Rhythm Heaven (NDS) – Review

cover Rhythm Heaven, a DS game that is a sequel to Rhythm Tengoku, a Japanese-only release on the GBA, has come to the states and provides a nice alternative to standard rhythm games while still providing that quirkiness factor that such games often bring with them. While the core game is pretty easy to get through, it is difficult to master, and backed by a great presentation to make it worth struggling to master it all.

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations – Review (DS, Import)

Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations - CoverThe third entry in Capcom’s Ace Attorney series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, continues with the same core gameplay and presentation from the previous games, but manages to bring a much more interesting story with elements that carry over not only between cases, but as well as from the previous two games. While there’s the usual issues with the text display being naggingly slow when you want it fast, or that there’s a few puzzles that may take a bit of time to wrap your head around, the game is the strongest entry in the series to date. (Of course, it should be noted that I am reviewing the Import version, which has the “early” English localization which does have a few notable flaws, which Capcom says they will have fixed for the North American version. I am ignoring any such problems in my review).

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS) – Review Repost

Ace Attorney - CoverFor those that miss text adventures or LucasArts style games, or like anything offbeat, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attoney for the DS is definitely a fun, strong plot and character-driven game that can fill the niche with some pretty good brain-teasing puzzles.

Phoenix Wright, simply, is one of those odd Japanese games, based weakly on their classic dating sims, that has been translated to English and brought onto the DS platform. In Phoenix Wright, you play as Phoenix, a just-off-the-bench defense attorney on his first 5 cases in court, defending the innocent of murder charges. The game is set in the near future, where the justice system has been radically revises as to have all criminal court cases take at most 3 days, thus requiring a significant burden of proof on the defendant. As the player, you have to work your lawyer-y skills in court to disprove witnesses’ testimony with evidence and information that you collect, and prevent the prosecution from overruling you. The game, while based on the idea of Japanese dating simulations, feels that it has strong comedic influences from the Adult Swim show, “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law” in that shouts of “Objection!” and “Hold it!” stand out like the cartoon onomatopoeia effects from Batman, key points are punctuated with fighting sound effects, and the bumbling attitude of Phoenix, though the game’s plot is still (mostly) firmly grounded in reality. I think it’s more that stateside, without the popularity of Harvey Birdman, this game would have had little chance to succeed without a major media push, but with it, the game can easily become popular by word-of-mouth.
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Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (NDS, Import) – Review

Ouendan 2 - CoverWith the success of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!  in both the Japanese market as well as an import title to English parts of the world, iNIS, the developer of the game, worked with Nintendo to bring Elite Beat Agents to the Western world based on the same gameplay and approach.  It comes as no surprise then that iNIS expanded upon the improvements made in Elite Beat Agents and applied those to the sequel to Ouendan, called Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (henceforth referred to as Ouendan 2).  The game is just as fun as both predecessors, a notch more difficult, and definitely shows the the series still has good legs despite the rather simple concept.

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Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! 2 (DS, Import) – Initial Impressions

A followup up to Ouendan 1 from a storyline perspective while taking most of the improvements that Elite Beat Agents had to offer is what makes up Ouendan 2.  The gameplay is the same as both these games: tap the screen as colored markers come up in time with the music to cheer on the various characters you’re helping.  The biggest change for the best is that there seems to be a much sharper learning curve with this game.  I finished through the Normal difficulty and while the first 6 levels were easy, the last few had just enough tough tracks that played on musical off-beats to throw me off and require a few reruns at it.  Notably, there’s a couple songs that are equivalent to “Canned Heat” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” from EBA in terms of their syncopation that threw me off.   However, I like that – the improved challenge earlier in the game feels much better than making Normal “too” easy.

It’s still all presented in Japanese, but, as with the first game, I think only one scenario seems a little odd and requires just a bit of Japanese culture knowledge; the rest are self-explanatory by pictures.  It is region free, so no need to mod your DS or anything like that.  Fans of the first game will see some of their favorite characters (crazy old pottery guy!) in some of the stories, so there’s nice continuity with the game.

Pokemon Diamond/Pearl (DS) – Initial Impressions

I picked up Diamond (I know in the long term it doesn’t matter, but still…)

I’ve touched both the GBA and the GC pokemon games before, but never really got my head into them; the DS version however seems much more interesting.

None of the mechanics have changed from the other Pokemon games; you fight and capture Pokemon, make them gain experience and evolve, and try to collect them all. I think the only feature really new from the GBA versions is the idea of a two-on-two battle (typical from the GC versions, but I never recall seeing them on a GBA), but this works out pretty much the same way.

Of course, I (to a point) wished I’ve played those before, because I’ve got a 32nd level Monferno with some killer attacks that can take down most other pokemon in one hit, and the rest of the crew my character is carrying is only around 12-15th level while I’m fighting wild and tame ones in the 15-20th level; it makes it very hard to actually capture these. I would have definitely done the growth differently knowing this, but at least I have a sure fire round finisher.

I wish the text and display was faster; I’ve already turned off battle animations but it still is slow in battle and reporting the results.

I really dislike the day/night cycle idea, as there’s only a certain part of the day that I will usually be able to pick this up. The idea here is that the time in the pokemon world matches your time, so so some Pokemon aren’t available until then, and other Pokemon can only evolve in certain time periods. I like the concept of day vs night changes but this should be independent of what my time is. For a game like Animal Crossing, it’s fine since it’s less a game and more a sim, but for here, the time changes should be accelerated (one “day” in 6 or 4 hours?) so that no player is penalized for a time they can’t play.

I think what will really make this game sell is the Wifi stuff which I haven’t had a chance to try. A lot of it seems to assume you’re always near a Wifi point so the game can constantly use those features should you use them, but I know I’m not the only one where being near WiFi is always true. But again, I’ve yet to touch them so I can’t really say for sure yet.

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (PSP, DS) – Review

Puzzle Quest - Cover (PSP)“Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords” produced by Vicious Cycle Software and Infinite Interaction and distributed by D3 Publisher for both the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS, is a simple Bejeweled clone at it’s core, but offers a lot of RPG and collectable card game-type components that readily mixes up the basic formula to produce a game that’s fun to play in short bursts or long sessions.

The version reviewed here is the PSP version. While there are noted differences in graphics and presentation of the DS and PSP version, the core game is basically the same.

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Touch Detective (NDS) – Review

Touch Detective CoverWith the success of adventure games such as Phoenix Wright on the DS, other titles were sure to follow. “Touch Detective”, developed by Beeworks and published by Altus, is another DS point-and-click adventure, and while the presentation of the game is stellar, seemingly making a game aimed at a young gamer work as an enjoyable game for older gamers, the gameplay and puzzles are lacking the spit and polish that most point-and-click adventure game players will have come to expect.

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Touch Detective (NDS) – Initial Impressions

This is pretty much (to some extent) like old style LucasArts games, save for using the touch screen to touch where you want to go, and what to interact with, which is all pretty straightforward.

The part I’m trying to deal with is that, I want to say it’s a game for yonger female gamers, but the writing is way too witty to be limited to just that.  You play as a young MacKenzie, a girl that’s got a detective agency, and you interact with other girls around town as well as other NPCs, solving mysteries for your friends.  However, besides having the touch screen to show the active area, the top screen shows a closeup of MacKenzie, with facial and body expressions matching her reactions and though bubbles that appear to comments made simultaneously to the conversion on the lower screen.  A character may be going off on a rant, with MacKenzie thinking “Here we go again…”, or MacKenzie may offer to take a case, but be thinking to herself “I have no idea what I’m doing…”.  It’s a very cute mechanic, and if you’re a speed reader (fortunately text speed is pretty good), you’ll possibly miss some of these.  The game itself isn’t hard – it’s just usually a matter of finding the right object to click to discover something new, but I’ve only done part of the first case so there may be more later.

Lunar Knights (NDS) – Initial Impressions

I’m one of those that listens to subtle internet rumors on games, particularly ones for portable systems, and heard that Lunar Knights might be one of the better RPGs for the system in a while (add to the fact that the Metal Gear Solid team is behind it), so I picked it up, and definitely not disappointed.

First, the game actually sounds like one of the best DS titles, effectively using the surround stereo mode for music and minimal, but sufficient, voice clips for the characters. That’s always something to appricate for a system where voicework tends to be ignored due to the medium limitations.

The game itself is an action-RPG, more comparible to western RPGs like Neverwinter Nights or even to Zelda only in the sense that you have no distinction between explore and battle mode. You can sword swing, block, enter a powerful Trance mode, and more. There’s still very standard jRPG elements, which include weapon synthesis, a magic system, effects of night and day AND weather, and more. There’s a good bit of subtle humor among the story too, though certainly it’s too early to determine how it will all work out.