Saturday, December 12, 2009

These Hopeful Machines

Greetings friends, just sharing some music news here today.
Turns out my old friend BT is releasing a new album 2/2/2010
Keep up with his ongoing blog @

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Game Review - Sonic Unleashed

Sorry for being a bit late with this entry.

Sonic Unleashed ReviewRelease – Winter 2008 360 / PS3
VersionPublisher – Sega / Dev: SonicTeam

In 2006 Sega released a revamped Sonic title, it was meant to bring the series to a new design concept, and nextgen graphics. However it delivered, but also missed several needed things that every game had to have for gamers to enjoy. Sadly it missed its mark, and left a somewhat unpleasant taste..What were they you ask?- An abrupt telling close to the classic film, “Somewhere in Time”

(This was a positive note, giving the story a bit more of a fresh mix that hasn't been touched in awhile. But it still left some unanswered questions during the ending of the game..)- Bringing every co-cast member in the Sonic franchise.. and Silver (the new guy)-

Gorgeous graphics engine, but horrible glitches... let's just say hitting anything would lead to a quick death, or falling into nowhere... or how about the camera just leaving you to guess where you could go?- Plus the “amped” super speed stages, great idea but somewhat iffy delivery. *Noted above the “quick deaths”.. yeah one problem you couldn't control Sonic worth beans once you achieved enough speed. But pray some movement would lead towards the finish line.- The stage designs were great, but given the design mishaps and moments where players were left wondering if they could even fiinsh the game. Not a good sign if they wanted to bring in a new audience. So the team went back to the “drawing board”, and came up with a better concept. Something that would floor just about everyone that watched, and played it during 08's E3 expo.
- Endless Possibility - “Unleashed debuts” During 2008's E3, Sega unveiled a new game, with a few teaser stages. The stage in question was Mazuri, the idea? The 1st area in the test demo let players get used to the control scheme and new gameplay tweaks. 1st Players would be running across the opening field, past zebras, and elephants wandering about the area nearby. As you're zipping by the stage, you would come across the new ability called “Sonic Drift”, not like the early racing game on the Game Gear. But a new concept that dealt with hitting corners, and being able to harness your speed and keeping momentum.

2nd You were introduced to the new ally “Chip”, a cute character that looks like a little dog creature with wings, and a cute face that would guide you throughout the level. 3rd The demo revealed that the game would bring back the classic 2D design many gamers grew up with the series. As you move about the level, the camera literally follows every move you make across the screen. Giving a better glimps of the in-game level, and some fun for a change. 4th It is totally built on speed! Something many fans, and gamers alike were hoping to see again. Given how Sonic 2k6 missed a golden opportunity to just “have fun”. 5th It would be revealed that would only be playing the blue hedgehog this time around. Quite a change indeed. Speaking of changes, Sonic has become a Werehog and we all a bit surprised in what this would mean for the title character. Overall it looked like a promising title that we would definitely want to wait for!

*Chip: “Hey everyone I'm your helpful guide around the world. Especially the lovely food! Want some chocolate?”

Windmill Isle - “Open House” Some months later a website from Sega HQ opened giving visitors a taste of what “Unleashed” would be like. From the day & night concept (Sonic by day, Werehog by night). In addition, there was a two part animation short called “Night of the Werehog”; it introduced Sonic & his new pal Chip investigating a haunted house. Turns out that they had some company, with camera in tow; the duo found out that the ghosts just wanted to have some fun.

**The best part about the animation short is that it shows that SonicTeam could deliver even more ideas. Not just a game, but maybe even more fun side projects. On another note, it actually felt like a Disney movie (this is honestly the best way to describe the entire game!) As months flew by, various screenshots, to movies of new gameplay controls; and what the in-game world would be like. And a assortment of stages that would leave it totally open to the players themselves. How many games do that these days? And get it right?

Jungle Joyride - “Speedy” Within Unleashed is the new direction with Sonic's “speed”. In the past it was more of a control scheme, not an actual gameplay mechanic we could actually change and evolve. Rings have always been a catalyst in the series, giving players another chance if they hit an obstacle or lost a life. This time around, your speed is controlled by the amount of “Ring Energy” you've collected. And if you have enough “juice”Zoom!!!

*Chip: “That writer forgot to mention that Sonic can gain experience points as his normal self, and werehog mode. Shame on him. By the way, if you fight enough bad guys, or eat tons of food. Either way you can make him stronger, and more faster.”

**The Speed in particular is now a full blown movement, even that of a “Sonic Boom”. For those that have watched “Fast & The Furious” series, its close enough to what those street riders literally feel. A rush of adrenaline, and it takes their breath away.

Skyscraper Scamper - “Werehog on the Run” From the opening cutscene we are introduced to Sonic's new form. Once night falls, he becomes a darker version of himself. No longer the speedy character, but a beast that must find a cure. *Chip: Hey Mr. Writer guy, don't forget to mention Sonic landed on my head. That really hurt.. See I have the bump right here still.”*Writer: “Here have a band-aid lil buddy.”

“Say Cheese!” Along the way, Sonic & Chip gain a camera from the kind Professor “Pickle” who is teasching in the spanish city of Spagonia. This camera sees into others hearts, at night dark creatures have been taking over people. Thankfully with the camera, and Sonic's help; you can perform an exorcism. (yes you read that right)

“Cliffhanger” In the Werehog levels, you have to get past various foes, and obstacles alike. Once you've become acquainted with the first stage, wait until you reach new heights. Like the classic “Prince of Persia” series, Sonic now takes on “jumping” & “climbing” in various situations. Some even become a key part of levels that will utterly test your patience. But take heart, there is always another way to get through each challenge.

*Chip: “Mr Writer guy, looks like your forgot something again.”Writer: “Um what was that?”Chip: “About Sonic into that werehog.. and what he can do.”Writer: “Oh ok, you go ahead.”
*Chip:”Sorry reader, well here's a few more items about Sonic's new ability” 1st – When you gain experience points, you can use them on just about everything. From his combo level, health,a nd the rest. 2Nd – New combos are unlocked when your combo meter goes up every few levels. 3Rd – Those EXP points can also be used with normal Sonic, or his werehog mode. 4Th – That Unleashed meter lets the Werehog go “berserk” for a short time. Your HP damage is lowered, but your attacks & techniques are stronger.

“Hard Day's Night” In Unleashed, both Day & Night add a unique spin wherever you go, and explore. As Sonic, there are various open areas to get by, and maybe visit. As the Werehog, you may come across new areas that you couldn't reach before as your nimble, normal self. In some cases, there may be key areas you can't access without enough “Sun” & “Moon” coins. These coins unlock various areas, and may open new challenges for you to take on. Plus when you speak with various denizens of the local area you're visiting. They may ask you to help them, from recovering a stolen item, to even a missing person. So be sure to visit the kind townsfolk.
*Chip: “And hey, talk to enough people, and you might obtain some new food to enjoy!” *Sonic: “Ah, that chili dog was good.”

“Blue Monday” From the ocean breeze, to a mechanical nightmare, you just might find some hidden treasures. In classic gaming fashion, each level & hub area all around the world contains items that you may want to check out. From videotapes containing movies (from the in-game plotline) and some surprise moments too. And you can collect music records (from stages themes, to world areas and more. What would a game be without buying all sorts of goodies? From food, to trinkets and furniture.

*Professor Pickle: “Ahem! Pardon me, but I have a helpful tip. Be sure to bring by plenty of gifts from wherever you travel. You might gain some useful information.”

“Robotnik Pancakes” Most important of all is the controls, depending on which console you're playing on, the game controls are pretty much the same. Simple and intiutive, and may take some finesse in various segments of the game. QTE (quick time events) Yes those classic button timing moments return! (*For those that have played Shenmue, you may recognize this very well. If not, Tomb Raider and every other game out there also uses this mode. But at least for those who weren't aware, now know where the concept comes from”)

QTE are random moments in-game that freeze the gameplay, giving the player an opportunity to make a decision. Do you go higher or lower? Get past the goal line or find another path? Make the jump? Or take the fall? Its all up to you in these key moments.. and some in final level in the game that may drive one completely nuts. (remember: practice, practice, practice!)

The new “Dash” move is something that comes in handy, if you're on rails = hop over to another, and you may clear an obstacle or worse! Or on the ground, it gives you ample time to avoid slowing down, and keep going at your current speed. With the trigger buttons, they also give you a chance to turn more smoothly + with the Dash and you've got a speedy hedgehog that now drives like a car. (well close enough)

Overall Unleashed's control scheme is second to none, and some of the best controls to date in any Sonic title.

“Arid Sands” Going to and fro from each continent is quite an experience. From the get-go, you may take on some badniks in the skies after clearing Apotos. And later just enjoying the sights, and in some cases even save some peoples lives. Altogether its a fun and enjoyable title for everyone. Something many longtime Sonic fans have definitely been waiting to see.

*Chip: “Hey Mr. Writer guy, you finished already?” Writer: “Yeah that's about it.” Dr. Robotnik: “I will take over the world!!” Muahahahaha!!” *Sonic - “I guess that's my cue to roll! C'mon Chip we've got an egg to crack!”-End

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Street Fighter IV Review

Sorry for the long wait, just recently I found a Blockbuster (or anywhere nearby that had a copy available) Without further ado, here is my take on SFIV.

Street Fighter IV Review
Publisher – Capcom
Release – 2009

=Fighters History=
In the late 80's there was a small amount of fighting games. Some with a shallow, yet simple design, others were based on some movie. But a certain title gave players a choice of playing either Ryu (white gi) & Ken (red gi). One was power, and the other was speed; depending how well you fared; there were some chances to take on a bonus mini-game. (a set of bricks lay before you, so pound those buttons to clear the challenge!) One thing can be said, the original game was really tough. Even taking on several bouts, they kept getting more tougher, Afterward, there were several copycats not far behind.

In all honesty it was Street Fighter that really got the fireball rolling. Some years later, another entry gave the series a comeback, Street Fighter II. Hosting several new characters and an insane final boss. Another new feature was the combo system, a much more elaborate control scheme that would stick to the series completely. Included with the new cast of fighters, was the approach of the event being set as a world tournament. After much critical praise, there was later various updates to II's in-game engine, from more characters in “New Challengers”, to a brutal finale with “Turbo”.

During the growing evolution of videogames, Capcom took a chance with taking SF into 3D. Sadly the results were okay at best. However the EX series didn't carry the same following as its 2D incarnations gladly received. Alongside the mindset of fans, Capcom made a great comeback with the Alpha (Zero) series. An alternate retelling of the original two chapters in the SF legacy. Plus bringing back the classic gameplay, and some new mechanics. *X – meaning one super combo, A – Alpha giving more options, including a 3 Super move limit, and super canceling blocking, V – Variety a mash-up of the the 2 options but giving more power to combo usage, including special attacks. (these gameplay options evolved throughout all 3 chapters in the Alpha series).

After the Alpha series, came SF3; a long awaited part of the saga. Taking place many years later after II's events. 3 went back to basics with the gameplay design,, a 1-3 tiered super bar, guard meter; and the inclusion of EX moves. (+ these EX moves are in fact supers used by usage of 2 or more attack buttons, making a special move more powerful) And the ability of parrying, which gave players a second to super cancel a move, and knock back their opponent. However the biggest change in 3's design was the less amount of familiar faces, only a few from the remaining cast returned. But in the final update of 3, Third Strike; did a popular female character return.

Nearly twelve years later did fans find out that their favorite series would make a comeback.. However they would have to wait throughout the so called “nextgen” phase to see its triumphant reunion.

“Welcome to the next stage!”
Throughout 2008, there were many campaigns advertising the new in-game engine. From rumored character designs, to an empty chinese street only to be followed by two familiar characters duking it out. Followed by various trailers, from Ryu & Ken fighting in an open ended field; to Chun Li & newcomer Crimson Viper fighting in a festival of dragons. During that years E3, did we truly see an awesome trailer that knocked our socks off. Akin to the earlier promo trailers, it boasted a watercolor style similar to an earlier Capcom title named “Okami”. Overall the wait was finally over...

“Let's Get Crazy!”
Within this new chapter is fresh faces, and old friends (something SF3 should have been all along). Plus some new gamplay designs! - Combo Meter = a multi-level super meter that resembles Viewtiful Joe's EX meter. Once filled in one bar, you can use your EX attacks! If the bar is completely filled, you can use a Super Combo! *this is a powerful set attack that can pummel your opponent. But that's not all! Introducing the Ultra Combo meter, this little update is charged by your damage intake. (* more history notes, the Ultra Combo meter closely resembles SNK's Samurai Shodown series' "Rage" meter. Once its user could only take so much damage, it would be used as a powerful counter-attack.) For example, if you're being pummeled, this new meter gives your attacks another “punch!” Use this technique wisely, once its used it will have to be refilled.

Another new feature that has been added is called the “Focus Attack”. This new option gives the player a chance to break his or her opponents attacks in real-time. And if you're lucky, it may make them dizzy giving an opening to use more moves before they can regain their stamina. And for the first time ever.. the ability to freely use a variety of taunts. (more are made available once you clear certain challenges, some wacky, and others that may leave you speechless) In addition, every character has a rival with another fighter. Once your fight entry quota has been met, you'll have a bit of dialog with another person. Its an awesome new feature, sometimes containing priceless dialog; to some surprising moments.

“Not Done Yet”
Boasting a new animation style, and upgraded gameplay; SFIV still resembles the classic series. Keeping its original design, as a 2D playing field, however there are some new tweaks involved. With various fighting moves, the in-game motions actual move the screen itself, as if you're being taken along for the ride. No longer does the screen stay still, it feels like a movie is taking place; and you're the camera. In addition, the in-game animation is fast, fluid, and gorgeous. From every character design, attack, and stages throughout. There is so much going on, it may take some getting used to, but after awhile it brings back that feeling many of us had while playing in the arcades. And what could Street Fighter be without excellent tunes?! SFIV brings back the classic themes, retouched and even more energized than you can remember.

“I Got Next!”
Within the home version of IV, it boasts a mix of gameplay options. From Arcade, to VS, and a new Challenge mode – which includes Survival, Time Attack, and Training (*learn everyone's moves and some new skills while taking on the Saiikyo master!) Each of these modes includes a Normal & Hard difficulty levels. Plus the ability to take SFIV online (PS3 & 360 fans grin happily).

What more can be said, SFIV is an excellent game in the series. And a must own for longtime & new fans alike.

*Bonus notes -
+ Within SFIV is the option to choose between English or Japanese dialog for the characters.
And to be honest, the voice is top notch; way better than expected.
+ When you complete a specific characters story mode, you'll have the option to rewatch their cutscenes.
+ If you complete various tasks, artworks, and more bonus movies will become available