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Michael Jackson The Experience - PlayStation Vita
Michael Jackson The Experience - PlayStation Vita
Offered by jonmusic
Price: $16.88
41 used & new from $10.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Experience feels all too brief but it's still a Thriller., May 13, 2014
Michael Jackson: The Experience (MJTE) is a music and rhythm/dance game that initially made its rounds on consoles between late 2010 (Wii, DS, PSP) and mid 2011 (360, PS3) with appearances on the 3DS, iOS, and Vita last. Initially with mixed reviews all over the place, MJTE seemed like a game that needed to find a particular crowd (MJ's fanbase and lovers of motion gaming) in order to take off.

While I've never been much for motion-based rhythm games, I admittedly tend to adore handheld rhythm games (DJMax, Hatsune Miku, Guitar Hero, Rockband, Ouendan, Theatrhythm FF, it goes on!) so when I finally arrived late to finding The Experience I was surprised that the handheld MJ take was not Bad at all despite initial trepidation from "official reviews". It's a shame that professional reviews of MJTE's Vita release are so middle of the road and polarizing because for what brevity there is to The Experience it's certainly one that's enjoyable, more so if you're a fan of the late rhythm master himself.

-Gameplay-
MJTE is a different beast on the Vita compared to the console ports. Whereas those versions had you playing the game via motion with peripherals, the Vita's take on The Experience is that of a touchscreen focused swiping game. While this sounds bizarre upfront, the translation is very fitting and honestly feels comfortable. You'll be swiping in cardinal and ordinal (diagonal) directions along with a few flourishes such as curves and circles to the rhythm of Michael's tracks on show here. Three difficulties accompany each song available along with some challenges which are song specific.

One thing I immediately appreciated was that the lowest difficulty (Rookie) while easy, still felt involving. Many rhythm games feel like they tend to butcher the play of a track when they try to trim things down into an "Easy" difficulty. MJTE preserves the basic rhythms while leaving the intricacies of the music for Medium and Expert. This is a small touch that gets you into the beat and amps you up for the following difficulties and something I oddly found myself appreciating right from the beginning. This ends up a bit important because you can't immediately start playing Thriller on Expert or Bad on Medium right away on a clean file.

The game makes a few odd design choices in the form of a rank up/unlock system, much like many titles following the level up/reward idea. Things locked behind ranks include perfect timing (perhaps the oddest lock) along medium and expect difficulty while challenge unlocks center on things such as back-up dancers, stage effects, and a few other minor caveats. While this sounds frustrating with no knowledge of the matter from the start, the leveling system is quite simple. For every time you play a track, your end score are your points towards a rank up. It doesn't take a ton of play to unlock many things so the system's sort of fluff but not too in the way. Rhythm games are all about the rhythm so if you're not in it for that then no unlock will ever change your mind in my opinion.

Between swiping and swirling on the touchscreen mid-song you'll get brief moments of freestyle time where you can put in any swiping input and a few touchpad taps to add in to your score and let Jackson show off his dancing prowess. These tend to come up twice per track and act as a buffer to your score and a break from following the routine for a moment. While they feel a tad odd or out of place in terms of animation (since you're going from Jackson's song-specific maneuvers to more stock motions of his in some cases) it's a nice touch to give control to the player, even if it's only momentary.

While the gameplay is simple the game tosses enough well synced notes your way to keep you busy per difficulty while letting you actually listen and enjoy the music catalogue on display. The only problem I see in the gameplay department is that there's only 2 modes and chances are you'll only play one of them. HIStory (a nod to an album of his) is the main mode of singleplayer sessions while Battle is a dance battle between two players over LAN, plain and simple. Since this isn't a game you'll see people out in the wild with chances are you may never get to try this unless you convince somebody else with a Vita to purchase it too. Meanwhile there's also "On Demand Performance" but this isn't really a mode of play. This is a spot where you can view the performances unhindered by play, essentially a music video mode for simple enjoyment. This plays into the content problems the game has.

-Audio-
Speaking of the music tracks, literally the largest and central complaint I've seen with The Experience on Vita isn't the gameplay, it's the tracklist. There are literally only 15 tracks and no download content available in sight. When you compare this 15 to Vita rhythm siblings such as DJMAX Technika Tune (67 tracks) or Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f (32 approximately playable at base), The Experience comes up far shorter. A count of 15 tracks is closer in line with the smaller Ouendan DS import games and Elite Beat Agents (Ouendan's western sibling) which is unfortunate. However like that quirky trio of DS games, what's on show is about quality over quantity and while it's unfortunate we can't have both quality should come first. And it does.

Let's face it, whether you really know much about Michael Jackson or not, anybody who knows much about music has heard of Jackson's main hits. Had Bad, Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, and/or Smooth Criminal been missing from the 15 track headcount, then Ubisoft would've needed a slap in the face (a la Bad) for not using the very core of the rights granted to them when they got access to Michael's catalogue for production. They're all here though, along with a few other fitting tracks that create a nice if short glimpse into the range of Jackson's works during his career.

-Visuals-
Rhythm games typically aren't all about crazy amazing visuals and while this one isn't big on them either (you can ignore the amazing "HD" tag) MJTE looks fine and functional for a title that was there at the Vita's launch. For one the creators of this version took some notes on Jackson and his performances and some of it shows. Remember the famous Thriller outfit? Smooth Criminal? Billie Jean? Jackson's attire, physical appearance, and environment changes according to the track played, giving a bit of authenticity per track where possible. While this also points out the somewhat controversial physical morphing MJ underwent between the 80s and 90s in his career, it's an accurate and realistic touch that's noted. Each variant of Michael's model does a good job of capturing what he looked like during the time he initially created each of the songs present.

Aside from the notes of accuracy on his appearance, Michael's dance routine is also mostly present. His moves in Thriller, the gravity defying lean in Smooth Criminal, and even his special effects moonwalk as an animated skeleton in Ghosts appear. While I've seen some ardent fans of the King of Pop point out that the way these routines are presented in MJTE are inaccurate (which they relatively are when compared to the original material side by side), the important thing is presence here. Jackson is remembered just as much for his dance choreography and motions as he is his music, so putting these visuals on display was part of the literal experience with his work. To coincide with the man's maneuvers various short cutscene clips accompany each track which are direct nods to the original music videos. Jackson's club entrance and quarter fling in Smooth Criminal is noted, as is the crazy lift on skates one of the dancers performs in Bad. These shorts bits open each track, provide short breathers mid-play and close outs at the end of the song. While it's not all 100% accurate in presentation and order, it's good to know they at least paid attention to the man they were trying to capture (and capitalize off of.)

-Overall-
As I said in the opening, it's unfortunate that this game had to fight two uphill hurdles to get any recognition. When MJTE launched on Vita it was priced at $40 which is too much for such a brief game. This doesn't mean the game is bad (the non-Jackson way) at all though which is what a first glimpse at professional reviews and aggregate sites would give the potential impression of. Had this game been priced accordingly (such as right at $20 early on) or more tracks been present I think the argument would've been different. The gameplay is very enjoyable and it animates nicely for what it is. It's also a real shame that it took the death of Jackson to get any publisher to put out a rhythm game with any of the enjoyable bits of his work, as development of the initial onslaught of MJTE versions hit within the year following his death (hard to deny capitalizing on that part.) If you're a fan of Jackson or even rhythm games such as the others I cited earlier then I recommend giving Michael Jackson: The Experience a shot, provided you find it at a reasonable price point. The Experience may be brief but hopefully you'll Remember the Time you spend with it. It's like having one heck of an interactive album for your Vita.

Pros:
- All 15 tracks are right in front of you from the start and each has very good audio quality
- The tracks present jump around his career and show a bit of variety in his time performing
- Jackson's persona moves much like the legend himself for the most part and is well animated
- A small stream of unlockables keeps you pushing further on each song

Cons:
- Since all 15 tracks are available upfront, there's nothing else to unlock tracklist-wise
- Once again, there are only 15 tracks so it's a rather brief look into Jackson's historic portfolio, with no DLC to extend it.
- The initial asking price was too high for this game. At $20USD and below it's much more fair.

What?:
- Jackson's fanatics will be able to note some inconsistencies in performances and how they line up with the originals


Sonic CD [Download]
Sonic CD [Download]
Price: $4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best version of this often overlooked Sonic classic., November 24, 2012
Sonic CD was quite the gem back during its initial 1993. Released on the struggling Sega/Mega CD add-on to Sega's Genesis/Megadrive console it was perhaps one of the defining titles of the short lived platform. Sonic's environments arguably looked better, the gameplay was expanded to accommodate up to 4 variations of the same stage (via time travel), and the soundtracks were unlike anything else in the franchise (or even in general) at the time. Such a shame it was that Sonic CD was largely left behind while it's Genesis/MD brethren were immortalized in gaming fame. With a bit of prodding and design help by Chris Whitehead Sega has brought Sonic CD back and in the best shape it could be.

For one this isn't a straight port/emulation of the original Sonic CD. Much like Sonic Jam on the Saturn (probably the only true ports of the Genesis classics) the game was revised on a new engine Whitehead supposedly proposed to Sega. The game now runs in widescreen at 60FPS making for a better experience than straight emulation. In addition to these tweaks, Tails has been properly added into the game as well as the ability to tweak Spindash changes towards those of Sonic 2. Lastly you get your choice of using the original Japanese soundtrack or the American soundtrack. Fans will argue over which sounds better but it's a treat to have both available on the same title.

Sonic CD plays out much like its Genesis brethren so the gameplay is instantly familiar, though with an air somewhat more similar to the first game than the rest (possibly since Tails was absent initially as well). The main kick SCD gives to the formula is the concept of time travel. Every stage sans boss stages features a present, past, bad future, and good future which you travel to by touching posts and holding a consistent speed briefly. Think Back to the Future and you'll understand how time travel is pretty much activated in this game. Different time periods feature different environmental changes as well as enemy placements/presence. Ultimately your extended goal in the game (as in besides foiling Robotnik again) is to travel to the past and destroy main stray villain Robotnik's machinations in order to ensure a good future which you can actually visit in the process. This is a daunting task to do for each stage and encourages exploration through the expansive levels classic Sonics were known for. Your alternative means to make a good future would be to gather all the time stones (this game's variation of the series Chaos Emeralds) by completing the special stages (an equally daunting task). Either way you're going to be speeding around carefully exploring for rings and or capsules to destroy, and it is as difficult as expected for a classic Sonic game's "good" ending (if you want to call them endings really).

If there was anything I would fault Sonic CD for it would perhaps have to be the boss fights, they're the one area that feels somewhat lacking in what is otherwise such a treat of a classic package. Generally the bosses can be easy or indirect, which leads to a seemingly lessened sanctification of overcoming adversity. Despite this they are interesting none the less, one battle will have you in a Sonic Spinball-esque sort of situation while another will test your running/dodging reactions.

Overall whether you play this as a PC download (which is likely Steamworks involved or capable), on 360 or PS3 or even the original PC disc or Sega/Mega CD release it is worth playing if you are a fan of the blue blur's original 16-bit era outings. The only way I could see this game being much better is if it was actually remastered and made into true HD (along the lines of something like Rayman Origins graphically). Sonic CD doesn't pretend to be a trip back in time like more recent Sonic releases, it literally IS a trip back in time.

Pros:
- An excellent classic Sonic title which has often been overlooked
- Great porting and enhancements which results in a game better than pure emulation
- Two enjoyable soundtracks in-game
- Probably the most expansive Sonic title of the 16-bit era due to the time travel mechanic
- $5 or less for this classic, there are way worse ways to burn a fiver

Cons:
- Bosses aren't as challenging as the Genesis titles
- You're likely going to work fairly hard to get the better ending due to both methods being a challenge


Official Nintendo Universal Hard Case for DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL - Black
Official Nintendo Universal Hard Case for DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL - Black
Offered by RLZ Marketing
Price: $29.97
6 used & new from $9.50

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent for 3DS/XL too., September 10, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Although the case is marketed as a DS product (and appropriately labeled as such) Power A have recently rebranded it under the 3DS line. As with the DSi, you'll need to use a foam insert (which is provided) to house smaller units like the 3DS when using this case. A separator holds the system snug and just tight enough when closed and also provides a barrier from the top of the case, which has indentations to hold DS or 3DS cartridges (not sure if this is new due to the rebranding), up to six of them. Lastly the case can hold one small DSi stylus or you can place a partially extended 3DS stylus in a groove slot next to the game cartridges. There is one more stylus slot for the thicker DSi XL stylus right below where the system goes as well.

Overall the case feels tough enough to take a bit of abuse, though I'm more comfortable with the thought of a DSi/3DS XL in the case than the smaller ones, as I feel they give a tighter, safer fit. If you're in the market for a 3DS XL case you could get away with using this if you want, just remember it was designed with the DSi XL in mind originally.

Pros:
- 6 game slots, 2 stylus slots
- Adaptable to multiple systems in the DS/3DS line
- Tough case that won't just swing open

Cons:
- Obviously a rebranded DS geared accessory, even the case still says DS though the current packing says "3DS"
- You need a bit of force to open the case
- Would've liked something a bit more locked down than grooves for the cartridges but they work fine enough
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Nintendo 3DS XL - Red/Black
Nintendo 3DS XL - Red/Black
Offered by T.R.G.
Price: $162.13
190 used & new from $109.99

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Size matters. So far, so good. (Early impressions), September 2, 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Much like the DS line before it, Nintendo has seen fit to super size their 3D machine set it loose in the wild. The 3DS XL is not a reinvention of the of the 3DS, but a revision to some extent that makes the system more comfortable than its initial form. This is just a write up for what the XL brings to the table over the original. A review of the 3DS line in general will probably be added later since I feel it is fit to rejudge the 3DS at this point in its life span (which to say the least, is a lot better than where it started).

Build quality
The 3DS XL is built a bit differently from its smaller counterpart. One problem with the smaller 3DS is that buttons such as START/SELECT/HOME are somewhat melded onto the system and not as responsive (because they aren't significantly defined). The XL makes these buttons into ACTUAL buttons on the hardware, when you press them, you clearly feel the response because it is a defined button.

The XL and regular systems also differ in finish. XLs all exude a matte finish which does better at hiding fingerprints and smudges while the regular 3DS is a glossy finish little fella that basks in prints despite your best efforts. The matte finish makes the system look nice, clean, and smooth. Speaking of smoothness the XL features a rounded off design. This may not sound like a big deal but when you consider how the regular 3DS feels in your hands (it has obvious corners digging into your hands) the roundness of the XL makes this a gentle giant to the hands. Also for added convenience the stylus of the regular 3DS (near the cartridge slot) has been moved towards the right, where your right hand is resting to access the A, B, X, Y buttons, removing the scramble for a stylus if this is a big deal for you.

Hinges have always been a concern on Nintendo's DS and 3DS line (probably because DS Lites were infamous for hinge issues). I'm at least glad to say in my fortune the hinge on the unit I own seems very appropriately firm. It only has enough give to serve its usual movements, nothing excessive otherwise.

Another potential concern regarding the 3DS line was screen scratching, which would supposedly occur because nothing was in place to force the screens away from each other when closed. The 3DS XL includes little rubber bumpers on the top screen which help to reduce the likelihood of such an issue occurring. If one wants to be safe though I always recommend using screen protectors which will come in handy for more than just the supposed threat of screen scratching.

Lastly you have a slightly improved battery. The original system gave you a mileage of about 3-5 hours many say when using 3D or higher lighting settings. The XL is supposed to give you an extra hour on top of that. While it's still no DS/XL in terms of life span every added minute counts I suppose.

Graphics:
This is the big kicker for some people. The XL is essentially a larger 3DS but without a resolution upgrade so how could the games possibly look good? Well believe it or not the image blow up doesn't kill the graphics of games really. It certainly won't make some prettier but I've yet to see a game that has made me cringe from the size increase. The biggest problem you'll likely notice is that not enough (or maybe any??) 3DS games incorporate anti-aliasing. Anti-aliasing (a concept familiar to PC gamers) is the process of smoothing out an image so that nothing looks jagged or somewhat pixelated in appearance (most commonly related to edges). This is a problem that both systems have (inherently because of the way the games are designed likely) but it seems more apparent on the XL because you're more able to clearly see the game on a larger screen. If you can handle this then there's not much worth griping about honestly. On a side note, titles like Star Fox 64 3D and Kingdom Hearts 3D look particularly solid on the XL.

Meanwhile we also have backwards compatibility with DS titles to consider. They looked pretty decent on the DSi XL but what about the 3DS XL, which is a different resolution? The answer is, pretty good actually. the way I've heard some nitpickers gripe on I was starting to suspect that popping in DS games (which I'll admit, I never found too graphically fascinating to start) would look possibly atrocious. Nope! Even at full screen many of the games looks decent enough. I've tossed up images of some DS games running at the normal XL size to give you an idea if you're curious If you hold the START or SELECT button while starting up a DS (or non 3DS in general) game then you can boot said game in a form closer to its native resolution. When you did this on the original 3DS things ended up pretty small but on the XL things revert to a DS Lite sort of screen size. Generally from my experience 2D titles (Castlevania series, Chrono Trigger) hold up better on the large screen than 3D (such as Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars).

Sound:
The XL's sound is generally a little lower than the regular 3DS, which I think is the only real disappointment I have with the unit so far. Given that the system is even larger you'd think that the speakers would be a bit stronger but eh. Small trade off.

Overall the 3DS XL is for you if you want more screen space and comfort, those are the two things it excels in. There are occasional graphical deficiencies but they are relatively minute and almost always tied to anti-aliasing when it comes to 3D titles. Try a demo unit out at a Best Buy or Game Stop and see if you prefer the feel of it over the original. For $200 it's a pretty solid system and if you're new to the 3DS its a great starting point since a lot of better titles are available now upon the XL's debut.

Pros:
-Bigger screens, the obvious goal of this revision
-Much more comfortable in the hands
-Matte finish, if you prefer avoiding fingerprints
-A small bit of extra juice in the battery over the regular 3DS.

Cons:
-The complaint many still moan about: no second analog. Still isn't a big deal at this point but imagine the size of a Circle Pad Pro on this sucker.
-Bigger screens tend to bring out the deficiencies in graphics sometimes (mostly centered on anti-aliasing).
-You really would've expected a longer battery life than an extra hour.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 8, 2012 11:06 AM PDT


Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell 3D - Nintendo 3DS
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell 3D - Nintendo 3DS
Offered by Galactics
Price: $8.59
99 used & new from $2.94

3.0 out of 5 stars Quick first impressions from a SC:CT first timer., August 30, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Splinter Cell 3D should be more accurately referred to as Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory 3D as SC3D is somewhat of a portable remastering of Chaos Theory on a handheld. As a 3DS debut title, SC3D met with the usual gruff response that almost all of the 3DS launch line up was met with, that is to say it wasn't viewed very highly and to some degree rightfully so. SC3D is a watered down version of Chaos Theory, which to many fans of Splinter Cell is seemingly considered the hallmark title of the series up to this point.

Since the negative reception to SC3D has likely scared off most I think it's fair we get the negatives out of the ways first before moving along, mind you I am relatively new to the Splinter Cell series and this is my first time owning Chaos Theory (I have played demos on the PC and such before). For starters, the multiplayer "Spies vs Mercs" doesn't exist on SC3D. This is one thing that's repeatedly touched upon in reviews of this version but honestly I don't think Nintendo and think multiplayer all the time when it comes to titles like this so I didn't expect it admittedly. Graphically even though the 3DS is graphically capable of standing along side the GameCube (a system SC:CT was on) the graphics look fairly below par. Sam himself looks mostly okay and the environments can look decent but enemies use some fairly drab textures. Also noticeable is that in talking sequences the models don't show up as actually talking. SC3D feels like it's closer to a PS2 game than GameCube or Wii, so that's not a positive. Meanwhile the game's 3D incorporation is a bit light but okay. Sam himself will show well enough from the depth of his environment when the 3D is cranked up and occasionally other features will show decently too. Lastly, the game's framerate isn't the highest, and gets a bit jittery in some places. In a way it's similar to the later released Metal Gear solid 3D.

The next hurdle SC3D faced in reviews were its controls. Since SC:CT was designed at the very least for twin analog sticks the developers had to compromise camera control to the face buttons. This is actually reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid 3D (also on 3DS) when not using the Circle Pad Pro attachment. Unfortunately SC3D was developed before the Circle Pad Pro so it's a title that couldn't benefit from the added stick. Playing the game as-is doesn't feel impossible though. If anything every title the Circle Pad Pro works with can still be competently played without it and SC3D, while not supportive of the add-on, is no different. You have access to 2 weapons mapped to the touch screen as well as your grenade goods. In addition you also have your handy scanning goggles and zoom-in function placed on the top corners of the touch screen. The other main section of the touch screen controls is the contextual zone, where actions such as picking locks, silently opening doors, or grabbing nearby targets are mapped. While functional the zone doesn't have the benefit of enough space, as the touch button on the left and right side of this screen section feel a bit small. All in all though everything feels possible to access.

Overall Splinter Cell 3D seems okay if you're new to the series or are looking for a stealth game on the 3DS. Granted, Metal Gear Solid 3D outshines this game on the 3DS, it's still a seemingly alright companion to said title. At the original $40 price I could understand it being difficult to forgive the flaws (probably more so if you're already a series fan) but if you snag SC3D for about $15 or below (I actually tried it due to a daily deal at Best Buy making it $5 new) it may be worth a detour.

Pros:
- Single player Chaos Theory on the go
- 3D is okay
- Controls are tolerable for what they are

Cons:
- Graphics are not up to par generally
- Frame rate issues occasionally
- Bits of the game feel downplayed in this version, such as the importance of hiding enemy bodies
- No multiplayer (but I don't see this as a big deal for a handheld iteration like this anyhow)


New Super Mario Bros. 2
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Price: $26.48
180 used & new from $17.95

75 of 94 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The good, the greedy, and the familiarity. (Stuck between 3.5 - 4 star), August 26, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
NSMB2's unveiling was met with a lot of praise and criticism by fans of the 3DS. After superb sales on the Wii (New Super Mario Bros. Wii), NSMB2 follows in its predecessor's footsteps but maybe a bit closer than some will want to admit. Of all the discussing I see some bickering fans partaking in, the word "rehash" seems as synonymous with this game in discussion as it is with a franchise the likes of Call of Duty or Madden. So the ultimate question probably should be "Is this really bad or not"?

Gameplay, more money more problems?:
NSMB2 brings back just about all the gameplay elements of its Wii (and of course DS) predecessor in terms of gameplay style, mechanics and so on. As you can tell by the marketing campaign and the game case itself, NSMB2 takes pride in encouraging greedy players this time around. In addition to your usual princess rescuing routine a sub-goal of the game is to collect 1,000,000 gold coins throughout the course of your overall time playing the game. With a task as arduous as this you'll probably wonder if it's possible without sinking your life into the game. The answer is in a sense yes. There are a plethora of means to gain coins which range from the overpowered gold fire flower (which can destroy many enemies, blocks, and even rocks while giving you coins for everything destroyed by the spicy golden meatballs of death you fling), or turning enemies (such as koopas) into gold and kicking them away in which case they leave trails of coins for you. There are several more ways to earn quick coins but half the fun is in finding all the different ways the game will toss coins your way. Thar be gold in those hills!

Sadly the 1,000,000 coin goal falls relatively flat when you actually achieve your goal. You would think with such a hefty feat you'd be getting some amusing reward in return but the actuality of the situation will more than likely disappoint you. While I won't spoil the surprise I imagine there will be MANY facepalms when it comes time for the 1,000,000 coin revelation (there have already been for those who've spoiled themselves). Suffice it is to say that if you could deal with the disappointment that was Super Mario 64's completion reward then I suppose you could handle this well (hint, it's worse than that reward). I think the game may have been a bit better off without this "hook" but ultimately if you have fun playing for coins then the goal has arguably served its means.

Co-op, bros before toads:
I'm going to be honest, I'd always rather play a Mario game solo, NSMBW was no exception. Unless you liked trolling your friends or bumbling around the stages, more (than 2) players tended to feel like a chore in performance from my experience. That said NSMB2 jumps down from 4 players to just 2: Mario and Luigi. This works out well enough since on a smaller screen 4 player co-op would likely be very uncomfortable. When you play a co-op game (which mind you you can't do this over the internet) the host takes the role of Mario and the guest becomes Luigi. Mario (the player) will select one of their own files and both players continue from the Mario player's file. Luigi's player will not get any progress in their file but they will be able to bolster their coin count while in a co-op game.

The whole game is up for grabs in co-op so you can play beginning to end. The same mechanics in place for NSMBW are at play here, players can bubble themselves out of some situations in which case their partner can tag them back into safety. This can be used to cooperatively aid lesser skilled players through more tricky segments of the game, provided that the remaining player is never harmed. Should there ever be only one of the two players actively onscreen (non-bubbled) and they lose a life then both players lose and will need to restart the stage or at that stage's checkpoint. Another cooperative tactic one can use is sharing stored power ups. Each player can hold one reserve power up item should a situation go bad for them. Said items are called in and dropped above the owner's head but either partner can pick the item up provided they touch it first. On a co-op level, NSMB2 can still be a bit chaotic but it feels proper (and fun) at the 2 player count.

Graphics & 3D, itsa me! Familiarity!:
NSMB2 essentially matches NSMBW's graphics, but on a handheld. The game even retains NSMBW's solid frame rate consistently, even with 3D on. Character models are fluid and well done for the most part and the game looks as good as its predecessor. One can also argue that most of the game's assets literally feel directly lifted from NSMBW though. The character models obviously would be but the map designs/themes, stage designs, and so on literally make the game sometimes feel like it should be called NSMBW portable or an expansion to NSMBW. Much of what you'll see in the game will look familiar if you come from the previous NSMB title.

Meanwhile the 3D effect for NSMB2 is relatively minor. The 3D will amount to giving the game a bit more of a pop effect on the foreground layer and occasionally adds a touch to near foreground walls but otherwise 3D is not a big deal for this title (and it probably shouldn't be). However any time you are using the 3D settings in a stage the background will become blurred, detracting from details on background objects.

Sound, Bah! Bah bah...:
The same way the game graphically feels lifted from NSMBW the same can be said of NSMB2's music, though in this case it is immediately obvious. The game's soundtrack is literally NSMBW's but with more bah. If you had a problem with bahs previously, you'd best get over them for NSMB2 because this is a game that is all about the bah, and it's even heard in castle themes now. Despite the obvious lifting, cheery music is what makes any Mario game Mario and of course, musical enjoyment is subjective (I've actually had quite a laugh over the hostility some fans have for the added bahs though).

Overall, the million coin question:
Is New Super Mario Bros. 2 a rehash? As much as some defenders will relent to admit, it kind of is. The game's new gimmick never really changes much about how the game is played, the stages (and bosses) will look eerily familiar, and the music is immediately familiar. NSMB2 does have some of the criteria to be called a rehash. It may not do it on the caliber of other big named series but the point is, it does seemingly commit the crime regardless. The question is how do you feel about having more of something pretty similar (or the same)? I played NSMBW through for my nieces and while the best memories of my Mario days have been far behind me the game was still pretty enjoyable. I'm willing to pass the same judgment down to NSMB2 in that while it doesn't feel particularly mind blowing in any way, it is fun enough to be worth a spin. If you've for whatever reason never played a side scrolling Mario game though, this is a fun title to play. While the NSMB series never fully matches up to its roots, it's a fun homage to those titles that's even further accessible to newer/younger gamers.

Pros:
- Co-op is fun and functional.
- If you really liked NSMBW or even side scrolling Mario games in general, you may like this.
- NSMB2 matches NSMBW's graphics, sound, and controls.
- The golden flower may be mighty but it's not the difficulty killer the helicopter mushroom from NSMBW was.
- NSMB2 is an accessible title to just about anyone given its difficulty.

Cons:
- Not only does it match NSMBW's graphics, it literally feels like it reuses a lot of its assets.
- The music is barely changed, in fact it feels like they only added more "bah"s.
- The 1,000,000 coin gimmick does little to enhance the play, and its reward is truly underwhelming.
- This isn't exactly a game for challenge seekers like the original Marios, the game is way more forgiving than its source of inspiration (SMB3, SMW).
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2013 11:56 AM PST


MicroSDHC to to Memory Stick Pro Duo (Bulk Static Package)
MicroSDHC to to Memory Stick Pro Duo (Bulk Static Package)
Offered by GO Carol
Price: $2.85
5 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I needed (in regards to PSP), August 20, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I ordered this adapter mainly with the intention of using it on a PSP 3000. Rather than paying a high price for Pro Duo sticks (which 16GB can go for about $40+) or running the risk of fake Pro Duo sticks, I figured I would just get an adapter and use an official card of my own. The reader gave the system no problems after formatting the Micro SD and is working well so far. If you're looking for an alternative route to PD sticks for a PSP, this is a good route to go as 16GB or even 32GB Micro SDs don't go for prices as high as PD sticks.
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HORI PS Vita Hard Case (Blue)
HORI PS Vita Hard Case (Blue)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Hori quality but with a whiff of sneaker maybe., August 17, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It never hurts to have a proper case for your portable systems and Hori knows how to make'em. The Vita Hard Case is a Hori Vita case officially endorsed by Sony and it's simple yet efficient. You have a choice of blue/black trim or black/orange trim (as well as red/black trim but only for Japan). The case uses a firm clamshell design but opens on the narrow end rather than the long end like many other cases would. The case has a seemingly sturdy belt loop so you can fasten it to yourself if you wish. When you open the unit you'll realize the inside is firmly lined and material on both ends of the case reveals a bit of an accordion-like design, holding the case from ever opening too much for the Vita to just plop out. There is also a small partition which further helps to hold the Vita in a bit more. This partition has two firm small slots for vita game cards to be stored. Lastly the case comes with a carabiner clip you can latch onto a loop on the back of the case if you like. Supposedly the case has enough space to fit with Hori's face cover casing applied onto the Vita so I'm contemplating looking into that item as well for reinforced protection perhaps.

As a final side note I see a lot of mention of an odd odor about the Hori Vita Hard Cases. This is true though don't let this scare you off. The smell (for some odd reason) reminds me of shoe/sneaker material (such as what's found on the inside of them). The smell isn't overly prevalent unless you go poking your nose in the case, air it out and all should theoretically be well enough. Overall the case isn't anything extravagant (like the Hori MGS 3DS case set I covered) but it is properly functional and up to Hori's quality.
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Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy
Offered by MOST WANTED
Price: $19.85
70 used & new from $10.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chibi rhythm adventures, July 3, 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Apparently Square Enix likes the idea of tossing together the various Final Fantasy franchise heroes a lot. No, this isn't Dissidia 90210, but it is another silly title and this one is called Theathythm FF (theet-rhythm in pronunciation). Theathythm is a crossover in a slightly similar vein to Dissidia (they both host Cosmos and Chaos waging war with FF characters), though Theathythm plays on FF nostalgia in a different way than the PSP Dissidia games and it does so in a particularly effective way for fans of the series.

Many fans of the FF series will often cite the quality of the franchise's soundtracks which are notably well produced and taken seriously with each installment. Theathythm takes several notable tracks from the long running history of the series and makes them into a playable format somewhat similar to DS rhythm hits like Ouendan (an import only DS series) and Elite Beat Agents in some regards, while adding an FF RPG flavor to the mix. This admittedly sounds rather bizarre and honestly it is but behold, bizarre is not awful.

-The rhythm-
Theatrhythm is all about playing a music/rhythm game first and foremost. Like the above mentioned DS titles, you'll be tapping, sliding, and holding to the beat of FF tracks in the game. The creators (Indies Zero, developing for Square Enix on this one) took the game seriously when it came to syncing the tapping and sliding to the various FF tracks involved. Many tracks benefit from highlighting the sound of your input and following the beat very well, particularly in the case of some battle tracks (such as FFXIII's Saber's Edge).

There are three types of songs which each have their own sort of style name. These three are event stage music ("ESM", generally slow paced and featuring videos from the original games in the background), field stage music ("FSM", these tend to be overworld tracks and have a more moderate speed), and battle stage music (the fast tracks where your characters do battle in according to your performance). These three categorizations do more than just convey the type and speed of a track you'll play; they'll actually highlight some of the strengths of some characters a bit better than others. More on that a bit later.

There are three main methods of play in Theathythm. The first is "Series" play, in which you select an FF game (1-13) and play a series of tracks from it. Each series includes an opening theme, FSM, ESM, and BSM, ending theme. Opening and ending themes are aren't major play tracks and merely a way of earning extra points in a series, they are purely optional to play. When you play one of these themes you merely tap to the beat (the little notes floating towards the center crystal) to earn rhythm points, there's no intended challenge in these. They are more or less extras for fans to have fun with. The meat of the course are the field, event, and battle tracks stringed together.

Any track you play in Series will be unlocked for general play, called "Challenge" in the game's main play menu. Here you can play in a score attack format or practice tracks already unlocked as well as watch demos of perfect plays to get an idea for the rhythm of the track as well as how it is played. This is where you'll go for brushing up your skills in tracks as well as just playing your favorite songs to to your heart's content.

The last play menu is the "Chaos Shrine" where you can unlock some smaller gauntlet plays with some generally tougher enemies and better loot. These short 2 track runs are unlocked by acquiring dark notes during Series play. This mode is the one you'll want to play to grind up a few levels or earn some treasure such as the unlock crystals for new characters.

-The RPG-
As mentioned earlier, your character selections matter a bit even though this is a rhythm game. When you play FSMs having a character with higher agility tends to help the chances of your character finding moogles and other characters which will present you items when you stroll past them. In BSMs having characters with good strength or magic means you'll probably plow through more enemies before the track finishes, concluding the battle. More enemies defeated mean more chances for items and more experience.

Characters also boast abilities as they level up which can be equipped to add benefits in stages. These range from passive stat boosts, to saving your hide when your HP drops from messing up/missing notes, to harder damaging attacks for landing different note streaks. It's also worth pointing out that your survival in a song depends on your HP, which is directly linked to the leveling process, thus leveling up through playing tracks helps you last out the tougher tracks in the game.

While the RPG elements are a bit superficial and not necessary to enjoy the game as-is, they do add an interesting layer to the play and will likely help those who struggle through certain tracks. It adds a tactical layer that you can choose to take advantage of.

-The difficulty-
Theatrhythm is smart in that it includes difficulties that are fair for most people. The basic difficulty is good for casual rhythm gamers and highlights the core points of a track. Basic is the difficulty to play when you want to enjoy a song. Expert takes things up a notch and really emphasizes more notes in a track as well as adding a few curveballs (such as mix ups in slides). Expert is a perfect balance in challenge and enjoyment of a track (especially through hearing how the inputs highlight the track played). Ultimate is the difficulty that will try to crush you. You don't play this unless you want a challenge. Some tracks are pretty brutal in ultimate and add a very good challenge to tracks that feel easily possible in expert. Overall Theathythm ensures there's a difficulty for those who want to enjoy the music and nostalgia or challenge it.

-The chibis... and graphical notes-
Augh, why is this game adorable?! Even as a guy I have to admit the characters all have some nauseatingly adorable look to them. For those who don't know, chibis are pint-sized big headed versions of (usually anime-like) characters. Theathythm is essentially Chibi Dissidia with music battles. Even the classic FF villains and monsters are chibi caricatures, and don't get me started on chibi Ifrit and the other summons.

Graphically the game isn't mind-blowing but everything animates smoothly at 60 frames per second even with 3D on. The video clips shown in events (ESMs) are pulled from each respective FF game and fit the 3DS resolution well. I'm not really sure if the videos are in true 3D though; if they are then not enough of the scenes I've paid attention to show it off well enough.

Overall Theathythm looks clean throughout its menus and play and it really isn't afraid of trying to look "cute". You're not convincing anybody you're tough playing this game. You look at that predominantly blue button-eyed pint-sized cast and try to tell somebody you're the meanest 3DS owner.

-Closing-
Theathythm is an entertaining FF spin-off. When I heard of Dissidia's concept I at least foresaw that panning out decent at the very least. When I heard of Theathrythm I was a bit skeptical as to how they were going to implement RPG elements in the rhythm genre of all things. In a way they probably took the right route by not shoving it so hard on the player immediately. Unless you play the more challenging material on higher difficulties it doesn't feel inherently necessary to utilize the RPG/technical aspects of the game, allowing it to be enjoyed as the rhythm game it is first and foremost but also give players depth if they want it.

Fans of the long running Final Fantasy series will probably be most accepting of this game upfront, especially given the franchise's soundtrack history. Rhythm fans in general could also enjoy it as it plays similar enough to other experiences while adding its own twist as well as its own niche of music. Ultimately I think the final factor in determining enjoyment when it comes to rhythm games is the soundtrack included. If you like the music of the FF series you'll very likely enjoy this game. Otherwise ti may be a coin toss, in which case you should sample some tracks online and see if you dig playing them in this title.

--Pros--
- Many tracks, spanning Final Fantasy 1-13
- Several chibi heroes to play as and unlock
- Fair difficulties that let you enjoy or take on the music
- 1st DLC capable 3DS game in the states, so a content thick game can get thicker

--Cons--
- The RPG elements many not feel necessary to some players
- Tracks are generally short; it's part of how they fit so many in
- You're probably going to be grinding for some of those unlocks so hopefully you enjoy what you're doing

--Chibis--
- Nauseatingly adorable button-eyed big heads
- 'nuff said
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 9, 2012 7:10 PM PDT


HORI Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D Accessory Set - Nintendo 3DS
HORI Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D Accessory Set - Nintendo 3DS

5.0 out of 5 stars There are worse ways for MGS fans to burn $20-30, June 15, 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
It's a generally accepted rule of thumb by a good lot of gamers that Hori means some fair degree of quality and this Metal Gear Solid accessory set holds those ideals as true as usual. What you'll be getting in the set is a pouch, stylus, decal camo, and clip on casing.

Pouch - The pouch is olive drab in color with black trimming and the MGS 3D logo in lower center. The pouch is closed via clip. Inside the pouch you have a little pocket space in the bag which I ended up using for the Kid Icarus stand. That'll fit nice and neat in there with your 3DS with the MGS case on. On the side there are two little velcro pouchs for 3DS/DS games. It also has two loops in the back for belts and such.

Stylus - Has a bright green and silver finish. It is different from the stock 3DS stylus in that is is longer than the originals. It comes with a lanyard attached so it can be hooked onto the system. It is smaller than the stock stylus when compressed.

Camo decal - Obviously camo to fit the Snake Eater jungle themes. It comes in two pieces, one for the top screen and one for the bottom. I haven't used them yet personally. The instructions say these are a one time application only, so this isn't like a reappliable skin like say - Gelaskins.
Note: Ideally what you'll possibly want to consider is to put this decal on the screen first and then apply a smaller screen fitting screen protector (not Hori's as theirs is the whole screen). This way when it comes time to change the screen protector you won't yank off the decal. Gotta make that one and only count!

Clip-on case/shell - Matches the pouch in color. I have a hard time imagining this will look good on units other than Cosmo Black but on the Black 3DS it looks great. The bottom section leaves all ports open but feels possibly fragile/flimsy at the corners. Be careful when taking it off because of how thin the corners are and remember this is plastic. The top panel just slides right onto the 3DS top with no qualms and is easy to remove though. Features famed MGS artist Yoji Shinkawa's artwork of Naked Snake (Big Boss) and The Boss faded onto the cover. This alone is a treat for fans of his art (like me). Overall not super protective in the scenario of a fall (this is plastic) but the pieces will guard the 3DS shell from scratches and look nice doing so.

Overall this is a bundle for MGS fans obviously but it's well done and actually effective for the most part. The extra length of the stylus is something I'm sure some will appreciate. The shell/casing is a common accessory type sold in a variety of themes but this is the only way you'll see an official MGS one. The pouch feels a bit bulky but it is very effective at cushioning the system and keeping it safe. The decals are more or less for fun but just like Gelaskins you could use them to cover the unit from scratches and marks. Coupled with a smaller upper screne protector you have effective and stylish protection. For me it'll make the 3DS look like my Big Boss PSP's brother.

This is simply a fun and effective way to suit up your system.


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