Miami Law DS Review

Miami Law, developed by Hudson Soft,is a new upbeat take on the whole Visual Novel style games drawing influence from franchises such as the Phoenix Wright Series. Miami Law, however, moves away from the bunch by presenting a plot similar to a typical 80s American police drama and combining these with a classic option based adventure and action style gameplay. Can this be a completely new take on the formula or should this stay back in the 80s where it belongs?

The story in Miami Law has you following two lead characters which at points allows you to continue the story following one or the other. The first has you playing Miami PD detective Law Martin, who is undercover in a well known drug syndicate known as funny enough, the “Miami Syndicate”. His past however has been shaken up by the loss of his ex-partner Sam Brown and now he helps take care of Sam’s Sister Jessica Brown. The story unfolds as he becomes teamed up with the second lead character, FBI Agent Sara Starling who is also after the same goal, taking down the syndicate. The Story spans across the five scenarios the game presents with a couple of twists and turns making what the game calls cases more similar to “episodes” instead. The issue is that these episodes really makes the entire experience of the game become more like one long dragged out movie. Overall the story does have a couple interesting moments and plot twists but needs more with character development especially with the banter between the two leads.

The gameplay basically follows the standard with all games of this genre. You scroll through lines of text/dialog and travel to locations via menus and can search the environment using the options given to you. Occasionally these segments are broken up with short minigames which are mostly minigames. The problem is that most of these minigames lack depth and control terribly especially with the driving minigame which takes a couple of seconds for the system to recognise you command if you don’t use the buttons on the bottom of the screen. However, the minigames do fit the context of the plot and none ever feels out of place in the narrative.

Presentation wise, Miami Law takes a stylised 2D anime-ish look with nice 2D Character designs. The problem is with the 3D minigames which look blocky and jaggy without much detail. You can pretty much tell that careful attention has been paid to the story and 2D work than the minigames that seem like they were added in after everything else was done. The music in Miami Law is sufficient with appropriate sounds which fit the setting. There is however no voice work for any of the dialogue.

Overall the game isn’t a massive ground breaker but does a decent job in presenting an engaging fact paced police action story with branching narratives and plot twists. The only issues are the low quality minigames coupled with very cliche characters. The game is entertaining and anyone who likes text adventure and action can easily find something to enjoy from this game.

Overall 6.0

Wii: Case Closed – One Truth Prevails: The Mirapolis Investigation

Cased Closed or Detective Conan as it’s known in Japan is a manga series by Gosho Aoyama. Having spawned an anime, a couple of movies and games the franchise makes its first installment on the Wii with Case Closed – One Truth Prevails: The Mirapolis Investigation utilizing motion and pointer capabilities of the Wii. Many anime to game adaptations in the past have been mediocre at best but does this one break the trend or is this one case not worth solving?

The story starts off with a flashback years prior with a scheme being hatched in a hotel room and a car accident. Fast forwarding to the present players follow Conan Edogawa and his friends, led by the beautiful Rachel Moore and her father, Detective Richard Moore to the opening day of the newly constructed resort “Mirapolis”. Upon reaching their destination through an underground tunnel they meet an upbeat maid C.J aspiring to become a detective who shows them around the Resort and it’s many guests. During their free time using the local arcade on the resort, Conan and Aida head off on a walk and upon entering one of the pools in the gym area they shocked to find a body lying on the walkway. The rest of the game has you finding clues and using deduction to solve the mysteries behind the murder.

Broken up into four acts, story progression is told through cutscenes which is just 2D character portrait conversations which have to be triggered while you are exploring. Each act has its own mysteries to solve by finding clues and piecing them together and then a small recap which requires picking certain clues from the various mysteries of that act. The story has some interesting twists and turns but is far too short as many players are able to get through the entire game in less than 6 hours. The only issue is that, the story never gives you any back story to the anime/manga so mainly fans will enjoy the story to its fullest extent but it does provide enough that those new to the franchise will still be able to understand the story.

Though the story had some interesting points, the gameplay didn’t. Simplistic at best, it becomes heavily flawed and for the most part, you’ll just be wandering the hallways and rooms of the resort finding clues told by certain characters to add to your notebook which you then use in a “Clue chain” to deduce the “mystery” behind each of the crimes. The problem is it’s never clear to the player exactly what you should be doing where instead you’ll just be wandering hallways time and time again and talking to the same characters until you finally find a “trigger” point to progress. The notebook does provide some idea about your objective but when it’s as ambiguous as “Talk to everyone for clues” and only 3 out of 10 characters have any clues it’s just tedious and annoying. The getting the clues themselves is also rather pointless, as they often refer to mystery elements you already know from the first cutscene and there’s usually nothing new to learn from them. You’re basically unraveling a mystery which you know a majority of already and it just reveals the way the developers tried to stretch out the length of the game.

Aside from the main story, there are a small number of mini games for earning points to unlock music and other items. One of them utilizes the IR pointer of the Wii Remote which works alright but the accuracy and reaction time of the pointer is mediocre as there is some lag to it. The others are based on motion controls and the direction you swing. The issue is that it never detects the motion correctly and most of the time you’ll be frustrated with doing the correct motion but having a totally different result which is only aggravated by the added lag. Aside from these minigames, there isn’t any incentive to play through the story again.

Visually, straight out, this game lacks any polish in presentation of a typical Wii title. This can be seen in its heavily polygonal and lack of detailed structures and character models, unintuitive menus and inconsistent quality so much so that it can be compared to either a gamecube title or even a N64 title. That said however, there is a consistant framerate which holds throughout the game. The buildings and floors themselves are repetitive; you’ll see the same wallpaper and same floor design as the floor below or above it varying only with certain floors which play a key role in the story. Most of the dialogue and cutscenes are portrayed with 2d character portraits on screen which works for the most part and is probably the most well delivered part especially when seeing the transition from exploring gameplay to a cutscene. The soundtrack however is highly repetitive with only 2 or 3 songs in the whole game, one of which plays repetitively every time you are exploring which is unfortunately, a large part of the game. Character voices themselves are taken from the Dubbed Anime series and doesn’t become too annoying with a well written script that doesn’t reek of clichés or cheesy dialogue. There is however times where characters seem too whiny but those who can’t stand the Dub will be pleased with an option for the original Japanese voices.

Case Closed – One Truth Prevails: The Mirapolis Investigation attempts to add another title to the growing mystery adventure genre on the Wii but ultimately falls short with its execution and design. The lack of any depth to its gameplay coupled with a cumbersome camera and short length hinder the experience one might want out of the title. The game will mostly appeal to fans of the Anime/Manga series and those new to the series or looking for a title with a richer experience should stay clear of this one.

Overall 5.2/10

Anime: Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~ Natsu no Sora ~

After watching through all of the episodes in this anime, it leaves me to think about how well crafted the whole series has been from start to finish so much so that I couldn’t just move on without writing my thoughts and impression on the whole series.

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na koto ~ Natsu no Sora ~ is a continuation of the Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto (Someday’s Dreamers) series and while it doesn’t have any direct connection to the original , they both contain the same style narrative which isn’t at all a bad thing.

The Story follows Sora Suzuki, a Mahou Tsukai or magic user who travels to Tokyo to undergo training to become a Mage. The narrative is told through the everyday life of Sora and her companions as they face life’s ups and downs through their interaction with their clients who send requests to the magic council for service. Along the way, Sora learns about the reality of life, how important it is and the repercussions of being a magic user. The narrative starts off slow but eventually picks up as you get used to the style and contains a number of plot twists here and there. The fact is, that it is very well crafted with many important themes and ideas which allow the characters to develop essentially generating a bond with audience. This becomes increasingly so with Sora and Gota whom both have difficult pasts which anyone can relate to. Though surprising, the anime is very down to earth even given the magic nature of the story, to the extent where you could possibly switch that out for something else and it’ll still work. The only downside is the last couple of episodes which though is still well delivered through setup for the climax is abit disappointing but is crafted in a way that it tries to reduce the impact from it by presenting it from other characters perspective giving an optimistic look for the future.

Visually, this anime looks stunning. The production quality really shines through CG backgrounds which appear practically photo realistic and at times you’d probably mistake it for an actual photo. The only downside is that it does however give off an uncanny aspect where, for example, a field that looks real should have long flowing grass from the wind instead seems static and lifeless like as if time stopped. There are also times where they break the flow by showing these backgrounds while characters are speaking giving the impression that the video has lagged as they seem like slideshows, but this is only one small aspect that is easily overlooked by the great story and character development. The character designs themselves though more simplistic than other anime are still able to convey emotion and it’s simple nature further highlights the “slice of life” nature of it’s narrative.

The Audio is great with a nice warm theme song “Fly Away” by Thyme whom I’ve come to love and even have their albums. There is also quite a number of original songs played on guitar in certain episodes that adds to the unique style of the narrative. The voices for each character are also well delivered especially Kuroda and Asagi both whom has a hostility tone but you can sense a kindness to them. Sora is especially well portrayed with an innocent and optimistic tone yet still has a lot to look forward to in life. Gota who is hard to like at first eventually grows and matures in character.

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~ Natsu no Sora ~ has been a great watch and while most will probably be shrugged off by it’s slow pacing and animation style, those willing to devote their time into looking deeper beyond the surface will find a much rewarding experience.

Overall – 8.5/10

– I know this post needs pictures…will update later.

XBOX360: Mirror’s Edge

Free-running/ Parkour is nothing that we haven’t seen already but combine that with a first person perspective and platforming elements and it’s a shines anew. Mirror’s Edge, a first person platforming game from the developers of the Battlefield Series DICE, sets to break new ground by combining genres which we’d never think would go together into a package that delivers in innovation. Renown more for First Person Shooters, the Swedish Developer takes a break from the genre to produce an entirely different experience receiving critical acclaim from its showings, but does the Mirror still shine or has it become dull?

Mirror’s Edge takes place in an unknown city governed by a totalitarian regime which monitors all communication and surveillances it’s citizens in order to bring down crime and keep order. This Utopia however, is in fact a dystopia robbing the citizens of their privacy and removing any free speech against the government. An electoral campaign is underway with the current Mayor Callaghan seeking to retain his position. However, there is a new candidate Robert Pope, seeking to bring about vast changes in the way the government runs. This is where you take the role of Faith Conner, a “runner” skilled in the art of Parkour whose sister Kate becomes a suspect framed with the sudden murder of the new candidate. This leads Faith on a mission to prove her sister’s innocence and find the people responsible. The story plays out in both brief in game cutscenes and sequences of 2d cutscenes shown at the start of each level taking on the look and style of flash animations. The problem is that narrative development is devoid of any emotion because of the limited nature of the cutscenes and while in first person, you can never really become attached to Faith because you never see her. Another issue is its length; the story mode ends way too soon before you even feel a sense of accomplishment and with only 9 chapters to play through, skilled players can beat the game in a matter of 6-7 hours. Once you master story mode, there is a large number of speed runs which will give speedrun fanatics a good run for their money.

The game play revolves around the theme of freedom and speed. Most of the time you’ll be running to get from one point to another point clearing obstacles that are directly in your path using whatever path you want. There are however, times where you’ll be either chased or the chaser and these help to add variety to the main campaign. The environments are also mixed with different locales and buildings but most of them have the same look and feel. There are a few varieties with a subway, sewer and ship levels but other than that, you’ll be spending most of your time going up lifts and enjoying the vantage points of the rooftops. Though the game enourages finding different methods to travel from one point to another, the problem is when the game forces combat upon the player breaking the free roaming aspect of the game which occurs more often as you progress through the narrative. The Controls in Mirror’s Edge feels clunky at first but it eventually works and feels right as jumping over obstacles is controlled by your left bumper while crouching is by the left trigger. Combat in the game is broken up into 2 categories, gun and melee performed by either a face button or right trigger. Unfortunately, none of them are well executed. Gun combat is mediocre and melee combat is clunky and robotic as they serve as merely quick time events having to press a button at the right time.

Mirror’s edge uses a first person perspective for the large majority of the game and combining this with the Unreal 3 Engine delivers a vibrant world with mixes of colour to serve as runner’s vision. The use of the first person view for the game is unique and serves to give the player a more intimite feel as you attempt and perfom the acrobatics from a personal perspective.
The Mirror’s Edge world shows through the use of colour with the primary focus on white giving a devoid but clean feel to the environment emphasizing the totalitarian government’s hold on its citizens. The game runs at a crisp framerate which hardly drops in framerate which gives the speed factor a plus. There are occasional mid level loads but it does ever detract from the game.
The audio is also up to scratch with an original theme song and soundtrack specially made to give off an ambient feel to the environment which is lacking in life.

Mirror’s Edge is a game full of innovation and unique ideas and it shows. Regardless of whether players like the core gameplay mechanics or not, there’s definitely nothing like it before. While it does have a few issues, the overall package is one that is worth seeing.

Story – 7.5
Gameplay – 7.5
Video -8.5
Audio -8.5
Overall – 8.0

XBOX360: Eternal Sonata

Eternal Sonata is a sleeper title from the Sound Composer division turned developer of Tri Ace, Tri Crescendo. Released in 2007, the title focuses on the life of famed composer Frances Fredrick Chopin and manages to craft an original story around the composer and delivers a package that shines in production values. Tri Crescendo has taken the challenge to create one of the most beautiful and original RPG ever to hit the system but does the tune stay in rhythm or is it a broken note?

Set in the dream of Chopin and broken up into 7 chapters each having a piece of Chopin’s music as it’s name, players begin as Polka, a young girl in Tenuto,a village within the kingdom of Forte.Polka however, is cursed with a terminal illness which has a side effect of the ability to perform magic in the dream world. This leads many people to be afraid of her for fear of contracting the illness. She makes her living selling floral Powder which unfortunately can’t complete with the tax free “mineral powder”, an addictive healing agent which is being supplied by Forte Castle. Eventually she meets up with Frederic Chopin who offers to help escort her as she tries to plead with Count Waltz to increase prices and the story unfolds from there into a war between the kingdoms of Forte and Baroque. Polka and Frederic are not alone for the journey however as they meet many new additions to their group such as the Orphans Allergretto and Beat, Herder Viola, Guardians of Agogo Forest Salsa and March and the group of Andantino comprising of Jazz, Falsetto and Claves.

The story is rich in many themes concerning war, love, life, messages of hope and courage each revolving around Chopin’s life and music. The characters are well written with a good amount of back story to each of them and throughout the narrative, they each show progression as they learn more about themselves and find the answers they were searching for. Polka is the most touching of them as you’ll feel an attachment to her by the time you reach the end. There is a lot of material to take in and the game doesn’t hold back from telling it, as a majority of the dialogue is well written with a large amount of philosophical phrases. The problem is that for some, it may be too much to take in and in combination with it’s slow pacing, does become a bit long winded at times but, if you can look past that, it is still a very rewarding and touching story with a large amount of depth, character development and attachment. Though the story is charming and beautifully crafted, it does come out a bit short clocking in at 20 hours for the main story and 30 for those who take up all the side quests.

The worlds in Eternal Sonata are filled to the brim with many musical motifs and has a healthy blend of imaginative environments with many locales having a strong music presence right down to their name. The majority of the time you’ll be exploring towns or traversing through new areas. Battle encounters are all on screen and can be avoided at will or running at them at a specific direction which are then taken into a random battle field. The battle system in carries on from the system you see in other games such as Tales and Star Ocean employing a roaming turn based system. You can give commands to attack, use special attacks, items and guard. While the system is fairly limited at first, gradually it evolves with limits to the amount of tactical time and placing depth into how you use harmony chains to string special attacks. Chaining the right attacks can add damage and help you out of difficult situations especially in the bonus dungeon at the end of the game and forcing the player to use normal attacks to build up echo chains reduces the abuse of using only special attacks. Of course, you are not the only one able to dish out damage as enemies can easily take out a member or two in a single move in later areas. This is where the guard button helps to get you out of difficult situations to the point where battles can only be won by learning to guard and leaving you dead otherwise. It does seem like a crutch at times, but you’ll be thankful for it once you’re in later portions of the game. Another mechanic, is the light dark system where you and your enemies change attributes depending on whether you’re in light or dark areas. These greatly effect the tide of battle and mixes the action making you choose the correct strategy to defeat them. The battles themselves are played out in short bursts so that players don’t receive any downtime when coming back to the main story. Level grinding is virtually non existence if you play the game normally and resist avoiding enemies but those who do will find normal battles to be fairly easy except for the occasional bosses and later areas. There are also a vast amount of customization with different weapons and abilities you can assign to your character. The only issue is that equipment placed on your character doesn’t show up on your character and only serve to change stat points.

One major problem of the game is the camera. By incorporating a fixed camera perspective, it makes it hard to enjoy some of the game’s visual presentation when traversing areas and quickly becomes a nuisance in battles since you have no control over it’s placement resulting in times where you’ll be obscured by a large enemy and cannot see where to place your character so you ending up hitting nothing.

There are also a number of side quests such as the score collection but most of these can only be completed on a second run through. The score collection mini-game has you collecting score pieces scattered throughout the game and playing them against an NPC to be either awarded a rank and collect an item or booed. While seemingly simplistic compared to other mini games in the genre, it does adds to the overall music theme and gives the player something to do other than the main story. The main issue with it is the trial and error nature as there is no real way to ideally mix and match score pieces but this is overlooked as it is an optional component.

As you traverse the environments, you’ll come to appreciate the colourful and gorgeous visuals the game has to offer. Each town or city you visit is enriched in detail and the character models are all unique and wonderfully animated. Story cut scenes are well scripted with only minor lip sync issues. Though the game has a large emphasis on the music of Chopin and contains a number of his pieces, there are also original compositions by Matoi Sakuraba which are all fully orchestrated. The voice acting is pretty solid but does get annoying at times where there is long dialogue.

Eternal Sonata does the Xbox 360 justice with an imaginative story and deep battle system which offers JRPG fans a rewarding experience. It maybe a bit cliche but the story is one of a kind and you won’t find anything else like it. Chopin’s tale has proved itself to be some worth hearing. This is definitely a must own title for all fans of the genre.

Story – 9.0 – exceptional but slow story telling with a large amount of themes and morals in combination with an original plot combining real and fantasy, background info of Chopin is excellent

Gameplay – 7.5 – Fun and evolving battle system with some depth, Camera issues, limited exploration, Linear environments

Video – 9.0 – Colourful and charming environments with plenty of detail, Excellent character and enemy models.

Audio – 8.5 – Orchestrated soundtrack with many piano pieces with real pieces from Chopin. Excellent composition, Voice acting sometimes annoying but passable.

Overall – 8.5

DS: Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

Hitting the DS for the first time for the franchise, the Prince of Persia series is back re imagined for the Nintendo Portable. Headlining the DS version is Ubisoft Casablanca responsible for the handheld versions of Rayman Raving Rabbits and while the Next gen versions have been praised highly for it’s reinvented style how exactly has the duel screens re imagined the platform genre for the prince?

The story in Prince of Persia : The Fallen King differs from it’s console counterparts where it begins with the Prince in danger. Whilst seeking sanctuary in a deserted kingdom, he finds that it has been touched by an evil “corruption”. As the Prince seeks a way to protect himself from the corruption, the evil has spread to warp the environment creating obstacles and traps. Along the way,the Prince discovers a creature who is partially corrupted, the Magus. The story is told mostly through stills and text and hence can be easily skipped and overlooked. It never really connects with the audience and Magus who becomes your partner rather than Elika in the console version doesn’t have the same sympathy and emotion as you feel for Elika.

The game is basically broken up into levels containing a number of stages. Each of these stages has various platform puzzles and jumps to get from start to finish. While it is fun to start off with, there really isn’t much to the stages as the top screen basically shows you where you start from to your finish point without much additional exploration involved. Half the time the puzzles will basically “guide” you to the finish. While the classic platform style of the original Prince of Persia is still here, the variety and depth surely isn’t. Half the time you’ll be performing the same kinds of puzzles again and again, only in a different order. To add to the limited puzzles is Magus’s magic which can fire orbs at enemies to knock them back or to grip and move rocks. There are a fair number of these different abilities and they do help mix things a bit but you’ll soon find yourself performing the same thing over and over, either jumping from one thing to another or using corruption. The main problem is in it’s controls. The majority of the game is spent using the stylus and a button to activate magic and while this may sound like it could work well, the execution of it isn’t. Sometimes you’ll find that the controls work well while most of the time it’ll either unresponsive or too responsive. This occurs a lot when trying to jump from platform to platform where you’ll find that you either jumped too late or not even at all falling into a pit below. It just becomes hellish annoying and really ruins the experience as a normal D-pad would have worked much better giving more response. Once you finish the main story, which can be completed in a few hours, there really isn’t anything else to do and you won’t find a reason to go through it again. The boss battles are interesting but a lack of multiplayer or goals and general lack of anything to do after you’ve beaten the game doesn’t help the value of the game.

While visually there isn’t anything that screams out amazing but what is there is solid with the art style having a more “kiddy” feel to them. Not everyone will like it, that’s for sure but we didn’t really mind it. The sound is your regular mix of clashes and grunts of enemies, other than that the music is fine for most part but doesn’t do anything to really stand out.

Prince of Persia: The Fallen King attempts to relive the classic Prince of Persia games and while it is a fun normal platformer which doesn’t do much to expand the genre, it’s annoying controls will probably be a turnoff for many. If you can get past the control issues, it’s an alright game.

Story – 6.0 – okay but can be easily skipped
Gameplay – 5.5 – bad controls, repetitive levels
Video – 6.0 – Decent 2d side scroll.
Audio – 7.0 – Some orchestral tracks
Overall – 6.2

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.

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

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