Tag Archives: ubisoft

Some relatively recent games that I didn’t like

The Warriors (2005)
developer: Rockstar Toronto
publisher: Rockstar
system: PlayStation 2
GameRankings score: 83%

Like Manhunt and Bully, The Warriors uses the PS2-era Grand Theft Auto engine.  However, the gameplay is totally different.  Warriors is basically a linear, story-driven beat-em-up, supplemented with tedious graphitti assignments.  I didn’t hate this game but, like 90% of beat-em-ups, the fighting mechanics are too simple.  The characters are all totally unlikeable and mindless rampaging is actually difficult given the closed nature of this release.

Resident Evil 5 (2009)
developer/publisher: Capcom
system: Xbox 360
GameRankings score: 86%

This was a really big disappointment, especially since the dipshit critics gave it such a relatively strong score.  I swear that there is industry bias for and against certain series and I think Resident Evil is on the better end of that deal.  Going into this game, it appears to be a continuation/extension of the game mechanics introduced in the excellent Resident Evil 4.  Well, looks can be deceiving.  Yes, there’s an over the shoulder view but almost every other element from RE4 has been trashed.  The controls, everything from running to fighting to simply restoring your fucking health has been totally clunked up.  The old Resident Evils were clunky due to design/technology limitations.  In this game the clunkiness seems to be based on stupid, intentional decisions.

You may have heard of the controversy surrounding this game, which involves a great white hero gunning down armies of black zombies in Africa and how Capcom attempted to address this problem by adding a “black” sidekick character.  The sidekick is a complete failure.  She gets in the way, she holds you back, she’s annoying and she appears to be at most half-black, with very caucasian facial features.  This game was a real letdown.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)
developer/publisher: Nintendo
platform: GameCube
GameRankings score: 96%

I don’t hate this game but 5.5 hours in I don’t feel like playing it any more, which in my mind is a pretty big indictment for a Zelda game.  Naturally, the critics loved it but why?  Remember the first Zelda game?  A dude gives you a sword and bam! you’re off on an adventure.  Within an hour you’ve found the first dungeon.  This fucking game spends the first couple of hours on linear fetch quests that take place entirely within some dump of a village.  You can’t enter the main overworld until you’ve found someone’s cat, found someone else’s favorite baby basket, rounded up some goats, ugh.  Everyone sits in their exact spot in the village saying their exact same thing like we’re still in the Super NES days.  Link is saddled with an annoying sidekick elf/monster/whatever thing and he sometimes turns into a wolf.

The game has a great look to it but just seems to come up very short in the category of personality.  Its predecessor, The Wind Waker, had a lot of issues but it was bursting with great personality and it looks great.

Left 4 Dead (2008)
developer: Valve
publisher: EA
system: Xbox 360
GameRankings score: 89%

I bought this game because I really liked Valve’s The Orange Box compilation for Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and Portal.  I did not give a flying fuck about the online-only multiplayer-only Team Fortress 2Left 4 Dead looks a lot like Half-Life but it’s about as deep as Team Fortress 2.  In other words, it’s basically designed for you to go online, turn off your brain, and play through its rather short missions over and over.  I can’t think of any other game with so little content that was given such a high score by the critics.

Prince of Persia (2008)
developer: Ubisoft Montreal
publisher: Ubisoft
system: Xbox 360
GameRankings score: 80%

All of the games on this list have pretty good visuals but this game definitely takes the cake in this regard.  I love the look of this particular PoP game, much more than its PS2/GameCube/Xbox predecessors.  Unfortunately, the gameplay took some really stupid steps backwards.  There are a lot of little changes that mostly feel like they were made for the sake of changing something, anything.  In the Sands of Time trilogy games, the trigger buttons were used to dash along walls in a very reliable and tightly controlled manner.  Now, you kind of jump at a wall and hope the game understands that you want to run along the wall and not jump off of it.  The fighting has been completely retooled, completely for the worse.  The one thing that very obviously improved in each Sands of Time trilogy game was the fighting, but that’s been abandoned for a hilariously stupid, slow-motion, scripted battle mechanic.  It’s too bad the action in this game sucks because the Prince seems pretty likeable, as opposed to the sad cunt found in Warrior Within and The Two Thrones.

Zelda clones and offspring

As you may have noticed from a previous post, I recently finished The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which means I have beaten 10 Zelda games and have 3 to go (not counting the Four Swords spin-off games or the awful licensed games for CD-i).  Now, finishing 3 Zelda games is no small task and it’ll probably be awhile before I’ve actually done so, but I can’t help looking to the future.  When I’ve beaten all the Zeldas, what will I do when I want a Zelda fix but don’t want to replay a previously finished game?  Well, fortunately, there are many Zelda clones out there.  I’ve assembled this list for myself as much as anything but I’ll share it here for those other forlorn gamers that have rescued Hyrule as many times as possible. Note: I am ONLY including the games that by reputation are considered worthwhile. I’m not including any that are generally considered crap because I don’t want to play them!

Note 1: Before we start, bear in mind that I have not played most of these games. So, if I categorize a game incorrectly, just let me know!

Note 2: With each game I will list 2 ratings. The first rating, from GameFAQs, represents scores from amateur reviewers. The second rating, from GameRankings, represents scores from “professional” reviewers. Okay, let’s go!

Part 1: A rose by any other name . . .

Unapolagetic, Unabashed CLONES! These are the games that make little to no effort to hide their Zelda-ish-ness.

Golden Axe Warrior (Master System, SEGA, 1991)
what a terrible cover illustration
I have to start with this game because, OH, GOD, just look at the screenshots!

Yep, this is a major rip-off but fans seem to like it for what it is. Interestingly, this game came out in 1991, five years after the original Zelda was released in Japan. What made SEGA think that, after all that time, they needed their own Zelda clone? And for the Master System, no less, when the SNES/Genesis war was well underway? And how did the Golden Axe property get mixed up in the whole thing? Another interesting note – SEGA never bothered to release the game in Japan.
GameFAQs: 8.3 (3 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Neutopia (TurboGrafx-16, Hudson, 1990)

I mainly started with Golden Axe warrior because it was so blatantly derivative. However, Hudson beat SEGA to the punch by one year with a slightly less derivative offering, story and all. See fo’ yo’ self.

GameFAQs: 8.0 (6 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Neutopia II (TurboGrafx-16, Hudson, 1991)

Hudson didn’t waste any time releasing a follow-up. Both games are supposed to be pretty good in spite of their shamelessness.

GameFAQs: 7.0 (1 review) GameRankings: N/A

Crusader of Centy (Genesis, NexTech/SEGA, 1994)

Unlike the previously-mentioned games, this one supposedly has some original and unique aspects in story and concept, like some sort of animal training and monster philosophy. However, just LOOK at those screenshots.

GameFAQs: 7.6 (7 reviews) GameRankings: 8.0 (1 review)

Part 2: I’m Breathless: Music From and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy

This section contains games that take the Zelda formula and wrap it up in new clothes. These games have enough of their own feel that they have established their own fan bases, unlike the games in Part 1, whose only legacy is “play this if you want more action in the style of the first Zelda game.” However, all of the games in this section are usually described as, “it’s like Zelda but . . .”

The Battle of Olympus (NES, Infinity/Imagineer, 1988)

“It’s like Zelda but in ancient, mythology-inspired Greece.” More specifically, it’s like the Zelda black sheep, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Reputedly, it’s a bit more action-oriented and less RPG-oriented than its inspiration. This game has some pretty rabid supporters, too.

GameFAQs: 8.3 (12 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Willow (NES, Capcom, 1989)

Oh, look! One of the few games on this list that I’ve actually completed! A year after the film of the same name was released, Capcom managed to finish off this beauty. “It’s like Zelda but in the world of Willow,” which isn’t exactly all that different from the world of Zelda. However, this game is far from derivative and very much has its own identity. There is a lot of item acquisition and there are dungeons, but there’s less of an overworld/dungeon/overworld/dungeon process. The setup is a bit more RPG-ish than most Zelda games. I thoroughly enjoyed the music and revisited certain areas just to hear it.

GameFAQs: 8.5 (11 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Crystalis (NES, SNK, 1989)

“It’s like Zelda but more RPG-ish and with a storyline.” This game does look like Zelda on the surface but its fans, and there are many, claim that it is superior to the original in every way. Maybe so!

GameFAQs: 9.3 (29 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

StarTropics (NES, Nintendo, 1990)

“It’s like Zelda but in a modern setting and with a yo-yo instead of a sword.” This game was developed by Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! team and wasn’t released in good ol’ Japan.

GameFAQs: 8.6 (30 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Zoda’s Revenge: StarTropics II (NES, Nintendo, 1994)

This little-known sequel was released four years later and only in the USA. Poor guy.

GameFAQs: 8.8 (16 reviews) GameRankings: N/A

Final Fantasy Adventure (Game Boy, SquareSoft, 1991)

Oh! Another game I’ve actually beaten! “It’s like Zelda but in a Final Fantasy world.” This is actually the first game in the Mana (or Seiken Densetsu) series and bore the title, Final Fantasy Gaiden: Seiken Densetsu, in Japan. At first glance it looks a lot like Zelda but the overall feel is pretty different, with that darker Final Fantasy tone. There are many RPG trappings like leveling up and magic points and the items/weapons acquired throughout the game are more destructive than what you’d normally find in Zelda games (like blades and clubs on chains). I understand the SNES Mana games are less Zelda-ish but this one certainly belongs in Part 2 of this article and I would definitely recommend it.

GameFAQs: 8.8 (26 reviews) GameRankings: 8.2 (6 reviews)

LandStalker (Genesis, Climax/SEGA, 1992)

“It’s like Zelda but with an anti-hero, platforming, and an isometric viewpoint.” This one also has pretty rabid supporters.

GameFAQs: 8.7 (15 reviews) GameRankings: 8.7 (2 reviews)

Beyond Oasis (Genesis, Ancient/SEGA, 1994)

“It’s like Zelda but in a middle-Eastern setting and with brawling.” One reviewer described the game as a mash-up of Zelda and the Streets of Rage series. Sounds like a nice change of pace!

GameFAQs: 8.1 (13 reviews) GameRankings: 8.4 (3 reviews)

Legend of Oasis (Saturn, Ancient/SEGA, 1996)

The sequel to Beyond Oasis, but now with “Legend of” in the title to make the Zelda connection clearer. Thank you for that!
Now that's a big kick!
GameFAQs: 7.7 (3 reviews) 7.8 (3 reviews)

Alundra (PlayStation, Matrix/Sony, 1997)

“It’s like Zelda but in 32 bits and with some jumping.” The main character is even elfin in appearance.

GameFAQs: 7.9 (32 reviews) GameRankings: 8.5 (11 reviews)

StarFox Adventures (GameCube, Rare/Nintendo, 2002)
Dinosaur Planet
If you hadn’t already guessed, this game is “like Zelda but with the StarFox cast and conventions.” Here’s how it came about. In the N64 days, Rare had made something of a habit of making high-quality “clones” of Japanese Nintendo games. Super Mario 64 begat Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 and Mario Kart 64 begat Diddy Kong Racing. Eventually, Rare decided to make a Zelda game for the N64, entitled Dinosaur Planet. Shigeru Miyamoto got a look at it, noticed the protagonist was furry, and commanded Rare to convert the game into a StarFox installment for the GameCube. Anyway, the gameplay is Zelda 64 to the core, with the L-button aiming, button mapping and auto-jump. After this release, Rare and Nintendo divorced.

GameFAQs: 7.7 (66 reviews) GameRankings: 8.0 (80 reviews)

Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy (PlayStation 2/Xbox/GameCube, Eurocom/THQ, 2003)

The general consensus is that this game is like Zelda but in ancient, mythology-inspired Egypt. The main innovation is the addition of a jump button.

PlayStation 2 version – 8.6 (8 reviews) 7.9 (33 reviews)
Xbox version – 8.0 (2 reviews) 8.1 (21 reviews)
GameCube version – GameFAQs: 8.0 (9 reviews) 7.9 (25 reviews)

Beyond Good & Evil (PlayStation 2/Xbox/GameCube/PC, Ubisoft Montpelier/Ubisoft, 2003)

The protagonist is a photographer of some sort and the setting is kinda sci-fi. I don’t know much else but it’s always described as a Zelda clone. It has developed a really fervent cult following and was respected by the critics. Supposedly, a sequel is on the way.

PlayStation 2 version – GameFAQs: 8.1 (34 reviews) GameRankings: 8.7 (57 reviews)
Xbox version – GameFAQs: 9.1 (27 reviews) GameRankings: 8.8 (52 reviews)
GameCube version – GameFAQs: 8.9 (33 reviews) GameRankings: 8.8 (43 reviews)
PC version – GameFAQs: 8.9 (9 reviews) GameRankings: 8.3 (23 reviews)

Okami (PlayStation 2/Wii, Clover Studio/Capcom, 2006/2007)
doggy
Unlike most of the games on this list, Okami enjoyed a pretty healthy marketing and hype push. Interestingly, it came out in the same year as a high profile Zelda release, Twilight Princess, and the reviews often described it as a “Zelda-killer” or as having “out-Zelda’d Zelda.” Pretty big talk! So, yeah, it’s like Zelda but in an ancient, mythology-inspired Japan, and the protagonist is a divine dog. The game was especially praised for its beautiful, painting-like visuals. This was the last game Clover Studio developed before Capcom dissolved them and the principal members left to form Platinum Games. There’s a sequel on the way for DS.

PlayStation 2 version – GameFAQs: 9.5 (52 reviews) GameRankings: 9.2 (75 reviews)
Wii version – GameFAQs: 8.9 (27 reviews) GameRankings: 9.0 (47 reviews)

Part 3: All in the Family

This section is a quick overview of games that bear superficial similarities to Zelda and are probably influenced by Zelda but are not by any means clones and that break out of the mold in several meaningful ways. Perhaps I will write more about these games at a later date but for now I’m including the following in this category.

Mana series, including Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, Sword of Mana, and the bastard stepchild, Secret of Evermore.

SoulBlazer series, including SoulBlazer, Illusion of Gaia, and Terranigma.

Shining series, including I’m not even sure which games el oh el.

Zenonia series, the series that’s dominating on iPhone of late.

END

I’m glad that all these clones exist because there are too many elements that the Zelda games hold onto with unnecessary stubbornness.  Why is the setting always medievel-Europe-looking’?  Why is the star always a little, elfin, blond boy?  Anyway, you have your orders. As for me, I still have to beat three more Zelda games before I can seven dig into the list. If you disagree with my categorization, let me know. If you love one of the above-mentioned games and think I should play it first, let me know. Goodbye.

Xbox Live Arcade is also a hotbed of retro game sequels and remakes

I recently wrote about the Wii Ware retro sequels that appeal to me but there are even more on Xbox Live. Unlike goddamn Wii Ware, Xbox Live has DEMOS so I’ve actually played all of the games on this list that have been released. This list ONLY contains games that I have determined to be good and possibly worthwhile. This means that Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix will not be listed – it’s a good game but barely an update and probably worth $7, not $15. At the bottom of the list are some upcoming releases that interest me.

PRE-ARTICLE CLARIFICATION
On several, previous occasions I claimed that one must have a paid membership to Xbox Live to buy download games.  NOT TRUE.  A free account membership gives one access to both paid games AND demos.

RELEASED GAMES

Prince of Persia Classic
$10, Gameloft/Ubisoft

I bought the full game and it’s great.  It’s a remake (in the true sense) of the original PoP.  The story is the same, the levels are similar but everything’s been made from scratch, with very different control mechanics.  The graphics are full 3D and based on the designs from the 2003-2005 PoP games.  I really recommend this one and it’s definitely worth the $10.

Bionic Commando Rearmed
$10, GRIN/Capcom

Another one that I bought – it’s sort of a remake of the NES Bionic Commando, but the levels are (mostly) different, there are many new features, bonus areas, the bosses are really wild, and the dialogue is hilarious.  The price is nice!

Pac-Man Championship Edition
$10, Namco Bandai

This game kinda started the recent trend of taking an old-ass game, keeping the old, pixellated sprites and enveloping it in neon effects and techno music.  This game is highly recommended for fans of the old Pac-Man games.  It has the same gameplay but somewhat more complicated and with many different modes.  A worthy release but at $10 it’s definitely overpriced.

Mega Man 9
$10, Inti Creates/Capcom

Just like the Wii version (which I’ve been playing lately).  It’s just like the NES Mega Mans but with some new – but not drastic – elements.  At $10 it’s a bit overpriced but it is long and challenging.

1942 Joint Strike
$10, Backbone/Capcom

I’ve only played the demo, which is fairly long, but it seems to be pretty tight.  It has a lot more variety than the original 1942 and has great boss fight action and a chase sequence.  I might buy it someday.

Space Invaders Extreme
$10, Backbone/Taito

This is actually a conversion of a DS and PSP release from 2008.  The Xbox Live version has improved visuals that might give you a seizure.  This game shows how effectively a really old formula can become fresh.  The action is much more intense than in the original with waves appearing right after the other and crazy boss fights.  Compared to $30 for the DS version, $10 isn’t too bad.

Galaga Legions
$10, Namco Bandai

Every Galaga sequel has some twist to bring the old fans back in and this is no exception.  Now you have 2 auto turrets that you can position and reposition to your heart’s delight all over the play field.  The action is non-stop.  Another one I may get someday.

FORTHCOMING GAMES

The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition
LucasArts

Announced at E3, this game is a remake-from-scratch of the original Monkey Island.  It will have brand new graphics and full voiceover work with a complete overhaul of the command system.

Tales of Monkey Island
Telltale Games/LucasArts

On the heels of the Monkey Island remake comes a new episodic release developed by a team of former LucasArts adventure game folks.  It sounds interesting but I’m only tentatively excited mainly due to Telltale’s modus operandi: 1) they seem to be really hit or miss and 2) the game will be released in 5 installments, likely at $10 apiece.  God!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled
Ubisoft

And now we have a 3D remake of the 1991 arcade hit, originally by Konami.  Not much is known but it seems interesting.

Metal Slug 7
SNK Playmore

Wow, I’m glad I didn’t waste $30 to buy this on DS last year!  It’ll probably only be $10 from Xbox Live.  Sweet.

Why I’m convinced EA (Electronic Arts) intends to release its own console

INTRO

Over the last year or so it’s dawned on me that EA must be planning to make their own console. I’m not the first to think this but even though some professional video game writers have mentioned the possibility, I haven’t seen very much deep discussion. There are four elements of EA operations that support my belief that EA is dreaming of a console, even if it hasn’t actually started developing one.

PS – If you’re unfamiliar with EA, they’re the world’s second largest games publisher, behind Nintendo and ahead of even Microsoft and Sony, and are known for many series, including Madden NFL, FIFA, NBA Live, NHL, NCAA Football, NCAA March Madness, Need For Speed, Medal of Honor, The Sims, Battlefield, Burnout, Command & Conquer, Skate, and Rock Band.

ACQUISITIONS

EA buys small developers and publishers at a very high rate. Occasionally, EA allows an acquired company to continue operating as is but this almost never lasts. There’s even a common sequence of events: EA buys little company, tells little company to continue operations as normal, changes company’s name to EA (ex: EA Des Moines), changes mind and ends company, absorbs company’s popular series into EA’s portfolio.

While EA has typically focused on smaller operations, they’ve really amped up their efforts in this regard over the last few years. In 2004, EA bought almost 20% of Ubisoft as part of a hostile takeover. EA hasn’t increased its shares as of yet, but the move does give EA 20% of the vote at shareholder meetings and the situation is somewhat embarrassing for Ubisoft. This move is significant because Ubisoft is one of the top ten biggest publishers in the world. Ubisoft publishes the high-selling and critically-acclaimed Rayman, Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, and Rainbow Six series.

In a similar move, EA has spent the last year attempting a hostile takeover of Take Two Interactive. This would debatably be an even more significant acquisition than the stalled Ubisoft takeover, as Take Two holds two major subsidiaries: Rockstar Games (publisher of Grand Theft Auto, Midnight Club, Max Payne, Manhunt) and 2K (publisher of BioShock, Sid Meier’s Civilization, NBA 2K, Major League Baseball 2K, NHL 2K, All-Pro Football).

Why do I think all of these attempted acquisitions indicate plans of a console? Just imagine if a single company possessed all of those franchises and then announced that in eighteen months they would be releasing a new console to which ALL of those series would be exclusive. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that there are ten million people that would buy the system for the sports games alone. Factor in Grand Theft Auto, Splinter Cell, BioShock . . . good gravy.

ELIMINATING COMPETITION

Sports games have long provided the core of EA but over the last few years the company has begun to defend these series with an almost insane zeal and jealousy. As NFL 2K grew in popularity and critical regard, EA decided that instead of making their own product better, they would simply pull the rug out from under 2K by forking over warehouses of cash for the EXCLUSIVE rights to the NFL license. Oh, and before 2K could get any funny ideas about making an NCAA Football game, EA tied up the exclusive rights to that, as well. 2K gained some modicum of revenge by gaining the same exclusive rights to the Major League Baseball. This is perhaps not the great loss for EA that one might think, as the publisher has struggled for years to achieve any consistency in success concerning its baseball games.

So how does this jealous protection of major sports licenses play into my hairball hypothesis?  The logic is pretty much identical to my similar point – millions of people would buy the system for the licensed sports games alone but if EA also controlled 2K they would have eliminated their only major rival in that genre (outside of Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series).  It would take at least a year for the other consoles to receive quality sports games from new developers; plenty of time for EA to sew up millions of fans.  And the games that did come out for the other systems would be without licenses for seven of the world’s biggest sports leagues: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, and Spain’s La Liga.

SUDDEN INTEREST IN I.P.

EA suddenly seems really interested in establishing new properties and series, much more actively than in the past.  The last two years alone have seen the introduction of Crysis, Rock Band, Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge, Spore, Army of Two, Boomblox, skate., and Facebreaker.  Naturally, it makes sense for a publisher to expand its portfolio but admittedly EA is doing a bang-up job of it.  About half of the games from that list were very well regarded critically and the rest received at least decent notices.  HOWEVER.  Maybe it’s all part of a massive push to expand the portfolio of exclusives for an upcoming EA console!

COMPLAINTS ABOUT MULTIPLE PLATFORMS

My final point.  EA has been well-documented in their complaints about multiple systems over the last couple of years.  To date, I have been unable to understand the point of these complaints.  No one is forcing EA to release Madden for every system under the sun (PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, DS, Xbox 360, PC).  This mindset plays very heavily into EA’s profit-minded approach.  Basically, market diversity is bad for EA.  The more consolidated everything is, the better for them.  Even if they didn’t release their own console it would be easy for them to put all their weight behind a single console.  If they decided to do that right now with the Xbox 360 they could single-handedly kill the PS3 in the North American market.  EA’s too conservative to actually do such a thing.  The only console they would throw all their resources at would be their own and the motivation for taking such a huge risk would be MONEY MONEY MONEY.

kicknz

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