Usually, when you get a new-to-you console, you can usually find or remember the major games to check out. But what happens when you need something different to play? This is where the “Hidden Gems” come in.
Read More About My Criteria For Hidden Gems
This will be a bit of a work-in-progress. I may add to these as I go along and find new games.
If you have some recommendations to add, please do so in the comments section below.
Featured Game: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
“Nintendo practically invented the platforming genre with Super Mario Bros. Since then, they have innovated the genre in countless ways with Yoshi’s Island, Wario Land, Kirby, and now, Jungle Beat.
The entire game is controlled by the DK Bongos. Drumming left and drumming right moves DK in those directions. Hitting both sides of the bongos at once causes DK to jump. Clapping will trigger certain events in the environment such as clinging to a bird and flying with it or launching yourself out of a flower. Although the actual platforming mechanics aren’t anything too new for a 2D sidescroller, the drums change the feel. The player must use a coordinated, rhythmic string of beats to keep DK moving through the levels and vanquish vile zoo creatures. The drums add a new element and freshness to the platforming….
The formula works well, and is made significantly more amusing and fresh by coordinating your movements to the drums. The difficulty level is significant. Once you reach the latter levels of the game, you’ll have to play through the kingdoms a couple times in order to get more than a bronze or silver medal. The platinum medals are very difficult and may double the game time in some instances. Once you’ve collected all the gold and platinum medals, you will unlock several new levels. It provides incentive for reaching the goal of 1200 beats per level and to continue playing beyond the standard four hour play through time for the regular game. The extras will kick the playtime to 8-10 hours.”
Nintendojo’s Review of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Featured Game: Chibi-Robo
“We call Chibi-Robo a puzzle-platformer and not the other way around for a reason – this is a game about exploration and about solving environmental obstacles in order to retrieve objects and continue onward. Chibi is an amazingly robust character because he is able to find or buy and equip various tools to help him with his duties. Early on, he recovers a toothbrush and utilizes it to clean stains on the ground. Later, he finds a spoon, which is able to shovel planters for seeds that in turn grow flowers. He often makes use of a copter blade that rises from the top of his head to hover across gaps and to safely descend from tall structures. Figuring out which tools need to be used and where is a massively rewarding undertaking and a major part of the game’s appeal.What begins as a seemingly simplistic affair is transformed into a juggling act of activity as the game advances. During his first day, Chibi need only pick up trash and throw it into a nearby wastebasket to earn happy points, which he uses to buy new batteries for his body. (Players start the game with an 80.0 charge and can buy upgrades that quadruple that number.) Later, he might need to earn happy points to charge a giant-sized battery for the Giga Robo, use his blaster to take out troublesome nano-bots so that he can use their parts to construct bridges and ladders, rescue a trapped princess from her fortress, clean up dozens of nearby stains, and more, all the while always watching his battery to make sure he never runs out of power.
I expect that too many people will glance at this game and conclude that it’s not for them, simply because it’s either too weird or too cute. Truthfully, it’s both, but it’s also a very enjoyable, fun, and rewarding puzzle-platformer. Skip has successfully created a very charming title complete with an off-the-wall hero and an abnormally dysfunctional family whose needs he must contend with on a daily basis. Chibi cleans and spreads happiness, but he also solves environmental puzzles and explores a house that seems bigger than some competing games’ universes. And whether he’s scrubbing out stains or bringing the family together, you’re going to be entertained.”
IGN’s Review of Chibi Robo
More Great Games:
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
Tak and the Power of Juju
Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams
Tak 3: The Great Juju Challenge
SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy
Featured Game: Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
“The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction offers this same feeling of unchecked, unrivaled, unstoppable power a hundred times over. As the Big Green himself you’re given free range over a thriving coastal city and a sparsely populated canyon town, and you’re the biggest bully on the playground. That means you’re free to charge through traffic like a bull elephant, throw busses into a crowded intersection, or use lamp posts to four-iron a cow so far that even the staunchest of PETA members would explode with laughter. I cannot stress enough how great it is to look down a street and see upturned cars, downed power lines, buildings on fire, panic in the streets–something out of a zombie movie–and being able to say, “I did this.” I’ve never actually fathered a child myself but I cannot imagine doing so would match such a feeling of prideful accomplishment.
The basic premise of the game is the same as that of the highly-acclaimed Spider-Man 2, with the notable difference that you play as the Hulk instead of the webslinger. And much like Spidey’s foray into the free-roam realm, Ultimate Destruction succeeds at its most basic level: replace Spider-Man 2’s awe-inspiring web-swinging with throwing taxi cabs at SWAT team officers, and you’re left with the same feeling of half playing/half being the superhero. However, I must say that virtually everything Spider-Man does, Hulk does better. It’s just a much, much better game.
Apart from virtually every aspect of gaming that Ultimate Destruction pulls off beautifully, the pure raw fun to be had with this title alone makes it worth a purchase. There’s madcap enjoyment to be had here the kind of which you’d find in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Only, without friends, because if you had any to begin with you’ll forget them once you play this game. If Hulk didn’t have some major targeting issues and lengthy load times that made me want to Hulk-out on my Gamecube and throw it into a bus, it’d be a nearly perfect game. I’d still definitely recommend it, although I must warn that this game will get into your head, majorly. Like they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Luckily, Ultimate Destruction rocks most ultimately.”
N-Philes’ Review of Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
Featured Game: Beyond Good & Evil
” In one sense, it’s easy to describe Beyond Good & Evil, the latest game from Rayman creator Michel Ancel. Its core game play is very similar to recent Zelda titles, especially the generally excellent The Wind Waker, with puzzle-laden “dungeons,” vehicular transport to different parts of the game world, an intuitive combat system, and even heart containers. Add to this plenty of stealth levels, hovercraft racing, classic shooting sequences, and even some platformer-style elements (though somehow without the frustrating jumping). Then wrap it all up with a sophisticated story involving rich characters in a vivid, beautifully realized game world. Quick summary? It’s Zelda for grown-ups, without the annoying fetch-quests….
It’s easy enough to tally up Beyond Good & Evil‘s accomplishments in game play, level design, and outright eye candy, and declare it a success. But there’s something more here to which all of these technical and design accomplishments are only a means to and end. You see, BG&E is one of those rare games that shines from all points with an unmistakable quality of intelligence and personality. It’s in the sharp writing and excellent voice acting. It’s in the constantly inventive yet believable world of Hyllis and in the story’s intriguing twists and emotional impact. Or in little details, wonderfully presented: Pey’j and Jade leaping into an embrace after a big fight, or Jade’s face registering pity and horror with the subtlest change of expression. It’s one thing to create a game full of pretty graphics and big action; it’s something else to give us a story worth caring about involving characters we believe in.Ultimately, for all its similarities to Zelda, this is where Beyond Good & Evil finds its own ground. Not only does it avoid many of the frustrations of the games it draws from (and yes, that includes Zelda‘s flat story and tedious item-chasing), but it is pierced throughout with humor, intelligence, and humanity. While it’s over a bit before you’d want it to be, Beyond Good & Evil tells its story with amazing pizzazz and polish. Even better, it’s a story well worth telling.”
IGN’s Review of Beyond Good & Evil
Featured Game: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
“Eternal Darkness is a game that spans across centuries and focuses on twelve different playable characters. You begin playing the game as Alexandra Roivas who is awakened one night by an urgent telephone call. Her grandfather was found murdered in Rhode Island and she leaves immediately to investigate the odd manner in which he was killed. Early on in the game she will stumble upon the Tome of Eternal Darkness. She begins to read the book and from here the story unfolds via chapters, with each one allowing the player a new character to control and thus partake in the storytelling. At the end of each chapter you will once again take control of Alexandra who will have learned all of the abilities and knowledge of the character you previously played. By finding new chapters for the book the story progresses onward, and what a story it is. Never before in a game has a story been so captivating, entertaining, and rewarding. The attention to detail throughout the game is amazingly evident and also reassuring that four years of development went to a good cause. Many details will be passed over by most gamers, but those who pay attention and read every word and look at every item in the game will find themselves so caught up in the story that hours will fly by in minutes and meals will be forgotten. This is what gaming is all about, an escape from the confines of reality, and this game does it better than any before it.
Eternal Darkness is part Resident Evil, part Tomb Raider, and part graphic adventure. It’s really in a category all its own because it just plays so well, but unlike the cheap scare tactics of Resident Evil, Eternal Darkness has class. I guess it’s closer to Silent Hill, but even creepier due to the insanity effects.
Eternal Darkness is a keeper. It’s the best game on the GameCube and the best game I’ve played in a very long time. Cube Club events and previous showing of the game to the public pale in comparison to the real game. After you play the game for two hours I guarantee you won’t be able to stop until you’ve finished. The story is so detailed and intricate in design that you’ll discover things that other players may have missed. There are secrets to discover and the game is extremely rewarding when you do. The difficulty level is spot-on and although you may get stuck in a few spots, you’ll soon slap your forehead and figure it out over time. The graphics are great, the sound is perfect, and the fun factor is off the scale. Nintendo and Silicon Knights have created the best reason to own a GameCube. I give this game the highest recommendation available. Don’t skip out on this one! It’s all in the details.”
GamingAge’s Review of Eternal Darkness
Featured Game: Killer7
“Regardless of where you happen to stand, on all levels, Killer7 resolves to unflinchingly dazzle, flicking through characters, ideas, strands and developments that not only war with each other, but also with the player’s expectations, delivering an exceptionally unhinged gaming experience. This is something that wants to attack the senses you have, and at the same time move head over heels to seduce you with its spell so as to become consumed by it. If there is a single aspect of Killer7 that stands out more than any other, it’s that it wants to joyously toy with division and multiplicity… etching out frequent schizophrenic approaches to design by encapsulating them within bafflement, confusion and awe…
The game revolves around one Harman Smith, a wheelchair-bound assassin who has seven distinct personalities, also known as ‘Killer7’, that organisations and governments employ in times of international crisis. In the early 21st century, after a brief period of world peace, a terrorist group labelled ‘Heaven Smiles’ launch a war exploiting the bureaucratic competitiveness of two nations supposedly allied with each other. To say this brief summary even vaguely captures the flavour of the game is an overstatement. Various topics, ranging from sadomasochism, psychological melodrama, corporate commercialism, child abuse, secret intelligence, rape, terrorism, war, organ trafficking, indiscriminate killing and election rigging all feature to numerous strengths. Needless to say, the subsequent experience is diverse, darkened and screwed up to the extent that this is easily the most disturbing videogame ever released, and will probably remain so for some time.
It doesn’t know whether it wants to provide comedy, all-out action, horror, drama, and similarly to many successful late-generation titles, takes a pinch out of all these genres and mixes them together within a single package. Whether this comes at a cost detrimental to the consistency is almost irrelevant. Although Killer7 is less solid compared to another recent Capcom classic, Resident Evil 4, its fluctuations (by refusing to stand in one place) underline it with a disconcerting seriousness… an atmosphere that revels not in its own sensationalism, but in taking the player to a far-off world that uses the many moments of relief to contrast against the weight of what shocks and disturbs. The escapism created arrives at a price. It asks that you leave the traditional notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ at the door.
On its most simple level, Killer7 fuses ‘on-the-rails’ explorative third-person movement, first-person static combat and adventure-lite puzzles with a leveling-up menu system reminiscent of both Resident Evil and Onimusha. Two buttons move or turn the seven characters available, while another enters them into a combat engine where they’re allowed to fight the numerous foes littering each chapter. Shooting these enemies in certain parts provides blood (or currency) that can be used to level-up abilities for different characters through test tubes. In summary, these systems sound rudimentary and basic, and while the title has picked up criticism for failing to provide the expected depth Capcom have offered in titles such as Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe, such criticism has seemed a little premature.”
NTSC-uk’s Review of Killer 7
First & Third-Person Shooters
Featured Game: Metal Arms: Glitch in the System
“The game is an unassuming shooter starring cutesy robots, and on first glance it might look convincingly like a shallow children’s title. But spend a few hours with Metal Arms and you’ll find that the kiddie exterior hides mission after mission of surprisingly hardcore combat action. Though its balance is a little questionable at times, Metal Arms has quietly come onto the scene to offer one of the most visceral and most satisfying shooting experiences in quite a while….
Metal Arms’ real meat is in its intense, dynamic combat. Mechanically, this is all standard third-person shooter fare–you run around the maps, jump, ride down zip lines, and obliterate every Mil in sight with extreme prejudice. The “Metal Arms” part of the game’s title comes from the fact that Glitch can replace his right arm with a wide assortment of weapons that fit right into his shoulder socket, and his left arm (though it doesn’t detach) can manipulate all sorts of secondary weapons and support devices as well. The weapons are pretty typical of shooters: There’s a basic laser, a machine gun, a shotgun, a rocket launcher, and so on. These weapons are pretty weak to begin with, and they don’t hold much ammo, but you can improve them throughout the game by purchasing or finding upgrade kits, and once the weapons are thoroughly powered up, you’ll be able to kick serious bot butt. The secondary weapons include various kinds of grenades, a scope for zooming, and that sort of thing. The weapons strike a solid balance, and the game does a good job of presenting you with enough varied enemies and situations that all of your equipment will come in handy at one time or another.
What makes Metal Arms’ combat so intense is a combination of factors. The weapons seem to pack a really hard punch, thanks to their great visual effects and sounds. The game also features some really crazy robot-on-robot violence, embodied mostly in the way that the Mil grunts die. One solid hit can tear off a robot’s arm or head, causing him to run around, wildly spraying the area haphazardly with his weapon. A death blow will remove the Mil’s entire torso, leaving only the legs to run blindly around the combat area. Finally, it’s not all that hard to simply reduce an enemy grunt to a violent shower of parts and shrapnel. Metal Arms’ combat is really dynamic, too, in that the behavior of enemies and the way a scenario plays out changes every time you replay it. Though the enemies always spawn in the same place, they’re smart enough to move around fairly intelligently, and the combat feels more realistic and alive than in many other action games.
It’s a good thing that Metal Arms’ action is so dynamic and satisfying, because you’ll be playing the same sequences a lot. To put it simply, this game is hard. Metal Arms features several difficulty levels, but even on the baseline “normal” setting you’ll sometimes have to replay a given area 10 or 15 times before you can learn every enemy position and strategize a path to victory. Sometimes it feels like the enemies have an unfair leg up on you–they can often run faster than Glitch and have exceedingly powerful armaments, and some of the larger ones are unpleasantly hard to kill. But if you can bear some repetition, you’ll eventually master a tough area and move on to the next one. On that 15th try, when you finally lay waste to every robot bastard in your path, the game is intensely satisfying.”
GameSpot’s Review of Metal Arms
2D Scrolling/Linear Shooting
Featured Game: Ikaruga
“Truth were told, it can be very hard to write about shooters because they follow such a similar pattern from game to game. However in the case of Ikaruga, there are a number of tricks up its sleeve (besides the ability to configure your screen to run vertical as per the original arcade machine).
First of all, there is the black and white combination system. At a button press, the ship can be configured to either shoot black or white bullets. “And the point of this is?” you may ask. All the enemy ships are either black, white, or in the case of the bosses, a combination of both. Shooting an enemy with fire of the opposite colour does double the damage as to shooting it with the same colour. On the other hand, you are immune to bullets of the same colour. So a tricky set of decisions awaits the player. To either do more damage and leave themselves open to being shot more easily, or take the longer time method but reduce the factor of destruction.
Secondly, there are no powerups whatsoever to be had. You start with a fast firing gun, the ability to change colour and a chargeable superweapon. And that is it, no more, no less. No speed increases, no multiple lasers of doom, no “multiples”, no invincibility shield… it is curiously different and yet somewhat refreshing, a harkening back to the shooters of old. The gun has a good firing speed and is reasonably powerful, so there is a fighting chance to be had. The superweapon is a blast of homing rockets, the power of which depends on how much it has been charged up. This is done by adsorbing fire from the enemy by matching like colour with like. Timing the use of this weapon is critical to survival, especially in the higher difficulty modes…
Thirdly there is the chain system. By destroying three ships of the same colour, a chain is started. By continuing to shoot enemies of the same colour in sets of 3, the chain continues and builds up. Bonus points are awarded for each successful “link” in the chain up until a maximum value, thereafter that value is continually given out. Therefore the key to really being successful at the game is to learn the various patterns, tactics and hotspots of each level to tie into creating the best chain sequence. This consequently results in subsequently large scores for the records table.
Ikaruga is not an easy game. Even on Easy difficulty mode it is quite challenging, and the higher modes just ramp things up another notch. The end game sequence is not something that will be seen in a hurry. And after that, there is always the notion of scoring more points, getting longer chains and using fewer credits. If there is one word to describe Ikaruga overall, it would be “dedicated”. Dedicated in the fact that players will need to put a lot of time and effort into getting rewards from the game. Not just the fact that certain bonuses open up after a number of hours play, but that the ability to devise playing strategies, key chain points, when and where to move at each point on a level is not something that will be mastered overnight.”
NTSC-uk’s Review of Ikaruga
Featured Game: Alien Hominid
“The action in Alien Hominid is pure throwback–nostalgia-prone gamers in their 20s will probably be reminded of Contra most immediately, though the game definitely owes a greater debt to the humor, breakneck pacing, and extreme challenge of SNK’s unkillable Metal Slug series. But rather than charging you with destroying some weird giant heart-monster or taking down a Hussein-esque dictator, as those games do, Alien Hominid puts you in the role the titular character, who just wants to get his (its?) spaceship back from the FBI. Over the course of the game, you’ll have to cut a swath through a seemingly endless number of FBI agents, KGB operatives, and Area 51 spooks, and do battle with a butterscotch monster, a variety of giant robots, and even one of your own before you’ll get what you want….
The core action is pretty satisfying, and anyone who grew up in Cold War times will probably get a perverse, irony-tinged thrill out of crushing the “Red Menace” in the game’s middle levels. But the best moments in Alien Hominid are when it moves away from the basic gameplay. You’ll regularly find vehicles you can drive, ranging from civilian automobiles to earth movers to a giant, vengeance-filled Sasquatch (our personal favorite), and there’s something absolutely gleeful about just plowing through your enemies with these. There are several levels where you’ll actually recover your spaceship for a short time, which changes the action entirely, and is quite fun in its own right. The game is also extremely fond of throwing powerful bosses at you, and each of its 16 levels is fitted with several, all of whom will give your reflexes a good test.
Like the side-scrolling shoot-’em-ups from which the game takes its inspiration, Alien Hominid is really, really hard. You can occasionally score a protective force field that will absorb one shot before dissipating, but without it you’re naked to the world, and one hit will leave you with one less life. Even the saltiest of side-scrolling veterans will be hard-pressed to finish the game with the number of continues allotted, but the game keeps things manageable. When you take your last hit and are faced with the “game over” screen, you can hop right back into the game with a full stock of lives, starting from the last level you were on. Pushing forward through the game like this will take most players anywhere between two and four hours. It’s short, but it’s also completely relentless and almost endlessly inventive, making it an extremely satisfying experience that is highly replayable.”
GameSpot’s Review of Alien Hominid
Featured Game: P.N.03
Like games of old, P.N. 03 is all about high scores and style. The point isn’t to complete the game, but to dominate the game. Indeed, you can expect to see the end credits within a matter of hours, but in doing so you’ll be presented with a score sheet that breaks down your abilities within the game. Whatever you earn, it won’t be good enough. Practice; try again.
For some, the simple prospect of a 3D action title that takes the same mentality and required skill from the 2D shooter genre will be enough to warrant a purchase; others however, may need more convincing.
During combat, it is rare that you’ll be standing in the same spot for more than a second or two, especially during the harder moments. Different types of enemy throw different attacks, be it machine gun fire, rockets, plasma or whatever, and each attack requires a different tactic to avoid. Imagine a room with two giant cannons someway down the corridor, facing you and ready to fire. They may take a few seconds to charge up, but if their laser cannon strike you, it’ll be instant death.
The style of P.N.03 is one of the most striking and original seen in a long time. Despite clearly displaying a technically accomplished graphical engine, rarely is it used to generate anything other than bland and lifeless corridors, which appears to be a conscious stylistic choice. There is a constant eerie atmosphere, the endless sleek yet soulless rooms with harsh right-angles and white glow or the rare glimpses of a desolate wasteland outside. At a time where developers and public are constantly pushing for more, more, more, Capcom have created a style that is every bit as striking as (although extremely different to) UGA’s Rez; colourless and utterly without flair or beauty.
NTSC-uk’s Review of P.N.03
More Great Games:
Super Smash Bros. Melee, Viewtiful Joe Series
Featured Game: Wario World
“Wario World is presented as a 3D platformer with 2D sensibilities. Although Wario can explore freely in all three dimensions, the levels are set up to be traversed in a particular linear path. Though it lacks the complete freedom of games such as Rayman 3 and Super Mario Sunshine, it’s gloriously refreshing to play a 3D platformer where the camera barely gets in the way. Those who miss the simpler, busier layout of platformers from the SNES years will be in for a treat with Wario.
This all sets the stage for a highly entertaining brawler/platformer hybrid of a game. As Wario traverses the game’s eight main worlds, he’s assaulted by huge gangs of enemies. The smaller ones can be knocked away with a quick punch or with Wario’s trademark charge and butt stomp attacks, but the larger ones will simply fall unconscious and rise again after a short time. To finish them off, you’ll have to pick them up and throw them, piledrive them, or swing them around in circles, smashing anything that gets too close… Sometimes it’s just fun to wade into a crowd of enemies and knock them all senseless in a matter of seconds.
All of the brawling could have easily overshadowed the platforming aspects of Wario World, but fortunately, there are still plenty of challenges that depend simply on your ability to traverse Wario’s colorful worlds… With 13 big bosses and countless mini-bosses, you’ll have plenty with which to keep yourself busy. Each one is better than the last, and many of them look like the product of a very troubled mind. They can usually be defeated in several different ways, and half the fun is trying to come up with the most successful tactics; although most bosses will eventually succumb to punches and piledrivers, many of them have a trick that will allow you to knock them out with a minimum of fuss.
Wario World is a fun throwback to the simpler games of the 16-bit era and is most certainly worthy of the Wario name. It’s not for everyone though, and those who are turned off by its length would do well to just give it a rent over the weekend. Those expecting an experience akin to Super Mario Sunshine are bound to be disappointed, but gamers looking for a little quality old-school platforming — and Wario fans in particular — will eat this one up.”
Nintendojo’s Review of Wario World
Featured Game: Bloody Roar: Primal Fury
“Bloody Roar: PF, and Bloody Roar 3 for that matter, are deeper fighting games then they are given credit for being. BR: PF follows the basic formula for a 3D fighting game to a point. If you haven’t played any of the series yet, the catch is that your human fighters have the ability to transform into animals. This is more than just a visual trick. Once in animal form, be it a wolf or rabbit or cheetah, your character becomes faster and stronger and has new moves at its disposal. You can’t always fight as a beast though. There is a beast drive gauge that fills as you deal and take damage. Once you fill that gauge another appears, and this one determines how long you’ll be able to sustain your beast-hood. You’ll turn back in to a human when you’re gauge gets beat down or when you execute a super move. If you can avoid getting hit, it’s conceivable that you could stay in beast form for the entire fight.
The fighting engine is fast, 60fps fast, but also a little frantic. You can really mash your way to some pretty cool moves, but there is an underlying structure that is full of depth and usability. Sure there are a numerous paint-by-numbers combos, but it’s how you use them (string them together) and other advanced techniques that show off what this game is truly made of. Some of the advanced techniques include hard versus soft blocking, counter attacks, guard breaks, evasion, sidestepping, and 3D movement. The game can be played without using any of these skills and still be fun, yet mastering the use of all of them makes for a much higher level of play.
In relation to other games, BR: PF is really most akin to Capcom’s Versus series. How could the two possibly relate? For one, they both make use of flashy over the top special moves. They also both play at such a quick pace that you feel on the verge of out of control. They are both easily accessible by beginner and expert alike, and it is in the hands of these experts that you see what both games truly have to offer. The main link between the two though is the juggle combo. So much alike, in fact, that there are air combos in BR: PF that clearly mimic the aerial raves from the Versus games. You want to see 30 and 40 hit combos in a 3D fighting game? This is where to turn. Each character comes equipped with launcher moves that can be followed up, by standard punches and kicks, air combos, combo strings, throws, or even super moves. On the opposite side of the coin, the airborne opponent has the ability to break out of the falling animation and throw off the timing of the combo (a little like Soul Calibur).”
Gaming Age’s Review of Bloody Roar: Primal Fury
Featured Game: Skies of Arcadia Legends
“Sailing, wind in your face, going off to explore the unknown: that is what it is to be a sailor. The only thing lacking is the spray of cool salt water in your face, mainly because there isn’t any. Skies of Arcadia Legends, a slightly reworked port of the Dreamcast classic, takes the whole flying ship theme in a whole new direction. The game is part Pirates! and part Final Fantasy, and all thrown together into a unique game.
While the whole story has that cliché rag-tag group saving the world, the method of story development is anything but. The game revolves a lot around exploration and incorporating that into the overall story. You play as Vyse, a Blue Rogue, the sort of Robin Hood of the world, and his partner Aika, a treasure happy hothead. When flying about, they see a battleship owned by Valua (the Nazi Germany of Arcadia) blowing away a small ship and capturing the occupant. They board the ship and save the occupant who is Fina, a citizen of the Silver Civilization that was sent to Arcadia to prevent a devastating event. The story is about the journey to manhood, value of friends, and the importance of seeking out the unknown…
Dreamcast owners, there are a few new things to do in the game and incorporate themselves into the story. First, there is a doctor, an adopted girl, and a strange bird that you have to go out and find invisible fish to feed. The second is a strange pirate hunter that follows you around and battles you a couple of times. There is also a Wanted System added into the game. You go to the Adventurers Guild like you are selling discoveries and you can find bounties as well as collect them. There is a bit more to do in the game than on the DC version.
While Skies of Arcadia is not a paramount of technical achievement, the substance is worth buying. Great story and great gameplay elements are the very meat of this title. If you have not played Skies of Arcadia yet, I suggest you go out and get this right away. If you already have the Dreamcast version, this is more up in the air. I was personally happy pay for the upgrades, but it may be up to the individual. Still, this title is a classic that belongs on any RPG fans shelf.>
NetJak’s Review of Skies of Arcadia Legends
Featured Game: Tales of Symphonia
“Packed under the two discs in the case is eighty hours of gameplay and from the minute you pick up Tales of Symphonia, you feel yourself starting to be sucked into it. For non-RPG fans, there may be a small learning curve, but if you stick with the game, you’ll eventually come to understand everything, and grow to love the battle system—the game’s best feature. First off, there are no random battles, so you will not be just walking along, and out of nowhere have been sucked in a battle during exploration. While some may argue, that random battles help them level up appropriately, I have not found it to be a problem at all because, I hardly ever want to avoid a battle! The battles are extremely fun in this game, and I think that Zelda fans will love them for sure….
When you first put in the disc, the story hits you in the face immediately. The story isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Not to say that it isn’t interesting—it most certainly is. It is filled with realistic elements and fantasy elements, and there are definitely a lot of plot twists that will make your jaw drop. However, the fact is that Namco didn’t have a new approach to the storyline. If you are an RPG fan, you will know from the start that the story isn’t going to be too different from one found in an RPG, such as Final Fantasy. However, I am pretty sure that most anybody will be sucked in by the story as it is a great one. Especially with it’s great character development. You learn so much about the characters, and grow to know them through the many cut scenes, and optional skits that can be seen when told to press the Z button…
Tales of Symphonia is the first traditional RPG developed for the Gamecube, and let me say that it is a wonderful one. It introduces a unique battle system into a traditional RPG, creating a new style of game that even Non-RPG fans will love. You will find yourself exploring the land, battling for fun, and always discovering cool secrets—like recipes for your cookbook, or a fun new mini game. I would recommend that every Gamecube owner buy this game. And if you are still hesitating, at least give it a rent.”
N-Philes’ Review of Tales of Symphonia
Featured Game: Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
“If you’re like me, you hear the words, “Baldur’s Gate” and run screaming the other way. Maybe you hate RPGs or maybe you think D&D is just too damn geeky or, if you’re like me, you just can’t stand the thought of spending 30+ game hours to finish an RPG. (Even though I’d highly recommend Morrowind, I still cringe a bit when I figure how many actual hours I’ve put in, let alone game hours.) Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (BG:DA) is a light RPG – it has the trappings of an RPG but is largely stripped of the usual complexities and it’s the better for it.
There is still inventory to manage, important purchases to make, gold to find, experience points to earn and spells to cast but it’s way more accessible than your typical RPG…
The action itself is fun to watch too, especially when you get hold of the more powerful weapons (or if you like to use spells). It’s smooth too; just don’t count on getting close to the action. The in-game camera can be rotated (most times) but you can’t zoom in. This ability would have been welcomed in some of the more cluttered areas where it’s easy to get blocked behind objects.
Control is easy to pick up – after 10 minutes you should be totally comfortable. I was slightly take aback by the inclusion of a jump button. Jumping puzzles don’t usually spring to mind when someone says, “RPG.” Fortunately, BG:DA won’t be remembered for its jumping puzzles, even if it does come in handy during retreats and diving for cover.”
The Armchair Empire’s Review of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
Featured Game: Gladius
“Gladius may look like a game based on Ridley Scott’s Academy Award-winning film, Gladiator, but, in fact, the game’s premise and its execution are both original. LucasArts’ game is set in a world where mythological creatures, like minotaurs and ogres, are nearly as common as gladiatorial pit fights. This strategic role-playing game, appropriately billed as an “epic gladiatorial RPG,” lets you build up a powerful squad of gladiators, ranging from small and lithe ones on up to extremely large and powerful ones. You then equip them with a seemingly limitless variety of weapons and armor. As your warriors gain experience, you can have them learn all sorts of special abilities, and using these to their fullest potential in battle is a process that never ceases to be challenging. Gladius is a long game that’s somewhat similar to strategy RPGs, like this year’s Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, though, in truth, there’s nothing quite like it. Some aspects of the game could have used some more polish, but these shouldn’t deter anyone looking for a deep, involved, great-looking, and memorable RPG from getting Gladius…
Gladius is quite open-ended. You can’t advance to the next region until you’ve won all the tournaments in the region you’re in, but you can travel to any of the towns in any order and take on the battles at your own pace. More importantly, you can choose to recruit whichever types of gladiators you wish. Towns tend to offer a good variety of viable recruits, whom you can hire on permanently or just for the duration of a single battle if you only need temporary assistance. Available recruits will always be of approximately the same level as the other gladiators in your party. This ensures that you’ll always be able to find viable, new members for your team, but it also undermines the satisfaction gained from building up your forces. You won’t feel quite as special about that 15th-level legionnaire in your squad, who joined you way back when he was a first-level wimp, since you could just recruit another 15th-level legionnaire if you wanted to. Also, aside from Valens, Ursula, and a handful of other main characters who star in the game’s nicely done cinematic cutscenes, your gladiators don’t have anything to do with the plot. Ironically, you’ll probably find that Valens and Ursula aren’t even your strongest warriors, but they’ll still end up getting all the credit. Fortunately, they’re likable characters…
The game’s turn-based combat works very well and has a couple of interesting twists. It’s complex but is explained effectively and quite thoroughly in the context of the beginning of the game. Characters move in order of their initiative scores, meaning smaller, lighter characters will get to move prior to and sometimes more often than larger, heftier ones. Some arenas have impassible terrain, high ground (from which the attacker has an advantage), and/or dangerous obstacles, but most arenas afford you with plenty of room to move your gladiators about. Some gladiators have ranged attacks, but most don’t. If they do have a ranged attack, they need to move adjacent to their enemies to initiate an attack. In some cases, characters can move and attack in the same turn. Certain other, generally more powerful, abilities require a full turn. Special abilities require from one to five points to use. You start a match with a full five points, and you can never have more than five points. You recover one point each turn. This is a good, simple system that prevents you from overusing your most powerful abilities. Also, Gladius features a partial-turn system whereby characters may move farther than normal before their next turn for when you’re trying to cover a lot of ground fast. This prevents any of the battles from becoming tedious cat-and-mouse games, especially since most arenas are relatively compact. These and other clever design decisions make Gladius’ combat genuinely interesting….
If you’re up for a deep, long-lasting, strategic gaming experience, then Gladius is perfect for you. Once you’ve played it for many hours, you’ll spot little things about it that could have been fleshed out or polished up. However, at the heart of this game is an interesting and well-thought-out combat system, and there are so many viable combinations of characters and skills to experiment with that this game could easily keep you busy for much longer than most games do these days. The swing meters also add a refreshing bit of action to an otherwise fairly static style of gaming, which makes Gladius not just a great game but, in certain ways, a pioneering one.”
Gamespot’s Review of Gladius
Featured Game: Puyo Pop Fever
Puyo Pop Fever is simply a very solid entry into Sega’s puzzler series to date. It is also in many ways the evolution of the franchise. The object of the game remains as simple as ever, which means that anyone – young or old – can pick up and play it. Like Tetris, players manipulate puzzle pieces, called Puyos, to form columns or rows of the same color. Match four or more of the same color and the entire connected row will disappear and any Puyos on top will fall down like a crumbling building. This is where most of the strategy, not to mention challenge and satisfaction, come in. It’s easy to match four blocks to eliminate rows, but it’s much more difficult to string together a domino effect-like chain where several additional rows are eliminated as blocks topple….
Puyo Pop Fever is a well-made addition to Sega’s popular puzzler franchise. The same old formula remains the backbone of the play mechanics, but that formula continues to entertain and to satisfy. Sonic Team has still added some extras to enhance the experience – bigger blocks, a Story Mode, a new Fever Mode, and slightly updated graphics – and most of these are welcomed. The game is of course best played with a friend, a truth that brings up a disappointing oversight: the total lack of a four-player mode. And the presentation is underwhelming.
IGN’s Review of Puyo Pop Fever
Featured Game: Wave Race: Blue Storm
“Like the original, Wave Race: Blue Storm is not for the impatient or those with short attention spans. Just getting around the track in one piece can be a challenge at first. But once you master the control, its intricacies and sensitivity provide a rewarding experience. Navigating each track is a simple process of steering and giving the Jet Ski gas, but if you want to be competitive, you won’t be able to simply rely on the skills you built five years ago. The biggest change is the addition of the turbo button. Once enough buoys have been successfully negotiated, you are awarded with a turbo boost that can be used at any time. NST has also included the option to tuck and gain speed, but doing so will decrease the handling abilities of your ski slightly. The number of tricks at your disposal has also been greatly improved. In addition to the barrel rolls, flips, and dives found in the original, you can now perform more than a dozen new tricks common to motocross, such as the can-can, superman, and tabletop. Performing tricks is no longer a hindrance to winning a race because doing so will increase your top speed. The GameCube controller’s analog shoulder buttons are put to perfect use as they allow you to feather sharp turns without losing any speed. It appears as if the physics of the original game have returned–the watercraft react to every rip curl and wave undulation with startling realism. If you catch waves properly, you can actually surf them and gain speed. Veterans of the original Wave Race will be able to jump right in and compete in Blue Storm, but newcomers to the franchise will have to endure a learning curve before coming to grips with its challenging yet elegant controls….
While not perfect, Wave Race: Blue Storm is the most accurate video game representation of water-based racing ever to be released. With six completely new tracks, more racers per race, an extensive four-player mode, and an even better physics system, Wave Race: Blue Storm is an improvement upon the original in every respect. If you’re expecting an entirely new experience, you’re bound to be disappointed. But fans of the original or those who are open to new ideas in racing games should buy with confidence.”
GameSpot’s Review of Wave Race: Blue Storm
Featured Game: Pac-Man Vs.
“If there is one game that Gamecube owners need for a party, Pac-Man Vs. is it. It does not matter what kind of gamers your friends are (even if they don’t game at all); you will all have great fun with this awesome multiplayer Gamecube title. The game is incredibly easy to pick up and play and creates both an incredible cooperative and competitive experience at the same time. Pac-Man Vs. is, at is core, just like the original Pac-Man games. However, utilizing up to three GameCube controllers and one Gameboy Advance with a link cable, it brings a entire new dynamic to the franchise. Pac-Man Vs. is the best reason (not that there are many reasons) to pick up a Gameboy Advance Link Cable for your Gamecube. (Luckily, only one GBA is needed) Nintendo and legendary developer, Shigeru Miyamoto (or Mario and Zelda fame) worked with Namco and their Pac-Man property to show off the potential of the GBA-to-Cube connectivity. The result is easily one of the most interesting, if not most fun, multiplayer games to grace the Cube.As I mentioned before, Pac-Man Vs’s gameplay is very similar to the original game, however, this time one person uses the GBA to control Pac-Man, while the other three peo