Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Meteos - Nintendo DS

There was a bunch of pre-release and forum hype about Meteos. All I needed to know is that it was a puzzle game that was different and fun. There are a lot of comparisons to Lumines, but it's a completely different game.

I'd say Meteos is like Columns, except faster paced and more interesting. Essentially, you have to get 3 or more of the same blocks to align vertically or horizontally. This launches any blocks above the matched row/column that was created upwards. Anything that goes off the screen is used to attack a planet.

Sounds simple? Imagine the lack of a slow dropping blocks. They start at about medium and quickly speed up to insane. It may sound difficult, but it's actually addicting.

There are plenty of bonuses in the game as well. All blocks launched (called Meteos) will be kept on record and can be used to fuse new special items and planets. There are also different modes to play with multiple paths.

This is the first DS game I've been impressed with, and I give it a 9/10. It's definitely more exciting than Pollarium, which I gave a 7/10.

Resident Evil 4 for Gamecube

I purchased this game mainly because Game Informer rated it a 10 and I haven't used my Gamecube in a long time. I've played Resident Evil and Resident Evil Zero, but I disliked them for the goofy controls.

The graphics are instantly noticeable; probably the best I've seen on the Gamecube. This is the first game I have seen that actually seemed comparable to XBox and PS2 games.

And finally, the controls were friendly!

After running around and shooting enemies for a few minutes, I found it semi-lame that "Leon" is unable to duck, walk slower, or move and shoot simultaneously. Ducking or dodging can only happen when the game prompts the player. This is disappointing or aggravating, especially when hatchets are flying at you.

But then I started noticing the developers efforts to scare the gamer. Quite often, if you are not paying attention, you will turn around, or turn a corner, and there will be a "Zombie" in your face. The music and sound effects (or lack of) are timed well and fit perfectly. The voice acting is better than usual as well.

Then I reached the first serious boss fight, which entails Leon being pulled around in a small boat by a large lake creature. The intensity was there. The next boss fight was also intense, seemingly how the boss is 8x Leons size.

I am still working through the game. The game is great so far, but I think it was given a 10 for the gore and fear factors. My question is: Who goes and tries to save the "Presidents daughter" with just the standard pistol anyway?

Good job on those boss fights so far, Capcom.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Console Controllers?

I've never come across a review about the current generation console controllers. But who would really look for that? I didn't.

Appearance: 9/10
Feel: 10/10
Buttons: 7/10
Comfort: 9/10

Official Gamecube controllers seem extremely comfortable. My hands never cramped, and I never fumbled for buttons. Nintendo's design of the ABXY button configuration is definiately original, and they are shaped around the thumb instead of being equal sized buttons. It seems odd at first, but once playing games it is apparently that reaching those buttons is easier than the other two controllers.

However, the L & R buttons are somewhat annoying. They have two much travel, and on games that require that these buttons be held for lengthy periods may cause your index fingers to hurt.

Unfortunately, Nintendo's controllers have 5 less buttons that the other two systems controllers. Neither analog stick has a button, there is no Select/Back button, and there is no L2 & R2 or Black & White buttons. This can be limiting at times.

I must also mention the horrendous D-Pad. If trying to control a game with it, it is extremely difficult to get the direction you want. It almost seems as more of a button than a D-Pad. Many 3rd party controllers do not have this problem.

:XBox (S-Style):
Appearance: 9/10
Feel: 9/10
Buttons: 9/10
Comfort: 7/10

The original XBox controllers were awful. Trying to control a game with such an enormous piece of plastic is ridiculous. The ABXY buttons are also too skinny and too close together. The only positives were the trigger design and the solid analog sticks.

Thankfully, Microsoft fixed these issues and slimmed down the controller. It still may feel large to some, but it is a definite improvement. The buttons are better spaced. They effectively fixed all the major problems.

The D-pad responds better than the Gamecube controller, but it's still not perfect. It will still go the wrong direction occasionally.

Appearance: 6/10
Feel: 7/10
Buttons: 8/10
Comfort: 9/10

Previously my favorite controller. Everything is evenly spaced. The size is just right, although the grips are dated.

The biggest problem with the PS2 controller is that the analog sticks feel too loose. They are not solid whatsoever, and they leave you hoping there is a sensitivity control in the games that use them.

A minor problem is the fact that there are two shoulder buttons on each side. While this seems like a good idea, it is easy to push the wrong button while gaming. It would seem that you could user your index and middles figures, but then you don't have a good grip on the controller. How much of a bother this is depends on the game and the user.

The biggest pro which somewhat leads to a con is the Playstation D-Pad. All directions are solid. The fact it is not one big cross prevents a gamer from accidently pushing it in the middle. It's location is excellent for games that use it. However, this causes the analog sticks to be in the middle, which depending on the player may or may not be cumbersome.


All controllers have their strengths and weaknesses. The Playstation controller was great during the PSX era, but now it is definitely dated. The Nintendo controller is mostly comfortable, but is lacking buttons. The XBox controller has a good layout, but may be cumbersome to some gamers.

All and all, it doesn't really matter, unless a gamer prefers a certain controller and is willing to buy a converter to use it with the other systems.

12/21/2005 Update: I give the Xbox 360 wireless controller a perfect 10 in all aspects. It looks great, has good range, is really comfortable, etc.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Speaking of Splinter Cell

After thoroughly enjoying XBox Chaos Theory, I wanted more. Splinter Cell was the game I always wanted; diverse and realistic enough.

So I decided to backtrack and get Pandora Tomorrow for XBox. It's unfair to say, but naturally it doesn't hold a candle to Chaos Theory. I didn't go in expecting all the options I was used to, but I found other problems.

First, the voice acting in Pandora Tomorrow (XBox) was horrid. Personality was non-existent. I felt as though I was listening to robots half the time. To further disappoint me, the controls did not feel right, and some of the movements were "janky". After playing the first couple of levels, I gave up.

One of my room mates offered to let me borrow his PS2 original Splinter Cell. It was difficult at first because the controls are so much different compared to the Xbox. That aside, I immediately noticed better voice acting and a better feel of being "in the game". I was impressed, although it was not as fun as Chaos Theory.

That pushed me to return Pandora Tomorrow (XBox) and trade it in for the PS2 version. The guy at GameStop, who I think is a jerk, tried to argue with me that the XBox one is clearly better and it is stupid to bother with the PS2 version. I told him that the XBox one doesn't feel right, and judging from the first Splinter Cell, I think I'll like it better on PS2.

I do.

However, immediately noticeable in PS2 Pandora Tomorrow is the graphics. They aren't as crisp. Certain areas are much darker. And there's still those wacko controls. I forgot about these quickly...

First of all, the PS2 version is more difficult, which is a good thing. Guards are facing you when on the XBox they wouldn't be, etc. Enemies are more sensitive. It felt much more realistic. Even the "darker" graphics just seem to fit better. The movements are smoother, and the game has just been great so far.

Now what? I kind of want to play Chaos Theory for the PS2. It didn't get as high ratings, and I have a feeling the the XBox one comes out on top anyway. Why? I think they figured it out. Developers got better with the system.

I did get a hold of the Xbox version of the original Splinter Cell. Definitely better than the PS2 version; the voice acting is right, the controls are decent, and the graphics are better. This leaves me wondering why Ubisoft dropped the ball for the Xbox Pandora Tomorrow?

One more negative thing: Chaos Theory DS. The developer dropped the ball on this one. The graphics (out of their control I'm sure) seem like Doom or Wolfenstein. I can see past that. I can't see past the "janky" animation. This game would have been so much better if the movement and animation was cleaned up a little. I actually like the contorls; many people complain about that. I use my thumb for changing the camera angle, and pull out the stylus when picking locks or arming myself. This adds a pinch of realism, so I definitely like it. I just wish they didn't rush it. Then again, early titles for the current generation of systems were definitely horrid compared to current titles.