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Relytia "T.M.H" RSS Feed (Portland, OR)
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Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor - PlayStation 4
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor - PlayStation 4
Price: Click here to see our price
101 used & new from $25.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare, special kind of game, January 30, 2015
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Once in a blue moon, or approximately half a dozen times each console generation by my estimation, we get a licensed game that rises up beyond the mediocrity expected of it and ends up being something special. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is undoubtedly one of those gems. Not only is it a great licensed game, it's a great game PERIOD, and one of the first this gen to actually attempt new ideas I have not really seen anywhere before. Not only is this easily the best game set in Tolkien's Middle Earth setting since the Lord of the Rings movie tie-in games from way back in the day, I think it's the best Middle Earth game ever.

The game's story takes place between the events of The Hobbit and the The Lord of the Rings, after Sauron's defeat by the white council and before the Fellowship of the Ring is formed. You play as Talion, a ranger of Gondor stationed on the Black Gate. He lives a life of relative peace with his family until one day they are besieged by sinister servants of Sauron along with an army of Orcs and Uruk-hai (the smarter, fiercer, stronger orc variety seen in FotR). These villains proceed to ritually sacrifice his family in front of his eyes before turning the knife on him. Rather than perishing, however, Talion's tragedy calls an unknown, amnesiac Wraith who joins with him in some strange union that keeps him alive and in seemingly good health. Talion and the Wraith join forces to put a stop to Sauron's machinations. Each has their own motives for doing this, Talion's quest being one of revenge and the Wraith's a quest to rediscover their own identity. The game also dives heavily into the history of Celebrimbor, the legendary Elven smith who crafted the original rings of power.

On paper, this all sounds like it should be exceptional, especially for hardcore fans of Middle Earth since there's so much central lore explored here. Some of the concepts might seem screwy enough that it'd be non-canon to the books, but I believe it is considered canon to the movie universe version. Sadly, though, the game fails to really deliver on the great story potential. SoM is just not very good at exposition. Talion isn't a particularly interesting or likable character. He's about as generic a gritty protagonist as you could imagine, and often his behavior is inconsistent, one moment acting in a noble, selfless way, the next being rude and alienating his allies and friends for no reason. The Wraith is rather emotionless and bleak, like a more depressing Spock. Quite often, supporting characters are introduced and dropped from the plot before you ever have a chance to really know them or see them develop even to care. Many cutscenes are obviously designed to have emotional punch, but they fall flat far more often than not because of that. You're more likely to scratch your head than laugh at the out of place humorous scenes or tear up at tragic ones. Honestly, a lot of details regarding many of these characters, including key ones, are relegated to the in-game codex/appendices. It's almost Final Fantasy XIII levels of bad in that regard. Yikes. The plot also has major pacing issues too, some events flying by way too quick and others being unnecessarily drawn out. Many of the big plot boss fights are disappointingly anticlimactic. Same can be said for the ending as well. I also found that the voice acting is hit or miss. Thankfully the main two characters, Talion and the Wraith, as well as some supporting like Gollum, have excellent voice overs, but others are lacking. One dwarf character whose Scottish accent is laughably inconsistent, really stands out. So in summary, SoM's story is undoubtedly its weakest component and the only aspect I'd describe as a "con." It just seems like a major shame that a game set in a universe so ripe with potential for an amazing story flops in that regard. Thank goodness the rest of the game is so good. I suppose it's OK that the main plot isn't all that great, because the game's unique mechanics create excellent organic stories on their own. More on that later though.

At its core, SoM is what you'd get if you took Assassin's Creed and the Batman Arkham games, refined and improved their mechanics to be even better than they already were, and threw them in a blender along with some Wraith superpowers. There are two fairly big regions of Mordor you get to run around and stab Uruks in, and each area is littered with bonus mission objectives to do, collectibles to find, and challenges to undertake. There are plenty of places to sneak, parkor, and play around in. There's a big emphasis on stealthy, sleek assassin-like gameplay. This is all trademark AC stuff, but I find SoM pulls it off more seamlessly. Everything just feels smooth. The combat system is straight up pulled from the Arkham games, but I actually find SoM's take on it to be more responsive, visceral, and satisfying. The bonus/challenge missions themselves are exceptionally well designed, putting the excellent environmental level design to great use through varied application of the mechanics. These missions are important to undertake too, as there's an extensive upgrade system that requires you to to do in order to dig into it, which I loved doing. The upgrade system is awesome as well. I found myself excitedly unlocking new abilities frequently, and each one adds tons of new gameplay possibilities as well as an ever-growing sense of power. The upgrade progression always insures you'll feel powerful without feeling TOO powerful as the game switches things up frequently to keep you on your toes. Each of your three weapons - the stealthy dagger, the brawler's sword, and the ranged time-slowing bow - mix together to compliment any play style and can be combined in a seemingly limitless number of ways in each scenario. You can also upgrade each weapon with runes you acquire from defeating Uruk captains or war chiefs. The level of rune and its affects is largely dependent on how you tackle the captain. I haven't even mentioned how you can put environmental hazards/traps/tricks or the many ways you can put Mordor's native wildlife to use (including riding what is essentially a freaking rancor, awesome). Seriously, the core gameplay design in this game is incredible, both in its variety and in its quality.

There is ONE mechanic, though, that makes SoM stand out from other games, and that's in its Nemesis system. Essentially, this is a mechanic that keeps track of an area's local Uruk heirarchy. Each area's Uruk leadership is divided into roughly 20 or so captains and 5 war chiefs. Each of these Uruks have randomly generated looks, personalities, names, titles of renown, as well as personal strengths, fears/hates, and weakness you can exploit to defeat them in gameplay. If some random orc defeats you, they are promoted as a captain. If you're defeated by a captain or war chief, they grow in power and will be stronger the next time you face them. Not only that, but the Uruk society evolves and shifts on its own organically, as captains undertake certain tasks like executions, duels against other captains, recruitment sessions, feasts, etc. to gain power and influence. You can interrupt any of these side mission events, and if you're successful you are rewarded with experience points AND power points, the latter of which are needed to access new tiers of upgrade abilities. It gets even more interesting when you gain the ability to "brand" captains and chiefs to be your sleeper agents, which opens up even MORE side missions as you try to guarantee their success and help them climb the ladder. You'd be amazed how invested you can get into a getting random Uruk captain into high places. This Nemesis system creates so many opportunities for organic stories to develop for each player. I must have defeated the same Uruk, Űkrom the Blade Master, several times in my playthrough. He'd always come back, sometimes ambushing me while I was in the middle of a fight with someone else to get revenge. Each time I defeated him, he'd come back uglier, either with some sort of scar, brace, or, after I exploited his weakness of burning, a sackcloth sack wrapped around his face. Eventually I branded him and made him a war chief. I really got attached to the guy, in a weird way. This kind of stuff happens all the time in SoM, and helps to make it a truly memorable experience. Excellent job Monolith!

All of this occurs seamlessly in a world that nails the kind of presentation the Hobbit/LoTR movies made so iconic. The character designs are all awesome. As ho-hum as Talion's personality may be, he certainly looks awesome, the way a bad!$$ ranger should, and many of his allies feel right at home in the Middle Earth setting. The enemy designs, the Uruk-hai in particular, look fantastic as well. The Nemesis system ensures that each Orc you run into looks and acts genuinely unique (all are grotesque though, lol). For those worried that the visual design would be limited because the game is entirely in the evil land of Mordor, thankfully there's a nice variety to the environments as well. The initial area, Udűn, is the kind of bleak, desolate location you'd expect. However, the second region that opens up to you, the Sea of Núrnen, is beautifully verdant and lush and feels much more like traditional Tolkien. I really enjoyed the weather effects too. In addition to the artistic design, the visuals are stunning on a technical level, with tons of small graphical touches that really bring the game world to life. It's all stunning, making great use of the current gen consoles' hardware. The sound design is also fairly well done. The soundtrack is appropriately tribal for most of the game as you deal with the Uruks, but there's plenty of emotional symphonic Howard Shore-esque music in the soundtrack as well. I really enjoyed the small touches, like the name of a war chief being chanted over the visceral, pounding drums when you face off with him. It's the little things like that that really shine in this game. Like I said earlier, the voice acting is mostly hit with some miss. The sound effects also add a lot to the action, as they make each combat encounter, arrow fired, and stealth takedown really feel visceral. Overall, the presentation in this game is very well done.

So all-in-all, I think it's safe to say we have a winner with Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It's a near-perfect game in every way but the story, which feels like such a shame given the franchise it's working with. I usually find a poor story to be a crippling problem for a game, but SoM's gameplay and presentation is so well conceived and so well executed that it overcomes that handicap triumphantly. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I got the platinum trophy for the game, something I only do with the funnest, most engaging of games. So there's that. I think overall, SoM deserves an 9/10, which is phenomenal by licensed game standards. If Monolith can create a sequel that delivers the same strengths while also improving its weaknesses, I have no doubt it'd be one of the best games of the generation. Let's hope they do so. So if you're a gamer looking for a game that deftly refines already great ideas with some exciting new ones, SoM is definitely worthy of consideration. Buy it, prepare yourself for a unique gaming adventure through Middle Earth, and enjoy one of the best games of 2014.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 31, 2015 9:28 AM PST

Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo 3DS
Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo 3DS
Price: $37.35
120 used & new from $24.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Celebrating Nintendo/Gaming heritage on the go, January 27, 2015
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
The beautiful thing about a new Smash Bros. game is that it means something different but equally special to everybody. To me, Smash has always been about celebrating and basking in Nintendo's fabled history. In every way imaginable, Smash Bros. is the very gaming embodiment of celebration, but it also happens to be one of the best multiplayer games around, one of the best fighting games around, and simply one of the funnest games around. Also, owing to Nintendo's remarkable restraint (you can bet if Ubisoft/EA/Activision had Smash, it'd get yearly full-priced releases), a new entry in the series comes only once a console generation, making each one a genuine event. This particular entry is noteworthy because it is the very first one to appear on a handheld alongside a console version, something fans had begged for years to see. Now that we received it, one question begs to be asked: was it worth it? Is Smash 3DS all it could have been? For the most part, yes it is.

At its core, Smash is all about playing as your favorite Nintendo character, beating the tar out of other famous Nintendo characters, with the hope of sending them off the screen or, at the very least, far enough they can't make it back to the stage. The control scheme is simple enough that anybody can grasp it, but nuanced enough where it takes genuine dedication to master any one of the now nearly 50 strong roster, if you want to. Or you could just pick your favorite character and go nuts for the fun of it all. That's the brilliant thing about Smash, it's easy enough for even the most inexperienced gamer to enjoy, but deep enough to reward skill/dedication levels of pretty much anyone. As far as the mechanics go, Smash 3DS is about as good as it gets. This feels like the ultimate combination of Brawl's level of variety and inclusiveness and Melee's hardcore quality. The roster is fantastic as well, with way more characters than any Smash before. It's truly something special to be able to play as Mega Man, Pac-Man, Link, Toon Link, Ike, Lucina, Kirby, and Luigi (my personal roster). Thankfully, most of the characters feel unique. There are far fewer clones this time around, and even the ones that are there are often different enough to distinguish them on their own. So when it comes to the core of Smash, Smash 3DS nails it.

It is truly awesome to be able to play Smash wherever I go on my 3DS. For being the first Smash game on a handheld, this one is superb. The graphical power of the 3DS is most definitely pushed to its limits here. Nintendo did a great job optimizing this version to the hardware. This is a beautiful 3DS game. That is certainly true technically, but also artistically, as the game shines brilliantly and coherently. Despite having so many different art styles, the game feels artistically cohesive and harmonious; a huge feat to be sure. Things you'd think would hamper the experience, like the small screens, are deftly handled with various visual effects like customization options for character outline thickness and other things. The soundtrack is also fantastic. Featuring most, if not all, songs from the Wii-U version, it's just great to hear all the neat new remixes and renditions of classic Nintendo songs. All-in-all, the presentation of Smash 3DS is top-notch.

Smash 3DS differentiates itself from the Wii-U version by focusing much more on Nintendo's handheld history. This is most evident in the stage selection and collectibles. Whereas Smash Wii-U has a Skyward Sword themed Zelda stage, Smash 3DS has one focused on Spirit Tracks. This is true almost across the board and while the two versions do share SOME of the same, they are mostly unique. This is probably what makes Smash 3DS worth getting for hardcore Nintendo fans alone. To me, the key to "winning" a Smash game is in acquiring its collectibles, trophies namely, and the 3DS version offers tons of unique Handheld themed trophies. Again, to name an example, Smash Wii-U has Wind Waker HDtrophies, Smash 3DS has Ocarina of Time 3D trophies. The differences between the two versions definitely make both worthy of a purchase for hardcore Nintendo fans.

You may wonder then, why did I only give this version 4-stars? The truth is, while Smash 3DS is truly a great entry in the series, it is out-shined in virtually every way by its Wii-U counterpart. Smash Wii-U feels like the TRUE next gen version of Smash. It has much more features, content, modes, stages, and not only more, but better too. Smash 3DS has no multiplayer board game mode, no 5-8 player smash, less trohpies, less stages, less challenges, etc. The unique modes the 3DS version introduces are not very good on their own either, and some of the traditional modes like "classic" pale in comparison to the unique, envelope pushing versions found in the Wii-U version. All that been said, Smash 3DS is still a great entry in the series, and probably equal to Melee in quality. That's a huge compliment from me, as Melee has always been my favorite Smash until the new Wii-U entry hit the series out of the park.

All-in-all, it's hard to be disappointed by the very first handheld Smash Bros. game. Nintendo did a superb job making this feel like its own, unique entry in the series that wasn't watered down or diluted because of its status as a handheld game. Ultimately, any Smash game is all about celebrating Nintendo heritage. Smash 3DS certainly meets that goal with aplomb. So whether you're an old Nintendo fan or a new one, and you want to revel in fabled gaming history while also playing one of the best fighting/party games around on a handheld, Smash 3DS gets a strong recommendation. It's a great little game. Buy it, prepare for some serious fun, and enjoy this nice little celebration of Nintendo goodness on the go.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2015 5:06 AM PST

Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo Wii U
Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo Wii U
Price: $49.07
135 used & new from $43.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ridiculously fun celebration of Nintendo/gaming heritage, January 10, 2015
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
It's hard to imagine a bigger event for Nintendo fans than a new Smash Bros. release. After all, Smash Bros. is, at its core, a celebration of the company that singlehandedly saved gaming and ushered in a new era for the medium that's still going strong today. Nintendo has such a rich history of shaping the industry with masterpiece games, and for fans of the company, it's still delivering gold to this day. To be able to play a game with all these timeless, beloved Nintendo characters, who have grown up with us for the past two decades, all together like this is a joy beyond joys; Smash Bros. has always been the game to take up that mantle. It also happens to be one of the most enjoyable, easy-to-play but difficulty-to-master fighting games out there, even spawning an entire subculture of competitive gaming. Smash just happens to be one of thee best multiplayer games ever as well, FULL STOP. With every release, Smash not only meets the hyperbolic expectations it sets up for itself, it somehow rises above and sets the bar for the next one. This entry, further referred to as SSB4 in this review, does an excellent job combining the hardcore mechanics of Melee with the INSANE amount of content and fan service that the more "casual friendly" Brawl had, and then amps it all up to 11. It's glorious!

At its core, Smash Bros. is a competitive/social fighting game featuring dozens of beloved Nintendo characters beating the tar out of one another, with the ultimate goal of smashing them to their doom off-screen after they've absorbed enough damage. It's easy to look at this deceptively simple design on the surface and say there's not much there, but closer examination shows just how meticulously designed these games are. The battle mechanics are so easy to grasp, but it takes genuine dedication to truly master any one of the now nearly FIFTY playable characters. I'm happy to say that SSB4 has what is probably my favorite balance of any Smash. Like I said, it's a perfect combination of Melee's hardcore competitiveness and skill with Brawl's approachable nature and staggering amount of content. I love it.

The roster in any Smash Bros. game is vitally important to its quality, and this one does not disappoint in the least. There are an insane number of classic and modern gaming icons, some silly, others obscure, and others obvious. Each character is unique with their own strengths, weaknesses, and overall feel. There are some beloved characters that are gone now (bye bye Ice Climbers), but the new additions more than make up for it (the absolutely perfect classic Mega Man character alone makes it worth it). I'm also happy to say they rebalanced a lot of characters I felt were way too nerfed in Brawl. Samus is once again a force to be reckoned with, thank goodness. I think it's awesome how each character plays different enough where everyone has a list of preferred characters that is uniquely their own. For me, it's Toon Link, Ike, Adult Link, Lucina, Luigi, Kirby, and Pacman, but for you it could be totally different. Each character truly is unique and will appeal to different people, and I LOVE that. Overall, the roster in SSB4 is packed to the brime, very well-balanced, and should deliver joy to virtually any Nintendo fan. Bravo!

The stage selection is as epic as the roster as well. Given that much bigger matches are possible in 8-player(!) matches, some stages are HUGE, dwarfing even the biggest stages in past games by a large margin. There's just so much creativity on display, whether it's enjoying the visual/audio splendor going on or the various gimmicks of each stage. My personally favorite right now is the 8-bit Donkey Kong Classic stage that features barrel obstacles and even DK himself who comes out to beat his chest that will send you flying if you come into contact with him. So much fun.

As you'd expect from the series, SSB4 comes with an incredibly robust range of modes to play with, whether you're playing alone or with friends. There's basic 4-player Smash, as well as the new, awesome 8-player Smash. These are just as great as they've always been. There's also the expected single-player "Classic" mode, where you compete in various matches ending with a battle against the Master Hand and new addition of Crazy Hand. Rather than repeat a long story mode like Brawl's "Subspace Emissary," SSB4 introduces 1-4 player "Smash Tour," a mode that essentially combines the board game shenanigans of, say, a Mario Party game, with the core Smash Bros. gameplay where matches give you various rewards and prizes. It's very fun an addicting. Honestly, I could go on and on and on, as there's SO MUCH content in this game, it's insane. Needless to say, there are MANY more game modes you can play around with in SSB4. It's a game that delivers fun and thrills constantly, so if you're worried that there aren't enough activities to keep you busy, don't. This game is stuffed to the rafters.

One of the biggest surprises for me about SSB4 is how much I love the way it implements Amiibos. Amiibos are awesome enough as collectible figures, but the way Nintendo has incorporated them into their games is super cool. In SSB4, each Amiibo acts as a personalized Nintendo pet, basically. You scan them into the system and they start out as level 1, where they are dumb and weak. However, as you battle them, OR let them battle CPUs as you sip hot chocolate and have fun watching, they grow in strength up to level 50, where they officially become the master lol. You can also feed them various items that increases either their strength, defense, and speed stats while also decreasing another. You can also alter their special moves as you would with your own Mii Fighter or custome character. After all this, your Amiibo truly feels like YOUR Amiibo. I must say, it's quite entertaining to watch a team of two lvl 50 Amiibo characters beat the living tar out of an opposing team of four lvl 9 CP characters. The neat/terrifying thing is, they learn too. They become wise to your tricks if you use the same tactics against them. It's sort of terrifying to think they're able to learn like that, but oh well. A world run by Nintendo Amiibo overlords doesn't sound so bad to me if I'm being honest, lol. Amiibos are also great because they're an easy way to get trophies and coins. Turn on an 8-player Amiibo Smash match for 99 minutes and they'll acquire a ton of prizes for you next time you scan them in. Very nice.

For me personally, the biggest goal of any Smash game is trying to get all the collectibles, namely the trophies, and boy does this game deliver spades in that department. There are FAR more trophies in SSB4 than has appeared in any Smash game to date by a large margin, and that's just the Wii-U version. When you take into account the 3DS version and its unique trophies, there is more than enough incentive to keep you coming back for trophy hunting. So if you're a trophy hound like me, SSB4 will keep you very happy. It's also a blast collecting Mii Fighter outfits, musical pieces, stat changing items, and attack move collectibles. There's a LOT to collect in this game, as well as challenges to undertake. Completionists will have their hands full with this one, thankfully.

Smash as a series is always known for its stellar presentation and this game once again raises the bar. There is an IN-SANE amount of music present, full of incredible remixes by mind-boggling amount of super famous gaming composers of classic video game tune. It's glorious! There's so much music by default, it's kind of amazing to think there's way more to unlock as you play. The graphics are also stellar as well. The game just oozes vibrant color out of every pore, and the way it manages to stay coherent visually while juggling so many different visual styles across so many series is admirable. The game is also technically gorgeous as well, except for the returning stages from past Smash games. Stages like the returning Onett or Zelda Temple from Melee, or Norfair and Lylat Cruise from Brawl, look like they're just uprezzed from the games they first appeared in. It's a little disappointing they weren't remade for this entry to take advantage of the Wii-U's power, but ah well, at least they're there. The newer stages made for the game are incredibly gorgeous though. XenoBlade Chronicles' Gaur Plains, Metroid's Pyrosphere, and the Mario Galaxy stage are just a few examples of stages that are splendid both conceptually and technically. The real visual highlight to me are the character models and animation. There isn't a single character, whether they're playable or assist trophies, who doesn't look gorgeous each and every second they're on-screen. Overall, SSB4 nails its visual and audio presentation. It does a fantastic job celebrating Nintendo's history, and that's what Smash is all about, after all.

All things considered, I'd say SSB4 has been a smashing success. The 3DS version did a great job setting the table, but the Wii-U version took that set-up and just blew everything the series had done previously out of the water. This Wii-U version of SSB4 is absolute perfection if you're a Smash Bros. fan. I really cannot think of a single thing it did not smash into the stratosphere. You can tell every minute aspect of it was meticulously and passionately crafted during development, by Nintendo fans for Nintendo fans. Given that this is a series whose soul purpose is to celebrate Nintendo heritage, I'd say it smashed the expectations. Bravo Nintendo! It doesn't matter who you are or who you're buying this for, this is a game that is absolutely essential for every Wii-U library. Get it now! Buy it, prepare yourself for one of the ultimate celebrations of gaming heritage, and bask in the glory of Nintendo!

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster Limited Edition
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster Limited Edition
Offered by Delaware
Price: $46.99
74 used & new from $18.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!" Now in glorious HD!, January 4, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
On the box, this collection is described as an "HD remaster." I cannot think of a better term for this package. This definitely had more work put into it than your run-of-the-mill PS3 HD port collection, and I don't just mean visually too. Overall, I'm pretty impressed by the amount of upgrades these games received. For those who are already familiar with the original Final Fantasy X and X-2 and want to hear about the enhancements/changes the games have in this package, skip the next two paragraphs. If you're new to the FFX/X-2 saga and want to know a little bit more about those games, then I'll try to sum them up in a concise manner.

*Quick reviews for Final Fantasy X and X-2*

Depending on who you ask, FFX is either the last great *traditional* single-player FF game, or the beginning of the end of the series. For my money, FFX is a classic. At the time of its release, the whole gaming community was caught up in its beautiful world and interesting characters. Thematically, FFX is a magical game, filled with beautiful locales and heaps of mystery. There's also a great deal of deep philosophical musings on all sorts of things ranging from religion to dreams to the very nature of existence. MOST of the characters are also likable. Auron is a real contender for coolest FF character ever. The visuals were seriously incredible back in the day, and its art design is still wonderful (this world really benefits from being in HD now), and the music is among Nobuo Uematsu's very best works, and that's saying A LOT. Mechanically, FFX was a pretty great JRPG. There were plenty of things to do, and almost all of them engaging. The battle system is incredibly deep, strategic, and rewarding to master. There's even an interesting, huge meta-game that incorporates the in-universe sport, Blitzball, with JRPG mechanics that are pretty interesting. Even though I don't think it matches up to its immediate predecessor, the virtually perfect Final Fantasy IX, FFX is still a fantastic classic very much worth playing.

FFX-2 is not quite so beloved as X, generally speaking. At the time of its release, the consensus among the FF community was a lot of confused and pissed off fans. It was the first sequel to any entry in the FF series, and it was such a dramatic departure in pretty much every way from FFX that nobody knew what to make of it. Gone was the sweeping orchestral music, replaced by lots of J-pop. Gone was the feeling of a FF adventure, replaced with an almost Charlie's Angels "BOW, PICHOW, KACHOW, let's strike a cheesy pose for no apparent reason" campy romp sort of way, starring Yuna, Rikku, and newcomer Paine (designed to be a female Squall) on their quest to find Tidus. It has been stated by the developers that it was made to appeal more to the large female demographic of X's fanbase, and I'm not sure if that succeeded. I have to admit, some of the game is so cheesy and embarrassing to be caught playing (The scene where Yuna gives another character a message complete with orgasmic sounds is borderline pornographic, and makes me cringe every time). X-2 IS a strange game, no doubt about it. What most haters of FFX-2 DON'T tell you is that, mechanically, X-2 is pretty awesome. The dressphere battle system is pretty great, utilizing a class-style focus in a very unique way. There's always something engaging to do in X-2, and getting to the mountain of side quests is easy and intuitive. The story also features some genuinely well-written parts as well, despite the overwhelming cheese majority. It's not as great as FFX is, but if you can get used to the strange thematic elements, then you may be surprised just how fun and engaging X-2 is as a JRPG.

*Review of this package as an HD remaster*

Obviously, the biggest change is in the title of the package: HD visuals. How does this collection do in that way? Surprisingly well. Despite the fact that the bones of the package here are from an early PS2 title, the visuals in these games look fantastic. Textures have been cleared up immensely, and the lighting and shadow effects have also received attention and look great. The game is in 16:9 widescreen and it all looks fantastic. Because of the transition to widescreen, the cutscenes and their assets have been remade completely and look gorgeous in HD (although you still can't skip them, which is sure to bother some). Perhaps best of all, almost all of the in-game character models have been remade from the ground-up and look right at home on the PS3 system. Auron has never looked more awesome than here. It may not be as huge of an upgrade as some modern full-on remakes and there are some graphical quirks remaining (i.e. hands going through sleeves, hair clipping into clothes if a character moves their head back, some hilarious lip syncing blunders, etc). Still, considering the fact that most HD collections amount to slapdash up-rezed ports and nothing more, this collection looks great. So bravo to Square-Enix for clearly going the extra mile to refresh this game visually. They did a great job.

From an audio perspective, there have been a few improvements as well. Voices are clearer and sound better (whether the voice acting was great or not in the first place is highly debated by fans). Now all aspects of Tidus and Yuna's imfamous forced laughter scene look and sound clearer than ever. Whether that's a blessing or a curse is up to you, lol. Roughly 60 tracks have also been remastered for this game and they sound better than ever. However, the audio enhancements in this package are clearly not as drastic of an upgrade as the visual elements are. Still, X/X-2 have never looked OR sounded better.

Another huge change from the originals comes in the form of additional content. Back in the day, FFX was rereleased with additional content in Japan. We never got that version in the US. Now we do. In addition to some new optional bosses, FFX also gives you the option to try out a revamp Sphere Grid that allows for more customization and challenge. X-2 has some new dresspheres as well as a "Creature Creator" that allows you to capture and train most enemies, including bosses from BOTH games, to use as party members in future battles. I wouldn't describe any of these additions as paradigm shifting, but they are pretty cool additions and it's nice to know we're getting the most updated, complete version of the games. Add in trophy sets for each game, and you get what is pretty much the definitive release of these games.

The package includes several new additions to the X universe's story. There's Final Fantasy X: Eternal Calm, which is a long epilogue cutscene following the events of FFX. It's not a particularly interesting plot,but it does bridge the gap between X and X-2 stories, and that's nice. There's also Final Fantasy X-2: The Last Mission, which is a short expansion of sorts that takes place three months after X-2's ending. I can't speak as to its quality, but I do know that it does change depending on the events that took place during a players' game of X-2, which is neat. Finally, there's a brand new audio drama set a year after X-2 entitled -Will-. I'm always a little hesitant to buy into these sorts of official/unofficial side stories, as they can be really bad at times, but still, I'll take what I can get. Clearly, the main draw of this package is the core X and X-2 games, but all this content at $40 is pretty cool if you ask me.

So there you have it. Overall, I'm very impressed by the work that went into this collection. It's definitely higher-quality than your average HD port. The visuals and audio have never sounded better in these games, and there's just so much content here on just one blu-ray disc, it's pretty awesome. All of this for $40 seems like a steal to me. If you've never played these JRPG classics before, then now is definitely the time to get into them, as they have never looked/sounded/played better than here. If you're like me and you sunk countless hours into the original all those years ago, I'd definitely recommend picking up this package again. I've been loving diving back into the world of FFX again. The enhancements to this version definitely makes it feel new again. These games, and particularly FFX, hearken back to a time when Final Fantasy games were universally hailed for their immersive worlds, great stories, interesting characters, brilliant music, and engaging JRPG mechanics. Now, they're better than ever. So buy it, prepare for a classic FF experience, and get lost in the magical, lovely world of Spira.

Nintendo 2DS Sea Green
Nintendo 2DS Sea Green
Offered by Game Express Online
Price: $139.99
30 used & new from $94.70

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great 3DS option for parents with small kids or gamers strapped for cash, December 1, 2014
Nintendo's 3DS handheld has quickly become one of my all-time favorite gaming devices. We're only two and a half years into the console's lifespan, and we've already been treated to several masterpieces so good, they can easily compete with and defeat many home console releases in terms of quality and overall excellence. It has also been a hugely successful venture for Nintendo, but some people have still held off from buying one. Why? Maybe it's the price that has kept people away. Perhaps parents are afraid their children will break the hinges of the 3DS. Admittedly, one of the coolest features of the system, the 3-D effect, isn't for everyone, either due to preference or age. Well, whatever the case, Nintendo has come out with the 2DS to try and appeal to those people. Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: everything about the 2DS has the same high-quality and attention to detail that is to be expected of Nintendo products, but in my opinion, the 2DS pales in comparison to the 3DS XL in almost every way. You should only consider getting a 2DS in specific circumstances. I'll warn you right now, in order to be as informative as reasonably possible, this may be a long review. If you don't like long, detailed reviews, give this one a pass. You've been given fair warning.

Build Quality and Design: The 2DS' design is quite bold, to say the least. Abandoning the classical clamshell design that has been around for nearly a decade since the original DS (or even the Game Boy Advance SP, if you want to go way back, :P) was introduced is pretty gutsy. Here, we get more of a solid slate chuck design. It's a little shorter than the original 3DS folded out, and actually weighs a little less than the 3DS. On the one hand, this design makes the handheld really tough and a lot harder to break, which is great for kids. On the other hand, this design makes the system a lot clunkier to carry around, and really lessens its portability. Not being able to fold the system makes it much more of a dust magnet, and little incidental scratches on the screen over time are more of a likelihood. All that means is you have to be a bit more careful with where you store it and how you handle it. You can also buy really high-quality screen covers for dirt cheap that will protect the screens, so that isn't much of a problem. Instead of folding the system, there's a slider button on the bottom of the system to engage sleep mode. All buttons have a nice click to them, but are lacking any colorized highlights to label the buttons. Instead, it's just indentations showing which button is which, which gives the system a much cheaper feeling than the other 3DS models. The d-pad itself has a shape similar to the 3DS XL's, but is much, much spongier and the clicky nature has been lessened in comparison to the other 3DS model d-pads. Personally, I actually like it more, but whether others will find it to be a negative or positive change is really up to personal preference. Button placement is different as well. Instead of the buttons, d-pad, or circle pad being to the sides of the lower screen, they're much more central and playing the system feels like holding the Wii U's gamepad, which is surprisingly comfortable. The shoulder buttons also help with comfort as they are much bigger than the other 3DS models and wrap very nicely around the top rounded corners of the 2DS. They also have a nice concave groove to them, making holding the system superbly comfortable. My hands used to cramp up a lot with both the 3DS and the 3DSXL and I was forced to buy grips for both systems to be able to play for extended periods or else suffer from crippling pain in my hands, but not so with the 2DS. This is an incredibly comfortable system to hold, regardless of hand size, right out of the box. Overall, the build quality of the 2DS is excellent, despite the jarring nature of its design.

Sound: Unfortunately, one of the worst aspects of the hardware is the sound design. There's only one mono speaker on the left of the system and while the sound from it is just as loud as the other models, it's simply not detailed or distinct enough to match the other 3DS models (and their speakers aren't that amazing by themselves either, but their stereo set-up is much better than the 2DS single speaker by comparison). Trust me, you'll want to get a pair of stereo headphones to use with the system. Personally, most of the time I don't even play my 3DSXL without plugging in a nice headset or a decent set of speakers, so this isn't that big of deal to me. 3DS games are just much more enjoyable with headphones/earphones/earbuds/whatever regardless of which 3DS system you have, at least in my opinion. Still, some will probably be bothered by the mono speaker in the 2DS, so I must mention it. It sounds great with headphones though!

Screens: The screens on the 2DS are the same size as the original 3DS. Despite what I said a little earlier about the screens always being exposed being a small cause for concern, the 2DS' screens seem to be made of a tougher material than the original 3DS screens, which makes them more resistant to scratches by nature. They're also set into the system deeper, making it harder to brush the surface accidentally. The actual quality of the screens are very nice. Colors are vibrant and bright. The sharpness is very crisp and detailed. One of my biggest complaints about the 3DS is that when the 3D is all the way up, there can be really annoying "ghosting" of images in areas where brightness contrast is high. You don't have to worry about that at all on the 2DS, and that is a big positive in its favor. Overall, fantastic screen quality.

Battery Life: The 3D effect can be a major drain on the batteries of the 3DS(XL). Since it's gone here, battery life has been dramatically improved by default. This is a big boon in the 2DS' favor. Now, batteries last at least 7-9 hours per charge, as opposed to the 3DS' 3-5 or the 3DSXL's 4-6 (keep in mind, that's with the 3D all the way up). That's really nice and makes the system less of a hassle on trips. Granted, without 3-D on, the 3DS and XL do last longer, and all 3DS/2DS models last longer when you turn off power draining features like wifi or lower the brightness setting. That been said, I stand by my statement that the 2DS has great battery life by default, about as good as the 3DSXL with its 3-D turned off.

Backwards Compatibility: This is a bit of a mixed bag. While the colors and vibrancy are very nice, the screen size and pixel resolution leave a little bit to be desired. Playing in native resolution makes the screens so small you can't see very much and the bottom screen becomes super cramped. If you don't opt to use the native DS resolution, then you have to deal with the games taking up the whole screen as normal, but with a little bit of blurriness. Is it that big of a problem? Not really, no. Only the biggest sticklers will even notice any blur, let alone be bothered by it, and most will easily be able to enjoy any DS game on their 2DS.

Lack of 3-D and Price Reduction: What is the 3DS without its most distinguishing third-dimensional feature? The 2DS. Is that a problem? For me, it would be because I love the 3-D effect personally. For those who don't like the 3-D, or for the kiddies, it's perfect. The 3DS' stereoscopic effect is not supposed to be used by kids younger than seven or eight. Until now, those young'uns could only play their games with the 3D slider off, and parents had to pay full-price for a system which would have one of its most prominent features unused. What a waste. Now you can spend much less and get pretty much every other good aspect of the 3DS system, including its most important feature: an excellent library of games. This is an idea I can get behind. Aside from the 3-D effect, the 2DS has virtually every other feature the 3DS has. All software aspects, such as wifi connectivity, access to the eshop, and all on-system programs, are here. The 2DS also comes with a nice-sized SD card so you can download a good number of eshop games. At a cool $129.99 (and don't ever pay more than that for this system), all of this is an absolute steal of a deal.

I have to admit, when I first glimpsed the announcement for the 2DS, I was incredulous. What was this clunky monstrosity before me? A 2DS?! Why remove the very thing that defines the 3DS? What's with that slate design? Has Nintendo lost their mind?! As time has gone by, however, I've warmed up to the idea, and got one for certain occasions where I wouldn't be able to bring my 3DSXL. It has worked out well so far. Let me be clear, the 2DS is certainly not for everyone. If you have the funds, then I would invest it on the 3DSXL over the 2DS any day of the week. Ultimately, the 3DS XL is still the best version of Nintendo's current handheld brand. However, if you're the parent of a child who isn't old enough to use the 3DS' stereoscopic visual effect, a monetarily challenged gamer who wants to enjoy the incredible 3DS library, or someone who'd like a cheaper secondary 3DS-type system, then the 2DS is certainly a worthy investment. If you fall into anything resembling those categories, then I heartily recommend the 2DS. I hope you found my review helpful. Thanks for reading. Toodles
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2015 10:33 AM PST

Good Smile The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker Link Nendoroid Action Figure
Good Smile The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker Link Nendoroid Action Figure
Price: $42.50
112 used & new from $37.72

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome little WW Link figure, November 20, 2014
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Legend of Zelda is my favorite gaming series ever, and The Wind Waker happens to be my favorite entry in that series. Needless to say, I've been waiting for a figure like this for a long time, and now that Good Smile has made one, I can safely say it was worth the wait. This is a fantastic, expressive little figure. The description says "action figure," but make no mistake, this will not function well as a toy. It is a figure meant to be proudly displayed first and foremost, and it fulfills that duty perfectly.

The figure itself stands at around four inches tall, so it's not very big at all actually. Even though it's a bit on the small side, it's super expressive and full of detail. The "Toon" aesthetic of WW is a perfect fit for Good Smile's "chibi" line of figures. In fact, you can hardly even tell it IS in their chibi line since it nails the look of WW so well. The figure and all its parts are very well formed and the paint job is superb, with no blemishes or smudges anywhere to be seen (on mine anyway).

There are a huge variety of poses you can create with this figure too, thanks to all the accessories that are included. You get the core figure of Link himself, obviously. You also get two different sets of arms, one specifically designed to replicate Link playing the actual Wind Waker, and the other for pretty much everything else. There are also quite a few hands included, with some being open and others designed to hold the accompanying accessories (ie, sword, shield, etc). There are two sets of legs as well, one for normal standing and another set for action poses. Link also comes with four different faces: his default gazing serious face, his screaming attack face, his open mouth happy smile face, and even the face he makes in-game while shimmying side to side against a wall. All are very expressive, well crafted, and easy as pie to take off and put on. The figure also comes with a few accessories for Link to interact with, such as the aforementioned Hero's Sword (including a "swishing" accessory you can place over the blade to give it the illusion of motion for action poses, pretty cool), the Hero's Shield, the arm holding the Wind Waker itself, and even a heart container. To cap it all off, there is a stand in the box that pretty much allows you to pose Link and the accompanying props in any way you want. Awesome.

So really, it's a great figure that pretty much has it all. I really can't think of any problems or flaws in the figure. Mine is pretty much perfect. However, it is worth noting that none of the legs or arms have articulated joints, and they all fit into place via simple plugs, not ball joints or anything like that. So keep that in mind as you set up its pose. It's fairly easy to pop and arm or leg off or separate the waist from the torso at the hip if you're not careful. Doing so will not damage the figure in any way, and this design does make reassembly quite a breeze, but it is worth keeping in mind.

Really, the only nitpick I can think of regarding this figure is that you ONLY get the default sword and shield from the early game of WW. I *really* wish they had included the Master Sword and Mirror Shield as accessories too. That would have been amazing, but alas. This is admittedly a nitpicky gripe, and it certainly isn't enough to detract from the overall quality of the figure or to dock from its score, but I figured I'd say it anyway. What IS here is fantastic, and that's all that matters.

I have to express my gratitude to Good Smile for making this figure and bringing it to the states. I have waited for a nice WW figure of Link to go along with my special edition WWHD Ganondorf figure for a long time and this one does not disappoint. It is wonderfully expressive, very well crafted and painted, has tons of different pose possibilities, and is wholly faithful to the colorful spirit and tone of The Wind Waker. I love it! If you're a Zelda nut like me (or you know someone who is) and you have a soft spot for the Wind Waker, then I give this figure my wholehearted recommendation without hesitation. Buy it, pose it however you'd like, and proudly display your love for gaming's greatest series with this lovely little Toon Link.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Offered by EA Electronics
Price: $38.99
105 used & new from $30.00

122 of 165 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate Halo single-player campaign omnibus, online MP not so much (although it is getting better), November 11, 2014
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Hey Folks. Just wanted to point out a couple very important things real quick about the collection and this review.

First, I personally love TMCC. I love it because it was the single-player campaigns that drew me to the series in the first place, and it is still what gets me most excited about upcoming releases. I love Halo's story, its characters, its writing, its pacing, its presentation, etc immensely. Very few gaming series delivers the incredible feeling of adventure, mystery, and discovery the way Halo does. I love it so much that I've devoured most of the extended fiction as well. If you are predominantly a fan of single-player Halo as I have always been, then TMCC is a wonderful product that is and has always been definitely worth purchasing. That is something I have not and will not budge in with regards to TMCC. I have never experienced any problems whatsoever with TMCC's SP content. Whether it's the stellar Anniversary editions of Halo 1 and 2, or the upgraded 1080p/60 fps Halo 3 and 4 campaigns (with Halo 3: ODST {I believe that stands for "Omnipotent Deities Serenade Turkeys"} soon to join them), the collection has been a dream come true for me. Everything plays smooth and runs like a dream, looks better than ever before, and the fact it's all in one convenient place like this is fantastic. You easily get your money's worth just with the single-player content alone. That's my opinion anyway.

HOWEVER, that leads to my second point. The collection's myriads of unfortunate, inexcusable online MP problems are well-known by now. A lot of them have been ironed out, sure, but I implore you to read the reasonable reviews on here that are critical (key word being "reasonable," and they are rare, trust me). That's the beauty of Amazon: their review system will expose you to differing views from people with their own perspective and backgrounds. For me, I approach Halo with a single-player first priority, but it's good to get a well-rounded perspective from people who view it from the MP angle, and there are plenty on here worthy of consideration. The top review on the collection is pretty good in that regard, if a little harsh in my personal opinion. Still, it's always good to get other perspectives. That will help you make sure your hard earned money isn't wasted.

Lastly, this review is ridiculously long. Honestly, it was super long on its own, but given the bizarre and unusual circumstances surrounding The Master Chief Collection and its launch period it has become WAY longer because of all the updates I've had to write about it. I've labeled my review so you can easily skip all these and go straight to the original review at your convenience. Sorry for the length, but again, because TMCC is so unusual, it feels like you'd get an incomplete picture of this release if I just deleted all but one update. So there you go. Hope that clears things up and you enjoy this review. Have a wonderful day. Toodles.

*Update 1/28/14: Well, here we are, a few months after release day and TMCC works very well now. It's just too bad it had to take months to get this game up to a level where it should have been at release. 343 are constantly releasing updates and patches that makes the online component work better in various, incremental ways. Overall, TMCC is worthy of a purchase now, but I don't think it's worthy of anything higher than 3-stars, just because of the principle of it all. The biggest upcoming patch is actually going to be offered to select Xbox Live members as a BETA to test it out before it's released to public. I'll let that sink in for a moment... Yes, 343 are literally holding BETAS for CONTENT UPDATES for TMCC, TWO MONTHS after its release date. Wow. You cannot make this stuff up. I understand that 343 originally wanted to just make Halo 2 Anniversary and Microsoft essentially forced them to take up the mammoth task of making this a collection of Halo 1-4, with each game getting their own various updates. To do this, 343 essentially had to contract out each component of the collection to other companies, with Saber Interactive making H2A, Certain Affinity handling the MP and H2A MP updates, Ruffian Games handling the collection's ports Halo 3 and 4, etc. 343 DID work on the online networking and interfaces, however. Evidently they did test the online components prior to launch, but weren't prepared for the huge load on their servers after release day and ended up having to rebuild them from scratch. This is all very unfortunate and, for me at least, it's easy to feel bad for 343 given the circumstances. It was extremely unlikely that a release of this scope wouldn't release with significant problems, and as it turns out, it did. I don't think 343 are the evil harbingers of Halo's doom the way so many people rush to accuse them of being. The Halo 5 beta proved to me that they're passionate about the series, listen intensely to fan feedback, and want nothing but to give Halo the hyperbolic treatment a legendary series like this deserves. Weirdly enough, I'm more confident in Halo 5 than I've ever been after the beta. Still, this does not excuse the terrible launch of TMCC, a release that should have been legendary unto itself and one that could have cemented people's confidence in 343's stewardship of the series. Sadly, that's not what happened. It just makes me sad. So yeah, TMCC is quite good overall now. It's probably 4-stars good objectively speaking (even though me, Single-player Halo guy would give it 5-stars because I really do "love it" as Amazon says that rating means), but out of principle I'll keep it at 3-stars.

*Update 12/27/14: The title says it all. The game is working better every day. The value here is pretty astounding. There's just SO MUCH content for $45-55, even with its (increasingly disappearing) issues. AND if you were an early adopter of the game, you'll get to download Halo 3: ODST's campaign in 1080p 60FPS (one of my favorite Halo games ever!) AND the classic Halo 2 map "Relic" remastered all H2 Anniversary style. Very classy response by 343 to a very unfortunate flub on their part with such a major release, but things are thankfully getting better every day, and I am merciful. What's there now is a very good value. The single-player campaigns are more than worth it by themselves, the MP is quite fun now, and most of the smaller bugs have been totally ironed out. Hopefully the Halo 5 MP beta runs smoothly on the 29th. We shall see. Until then, take care, and toodles.

*Update 12/19/14: Another small update is in order. Many of the multiplayer issues that I experienced for the first couple weeks of the game's launch have been largely ironed out. The truth is, this game is worth the roughly $45-50 it costs right now based on the single-player content alone IN MY OPINION. Just playing through these campaigns alone will take you about 40 hours to do. To say nothing of the substantial updates that Halo 2 Anniversary has, as well as the smaller visual updates and performance improvements all the other games received. As far as multiplayer goes, the online functionality is much, much better. It's becoming harder and harder to fixate on the failings of the collection now. Of course, many are irrationally going around down-voting any positive reviews simply because they refuse to stop being crybabies, pretending as if the game's problems are still there even after having been fixed. To say this collection is irredeemable and only worth 1-star is nothing short of childish and irrational. Grow up. If you're a fan of Halo's SP like I am, this collection has always been a good choice, and if you love Halo for its Multiplayer like many are, then this is definitely worthy of consideration now. It's only getting better each week too. All that's left to fix are smaller bugs that don't really hamper the experience much anymore.

*Update 12/2/14: This will be a smaller update. After the last few updates/patches, the online MP is working a lot better for me now. Some playlists are better than others, but I haven't had a pretty good time finding matches and staying connected (Maybe I'm just lucky, lol). The BTB and Slayer playlists are the safest bets, it seems. So yes, things are working a bit better than they were before. It's not perfect though. From what I understand 343 has another big patch for later this week. Hopefully that irons out the rest of the problems, but we'll see. Again, single-player/story fans of Halo will be very happy with this package. Even with its issues, it's hard not to get your $60 worth with four fantastic campaigns (with one receiving a full-on Xbox One makeover and the rest receiving nice visual and performance enhancements) and a bunch of neat extras. I've beaten all the main campaigns on heroic difficulty, found all terminals and skulls, and am going through again because it's just so fun. HOWEVER, if you want this purely for MP, it's true that things are better now but I'd still wait a bit for them to make it perfect. Thanks for reading my review. I hope you find it helpful. Take care. Toodles

*Update 11/25/14: Whoo boy! Two weeks, a full-on update patch, and several smaller updates later and we're barely closer to functioning matchmaking online than we were on release day. In fact, it seems that where some issues were fixed, others popped up to replace them. I don't know what to tell you guys. From what I understand, the main cause of the problem is that the matchmaking has to juggle four different games (five if you include Halo 2 anniversary MP), with each one having its own unique engine. I have also read that they've brought in major Microsoft (not just Xbox) engineers in to fix their servers. They evidently tested the game before launch, but not under the kind of load a game this hyped would inevitably bring. For shame 343. To try and make good with players who bought the collection and had to deal with these issues, 343 is planning on giving everyone some sort of compensation. My fingers are crossed for free downloads of the SP campaigns from Halo 3: ODST and/or Halo Reach at 1080p 60 fps), or Halo 5: Guardians at a discounted price and/or with extra content, but who knows? They do say it'll be good enough to make every Halo fan happy, which is a tall order considering the chaos and rage that rules the fanbase these days, lol. As always, I'll update my review as things come to light. While a lot of these explanations about the issues make sense, they're still inexcusable for such a major release for such a major franchise from such a major company. Again, the single-player stuff here absolutely kicks ass and if you love Halo for that, like I do, then this is a great collection. However, it's becoming harder and harder to grant 343 and this collection mercy as these completely inexcusable online issues persist. I know this update isn't much, but for what it's worth, I hope this, the other updates, and the review itself was helpful to you. Take care. Toodles.

*Update 11/18/14: Wow, a week in and STILL the MP problems have not been resolved. To be fair, there have been SOME improvements over the course of the past week, but as it stands, the online matchmaking is still in shambles. I REALLY hate to do this, but I'm going to have to dock another star off my score until these issues are fixed. A whole week of this is simply unacceptable and unprofessional. Thank GOD I bought this for the single-player campaigns, because those have been nothing but stellar. However, if I was like the majority of people who bought this for its MP, I'd be furious as well. If you want this collection for the SP campaigns, story, and local co-op, then this is an awesome collection. If you want this collection for MP, WAIT. From what I understand, 343 is planning a massive patch for later this week that will hopefully fix everything, but until then, I cannot in good conscience give this anything above 3-stars for now. I hope you find my review helpful. I really appreciate you taking the time to read it, even if there are a bunch of crybaby haters downvoting all the top, vaguely positive reviews because of their frustration with the collection, and not based on the quality and merits of the reviews themselves (grow up please, lol). Take care. Toodles

*Update 11/13/14: I hate to do this, but I'm going to have to take off one star from my score due to the egregious multiplayer mess-up so far. I don't know if 343 wasn't ready for launch but didn't want to delay it past Halo 2's anniversary date or what, but they probably should have delayed it anyway. I am astounded at how badly 343 botched the online MP for such a hugely anticipated release. The online matchmaking is virtually non-functioning at this point, casting players into the limitless void of lobby purgatory with no hope of joining a match in anything resembling a reasonable amount of time. I have no doubt once they figure out the server issues, then things'll be great, but as of now, it's very hard for most to find a MP match. It's a damn shame, because everything else about the collection is fantastic. So there you go. Once 343 fixes the matchmaking issues, then I'll edit this review once again to 5-stars without hesitation. IF you want this collection primarily for the multiplayer, then I'd recommending holding off until its problems are fixed. If you're like me and you love Halo most of all for its single-player campaigns, co-op, and story, then this collection is, right now, top-of-the line quality and most definitely a MUST-BUY immediately. I hope that helps. It's been very sad for me to see all the anger and negativity surrounding this game. Everyone should be happy and celebrating Halo together right now, not turning on the game, 343, and each other, but alas, that is the world we live in these days. Thanks for reading my review at any rate. Also, thanks to all the haters giving out kneejerk downvotes to the top/positive reviews based on them enjoying and scoring highly a game you don't like, rather than the actual quality and helpfulness of the reviews themselves (Remember, reviews are, ultimately, subject to a reviewer's personal opinion/experience. Time to grow up ladies and gentlemen). Take care. Toodles.

*Original review*

Once in a blue moon, the gaming industry can bestow a gift that seems almost too good to be true. When I had read about the rumors of this collection before its official announcement, I laughed derisively. I thought there was no way a collection THIS good could possibly see the light of day. AT BEST, I thought MAYBE we'd get Halo 2 Anniversary, and we did. We also get something much more grand along with it. I love the Halo series. It is definitely in my top 3 favorite gaming series of all time, and I've played every entry within it to death. Now, I get to play it all again, and boy is it glorious. Fair warning: I'm going to try and keep this review concise, but I do want to be informative to all those wondering exactly what is in The Master Chief Collection, and whether or not it's worth its asking price (spoiler alert, it is, ten times over). If you don't like long reviews, you may want to skip this one.

*Halo 2 Anniversary*

I don't know about you, but it has always been the single-player campaigns and their great stories that have captivated me about Halo, and Halo 2 is no exception. As a matter of fact, Halo 2 is my favorite game in the series largely because of its SP campaign. It took the great sci-fi adventure format introduced in the first Halo and expanded it to new heights and depths. I always loved the overall melancholic, pensive mood in Halo 2's campaign. New characters, the Arbiter in particular, were really awesome additions to Halo's lore. It also refined and expanded on the gameplay in wonderful ways, and cemented Halo's place as THEE console first-person shooter. To be able to play its campaign with brand new visuals and audio is thrilling beyond compare. I had high expectations for this remake, as Halo 1 Anniversary is my golden standard for what a remake can and should be. Needless to say, Halo 2 Anniversary has not disappointed me. In fact, to my shock and surprise, it has exceeded my expectations.

If you played H1A, you know what to expect here in H2A. The updated visuals were built from the ground up for the X1 and are incredible. They are faithful to the spirit of the original while also updating things to make it feel brand new and to connect it more to games that came after its initial release in 2004. Awesome. The audio is likewise fantastic. The sound effects, including those of all weapons, have been redone and while they sound faithful to the original, they definitely pack a lot more punch than before, which I love. The incredible soundtrack by Marty O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori was also rerecorded by Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and it sounds incredible. Perhaps the most impressive upgrade in H2A is that they hired Blur, the studio who made the stunning CG cutscenes inHalo Wars, to remake EVERY cutscene in Halo 2 in CG. Words cannot describe how breathtaking these are. It is almost literally like watching a live-action Halo movie at times. It's incredible.

Something to note about Halo 2 Anniversary is that it, like everything else in the package, plays at a smooth 60 FPS. While the rest of the package is all in 1080p (1920X1080), H2A alone has a resolution of 1328 X 1080, so not quite true 1080p. This is due to the fact its constantly rendering 2 engines simultaneously. It's still gorgeous though. Like I said, there are two engines running at all times during H2A. One is the actual, unaltered original game engine, which is constantly running so that the game plays EXACTLY as it did when it first came out, and then overlaid on top of that are the new visuals/audio/additions of Anniversary mode. Like in H1A, you can hit a button on the controller and the new engine disappears entirely, leaving you with the original Halo 2 in all its 2004 glory, old visuals, sound, and cinematcs in all. Unlike the 360 version of H1A, however, the switch between classic and anniversary mode is instantaneous. You can even do this during cutscenes, which shows just how advanced the new CG ones are by comparison. Awesome.

Just as in H1A, there are some new additions to the game to refresh things too. In addition to the classic skulls, they added in several new ones that are unlocked by default that change the game in various ways, which keeps things refreshing. There are also terminals hidden in each level ala H1A and Halo 3 that, when found, unlock videos that greatly expand on the lore surrounding Halo 2, with the Arbiter being the biggest focus. Since the Arbiter is one of my favorite Halo characters, I loved learning more about him. You can never have too much Arbiter! The terminals also offer glimpses of where the series is heading in Halo 5. Great stuff. There's also online co-op for the campaign, which is always swell.

Something I LOVE about 343's Halo remakes is how they update and enhance the original game's experience, while also showing great respect to the source material so as not to change/ruin any of it. You can tell they're cognizant of the original's greatness and celebrate it by updating all that has aged. I applaud this. Actually, they did that more here than they did in H1A, which had used some of Reach's art design to change the look of elites. Not here. Elites and their rank are only reflected in their armor color. Personally, I liked what they did with H1A, but oh well. They still did a great job.

*Halo 1 Anniversary, Halo 3, and Halo 4*

While Halo 2's campaign obviously received the most attention in this package, the other games were not left in the lurch. You also get H1A, Halo 3, and the more recent Halo 4, great games all. Each of these play exactly as they did before, but now in 1080p and 60 fps. Each game has seen some other visual upgrades too, mostly in the form of enhanced lighting and shading effects. For some games, this will only make them prettier. H1A still looks great in my opinion. Halo 4 already looked like an Xbox One title to begin with, and these small enhancements only make it look more fantastic. The only game that looks noticeably aged is Halo 3. While it still has the same great art design it always had, and all the visual enhancements certainly make it look nicer, it's definitely the odd-man out compared to the rest. Here's hoping we get a Halo 3/Halo 3: ODST Anniversary collection in 2007 *fingers crossed*. Each entry's co-op mode is included and they all play online. There's not much else to say about these games really. They're awesome games with upgrades ranging from marginal (lighting/shading) to massive (the new framerate). For me, the single-player Halo guy, the inclusion of all of Master Chief's games really elevates what was already an awesome package.

*The Multiplayer*

While I've always loved Halo for its single-player and co-op most all, I do have a long history of enjoying its famous multiplayer as well. I don't usually play games for their MP, instead viewing it as a nice diversion once in a while at best, but Halo is one of the very rare video game series where I've sunk countless hours into the MP component. Within the collection, you will find the entire multiplayer modes from Halo 1-4 mostly intact, especially with regards to custom games, matchmaking less so. The engine from each game is perfectly preserved. Every Halo MP map ever is here, and that includes all expansion packs and even previously PC exclusive maps for Halo 1 and 2. That's over 100 MP maps to play on! The menu system is fairly intuitive and easy to use, so you'll be able to pretty much jump into any general type of Halo MP experience you'd want. The amount of playlists are decent, with most matches giving you several options of maps from across that playlist's games to vote for. Each of the MP modes get their own dedicated servers, so theoretically you can play the entire MP suite on display here online in matchmaking! For Halo 1 players, this is a first on console! I have to say, the memories of 16-player LAN parties with huge, clunky SD TVs playing Halo 1 and 2, or being in awe at playing against other people online when I first bought Halo 3, have come flooding back. It's pretty awesome.The ONLY problem, and it is a BIG one, as of now as that the severs are virtually non-functioning. It takes FOREVER to find a match, if you can find one at all. This is unacceptable. I'm sure once these issues are fixed, it'll be great. Now though, this is probably the only blunder in the package.

HOWEVER, I do want to point out that when I say these are the original MP modes, I do really mean original in every way. That means the graphics from each ORIGINAL game is perfectly preserved, including clunky, aged 2001 Halo Combat Evolved graphics. So if you expected them to remake all the MP with this console generation's graphics, you'll be disappointed. Still, for the sheer amount of quantity and quality of fun to be had here, it's hard to complain. I like the nostalgia factor, personally. Like I said, the memories just keep rolling in, and I love it.

In addition to the original Halo MP modes being present, they also included a Halo 2 Anniversary MP mode. This features 6 classic Halo 2 maps, remade from the ground up in a new engine for the Xbox One. They even brought back developers who had worked on the original maps way back in the day to do this. Not only is it incredible to play these classic maps with spectacularly gorgeous visuals, they also freshened up the gameplay as well. Most of these remade maps feature "gimmicks," for lack of a better word, that would have been impossible in 2004. These really mix things up and keep matches very interesting. This mode also features online matchmaking. Personally, I really enjoyed the Halo 2 Anniversary multiplayer mode included. It's pretty awesome.

Oh yeah, and then there's also a little thing called the Halo 5 MP beta included as well. Obviously it's not out yet, and once it is, it will be for a short, limited time, but still, Halo 5 MP Beta guys! Awesome.

*Miscellaneous schtuff*

There are a few things to address that don't really fall under any of the earlier categories, so I'll just stick them here. The collection features some new cutscenes that tease Halo 5, which is neat. Each Halo gets their own entire set of new achievements and 1000 gamerscore to unlock. Some are limited to a specific game, others are tied to the collection as a whole, and others are tied to MP. So, in this collection, you get a grand total of 450 achievements and 4500 gamerscore. Crazy! A lot of them are brand new to the series too. Everything in the game is accessible from one central menu system, so it's not like you have to select which game you want to play and then reboot to get to the others, which is great. They included playlists for the SP campaigns as well, such as one where you play all vehicle-focused SP levels across all games in a row, or play from the beginning of Halo 1 all the way to the ending of Halo 4 in one sitting (and one that adds all skulls active on legendary, wow, lol). When you factor in the ridiculous amount of MP playlists, as well as the expansive Forge options you get in the game, you get a collection that pretty much caters itself to every Halo fan. That's true for the controls as well. You can set a control scheme for each game individually, or one across all games. I appreciate that level of customization.

*Day One Patch*

Finally, I figured I should give you guys fair warning about something. There is a MASSIVE patch you have to download when you first pop in the disc. From what I understand, this was to keep the collection experience seamless, as there's so much content it would have taken two discs to fit it all. So, yeah, day one patch that is roughly 15 friggin' GB big. It is a pain to have to wait while it downloads, but once its on, everything's gold. I'm glad they did it this way as opposed to just printing 2 discs that I'd have to switch between frequently. Delayed gratification is the name of the game here I suppose. Once the patch is downloaded, everything runs smooth.

Whew... this collection is quite a package. I bought my copy at a midnight release party and have played it for several hours now, testing each part of the collection. I've played all of this content for countless hours before in their original format, so I feel I'm more than qualified to judge the quality of this collection. It's really common sense. Now I've peeled myself away to write this review. TMMC is absolutely bursting at the seams, filled with a ludicrous amount of content for something costing $60. Honestly, I'd have paid that much JUST for Halo 2 Anniversary alone. Not only do we get that, we also get the ultimate Halo multiplayer collection, Halo 1 Anniversary, Halo 3, and Halo 4 which all received some pretty nice additions and upgrades, a ton of new achievements, new skulls, hints of Halo 5, the Halo 5 beta, the Halo Nightfall TV series... I mean, it just goes on and on and on. I am absolutely floored by the sheer value on display here. Even Microsoft/Halo-haters have to admit this is an astoundingly good value when you weigh the content versus the cost. Just like Halo 1&2 Anniversaries have set my golden standard for remakes, so The Master Chief Collection has set my standard for gaming collections. Many game collections will come and go through the years, but I doubt any will be able to top this one for a good long while. If you're a Halo fan, buy this IMMEDIATELY, you will not regret it. If you've never played Halo before and want to get into the series, this is the perfect way to do so. This is, in my opinion, an absolutely essential purchase for every Xbox One owner. In fact, I JUST bought my Xbox One the other day specifically for this collection and I have no regrets. It's a superb collection at a splendid price. So buy it, prepare yourself for some incredibly awesome gaming ahead, and enjoy the ultimate omnibus of a legendary sci-fi game series.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have more Halo to play...
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2015 3:55 PM PST

inFAMOUS: Second Son Standard Edition (PlayStation 4)
inFAMOUS: Second Son Standard Edition (PlayStation 4)
Offered by Happy Ranger (No tax)
Price: $28.80
131 used & new from $18.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My favorite entry in the Infamous series and a wonderful game in its own right, despite its shortcomings, November 8, 2014
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Have you ever played the latest entry in an established series you loved and found it to be lacking compared to earlier entries objectively, but still found yourself loving it most of all? It's a strange collision when your subjective judgement trumps what you know to be true objectively, but Infamous: Second Son really is the perfect example of this phenomenon. I've always loved inFAMOUS, right from the beginning. I also really love ISS, it's a great game that you can tell was crafted with a lot of enthusiasm and care by Sucker Punch. It's my favorite Infamous game. Even if a few aspects have been done better in past entries in the series, the stuff ISS gets right, it gets REALLY right, in a way that elevates the game overall. Allow me to explain...

The story in ISS takes place seven years after the climactic (good karma) ending of Infamous 2. Evidently, there are still conduits (people with the superpower abilities to control types of matter) in the world, and people in general are fearful of them. Who would blame them after the events of the first two games? This has led to the government setting up a special agency called the "Department of Unified Protection" or DUP for short, whose sole purpose is to round up and essentially imprison any and all discovered conduits. This is led by a conduit named Augustine, who is so good at her job that eventually, the DUP is soon to be absolved because it appears there's no need for them anymore. How convenient, then, that three of the most dangerous conduits would escape during a prison transfer and "wreak havoc" in Seattle, thereby needing the DUP's help. Unfortunately, this escape took place in the home of a Native American tribe called the "Akomish," where a delinquent street artist named Delsin Rowe discovers that not only is he a conduit, but his power is to absorb the powers of any conduit whose hand he touches. His first power is that of "smoke, which he absorbs from one of the escapees. In the ensuing chaos, Augustine maliciously afflicts Delsin's entire tribe with a horrible condition and leaves them to die slowly. Determining the only way to save his people is to use Augustine's power himself, Delsin travels to Seattle in order to build up his strength, take down Augustine, and absorb her powers. He and his police officer brother, Reggie, take off for Seattle together. While there, they'll meet up and ally themselves with the three escaped conduits and add their powers to Delsin's.

Whew, that's a hell of a set-up isn't it? The story in ISS is one of its biggest strengths and its biggest weaknesses. The story itself is a lot less original than the first two Infamous games, ditching a lot of the creative takes those games had on the superhero genre in favor for what is essentially a copy of X-Men. Themes of mutant, err I mean conduit, persecution and prejudice abound, as do themes of questioning the rightness and morality of preemptively locking up people with the potential to do harm even if they're upstanding citizens. Still, for treading on plotlines that have been around for over 50 years, ISS does make its mark on these ideas in ways that make them feel unique and faithful to the spirit of Infamous. The result is pretty refreshing. In fact, the story itself might be stronger because of that. The writing itself in the game is pretty top-notch for all main and supporting characters, and the acting is equally excellent. Sucker Punch recruited top talent like Troy Baker, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, and others, and it shows. This is especially evident during incredibly well-made cutscenes with tremendously excellent motion capture. All characters have great chemistry with one another, with Delsin and Reggie's brother relationship being particularly enjoyable to take in. It's all very well done. The ONLY complaints I have about the story is that, much like the rest of the game, there's just not enough of it. You meet important supporting characters and spend the briefest of times with them before they're largely gone from the narrative again. The ally conduits are particularly great characters, but they're hardly in the plot, and they develop far too quickly to believe sometimes (whether you chose to take them down the good or bad paths), for how little time you spend with them. The other complaint I have is that the bad karma story really makes no sense in a lot of places and is quite weak overall. Since X-Men was obviously the main story inspiration here, they could have made the "bad" path more like a renegade "Magneto" path, where you play a sincere, zealous warrior for all your conduit brothers and sisters who suffer under the oppression of a prejudiced, hateful public, but the story really fails to capitalize on that. Many of the events during the evil playthrough are contradictory, and it's just pretty weak overall. The good karma story is great though.

That's enough about story, let's talk about the gameplay. ISS is pretty much a continuation of all the open-world superhero antics we've come to expect from the series. There are all sorts of awesome conduit powers you get to play with, from the third-person shooter-esque ranged powers you get to the unique melee attacks to the movement based abilities that get you around town quickly. What I really like about ISS is that they ditched the more generic elemental powers of past games for really imaginative and surreal ability sets. Your first power is Smoke, which is kind of an all-around medium ranged power-set with lots of offensive potential, but you get to unlock others too. Neon is a gorgeously colorful power-set that focuses more on high-speed finesse, careful aiming, and long-distance precision. Video is the strangest of them all, mixing stealth, summoning high-fantasy video game NPCs to aid you (talk about meta, lol) and then taking advantage of the ensuing chaos, and raw power. Every power-set is exceptionally fun to use, and they're all different enough to keep the game fresh over the roughly 10-12 hours it takes to complete a playthrough. I found myself gravitating toward Neon the most, but all ability-sets really cater to different play styles, which is awesome. You upgrade your powers by destroying drones floating around town and taking the blast shards within, which are used as XP currency. Each power-set has upgrades that are restricted to one karma path, so to see all abilities you can unlock, you'll have to play the game twice. Let me tell you, the karma power unlocks make each playthrough a very different experience.

The playground you're given to use your abilities is also much like past Infamous titles. The story missions themselves are varied and exciting, but there are tons of side-quests to undertake in the city as we. Since Seattle is under lockdown from the DUP, you have to liberate each district of their control by undertaking various tasks. This includes hunting down the roughly 100 drones flying about, using your smart phone to determine the location of hidden cameras and destroy them, hunting down double-agent DUPs by identifying the correct citizen in the crowd, taking out mobile DUP command centers, and my favorite, spray-painting certain spots. These are particularly fun as the Dualshock 4 is utilized in such a way where it feels like you're holding and using an actual spray-can, complete with rattling and spraying sound effects coming from the controller itself. The resulting artwork is quite creative and cool-looking. I found myself greatly enjoying this part of the game. After a DUP's control of a district falls below a certain percent, you can activate a showdown with them, wherein you have to take down increasingly challenging armies of DUP forces. If you win, that district is liberated, and you get a new fast-travel point in the city. It's all incredibly fun and varied. It's also very easy to find and complete all these tasks, as they are constantly and clearly displayed on the map. Unlike past Infamous games, where 100% completion could be a major pain, this game makes it almost painfully easy by comparison. It sort of gives ISS an "Infamous Lite" kind of feeling, but whether or not that's good or bad is up to you. There's a lot more situational stuff that I haven't even mentioned that just comes up as you travel through the city, all of which add to the feeling that you're really in a living, breathing city that reacts to you, whether you choose the light or dark path, which is really cool.

One thing that I have nothing but praise for in this game is its presentation. The graphics in ISS are group-dead gorgeous from a technical perspective, and it absolutely NAILS the spirit of Seattle in its art design. I grew up in eastern Washington, and my family often went to Seattle on vacation, and I still love it there to this day. Maybe it's because of my nostalgia for Seattle, but I really loved my time in the fictional Seattle depicted in this game. They included many famous locations in the game, like the Seattle Science Center, the Space Needle, and the Paramount Theatre. They also included places that, while not explicitly named the same, are obvious allusions to places like the world famous Pike Street Market, including its famous, gross used gum wall (lol). It's all so authentic and it really makes ISS special in my opinion. The graphics are incredibly impressive from a technical standpoint too. The way the streets glisten from all that good ol' PNW rain, or the way the sunset lights up and paints the sky and the cityskape during those rare cloud breaks, or even just running around the city streets during a rainy night, where the puddles, wet streets, and streetlights combine in a beautifully romantic, nostalgic way, is just amazing. I LOVE the visuals in this game. Bravo Sucker Punch! The soundtrack seems to be equally catered to my tastes, with its delightful mix of Post-Rock, grunge, and atmospheric soundscapes. I love it. The sound effects give suitable punch to the powers you wield, and the sounds of the city really depict Seattle as a cool place that is always bustling. As I said earlier, the voice acting is also superb. Overall, the audio/visuals in this game are top-tier, and really help make this my favorite Infamous game.

It's not perfect though. There are a few ways where ISS is lacking compared to earlier entries in the series. For one thing, there's only one major enemy faction you'll be fighting against, the DUP. As cool as it is to fight an official, sanctioned military force in a superhero game, it definitely takes away the character and variety past Infamous games had. There's nothing like the magnet, mech hobo Dust Men, or the creepy, cultish First Sons from Infamous, or the cryogenic futuristic soldiers of the Vermaak 88 from Ifamous 2. Nope, it's just the grey/black/yellow DUP with their concrete abilities, the whole game. It's a shame, if you ask me. It would have been cool to have multiple rebel conduit factions duking it out with you and the DUP, but alas. Instead of other cool factions, you get generic drug dealers, racist protest groups, and annoying, bigoted Russian bully mobsters in track suits with guns (lol). The other complaint I have about ISS is that it feels like there's less content than past Infamous games. Infamous 1 definitely had a ton more content, I2 maybe a bit less so. It took me less than 20 hours to get the platinum trophy for this game. That includes two 100% completionist playthoughs, one as a Hero on Normal, and the other as Evil on Expert. Less than 20 hours. That's a bit of a shame. It's a good thing that what's here is so good. Lastly the difficulty of the game is way too unbalanced, particularly in favor of evil playthoughs. I'm not kidding when I say that it was WAY easier to play through the game on evil/expert, than it was to do a good/normal run. That seems a bit messed up in my opinion. All of this is the reason why this is a 4-star review, and not 5. If I were to be exact, I'd probably give the game somewhere between an 8.5 and 9 out of ten, but Amazon's rating system does not allow such precision, unfortunately.

All things considered, I think we have a winner in ISS. It may be shorter than the other games in the series, with a little less content and not enough time given to the story, but it's a wonderful experience overall and just has that special something that elevates it overall. I have a personal story that I think really encapsulates why ISS is such a great game. I recently had my family visit and stay with us for five days, and during that time, my sister practically made me play through the whole game so she could watch. It was tough, as we only had the evenings/nights to play, but by golly we did it and it was awesome. When I was growing up and throughout my teenage years, I used to play games and my sister (then only a little kid) loved to watch. Now, SHE'S a teenager, and it was really special recreating that nostalgic experience. She LOVED ISS. The funny thing is, my parents also watched me play this game during their visit, for about an hour during some downtime between planned activities. They've always supported me playing games, but I think it has always been more toleration than acceptance. The funny thing is, they loved the game too. Every time we'd approach a famous Seattle landmark, they'd get genuinely excited and marvel at what a good job they did on the game. Before they left for home days later, they thanked me for showing them the game. It made that big of an impression on them, my parents, who don't particularly care for video games. I think that really says a lot about how well-crafted and high-quality ISS is overall. It's an fantastic game, very much worthy of your time if you're an Infamous fan, and really, who isn't? I highly recommend this game to any and all gamers. Buy it, travel to the beautiful city of Seattle, and enjoy using your awesome powers in this delightful virtual playground.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 11, 2014 5:42 PM PST

Hyrule Warriors: Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides)
Hyrule Warriors: Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides)
by Prima Games
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from $31.16

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect, but a great, helpful guide overall (with a great art section), October 15, 2014
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I really love this guide. Maybe it's because I've wasted money on some truly atrocious limited edition guides lately, that this one seems so great in comparison. This guide for the awesome Hyrule Warriors is genuinely informative with an excellent format, and its production values are superb. Truly, this is a great guide overall, but it's not without its caveats, which I will be sure to address in my review.

The guide is organized into several sections, each one covering a different mode of the game, with a celebratory art section at the end. The guide opens up with an intro to the guide itself that includes a very well-written forward that establishes the tone for the rest of the book in a nice way. The first section is entitled "Hero Training" which basically boils down to bringing anyone unacquainted with Dynasty Warriors up to speed. Given that most people buying Hyrule Warriors are undoubtedly Zelda fans and more than likely have never played a game in the niche DW series, this section is very helpful. It makes the game's core concepts very easy to grasp and simple, without muddling the more complex aspects. Great opening.

Next is the "Walkthrough" section which is broken up into two main subsections. First is the "Legends Mode" walkthrough, which includes a very detailed, well-written breakdown of every story mission in the game. It lasts about 64 pages. The second subsection is for the game's "Adventure Mode," which is a mode where you are given a massive gridlike map where each square is composed of a specific task or mission to complete. This subsection lasts about 84 pages. Each mission in the game, whether in the Legend or Adventure mode, has different collectibles and rewards to find, and some rewards are character-specific AND/OR require certain conditions to be met (ie. what difficulty you play on, which character you play as, as well as other battle conditions you have to meet to even get certain collectibles to show up). This includes heart containers, pieces of heart containers, Gold Skulltulas, HARD MODE Gold Skulltulas, new weapons, new weapon upgrades, etc. All of these things are covered in the walkthrough. It also does a great job giving you hints on how to dispatch bosses and commanding enemies more easily, as well as including many tips and tricks to make playing through the game smoother. The walkthrough of the Adventure Mode of the game is also helpful as it tells you what conditions must be met to get the best ranking in whatever mission you undertake, and therefore unlock the "A Rank" reward of said mission .Overall, it's a very informative, well-written guide that has helped me immensely as I've played the game. I've used it countless times and would not have unlocked the myriad of rewards, collectibles, and upgrades without it.

After the walkthroughs is a section entitled "Warriors" which is a fairly thorough breakdown of the 13 characters playable at the game's release. This lasts roughly 20 pages. While this isn't required reading by any means, it does give you a nice overview of what kind of playstyle each character has, what weapons are unique to them and where to find their weapon upgrades, and a little summary of who they are in the Zelda universe. It's a nice little section. It is followed by an "Extras" section which is very short, about four pages. It's basically mischellaneous info, such as what each potion does, what enemies drop what materials upon defeat, weapon skills, etc. It's not terribly interesting, and unfortunately, not detailed enough to be helpful. It's nice to know which enemies drop which materials, but the guide doesn't tell you what missions those enemies can be found, and trust me, getting materials is crucial to character building in this game.

Lastly, there's an awesome section entitled "Behind the Scenes" that is almost like having a mini-Hyrule Historia that is specific to this game. It lasts about 70 pages, and it's great. It's essentially filled with fantastic concept art on all aspects of the game, ranging from the main characters to enemy designs to stage designs. There's even some commentary from the developers on the design process. For a major Zelda nerd like myself, this was great. I love the art design in Hyrule Warriors. The character designs are particularly great in my opinion, so to see concept art of them as well as some insightful commentary was truly a highlight for me. There are even some designs that did not make it into the game that are truly awesome, such as a Link that is MUCH more Dynasty Warriors influenced than the more traditional depiction that made it into the game, or a design for Link's sister that very much reminded me of the elf from Dragon's Crown. I LOVE when guides feature stuff like this, so this "Behind the Scenes" section is one of my favorite parts of the guide. You can tell a lot of thought went into it. I applaud that.

As far as presentation goes, the guide does a very good job. As I've already said, the guide is informative for the most part, but it's also written very well too. I always appreciate it when a guide writer tries to inject some life into a guide, and this is an stellar example of that. I love how the mood and voice of the guide when you get to play during Ganondorf's story missions differs so much from the hero story missions. Great stuff. The guide is also printed well on high-quality paper, and the format is pleasing to the eye and feels like a Prima Zelda guide should. That is to say, it sort of feels like a Hyrulean tome (except the cover, which is a bummer). Very fun overall.

I mentioned earlier how this is not a perfect guide. It definitely has its quirks and flaws too. As informative as the guide is in most areas, there are some aspects that are glaringly missing. A section detailing each character's badge tree for attack, defense, and support progression feels like a major omission to me. I had to go online to figure out which missions to play to get materials for leveling up certain characters, because this guide simply doesn't cover it in any meaningful way. Not good. Also, some of the A-Rank requirements seem to be off in the Adventure Mode guide. On SOME stages, I found myself missing the requirements listed in the guide (ie. receiving more than 4,000 points of damage, or taking longer than 15-minutes to beat the stage), yet still getting the A-Rank during the results screen. Honestly, playing according to the more difficult standards laid out in the guide guaranteed that I'd get an A-rank, so I'm not too upset about it, but still. It's worth noting. One thing I hate is when guides require a lot of page-flipping, and unfortunately, this guide suffers from that A LOT in its Adventure Mode coverage. This was going to be inevitable because Adventure Mode is arranged in a grid, but it's still a bit bothersome having to flip from C-9's map to D-9's mission and then to F-8's stage, etc. Another nit-pick is that I don't like the cover of the guide. I've always enjoyed Prima's past Zelda guides because their gilded-gold pages and classy covers gave the book an authentic Hyrulean tome feeling. Prima's current policy of just slapping some official art on a hardcover is less appealing to me.

All-in-all, this is very much the quality I've come to expect from a Zelda guide from Prima. That is to say, it's great. It may not be to the legendary status of their very best Zelda books, but it's certainly better than almost any guide I've bought this year. It has told me almost everything I've wanted to know about the game, and has been a constant companion as I've undertaken the insane task of trying to 100% complete Hyrule Warriors. The fact it ends with such a lovely, fun behind the scenes section, and one that shows it to be the developer's love letter to the Zelda series, is the delicious frosting on the cake. It may not be perfect, but it is a great guide overall. I hope this review was helpful to you. Thanks for reading. Toodles.

Hyrule Warriors - Nintendo Wii U
Hyrule Warriors - Nintendo Wii U
Price: $48.66
73 used & new from $39.95

123 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great game for fans of Zelda OR Dynasty Warriors. A dream come true if you're both., September 26, 2014
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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You can fit me squarely in the latter camp and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

When it comes to video games, The Legend of Zelda is my all-time favorite series, and Dynasty Warriors has always been my go-to guilty pleasure series. I love Zelda AND Dynasty Warriors immensely, and to combine the two always seemed like a fantasy that would never see the light of day. Yet, here I am writing a review for the very game I have selfishly dreamed of for years, still a bit shocked and in denial of its existence. Being a massive fan with a tremendous amount of experience with both Zelda and Dynasty Warriors, and having played Hyrule Warriors for several hours now (and many, MANY hours as of January 1st lol), I'm confident in my ability to lend a voice of reason to all those out there curious about whether this game is for you or not. However, this review may be a bit lengthy, so either prepare yourself for that or abandon ship now. You've been warned.

I have to issue another warning before I say anything else: I will not pander to the DW haters out there. DW is a divisive series. You either love it or you don't. If you don't like DW, you more than likely won't like this game, plain and simple. There, I just saved you a bunch of time and money. Now you can go play or look at something you'll actually like and everybody wins...

*Ahem* Are they gone? Good. For those who enjoy/love DW (and there are way more of us than some would have you believe), or are Zelda fans who have never played a Warriors game before but have an open mind, this is a review written for you fine people. Let's get started...

The plot in Hyrule Warriors brings us to a new, original era in the kingdom of Hyrule. A new villain, a witch named Cia, arrives and throws the kingdom into chaos. In the ensuing conflict, portals to different eras in Hyrules history are opened, bringing the worlds of Skyward Sword, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess into the fray. A new hero of legend (guess who THAT might be) must arise and he will be aided by the land's beautiful, wise princess, her attendant/protector/general, and many disparate heroes from across time itself, to right everything. I'm being vague about the story on purpose, because this was one of the most pleasant surprises about the game to me. For what it is, I think the plot is pretty riveting, and shouldn't be spoiled. There are plenty of twists and turns that keep you invested beyond the fun gameplay and Zelda celebration. It's not award-winning stuff by any means, but the story is wish fulfillment at its finest. I have ALWAYS wanted to play a game where Link isn't a lone wolf, but a hero of the people battling alongside Hyrule's army against the forces of Darkness. I've ALWAYS wanted a Zelda game that let you play through the story as... well... ZELDA, and Impa, and Sheik, and Ganondorf, and Midna (my favorite Zelda companion, our Rat Terrier is named in her honor, lol), and this game finally lets me do that. That alone makes it special to me.

The plot is pretty good, but the storytelling itself is a big reason why it's so compelling. Cutscenes combine the cinematic flair Team Ninja/Omega Force are known for, with the subtle style of a traditional Zelda narrative, with a dash of storybook fairy-tale, and it's great. The action and cinematography is dynamic and exciting. Cutscenes are also made warmly nostalgic by the fact that all "speech" is relegated to traditional text boxes and "Zeldaesque" grunts/gibberish. I really like these two styles together. Even my wife loved the story in this game. She wanted to keep playing just to see what would happen next. All of the characters, whether familiar or new ones introduced in this game, are likable and fairly well-written. Any Zelda fan should find a lot to enjoy about the "Legend" mode in this game.

The plot may follow in the spirit of Zelda closely, but the gameplay is mostly a huge departure for the series. This is where the Dynasty/Samurai/Orochi Warriors part comes in. If you're not familiar with DW (I'm assuming most reading this are Zelda fans and therefore are not), the gameplay goes a little like this: You assume the role of a larger-than-life hero among a big list of larger-than-life heroes, practically a demi-god in your powers and battle prowess, who enters massive battles between two (sometimes more) armies. Through the power of various combat combos and special attacks, you'll mow down hundreds, nay, THOUSANDS of peons who dare stand in your way. You'll also have an army on your side as well, and various actions will actually sway the battle in your army's favor. Taking out commanding officers, attacking fortresses, etc, all affect the tide of battle. It's all GREAT fun, and incredibly addictive, as you acquire new items and gear, level your characters up, and become more powerful. There has always been an arcade-like sensibility to the DW formula, and it fits perfectly with the LoZ setting. It just makes sense to have Link fighting in battles of this scope and nature.

This particular game does stand out from the DW pack, however, as it introduces distinctly Zelda concepts and mechanics to the mix. For instance, a "dash" move has replaced the jump button. Z-targeting is included. When fighting commanding officers, there's a much greater emphasis on counter-attacking, at least early on. This makes those battles feel like actual one-on-one duels, very much in the spirit of Zelda. Littering each mission are chests that contain either heart containers or pieces of them for specific characters to collect, as well as Gold Skulltulas that appear after certain conditions are met. There are also many traditional Zelda items and weapons you can equip, such as bombs, bows, the fire rod, the Wind Waker itself(!), etc., that are all used both offensively and in light puzzle-solving. Sometimes these are essential on the battlefield as big Zeldaesque bosses arrive and wreak havoc. When King Dodongo shows up, you know to use bombs to give him a bad case of indigestion. Gohma's eye just BEGS for an arrow. All Zelda fans will know the drill, and things like this go a long way to making this game feel like a love letter to those very people. I applaud this.

There are 13 playable characters in the game, and as of this edit to my review (10/1), I have unlocked all of them AND played quite a bit with each one. Let me assure you, all of them are awesome. Every character has totally different move-sets and weapons that make each feel unique, and they're all incredibly powerful. No one has a boring, no-frills hack-n-slash move-set in this game, no sir. It's amazing how many foes you'll dispatch in a single mission, always in the triple digits at least. I'd say that the combat is even more over-the-top than the already over-the-top DW games are. Most importantly, each character plays exactly as a massive Zelda fan would hope and expect them to, while also feeling refreshing and unique as well. I love Impa with her giant water broadsword/katana, or Zelda's rapier/magic-baton combo, or the always fabulous Lord Ghirihim's fabulousness, and Ganondorf? He's basically Lu Bu, if Lu Bu had the actual power of the goddesses. What a beast. I love this game. lol

As you'd expect from a DW game, there are tons of modes and content beyond just the story campaign. There's an "Adventure Mode," where you have a grid-like map with each space representing unique missions or challenges to undertake. Awesomely, the map is represented in 8-bit graphics as a homage to the very first The Legend of Zelda. As you move across the map, you'll unlock tons of new content. Some of my favorite characters are unlocked this way, as are most of the weapon upgrades, so Adventure Mode is very important. There is also a challenge mode included, which is exactly what you'd expect. Bottom line: There is a TON of content in this game and pretty much all of it is playable in co-op, and that's swell! My wife and I love both love Zelda AND playing DW games together, and this game allows us to do both at once. I always award bonus points to a game that is fun and makes for good wife bonding time. :)

I also have to mention the visual/audio aspects as well. The DW series has never been renowned for its cutting-edge graphics, and it probably won't be here either. I do think it's better looking than most DW games however, as the developers have been free to play with much more imaginative, fantastical motifs and color schemes. The cutscenes are drop-dead gorgeous (they're comparable to Super Smash Bros. Brawl's "Subspace Emissary" cutscenes). This is definitely the most vibrant, colorful Warriors game I've seen yet, and the variety on display is impressive. Ocarina of Time retains its vibrant anime/manga aesthetic, while Twilight Princess has a more gritty high-fantasy look, and Skward Sword still shines with its gorgeous water-color design. Despite these very different styles, the game still maintains strong artistic coherence, which I find remarkable. The character designs are a real treat as well. They're absolutely fantastic, with refreshing, unique takes on classic characters that just look awesome. I absolutely love what they've done with Zelda, Link, Impa, Ruto, and Ganondorf in particular, but they did a superb job on all characters, really. DLC will add more classic outfit/skin options for the three main characters, which is fun. I almost always prefer colorful, stylistic art design over hyper-realistic graphics in my games, so if you ask me, I think HW is quite beautiful overall.

The audio is great too. As I said earlier, I adore the characteristic Zelda "speech" in the game. The soundtrack is the highlight for me. It is awesome, and giggle-inducing, to hear beautiful classic Zelda tunes in that unmistakable DW "butt-rock" style. The usually peaceful Skyloft theme in this game made me giddy, and the Hyrule Field theme from Twilight Princess is goose-bump inducingly awesome. This style of music, much like the rest of the DW elements in the game, may not be for everyone, but with an open mind, you just may love it as much as us grizzled old fans do. Give it a chance. It's awesome.

So that's the majority of the game in a nutshell. You might be wondering if there's anything really wrong with the game. We already discussed how DW isn't for everyone, and that's fine. But what if you love LoZ/DW and want to know, from one fan to another, if there's any problems? Well, there are a couple minor issues. For one, the counter-heavy focus with the armored enemies, especially early on when you're low level, can cut the pace of battles a bit. This goes away as you level up and become more powerful though. The game implements the gamepad a little bit, but not much beyond off-screen play in co-op. Co-op also makes the game a bit choppier with more pop-in, and the resolution seems to take a nose dive if one of you uses the gamepad. It's not terrible mind, but it is worth noting. My biggest complaint about the game is that I wish more Zelda games had been represented beyond OoT, TP, and SS. I would have absolutely loved it if The Wind Waker (my personal favorite Zelda game) or A Link to the Past/Between Worlds had been included more substantially (ie. characters, levels, etc.). However, the fact I'm resorting to such a small complaint (that admittedly reeks of entitlement) should really show you how good the game is overall. Maybe we'll get to battle bokoblin hordes on Outset Island as Toon Link alongside Tetra, Medli, and Valoo in the sequel (fingers crossed).

Lastly, DLC, both free and paid, is planned that will add new costumes, playable characters, levels, weapons, etc. to the game. A free patch will make the game's trio of original villains playable, which I think is pretty cool. Future paid DLC includes a "Majora's Mask" pack. Whether or not that's a positive is up to you. Personally, I think Nintendo does DLC right (see Mario Kart 8 , Fire Emblem: Awakening, etc.) so I'm excited, but it's pretty subjective, so I'll leave this factoid here on its own. Nintendo's stated purpose of supporting this game for the long haul, even in America, is admirable in my opinion. Bravo!

In many ways, Hyrule Warriors feels very similar to the Smash Bros. series. Both are a love letter to the fans and a celebration of gaming heritage. HW is also the only place alongside Smash Bros, as of now anyway, that you can play as beloved Zelda characters other than Link. HW has so many wonderful nods to the Zelda series, it's incredible. DW fans will love it as a standalone Warriors game for its unique content and the sheer amount of it. There are many features I haven't even had a chance to mention (I TRIED to keep this review reasonable in length). You can tell that every moment in this game was crafted with love and care, by massive LoZ fans FOR massive LoZ fans. If you're a gaming savant who already loves DW or are open minded to it, and you love the Legend of Zelda series (and you should. It's the greatest series in all of gaming, :D ), then recommending this game is a no-brainer. Buy it, steel yourself for the battles ahead, and go save a legendary kingdom in one of the most celebratory love letters the Zelda series has ever seen.

*Update 12/24/14*

Hello all. Just thought I'd update this review with some new information regarding the game. Since I originally wrote this review, there have been several additions to Hyrule Warriors in the form of Amiibo implementation and, most importantly, DLC. First of all, scanning a Link Amiibo figure will actually add a new weapon for Link into the game, and they also made it so that you can scan 5 other Amiibo figures a day which gives you a randomized reward. This is pretty cool if you ask me. It gives the already novel Amiibo idea more life to it, and I enjoyed how they did something to incorporate it for this game. The real treat, though, is the game's DLC. OH the DLC! I wish the game's industry as a whole would take notes on how Nintendo implements DLC, because they seem to be the only big company that does DLC right. As of now there have been two major DLC packs released, with another two on the way in the near future, as well as the pre-order costumes that you can now buy in packs at a ridiculously cheap prices. You can buy all four major packs together in a "Season Pass" of sorts for twenty bucks and a free Dark Link costume thrown in for free. Is it worth that much money? You'd better believe it. For instance, the Master Quest pack adds new costumes and 8-bit weapons for every character of the game. Most substantially, it adds in a brand new adventure mode map with 100+ new missions with very master questy remix ideas. This new map alone will add HOURS upon HOURS of playtime to the game, but they also added in a new addition to story mode that gives the game's original bad guys a chance to shine in their own little origin story. Incredible value. The second DLC pack is Twilight Princess themed and it adds even MORE costumes, weapons, upgrades, etc. to the mix as well as another MASSIVE adventure mode map with its own twists and tweaks to the formula. You also get a new character to play in the form of adult non-imp Midna which is awesome enough by herself. It's just great stuff. Each DLC adds a lot to the game, both in terms of unique, engaging content and the sheer amount of it, without feeling at all tacked on or like it was pulled from the game to get more money out of the player. They are substantial additions that enhance the game at a fantastic value, which is what DLC should be. Bravo Nintendo! Great job! I can't wait until January's Majora's Mask pack. I have no doubt it'll give the game even more legs than it's already got (can't wait to see the two characters they add to the game). I also have to salute Nintendo for making the original bad guys FREE DLC to everyone. That's just classy.

All-in-all, Hyrule Warriors is one of my favorite games of the year. I'm still playing it to this day and enjoying it just as much as I did when it first released. There's just so much fun to be had here. Zelda and Dynasty Warriors turned out to be just what I thought it'd be: a match made in heaven. Honestly, it's hard to find an equal or better value in a game aside from this, Smash Bros., and Dragon Age Inquisition. Hyrule Warriors is superb. Now if ONLY they'd make a Fire Emblem Dynasty Warriors game, then I would want for nothing (HINT HINT Nintendo). Well there you have it, hope you enjoyed the review and this little update. Take care.
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