Film Executive Koala

There comes a point in every Koala’s life when he ventures out into the working world and faces life’s problems. That’s exactly what happens in Executive Koala, a film by Minoru Kawasaki (Ultraman Tiga, The Calamari Wrestler) also known as the “King of Monster Suits”. The film, released in 2005 was originally panned by critics in Japan but how exactly does it fare on our shores overseas? Executive Koala mixes Monster Suits or in this case Animal Suits with a contemporary theme and setting with a twist of comedic style that Kawasaki is known for.

Executive Koala is about a working class Koala named Keiichi Tamura who is working for Kimuchee Company and is working his way up the corporate ladder. Unfortunately for him, his human girlfriend is found murdered and all suspicion is pointed directly at him. What ultimately follows, is a quest for Keiichi to prove himself innocent by finding about his past and what happened to his dear Yukari. However Keiichi is tormented by flashbacks and amnesia from the past. From the opening you’d think that you’d expect a light hearted comedy but once you tear away the shell you start to find a serious plot line and that’s where the issues start. The problem is that what you expect and what you receive is not always the same thing and in this case where you’d expect a comedy all the way through, is broken up with a serious undertone. It’s basically a mixed bag. While the film delivers comedic episodes during a couple of scenes, the majority of the story is a mash up of different styles and genres ranging from thriller and horror from the “Psycho Koala” segments to the new age style of the fight scene near the end. Unfortunately what tries to create a emotional attachment to the audience with the character is ultimately poor with it’s execution. The problem is that some scenes has Keiichi emotionally distraught from his situation and from his love for his missing wife but because visually he’s in a Koala suit which, also limits facial expression and any deep connection to the audience, and in the end, you’ll be confused whether to feel sad or laugh. The ending is just short of abysmal. Basically the most cliche and abrupt ending. What we witness is a lazy conclusion to what could have been more thought out rather than taking the “easy way” out. While the comedic moments are enjoyable, the dream sequence is one that is the most memorable as the setup and delivery was spontaneous.
Visually, there’s really not much to say. While the film is noticeably more updated than the visuals in Monster X, any special effects required are reduced in use. The koala itself is a body suit and looks the part of a salary man. The audio presentation is very light where most of the time the setting is full ambiance to bring more focus to the dialogue. The film obviously isn’t meant to be on a large production scale and hence one shouldn’t have any high expectations of visual presentation.

Executive Koala is hard to judge. There’s alot of inconsistency and cut and paste segments. The ending is also one full of disappointment for a meaningful plot. Overall, it’s only a watch if you are bored and have nothing else to do otherwise there’s many other better Japanese movies out there.

Film: Monster X Strikes Back/ Attack of the G8 Summit!

Monster X Strikes Back/ Attack of the G8 Summit! is the latest in the creations of director Minoru Kawasaki (Everyone But Japan Sinks ,Crab Goalkeeper) and revisits the old film genre of Japanese Monster Movies. As a spirtual sequal to a film from 40 years ago, Kawasaki relights the candle by retaining the same elements that made these films so popular. Known for his insistance of Monster suits and as little CG as possible, the film adapts a story for the modern era and with this adds a cast of characters who act out as the great leaders of the world. But does the film revive the old Monster genre or should they stay back as an oldie?The Story revolves around the world G8 Summit being held in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world gather to debate and come to conclusions on environmental issues effecting the planet. During this conference, a meteor strikes the Earth and unleashes Guilala on to the planet attacking everything in it’s path. From here, the plot splits into two where we follow the leaders putting their conference on hold as they each devise their own strategy to kill the beast and save the world. The other follows a young reporter for the Tokyo Sport Newspaper and her assistant as they try to unravel the mystery of Guilala and find a solution to save the world. The Story never takes itself seriously and that’s a good thing. The leaders each deliver their dialogue with over-the-top and often cheesy lines and really drive the comedic feel of the film. Add to this the stereotyping of their device to kill the beast with America and Warfare, Russia and Poison, Britain and brainwashing, Germany and Gas, etc. It really makes the movie interesting to watch just to see their mannerisms. While the Beginning and Climax of the movie are well paced following the many attempts of the leaders, the problem is with other parts. Kawasaki attempts to make the audience connect with the film adding a more dramatic portion where it tells the story of a village who worships Taka-Majin, another monster who will save everyone from Guilala. The problem is that the pacing in these portions slow down to a crawl and break the flow of the movie where the majority is over-the-top acting and fast paced action sequences. It shows when we witness the story of a kid whose father dies from some accident but the issue with these sequences is that it has next to no impact to the overall film and it only plays out for less than 5 minutes breaking any emotional attachment to these characters from the audience resulting from poor execution of dramatic tension. Another scene is when the reporter gains the villagers sympathy by following in the chant of Taka-Majin but the scene becomes unbearable as trying to place a serious moment in contrast with the absurdity of the chant and it’s poses really makes it painful just to watch her humiliate herself. It just seemed more like an attempt to put a deeper underline to a film which didn’t even need one in the first place. In fact if you took out these bits, you probably won’t notice a thing and enjoy the movie just fine.The presentation is what you’d expect every Japanese Monster movie to be like especially in this case where CG was minimal. Low Budget, off-the-wall monster suits and fake buildings crumbling. There really isnt much to the film besides it’s hillarious situtations and cast. You won’t find anything impressive here but you won’t be disliking anything either.Overall the film is entertaining once you ignore any deeper meanings to the story and take it as it is. The cast of hillariously wacky world leaders will definitely be the main attraction here as well as the Monster suits and it’s actions scenes. It’s definitely not a good film but that’s the main selling point cause it’s not supposed to be and falls into the category of it’s so bad that it’s good. To enjoy this to it’s potential, dive back into your younger self where you watched B-movies for pure entertainment…just skip some of the middle portions.

Now Playing…

Now approaching December and the releases of new games just keeps growing. I’ve just finished Fable II on Xbox 360 and it is a good game with good production values that still needs abit more refining. The overall core gameplay is entertaining but i had issues with the lag time of trying to use magic. The problem was pressing the magic button and having either nothing happening or putting your current weapon away and starting to charge magic. Though I’ve heard of alot of people using magic alot, the overall power of it isn’t much at all.

On the Wii side, I’ve just finished Call of Duty World at War. It uses a heavily modified COD4 engine and hence it looks and sounds great and better than most titles on the Wii. One of the best features of the game is the Online Multiplayer which though, still limited compared to the other systems, is still one of the best on the Wii. Though the game practically the same core campaign as the Next Gen versions, I wish they would try to push the same multiplayer content and also keep all campaign intact as there is all the vehicle missions missing, especially the one taking control of a turret on a plane shooting down enemies.

I’ll be writing things up for them in the next couple of days. As for my games line up over the holidays….

Must finish:
Eternal Sonata – Xbox 360
Castlevania Order of Eccesia – DS
Star Ocean: First Departure – PSP

Luminous Arc – DS (Will probably skip to Luminous Arc 2)
Kingdom Hearts – PS2
Final Fantasy XII – PS2

Grand Theft Auto IV – Xbox 360
Devil May Cry 4 – Xbox 360
Lost Odessey – Xbox 360

for now…..and any others I feel like playing while I have free time.

Wii: Call of Duty: World at War

Treyarch’s latest installment brings what most hardcore gamers need to get them through the title drought on Wii and delivers one of the most brutal and satisfying experience from a first person shooter ever to hit the Wii this year.

The Call of Duty franchise is a mixed bag with two developers taking turns for each installment. Last year’s Call of Duty 4:Modern Warfare by Infinity Ward gathered a large amount of praise for it’s departure from WWII and into the modern times. Now, with the series given to Treyarch, the series returns to WWII and brings with it the updated Call of Duty 4 engine incorporating the dramatic cinematic feel of that installment. With the series back in it’s roots, does the war bring a refresh of the series or does it remain in the past?.

Set in WWII, you play from two sides as either Private Miller of the United States Marine Corps battling the Japanese Army in the Pacific or Private Dimitri Petrenko of the Soviet Red Army advancing on Berlin against the German Nazi. As Miller, you are rescued by Corporal Roebuck, Sergeant Sullivan and other Members and become apart of Sullivan’s Unit taking on the Japanese Forces eventually ending up at the battle of Shuri Castle on Okinawa. On the other side however, Demitri also has a similar situation where his whole unit is wiped out and executed becoming the sole survivor. He is rescued by Sergeant Reznov who aids him in sniper-ring down General Amsel, the Nazi Commander. Years later, captured by the Nazi, Dimitri meets with Reznov yet again and is rescued by him and enters his unit eventually leading to the final confrontation at Berlin. Each mission is broken into segments where you’ll be playing one or the other then switching sides. This adds dramatic tension at each segment so that both sides play out at the same time. The only issue with this is that you won’t feel attached to any of the characters as all you’ll be doing is finding who to shoot next to continue. Overall the story can be completed in less than 8 hours of play on regular. This is further extended by Multi player options. Though the Core campaign is the same as the console version being a direct port over from the console version, the only gripe is that the entirety of the campaign didnt make it. Gone are most of the Vehicle missions and what’s there is a smaller version of the missions from the other next gen versions. The Missions which are there however are impressive as you’ll feel everything from the brutality of the enemies to the explosions from grenades around you. The only thing is that the missions don’t have the same impact as the missions in the previous game as you won’t see something like the Nuke from COD4.

The gameplay is retained from Call of Duty 4 and here is no exception. As with all first person shooters, you’ll be doing the same shoot and cover tactic for all the other games. Added to the arsenal this time is the flamethrower which does heavy damage to enemies setting them alight. Grenades are still as one hit kill as another and you’ll be using the same weapons as you’ve seen from other WWII games. Of course, the Wii is known for it’s control scheme and it’s potential for first person shooters. The controls in this game serve the game well but are nowhere the best. The game uses the Wii Remote IR for aiming and while this works most of the time, it becomes tight when trying to aim in scope mode and lags whenever you need precision aiming. Half the time you’ll just use the Z trigger on the Nunchuck to invoke the aim assist which locks onto enemies in an instant and firing. In essence that becomes more of a clutch for something that theoretically should have more accuracy than using a joystick to aim. Aside from the main campaign is the impressive multiplayer wifi modes. This allows players to play online over Nintendo WFC though aren’t as fully fledged as the next-gen versions missing CTF,Vehicle, Zombie and co-op play modes. What you have left though is well executed and is a good example of how online multiplayer should be done on the Wii. You get the typical death match, team death match which allows players to gain experience and levels through kills with custom classes and completing online challenges. The only issue is that it’s limited to 8 players max on a level which means playing 4 vs 4 on team matches.

Visually the game is impressive being pushed by a heavily modified COD4 Engine and this shows in it’s presentation. The game runs at 30fps and only takes a dip during large open fields with many soldiers. Some textures like grass are abit blurry and some models are jaggy but are put to good use given the hardware and the use of a altered next-gen engine. The CG intros to each mission mixing in with film footage does a good job at creating the dramatic environment.
I certainly hope that more production values are given to the Wii version and that developers either recreate the lead SKU with all content on the Wii or else recreate a ground up version for it and not just toss them to a side developer. Trayarch has done a number of Nintendo titles in the past and it really shows the experience they have with the hardware here. You won’t get the same effects as the next-gen versions but you’ll still see chunks fly off soldiers as you shoot them.

The music is wonderfully orchestrated and the sounds of gunfire to the screams of enemies is done well. The dialogue is as expected but you’ll probably forget most of it and get right into the action.

Call of Duty World at War is a great title that many should pick up. While it doesn’t have the best controls or outstanding visuals, it does set a standard for what multiplayer should be like. Overall it is definitely worth your time..until Infinity Ward kicks in with the next game.

Story – 6.5
Gameplay – 7.0
Video – 8.0
Audio – 8.5
Overall – 8.2

XBOX360: Fable II

“Who will You become?”, the big question in the latest Action RPG game from LionHead. Putting players in an open world environment and give the player freedom of how their hero progresses that extends beyond the good or evil originally coined by the series. Sequel to the original Fable, also developed by LionHead Studios, the latest installment takes players back into the world of Albion to once again save all of mankind. The team has created an open environment that is fully fleshed out with many new dungeons and towns to explore.This time around however, you won’t be alone on the journey as your faithful canine companion will be tagging along on your quests to become the savior of Albion from the evil clutches of Lucien. But does the game conquer evil or remain on the path of evil?.

The story sets itself in the world of Albion where you start yourself as a poor kid known as Sparrow off in Old Bowerstone with your sister Rose where you meet a merchant who sells you a magical music box which he claims can grant one wish . After acquiring enough gold, Rose makes a wish to live in the nearby castle but the box vanishes and disappears in a flash of light. Later that night, Sparrow and Rose are wakened by a guard and bought there otherwise. Meeting Lucien, the owner of the castle, he tells them to step in a circle of blue light after they tell him about the music box. The Circle of blue light then turns red and he learns that they are not anyone of the three heroes but a fourth. He shoots Rose and then shoots Sparrow out of the window. Luckily Sparrow survives and get rescued by Theresa where ten years later, Sparrow (the player) are told that they are a descendant of a great hero and destined to be the downfall of Lucien who is restoring the great Spire which grants enormous power. Accompanied by your trusty dog, your great journey begins. The plot plays out well, though, short as you can expect to finish the story in about 7-8 hours of playtime and after that there’s a few additional quests which can take a few more hours to fully complete. You won’t find yourself getting lost as there’s always a golden trail which shows you the way to go to the objective.

The whole gameplay in Fable II revolves around choice and what the player chooses to pursue. These decisions ultimately affects the world around them. You can choose different genders and different outfits for your characters and make decisions in the story which will affect the economy, environment and outcome. The Action RPG element is when you traverse the lands of Albion going into dungeons and caves battling pirates and bandits. The combat is broken up into close quarter melee, ranged attacks and magic each being assigned to a face button. Though the combat does have some depth to it, the magic attacks don’t seem be doing much damage as you don’t really see the force of the attack. The other issue is that trying to do a high level spell incurs a tremendous amount of lag time especially when you try to perform a spell straight after a melee or ranged attack. When an enemy is beaten, it leaves behind certain orbs giving experience and allowing you to use those points to gain new abilities and level up existing ones. There is a fair amount of depth to how you spend your experience points on certain attributes but in the end you’ll most likely be either maxing them all out or just a few. One issue is the skills you can pick where alot of them seem to lack any power or usefulness. The ones that seems to be most used is Time control, Raise dead and Shock. These three given a good combination early in the game but you’ll be quickly switching back to magic for the remainder of the game.

A new addition to the core gameplay and giving more personality to your character effecting certain attributes to them is the new expression system. By using to top bumper on the controller, players can use gestures to impress, annoy, scare etc. These expressions are mostly useful only in co-op or in towns where they effect how villagers perceive you. The issue is that the expressions lack depth and seems like a timing based minigame where you’ll just spam an expression just to raise a certain attribute. Owning land and property is also a new part of the game where you can build your own empire and real estate by purchasing property with gold. If done early in the game, alot of challenge will be removed from later portions as you’ll eventually be gaining so much gold that paying a beggar 3000 gold is not a big deal.

The biggest addition to the game is your dog. The dog accompanies you throughout the entirety of the game and aids in finding dig spots and treasure. The dog is your only friend on this long journey and this greatly helps your journey as you never feel alone. There’s always someone there with you all all times and he quickly becomes a valuable asset making the game feel more personal.

Visually the game looks good whether in a town or roaming across the land. Your hero is modelled well and will take scars if you die in battle and you’ll see any items you attach onto the hero appear on them. There is a small amount of pop in occurring in towns and some lag with magic but they don’t take anything away from the experience. The big issue is the people where you’ll see the same reused models time and time again and there isn’t very much detail to distinguish one from another. They all look bland and some look disproportionate. Additional effects are used well from the visuals of each of the magic sequences being performed to the CG cut scenes used for some of the story. Each of these shows the high production value in the overall design of the game.

The audio is also impressive where the soundtrack is a mix of choir and orchestral tracks. They all play at the right moments with small melodies when in towns or revving up with enemy battles. The tracks never feel out of place and accompany the action well. Dialogue gets annoying sometimes but is admissible. The speech for the citizens of Albion however are well produced and the amount of varied phrases will surprise most. They all have something different to say and hardly reuse the same phrase over and over again adding to the individuality of each of the citizens.

On my play through however there didn’t seem to be much to accomplish besides the main questions except for real estate and achievements and hopefully LionHead will fix these with the upcoming DLC adding more quests and a new island.

Overall Fable II is a satisfying sequel to it’s predecessor and fans will like the new presentation and style of the game. There still is a few things that needs to be fleshed out abit more but those looking for a solid action RPG, look no further.

Story -8.0
Gameplay – 9.0
Video – 7.5
Audio – 9.0
Overall – 8.4

Anime: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

This time I decided to do a review on something completely different from what i usually do.

The Girl who leapt Through Time is spiritual sequal to a Novel written by Yasutaka Tsutsui in 1965. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda and produced by Madhouse in 2006, the film brings together a lively tale of a young girl who gains the power to time travel, though, this isn’t anything new that hasn’t been used in film literature before. Of course, along the journey there are various pitfalls and realizations she goes through and soon enough does she start to realise about her actions effect her and those around her. But does the film bring a refreshing take on a tried and used formula or does it end up back in time?.

The film tells the tale of Makoto Konno, a girl attending High School in a district of Tokyo who, after enduring a horrible day ends up with the ability to travel back and forth through time. Upon realization of this new founded ability, she goes to her Aunt who happens to be the lead in the original novel. At first the ability proves to be a useful ability to correct her horrible day and easy way to fix things but no sooner does she realise that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Further complications arise when she realise the effects of the power on others around her and especially on her close friend Chiaki Mamiya. The story is light hearted and compelling at times and the conclusion really brings the idea of self awareness and maturity. On my first watch however, I said that story felt too contrived and pointless as there wasn’t a clear cut resolution to the story but on the second watch I am reminded of what I originally enjoyed about the movie. The film isn’t action packed and it’s not meant to be, it simply tells a tale of a girl who learns from her mistakes taking her new ability for granted and learning from those mistakes. the whole theme of “Time stops for nobody” in combination to some of the more intense moments serves the flow perfectly. At first you’ll feel the simple youthfulness of the story then you’ll really feel the emotions of Motoko and feel attached and the major plot twist near the conclusion will really surprise viewers. It really shows how much character development there is to her character. Overall the plot really delivers a satisfying feel good storyline with well developed characters.

Visually the film doesn’t break any new boundaries, but it helps the overall aesthetics of the film which is more focused on telling a good story.In this sense the washed out visuals add to the youthfulness of the film. You won’t see much in line of obvious and overused CG except for the time travel sequences but this is probably a good thing as it would break the nature of the film and any connection to the audience it may have.

The Seiyuus each do a wonderful job. Riisa Naka plays the big role of the young and naive Makoto and plays the part well, never feeling too disconnected with the character. The music used is both light and cheerful and becomes more dramatic to the end. It fits with the narrative well and never feels out of place.

Overall, The Girl Who leapt through time is a wonderful lighthearted tale of a girl learning one of life’s lessons and though it definitely won’t appeal to someone looking for alot of action, it still is a very good film and still recommended to anyone who likes anime and those wanting an excellent feel good movie.

Story: 9.5
Video: 7.5
Audio: 9.0
Overall: 9.0

Wii: Happy Dance Collection

(NB: As the title is completely in japanese not everything listed in this review is completely accurate)

Happy Dance Collection is a title from Namco Bandai which strikingly looks familiar to longtime running IdolM@ster. Though looking very similar, the title does have one big difference….it’s on the Wii. The title itself feels and players like a parapara simulator using the Wii remote as a baton. Voiced by popular Seiyuu Mizuki Nana, the title offers a unique experience which is hampered by
some minor control issues and a limited song library.

The game offer starts offers the player a variety of play modes. Story mode has you playing young Ai who is discovered at her highschool by a talent agency and set on her way to stardom performing on stage….and that’s about how far the story goes. Along the way you’ll meet your manager and Yuuki, the lead male in the game. The basic premise of the story is set out in a number of location accessible on a map which each composes of a number of songs and then a concert containing a number of songs. Each time you play a song, there is a score you have to meet to continue. Of course, players to these types of games won’t get anything new here and you’ll be treated to gaining money for completing each stage and unlocking some new content in the form of stages or new accessories which can be bought from the shop. There is also the “On Stage” mode for players to play a certain song from the games songlist though a majority still needs to be unlocked eventually unlocking Hard which has no on screen “Notes” for you to follow. There are also Co-operative modes for two players in the form of a Versus mode and a Mini Mission mode which seems like a slim down version of story mode which allows both players to share a single bar to pass a song. Other modes include a “Dress up” mode for customising Ai or Yuuki and tutorial mode. That’s basically all there is to the game.

The gameplay is pretty unique in the way that the game requires you to practically dance to the song to register a hit and this is where things get problematic quickly. Patterns will appear onscreen requiring the player to perform a certain motion in time to the music and the problem is with how sensitive the Wii Remote is. Half the time you’ll think you have performed the right motion but the game delivers a miss instead. These become apparent and fustrating early in the story mode. Once you get used to the motions however as a majority of them repeat, you’ll be having a hard time achieve the high requirements of songs in story mode required to pass them but you’ll definitely need to memorize them for the Higher difficulties. However I found that the best way to score is to actually follow the character’s movement onscreen which helped greatly. There definitely is a learning curve to get how to do the movements but having to perform the movements with the character onscreen is impressive as it actually detracts cheating by random wagging of the remote.

Visually the game is alright with Anime Stills and backgrounds portraying the story though it is very simplistic. The dancing is well done but the character models are jaggy and could of had the cel shaded treatment done to them. The stages are nothing to be amazed about as they all seem similar and devoided of any background dancers to accompany your dancer. This is extremely notice able in coop as there’s always only one dancer on the screen.

The audio plays itself well, the songlist is not that impressive with only 24 songs over a variety of anime and Jpop but is sufficent given the obsurity of this game and Mizuki Nana fans will be pleased to hear that it includes 4 original songs by the idol.

Overall it is a fun addtion to the Wii that though has a number of issues with controls, is still a fun game nonetheless. The game is fully in Japanese but it isn’t too hard to navigate with limited Japanese Knowledge. I would recommend the game as a fun casual quick play title to anyone who’s into Jpop and Para para.

Story: 5.5
Gameplay: 7.0
Video: 6.5
Audio: 7.0
Overall: 6.5

Wii: Samba de Amigo

Sega’s hit franchise hit’s the Wii and revives the maraca shaking game play of the original Dreamcast game but does the game end up producing a rhythm or does it end up as an annoying instrument?

Back in the glory days of the Dreamcast, Sega produced a hit sleeper title called Samba de Amigo, a game which used a pair of maracas as a controller. Fast forward five years and with the capabilities of the Wii, you’d think that combination would be a success. Little did we know that we were so so wrong.

The game play at its core is a music game similar to Guitar Hero and Namco’s Taiko no Tatsujin. The fun pick up and play casual title delivers at its core a fun experience to many casual gamers and many will find the title to be an enjoyment and will enjoy playing through it’s normal difficulty setting. The game handles by presenting six shake points on the screen where three are for each hand. Basically the player shakes the controllers when a ball hits one of those points through a variation of shaking while tilting up, straight and down. Further adding to this formula is gesture moves where it requires the player to point the controller in some pose to register a hit. While this is all manageable in Normal, the problem is that players of the first game will most probably ramp up the difficulty to Hard and that is where the problems begin. The control scheme allows you to use either two Wii Remotes or a Remote and Nun Chuck and both do alright at first on normal but on Hard mode the game is simply impossible to play. The motion sensor of Wii Remote and Nun Chuck is always off and you’ll find that you’ll be getting “bad”s even though you had the right angle. It’s simply frustrating trying to pull through hard mode and I foresee that many players both old and new won’t even bother playing through the higher difficulties.

Visually the game runs smoothly though it doesn’t push any of the Wii’s graphical capabilities in anyway, but it presents an overall satisfying diversity of bright colours and decent textured models though we would have preferred something that would differentiate it more from the dreamcast game.The game is still visually appealing to most audiences and pulls of a constant frame rate which is required in all music games.

Audio is also upheld with a playlist of Mexican style music ranging from obscure to popular songs which has been covered into that style. All play as you’d expect from a music game of this type.
Beyond finishing story if you manage to beat hard is a bunch of multiplayer modes and some collectables. Other than that you’ll have some fun replaying some stages but other than those there isn’t really anything else.

The game brings some new ideas during its conversion over to the Wii but the end result is still a struggle to handle but many casual players will like the simpleness of Normal difficulty and enjoy playing with friends. Veteran Gamers however will need to take a step back and wait for a more refined version should there ever be another.

Gameplay: 6.0
Video: 7.5
Audio: 8.0
Replayability: 6.0
Overall: 7.2

DS: Call of Duty Word at War

First Person Shooters haven’t always been the best on the DS given the hardware limitations but we’re seen a few arising from the pool of new games. In comes, Call of Duty World at War, the latest incarnation from developer N-Space known for the previous Call of Duty DS title and the newest iteration brings many of the same core mechanics and engine that made the previous title so good. Set in the overdone WWII, does the game freshen what already is served in other games or is it already too stale?

The game is back in World War II and with it comes the same old tried and true formula that we’ve all come to expect from a Word War II shooter. You take on the role in 3 factions. The US, British and Russian solders as they each reclaim and conquer over the Japanese Army and the Nazi’s. The plot isn’t very integral to the experience and you’ll soon find that you’ll mostly be diving head first into gunfire without much care about the overall story. What story there is doesn’t really work itself into the game anyway as most segments and interludes are told via on screen text on the top screen and throwing the player straight into the action. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but we’d love to see more of the quality of the console version’s campaign mode make it’s way into the DS but what already is there is done well. I mean, who really needs a reason to be firing at Nazi’s?. The Gameplay is executed extremely well with alot of the same core design from the last iteration making it’s way into this one. You’ll have a smooth first person shooter that only drops in framerate in a few areas but the underlying core is very well done. Moving is all done via the D-pad while shooting is done by using the touch screen and the shoulder buttons to shoot. Some features are also improved with a single tap of the upper part of the touch screen bringing up sight aim and the guns are now more balanced than before requiring fewer shots to kill. It’s a very streamline experience that works itself well into the overall experience. However, as with the power of the DS, you’ll find some parts where the enemy AI is still pretty clunky as they’ll stand shooting nothing while you mow them down one by one. Utilizing the features of the DS, there are also small minigames here and there with Morse code and healing downed allies. The Morse code is more of a timing minigame while the healing bits feel like a rendition of cooking mama.

Visually, the game is impressive with clear 3D environments and models. It does look abit grainy but it’s normally accepted due to the limitations of the graphic power of the DS but it works. You’ll see impressive battles with bombers and tank missions that requires blowing up houses and soldiers. All the environments are also well done with the temple of the Japanese and the lush environments of the jungle and chaotic Berlin. Guns are also very well modeled with actual 3D aim lock using the 3D gun rather than a static 2d image. It really makes the guns feel realistic.

Also up to scratch is the Audio. Music is very well done with the ambiance of going through caves and ramping up for more intensive moments. The Voices however sound scratchy and probably could use a better sample rate.

The game also includes multiplayer both online and local for 4 players with team modes, CTF and death match options. though 4 players is very lacking, what it has is very well implemented. There are also titles and collectibles scattered around the missions for players to collect but most likely players won’t ever get around to them.

The return to WWII is a good one but the concept is aging and I hope the next series will take this to another setting. The gameplay plays well but the random minigames still need refinement and the sound quality is abit lacking. Online play is a start but very limited compared to the console counterparts. With other ds titles being able to support up to 8 players, I hope we’ll see more players on multiplayer. Overall the game is a good step up from the previous entry but there are still areas to improve.

Story: 5.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Overall: 8.0

Now Playing…

This week is terrible…an exam coming up.

In the meantime i’ve been catching more time on Fable II on Xbox 360. It’s a simple game that has a couple of bugs. Some of them are game crashing but a majority are just exploitable. The money generation in the game is a joke. As soon as you earn one property, you can simply change the time on your Xbox and gain heaps of Gold. I also find that there really isnt much to do besides achievements and Properties which is the main way to become rich.

The other game on 360 is GTA IV. The game has been simplified serverly from GTA:San Andreas on PS2 and now there’s no property. I’m still wondering how anyone can get rich from the game. Other things is that the physics engine now makes car handling a bit tricky but the story is still there. I don’t really find Nikhil a like able guy and michelle screams whore. The police is now easier to escape from and it really feels like it’s been simplified for a broader audience. Then again, the mature content doesnt help this in anyway.

Castlevania: Order of Ecceia is awesome. On the DS it really shines of the castlevania franchise. Playing Shonoa???(Need to check), it’s not really only a side scroll platform game but hybrid with RPG elements. The boss fights are both challenging and fun at the same time without every being too excruciatingly difficult and becomes more of a puzzler than a battle where learning patterns is the way to go.

Star Ocean:First Departure on PSP is looking good. The characters are still in 2D but the backgrounds and settings are all visually upgraded to 3D. The story is ok but i feel that the pacing is bit slow and because of the variety of paths, i find myself not wanting to play because i want to make sure that the path i’m choosing obtains the best ending. However there is a weird bug in the battle system where the game doesnt like layering character over each other so when there’s another character on your side, the character moves to the other side to attack. It’s kinda annoying and shouldn’t be occuring on an RPG that is upgraded to fit current standards. It’s still random battles but you’d expect that since it is trying to retain it’s original formula.

That’s it for now!.