Kirby Squeak Squad (NDS) – Review

Kirby Squeak Squad - CoverWhile the previous Kirby game for the DS was an excellent outing for the system, it did vary significantly from its predecessors in the gameplay style, relying more on the stylus than a standard platforming system. On the other hand, the latest reinvention of Kirby for the DS, Kirby Squeak Squad, produced by HAL Laboratories and distributed by Nintendo, is a return to a standard 2D platformer with a few tricks added in to use the DS touch screen effectively. While the game is very true to it’s roots, it unfortunately lacks a challenge for most experienced gamers and may be over with before the fun really sets in. Continue reading

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (NDS) – Review

Hotel Dusk Cover Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is another adventure game put out for the Nintendo DS by Cing, following on their early title “Trace Memory”. Hotel Dusk borrows much of the concepts from Trace Memory in a good way, and works in a rather great, multilayered, gritty story with additional good gameplay concepts for a text adventure game. Unfortunately, the game comes off a bit too linear and too easy for it’s target audience, though still is definitely a good “read” for the story it provides.

Continue reading

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (NDS) – Initial Impressions

I always though the two current portable systems would make for great point and click adventure games in the vein of the old LucasArts ones.  Phoenix Wright shows there’s definitely a market for story-driven games and the DS is a great platform for it.  “Trace Memory”, a game released earlier by Cing (who are being Hotel Dusk) shows elements that could work for an adventure game using the DS, though the game itself is rather easy and geared towards younger audiences.

Hotel Dusk takes what Cing did in Trace Memory and adds a gritty detective story on top of it, making it much more pleasing experience for older gamers looking for a good adventure game.  Most of the game is spent in conversation but there will be times that you can choose the path through a conversation, note when a NPC gives you a new line of questioning, and the like.  You interact with objects in various ways using the DS pad, and you move about the game world using the touchpad to guide yourself on a floorplan while the simple 3D representation of the world occurs on the other screen, allowing you to then inspect and manipulate objects as needed. (As noted by many, the game has you turn the DS sidewise like a book (similar to Brain Age), adaptable to left and right handedness as needed).

I’m already about 2 hrs into it (real time, I’m only into the 2nd half hour of game time) and I still don’t have a good clue as to what’s going on within the plot.  The art use is wonderful, using limited animated pencil/colored sketches to show the characters speaking and displaying emotions.   The difficulty isn’t too hard – yet, as most of my actions pretty much feel linear (eg I had to get money to pay for the room, but I needed to open the suitcase first, meaning I needed to find a way to open it up to start with), but it feels like the game can get divergent later.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (NDS) – Review

Portrait of Ruin CoverA continuation on the long-lasted Castlevania series from Komani, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin keeps most of the same gameplay as it’s previous 2D side-scrolling predecessors, adding a partnering mode previously seen as an unlockable version from Dawn of Sorrow and the use of Quests to give bonuses to the players. The game comes off quite well polished and is definitely another hit for the DS. Continue reading

Yoshi’s Island DS – ~5hr

So far most of the game is good, classic nod back to the original Yoshi’s.

However, I just hit a level mid-4th  world that features ice floors (so you slip easily), narrow ledges over bottomless pits, and worse, bouncing balls that can hit and knock you back that bounce uncontrollably about the stage.

I lost 35 lives on this level.  How incredibly insane.  Two of three of these at a time is ok, but all 3 together really make this part really poorly designed for a Ninento platformer.   Everything else about this game is great, but this one level ticks me off.

Magical Starsign (NDS) – Initial Impressions

I’m only about 2hrs into this, but it’s an interesting JRPG.  The key feature is the magic system – there are 7 types of magic, 5 that form a type of rock-papers-scissors relationship in that one magic is always strong against another type, while weak against a different type, and 2 others that counter each other directly.  Each of your party’s characters (6 total, but where I am there’s only 2) have strengths in one type of magic.  Add to this that as time progresses in the game, 5 planets that power the first 5 magic types move about; when the corresponding planet is a specific zone, that magic becomes very powerful.  There’s also night and day which affects the last two magic types in the same way.  Mind you, no magic seems to be ineffective when it’s not in it’s zone or against a foe that it’s weak against – it’s just not as strong a damaging blow compared to when the magic’s in phase and against an opponent it’s strong against  So you have to actually think about the timing of your battles and who’s best at delivering the right blows, compared to most JRPGs that you can mostly just do melee attacks with the occassional spell to bring down the foes.   Plus, tapping a character at exactly the right time when attacking or defending can help boost the spell or reduce damage (respectively), so a bit of the Mario & Luigi RPG elements are there.

The game seems to have a good sense of humor and doesn’t seem to be written to that low of a common denominator, and the characters seem a bit more than just stereotypes.

Kirby: Squeak Squad (NDS) – Initial Impressions

Squeak Squad is not a followup to Canvas Curse (in terms of gameplay), but is very much closer to the standard Kirby platformer games, updated to use some DS tricks compariable to New Super Mario Bros or Super Princess Peach.  The standard controls are normal (sucking up enemies to gain power, etc.), but you can collect up 5 items, which include treasures and special bubbles that store health or powers that can be released by touching their icons on the bottom screen, or can in some cases be combined with other stored items to make more powerful ones.  Treasure chests (which can be stolen by the foe Squeak Squad) contain the numerous unlockables for the game.

So far, so good.

Final Fantasy III (NDS) – Initial Impressions

FFIII is one of those I’ve not played (To wit: I’ve completed FFI and II via the Dawn of Soul advance, working on FFIV through GBA, completed FFVII and it’s Dirge of Cerberus, FFX, and FFX-2, as well as a good way through FFTA), though I know they’ve taken the usual sprite based graphics and made the game into a simplified 3D representation (much like the 3D recreations of Nethack) but keeping the gameplay the same.  It’s easy to tell that the dungeons are based on a 2D sprite map, but at the same time, they’ve done a good job to give it a unique feel. 

My only nit so far is that the character animations take a bit of time to complete, and you can’t easily skip the battle win scene.  Of course, I’ve only just made it to the first town, and if I’ve heard correctly, there’s a few difficult parts if one’s not prepared this early.

Yoshi’s Island DS (NDS) – Initial Impressions

Well, no complaints here – they took the same basic forumla from the first Yoshi’s Island, including the style of graphics and the approach to scoring each stage, add in a few more twists (such as the ability to change ‘babies’ which can affect parts of the level you can reach), and you have a great game already.  It uses the two screens like in Sonic Rush – the level’s shown across both though you can control if you want to see higher or lower than where you are presently.  Have yet to use the touch screen for anything, but I don’t expect that from a platformer necessarily.

Elite Beat Agents (DS) – Review

Elite Beat Agents Game CoverThe surprise success of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! as an import title for the Nintendo DS spurred into motion into getting a regional release of the game for the States as well as other regions around the world; unfortunately, the title, produced by iNiS (who have also produced Gitaroo Man), is rather solidly tied to Japan due to the music and story presented; even a translation would have been difficult to accomplish. Instead, they have decided to reversion Ouendan into “Elite Beat Agents”, which provides new songs and new stories and visuals, while still keeping the same great gameplay and overall approach to the game. Continue reading