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The Wolf Among Us - PlayStation 4
The Wolf Among Us - PlayStation 4
Price: $19.99
22 used & new from $17.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Game, January 19, 2015
If you were gaming back in the 90's you probably remember a lot of those old point and click adventure games where you often had many choices you could make that would impact the story, how characters react and the outcome of those characters. The games were unique because they had a storybook like feel to them. You see moments of this genre crop up every now and then with games like Hotel Dusk 215 on the original DS or the recent Walking Dead. They're the kind of games that emphasize storytelling and narrative above exploration. They typically tend to be more about the characters within the game than the world of the game itself. The Wolf Among Us is reminiscent of these kinds of games. It's a good game from a storytelling standpoint and really comes alive. From it's opening moments to it's stylistic look. Yet it's also a very mature game that shows these kinds of games can still work in an era where so many more of our games are fast paced action shooters or wide open world experiences where exploration and the world itself are the main selling points as opposed to the story. That being said, The Wolf Among Us is also a pretty short game, spanning eight hours at best and ten hours if you manage to stretch it.

The Wolf Among Us takes place in Fabletown. Centuries ago various characters from fables and fairy tales were forced from their Homeland. They all now reside in New York. Some easily pass for human such as Snow White or Beauty. Others need what's called a "Glamour," a type of magic used to conceal their inhumanness. After the move from Homeland the fables have a hard time adjusting. There's a divide among them where some live in a place called The Woodlands, an apartment complex where more of the wealthier, better off fables live, while others have to hide among the "mundies" (humans). But more than that, as their lives have changed over centuries so too have the characters from these fables. These aren't lovable children's characters anymore. The Wolf Among Us isn't afraid to tackle some pretty heavy issues and it doesn't shy away from anything. There's sex, drugs, alcohol and murder at every turn in this game. It's ruthless in its depictions--ultimately shattering this idea that any of these fables were actually meant to be children's stories in the first place. Normally when a game tackles this kind of subject matter it's less for the sake of storytelling and more for trying to show us that the game itself is mature because it's dark, gritty and has cusswords. Sometimes this works out really well and we settle in (The Last of Us) and other times some of these games can come across too much like the middle school child trying to sound like an adult (DmC). Luckily, The Wolf Among Us is of the former rather than the latter.

You play as Bigby--better known as The Big Bad Wolf. Before leaving the Homeland he was known primarily for eating people and other fables (namely, eating two of the three Little Pigs and terrorizing Little Red Riding Hood). Once all the fables left The Homeland, Bigby has gone on to change his ways. He's now the Sheriff of what is known as "Fabletown." Yes, the game takes place in New York, but the fables have separated themselves from the mundies. It is Bigby's job to keep the fables from killing each other. As the game begins you save a mysterious woman only known as Faith from the Woodsman, a guy disgruntled at the idea that no one knows him as the hero he once was for saving Little Red Riding Hood. Once you've saved her and she thanks you, things get a little strange when her head winds up on the doorstep of the Woodland's apartment complex. Along with Snow (as in Snow White) you need to figure out what's going on. Who killed Faith? And why would it be in such a gruesome manner. You'll play through five episodes unraveling a mystery that goes much deeper than simply murder.

As I said, The Wolf Among Us isn't afraid to tackle some pretty big issues or make you ask yourself a lot of questions as you progress. For the most part a lot of the game is simply you making decisions and figuring out where to go next. There isn't much walking around or actual combat in the game. And when you do get to walk around it feels needlessly clunky, for the most part. The game shines the best in the dialog sequences where you get to choose how to respond or what to do. There are scenes where the outcome is always the same. No matter how you respond to Mr. Toad in the beginning, for instance, you will always end up confronting the Woodsman. On the other hand, the game sometimes presents different choices for you. In a few key instances you will have to decide where to go between two different locations. In most cases you'll always end up visiting both locations, but depending on where you go FIRST ends up having an impact on the story.

The choices also matter in a way. Sometimes it can affect how characters perceive you. Sometimes you'll even be able to get more out of characters than not if you play it cool. In a pretty cool interrogation scene, depending on how you treat your suspect impacts whether he not he'll actually talk to you. As you play, characters might also remember things you said or how you reacted and it'll impact other conversations. Sometimes dialog changes based on these decisions. There's a lot more depth here than it appears.

What makes these moments of choice interesting throughout the story, however, is that there really are no "good" or "bad" choices. There are no "right" or "wrong" decisions. Some choices might alter the story and keep you from meeting certain characters or cause you to connect the dots slower than you might have otherwise, but the story itself never presents these choices as being inherently good or inherently bad. As Bigby, you're already perceived as an untrustworthy guy to begin with. There are many ambiguous choices where all you can do is decide on what you feel is best for the situation at hand. This also means there are no "wrong" choices. You'll always go from Point A to Point B. What the choices impact is how you get there and how the other characters will (or will not) help you along the way. In short, you are never pressured into making a choice. And there are key choice moments that can drastically alter the story. The ambiguity is played really well in The Wolf Among Us because the hero we are playing as is also ambiguous. He's not a good guy or a bad guy, really. He's somewhere inbetween. He's an anti-hero.

As such this means The Wolf Among Us also has some pretty good characterization. We aren't always "told" a lot about these characters, but the way they interact, speak and their gestures is able to tell us a lot about them. You'll find most of the characters charming in their own way, even the ones you're supposed to hate. It's because their characterization is so good. It's a shame then that Bigby himself is actually the least interesting character in the bunch. Granted most of his personality is going to come from you, the player, but the rest of the ensemble cast outshines him quite often. Even characters you only see once somehow make a greater impact. Yet what's really good about The Wolf Among Us is that no character is wasted or just stock. Every character you come across either plays an important role in the story or adds to it in some way.

This is why even moments such as visiting a strip club aren't just there for shock or to show the game is somehow mature. The characters IN the strip club actually play a pivotal role in the game and have their own individuality, and the game is very careful not to glamorize any of its moments. The women in the game aren't sexualized, for instance, they're victimized. They aren't to be oogled at and fantasized about, they're to be pitied and relatable. The violence in The Wolf Among Us isn't something you're supposed to be proud of, it's carefully placed to be horrifying and gruesome. And because we come to like or respect some characters we don't want to see them subject to violence and we don't want to see them as sexual objects. The moments of sexuality in the game are often deglamorized and brief. Nothing here is about titillation, but rather progressing the story forward and telling it. The game even opts to side step a cheesy love story entirely in favor of deeper characterization and development. The game is reaching for something greater than spectacle and shock. More often than not it succeeds.

The Wolf Among Us has a great presentation. It has a cool stylistic look to it that gives it a graphic novel like feel. But it also gives it a dark and dreary kind of tone. This isn't a cartoon, it's a gritty murder mystery and the graphical presentation is more than willing to reinforce that. Almost every moment in The Wolf Among Us is oozing with narrative as a result. If there were anything that might be hampering it would be that at times the game might hitch ever so slightly. There might be a moment where the frame rate gets choppy or where the game lags. These moments were few and far between, but at times it was a little jarring. It never really happens in crucial dialog sequences but it does. All told, The Wolf Among Us has a great style going for it. The sound is also pretty amazing. Most the music found in the game compliments the art style well, as well as many of the games moments. Just the same, the voice acting is actually pretty good.

DuckTales - Remastered PS3 - PlayStation 3
DuckTales - Remastered PS3 - PlayStation 3
Price: $14.76
41 used & new from $10.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Ducks in Outer Space, January 14, 2015
For some gamers (sometimes myself included) playing an updated classic is hard. Not because the updates themselves are bad, but because nostalgia can often get in the way. Ducktales on the original NES was one of the good games you could find that wasn't made by Nintendo at the time. Not that the NES didn't have a lot of good games made by other developers, but it goes without saying that there aren't a whole slew of NES titles that have aged gracefully. Some were unnecessarily difficult while others just don't have a lot of refined mechanics. Ducktales, however, was not that kind of game. It was a damn near perfect game when it came out in the late 80's. It is one of the NES games that has aged so well that a remastered version only feels necessary from the standpoint of making it look more aesthetically pleasing more so than anything else. It feels like adding too much might cripple the experience.

So yes, nostalgia is hard when you love a game, especially when that game was as good as DuckTales. But really, the update here isn't too bad. In fact, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it in spite of (perhaps even because of) my nostalgia. When putting it aside it's a fun game. When keeping it clear in my mind it's still pretty good. There might be a couple of additions that are not necessary, but the game retains its fun. For some gamers, (namely those that didn't grow up in the era where 2D platformer was king) it's easy to wonder what all the fuss was about. But for those who experienced DuckTales way back, you'll find it's still as fun as it ever was.

The new addition here is that DuckTales actually has a fleshed out story. And I must get this out of the way now... this is perhaps something I don't especially like. 2D platformers were never something you played for story back in the day. Either you read the manual or you could pretty much figure out what was happening based off of that. Here we get a prologue stage showing the Beagle Boys breaking into Scrooge's vault. It's not so much providing a slightly more fleshed out story that is urksome as it is how the cutscenes themselves get integrated into the game. If there was an ever an argument that there is a good or bad way to do so... this would be it. The glory of playing video games during the NES and SNES era was that the game didn't always have to explain so much. Here, a lot of the cutscenes break up the flow of the game and explain that which need not be explained. Other times certain things will pop up for the player to see. I didn't need DuckTales to explain it's gameplay to me when I first played it over twenty years ago, I certainly don't need it explained to me now. Even if you haven't experienced DuckTales it's a pretty simple game to grasp all on its own. There are no complex button presses or anything like that. You don't need to hold four or five buttons to do something. All you need to know is how to jump and use Scrooge's cane for the most part. The prologue level might be great for new players, but I feel like even for newcomers it makes for a poor tutorial that favors a handholding approach that isn't necessary. In many newer games I can understand having to slow things down, but for a game as simple to pick up as DuckTales, the prologue level is an unnecessary addition.

Thankfully you can skip the cutscenes. It should be known, however, that the cutscenes aren't exactly bad. They just break up the pacing and often last longer than they need to. The voice acting is pretty good in them and bring to life the show itself. This is pretty amazing stuff. But again, it often explains that which needn't be explained. At the very least the game is beautiful on the surface. A lot of the time when games from a bygone era get an update developers spend a lot more time making sure the game is graphically superior while paying absolutely no attention to artistic and aesthetic design. I'm glad to see that DuckTales didn't fall into this trap. The developers here, opted for style over raw power. Nothing is rendered in 3D (much anyway) and instead the game has the aesthetic look of the show. It breathes a lot of life into the game itself and that's pretty amazing. I was afraid I'd miss the old NES graphics. And to an extent I do (nostalgia is powerful) but I was pleased to find they didn't overdo it with the presentation. The backgrounds and levels are nice, while still retaining (for the most part) the layout of the original level design.

The basic gameplay in and of itself is very much unchanged. You play as Scrooge going through the levels, collecting gems and bashing your enemies. The now-famous pogo hop is (naturally) here as well. Scrooge uses his cane as a pogo stick and he can use it to bounce on enemies or bounce across spikes. He can also bounce off enemies. This is a skill the game expects you to know. There are plenty of moments where to get across a large pit you'll have to bounce off of enemies to do so. Luckily, DuckTales doesn't have a harsh punishment should the worst happen. Unlike the NES version you have an unlimited number of lives to screw up as much as you want. When I originally played this game as a kid on the NES it was a pretty big challenge. Now it's a pretty easy game overall. There aren't really any challenging jumps, enemy patterns are predictable and even bosses pose no threat. It's all about pattern recognition and if you get that down DuckTales is a relatively easy game.

This i where some dissonance between old school gamers and newer gamers may come in. DuckTales does, at times, completely show its age in the sense that there are no complex patterns to think about here. Most enemies are predictable and run in pretty much the same area or are easy to figure out from the get go. It's enough to make newcomers wonder what the fuss was about the game back in the NES days. It's not to say they can't (or won't) have fun. It is only to suggest that video games are a lot more complex now than they were over twenty years ago. Of course, this also makes some of those complaints a little silly from that perspective. DuckTales may be "remastered" but it still plays like a game made in 1988. While some games do not age that well (I've never thought, for example, that the original Final Fantasy on the NES aged as gracefully as say... Mega Man II) DuckTales did. There wasn't really any reason to go back and change it, and I don't think there's any reason to add some of the tweaks of today's games to a game that isn't very well suited for them at all.

That being said, however, a twenty dollar price tag seems, I'm sorry to say, rather high for a game like this. DuckTales isn't very long. While it's nice to see some trophy support and cutscenes the core game itself just isn't very long. And with no amount of set lives it's not like you'll have to start over often anyway. There are tons of things to unlock, but the point still stands that you ultimately won't be spending THAT much time with DuckTales. The game can easily be completed in a single sitting. There are difficulty levels to choose from and it has some high replayability, but it's still somewhat expensive for what it is.

It is certainly a game worth owning, though. The controls are tight and it's a lot of fun. The cutscenes can break up the pacing but at least the voice work is rather good. And the remastered soundtrack is also quite good. For fans of the original game, it's fantastic. For those who have never played it, it's a chance to experience it.

Mario Kart 8 - Nintendo Wii U
Mario Kart 8 - Nintendo Wii U
Price: $58.78
91 used & new from $48.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Still a Fun Series, January 6, 2015
There are few games that eschew the copy and paste formula that Mario Kart has set for itself. Since its inception in the early 90's on the Super Nintendo, Mario Kart has pretty much been the same game time and time again. Sure they've sometimes added twists such as with Double Dash, or tried to do things like custom karts or refined courses, but the core has never changed. This isn't always a bad thing in video games. Mario Kart has managed to stay alive by presenting some creative courses and always presenting a strong multiplayer aspect to it that has consistently made the game fun. Mario Kart 8 is one of the best Mario Kart games out there. Of course, as a result of the formula it also brings some of the bad stuff with it as well.

If you've played one Mario Kart game from the DS version onward you've more or less played enough to be familiar with what you'll get. There are a series of racers that you can choose as well as karts, wheels and a few other means by which you can customize your kart. You can optimize speed or acceleration if you want or how a kart handles this way. You can mix and match the body, wheels and the glider that you choose to put on it. Again, there are not a ton of things that mix up the Mario Kart formula. While it's nice to have things such as the glider or something along those lines, they don't actually feel like a great addition to the game here anymore than they did in Mario Kart 7 on 3DS.

For the most part, races play out the same. You've got four cups: Mushroom, Flower, Star and Special. These cups are comprised of four races. There are also four retro cups each with four retro courses for a total of 16 retro courses. The retro courses are the same courses you remember but sometimes with a twist. And while it's nice to see some courses brought back from previous outings, you'll never get over the fact that some of them just haven't aged very well or aren't suited for Mario Kart 8. Playing through the Super Nintendo courses reimagined sounds great from a nostalgia standpoint, but they're pretty bland and boring actually. The same goes for the Super Circuit courses or even some of the Nintendo 64 courses. From Double Dash onward Mario Kart has just seen so much more creative levels that have more creative environmental hazards and better design. It's great to experience the retro courses for nostalgia, but you'll find yourself much more enamored by the new stuff and the courses from anything that comes from the DS era onward. That being said, when it comes to say the original DS version or Double Dash it's actually really nice to see these courses updated or with a new coat of paint.

The actual racing is, again, pretty similar. You can choose your difficulty setting which usually entails going at 50cc, 100cc or 150cc. 50cc is a cakewalk as you'd expect and 100cc isn't bad. Once you get to 150cc however it can be a test in frustration (more on that later). As you race through courses your goal is to keep the lead. Throughout there are question mark boxes that'll give you items. There are a lot of familiar things here such as the koopa shells and mushrooms and the lightning bolt. Unlike before, there aren't a ton of new things present in Mario Kart 8. You've got the boomerang flower this time around which allows you to throw boomerangs at other players. There's also the pirahna plant. Yet the two most welcome additions are the Super Horn and the Crazy 8. The Super Horn is great because you can use it to hit all racers around you, but it also destroys all items coming toward you. This INCLUDES the blue shell. The Crazy 8 surrounds you with eight items that you can use at your leisure. The items you get are random after touching a question mark block. The worse you're performing, the better the item. This means those in 12th place have a much better shot of getting stars, bullet bills or lightning bolts while those in first typically tend to get banana peels and green shells you can send flying backwards.

Of course, this brings about Mario Kart's big problem that Nintendo hasn't really learned to rebalance yet. The rubber banding AI. Though not every Mario Kart game suffers as terribly, Mario Kart 8 does. It is not unusual to be ahead in a race and wonder either just how the other racers caught up to you so fast or to be constantly bombarded with items. The reason it feels like more of a problem in Mario Kart 8 is because instead of 8 racers there are twelve. Which means items will be flying constantly. On 50cc and 100cc this isn't as big of a problem but on 150cc it can feel like your accomplishments are due much more to how luck you were than how skilled you were. Mario Kart 8 doesn't suffer nearly as badly as Mario Kart Wii did on the original Wii, but it's sometimes pretty bad how much you can be bombarded with items and drop from first place to 12th in a matter of seconds. Again, it doesn't always feel like your skill is really that important but rather that your opponents are getting the luck of the draw. In one race I was hit by a blue shell only to recover and immediately be hit by a red one only to recover to be hit by someone with a star all within the span of seconds. It didn't seem to matter how much my lead was, the CPU was instantly there the moment I was hit by the first item.

Again, a lot of this has to do less with the vast number of items and more to do with the fact that there are now twelve racers which means the breathing room between being bombarded is a lot less. Mario Kart 7, for instance, had manageable rubber banding CPU, even on 150cc. Mario Kart 8 sometimes feels like I need to be lucky.

That aside, however, Mario Kart 8 is definitely a really gorgeous looking game. It's colorful, but more than that all the tracks and everything about them are very detailed. Mario's style hasn't faded at all and that's a good thing. The music isn't bad, but like most Mario Kart games isn't always the most memorable either. You're likely to be focused too much on the race to take a moment to listen to the music.

Mario Kart 8 is a great game. Aside from some particularly nasty rubber banding AI it's a great game. The formula has stayed pretty much the same over the years, but at least over the span of the last two decades each Mario Kart game is released to supplement the system it is for as opposed to just a yearly release. In other words, if you have a Wii U and you love Mario Kart there's nothing wrong with getting your hands on this. When you're among friends, especially, it's just a lot of fun.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX - PlayStation 3
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX - PlayStation 3
Price: $29.99
41 used & new from $29.69

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Sanctuary, December 2, 2014
Last year Square-Enix finally decided to push a couple of games out in HD. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Final Remix was released and it was one of the nicest HD polishes one could have hoped for. But it was also better by adding the improved elements of Kingdom Hearts 2 to the game. Unfortunately, for as good as it was, there wasn't much beyond the original Kingdom Hearts to really play. While still worth the buy Chain of Memories and a movie for 358/2 Days didn't exactly make for the greatest package. Nevertheless I was still happy with the purchase. Kingdom Hearts 2.5 pretty much does the same thing. This time around with Kingdom Hearts 2 and the universe expanded beyond that. Here you'll receive Kingdom Hearts II, Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep and polished movies for Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded.

Kingdom Hearts II was originally released in 2006. It was notable for two things. The first was making vast improvements to the combat and control of the first Kingdom Hearts. The second was that this is where the overall story can begin to get confusing. We begin the game as a mysterious boy named Roxas who in a place called Twilight Town. As we play as Roxas we slowly piece together what has happened to Sora after Chain of Memories. The first three or four hours of Kingdom Hearts is rather slow before we finally get to Sora, Goofy and Donald. It's also where the story takes shape. Like the first game you travel to different Disney worlds helping the characters through their dilemma. Also like the first game a lot of the time you'll play through a plot similar to the movie. Kingdom Hearts II, however, is a lot more story oriented and focused. You'll revisit worlds that adds lots of layers to the plot. Don't let the kid like nature of Kingdom Hearts II fool you, however, the story is surprisingly complex with no shortage of depth and themes. It's a good story overall that has great characters. Your favorite Disney and Final Fantasy characters return while also adding new ones. On the other hand, the story can be confusing... and sometimes needlessly so. There is a lot of lore, fan theories and ambiguity surrounding the Kingdom Hearts universe and anyone who ventures through Kingdom Hearts II would do well to keep that in mind. It's a very engaging story, but like the other games in the series, you're still ultimately only get a part of a whole.

The gameplay in Kingdom Hearts II adds a lot of layers as well. Sora now has more special moves he can pull off and the whole thing controlled a lot easier than in the first game. If you played Kingdom Hearts HD Remix you'll slip into this pretty easily. Square didn't really need to touch up Kingdom Hearts II nearly as much. A lot of the special moves are great, particularly Sora now being able to take on different drive forms by utilizing Donald and Goofy. In Valor, form for instance, Sora wields two keyblades and deals more damage. He cannot cast spells, but he's certainly more powerful. Wisdom by contrast, allows him to attack from long distances. He may not be much more powerful physically, but he can most certainly deal damage from afar, very similar to a sorcerer.

All the additions to Kingdom Hearts II such as tying special moves to a single button press or the forms made Kingdom Hearts II a particularly easy game, however. It's still true here. Kingdom Hearts II can be bested pretty easily without too much hassle. There are some things that up the challenge, but not much. For instance when casting a heal spell you use all your MP and have to wait for it to regenerate. Boss battles with members of Organization XIII, however, are a huge challenge throughout the game. They actually can be battles that provide some pretty tough challenges. Luckily in some of the fights, Mickey will come to your aid should you falter.

The gummi ship segments are also much better than the slow-paced moments of the first game. You also only need to do each level once to travel to the world. Once that's done you don't have to keep going through the levels over and over again. If anything, Gummi Ship levels are also treated as their own separate game where you can earn high scores and fulfill specific objectives. Overall using gummi ships is so much better.

We never received the Final Mix of Kingdom Hearts II. And here there's a lot more worthwhile content, including a great deal of new boss fights and new areas to explore that were not actually in the original version. The new content is not easy. These bosses will test you if you're not familiar with the game. It's nice to see that the Final Mix offers quite a bit more this time around.

New to the HD collection that some may wish to know about is that there are a couple of new scenes exclusive to the HD version of the game. For those who haven't played the original PS2 version in a while you might not recognize them right away. There are also the new boss fights from the Final Mix version. Also, much like Final Fantasy X, some of the tracks have been re-arranged and sound really good in their remastered forms. Another huge thing is that while many were quite critical of the difficulty of the original game, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix introduces a new difficulty called "Critical Mode." Expert Kingdom Hearts II players who loved the original game to death should feel absolutely no qualms starting here. It ups the challenge and asks more of the player.

Of course some of the same criticisms of Kingdom Hearts II are also still true. The most stand out of which is that Kingdom Hearts II has a pretty slow intro. When playing as Roxas this portion of the game will take a while to get started. I already noted it once here, but it bears mentioning again. It can feel boring and those who opted not to play Chain of Memories are likely to be confused. However, if you did play that and 358/2 Days then you'll likely find Roxas's intro here to be a lot more engaging than when the game was originally released in 2006. Nevertheless, when Kingdom Hearts II really gets going, the pace keeps up steadily.

The game also includes Birth By Sleep. There are a ton of fans that consider Birth By Sleep to be the best in the series. Originally released on the PSP it quickly became a cult classic. In part because there was no gimmick to the combat in the game itself. For the most part it played like a traditional Kingdom Hearts game. There was no card battle system or anything like that. You could go into the shoes of one of three players. Terra, Ventus or Aqua. Each are keyblade masters. The story in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep adds a lot to the lore, but it's mostly notable because it is by far the most mature of all the Kingdom Hearts games. Our three heroes are quite likable too. You'll need to play through all three stories to see the whole thing, but they're not terribly long to play through as it is. The combat flows nicely and it's a lot better to play with a controller as opposed to a PSP.

The additions here are things such as "focus" which allows you to use shotlock to attack enemies with homing attacks. Once depleted the focus gauge needs to gradually refill. There is also the dimension link which is used to draw the power of your supporting partners for other attacks. All this seems like it would be gimmicky, but Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep actually expects you to know its battle system. One notable thing about Birth By Sleep is that it's challenging. This game doesn't mess around. You are expected to be much more familiar with it than other Kingdom Hearts games. Boss fights, in particular, can really test you. Birth by Sleep is more than willing to punish those who don't take time to learn the game. This means learning how to utilize the focus and dimension link systems.

Birth by Sleep is considered by many to be the best Kingdom Hearts in the series and it's easy to see why. In the first place, the game has perhaps the most fluid combat in the entire franchise to date. It also features three different storylines where the combat may have different focuses. Yes, Terra focuses on physical attacks but Aqua's actually focuses on magic based combat, for example. This means that Birth by Sleep never really feels stagnant when you go through each of its three campaigns. And it keeps the pace moving.

Finally, we get Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded. The game in and of itself was not too particularly special and here you're not even getting the game. Much like with 358/2 in the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix you're only getting the various cutscenes from Re:Coded. They're exceedingly boring. Personally, I also do not think it adds much to the story either.

As you might expect, the visual upgrade is glorious. Like the first game you can certainly tell that a lot of care and devotion went into this remastered edition. Everything looks a lot smoother and runs a lot smoother. A lot of HD reissues don't touch the pre-rendered cutscenes. HD ports of games like Devil May Cry and Ratchet and Clank left their pre-rendered cutscenes in the standard 4:3 ratio. Here, Square actually touched up everything. Meaning that the pre-rendered cutscenes are also updated and in 16:9 widescreen. And everything about it is gorgeous.

With the exception of Re:Coded, everything in this HD collection is worthwhile. While I loved Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix I was far more impressed with what I got here. With the first one only the first game was really rewarding, but here everything is a lot better. For those who love Kingdom Hearts, this is a near perfect HD Collection, but should be experienced by Kingdom Hearts fans. Especially those hoping to catch up and refresh themselves for the inevitable release of Kingdom Hearts III.
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Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Selects)
Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Selects)
Price: $19.99
101 used & new from $11.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Out of This World, November 25, 2014
It's remarkable to see how far the Mario series has come since the days on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. We've gone from always running left to leaping into a three dimensional space with Super Mario 64. With such an enormous legacy behind him, there's always this moment where we wonder if Mario can still impress. 3D Mario games don't always come that often. Before Super Mario Galaxy we had Super Mario Sunshine five years earlier. A game that, for the most part, didn't blow people away the way the Nintendo 64 classic Super Mario 64 did. How could it? Super Mario 64 was new and unique. Super Mario Sunshine ended up not being quite the follow up we expected. Nevertheless, it was still great. Yet when Super Mario Galaxy came out in 2007 it was quite a spectacle. In my opinion, Super Mario Galaxy may, in fact, be the best of Mario's 3D adventures.

By now you know how the story in Mario games go. Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser and Mario has to go and save her. The story never changes. But if you're playing a Mario game for the story I wonder where you've been for the past thirty years or so. The games have always been about their gameplay more so than anything else. Super Mario Galaxy is no different. On the other hand, that's not to say there isn't a bit of a story. Mario eventually meets Rosalina. Her Comet Observatory has stopped dead in its tracks because it turns out that Bowser has stolen their Grand Stars. If Mario can help Rosalina get her Grand Stars back, he can save the Princess in the process. What gives Mario Galaxy a bit of the story is that as you uncover more of the comet observatory you can also uncover things about Rosalina's past. And it's actually quite interesting. You don't normally think of "good character development," when you play a Mario game, but Rosalina is one of the best characters to come out of the Mario universe.

Rosalina's Comet Observatory also serves as the games hub. You enter different areas of the comet observatory where you can then blast off to different galaxies. This is similar to Peaches Castle in Super Mario 64 and to Delfino Plaza in Super Mario Sunshine. You'll blast off to a planet where you'll have various objectives in each area to complete. Completing them will get you a star. Things will start off pretty basic. The more stars you collect the more areas open up. Sometimes when you defeat bosses you'll get a Grand Star. When you obtain a Grand Star more parts of the observatory open up that also open up more levels. Super Mario Galaxy seems small from the outset, but it's easily the largest Mario game out there. But the areas you'll visit are some of the most creative you'll ever see in any platformer. There's so much creativity put into every stage. So much so that it rarely feels like you're doing the same objective twice. You'll be running around on many spherical objects. Physics plays a huge role here. Sometimes you'll jump and be pulled into the orbit of an object. You'll also be jumping into launchers and you'll launch to other areas of a particular galaxy.

The levels themselves are quite creative in a lot of ways. In one level I was surfing on a Manta Ray. The next I was keeping up with a moving floor so that I wouldn't fall off into the vast reaches of space. In one of my favorite levels, I had to keep shaking the Wii remote after grabbing a flower so that I could continue to keep blowing in the wind. Super Mario Galaxy has so much variety in its levels that it's impossible not to find something to do. There are over 120 stars to collect. You don't have to collect them all to complete the game, but you will need over half of them in order to get to Bowser's final lair. If you are going to simply go straight for Bowser then Super Mario Galaxy is a pretty easy game overall. If, however, you want all 120 stars, the game is much harder. There are some really challenging stars to get. As you progress each galaxy will also have a comet in orbit that provides other challenges. You might have to fight a boss without getting hit once. You may have to race a doppelganger of yourself. Every galaxy also has a Purple Coin run where you'll have to collect 100 purple coins for a star.

It's a huge game and you'll need to utilize all of Mario's moves and tools to complete it. Previous Mario games gave Mario 8 hit points to go about with. Super Mario Galaxy only has three. To compensate he's given a spin attack that you only need to flick the Wii remote to do. Likewise, you also still have Mario's jumps and kicks. Super Mario Galaxy has other Wii Remote functionality as well. As you go through the game you'll collect Star Bits. These can be used to either feed hungry Lumas who may transform into launchers for Mario, or even open up new areas. Other times they can be fired at your enemies to temporarily stun them. A second player can also join the fray but the only thing your partner can do is hold enemies for you, fire star bits and help Mario jump higher. It's not involved, but at least it's there.

There are also several suits for Mario to get. Old favorites like the fire flower return, but there are also lots of new additions. There's an ice flower which allows Mario to run on water, creating ice platforms below him. There's a bee suit that allows Mario to temporarily hover and crawl up certain walls. The only addition that is problematic is most certainly the Spring suit. It's clumsy to control and isn't always precise. In fact, it's quite a pain. The game will eventually make you do utilize everything Mario has. If you plan on going into Super Mario Galaxy for the long haul, you'd do best to learn all the ins and outs because the game will force you to use all of them at some point.

The only real issue with Super Mario Galaxy that I have is that this game came out during the time when Nintendo insisted motion controls had to be slapped on in some way. In some levels this was painful. Firing star bits and shaking the Wii Remote to spin is one thing, but there are plenty of moments where the motion controls make the gameplay experience frustrating. When Mario has to balance on a ball you must hold the Wii Remote up similar to a joystick in a flight simulator and tilt it to make Mario roll one way or the other. It's fine at first, but the controls are sensitive and the levels are challenging. It's even more frustrating in the levels where you ride a Manta Ray. Again, the controls are quite touchy and it's easy to screw up.

Yet failing in Super Mario Galaxy isn't much to worry about. The game is far too generous with extra lives. They are scattered everywhere. More than that, you get an extra life for every fifty star bits you collect... and you will find a lot of Star Bits. You also don't even have to grab said starbits physically. If you want you can just point the Wii Remote cursor at them and collect them. Super Mario Galaxy is a very forgiving game. Even the more challenging levels make sure to provide so many star bits, coins and one ups that you'll find yourself in a loop of getting an extra life for every moment you fail. To this day I don't think I've ever run out of lives in Super Mario Galaxy.

Super Mario Galaxy is absolutely gorgeous. It is a game that definitely shows the importance of aesthetic design. The cartoon look is charming, but everything seems to literally shine. It just looks impressive overall. It is probably still the best looking Wii game out there (aside from perhaps the second Super Mario Galaxy). Every level is huge and has a lot of detail and environmental effects. However, the best part of the presentation is definitely Super Mario Galaxy's soundtrack. The orchestral score gives the game an epic feel and scope to it. It isn't just one of the best Mario soundtracks of all time. Super Mario Galaxy may have some of the best music ever heard in a video game. In particular the Wind Garden Galaxy theme is majestic. But thematically, the music always compliments the the game, the galaxy you're playing in and is soothing to listen to. I'd suggest getting a hold of this soundtrack, if you can. it's that's good.

Super Mario Galaxy is huge and creative in so many ways. It is not always the hardest game to play. In fact, it's really easy. It does have a lot of creative feats, however. The game has a lot of varied levels and rarely feels like you're doing the same thing over and over. It never gets repetitive. It's a fun game and may quite possibly be the best game you can find on the Wii.

Super Smash Bros. WiiU/3DS Collector's Edition: Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides)
Super Smash Bros. WiiU/3DS Collector's Edition: Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides)
by Nick von Esmarch
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from $21.05

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Stone Left Unturned, November 25, 2014
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Super Smash Bros. is one of those games that people often ask why you'd ever buy a strategy guide for it. A lot of guides in this day and age tend to be for collector's value rather and a compliment to the game itself. The guide for Super Smash Brothers compliments both the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game beautifully. It's a good guide. This is especially true given Prima's previous effort with the Super Smasn Bros. Brawl Guide which was very lackluster. That being said, I think beginners and those that just want to know the game the guide is great for them. If you're well versed in Super Smash Bros. there's really no need to get a hold of this guide as it won't tell you anything you don't already know.

The guide begins with the basics. Which is the menus of both versions of the game. It's going to help you get familiar with both versions, explaining the various things you can do in the menu and giving you a quick run down of the modes. As they are just introductions it means the guide will cover the actual game modes themselves later. After this it gets into the basics of the game itself. It'll start off with all the basic movements and button presses. If you simply watch the "How to Play," video there's nothing new the guide will teach you. However, there are some advanced techniques the guide is willing to teach you as well. Again, if you're well versed in Super Smash Bros. there's probably no need to really read too much into the basics. It is, however, really really useful stuff for those jumping into Smash for their first time. There is a small amount of coverage on the Amiibos here, but it's not very much, however.

Once we get past these basics we get into the meat of the guide and probably the reason you'd want to buy it. All of the characters. For each character it goes into a run down of all of their moves. It talks about their basic attacks, smash attacks, special attacks and air attacks. What makes all this coverage so special isn't just that the guide tells you what the move is, but also tells you how much damage it'll do. For the basic attacks there isn't really much. But as you get into looking at the special attacks it starts to tell you ways to utilize it and some of the properties of that attack. Since every character's special attacks are different, the guide may have a different layout for some characters than others. For instance, some characters there are charts to give you a better breakdown of some attacks.

There is also some coverage on their final smashes. It gives a good description and sometimes will even tell you about its KO potential. There is also an overall strategy they tell you about the characters. It offers up some nice tips. Given all the coverage the overall strategy is nice because it assumes you might know something about the character (presumably from reading about their moves and specials) that the guide rarely feels like the tips are just random Of course, there are several ways to play each character so your mileage will vary. One thing that I did like about each strategy, however, is that it does make sure to clearly indicate each character's strengths and weaknesses. Often the guide will mention how a character is better up close, a better defensive player etc. These are all useful tips for anyone who is just jumping into Smash. Again, you might know quite a bit of this stuff if you've already been invested in Smash. As I've said before, there aren't too many things new for Advanced Players. That's not to say they might not get something out of it. It is only to say the guide takes a lot of care in the coverage of the characters. Advanced Players might do well to read about the new characters.

Once we've gotten past all the characters, the guide covers all the stages. It'll cover them all for both versions. Since the 3DS and Wii U versions offer different stages this portion of the guide is slightly bigger than you might expect. Each overview shows you the stage in its entirety and tells you a few things about it. Particularly it points out the hazards of the level as well as telling you how to utilize some of them. The only real problem with the stage coverage is that when it shows you the entire stage, the bigger stages don't make such great small screenshots. The good news is you shouldn't need a so-called "map," for each stage. The guide will also tell you how to unlock each stage. The guide also makes sure to separate the 3DS levels from the Wii U ones.

After all this stuff, the guide talks about the items. First it'll detail what class an item is under (if it's a Recovery Item, Battering Item, Exploding etc.) and then it'll give a description of each individual item.

Beyond this, the guide eventually splits itself. One section talks about all the content that is exclusive to the Wii U version of the game. Here it goes into each of the various places you can go on the menu. The coverage here is surprisingly in depth. The guide even finds the need to explain the "Vault" to you, and the only real reason to go there is to check your progress. But the guide insists on making sure you understand everything you can about the Wii U version. It also explains how to unlock everything. Although it's mostly comprised of tables with description from the in game "challenges," at least you'll know everything about them. What Wii U players might really want to know is about the Smash Tour. It's one of the best aspects of the Wii U version of Smash that's totally new and the guide does a very good job of helping players understand it.

The guide then goes into all the solo stuff that you can do in the Wii U version of the game. It goes through all the basic modes making sure you understand what they are and how the other aspects of it work. For instance, it'll tell you about selecting the intensity, as well as how you progress through classic. There isn't really a huge need to be that in depth. It does tell you about the "final battle," but aside from that it's more of an overview. Since Smash is mostly about utilizing characters, the character profiles located earlier in the guide are going to be primarily what you need to actually learn how to get through these modes. It'll also talk to you about Master Orders and Crazy Orders.

You never realize how big Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U truly is until you're flipping through this guide. The last thing it covers that is of significant importance are the events. Though I like that it has a grid of all the events (for both solo and group) it is a little annoying that outside of a table that has the same description as the event in the game, it doesn't really give you a ton of actual strategies. I'm sure this is really no big deal for a lot of players. The guide also manages to cover the "All Star" mode and gives you some tips on unlocking some of the games challenges. The guide can go into a little too much depth at times (I know how strange that sounds) because it also covers the overview of all the "Group" stuff as well... but since most of it is "group" I don't think the guide really needed to take the time to explain to us such some of the same things it explained under "Solo" for a second time (for instance, the guide explains the All Star Mode TWICE because it covers it under Solo Play and Group Play). Every little thing in Smash gets some coverage in this guide, no matter how small. Either giving you overviews or going into a bit more depth to get you to understand how to play it. It's good stuff. For those new to Smash it can seem overwhelming. Especially considering how much depth this all goes into.

And we haven't talked about the coverage of the 3DS version yet. Luckily, it's not as big and much of it is the same stuff. Like the Wii U version it goes into a lot of the basics for the Solo Play and for Group Play. However, what 3DS Smash owners might want to read about is Smash Run. There's a huge overview of the arena, complete with tips on what to do in certain sections. There's also a map, and though it's kind of small, at least it's there to give you some bearings. It'll also tell you the powerups you obtain, things about the final battle and goes into a little bit more depth than the Wii U version does on customizing characters. Aside from these things, the 3DS version goes into most of the same things as the Wii U version (where they have the same modes, at least).

I suppose if there was any big criticism of the guide itself it probably would be that it's a little too in depth. As I said, it sometimes covers some things more than once that it doesn't really need to. And while I appreciate things like, giving us information on all the different things for stuff like The Vault, there's a part of me that believes it wasn't all necessary. Of course, this means the guide more than exceeded my expectations. There's nothing this guide doesn't cover. For those who want to know as much as they can about Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U and 3DS this guide is going to give you the knowledge you'll so desperately need. Overall it's fantastic. For Smash fans and for those wanting to get a leg up... this is a great strategy guide.
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Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo Wii U
Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo Wii U
Price: $49.07
135 used & new from $44.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the Greatest Multiplayer Experiences You'll Ever Have, November 24, 2014
Earlier this year, we received a Super Smash Bros. game on the 3DS and, for the most part it was a really good game that brought the chaos of Super Smash Bros. to the handheld format. Of course, this left many a gamer waiting for the main event that would be the Wii U version of the game. It's finally here and it's incredible. Though it is as familiar as it can be, it's a lot of fun, chaotic and most certainly a welcome addition. There are few multiplayer experiences like it on the Wii U, and there are a lot of ways to play, and a lot of people you can play with.

As you can imagine, not much has changed over the years with Smash Bros. The basic concept is simple. You go into an arena where you and a few friends can battle. Most fighting games have a life bar for each character. Super Smash Bros. abandons this in favor of showing you how much damage each character has sustained. When a player sustains enough damage they can be "launched" off screen. This is quite simple in concept, but it's always a lot of fun. Players can select to play a stock match where they have a set number of lives (and the victor is the last one standing) or a time match where players can keep battling wondering who has the highest score by the end. It's a good concept that has been strong since the very first Smash on the N64.

Super Smash Bros. Wii U ups the ante by allowing for up to eight people to play in larger arenas. As you can imagine this is incredibly chaotic. The same rules apply. During eight player smash it can sometimes be easy to lose track of yourself or your opponents. It can be so chaotic at times that there isn't always a clear winner. Combine the eight players with various items popping up in combat, or the hazards of each stage and eight player smash is insane.

Most items return. If you played the 3DS version of the Smash there isn't much here in terms of items that you haven't seen. In fact, nearly all of them are the same. There's nothing too unique here for those who played the 3DS handheld. For those who are new and haven't played the 3DS version, it's quite nice to see some of the new items. There's the S-Flag that you can hold and use for an extra life (in stock) or an extra point (in timed matches). You can grab the leaf to get a tail that helps you when falling just like in Super Mario Bros. 3. You can even get a ship from Galaga to abduct your opponents and carry them off screen to their doom. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of items.

Familiar game modes return. There's the classic mode which has you going through a series of stages and challenges until you face off with Master Hand, Crazy Hand (or both). There is also the All Star mode which will have you fight all the characters. This is all familiar territory. There is also the homerun contest that you can also go at with a friend.

Not everything is just a simple rehash of what you got in the 3DS version. Yes, the roster is the same, but there are many modes exclusive to the Wii U version. The Wii U version has some modes that return from previous Smash outings that aren't present in the 3DS version. For instance, there are a series of event modes that you can play. In these events there are usually special conditions you have to abide by. Sometimes you must play as a specific character and other times you get to choose. Sometimes you can't access some events until you either unlock a certain character or stage. In one event, for instance, I was tasked with playing as Bowser alongside Bowser Jr. as they both try to kidnap Peach. The event seems easy, except the conditions specify that you must defeat everyone on the map EXCEPT Peach. Thus, getting yourself KO'd or defeating Peach results in failure. The events can keep you busy for quite some time because they also have varying difficulty levels and rewards (usually a trophy or something you may unlock). You can also work with a friend to complete these events.

Super Smash Bros. on 3DS had a mode called Smash Run. It was a mode that was seemingly designed similar to Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary or Adventure Mode in Melee. Unfortunately, it wasn't particularly fun after a while. Super Smash Bros. on Wii U doesn't really have an equivalent to an Adventure Mode. Instead what you get is a Mario Party inspired "Smash Tour" which puts players on a game board, running around grabbing various power ups over a series of turns. As you go you'll get into battles. Sometimes you can handicap players before these battles or power yourself up. You can also let the AI play for you, if you so choose. The objective is to get as many power ups as you can. Once all the turns are up, all the players will go into a winner-take-all match where the various stat-boosting power ups will be put to the test.

It's slightly better than the 3DS's Smash Run. What makes it unique is that it's a lot more fast paced and that the battles can be varied throughout. As a result it also feels less repetitive. You can play this mode with the AI, but like so many other aspects of Smash Bros., it's not really all that fun this way.

The roster in and of itself is rather big. The same characters in the 3DS version are also here. What may not necessarily be too good is that just like other versions, you will have some characters that feel too familiar to others. Fox and Falco are very similar with a few key differences. Some characters feel like they aren't varied enough. March and Lucina are great characters, but also far too similar for some people to really tell the difference between them. This also means that, much like Brawl and the 3DS versions, some final smashes (basically a character's super move) are also the same. Toon Link and Link both have the same final smash. Shiek and Zelda also have the same final smash. As do Fox and Falco. At times it might not always feel varied enough.

For as simple as Smash is to play, however, it is certainly hard to master. There is a pretty vibrant competitive scene with Super Smash Bros. As such, players who are more into the competitive scene can also morph every stage into a Final Destination like flat surface if they so choose. The game is easy to play but very difficult to master. There may not be complex combos like in fighters such as Marvel vs. Capcom, but there is definitely more to Super Smash Bros. than simple button mashing. Button mashing will get you no where in Smash against a player who is more advanced and knows what he or she is doing.

There are a lot of ways to play Super Smash Bros. Wii U. There's the gamepad, the pro controller, Wii remote, Classic Controller and Gamecube controllers just to start. However, you can also connect a 3DS to Super Smash Bros. Wii U and utilize that as a controller. For those seeking to do 8-Player Smash, connecting 3DS's is perhaps the best way to add the additional four players. Of course, in order to connect a 3DS you would need a copy of the 3DS Smash to do it. It's a great way to interact with the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game, however there isn't a lot you can do with it. When connecting a 3DS you can really only go into the Smash Modes. Connecting the 3DS only really allows a player to play the Wii U version. However, those connecting through 3DS can't help Wii U players in event modes or partake in Smash Tour or anything like that. They can only really Smash. That's about it. The connectivity acts just fine, but the options to do under it are quite slim.

Super Smash Bros. on Wii U is a very detailed game. It's beautiful on the eyes and almost never slows down. Even in the midst of 8 Player smash, the game never actually slows down. There is some amazing detail and it's nice to finally play Smash in true HD. It's a gorgeous looking game. It also sounds really good. A lot of the tunes you've heard before. They're carried over from Melee and Brawl and (in some cases) the original versions of the games they come from. Compared to how many older tunes they bring back you might find there aren't enough original tunes. For many it'll be nice nostalgia.

The only real problem with Super Smash Bros. Wii U is the same thing that is slowly becoming a problem with Smash. The games are all very familiar at this point. Super Smash Bros. Wii U is a great game, but there's not a whole lot done with the formula. This isn't really a bad thing. The game is still in a class of its own. Many games have tried to imitate Super Smash Bros. with mostly poor results. There's really no need to change up the basic structure. There are a lot of new original levels but levels we've been playing on since Melee still return quite a bit. As Super Smash Bros. gets older it's a wonder just how much will be recycled. And it's not like Nintendo recycles A LOT of content, It's just that so much of it is the same thing you've been doing since Melee (in some regards). You'll still be collecting trophies, unlocking stages, characters and music. The new levels are interesting but a large amount do come from previous games, just as much as there are new ones. I suppose what I'm really saying is that, Super Smash Bros. Wii U doesn't make an enormous leap above its predecessors. The jump from the original game to Melee was enormous. From Melee to Brawl was pretty big, but not huge. Here, the leap is very small by comparison. Personally, I like it more than Brawl. The small gripes with Brawl are non-existent here. This is not to say the game is bad in anyway. It's fantastic. The best Smash Bros. game to come out in a long while. It is only to suggest that like other fighting games, there's a lot that's familiar and with each new installment it's getting harder and harder to blow us away. I'm still somewhat blown away by Super Smash Bros. Wii U, but I can't help but admit that I didn't go into this one nearly as excited as I was when Brawl came out six years ago.

Nevertheless, if you are a Smash fan you need this game. As you might expect, it's a lot more fun with friends than by yourself. It's a great game that offers some of the best multiplayer you're ever going to get on the Wii U. It's amazing in every way and if you are a Smash Brothers fan you should definitely play it. You won't be disappointed.
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Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Collector's Edition Game Guide (Special Edition)
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Collector's Edition Game Guide (Special Edition)
by John Chance
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Guide, But Buyer Beware... This Guide Was Never "Sealed", October 18, 2014
The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D Collector's Edition Guide is notable for one reason and one reason only... it was never officially released alongside the actual game the way other Zelda game guides are. When Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, Skyward Sword, Spirit Tracks and Windwaker HD (as well as A Link Between Worlds) each of these guides had two editions. A standard paperback edition and a collector's edition that was hardcover with the Hylian Symbol on it. The original Ocarina of Time 3D release never had a collector's edition guide. The only way to get it was to order The Legend of Zelda Guide Boxset Collection from Prima Games.

There are only around 50,000 of these boxsets in circulation. As such, The Ocarina of Time 3D Collector's Edition Guide is the RAREST of this set because it was never sold separately outside of this set. Where as the other guides were, Ocarina of Time 3D only had a paperback release originally when that game was released back in 2011. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before some in the gaming community took notice of this and began selling it separately for almost as much as the boxset it came in costs.

And that's not to say the guide isn't good. It's actually very good. The original paperback version was good but felt a little cramped at times, but this one fixes that. The guide is written in two columns instead of three. This means the walkthrough is all around organized better, screenshots are bigger and clearer and it's easier to read. The maps are incredibly detailed and it even covers all the dungeons in the Master Quest and all the secrets. But it's a little hard NOT to cover everything about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time because the game has been out for so long that not having information would be quite surprising. That being said, the guide in and of itself is actually very good.

However, I have to caution buyers who feel the need to purchase this guide separately. When the boxset for the six Zelda guides was released (it included Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, Skyward Sword and Windwaker HD in addition to Ocarina of Time 3D... all in Hardcover) NONE of the guides were actually sealed or in shrink wrap. They all came without the shrink wrap and any of their respective bonus items. The other guides, when released separately, actually were shrink wrapped, but any guides that came in the box set never were. Since the Ocarina of Time 3D Collector's Edition guide can only be found in this boxset it means the guide itself was NEVER shrink wrapped or factory sealed to begin with. This means that any seller who claims the guide is "sealed" or still shrink wrapped is lying to you. That seller would've had to wrap the guide themselves. In other words, this guide is already going for quite the pretty penny, don't think you need to pay more for a "New and Sealed" version of the guide. It never was sealed to begin with.
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Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo 3DS
Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo 3DS
Price: $37.35
113 used & new from $32.79

15 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smashing in the Palm of Your Hand, October 3, 2014
Since 1999, Super Smash Bros. has been one of Nintendo's Premiere franchises. The addictive multiplayer aspect alone has kept people running back to Smash time and time again. To this day people still play the original, Melee and Brawl seriously, as though they were just released within the past year. The games are addictive and fun, but also offer a variety of modes if you find yourself going at it by yourself. Super Smash Brothers on the 3DS marks the first time the experience has gone handheld. There's a lot packed into this, which is very rewarding. It can certainly go toe-to-toe with its console brethren, even if it isn't perfect.

The basic design of Smash has been unique since its inception. Few games do what Smash does. There are many single player modes to jump into, but chances are you'll first go straight to the multi-player You can go in a match with up to four characters. The objective is to keep bashing on your opponent until they build up enough damage that you can knock them off the stage. Unlike most fighting games, Super Smash Bros. doesn't waste time with life bars. Instead what it opts for is a percentage for each character. The higher your percentage, the easier it is for you to be knocked off stage. An attack won't send you anywhere when you're sitting at 7%, for instance, but if you're at 150% you'll be sent flying and possibly to your doom. You can go into stock matches where everyone has a set number of lives, or you can go into timed matches. Both are fun extremely fun.

The biggest reason Smash appeals to so many, however, is that it's relatively easy for just about anyone to play. Every character has basic attacks and special moves. The basic moves are roughly the same for every character. These can also be charged to execute smash attacks which are crucial to knocking your opponent off the stage. The special moves, however, are a bit more unique to the characters. Link, for example, uses his arsenal of tools. His arrows, bombs and boomerang for instance. Marth specializes in his dancing blade, while Mario might use fire balls or F.L.U.D.D. While it's simple to learn Super Smash Bros., the game appeals to the hardcore and newcomer alike.

Super Smash Brothers has a HUGE roster of over 40 characters. Not all are unlocked from the start. Some require fulfilling special conditions or partaking in a set number of battles. The only real downside is that while there are certainly fewer clones than in Brawl, there are still clones. Fox and Falco, for instance, are incredibly similar. As are Marth and Lucina. While the clones definitely have certain things that separate them apart, some aspects are just too familiar. On the other hand, some characters are very unique. The Villager, Mega Man and Pac-Man, for instance, are all characters that are truly unique (and also take time to learn). Lastly, characters that used to transform are now their own separate character. This means Sheik and Zero Suit Samus, for instance, are actually their own unique character with their own unique strategies.

The biggest addition is the ability to put a Mii in the fight. You can make a Mii a gunner, swordfighter or brawler. Gunners specialize in projectiles. The sword fighter uses a sword and a brawler uses his fist. You can also customize their move sets, particularly with their special moves. It's quite unique and allows for lots of different possibilities. It isn't just your Mii character that can be customized. So can the main cast. Throughout your battles and single player experiences you can unlock special moves that can be set to specific characters to change how they are in battle. There is also equipment that can alter your stats as well.

Smash also has tons of items that appear on the stage. Some, such as the beam sword, mushroom, and bob-omb are mainstays that have been around for a long time. Brawl introduced a ton of items, but the 3DS version also offers some as well. You can now collect pieces of a blaster and fire off a really powerful shot that is likely to kill anyone in a single shot. There is now bullet bill from the Mario games and bombchus from Zelda. These are just a couple of the new items. Rest assured there are a lot. If you get tired of any one of them you can go into the menu and turn them off one by one or turn off all of them in one fell swoop.

The Pokeball item also makes a return but there are a ton of Pokemon now, some that come from X and Y as well. They always assist the player who releases them. The assist trophies also return, but there is a lot more variety to them now. Some of the annoying ones are back (did anyone really like the Nintendog assist trophy?) but some are quite unique. You might get an assist trophy that releases pong, in which two paddles bat a ball all over the arena. You might summon a robot master from Mega Man to assist or Dark Samus. It's certainly interesting.

All of this can get to be incredibly chaotic at times. But nothing gets as chaotic as a final smash. When a smash ball appears and a character has it, their special transforms into a final smash. These are basically the super moves of the game. Some are incredibly powerful and useful. Mario's final smash, for instance, attempts to push players off the screen. Some are incredibly powerful (Mega Man's final smash is certainly a treat for long time Mega Man fans) while others might seem unfairly overpowered for those that don't avoid it (Marth) and others can feel downright underwhelming (such as Peach). The only thing that really keeps the Final Smash's uninteresting is that some characters have the same ones. One of the things I was hoping Nintendo would do was make each character's final smash unique in some way. But some are still recycled. Toon Link and Link both have the same final smash. Shiek and Zelda also have the same Final Smash, for instance. As do Fox and Falco. As do Marth and Lucina. It would've been nice to see them with more unique final smashes.

The chaos never really stops in a battle, though. And sometimes it can feel like there's just too much going on. Indeed, the levels can sometimes be overpopulated with items, while assist trophies are out and about while you're in the middle of fighting. What's amazing is that the came keeps running smoothly through all of this. There's certainly a lot to do in a match. While the items might add an element of luck, Super Smash Bros. is actually quite a skill based game. It is not a game where button mashing will assure you victory. Learning to block and dodge are important. Learning to grab edges (or guard them) is crucial to your success as a player. The items add a level of chaos and unpredictability, but as you familiarize yourself with them you'll find ways around them too. Super Smash Bros. can be intense.

If you don't feel like playing in an all out contest with friends or the CPU, you can always go into one of the various single player modes. There is the classic mode which has you fighting various characters. Sometimes they come with a few perks. You might fight a metal one or a giant one. Other times you just might have to fight off a multitude. Occasionally you'll find yourself with an ally to help. The classic mode ends with you fighting Master Hand. What makes classic mode slightly different from the previous games is that you can choose a path to go down. You'll always end up fighting Master Hand at the end, however. Choosing one route or another might make a few differences in the rewards you stand to get, but aside from that it's going to be the same mode you remember. You'll likely make a run through classic mode several times.

There are other single player modes. There's the multi-man melee and there's also the home run contest. There's another where you hit a bomb at a bunch of targets (this seems quite similar to Angry Birds). The other big appeal is Smash Run. This is quite similar to the Adventure Mode and Subspace Emissary, but much more toned down. You'll run through a level getting as many powerups as you can find to increase things like your strength, speed and defense. You've got a certain amount of time to collect as much as you can. Once the time has run out, all your stat boosts carry into a Final Battle that plays just like a normal smash match, except with these enhancements and boosters. The appeal of this is going to wear off very quickly. The mode just isn't compelling enough to warrant so many plays. It's quick, but there's nothing too particularly memorable about it.

The bread and butter of Smash has always been the multiplayer and the 3DS variant doesn't disappoint. When playing with friends it's a very fun experience. The connection was sometimes a little wonky, however. I'm not sure if this is a major issue or not. There were times when playing that my friends and I were in close proximity and we would lag out anyway. I am not sure if this is a huge issue with anyone else. The multiplayer only has a couple of issues. The most important is that it can be easy to lose yourself in the bigger levels. . On larger levels where all four players get further apart, it can be hard to see yourself in the midst of all the chaos. On smaller levels this isn't a big deal, but on larger ones it's going to be frustrating when you can't see where you (or your opponents) are.

The default controls don't always feel great. You can, thankfully, change the controls in the options menu. On the other hand, you must use the circle pad to move and do everything. At some point, I actually wished I could've changed the control scheme to let me use the d-pad. In some instances it would've made playing the game a whole lot easier. The circle pad is sometimes a bit sensitive. More than that, dashing or jumping can sometimes happen without you necessarily meaning for them to happen (but you can actually customize it so that you don't have to use the Circle Pad to jump). You can either double tap in a direction to run, or quickly "snap" the circle pad in a direction (meaning do it quickly and your character will automatically run). It's a bit touchy and sometimes it would've just been easier to just let players choose to use the d-pad.

Graphically, Super Smash Bros. 3D is quite a good looking game. The stages themselves are gorgeous. And despite the 3DS not being as powerful as a console, the amount of detail put into each level is fantastic. So many moments in these stages are fun and unique. The Super Mario 3D Land stage was a joy to play on. Some classic stages return such as Corneria, but the new stuff is really quite creative. These levels are really good. The same goes for the music. There are lots of familiar remixed tunes. Likewise, there are a lot of tunes lifted from previous installments as well as from other games here. From a presentation standpoint, Super Smash Bros. has never really disappointed.

There are a lot of things to do in Super Smash Bros. on the 3DS. The challenge mode will show you that there are a ton of unlockables. The game may be on a handheld, but there is certainly a lot of stuff to do and to unlock. The 3DS version of the game could easily compare to the console versions. There are a lot of trophies to collect throughout your endeavor. There are also tons of stages to unlock and music soundtracks. There's a lot to do in this game. And it'll take you a long time to do it. So rest assured, Super Smash Bros. will keep you busy.

Super Smash Bros., for the most part, has a pretty successful jump to handhelds. There are a few things that keep the experience down, but overall it's an experience that is worth partaking in if you're a 3DS player. The amount of customization and modes to play are enough to keep even the solitary player busy for long stretches of time. For 3DS owners who've been playing Super Smash Bros. for a long time, this game is just as good.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 4, 2014 1:20 AM PDT

Tales of Xillia 2: Prima Official Game Guide
Tales of Xillia 2: Prima Official Game Guide
by Howard Grossman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $29.11
89 used & new from $15.77

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Detailed Tales Guide I've Ever Seen, August 24, 2014
With how big and expansive the first Tales of Xillia was it was quite surprising to find that it didn't actually have a guide to go with it. With all the quests, items and secrets to behold Tales of Xillia was probably the most deserving of a guide in the Tales series. Luckily, Tales of Xillia 2, for as big and expansive at it is, does have a guide. And it's amazing in almost every way. It is quite possibly the most detailed Tales guide I've ever seen.

To compare and contrast, many a Tales guide before now had pretty much been published by Brady Games. And while some of them weren't bad (Tales of Legendia) they always lacked going that extra mile or really getting the player to master the game. Either because of missing details or just not going far enough. Guides such as their Tales of Vesperia guide or Tales of Symphonia were under detailed and (at best) mediocre. Don't be too alarmed by the price tag. As a collector's item it's worth it. As a reference for Tales of Xillia 2 it's so staggering in its information that you might find yourself suffering from information overload.

The guide wastes no time jumping into the game system. Everything about combat is here for your convenience. This is definitely where newcomers should start. For the most part the battle is familiar to the previous game that returning players needn't spend as much time here. This isn't a section that just glosses over everything, it's actually quite detailed. It goes into the different enemy "types," and really helps the player understand what kind of game they're about to play. It can feel like a bit much for a new player, but it's certainly much more helpful than some of the tutorials in the game.

Once we get beyond that we get to the characters section. In many a JRPG guide this section typically just introduces you to characters and (sometimes) tells you what they're good at. Here there's a surprisingly large amount of detail. It will tell you what the character is good at. It then provides a handy chart so that you can see their growth in stats (each one assigned with a letter) so that you can better develop and enhance their abilities. There's a bit more to it. The guide will definitely help you get the best out of each character. It provides a list of skills they can learn from their Allium Orb. It also provides a full list of artes. Yet what really helps this section stand out is that it gives a lot of tactics on how to use said character. Not a small amount of tactics either. It gives you an entire breakdown. It tells you what the character is good at in combat (giving you graphs as well) and then gives you some recommended combos and ways to utilize their artes. For anyone hoping to get the best out of a character this is certainly one way to do it. This isn't just a bio and a quick, "This is what the character is for." Rather it's actually a detailed section. Better than anything a previous Tales guide has done. Rest assured, you're not just getting the basics here.

Once we get beyond that we have the walkthrough. Just like the previous sections, this is quite detailed. There are maps aplenty. Each of them labeled with items in chests, the probablility of you finding certain items in the area during exploration. There is also a handy list of enemies you'll encounter in every area as well as basic stats. The guide doesn't ignore the difficulty settings either. Many (and I do mean MANY) strategy guides (especially for RPGs) tend to forgo explaining anything about difficulty. Here you actually get some detail. it doesn't come out in strategy, but there are charts to help you calculate every enemies stats for higher difficulty settings. This seems small at first, but it's a Godsend for those wanting to test their merits on Unknown.

The walkthrough is also written in an easy to use manner. When you look at the maps for each section you'll notice they are numbered. Where you see a number on the map simply means you find that number in the text and it'll tell you what to do at that point. There are also notes that might call out a few tips. The layout and design makes it easy to use and easy to follow. Bosses, items and other stuff. A list of skits also pops up if they're supposed to in a particular area. But perhaps the most rewarding part is that the guide shows you EVERY choice decision moment throughout the main quest. It'll also tell you how your affinity with a character will change based on it. It is, thankfully, also well organized. There are two distinct problems that can stick out with the walkthrough. The first is that... it's huge. You want this, sure, but it has no qualms about spoiling anything. If you're the type that needs the guide to get to the point quickly, this isn't that kind of guide. Likewise, there will be spoilers. Prima sometimes has a tendency to describe what you're already seeing on screen. It's no different here, but experiencing the story can be ruined in some spots because of it. This is especially true when you get into the side quests section.

The side quests and character quests section are written in pretty much the same manner as the walkthrough. Likewise, the guide also gives a pretty detailed look into the game's coliseum.

Once we get beyond all this we get into all the data. The items, accessories and shop data in particular. It seems strange that the shop data isn't included in the walkthrough at first, but when you actually see it, it isn't hard to understand why. These charts and lists are huge. It's better if they are in the back with the others as some of them would take up a lot more space and get in the way of the flow of the walkthrough.

The very end of the guide has all the list of trophies. It's a little disappointing to know it's not a full blown "Trophy Guide." It's just a list of trophies, what they are and a list of how you obtain it. But it's nothing unique and special. A full blown Trophy Guide would've been a little better.

Lastly, there is an interview with the producer of the Tales series. If you are a huge fan of the Tales games you should definitely read these interviews. It'll give you insight as to why Tales of Xillia 2 exists and why they did some of the things they did. It's a detailed interview but also somewhat short.

With so much information you're bound to get lost from time to time. There's a neat Table of Contents in the front of the guide to really help you find anything you need. But you're still bound to get lost flipping pages. This book is 400 pages and unlike so many guides out there, a lot of it isn't used and wasted space. It's full. There can be a bit of information overload, if only because there's so much info. Tales of Xillia 2 is a huge game and it's nice to see there's a guide that actually covers all of its bases.

I've yet to access the PS3 dynamic theme. However, I will say that in terms of that free eGuide... it is pretty much a waste of time. You must register to Prima's website to really use it. And while it's a free eGuide it can only be accessed online via their website. You can't download said eGuide and transfer it to a tablet or anything. You can only access it while on Prima's website. The free eGuide is nothing more than a marketing ploy. If you have the physical copy there's no real reason to access the free eGuide. While there are some things you'll get out of it, there's really nothing you can't find in the actual guide you've already put down a pretty penny for. Don't waste time on it, it's just a means for Prima to you to register to their site so that they can start sending you stuff via email.

The Tales of Xillia 2 guide is by far the most detailed Tales guide I've ever seen. There's so much information that it can feel overwhelming. If you have problems with Tales of Xillia 2 and would like a guide... this is the perfect one.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2014 10:19 AM PST

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