1955 and seeing how different everything is and fighting normal soldiers for a change.  The fights never get repetitive and the terrain and environment are constantly changing, so every fight is enjoyable.  Captain Renko is tough, but even on normal he can get taken down by a couple mutant slashes or a shotgun blast at close range.  Health perks are a must if you want to survive.  The weapons are pretty much your standard FPS weapons, but some innovations put a spin on things.  The most noticeable are the seeker guns.  When aimed and shot, you control the bullet and direct it into your enemies, causing their limbs to get blown off and die.  The weapons really show their damage, and you will see legs and arms everywhere as well as headless corpses if you get a headshot.

The story is great with multiple endings and numerous twists and turns, the combat is fun, the environment is haunting and powerful, the enemies are fantastically dangerous and creepy.  Really, the only thing that bugged me is that when you are trying to explore, you run into annoying invisible walls that spoil the mood a bit, but this can be overlooked.  Also, don't expect to just be able to end when you want.  You have to play to the save point.  Thankfully, they are quite frequent so it usually is not a problem.

Raven did an excellent job with this game and really delivered what they were trying to deliver: a creepy FPS game with an engaging story and time manipulation abilities done right.  I really loved this game and recommend it to anyone, especially anyone who likes FPS games or smart stories.  And remember, there is always a third option when given a choice...

Final Score: 9.25

Josh Matern
Gaming President

Final Fantasy Dissidia: 012 [duodecim]

First off, I ought to mention that this is probably the oddest name I've seen for a sequel.  Now, for a little background.  Dissidia Duodecim is the sequel to Square's fighting game, Dissidia.  In the previous game, you took on the role of Final Fantasy characters (good and bad) from across the series - ranging from the Warrior of Light from the first Final Fantasy, to Gabranth from Final Fantasy XII.

Story (7/10)
Just so you know, I'm a stickler for story.  Anyway, people might remember the painfully empty and bland story to the first game.  Granted, one could argue that fighting games don't need a story because, well... its all about the battles.  Well, Square did a okay job explaining why characters from totally different timelines and stories all got stuck together fighting in the first game.  I rated Dissidia's story a 4/10.  Obviously, they've done quite an improvement for me to rate the sequel a 7/10.  You play as all the new characters, making it that much more fun for veterans who've been playing with Dissidia's guys for... well, in my case, over 200 hours.  Some fresh faces are a boon.  Of course, I don't want to go into any details, but suffice it to say that they did a much better job this time around.

Gameplay (8/10)
Square keeps many gameplay elements from the first game intact in the sequel.  To recap, you have two types of attacks - HP attacks, which takes away from an opponents health, and Bravery attacks, which steal opponents bravery.  Bravery points aren't just how big your character's ego is, but determine the strength of your HP attacks.  So, much of the gameplay is trying to keep your opponent from having too much bravery (else they'll hit really hard when they decide to go for your health), while keeping yours up.

They also do a fantastic job introducing gameplay.  It goes at a decent pace for new players - it doesn't shove all aspects onto you all at once, but it is spread out enough that veterans like me aren't annoyed, and they are sometimes a nice refresher.

The environment is 3-D, and are all iconic locations from the various games; for example, you can play in an interpretation of the Realm of Darkness from Final Fantasy III, or on Lunar Sub-terrain from Final Fantasy IV.  Since this is a sequel, they've practically doubled the playable areas, providing some much needed variation for Dissidia veterans like myself.

Now for the new stuff.

The bestest thing ever is that you get to import your save data from the first game.  This is a good thing for me since I put in at least 200 hours in the first game, and I had a lot of level 100 character.  Getting those same exact characters to level 100 again would have been SUCH a pain.  However, Square knows how I feel, and I don't have to re-level all those characters.

Of great note is the 'Assist Gauge' that has been added.  In essence, every time you attack, this gauge fills up, and once it gets full, you can summon an 'assist'.  Basically, you're calling in another character to fight along side you for a few seconds.  This can be helpful in breaking an opponent's chain attack, or creating your own double-teamed chain attack.  A useful and fun addition.

Veterans might remember the Chase System.  You could knock an enemy into the air and, in the typical anime fashion, defy gravity and have a mid-air sparring duel.  In the first game, this was painfully slow, and terribly easy to dodge each other's attacks.  Doing a chase just wasn't worth it.  But they've revamped the Chase System for Duodecim.  Where the first game was painfully slow, the sequel is blazing fast.  Chasing an enemy is now a high risk, because the exchange of blows is lightning-quick.  I got decimated quite a few times trying to get the hang of the speed.  I love it  because it gives the overall battle a much quicker and intense pace.

Music (10/10)
I have always had a soft spot for Final Fantasy music, and this is no different.  Since this is a fighting game spanning almost the entire Final Fantasy franchise, you've got music from every game.  Just like the battle area's, it seems like they've almost doubled the database of music to play during the game, and have revamped some of the scores featured in the first game.  Overall, awesome, and some music make certain fights (like Vaan v Gabranth or Cecil v Kain) all the more epic.

So, overall, I would give this game a 9/10.  They have made improvements to the gameplay while keeping what made it so darn fun to keep playing.  They really improved the story, which I am quite happy about, and the music... well, lets say they still have yet to disappoint.

I also want to note every Final Fantasy character you can play as in the game.  So, here comes the list!

Final Fantasy I : Warrior of Light and Garland
Final Fantasy II: Firion and The Emperor
Final Fantasy III: Onion Knight and Cloud of Darkness
Final Fantasy IV: Cecil, Kain, and Golbez
Final Fantasy V: Bartz and ExDeath
Final Fantasy VI: Terra and Kefka
Final Fantasy VII: Cloud, Tifa, and Sephiroth
Final Fantasy VIII: Squall, Laguna, Ultimecia
Final Fantasy IX: Zidaine and Kuja
Final Fantasy X: Tidus, Yuna, and Jecht
Final Fantasy XI: Shantott
Final Fantasy XII: Gabranth and Vaan
Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning
AND!!! There are a few bonus characters (I won't say how many!) that you can unlock.  Good luck!

Andrew Blomquist
Game Warden

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