- Pedigree - The background of the developer, publisher, and franchise.
- The Critics Said - A brief overview of what the critics said.
- Rap Sheet - The main glaring flaws of the game.
- Silver Lining - Redeemable qualities found (if any).
- Our Deduction - The final word on the title.
Remember checkers? How about chess? And blackjack? What about dominoes? And Shogi and Ludo and Hasami Shogi and Koi-Koi and -- ahem. Don't recognize those last few names? No worries! I didn't know them either. There's still time to learn, however, and this is where Nintendo's Clubhouse Games comes to party.
It contains 42 -- yes, 42 -- classic games for your enjoyment, running the gamut from bowling and billiards to Mahjong solitaire and Pig. An incredible amount of variety exists in this tiny DS cart, making Clubhouse Games one of the most involving titles the DS has seen in recent years. The mind-boggling amount of games also makes it ideal for this week's edition of Gaming to Go. Sure, I might not recommend starting up a game of chess on your next lunch break, but why not go for a quick game of Connect Five? Whatever your mood fancies, Clubhouse Games has you covered. Want to hear more? Click that big grey button there to see what you've been missing.
Gallery: Clubhouse Games
I covered the basics of gameplay in my E3 preview. This time, I'll focus a bit more about some things that I didn't cover as much: the visual styles, the bosses, and the bonus modes -- at least for the three worlds I've experienced.
Throughout the duration of this column, we've learned a lot about shovelware. We've examined the sharing of blame between the publisher and developer, the curse of a license, the effects of critics' perception, and much more. Our top priority has been determining common attributes. One might ask what is the single, definitive trait common throughout all shovelware. The easy answer would be "it sucks." But to who? You? Me? Everyone? If you were to wander through the graveyard of the DS's library, even the loneliest tombstone will have a sympathizer or two. Particularly for younger gamers who might not know any better, cognizance is everything.
Thus, we must focus on the objective. As the swipe for this series states, "shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit." Theoretically, any game which shows compromise in any area for the benefit of time and/or money might be considered shovelware. Even if the game is a critical success, one can still identify flaws in its design. Without labeling n+ as shovelware, let's examine how its existence relates to the bottom-feeders of the DS.
Go ahead. Roll your eyes.
Mario Kart? An incredibly obvious choice, perhaps, but for one important reason: it's good. Very good. It's easily the best racer on the DS and one of the greatest titles in the handheld's library, if the review scores are any indication. But beyond the numbers and critical analysis rests the simple fact that Mario Kart DS is fun, fast, and very much worthy of your attention, especially if you're looking for motor madness just as enjoyable now as it was when the game raced onto shelves back in late 2005.
Sure, there's this newfangled Wii version making the rounds, but for all of its technological advances, Mario Kart Wii is lacking in one vital area -- you can't take it on the toilet. If that realization is all it takes to convince you to dust that tiny cartridge off and put it back in action, you're in the right place. Grab a few bananas and peel out* to the second page as this week's edition of Gaming to Go revisits a portable classic.
*I'm so sorry.
Gallery: Dragon Ball Origins
So... You may be knee deep in Dragon Quest IV goodness right now, and enjoying its tale of many heroes and heroines. Once you come to that inevitable conclusion, what have you got to look ahead to? Why, Dragon Quest V, of course. Today in Items of Import, we'll take the opportunity of the recent release of the fourth in the series in the Western markets to see what's to look forward to in the second entry of the Zenithia trilogy.
What was once a prominent pillar in the stealth world has been slowly regressing into mediocrity. The Tenchu series was one of the first and most successful entries in the emerging stealth-based genre of the late 1990's. Though games involving evasive maneuvering over combat had been around for awhile, they truly flourished in 3D. From the onset, Tenchu was there. Peered with and rivaled against other top-notch franchises such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, the word "Tenchu" was synonymous with heart-thumping, adrenaline-pumping sneaky gameplay. But everything eventually dies. And the Tenchu series received a terminal illness in the form of Tenchu: Dark Secret. Unless somebody steps in and performs some sort of miracle, we might have to talk to Tenchu fans about video game heaven. It's where all game franchises go when they pass away. All of Tenchu's friends are there, like Golden Axe, ToeJam & Earl, and Ecco the Dolphin (Sega, please prove me wrong on these).
The premiere Puzzle Quest title debuted to generally positive reviews, many of which praised the unexpectedly compelling mix of
With the space-age sequel rumored to land sometime in October, now is as good a time as any to take a look back at the sword and stone puzzler that started it all. If you never bothered to pick it up, consider yourself thoroughly shamed -- but don't let the weight of your emotional guilt bring you down. Come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go for one last reminder that sliding colorful stones around a board is a perfectly viable way to wage digital war.
Gallery: Puzzle Quest
Griptonite Games has worn several nametags in the past few years. When last we spoke with them, they were Amaze Entertainment, and their own identity as Griptonite was shelved. Now, Amaze is a part of Foundation 9 and the Griptonite name has been dusted off. In all the chaos of nomenclature, one thing has remained a constant: this little corner of the development world has been responsible for some real gems. We recently sat down with studio head J.C. Connors to discuss Spore Creatures, our Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night (GBA) withdrawals, and the unexpected excellence of Disney Friends (yeah, man, Disney Friends).
DS Fanboy: Spore Creatures is an interesting companion to the main title. What can you tell us about the best aspects of the DS game?
J.C. Connors: Hands down, the creature creator. It's one of the coolest features ever seen on the DS.
Gallery: Spore Creatures
But things get even trickier when discussing the retro-port. I touched on this at the end of the Petz Dogz Fashion post, but it's worth restating: would you pay full retail price for an exact copy of your favorite retro game? As the Super Mario Advance series proved: yes, you will. Apparently, identical or near-identical copies of older games at standard market prices can still sell extremely well. It'll be interesting to see how successful the Chrono Trigger port will be (my prediction: very). It'd be especially nice if we could determine how many of those purchasing the game have never played it before (my second prediction: not very many). Information such as this would allow us to determine what effect -- if any -- retro-ports have on the current state of gaming.
Examining Myst for the DS has been on my queue for quite some time. The reason for the delay was simply because I was unsure if it was fair to put it under the spotlight since I never played the original. But upon deliberating the sentiments above, I realized the DS port of the 1993 graphic adventure would be the perfect opportunity to put the question to a litmus test.
What won't come through in screens is just how nice the game looks. The bizarre lighting effects and high framerate lend Mushroom Men an extraordinarily crisp appearance that is especially nice for DS 3D.
Gallery: Mushroom Men
Who knew Bizarre Creations had a hit on its hands when it created the original Geometry Wars so many moons ago? I certainly didn't, though that might be due in part to my complete lack of one of those other consoles. Since its original inception on Microsoft soil, the Geometry Wars series has seen a number of different incarnations, a particularly enjoyable one of which is available for everyone's favorite handheld.
Geometry Wars: Galaxies also saw a release on Nintendo's white waggle box, though the infinitely more portable version is what I'll be covering in this week's edition of Gaming to Go. Haven't experienced the geometrical madness yet? Come along and see why playing with shapes on a two-dimensional grid is far more entertaining than it sounds.
Gallery: Geometry Wars: Galaxies
Your regular sword slashes and fire magic just ain't cutting it for this fight. Or maybe you just want to pickpocket some gold from the creature in front of you, all stealth-like. Perhaps that jump attack your dragoon knight has will just turn the tide of the battle.
That there above, readers, isn't a blogger's typical spelling error. In J-RPGs, our English word "ability" is morphed into abiriti, a friendlier pronunciation for Japanese tongues. And as I've mentioned in the past, the script for the word is in katakana, specifically designed for foreign words.
Always with this word, you will find that selecting it will take you to a secondary screen, with even more weird and wonderful Japanese words. All this blogger can tell you is: Good luck! With any imported title, part of the fun is figuring things out by trial and error -- it's not the end of the world if your Level 56 Hero of Awesomeness dies in battle because you don't have a clue what to do. Experiment! Click away on all the crazy Japanese words. You'll get there!
For an RPG fanatic, seeing your characters grow and become stronger is nothing short of satisfying. You remember those times when he was just a wee boy, wielding a short sword at Level 5. Look at him now! A grown man, all chiseled and weary, holding a great big battle axe. I remember when you came home crying -- all you had on was some simple leather attire, and all the kids at school wore shiny mithril. And, uh, that's enough of my dreams of being the good wife in the small and peaceful village of Dresnia.
We all know and love experience points. As gamers, we are always on the lookout for when our heroes will go up a level. We want it in chart form. So to sate your appetite for leveling up in a Japanese language RPG, behold the text image above. As I repeatedly point out (to the annoyance of the readers possibly!), the first script is the more complicated kanji form. You will tend to find fairly equal amounts of both variants. Often, it will be between some other words. In this case, the phrase can more than likely be translated as "Experience points needed for next level."
In our last lesson with RPGs, we came across the Japanese for "save." Sometimes, however, your progress in the game is halted by some horrible mistake you made on the way. Lucky for you, you had an alternate save slot of an earlier time in the game. Call it "gamer's premonition," if you will. But where is that all important "load" button!?
Oh, yes, it's right there on the, uh, right. How convenient of this newfangled column! In Japanese, "load" is fairly similarly pronounced like the English, except for the extended ending. We're sure you will find this word useful to recognize in-game, when you simply get stuck on something.
"Hey, I can do this! Easy peasy Japanesey!" I hear you say. Oh, young grasshopper -- you have much to learn. To be precise, you've another five new words to master. By nature, RPGs are undoubtedly the most text-heavy of all game genres. With its epic narrative detailing a world and its characters, and a menu screen chock full of words describing important stats and what-have-you, there are rarely moments in an RPG one does not look at text.
The challenge of an imported RPG of course comes from the fact that these thousands, if not millions, of words are in Japanese. BUT! Yes, there's a "but." For us as gamers, overcoming challenge is in our blood! And oftentimes, we are used to RPGs in English, so that even in Japanese, we sort of "get it," you know? Nevertheless, knowing what's what for sure always helps, and Items of Import is here for you once again to expand your Japanese RPG vocabulary.