Friday, August 31, 2007

Let's Go To The Ex!

Alright, folks, there won't be any articles tomorrow! I'm heading off to the Canadian National Exhibition (AKA: The Ex) tomorrow, and I plan to be there pretty much all day. I haven't been to The Ex in years, and it'll be great to just go out for a whole day.

Also, this will most likely be the last post I write from this computer. I'm gonna be getting a new PC on the weekend! Don't worry, there most likely won't be a change in the posting schedule. I just might be a little excited for a while!

So then, I'll seeing you all on Monday, then! Enjoy your weekend!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption review

Alright, folks, here we go with the Metroid Prime 3: Corruption review! I've plugged about seven hours into this one so far, and I think that's plenty to base a review on. So, without further adieu, LET THE GAME (Review) BEGIN!!!

Developer: Retro Studios
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: August 27th, 2007 (North America)
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
ESRB Notes: Violence and Animated Blood

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has many tasks to achieve. It must carry the legendary Samus Aran to the Wii, successfully finish of the Prime series, and above all, prove that first-person-shooter (FPS) controls CAN be pulled off on the Wii better than any other console. Does it achieve all of these goals? Or does it fall short of expectations, and simply fizzle out? Read on to find out...

The gameplay in Metroid Prime 3 is quite possibly the most intuitive, lifelike and engrossing I have ever experienced. First of all, the controls are just AMAZING. But before I get to the really cool stuff, let's get the boring junk out of the way. You can walk around with the control stick, shoot and jump with A and B, respectively (Reversible via Options menu), fire rockets by pressing down on the D-pad, and aim by pointing at the screen.

Now, for the really cool stuff! First, we have the Grapple Beam, which I touched upon in my impressions. Whenever there's an object or enemy that can be grappled, you can do so by simply targeting the subject, and flicking the Nunchuk forward. Once attached, you can flick back hard with the Nunchuk to rip away or pull whatever it was you have grappled. This can be useful for pulling away debris, activating levers and taking shields away from armoured foes, as well as a few more things I dare not spoil for you. Basically, the Grapple Beam is Samus' answer to Links bow and arrow, in that it quickly becomes a very important and versatile weapon.

Next, we have Samus' trademark Morph Ball, which can be triggered by pressing the C button on the Nunchuk. While in this form, you can roll around quickly and enter small places far too tiny for regular Samus to explore. The Morph Ball can also be used offensively, by dropping small timed bombs. These bombs can also be used as a means of jumping while in the Morph Ball form, useful for accessing ledges too high to simply roll up onto. Next to the Grapple Beam, this is probably Samus' greatest unique ability.

One really amazing use of the Wii's unique control scheme is the way in which you interact with your environment. For example, the interface in Samus' ship is the most amazing thing I've seen on the Wii yet. When in the ship, you can look around the cockpit by moving the Wii remote's pointer back and forth. See a button you want to push? Simply press A to gain control of Samus' hand, then position her finger above the button. Then, press A, and Samus will touch the button and activate whatever it is the button is connected to. And how about that lever for the thrusters? Why, simply press the button to fold out the lever, grab on, and push the Wii remote forward to push the lever into position. All of this could have been simply replaced with a menu, but it wasn't. Retro Studios went the extra mile to make this as interactive as possible. And let me tell you, it payed off big time.

This is your brain on Phazon

Shortly into the game, you will become infected with Phazon. Sounds bad, doesn't it? Well, actually, it has a pretty good side to it, too. Once corrupted (Hence the game's title), you can enter Hyper Mode by holding down + for about a second. While in Hyper Mode, all of your attacks become incredibly strong, allowing you to defeat some special enemies, as well as dispatch normal foes much more easily.

But, of course, this corruption has it's fair share of downsides as well. First of all, you cannot enter Hyper Mode without at least one full Energy Canister (Kind of like a Life Bar). Furthermore, when in Hyper Mode, performing any sort of attack will drain your health. If you constantly attack during Hyper Mode until you run out of Phazon, you will lose one entire Energy Canister. Even firing only a few rounds will cost you a hefty amount of health. Needless to say, Hyper Mode should only be used when necessary.

There is also quite the inconvenient symptom associated with being corrupted, and that's a Phazon Overload. Happening at seemingly random intervals, you will instantly and involuntarily enter a sort of unstable Hyper Mode. This is due to abnormally high levels of Phazon within your body. Whenever this happens, you must quickly purge all excess Phazon from your system by rapidly firing your weapons. This may be triggered by entering Hyper Mode too rarely, but I'm not sure.

During your second mission in Metroid Prime 3, you will gain the ability to remotely summon your ship. This is helpful for destroying large obstacles in your way, as you ship can be programmed to fire missiles at objects. Simply equip your Command Visor, target whatever it is you wish to bomb, and your ship does the rest. However, only certain things can be bombed, and it should go without saying that your ship can only attack something if it can reach it.

In Metroid Prime 3, this ship is at your beck and call,
even when you're not in it.

Something else to help further immerse you into Samus' world is the fact that there are no menus. Well, at least not in the standard meaning of the word, that is. Instead of a menu coming up out of nowhere, an image is projected onto the inside of Samus' visor. Sure, there's a menu, but it is seamlessly integrated into the game's interface. Never again will you feel detached from the game's world while accessing the map or reading up on some lore. It's all actually happening within the Samus' helmet.

Much of the land on the planet Bryyo is covered with thick, boiling, highly combustible liquid called Fuel Gel. This gel can be ignited by firing a charged shot at it, but that's not the only way it can be manipulated. During your time on Bryyo, you will obtain an ice power-up for your rockets. Using Ice Rockets on Fuel Gel can freeze it. This is useful for creating ice platforms on large bodies of Fuel Gel, as well as freezing gushing springs of it to create temporary ledges useful for reaching far-off areas. Fuel Gel is but one example of the many interactive environmental effects in Metroid Prime 3, all of which come together to create a living, breathing universe far more realistic than that of most other games.

As is the case with any Metroid game, there are several boss battles scattered across each world. These bosses are far evolved from the simple "Attack the weakpoint for massive damage" bosses of the past. Yes, each boss has one or more weakpoints that must be targeted, but getting to these weakpoints is far more difficult than simply wailing on the boss until they submit. I won't give you any example for fear of spoiling the game for you, but basically, these bosses are a step above what you see in Zelda or Mario.

The level design in Corruption is also rivaled by few (If any) other games on the market today. The planets and ships you explore are so believable, you almost start thinking that there actually are worlds and crafts out there that look exactly like what you're visiting in the game. Incredibly realistic, and totally convincing.

A major driving force behind any Metroid game is the storyline, and this is especially true in the case of Corruption, the final game in the Prime sub-series. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption starts off simply enough: Samus gets debriefed on a new mission, goes off and does it, etc. But then you become corrupted with Phazon and several fellow bounty hunters go missing. It then becomes your duty to locate all of these lost comrades, as well as investigate some anomalies along the way. This turns out to be no standard mission, however, and ends up encompassing most, if not all of the rest of the game. I won't say anymore, for fear of being mutilated by irate fanboys angered over the story being spoiled, but Corruption has one of the most messed up, convoluted and, above all, well-written storylines I've seen in a long time.

If Metroid Prime 3 doesn't set the standard for controls on the Wii, than it surely sets the standard for graphics on the Wii. It's been a long, long time since I've played a game that had visuals that just made me say "Wow". Metroid Prime 3 breaks this streak. This is, without a doubt, the most beautiful game yet on the Wii. First of all, the character models are far crisper and far better detailed than anything I've seen in any other Wii game. When characters talk, their mouths move in perfect synchronization with their voices. When they walk, they don't look wooden or robotic (Unless they ARE a robot, that is). It almost make you feel bad to see a deceased comrade. They seem so real, there's almost a bit of sadness creeping up on you as you see them dead or dying.

If you think this game looks anything less than
stunning, you need to get your eyes checked.

The worlds and their environmental effects are also incredibly realistic. The amount of detail out into each and every little thing is just stunning, and the way liquids flow and shadows lie is comparable even to some of the XBox 360 titles you see on the store shelves today. Steam even fogs up your visor temporarily, hampering vision. Retro cut very few corners here.

Of course, this great illusion of reality would be completely shattered if the audio wasn't astounding as well. Hearing the classic Metroid "puzzle solved" chime amped up to Wii audio standards is a fanboy's dream come true. And the other sound effects such as gunfire, explosions and electrical crackling are just as impressive, if not more so.

Marking a major first in any Nintendo title, Metroid Prime 3 boasts full character voice-overs. That's right, every last word is spoken here, instead of merely appearing in a conversation box (Although the words are projected on Samus' visor, just in case you can't hear). Every last Federation troop, captain and bounty hunter has their own voice. The only character without a full voice-over is Samus herself. She's never been much of a talker, so why start now? Sure, you'll hear screams of pain and such, but she'll never utter a single word. And that's exactly how things should be. If voice-overs aren't implemented similarly in the next Zelda title, I'll be extremely disappointed.

The music is just as impressive as the rest of the package. From the most action-packed battle sequence to the calmest situation, there's a tune right for the job. And it's all beautifully composed, although whether it's real or computer done I am unsure. Sometimes, when things get really tense, the music will turn off entirely. Some situations are just too intense for music to do it justice.

And now, the last section of this incredibly long review: Longevity. This game will last most gamers quite a while. I've played for over seven hours so far, and I see little sign of the story ending any time soon. Even if I do beat the game, I'll probably miss several scans, a whole load of power-ups, and perhaps even an entire hidden stage! Beating this game reportedly takes about twenty hours, but completing it could take forever.


Gameplay: 10/10
This is the most immersive game I've ever experienced. From the ship interface to the grappling hook, it all feels so real. In this game, even the controls are fun!

Storyline: 10/10
The story in Corruption is solid, and there's really not much else to be said. Besides the main story, there's all the lore to be read which can give you an amazing backstory to all the planets and ships you visit.

Graphics: 10/10
Again, it's simply perfect! This is the best looking Wii game I've ever played! I have yet to see any sort of graphical glitch, no matter how small. And the way things move is so seamless and lifelike, I swear it's almost like watching a movie.

Sound: 10/10
Just beautiful! The music is amazing, the sound effects are incredibly realistic, and the voice-acting is astounding. Everything single audible aspect of this game was worked to perfection.

Longevity: 10/10
Yep, you guessed it: Perfect! This game looks like it will last any gamer a long time, and I doubt I'll even be able to finish it by the time I have to return it on Monday! Beyond that, I could see myself playing this over and over again, just to re-experience all the amazing things this game offers.

OVERALL: 10/10
This game receives the first ever perfect score in the history of One Duck's Opinion. Now before you go screaming "Who cares, he's a fanboy!", listen up: I looked VERY HARD to find ANYTHING wrong with this game, and I found nothing. This game is perfect in every way. But that's not to say a better game could come along in the future. By all means, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl have a very good chance of outdoing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The thing is, Metroid is just flawless. Not unbeatable, but flawless.

...I have no more to say...

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption impressions

So then, I went out in the humid, sticky 34 degree Celsius heat, but I got it. I have rented Metroid Prime 3: Corruption! So then, on with the impressions!

Corruption is the final game in the epic Metroid Prime saga, and the first ever on the Wii. It has a LOT to live up to. And so far, things are looking good. VERY good.

First of all, the controls are incredibly accurate and intuitive. As you already know, aiming is handled with the Wii remote's pointer. Simply point and fire. Movement is relegated to the analog stick and most other actions are mapped to the remaining buttons.

One other action taking advantage of the Wii's unique abilities is the Grappling Beam. When targeting an object that can be grappled, simply flick the Nunchuk towards the screen, and Samus will launch the grappling beam at the target. Then, pull back hard on the Nunchuk to pull away the grappled object. Very interactive, and very fun.

The graphics in Metroid Prime 3 are also incredibly amazing. Corruption sports some of the best mapping, rendering and special effects that I've ever seen on ANY console, especially the Wii. Not only does everything look great, but all of the environments have an amazing atmosphere to them. Huge open levels, small, cramped hallways and more are so believably lifelike. Every single last visible object is rendered absolutely BEAUTIFULLY.

The audio quality in Metroid Prime 3 is top notch as well. With amazingly well arranged music and some of the crispest, cleanest sound effects I've ever heard, Corruption sets a new standard for sound in Wii games. Absolutely STUNNING.

So far, Metroid Prime 3 is the best game I've played in a long, long, LONG time! However, I've seen far too little of this game to judge it just yet. I'm gonna take one more day of play to really gather all I can of this amazing piece of work. Full review will be up TOMORROW NIGHT!

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Whatever happened to...?

Sorry, folks, no Metroid today. I can only hope I'll be able to rent it tomorrow! Until then, enjoy this article.

Have you ever seen a game and started thinking "Man, that looks awesome!", only to have the game all but become vaporware shortly after? Sadly, this seems to happen all too often. Here are a few games I really hope to get some more info on.

DS Air

Back in E3 2006, all anybody could talk about was the Wii's amazing showing at Nintendo's press conference. And who could blame them? The Wii totally ruled that entire convention! Sadly, due to this, many people seemed to either forget or never even find out about DS Air.

As you can guess from the name, DS Air is a flight simulator for, well, the DS. Sporting some fairly impressive graphics and promising missions and controls, it's a real shame that we've heard little or nothing about this game's fate in over a year.

Well, perhaps that's not entirely true. DS Air was released in Japan a few months ago under the name Jet Impulse. It gathered some fairly decent reviews, with a 28/40 from Famitsu and a 85/100 from Sadly, it has received little more than a vague "2007" release date for North America, which is rarely a good sign. I really hope to hear more about this long forgotten title, and soon.

Disaster: Day of Crisis

Here's the one everybody's dying to hear more about, Disaster: Day of Crisis. Very little concept art or footage has been shown of this game. Basically all we know is that the world is in chaos, and it's up to an ex-elite task force soldier Ray to figure out what the heck is going on. There's volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and more plaguing the planet, and to top it all off, some secret organization has taken advantage of the chaos to steal an incredibly powerful nuclear weapon. And that's about all we know.

Recently, Nintendo's Beth Llewelyn stated that Disaster is still in development and is looking "very good", which is some really awesome news. Some bad news, however, is it's release date is even more grim than DS Air's, with only a vague "TBA 2008" to it's name. When will we finally see more of this game? I'm hoping it's soon, and I'm hoping it's good.

Wii Music/Wii Orchestra

The first ever Nintendo game shown for the Wii was Wii Music. Shigeru Miyamoto opened up Nintendo's pre-E3 2006 conference with an open demonstration of directing an orchestra of Miis playing the Overworld theme from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Since then, we really haven't heard much about it.

Part of the Wii-labeled series of games like Wii Fit and Wii Play, Wii Music is made for the casual gamer, but accessible to all. Right now, like Disaster: Day of Crisis, Wii Music has nothing but a vague "TBA 2008" release date. Will we ever see this game on store shelves? Or was it merely a way to show off the Wii remote's versatility? I'm really hoping it's the former. Wii Music looks like a great game for the whole family, and I've always loved making up my own music. Whether it's called Wii Music, Wii Orchestra, or something totally different, this game needs to surface again.

So then, there are three games we've seen far too little of. What games do you want some more info on?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Final Fantasy III review

Here we go with another review! If I don't rent Metroid Prime 3 tomorrow, there'll probably be a non-review article comin' up. Wanna help balance things out, you see!

Developers: Square-Enix, Matrix Software
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: November 24th, 2006 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10+
ESRB Notes: Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes

Originally released in Japan in 1990, Final Fantasy III never saw the light of day in North America for 16 years, when it was finally released for the Nintendo DS. Was it worth the wait? And how well did it age? Find out all this and more in my comprehensive review.

Being a role-playing game (RPG), almost 100% of the game's score depends solely on gameplay. Final Fantasy III is pretty much like any other Final Fantasy game, with battles, towns, airships and the like. That being said, if you like this formula, you'll be right at home with Final Fantasy III. If not, you may as well stop reading now.

Now, having been originally released over 16 years ago, the battle system is somewhat rudimentary compared to the extensive string of variables present in most RPGs of today. Even so, Final Fantasy III still delivers an interesting and surprisingly deep battling experience. The battles are very strictly turn-based, similar to fights in Pokemon Diamond or Dragon Quest VIII. You issue all of your commands at the beginning of the turn, and then watch your characters and their enemies duke it out in order of fastest to slowest. Simple, but deep as well. Say you have a character very weak and in need of healing. The logical course of action would be to get your fastest character to get in there and use a Potion or Cure before the enemy can finish them off. Battles in Final Fantasy III require much more strategy than some of the more modern RPGs. Everything is thought and plotted out all at once, requiring much forward thinking and planning. Once you issue your final command, the battle's on and you're helpless to assist any further until the next turn. Definitely not for those who love fast-paced action. Although, come to think of it, few RPGs are!

A typical battle in Final Fantasy III

An aspect of Final Fantasy III matched by very few games, even to this day, is it's vast selection of character jobs. Depending on a character's job, they may be able to do different things. A White Mage can heal allies, but is unable to inflict much damage on the enemies. Warriors are offensive and defensive powerhouses, but are often quite slow. Thieves are incredibly fast, and have the ability to steal items from enemies, but their attack and defense is often quite low. In total, there are 23 different jobs to choose from. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each job will help you build the strongest and most well-balanced team possible.

(From left to right): Black Mage, White Mage, Warrior
and Red Mage. Which combination is right for you?

Throughout the game, you'll earn the use of several different vehicles, such as ships, canoes and, mainly, airships. Ships, as you would guess, allow you to travel over any large body of water, while narrow rivers and shallow ponds are canoe territory. Perhaps the most varied of all the vehicles are the many different types of airships. The most basic airship will simply fly you about at low altitudes, such as over rivers, oceans and forests. However, due to this craft being unable to go very high, it is unable to go ever mountains. In addition to this basic version, you'll later gain the use of airships that can fly over mountains, heal your characters, sell you items, hover constantly and even dive underwater.

Occasionally throughout your adventures, some other people within the game will join your team. Although usually little more than simply people following you around, all of them will randomly help you in battle. Some will heal you, and some will even do large amounts of damage to your enemies. Sadly, you cannot command your visitors directly. They will act only when they seem to feel like it. On the plus side, enemies are unable to attack them, so they will never die.

Second only to the gameplay, a solid storyline is also very important in any RPG. And like the gameplay, the storyline in Final Fantasy III is also of very high quality. As the game begins, the young orphan Luneth of the small village of Ur finds himself stuck in a cave opened up by a recent earthquake. After exploring a bit, Luneth stumbles across a mysterious, towering crystal. A voice emanates from the crystal, telling Luneth to seek out the other "chosen ones". Then, without any more help, the crystal falls silent and teleports Luneth to the surface. Upon returning home, he is quickly summoned by the village sages. They tell him that meeting the crystal was no accident, and that it is up to him and the other "chosen ones" to save their world.

The story all starts out pretty standard, as you can see. But it quickly evolves into a twisted plot full of startling revelations and mysterious happenings. This story is epic. It's a real shame that everyone outside of Japan had to wait so long to experience this tale.

If the storyline and gameplay aren't the highlights for Final Fantasy III, then surely it's the graphics. Every single part of Final Fantasy III is rendered in glorious 3D, with yet unmatched levels of detail in any DS game. From buildings to trees to monsters to heroes, it's all in 3D. Not only does it looks beautiful, it all moves seamlessly without ever the slightest bit of lag or slowdown.

This game is beautiful. Need I say more?

And the opening cinematic is absolutely stunning. Pre-rendered or not, it's amazingly well done and with surprisingly low compression to boot. Square-Enix, as always, shows us what a console is made of. In the DS' case, it's made of 100% awesome.

Final Fantasy III's opening cinematic is pure beauty.

It's a Final Fantasy game, so it pretty much goes without saying that it's audio is going to be of the greatest quality. With the original score by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu being remastered for the new millennium under his own supervision, Final Fantasy III is always a pleasure for the ears.

The greatness doesn't stop with the music, though! The sound affects are also of extremely high quality! With crystal clear clangs and clashes of the swords of battle and the light humming of the airship's engine in the background as you explore the vast skies, the sounds are surely nothing to sneeze at! Listening to this game is like a spa trip for your eardrums!

If there's any lacking aspect of Final Fantasy III, it comes in the form of multiplayer. The extent of multiplayer interaction in Final Fantasy III is pretty much just sending messages back and forth. This can be done either locally or over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. The only real plus to this aspect is that sending a certain amount of messages may unlock new quests or items. Then again, all of this can be done with several non-playable characters (NPCs) within the game, removing much of the point behind multiplayer interaction.

But, since this is a remake of a game that didn't have multiplayer in the first place, I won't be faulting it very much for lacking in-depth interaction with several players.

So then, that leaves but one last category: Longevity. Like just about any Final Fantasy game, it will take even the best of players 25+ hours to beat it their first time through, and perhaps slightly less time the second round. Beyond simply playing the game over and over, you can also search for secret items, towns and quests to help enhance your gaming experience. And besides, who doesn't like boasting about having found and beaten the strongest boss in the game? This game will last anyone a long, long time.


Gameplay: 9.5/10
Everything in Final Fantasy III plays beautifully. The battles are in-depth and dripping with strategy. Add to that the vast amount of jobs, vehicles, items, quests and more, and you've got one hell of a game!

Storyline: 9.0/10
The storyline is solid, with very few, if any, continuity errors. The major twist about halfway through the game really throws you for a loop, too! Very gripping plot.

Graphics: 9.5/10
Final Fantasy III is quite possibly the best looking game yet on the Nintendo DS. With full 3D in every town, map and battle, as well as nearly 100 different sprites for the main characters alone, Square-Enix took no shortcuts. The opening cinematic is merely icing on the cake.

Audio: 9.0/10
Every game Nobuo Uematsu touches comes out sounding absolutely beautiful, and this is no exception. It's really hard to believe that each and every one of the songs in this game is based on mere 8-bit blips!

Multiplayer: 6.5/10
While sending messages via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is kind of neat, it's really quite unnecessary. Messages can be just as easily sent to one of many NPCs in the game. Still, this won't really hurt the overall score, as it's more of a bonus feature than anything else.

Longevity: 8.5/10
Just playing through the main story of this game will take anybody over 25 hours. Add to that secret towns, items, bosses and quests, and you've got one long game!

OVERALL: 9.5/10
Final Fantasy III is a triumph in nearly every field. From a solid storyline to gripping gameplay to breathtaking graphics, there's very little wrong with this game. I'd even go so far as to say it's one of my five favorite DS games ever! We waited 16 years to get our hands on this long-lost gem, but the time has finally come. Every RPG fan needs to play this game and experience the true Final Fantasy III.

So then, that's Final Fantasy III as I see it. What do you think of this piece of gaming history?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #6: "Will you be buying Metroid Prime 3 at launch?" results

The votes are in! And the results are...

"Yes, I have it pre-ordered" 8 votes (19%)
"Yes, but I don't have a pre-order" 12 votes (28%)
"Maybe" 5 votes (11%)
"I'm going to rent it first" 3 votes (7%)
"No, I can't afford it" 7 votes (16%)
"No, but maybe after the hype dies down" 3 votes (7%)
"No, I don't want it at all" 3 votes (7%)
"I want it, but I don't have a Wii" 1 vote (2%)

Pretty expected results here. Nearly everybody wants in on the action! I can't blame them, either, especially not since Nintendo Power's 10/10 review! I only wish I had the cash... Oh well, I'm gonna try and rent it, instead. As I said last week, impressions and review all depend on when my Rogers Video gets the game in stock. Hopefully soon!

Make sure to vote in this week's poll, "Which color of DS Lite do you like best?"! I had to say that the Brain Age 2 model really catches my eye. Not only does it look great, it's unique, so it'll be pretty hard to lose it amongst my friends' DS Lites! I'm bettin' most of the votes will be heading in that direction.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, August 24, 2007

My ideas for other Smash Bros. Brawl bosses

Well then, I guess this is post 101? Where are the dalmatians? I WAS PROMISED DALMATIANS!

Today on Smash Bros. Dojo! it was revealed that Petey Piranha will be a boss in the Subspace Emissary story mode. That got me thinking: What other baddies could we see return as bosses? Here are a few I thought up.

Medusa (Kid Icarus)

This is just a natural choice, really. If Pit is going to be around, there's no doubt that the main enemy of the first Kid Icarus game, Medusa, will be there as well. As seen in the screenshot above, Medusa could fire snakes at the player, as well as perhaps temporary paralysis. She is Medusa, after all. I think that she'll probably appear as a normal humanoid, though, and not a wall-sized monstrosity as she was in Kid Icarus (Although that would kick ass!).
Probability: 1:3

Giovanni (Pokemon)

In Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow (As well as Firered and Leafgreen), Giovanni is the head of the Team Rocket crime syndicate, as well as the eighth gym leader. Seeing as the Pokemon Trainer is from Firered or Leafgreen (Evidenced by his clothing), it would only make sense for somebody like Giovanni to be in Smash Bros. Brawl. He would work much like the Pokemon Trainer, but would instead use Pokemon such as Rhydon, Sandslash and, of course, his trademark Persian. It would certainly be an interesting battle to watch and play, with six Pokemon cycling on and off the field constantly. Add in some Pokeballs as items, and we've got ourselves one heck of a battle!
Probability: 1:5

King Dedede (Kirby games)

King Dedede has long been a staple of the Kirby franchise as a main enemy. His large hammer (As shown above) would be his weapon of choice, naturally. He could probably also use the inflating skill he showed off in Kirby's Adventure (NES) as a stage recovery move, as well as a way to launch aerial attacks. Sadly, I don't think that Dedede will make an appearance in Smash Bros. Brawl, as there is already Meta Knight. It would be kinda weird to cram so many Kirby characters in there, wouldn't it? But then again, we're not sure if Meta Knight is good or evil, so perhaps Dedede does have a chance as a boss. We won't know until we get there!
Probability: 1:8

Dark Samus (Metroid Prime)

Really, Dark Samus is pretty much a given as a boss in Brawl. She's the main villain of the Metroid Prime games, which will soon be coming to a conclusion with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. With that considered, Dark Samus will still be in the minds of the core gamers, and one last hurrah in Brawl would only be right. I'm fairly sure Dark Samus will be there, even if not a boss. She WILL be there, Phazon and all.
Probability: 1:2 (Just to be safe)

So then, those are a few of my guesses as to what bosses we may see in Smash Bros. Brawl. Of the four posted, I feel Giovanni sounds the most interesting. What do you think? Also, what bad guys would you like to see as bosses in Brawl?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Well, folks, it's post number 100!

And to celebrate, I've whipped up a little something special! As you've most likely noticed, there's a new banner floating uptop! I just made that up quick in about, oh... 40 minutes to an hour. I'm not very good at Photoshop, but I'm pretty proud of this one.

If you'd like to submit a banner, feel free to send it to me via my Yahoo! Canada e-mail address in the sidebar under Contact Info. It must be exactly 760 pixels wide (And larger and it doesn't work, but any smaller and there's an ugly border on it), and it can be as tall as you want, as long as it's smaller than 300 pixels. Also, it pretty much goes without saying that it be appropriate for the site.

I'll try for an article tonight, but no guarantees. Still feelin' kinda cruddy.

Anyways, this is post number 100! However, due to the many non-articles I've posted, I can't call this article 100. I'll go back and count the number of genuine articles later, but for now, I think I'll admire my banner work.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No article tonight

I just feel like total crap... If I could choose one typable, one-syllable soundbyte to describe how I feel right now, it would be "BLURGH". I'm tired, it's humid, and I'm braindead. Bad combo, that.

I'll try and do something super special awesome fudge-coated tomorrow, but until then, I'll be resting. For now, feel free to giggle at the following.

*Falls asleep*

The Duck Has Spoken.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mario vs. Sonic: The battle for the DS

Here it is, folks! It's that "*Hint, hint*" article I've been mumbling about! This is gonna be an all out war!

Mario and Sonic have been rivals for over fifteen years. And now, here they are, both on the same system. Of course, SEGA and Nintendo are now anything but enemies, but still, one of these games has to be superior! So then, in this article I will decide the winner of this round fought on the DS. Which is better: New Super Mario Bros. or Sonic Rush?

Now, you may remember that in my reviews of New Super Mario Bros. and Sonic Rush, both games received a 9.2/10 overall. But of course, no two games are equal, regardless of the score I give them. One is better, and I'm gonna find out which one it is. I will be judging each game in several specific categories. Each time one game is deemed superior to the other in a particular category, it will receive a point. In the end, the game with the most points will emerge as the victor. So then, LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!

Round One: Playable characters

In both games, players can take control of two characters. In New Super Mario Bros., Mario and Luigi are selectable (Although Luigi is somewhat of a secret), and in Sonic Rush, Sonic the Hedgehog and Blaze the Cat are playable. When it comes to numbers, they are equal. However, when it comes to character diversity, there is quite the difference. In NSMB, Mario and Luigi play exactly the same, while in Rush, Sonic and Blaze feature different movesets and separate storylines. With that in mind, Sonic Rush wins Round One.

Round Two: Number of playable levels

In NSMB, each World is divided up into several levels, with a grand total of 80 separate stages. In Rush, Stages are divided up into three levels (Except for Zone F, which is one giant boss battle). That makes 22 levels in the whole game (Not counting the levels in Blaze's story, as they are the same as the levels in Sonic's story). There is also one extra level available after beating the game as both characters, which brings the grand total for Sonic Rush up to 23. It doesn't take much of a genius to see that NSMB greatly defeats Rush in this category, with more than three times as many levels. Thusly, New Super Mario Bros. wins Round Two.

Round Three: Enemy variety

In Sonic Rush, many enemies are simply drone robots which take little more than a swift jumping on or dashing through to defeat. There are a few variations, such as robots with deflecting shield (Vulnerable only from above), and two other types of bots which take three hits to defeat instead of one.

However, in NSMB, enemy variety is much greater. Sure, most enemies in this game require a mere one hit to defeat, but their weaknesses and strengths are far more diverse. There's the Koopa, which can only be truly defeated via fireball or being hit be another Koopa shell (If it merely falls off the stage, it will return if you leave and come back). There's Pokey, a large, segmented cactus which can withstand every one of his parts being destroyed up until his head section is beaten. There's the Boo, which is actually nearly indestructible, and is vulnerable only to Mega Mario and invincibility. Without a doubt, New Super Mario Bros. wins Round Three.

Round Four: Boss battle diversity

In Sonic Rush, there are 17 boss battles, compared to NSMB's 9 (Plus mini-bosses). However, eight of the boss battles in Sonic Rush are the same as some of the other battles (Blaze faces the same bosses in her story arc), so in reality, there are only 9 bosses. But this isn't about the shear number of bosses, this is about how different each encounter is.

In Sonic Rush, each boss takes eight hits to defeat (Six in Easy Mode). In each battle, the only way to harm the boss is to attack the pilot's cockpit (Each boss is a huge robot). The bosses attack patterns are all greatly varied (Except for one boss, who is a slightly changed version of another), and many of which take unique advantage of the game's three-dimensional perspective.

New Super Mario Bros. matches Sonic Rush's number of bosses, but the variety leaves a little something to be desired. For example, while many of Rush's bosses feature several attacks, the ones in NSMB only boasts one move. For example, the boss of World 2 simply pops out of the ground and spits crap at you, and nothing more. Also, with the exception of the first and last two bosses, every fight requires you hit the enemy three times. Really, NSMB's bosses are quite basic compared to those in the blue blur's adventure, so Sonic Rush wins Round Four.

Round Five: Storyline

Neither Sonic or Mario games have ever been renowned for their gripping storylines. That being said, one of them still has a greater plot. In Sonic Rush, there's quite the extensive story, involving dimensional rifts and mysterious characters. In New Super Mario Bros., Bowser kidnaps the princess. Check, please! Sonic Rush wins Round Five.

Round Six: Power-ups

New Super Mario Bros. brings over many of the classic power-ups from the series to the table, including the Super Mushroom and the invincibility-granting Starman. It also introduces a few new power-ups, in the form of the Mini Mushroom, the Mega Mushroom and the blue Koopa shell.

In Sonic Rush, the list of power-ups is pretty short, with a one-hit resistant shield, a variant of said shield that attracts rings, and a couple of other minor boosts such as a filler for the Tension Gauge and temporary invincibility. Really, the power-ups are hardly worth mentioning in this case, due to how few of them there are. This is a pretty easy one to decide. New Super Mario Bros. wins Round Six.

Round Seven: Art style

Sonic Rush came out way earlier in the DS' lifespan than New Super Mario Bros., so I will not compare graphics for the sake of being fair. However, I will compare their art styles, something that is very important in the overall appearance of any game. Now then, both games employ a three-dimensional character on a two-dimensional backdrop style, and that much is equal. However, the two-dimensional backgrounds in Sonic Rush are, in my opinion, far brighter and livelier. In contrast, the backgrounds in New Super Mario Bros. seem rather stale and lifeless. Thusly, Sonic Rush wins Round Seven.


With a score of 4 to 3, Sonic Rush barely manages to squeeze past New Super Mario Bros. and win this challenge. That's right, the plumber himself lost on his own home turf! Sorry, Mario, but maybe next time! Both games put up an incredible fight, but in the end, there can only be one winner. Regardless of who won or lost, both games are great additions to any DS owner's collection.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How can Pokémon be revolutionized for the next generation?

Starting early again today. Maybe I'll be able to finish by nine o'clock for once!

Pokémon has been a cultural phenomenon in North America since 1998, and even longer than that in Asia. With all this time gone by, ideas seem to be running fairly thin when it comes to what can be done with the next generation. Each new generation of games has introduced something new to the series, and with that being said, there are few innovations left for the future of the franchise. Well, folks, I've been brainstorming, and I've actually thought up two things Nintendo has yet to do in the Pokémon games!

The ability to Fly to any visited location on the map

The Hidden Machine (Or HM) Fly has been around since the first days of the series. It allows players to instantly warp to any visited town or city on the map, greatly decreasing time spent trudging through tunnels and endless routes.

With Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, a milestone was achieved when players gained the ability to Fly to a location which is neither a city or a town. That place was the Pal Park, a special facility which allowed Pokémon to be imported from earlier versions of the game. I say, why not take this one step further? Why not allow us to Fly to any previously visited point on the map?

Imagine being able to travel anywhere throughout
the entire Sinnoh region by simply Flying...

It would all be pretty simple, really. All routes, remote buildings and islands you've visited at least once would from then on be selectable when you Fly. Perhaps you wish to visit Bill in Kanto, but don't feel like flying to Cerulean and walking all the way there? No problem! Just simply place your cursor above Bill's house on the Fly map, press A, and off you go! It really couldn't be much simpler.

Of course, there would be some obvious limitations. There'd be no Flying to underground locations or anything like that, and you wouldn't be able to land on water unless you have a Surf-enabled Pokémon in your party. Despite these limitations, being able to Fly nearly anywhere would still be a great addition to the franchise.

Seasonal terrains and Pokémon

In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, desert terrain and overgrown grass were introduced to the franchise. And after that, swamps and snow-bound conditions were added in Diamond and Pearl. How about some new terrain in the next games? I'm thinking we should add some season-sensitive terrains to the mix! Using the DS' built-in calendar, water conditions could change depending on the current season. If it's Summer, water levels could drop slightly due to the intense heat causing rapid evaporation. In Winter, some narrow rivers and the edges of lakes could freeze over, perhaps attracting some Ice-type Pokémon such as Seel and Jynx to the area.

In fact, there could be a whole slew of season-specific Pokémon that would only appear when the conditions are right. Remember how some Pokémon may appear only during the day, and some appear exclusively at night? The same could apply to the seasons! In Winter, several species of Ice Pokémon would appear, and during the Summer, Fire types would become more prevalent. And some Pokémon could even change colours in the Winter, similar to some species of hares and rabbits. And perhaps during the Winter, bird Pokémon would flock to the Southern reaches of the region, and some types may not even appear at all! The possibilities of season-specific Pokémon are nearly endless!

There you have it, folks: Two things that Nintendo has NOT implemented in any Pokémon game released so far! Can you think of anything I may have missed?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Super Mario Bros. review

Surprise! It's another review! Enjoy. (PS: This review may or may NOT be related to an article coming later this week... *Hint, hint*)

New Super Mario Bros. was the plump plumber's first non-remake, two-dimensional platformer game since Super Mario Land 2 (GB) was released nearly fourteen years before. As such, gamers were very excited to see Mario back in the format that made him so popular in the first place. Did Nintendo's main man fail to live up to expectations, or did he deliver a game worthy of the history books? Read on to find out.

Central to any video game is, of course, gameplay, but the necessity of this aspect is even greater when it comes to platformers. Thankfully, New Super Mario Bros. retains all that made the older games great, and even improves upon them in some ways. For example, New Super Mario Bros. brings along with it two new mushroom power-ups, the Mega Mushroom and the Mini Mushroom. As the names suggest, the Mega Mushroom and the Mini Mushroom make Mario very big and and very small (Respectively). When turned into Mega Mario (As seen below), virtually no obstacle can get in your way. With this power, players can smash through standard brick blocks, "?" blocks, and even those solid, usually indestructible brown blocks (Like those left behind after striking a "?" block). Even pipes don't stand a chance with faced with Mega Mario's might! When you are Mega Mario, a bar will appear at the top of the screen, and it will fill up slightly with every thing you destroy or defeat. Depending on how full it is by the time the Mega Mushroom wears off (It only lasts for a short while), you can get up to five 1UP mushrooms. The downsides of being Mega Mario are you cannot fit into many places where you could as Super Mario. Also, using the Mega Mushroom while under the effects of any other power-up will result in the previous power-up being lost. So, if you're Fire Mario and you get a Mega Mushroom, you will then lose your ability to shoot fireballs, even once returning to normal size.

Mega Mario, as seen in some New Super Mario Bros.
promo art

When turned into Mini Mario, you can fit into very small places, as well as enter small pipes. Also, Mario gains the ability to jump very, very high. Mini Mario can also now run across the top of water, if he gets a good run at it. The big downside, though, is that just one hit while playing as Mini Mario will result in death.

New Super Mario Bros. also introduces one other power-up, although it is not in the form of a mushroom. I am referring, of course, to the blue Koopa shell (Pictured below). When wearing the blue Koopa shell, Mario gains the ability to dash around inside his shell, similar to how a normal Koopa shell bounces around after being stepped on. Also, Mario gains the ability to swim much faster and with far greater agility, which can come in handy in many underwater stages. On the downside, Koopa Mario becomes somewhat hard to control when dashing around inside his shell, which can lead to quite a few unfortunate mishaps involving lava pits and bottomless holes.

That's Mario inside that Koopa
shell, you know.

On the subject of power-ups, Mario now has the ability to hold an item in a one-slot inventory, which can be easily accessed mid-level by simply tapping it on the lower screen (In some situations where the screens are swapped, however, this is not possible). Sadly, only one item can be held in reserve at a time, and, depending on your currently powered-up state, some items may be used automatically instead of being put in your inventory. I'm not going to go in-depth with this hierarchy, but basically, if the obtained item is inferior to your current power-up, it is stored in your inventory. If it is superior to your current state, then it is automatically used (Unless obtained from a Toad House).

Every level also features three Star Coins, which can be used to unlock alternate passage ways on the map screen. These coins are usually very well hidden within the levels, and some of which even require you to carry a power-up from an entirely different level to even obtain them.

In New Super Mario Bros., all worlds feature one mini-boss (Although some later levels feature two), as well as one main boss, all of whom must be defeated in order to advance to the next world. Every mini-boss is always Bowser Jr., but his varied fighting styles help keep things from getting too stale (Although you'll most likely have seen all his tricks by World 5). The big bosses are different every time, from a mummified Pokey to an incredibly angry Cheep Cheep to even the grotesquely mutated vegetable that is Petey Piranha.

There is also a wealth of mini-games available to be played on the main menu, all of which are available from the very instant you turn on the game (No collecting bunnies a la Super Mario 64 DS). Some games are merely ported over from Super Mario 64 DS, but there are a few new games, as well as a few slightly-altered old games. There's also a multiplayer aspect to these minigames, but I'll talk about that more in the Multiplayer section of this review.

If there's anything significantly negative to be said about the gameplay of this game, it's that it's rather easy to beat. Give a man a copy of New Super Mario Bros., a DS Lite and 12 hours, and he'll most likely have it done. However, he'll most likely have passed over several alternate paths and levels, missed out on collecting all the Star Coins, and perhaps even overlooked two entire worlds! New Super Mario Bros. may be an easy game to beat, but completing it is no simple task.

The storyline of New Super Mario Bros. is certainly predicted. Bowser kidnaps Peach, Mario chases him through eight worlds, saves her, blah blah blah. Nothing any of us haven't seen or heard before. And so concludes the shortest ever Storyline section in one of my reviews so far!

Perhaps one of New Super Mario Bros.' most unique aspects is it's graphics. Featuring three-dimensional character models on two-dimensional levels is an art style mirrored rarely by other video games, and even more rarely surpassed in terms of quality. The character sprites are all rendered beautifully, with every last defining detail present. Heck, you could probably expand this Mario sprite, clean it up a bit and slap it on a Super Mario Sunshine screenshot, and barely anybody would notice the difference (Well, besides the lack of FLUDD, that is). The environments are also drawn beautifully, with almost everything handled in a traditional animation style.

Despite the vast difference between the animation styles of the characters and the environments, everything meshes together beautifully, and nothing sticks out like a sore thumb, whether it's two-dimensional or three-dimensional. Very impressive stuff, Nintendo.

The audio in New Super Mario Bros. is fairly standard, but that's actually a good thing here! The music, although new, fits in well with the tunes from older games. If you were to make a mix tape of all the Mario music since the original game, and play them in random order, the differences would be hard to notice (Except for the distinctly 8-bit sounds of the older tracks).

The sound effects from the previous games all make their return, from the jumping "Boing!", to the "Klonk!" of kicking a Koopa shell, to the "Crack!" of breaking a brick block. Every sound effect you know and love from the last twenty years of Mario history is back, folks, and it all sounds oh so sweet.

Charles Martinet again reprises his roles as Mario and Luigi, and all of the other voice actors return to play the characters they're best known for. Mario's "Wahoo!"s and "Yippee!"s sound just as great as ever, yet they don't clash with the classical sound effects and music. It all meshes together so well.

Strangely (Especially when considering the typically solo history of Mario games), New Super Mario Bros. features two modes of multiplayer action (Both of which feature single- and multi-card wireless play). The main one of these multiplayer modes is Mario vs. Luigi. In this gameplay mode, players play as either Mario or Luigi, and fight to get the pre-determined amount of stars before the other player(s) can. The game takes place on one of five basic levels. Players can find Stars lying around the stage, or attack other player(s) who have a star, and steal it from them. In the end, the first person to gain the required amount of stars wins. Mario vs. Luigi can be very hectic, especially if you can get four players in on the action.

The other multiplayer mode, as said before, is competitive minigames. When playing minigames competitively, players may compete to last the longest, act the fastest or collect the most items. Special multiplayer-only minigames are available when playing competitively. These games are tailor-made to the multiplayer experience, allowing for the most competitive situations possible. Also, existing single player games have been slightly altered to better suit multiplayer action. Like Mario vs. Luigi, competitive minigames support two to four players. Overall, the multiplayer aspects of New Super Mario Bros. are fun, and they don't get in the way of the single player experience. Definitely worth the effort of grouping together four DS-owning friends.

New Super Mario Bros., like most other Mario games, boasts some fairly adequate longevity. Running through all the levels and collecting the Star Coins is sure to keep any gamer busy for quite a while. Unlocking all the worlds and levels also takes quite a bit of work, so expect to be spending quite some time with this even after you've beaten the final boss. And, as always, multiplayer helps skyrocket the longevity into the stratosphere. This game will keep your attention for a long, long time.


Gameplay: 9.3/10
New Super Mario Bros. retains all the gameplay we've grown to love from the past twenty years of Mario games, and even improves upon it in places. The main game is a little easy, however.

Storyline: 7.0/10
Peach gets kidnapped, Mario chases after her, beats the big guy, gets the girl, the end. We've all heard this story before. Well, at least they stuck to the tried and true!

Graphics: 8.8/10
The character models are of surprisingly high quality, and the environments are all drawn beautifully in simple 2D. And everything all fits together so well, despite the huge difference in animation styles. An artistic triumph.

Audio: 9.0/10
All the music sounds so classic, yet somehow new, and the sound effects are exactly what we've all loved for lo these many years. Add to that a full returning cast of voice-actors, and you've got a real treat for the ears.

Multiplayer: 8.5/10
The Mario vs. Luigi mode is super-frantic fun, and the competitive minigames are jut icing on the multiplayer cake. Add to that the single-card download play and support for up to four players, and ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Longevity: 8.0/10
New Super Mario Bros. may be short when it comes to a main storyline, but getting all the Star Coins, levels and worlds is no simple task. This game will take even the best of gamers quite some time to complete.

OVERALL: 9.2/10
New Super Mario Bros. is an amazing Mario game, and possibly the best platform available for the DS. This game excels in nearly every field, and it deserves a spot in any gamer's collection. If you don't have it, get it. If you do have it, congratulations, my friend, you've made a very wise purchase.

Well then, there's my second review in the last five days! I love New Super Mario Bros.! What do you guys think of it?

PS: Keep that "*Hint, hint*" in mind, pals.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Poll #5: "Do you ever play games based on movies, TV shows or books?" results

The results are in!

"Yes, all the time" 1 vote(2%)
"Yes, sometimes" 9 votes (20%)
"Yes, but rarely" 21 votes (47%)
"Maybe, but it was a long time ago" 4 votes (9%)
"No, but I've wanted to" 1 vote (2%)
"No, I've never considered it" 1 vote (2%)
"No, they always suck" 5 votes (11%)
"No, and I can't think of any reason why" 1 vote (2%)
"I don't know" 1 vote (2%)

I think these results were pretty much what I expected. Everybody, from time to time, plays one of these so-called "licensed" titles, whether it's The Godfather, Spongebob or Harry Potter.

Make sure to vote in the new poll, "Will you be buying Metroid Prime 3 at launch?"! I voted "No, I can't afford it", sadly. I'll be renting it for the sake of reviewing it, though. That being said, the impressions and the review may be a little later than usual, depending on when my rental shop gets the game in stock.

The Duck Has Spoken.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Back from the dead: Forgotten franchises in need of a comeback

Well then, here goes with the last article of the week! Got a busy weekend ahead of me, so I better get this out there quick and hit the sack. Enjoy!

Don't you just hate it when a franchise you love so dearly gets killed for no apparent reason? I'm sure we can all name a few that have unfairly gone the way of the dodo. Here are two I'm particularly hoping will one day make a triumphant return.

Dr. Mario

Not counting the little-known and hardly seen Dr. Mario/Puzzle League combo cartridge for the Game Boy Advance a few years back, there hasn't been a new game in the series since the days of the Nintendo 64. And even then, it hadn't made any notable changes since the original game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The Dr. Mario name is long overdue for a true sequel.

But what changes could be made? I'm thinking more virus types, power-ups, and even some online multi-player. There really isn't much more that could be done to the game that wouldn't make it totally different from the original, but, nonetheless, I'd still be more than happy to buy this for my DS Lite. Even if this doesn't happen, can we at least get it on the Virtual Console sometime soon? I'm itchin' for some more virus-bustin' action, and my NES ain't what it used to be in the performance department. Please, Nintendo, bring back the scrubs-wearing Mario that many have grown to love!

Gunstar Heroes

Back in the day, running and gunning side-scrollers were a dime a dozen. But today, their numbers have shrunk drastically to pretty much just Contra and Metal Slug. I think that one dead franchise in dire need of returning is SEGA's classic Gunstar Heroes. Recently, re-released on the Game Boy Advance and Virtual Console, many more gamers than ever before have had the chance to experience this long lost gem. I say, why not bring it back?

Gunstar Heroes would be a perfect fit for the DS, and it could perhaps even employ the use of both screens in a similar fashion to Sonic Rush, allowing for double-tall bosses and levels. With the DS' comparatively massive amount of horsepower compared to the SEGA Genesis, there could be far more levels, weapons, enemies, playable characters and abilities than ever before! "Gunstar Heroes: Coming soon to Nintendo DS"... I can't wait until the day I finally see that name again...

There ya go, folks! Two franchises I really want to see arise from the gaming grave. What are some franchises you feel are long overdue for a return?

The Duck Has Spoken.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sonic Rush review

Early start to the writing today, folks. Maybe starting early will actually allow me a decent night's sleep!

Developer: Dimps
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: November 15th, 2005 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E for "Everyone"
ESRB Notes: Mild Cartoon Violence

Sonic Rush was the blue hedgehog's first ever appearance on the Nintendo DS. It is worth noting that this was the first two-dimensional Sonic game in ages, a great relief to fans who believe Sonic's recent three-dimensional adventures to be sub-par. Were fans justified in this belief? Would Sonic Rush really be the saviour of the franchise? Read on to find out.


In keeping with how things should be, Sonic Rush is primarily a side-scrolling platformer. Sonic Rush goes back to basics to deliver classic Sonic gameplay to the new millennium. A rare case of "out with the new, in with the old", you might say. And the game is worlds better because of it. No clunky camera, no slow-paced exploration. Just the fast and furious Sonic the Hedgehog we've all come to love. The only difference? Double-tall display, thanks to the Nintendo DS' unique dual-screened design.

Sonic Rush returns to the classic
2D gameplay of yore, now
spread across two screens.

This 100% increase in visual real-estate allows for even crazier and dizzying level designs than ever before. As seen above, you can get up and above your enemies using special rainbow-coloured hoops, which launch you into the air, and usually into the upper screen. Up there, you may find alternate paths through the level or even power-ups, such as barriers, invincibility and fillers for the Tension Gauge (More on that later). The double-tall perspective also allows players to see further above and below themselves than ever before, so as to know what lies above or beneath them. Sometimes, seemingly unreachable items or alternate paths are visible on the other screen. Of course, there are also times when there's nothing to look at on the secondary display, but usually you're too focused on keeping control of the speedy hedgehog to notice.

All of Sonic's trademark abilities return, such as his spin-jumps and, of course, the Spin Dash. But Sonic isn't without a few new tricks, either. New to the franchise is the Super Boost, an ability which pushes Sonic's agility to the limit, causing him to dash across the screen like a bullet, decimating any enemies in his way. Of course, this is far too strong an attack to be used endlessly, so also introduced in Sonic Rush is the previously mentioned Tension Gauge.

The tension gauge can be seen here on the left side
of the screen.

The Tension Gauge (As shown above) is a meter constantly visible on the left side of the active screen (Except during boss battles and bonus stages). The Tension Gauge can be filled by defeating enemies or obtaining special boost items. The Tension Gauge has three stages: Blue, yellow and red. For example, if your meter is blue and is then filled past the top, it will restart at the bottom of the gauge in yellow, and so on. No matter how much tension is built up, the strength of the Super Boost never changes (However you can perform it longer with more tension). Every use of the Super Boost drains the Tension Gauge, and if the gauge empties, the boost cannot be used.

Boss battles in Sonic Rush are perhaps the most technologically notable part of the game. Displayed in full 3D (As seen below), boss battles are far more epic than they've even been before in a two-dimensional Sonic game. However, despite the 3D display, you are still restricted to moving from left to right (Except in some special situations). Despite this, the new perspective allows for some interesting battle designs, such as running around the platform to attack from behind or actually climbing on top of your adversary by scrambling up their arm. You may be restricted to moving in two dimensions, but the creativity knows no bounds.

Boss battles are displayed in full 3D

Notice that purple cat on the front of the box? Her name's Blaze (Pictured below), and she's an alternate playable character with an alternate (Yet intertwining) storyline. I won't tell you where she's from (A bit of a spoiler), but I will tell you she has her own version of almost every one of Sonic's abilities. One technique unique to her, however, is the ability to hover by shooting flames from her feet. This is useful for accessing far away ledges and avoiding ground-bound enemies.

This is Blaze, and she'll be your
mysterious character for the evening.

When playing as Blaze in the main story, you'll find different dialog, encounter levels in an altered order, and even observe the opposite side of some strange encounters. As for who Blaze is and what purpose she has in Sonic's territory, well, you'll have to find that out yourself.

One more classic feature has returned from the old days, this time from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis). And that feature is the half-pipe bonus stage! Yessir, my all-time favorite bonus stage ever is finally making a return! But it's no mere rehash of the original product. Instead of just tapping the D-pad to make Sonic run left or right, the touchscreen has instead become your navigator. Simply touch the stylus to the screen and drag left or right, and Sonic follows you lead. Sometimes he lags behind a bit and ends up getting nailed by a mine, though, and that can really mess up your score. Usually, however, Sonic sticks right to the end of the stylus, and all is well.


Sonic games aren't exactly known for their gripping storylines, and that's okay with me. That being said, Sonic Rush still has quite the interesting little plot. It all starts with Sonic thwarting another one of Eggman's schemes, and noticing that the Villain Formerly Known As Robotnik dropped some strange gem. Sonic is about to grab it to check it out, when all of a sudden, Blaze swoops in and takes it away from him, saying "And that's the second one...". He tries to talk to Blaze, but she merely glances at him and goes off on her way.

Shortly after this, Sonic notices something strange happening to his world. After some investigation, Tails comes to the conclusion that there's a rift in the space-time continuum. Why is this happening? How can it be stopped? And just what is Blaze's purpose here? You'll find out all this and more as you venture through the game's many worlds and stages, as both Sonic and Blaze. SEGA wasn't afraid to go a little sci-fi with the story here, and I'm glad for it. Sonic Rush's plot is crazy and light-hearted at the same time, with plenty of overlapping plot points between Sonic and Blaze's stories. I'm a sucker for a good story, and while Sonic Rush doesn't deliver anything novel-worthy, it's still a great tale to accompany the action.


Sonic Rush may have been originally released in 2005, but honestly, it looks just as great as if it came out yesterday. It follows New Super Mario Bros.' art design, using 3D characters on 2D levels. The levels are bright and flashy, just like a Sonic game should be, and the scrolling background art is some pretty nice stuff, too. I really appreciate when such effort is put into such tiny details.

However, there is one tiny aspect in which the game's age does show, and that's in some minor slowdown against some particularly large bosses (The boss of Zone F is a good example). It's usually nothing game breaking, but once the decreased frame rate made me inaccurately time a precise jump, causing me to get pummeled by a boss. But, as I said, this has only happened once in all the time I've played the game. Otherwise, the boss battles are beautifully well done.

It was a real disappointment that the majority of the cutscenes were nothing more than a series of talking heads. With such great 3D character models, you'd think they'd at least have the talking people all standing there actually chatting, but we're stuck with Final Fantasy Tactics-style yapping heads.

The bonus stages in particular show off some of the DS' 3D muscle, with minimal slowdown and an unnoticeable draw distance. I have never once seen an object pop up out of nowhere, even when there's mines, monsters and rings all over the place. Very smooth.


The music in Sonic Rush is always well suited to the environment, but it's nothing so catchy that you'll notice yourself whistling it on a morning stroll. In the forest levels, there's light and adventurous music. In the high-tech levels, you hear beeps and boops over a fast-paced techno beat. All standard fare, but still of good quality.

One aspect of the audio that is slightly below average is the voice acting. Sonic and Blaze only have a few things to say, like "Yes!" and "Want a piece of me?". That's not the problem, however. The problem is their annoying little chatty sidekicks. When playing as Sonic, Tails always sits on the bottom screen during a boss battle, yelling "That's it, Sonic!" and "Just a little more!" whenever you hit the boss. It sure gets pretty annoying hearing that eight times a battle... But Sonic's the lucky one. When playing as Blaze, you have the annoyingly squeaky Cream cheering for you, yet I have no clue what the heck she's saying most the time. Sadly, character voices cannot be turned off, so you're just gonna have to either bear with it or turn off the sound. Tough choice, really.


Sonic Rush's multiplayer is similar to that in Sonic The Hedgehog 3, as it is a racing mode. Using any unlocked levels and playing as either Sonic or Blaze, two players can go head to head in a race to reach the end of the stage first. The best part is, only one game card is required, so no need to pick up two copies of the game. Apparently there's something extra if you do have two copies of the game, but I am unsure what it is. Anyways, the race is a great little distraction, and it can prove which of the two players knows the game best.


Sonic's main adventure will probably take you anywhere from 5 to 15 hours, with Blaze's storyline almost doubling that. Then there's multiplayer and the factor of 100% completion. If you're into squeezing every last bit out of your games, you'll enjoy Sonic Rush. Even if you aren't into that kind of thing, it's still a fairly decently long game. Plus, it's only $20 nowadays, so who can say no?


Gameplay: 9.0/10
Sonic Rush is fast, furious and frantic, just like any Sonic game should be. With 3D boss battles, the glorious return of the half-pipe bonus stage and a secondary storyline to boot, you'd be very hard-pressed to find anything significantly wrong here.

Storyline: 7.5/10
As I said, Sonic games have never been known for their gripping and deep storylines. However, Sonic Rush's plot is refreshingly dark and twisted, as well as quite mysterious at times. But still, it's cheesier than a Kraft factory most of the time.

Graphics: 8.5/10
The 2D stages go together surprisingly well with the 3D characters, allowing Sonic and Blaze to always stand out, but never making them look out of place. The 3D boss battles not only look great, but they add a lot to strategy as well. And just seeing the half-pipe bonus stages return in beautiful 3D brings a nostalgic tear to my eye. Even the scrolling backgrounds in this game look great! But the "talking heads" cutscenes really get on my nerves...

Audio: 7.5/10
The music is nice and fitting, but never whistle-worthy. The chirpy little sidekicks really tend to annoy the crap outta me, though. Well, at least they're not Navi...

Multiplayer: 8.0/10
When buying a Sonic game, you usually aren't buying it for the multiplayer. But, it's still nice to have, and the racing mode is good, quick fun. Also, the single card download play is a HUGE plus.

Longevity: 8.0/10
Sonic Rush will probably last any gamer a decent amount of time, especially if you're into getting S grades in each level and unlocking every feature. Even if you aren't, though, Sonic Rush is still quite the long game, especially for $20.

OVERALL: 9.2/10
Sonic Rush is an extremely exciting, adrenaline-injected adventure, with plenty of levels and unlockables to keep your attention. As a plus, the game's really easy on the eyes, too. Just not so soft on the ears, so you may want to plug in your MP3 player. Anyways, it's an amazing game, and quite possibly the best Sonic in years, if not ever. I look forward to Sonic Rush Adventure with the greatest anticipation.

So then, there's my first review in two weeks, which is probably the longest I've ever gone. Here's to the end of the unofficial hiatus! If only my computer cooperated more, I'd have had this done about two hours ago... Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the article!

The Duck Has Spoken.