Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Qwaser of Stigmata vol. 1 Impression

The Holy Wars Ignite in this stylish epic

Who knew breast could have this much religious meaning? The Qwaser of Stigmata volume 1 from Tokyopop offers up an intriguing story, by Kenetsu Sato. In its most simplistic form this is a fighting, battle manga where there is a prize and a number of ‘fighters’ each with unique powers and motivations. How this story unfolds, who the players are and where they get their stamina not to mention the base beliefs it challenges, this is what makes Qwaser unique especially when combined with Hiroyuki Yoshino art style. Let’s take a look at the core tale in volume 1.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 on Xbox 360 Impression

Playable anime? Just about dang near close with Ultimate Ninja Storm 2

Anime based video games have come a long way in the States and they continue to evolve with Naruto: Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 from Namco Bandai. The blending of fighting game action with RPG leveling up elements merges with storytelling and graphics grander than the most top-level games … period. Having a prior knowledge of Naruto will help greatly but the game moves along at a pace on par with the manga and anime which will allows those new to the franchise to get into the action. What makes UNS2 the next evolution in anime gaming? Let’s take a look …

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Vermonia volume 1 and 2 Impression

Four youths destined for greatness, the battle to retake Vermonia begins

The big boys such as Viz and Tokyopop, even Bandai have most of the major manga titles but once in a while a smaller studio pops up and delivers a quality tale that gives readers solid, non-big boy titles. YOYO is this company, a group of artist who wanted to create a new type of manga. The results so far is Vermonia and if volume 1 and 2 are any indication these creative minds are headed in a solid direction. This tale of four youths destined for greatness reminds me of Ronin Warriors or the old animated Dungeons & Dragons. What do these first two volumes offer in terms of the overall package, the art, story and layout? Let’s take a look.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ys: The Oath in Felghana on PSP Impression

Another Y’s handheld gem awaits in Felghana

What does Adol Christin and slime have in common? They are both the face of well respected and popular gaming franchises in Japan that struggled to see the light of day in the States until recently. The slime of course come from the DragonQuest franchise which is getting great exposure on Nintendo DS while Adol headlines the action-RPG franchise Ys seen on PlayStation 2 but which has hit its stride on Sony’s PSP. The most recent outing for Adol is Ys: The Oath in Felghana and while it’s just the third title in the franchise it’s not a quick, graphics upgrade port. This is a newly revamped game taking the core gaming aspects and story and moving them into an easy to pick up and play portable piece of gaming goodness. What else is there to this years-in-waiting title? Let’s take a look …

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dusk volume 2 Impression

More vampire action for Eve awaits

Dusk volume 2 from David Doub gets deeper into the vampire world main character Eve lives in and shows the harsh reality she has to embrace as well as a lighter side. Eve is a deep character and even after reading two volumes of Dusk there is still so much more to be explored. Let’s take a look at each chapter and see how the unique art and story compare, which dominate, which wither. Most defiantly worth noting that the cover art by Joamette Gil is outstanding and shows off a level of passion only a master and servant in love could share.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes on Blu-ray Impression

What’s better, the anime or the video game for Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes?

With Sengoku Basara hitting gaming systems and as an anime it would be easy for gamers to think they are mirrors of each other but oh how wrong this is. While the game has been met with mixed reviews the anime stands very well on its own. The focus is on two of the heroes seen in the game but the viewer gains a deeper understanding of these two, a connection the game just does not create. So why should gamers, those who purchased the game care, let’s take a look …

Splatterhouse on Xbox 360 Impression

Will the nostalgia go splatt or does Splatterhouse stand on its own merits

Remakes always work on shows like Extreme Home Makeover but for video games it’s hit and miss. Ninja Gaiden and Prince of Persia; great. Bionic Commando; not so much. The latest classic game to get the next-gen makeover is Splatterhouse and it falls in a lower middle-ground for the above titles. The overall vibe, the atmosphere feels very 80’s in its scares and horrific tale but how does this affect the game? Does it live up to the Splatterhouse gamers know, love and remember? Let’s take a look.

Gameplay – Sliced open and left for dead, young and dumb in love Rick makes a deal with the Terror Mask to gain life, power needed to save his girlfriend Jennifer from Dr. Henry West. Now a powered up brute of a man, Rick must traverse the mansion and more to save Jennifer killing all manners of baddies along the way and collecting blood.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 on Xbox 360 Impression

Goku still rules next-gen gaming with Raging Blast 2 …. right?

Dragon Ball, you are indeed as eternal as the dragon Shenron. Anime games in the last generation were niche except for one, Dragon Ball Z. The Tenkaichi and Budokai series of fighters brought a gorgeous cell shaded look to the fighting game genre and a solid fighting game engine that helped to separate Dragon Ball Z from other anime titles. This was a series mainstream gamers could get into and it paved the way for the mostly excellent Naruto titles seen now. Like many an older boxer thought, Goku and the gang does not know if, when to hang it up thus gamers get Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2 from Namco Bandai. The anime has been done for a very long time with special packages released from FUNimation including the current Dragon Ball Z Kai but what does Raging Blast 2 offer that should make gamers care, especially those non-fans of the franchise? Let’s take a look.

Gameplay – 90 characters, 14 levels and an online tournament mode mixed into the Dragon Ball mythos and storylines. A fighting game that’s very refined and full of personality, Raging Blast 2 is the ultimate fan-service for Dragon Ball-a-holics. Moves can get very complicated so it’s rewarding to pick one and master them but don’t fret, many characters share moves and overall combat styles.

Graphics – The strongest point for Raging Blast 2 is its character models. This feels like taking control of an anime. Every character looks amazing and moves fluidly. The environments feel pulled from the anime which can feel pretty cookie cutter at this stage and the menus are freshly made from Capsule Corp. All the characters look great, did I mention this?

Sound – The opening feels ripped from the anime and is a joy while the voice acting is super happy fun time good. All the special powers sound great. It’s a good sounding game that replicates the anime well but the background music is a miss. Why not use those tunes from the original anime, even remixed tunes.

Design – Online tournament mode is cool but this is the same game as it was back on PlayStation 2. There are more fighters but overall it’s a high flying fighting game. Adding in an almost RPG angle with the Raging Soul System is a step in the trying to innovate direction but it’s a fighting game folks with tons of Dragon Ball characters.

Miscellaneous – Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z are two completely different eras, types of anime sharing characters, the world but we’ve gotta wonder where is the Z on the title. Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2 vs. Dragon Ball Z Raging Blast 2 … did Z get cut in budget cuts? Props on having the Japanese voice cast.

Overall fans will enjoy Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2 as it takes the gameplay and characters fans love, makes them look great, offers up all their moves and presents it all in a more polished HD package. Sadly for most other gamers even with the large fighter cast the appeal is not there for a deep fighting game, not like it was back on PS2. An All-star past its prime, Dragon Ball is still solid but there are other fighters, other anime titles that have taken the reigns like young bucks should.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rock Band 3 on Xbox 360 Impression

Rock Band 3 evolves into the next stratosphere of rhythm gaming

Rock Band 3 is innovative. Rock Band 3 makes the music gaming genre feel fresh. Rock Band 3 is more than gamers may expect. Got your attention yet? The music genre from Rock Band to Guitar Hero has provided little reason for gamers to invest in more than a downloaded song recently but Rock Band 3 changes this. Not just a new packages with new tracks and some graphical updates, Rock Band 3 put in a new instrument and some gameplay changes that make the franchise fresh again. Let’s take a look …

Gameplay – Pick up an instrument be it a guitar, drums, keyboard (new) or microphone for vocals and become a star. The basic concept has not changed as gamers must match button presses with the proper on screen sequence to keep the vocals in the right pitch but there are changes. The Pro mode offers up trainers for gamers to get very intense in actually learning instruments, some with strings to move the genre closes to the Rosetta Stone of learning to play instruments. There is also the tried and true career mode where gamers travel from city-to-city getting new songs, rewards and challenges. Pick up and play is also an option where gamers can drop in and out very easily. The keyboard and option to learn to play for real is what makes the genre move in a new direction.

Graphics – The settings, the musicians all feel very Rock Band-ish with standards long established. Even with deeps levels of customization there are only so many ways to create big venues and underground clubs, even subways and hallways. The game makes great use of stage lights, puts gamers into the gig but with so much focus on the cords a lot of the polished graphics and camera angles can and will be lost on those playing.

Sound – It’s all about the music and with thousands of songs to download are there any complaints? The included music is great as it touches on a variety of types and even languages to offer a very … different taste of music, not all plain ol’ rock. The game sounds great and how can anyone argue with a track list which includes Stone Temple Pilots, The Smiths and Juanes.

Design – Creating the missing link from plastic, button based instruments to real is quite an achievement and one that if implemented in the early days may not have succeeded. Gamers know what the genre is about, they want to play and play their real music but there are tons of gamers who have mastered the buttons presses and they are ready for a new challenge. Bridging this gap from game to reality is finally happened in-game and quite exciting.

Miscellaneous – Learning to play for real from keyboard to guitar is the next, natural step for the music genre. Gaming machines are more than games with Netflix, online downloads and more and now games are moving outside being just games. Learn to play in more ways than one.

Overall Harmonix has created a phenomenon and helped to evolve it. Talk about seeing your child grow. Rock Band 3 is everything the genre is loved for and makes itself so much more with a robust track list, great graphics and menu transitions along with a variety of instruments that all stand well on their own. Those with Rock Band or Guitar Hero owe it to themselves to give Rock Band 3 a swing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ancient Chinese Series Sub-titled in English

Live action series from China with a very anime vibe ready for consumption

I grew up watching various badly dubbed king-fu shows and movies on early Saturday and Sunday mornings. These shows along with series such as Robotech, Transformers, Galaxy Rangers, Voltron, Silver Hawks, Thundercats, (need I continue?) helped create my love for anime and manga that took off as an adult. Now at the tender age of ‘none of your business’ I’ve been introduced to yet another brand of live action cinema that merges those kung-fu flicks with anime themes.

These Ancient Chinese Series touch on many of the same themes and core elements that many anime, even US cartoons touch on with good vs. evil, fantasy epics and sci-fi galore. I would be doing a disservice if I did not share something so enjoyable that is so close to what I love, to what I started this blog about. The trailer below shows off some nice highlights so make your own decision. Here are some of the series that have been shared with me, would love to hear what you think.

10 Kinds of People You Encounter on Xbox Live

Kids that own you or odd shut-ins await on Xbox Live

Gaming online is not a fad, trend or passing fancy. It’s an ingrained part of how games are created, marketed and played with online avatars, clans, user groups and more. With so many gamers of varied ages, genders and manners jumping online it’s a very unique mix that games will encounter online, some good and some bad. Online Degree takes a look at the 10 Kinds of People You Encounter on Xbox Live so take a look and see if you’ve encountered these people, maybe you are one of them.

Pokemon HS-Triumphant TCG Expansion

Say hello the latest, in time for the holidays, Pokémon booster packs and theme decks. This new sets is called HS-Triumphant. Some of the highlights include the following:
  • Legendary Pokémon are back in pairs as LEGEND cards Dialga & Palkia and Darkrai & Cresselia. 
  • New Pokémon Prime cards that include Celebi, Machamp, and Gengar. 
  • New Trainer, Supporter, and Stadium cards. 
  • New Special Energy card
Upgrades and updates are the name of the game with a new expansions and Pokémon TCG: HS-Triumphant looks to deliver with 100+ cards. Getting your hands on a new card, deck, expansion is one of the true joys of being a TCG player and Pokémon never fails to deliver the new.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pandora Hearts Volume 1 Premium Collection Impression

A new take on the tale of Alice with one bloody B-Rabbit

Alice in Wonderland, Disney’s well known version, is fun and entertaining, full of interesting characters and settings. Recent interpretations such as the theatrical Alice with Johnny Depp and Tokyopop’s manga Alice in the Land of Hearts have taken the tale to new heights either rewriting it completely or picking up the tale after the original tale was over. Now anime fans get a taste of a new interpretation, one that’s enjoyable, recognizable and so very, very different. NIS America continues its splendid anime title release with Pandora Hearts volume 1 Premium Collection and the tale of Wonderland will never be the same. Let’s take a look at this new tale of hearts.

Oz Vessalius has it all. A rich privileged life as heir to the Vessalius estate, one of the four great dukedoms. As he turns fifteen, his Coming of Age Ceremony is interrupted by amazing events as he’s drawn into the Abyss, a dark dimension full of chains. Thrust into this new, odd world where these living weapons, chains, wish to devour him, he must make a contract with a special chain named Alice, the Bloody Black Rabbit, or B-Rabbit for short, to survive. Alice assisted in saving Oz at his ceremony from the mysterious group Baskerville. After forging the contract which allows Alice to access more of her full power, both Oz and Alice depart the Abyss and come into contact with the Pandora organization, specifically Sharon and Break. Much time has passed for Oz in the Abyss, what seemed only hours is years in the real world. What happened to Oz family, sister Ada and uncle Oscar? What about his best friend and servant Gilbert? Why was he drawn to the Abyss, what are chains and why are both Baskerville and Pandora looking to control them? Why can’t Alice remember her past, was she horrible to be called Bloody Black Rabbit? Many mysteries abound but Oz seems to take everything in stride as he works to help Alice recover her memories and uncover secrets along the way.

Wow, this is only the tip of the iceberg that is Pandora Hearts. The animation style is solid with an older, noble setting that seems to be in Europe with major houses ruling and dukedoms overseeing all. The character designs are well done with Alice in human and rabbit form being powerful while Oz shows his youthful innocence and dark side (used to torment Gil). The designs almost feel shojou with a pretty boy aspect to just about every character and the use of humorous expressions lightens the at time very dark mood. The settings feel alive with a great amount of detail that seems very much pulled from the pages of history. It’s a beautiful anime and twisted also with the Abyss settings that are, well off. The chains are also pulled from the pages of Wonderland and twisted to fit the story and setting. Pretty, pretty, pretty is the best way to describe this anime.

The story has ties to Wonderland but is wholly unique and new. Alice, B-Rabbit, is not the sole central figure. This falls on Oz who serves as a sort of white rabbit and Alice hybrid. It’s Oz who’s sucked into Abyss and is the target of the various groups in play. Due to his contract with Alice, B-Rabbit, she also becomes central but not sole central. There are many layers to this story, layers of interest from Pandora to the power of the chains and Key of the Abyss. There is a mystery about Gil, his appearance years ago, his relationship with Oz, the watch Oz finds and Alice. Alice is missing her memory and it seems to be key to events 100 years ago, events tied to Abyss and the Dukedoms. Sharon Rainsworth and her agenda is also hidden as she works for Pandora yet seems to do things her own way. Yes much mystery in this series. The fun of this series is seeing how it ties into the original Wonderland tale yet weaves a very unique path.

Listen, what Pandora Hearts offers is great animation with great voice work, albeit in Japanese (yup, English subtitles only). The story is unique and sometimes familiar but there is no denying it’s originality and action. Anyone who loves a new Alice tale will dig Pandora Hearts and anime fans looking for a new and unique purchase really can’t go wrong. The included art book is sexy, I mean really nice quality, hardbound so pretty to read and look at. This is the third title from NIS America and so far they’ve hit on three very unique titles that are all gorgeous and well packaged. Check out Pandora Hearts in what’s a crowded anime market.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Superman Batman Apocalypse Movie Impression

DC nails another feature this time detailing the arrival of Supergirl

Thank you DC for bringing back the voices that matter. The voices I’m referring to are Kevin Conroy as Batman and Tim Daly as Superman in the latest DC Comics animated feature Superman Batman: Apocalypse. While the animation may vary, having a stable and close to iconic group of voice actor’s helps fans identify and tie together these heroes whom we love. The banter, the way the actors work together, it’s just nice to see and it continues what has been an outstanding and somewhat surprising run of animated features from DC, ones that tie into various comic story treads. Past dandies include Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and Green Lantern: First Flight which have been good but Apocalypse takes it to such a sweet level … let’s take a look at what I’m blathering about.

A crash landing in Gotham harbor triggers a series of events that will see Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman go head-to-head with Darkseid. The question is what crash landed to cause such a monumental battle? Her name is Kara and she’s another surviving Kryptonian and Kal-El’s cousin. Kara holds untapped power, power Batman does not trust, that Wonder Woman wants to train and that Superman wants to embrace and believe in. If having the holy trinity of heroes interested in you wasn’t enough Kara has also drawn the attention of a more sinister, purely evil player in Darkseid. As Darkseid puts his plans into motion its Kara who’s front and center as the battle begins on Apocalypse and continues on Earth. What’s a girl to do with so much power, a new life and all shades of good and evil wanting to control you … shopping anyone?

Ok so cheesy ending to the synopsis but not too far off once you watch. That’s the key, you will need to watch if you’re a DC Comics fan, fan of Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman or just love what’s a well created piece of comic animation. The character design is mostly great. The ladies have a very anime vibe to them with nice curves, clean figures and larger ‘anime’ type eyes. Superman and Darkseid retain their closer comic and animated Justice League look while Batman goes in a taller, darker model. Its bats that seems a bit off in certain scenes as he does not have the heroic look of Superman and Wonder Woman all the time … hard to describe but he misses in a few scenes in his looks. Now this is nit picking at its finest as this feature really comes close to the feelings, the epic battles felt in Justice League and the voice work really, really makes this feature shine. The story moves along at a nice pace and manages to touch on enough key points without glossing over too much. Days, weeks and months pass but there is not feeling of drag or missing pieces in the story. Knowledge of DC Comics will help but is not 100% needed to enjoy Apocalypse.

So where does that leave the overall package? Solid voice work, great character design, quality animation and a story that paces itself between plot and action without missing a beat, well it’s a can’t miss feature. No quirky trouble in parallel worlds here, this is a great animated feature and one that’s I highly recommend. Hell, it even made me like Superman a little, a little.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 on PS3 Impression

How will a cloned Jedi impact the Star Wars universe?

Dash Rendar; Smuggler who manages to blend into the background of the Star Wars universe while being somehow involved in major events such as the battle of Hoth. Created for the N64 title Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, Dash worked his way into a multitude of projects but he’s accepted. So why is it gamers, Star Wars fans have an issue with the very cool, if not a bit unstable, Starkiller? The star of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 is a sympathetic figure, one with an intriguing past but what he has working against him is more established Star Wars lore. Dash could blend in as a b-list player while Starkiller is front and center in many major plot points (beginning of the Rebellion, cloned Jedi) that does not allow him any leeway. So for this sequel does Starkiller solidify his role in the lore, making himself an A-lister or does he fade further than even Dash could dream? Like TMZ delves into Hollywood let’s take a look into the second round of exploits for Mr. Starkiller.

Gameplay – Take control of a cloned (or not) Starkiller as the action picks up where the first The Force Unleashed left off. A cloned Starkiller escapes from Vader’s grasp seeking the loose memories that the cloning process has left him. The action is the same third person action with tons of light saber action, dual wielding this time, and force power mayhem. Starkiller has the same powers as last game with a few new additions like mind control (forced suicide is interesting). Gamers will traverse the galaxy looking for Juno Eclipse while encountering familiar faces and the action feels just like the first game. Power up Starkillers force abilities. Its solid third person action with a bit of leveling up decisions needed that feels like more of the same than an true sequel.

Graphics – The level of detail in each texture is amazing and shows off some pretty impressive graphics. The characters look good while Starkiller and Vader look movie ready. The laser and saber lighting really enhances the mood and force powers show a level of, well power. Where Unleashed 2 may feel very familiar in its gameplay its graphics take a step up with better texture and great use of lighting.

Sound – Star Wars has such an iconic sound from its score to laser fire and every piece of this is reflected in Unleashed 2. Vader sounds great as do most of the voice cast but it’s Starkiller who leaves the gamers to wonder. Is Starkiller really this messed up in the head that his emotions come and go in his voice, nailing certain lines while missing other or is it just bad voice acting. No worries either way as the game overall sounds great.

Design – The levels, the characters, everything is familiar and established. All the levels are pulled from or inspired by existing settings from throughout the Star Wars universe. The levels feel more like and extension of the first Unleashed than a truly unique sequel Gamers familiar with the first title will feel right at home with the design set forth in Unleashed 2 which is pretty standard.

Miscellaneous – Starkiller is the wild card. He’s what Luke could have been, should have been with a level of power rare in Jedi and Sith alike. Dash Rendar is more the rule than the exception as it’s rare for a character with such impact on the universe such as Starkiller to be created this late in the game, in the original trilogy timeframe. Yes, seeing how Starkiller and his interactions in the universe are handled is indeed the wildcard that will draw in true Star Wars fans to explore

Overall Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 looks good, plays solid and tells story Star Wars fans should enjoy and question. It’s more of the same from the original which is not a bad thing but may be tough to swallow for those shelling out $60+ bucks for a copy.

Hanako and the Terror of Allegory vol. 2 Impression

When allegories become real it’s up to Hanako to step in

Detective Daisuke Aso is back in action in volume 2 of Hanako and the Terror of Allegory from Tokyopop. The porn mag collecting unique detective takes on some unique cases but what happens when the allegories take notice of him, go beyond their usual routines to attack the one who can stop them? That’s what this volume will tell as the fun continues thanks to the creative mind of Sakae Esuno.

As Detective Daisuke Aso takes on his most recent string of allegory jobs he Hanako and Kanae are quickly wrapped up in cases that are much more real, more targeted against the snooping trio. Hanako shows off her computer skills in helping resolve these new cases that see Kanae again possessed by a wish granting allegory while a half-body Teke-Teke is on the prowl. A twisted, possessed, group of school girls show that beauty is not everything and almost causes a few detectives their lives. Nothing compares to the danger presented by the Kitou-Kokkuri which targets Aso and pushes him to the edge revealing what he truly is.

I love these stories. See, with Hanako readers won’t get this mind blowing art, not really super solid art but a unique style that fits the allegory tales it tells. From an art standpoint it’s the urban legends that need to shine and they do. Esuno brings these tales and creatures to life and they look as disturbing as they should. No, it’s not the art but these stories, how they are translated to real life and how Aso, Kanae and Hanako interact with them, how they defeat them. There is also the larger mystery of what is Aso and how his interaction with allegories puts him in danger, it’s quite cool indeed.

Overall I said this with a look at volume 1, but with Hanako and the Terror of Allegory manga fans get a manga not high on the art food chain but plenty high on story. It may be my fascination with the paranormal, with myths and legends, but this is one manga I really, really enjoy for its unique creative angles.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light Impression

Going back to the basics of RPG’s and Final Fantasy

Role-playing games 101 folks. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light for Nintendo DS is the genre at its most simplistic. This is both good and bad but when it’s Square Enix behind the game then all is well … right? The Final Fantasy franchise has received a different type of life on the DS with redesigned characters that look and feel more kid friendly. The remakes for Final Fantasy III and IV, both by the same creators as 4 Heroes of Light, offered classic deep gameplay with new design and of course memorable characters and settings gamers know. The 4 Heroes of Light does a reboot with mixed results as these are all new characters and settings with a now very familiar design. The question is does it deliver? Older games with a new coat of paint have been rock solid for Square Enix so how does the new model in the classic game line holdup, let’s take a look.

Gameplay – As young Brandt turns 14 he must journey to see the King to be recognized as a man but upon arriving he finds a distraught king and missing princess. The journey begins for gamers and Brandt alike in typical RPG fashion. Young boy takes to dungeons and castles to battle monsters, rescue friends, destroy evil and save the land. Hours of dungeon crawling await with turn based battles using magic and melee attacks as well as items and potions. Four friends, party members, allow for gamers to take the class system of leveling up and really customize their battle group. This is RPG 101 with some limited co-op gameplay.

Graphics – Nothing to write home about. Final Fantasy III had a nice new look that has become the norm on DS for all Final Fantasy titles. 4 Heroes continues this look and feel with a mix of nice looking towns and monsters. Gamers expecting a big step up from prior FF entries will be disappointed.

Sound – Besides Cid, what ties all Final Fantasy games together? Music and it does the same with The 4 Heroes of Light. The tunes are classics, some new, some old and it helps bridge the gap for this new entry into the franchise. Beyond the soundtrack the audio sampling is very DS with not too much to compliment in eh way of battle sounds and item interactions.

Design – Being a cookie cutter RPG is not a bad thing but when you don’t allow gamers to target an enemy in a turn based battle, well that’s just odd. The dungeon and level designs and settings are nothing new for an RPG. The class system has been pulled off in a simpler manner with robust yet simple advancement trees to follow. The game is basic, a great entry point for gamers new to the genre.

Miscellaneous – A new chapter for Final Fantasy. While not every game tied to the franchise turns to gold there is hope for The 4 Heroes of Light as a franchise. It offers Square Enix the unique opportunity to not only do updates to older titles but rather revisits the genre, the settings and characters, craft them into a new generation of gamer and experiment with gameplay features. It’s good for gamers and good for Square Enix.

Overall there is nothing new in The 4 Heroes of Light. Gamers get a fairly standard RPG with storybook graphics, great music and so-so gameplay. It’s a great entry point for new and younger RPG gamers but with titles like Final Fantasy III and IV as well as the Dragon Quest titles out already there are other options to pick from with a solid and great track record. A good game yes, a great game not yet.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl Blu-ray Impression

Gory, over the top action that would make Tarantino proud

Twisted and a little sick. An endearing description of the action found in Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl on Blu-ray from FUNimation. While known for their anime release library, FUNimation has seen quite a few solid live action features put out on US shores, titles with a more historic setting, a serious tone … until now. The action and gore found in VG vs. FG is reminiscent of so many 80’s horror flicks. The special effects are cheesy at times while the acting is, well it’s acting but this is why we love this type of movie. While not for everyone there is most definitely an audience for this genre of gore and over the top action. Who are you and what do you like, let’s see.

Monami is just an average school girl nobody seems to take notice of even on Valentine ’s Day when all girls’ chocolates but hers are confiscated. She managers to deliver her chocolate to Mizushima with a bit of a secret. The filling is blood, her blood and Mizushima is about to be transformed into a vampire. Issue with this is his forced upon him girlfriend Keiko is not cool with this and tries to stir up trouble only to end up … well as Frankenstein girl. The action kicks into overdrive as a serial killing, psycho principal and his twisted nurse assistance reconstruct a few students and the fight is on. A grudge over a boy soon escalates into Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein girl and nobody is safe.

Ok so this is not an Academy Award winning plot. The story has many more funny and offensive points from the opening killing scenes to the African centric student group and the wrist cutting club. This feature does not worry about offending anyone but that’s just the beginning. The special effects are so ridiculous they are great and the action is very, very over the top. The actors ham it up from the very beginning and why not with this much blood spewing all over the screen and such a twisted group of individuals contained in one school.

Overall Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl is a guilty pleasure. It’s sick, gory, sadistic, bit perverted and just plain not right at times but it works for what it is. A film that knows it wants to be gross and over the top but at the same time fun and entertaining. Look at the cover, read the description, it is what it thought it is and so tasty to watch.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

10 Deaths Caused by Video Games

Proof that video games, like many things in life, can lead to death

Over on Criminal Justice Degrees Guide there is a very interesting article about deaths attributed to video games. Very interesting read given the legalities going on with gaming in recent days, weeks. At first it may seem odd to see this type of content on a legal site but as the world goes more digital it should not be surprising. Take a read now and see the 10 Deaths Caused by Video Games

Impression: Mass Effect Redemption Dark Horse comic

Mass Effect Redemption Dark Horse comic Impression

Another massive, popular gaming franchise gets the side-story treatment with Mass Effect: Redemption from Dark Horse comics. This collection bridges the gap from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2 and with PlayStation 3 owners about to get a taste of the franchise it’s good to get all the story one can. So what’s the deal with Redemption and why should gamer care, let take a look.

The Story – Commander Shepard is dead … or is he? This is a question Dr. Liara T’Sonia looks to answer as she travels to the Terminus Systems and the lawless Omega station. Teaming up with Feron, Liara must deal with the militant Blue Sun, Cerberus and the Collectors all in a race to recover Shepards body and find out exactly what value the body of a hero holds.

The story is very straightforward even with the various factions involved. Liara gets her answers and the stage is set for Mass Effect 2. While it’s a good story it is needed more for those familiar with the franchise. Characters, settings and factions are explained in enough detail but for such a massive game it just feels a bit light. Liara is an annoying character and frustrating as she shows such strength and weakness at the same time. The action does pick up and the pacing is well done but it’s a link in the larger chain the is Commander Shepards story, one where he is pretty absent.

The Design & Art – The cover art is poster perfect but the internal art is, well it’s adequate. This is not art that will blow comic fans away but it’s not bad by any means either. Characters and settings retain the look established in Mass Effect and the level of detail is sufficient it’s just not top level, detailed art. A good looking comic that lets the story shine as the star.

Why Gamers Should Care – Mass Effect fans on Xbox 360 get to learn a bit about the story between the games already enjoyed while PS3 owners can get a taste of what’s to come. Gamers should care because Mass Effect has such a strong storytelling element getting more in comic form is just too sweet to pass on.

Overall Mass Effect: Redemption is a must have for true Mass Effect fans. It’s got decent art with a strong story that bridges the gap from one outstanding game to the next. Comics as well as anime are intertwined with the world of video games so don’t miss out when media such as Redemption presents itself.

Disney Epic Mickey Disneyland to Wasteland Trailer

Take a behind the scenes look at how Disneyland goes to Wasteland in the upcoming Epic Mickey for Nintendo Wii.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Space Invaders Infinity Gene on Xbox Live Impression

A stylistic new direction for a gaming legend

How? How does an iconic game get such a sweet makeover and slide under the radar? The answer could be the sheer number of games rolling out in the holiday season or it could be that Space Invaders has done well with its updates recently, but neither is an excuse. Space Invaders Infinity Gene on Xbox Live Arcade is all that made the original grand and addictive with a look, feel and stylistic update to engage today’s gamer. The core gameplay remains but what’s so special about this download, let’s take a look.

Gameplay – Any gamer worth their salt knows the left to right, right to left and shoot gameplay found in Space Invaders. This new version jacks up the visuals with enhanced music, adds in boss battles and new enemy types while retaining the original gameplay. The normal, expected gameplay is joined by Challenge, Bonus and Music mode. Bonus is just that, bonus content unlocked while music mode takes uploaded music and creates a graphical look that matches the beat of the music. Finally the Challenge mode is a series of standalone modes that challenge the gamer to meet certain objects. A new featured called evolution allows gamers to upgrade their ship and gameplay elements. This adds a bit more thinking on how to spend evolution points to further enhance the gaming experience. It’s Space Invaders that makes a nice series of improvements, nuff said.

Graphics – Keeping it simple is a good thing. The very linear, straight lines and designs, remains with added colors. No over the top, 3D visual facelift for Infinity Gene, just a fresh coat of paint on a classic that looks outstanding in HD. The black and white colors are joined by more color settings but it never overpowers the gamer and gets confusing. A game that be visually enjoyed by multiple generations of Space Invaders.

Sound – its old meets new as the original sounds and limited tunes get jazzed up a bit. This is not a soundtrack that will really jump out at gamers and after a few games will begin to blend into the background. Game is best served with some sweet MP3’s playing in the background.

Design – Nothing radical as the core design (left to right, right to left and shoot) remains with some updates. What’s fresh and a nice ‘way to go’ is that this old-school formula works really well with updated colors, enemies and enough gameplay tweaks to really engage a new generation of gamer. Being able to level up ones ship is a huge bonus and adds to the fresh feel of Infinity Gene.

Miscellaneous – What’s old is new yet again. Not all updates, remakes, re-boot’s work but this one does. Fans of the original, OG gamers and the young pups alike can dig this title while remembers old gaming memories and building new ones.

Overall for $10 gamers need to get Space Invaders Infinity Gene. It’s a great update to a very dated, classic title that works and works well. Nothing to turn off older gamers but everything to satisfy newer gamers.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Disney Epic Mickey Character Overview Trailer

Many of these characters have not been seen in decades but in Epic Mickey on Wii they are front and center with the mouse that rules the house.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project Volume 4

Evangelion answers the question of ‘what if’ seen at the end of the original series

Ah, Evangelion. An iconic series that frustrated fans with it’s odd ending only to satisfy with movies giving the deserved finale. While FUNimation is releasing the re-make/update to the famed anime Dark Horse is publishing a refreshing ‘what if’ scenario for the franchise. In Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project the series takes the normal life for Shinji seen in those controversial final episodes and says what if to this being more than a scene in an episode. What if Shinji, Rei and Asuka were childhood friends going to school with fairly normal parents (still alive). What if they had to deal with not Angels but crushes and embarrassing situations? Let’s take a closer look at volume 4 of the series and ask ourselves ‘what if I wanted to buy this book?’

As the trio of Shinji, Asuka and Rei continue to go to class and train together the hidden feelings Asuka has been hiding really begin to surface. Is Shinji more than a childhood friend? Why does his relationship with Rei frustrate her so? A day to exchange chocolates leads to awkwardness while a very familiar synchronization test takes place in the school swimming pool followed by a drunken cherry-blossom party that shows the lighter side of Shinji’s father while Dr. Kyoko Soryu makes an appearance surprising her daughter. All of this pales when compared to Asuka’s mistaking a kiss between Rei and Shinji and its results. Things are definitely heating up for Shinji and the Evangelion crew.

Notice something interesting? All of these interactions and encounters seem fairly ordinary, no Angels, no Eva’s … just normal life and this is what makes this series so refreshing. The art style is beautiful and reflects a polished, updated look for the franchise which keeps the main looks of the original, solid, character and setting designs. The story is the star as fans get a different side of these iconic characters, one that is not all doom and gloom. The exploration of feelings between the three pilots … students reeks of many a school age comedy in a flowery fragrant manner (read good folks, its good). The humor is great and the embarrassing situations and new personalities for characters rocks. This really is a world of normalcy, of happiness that’s populated by the characters fans of Evangelion came to know and love.

The Shinji Ikari Raising Project is rock solid. Its beautiful art mixed with characters that fans love in a brand new setting that just needs an anime adaptation. As Full Metal Panic FUMOFU was to the original Full Metal Panic so too is The Shinji Ikari Raising Project to the original Evangelion.

House of Five Leaves volume 1 Impression

A masterless samurai; a band of outlaws; House of Five Leaves is a worthy read from Viz

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Viz’s Sig Ikki line of manga has established itself for rock solid storytelling, stories that don’t fit what the average person may think about when thinking about manga. The art is not always the cutting edge, ‘oh-my-goodness’ awe inspiring flashy art seen in the more mainstream series but it works and such is the case with House of Five Leaves volume 1. This book from Natsume Ono is rock solid in many aspects and should not be passed on just because of how timid central figure Akitsu Masanosuke looks on the cover. That’s the charm of this tale, let’s take a look.

Akitsu Masanosuke is not a bad samurai … he’s just not very confident or fear inspiring. His appearance, his passive nature leads him to lost job after lost job. As he takes on a new job, bodyguard for Yaichi, Masa is plunged into a very different world. Yaichi is the head of a gang called Five Leaves and their main business is kidnapping for ransom. Even after discovering this fact Masa continues to be drawn into this world due to his need for money as well as the passive charisma of Yaichi and those within the Five Leaves.

So my comments about judging a book really emphasizes the unique style of the art in House of Five Leaves. There is a very refreshing simplicity to the art style which serves the story and setting very, very well. At times, as with the cover and chapter art, the lines seem like brush strokes, a style that gets a bit sharper with the main story but retains the set look and feel. This look and feel is of course feudal Japan where samurai are still needed and hired. Masa as a character is timid but it’s his failings that make his interaction with Yaichi so engaging. Yaichi is that mysterious, carefree personality that just has a way with people and as he guides the Five Leaves so too does he guide Masa without his knowledge. The same interest Yaichi takes in Masa I found myself taking in House of Five Leaves. It’s not a violent book even with kidnapping and it’s not action packed, even though Masa shows off mad skills at one point, but it’s a book about relationships, about a man who is more than he seems and a group that’s engaging and fun to follow.

House of Five Leaves won’t blow readers away with its art but its style serves to guide an excellent and engaging story that manga fans should most definite take a look at. The older manga audience that is, not really a book the younger kids will dig.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I-play's Pigeon Squadron Impression

Dropping these bombs is tons of fun on iPhone

Easy to learn, addictive and fun. The secret formula to popular and profit driving games on iPhone. With a very large library of titles to choose from, iPhone owners may need a little guidance on games worth the duckets. I-play’s Pigeon Squadron is safely in this group of games worth said duckets but why? What makes this bird bomb dropping romp worth iPhone owner’s hard earned case? Let’s take a look.

Gameplay – Assume the role of an elite member of the paramilitary pilot pigeon squadron and take flight as its bombs away on people, cars, pets and more. A variety of missions and pigeon types vary gameplay but the core mechanic is dropping pigeon bombs on targets while turning and tiling the iPhone to turn, speed up and slow down. Great use of the motion in iPhone mixes with addictive gameplay that nails the simple and addictive angle of a good game on the go.

Graphics – Bright and vivid in its colors with a fairly flat top down view. The targets vary as do the environments and the cartoony look never gets old through 40+ missions. The visuals match the funny and addictive gameplay.

Miscellaneous – The fact the iPhone is an iPod seems to go over many developers’ heads so the simple ability to use ones music library in-game makes the gameplay move at an even faster pace.

Overall Pigeon Squadron is how a game should be made for iPhone. It’s pleasing to look at with straightforward and well developed controls and the concept is funny and addictive. Plenty of missions and pigeon types keep the game from becoming stale and for the price it’s a great purchase. Highly recommended for iPhone users looking for a fun gaming experience.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Front Mission Evolved on PS3 Impression

A new direction for Front Mission with Evolved

The Front Mission franchise is one of Square Enix hidden gems. This is not due to limited exposure but rather the genre it falls under. Strategy role-playing games (S-RPG) require hours of dedication, customization of characters/vehicles and the replaying of battles lost due to slight miscalculations. Time intensive and detailed is what Front Mission is all about. The mech (Wanzer) based franchise has always been solid so when a third-person action game was announced fans of the franchise and gamers in general were left to wonder ‘what’s up’? The answer is Front Mission Evolved. Taking a franchise out of its comfort zone is risky (ask Mortal Kombat and Tekken) so the question is will Square Enix benefit from moving out of the S-RPG arena and into third-person action? Let’s take a look.

Gameplay – The future, corporate and political strife, battle with giant mechs called Wanzers, mucho customization. Welcome to Front Mission Evolved where gamers take control of a Wanzer (mech) in third-person view and fight their way from objective to objective and checkpoint to checkpoint. The story, characters and settings just serve as window dressing for what’s a deep Wanzer customization exercise, something fans of the franchise in its original format will be very familiar with. The series moves into a very, very Armored Core direction with core multiplayer components in place. The Wanzers feel too slow and heavy at times and while there are boost abilities the initial experience can be a bit draining. Customization takes to a new level for the franchise as gamers have control over the weapons they equip in battles and can feel the pleasure of a well placed shot or blunt trauma beatdown. There are also on foot segments that … well let’s not talk about those, why get out of a powerful Wanzer.

Graphics – The stars of the show; the Wanzers. These mechs look great, detailed and can be customized to no end. Sadly this is the shining graphic achievement in Front Mission Evolved as the environments are bland and fairly standard destroyed city/base/land settings while the characters are generic and not very eye catching. Wanzers great, customization great, everything else so-so.

Sound – Lots of things blowing up but good. The soundtrack blends into the background without much fanfare while the weapons, Wanzer and overall destructive sounds take center stage and do a good job along the way. The voice work is overacted at times but fits the overly political meets personal story. Listen, Front Mission is all about customization and action and the sound delivers what’s needed on this front.

Design – Taking a solid S-RPG and moving it into a very Armored Core format works and it feels much like Armored Core. The amount of customization and Wanzer design is great and should please series fans but the ‘first-stab’ at a detailed third-person environment falls flat. Nothing really grabs the gamer as outstanding in the overall design.

Miscellaneous – Titles like Mortal Kombat and Tekken have tried to move outside their normal genre and failed but Square Enix seems to have found a nice middle ground with Front Mission Evolved. The move works and while not spectacular this is a good first offering in a lacking genre (mech genre folks, mech)

Overall Front Mission Evolved is not a bad game by any stretch. It’s the first romp into a new format for an established franchise that works fairly well. The Wanzer’s controls are tight, mechs look good and are very deeply customizable but the story, characters and environments are bland and need work. A good first effort that should not turn off franchise fans but will turn off S-RPG fans for obvious reasons. In a deep holiday seasons there are limits on mech action which is good for Front Mission Evolved, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halo: Reach Impression

Halo: Reach is the peak of Spartan gaming

Teased with ‘other’ Spartans in Halo Wars and ODST troopers in Halo ODST gamers finally get a chance to step into the Mjolnir of really real Spartans, ones they’ve read about in Halo: The Fall of Reach and Halo: Ghost of Onyx (just to name two novels). Yes, Halo: Reach for Xbox 360 has been out for a few weeks and yes it’s fricking sweet but does it warrant new fans to finally take a look? Is there enough steam for series fans? Is this just a touched up ODST? Fine questions all, let’s get cracking on answering.

Gameplay – Long established, Reach is a first-person shooter with vehicular piloting/shooting thrown in. In these moments the action switches to a third-person view for driving/flying/shooting assistance. Fans and even noobs know what to expected from the core gameplay that is oh so polished. Ever movement, button press, action feels refined thanks to the history of this gaming engine and the development team. The new flying segments feel like a natural upgrade also. The multiplayer shines with a hefty offering of match types and will keeps fans playing for months. The campaign mode fires up and never lets down from the word go with action that transitions quickly from (rare) skirmishes to the all out invasion that is the tale of Reach. It’s a sad tale but one gamers will dig while the customization on multiplayer means no more canned teams/unit types, it’s all about upgrading this time around.

Graphics – Best looking game on 360? Top 3 no doubt but close to the best as the levels look amazing, offer a sense of scale that is breathtaking especially when the full scope of the invasion is digested by gamers. Every Covenant has received a facelift and the level of detail is spectacular even on items in the distance. The Spartans of Noble team look amazing and show that there is more than just Master Chief in this group of bad mo-fo’s.

Sound – As iconic as Star Wars and Mario, yes the compositions of Marty O’Donnell amaze and set the stage with sweeping tunes that excite the action and highlight the despair. Reach is a soundtrack to be owned. The voice work is outstanding and breathes life into these godlike figures in the same manner as the novels do. They are not all mission, order driven machines as Master Chief is (mostly that is).

Design – Single player campaign mixes up the action in ways no other Halo has by taking gamers seamlessly from action type to action type and back. Sitting in a turret then down on the ground and up in zero-g. Its seamless folks, very, very well done, great design here. The multiplayer creation options have been upgraded so grading the design here is pointless as it’s on the gamer to stretch the limits as few other games allow. A rock solid single player experience with one of the deepest, most polished multiplayer … that’s solid gaming design that a title like Reach needs to deliver.

Miscellaneous – Reach, a major blow to the mankind that is told in Halo: The Fall of Reach from Tor Books. In this tale of Master Chief’s rise the story of what happens planet side is only touched on and this epic battle is referenced so many times in other Halo novels, comics, animation and games. Finally getting a chance to go planet side, to see what happens is epic and sad. To fully experience the emotion of the single player campaign the other Halo media types need to be digested, this is the true Halo experience.

Overall Halo: Reach answers yes (and one no) to all the questions above and then some. Those yet to taste the Halo universe are provide a gorgeous, deep and engaging title that provides all the back-story needed and actually takes place before the first Halo on Xbox. The multiplayer is polished and amazing; this is really the pinnacle of Halo so jump in fresh. For series fans what is there to complain about? Go ahead, list complaints as there are no real ones. The formula has been taken through Halo 1-3, ODST and is now just a polished beast of a game. No, ODST is not in the house. While a fun romp ODST was all about the average man and what fun is that when there are planet invading scenarios and super soldiers to take command of.

Halo: Reach is a must have for all age appropriate gamers that own an Xbox 360. Outstanding single player meets deep multiplayer in one of the must have titles in 2010 and beyond. Yup, that good.

Disney's Epic Mickey Gameplay Trailer

Take a look at some of Mickey's Epic action on the Nintendo Wii

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Star Wars: The Old Republic Dark Horse comic Impression

Dark Horse provides the prequel comic for BioWare’s upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic

Even with a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic which will be full of history and back-story there is always room for more outlets to tell the tale. Enter Dark Horse and their three issue Star Wars: The Old Republic: Threat of Peace comic which introduces the main players, conspiracies and a few settings in which gamers will immerse themselves. The question is why should gamers care, what is the point of reading these comics? What about the comics themselves? How does the art stack up, the characters and writing, all solid or no? Well, let’s take a look.

The Story – After centuries spent on the outer reaches of the galaxy the Sith Empire has returned to wage war on the Jedi and the Senate they serve. With both sides spread across the galaxy engaging in battle that ends in stalemates the Sith Dark Council decides to extend an offer of peace to the Galactic Senate. The question is can it be trusted or is the ensuing cease fire just a way for the Sith to move their forces in secret? The two sides meet on Alderaan to discuss the treaty but not everyone involved believes the proposition. As Sith Lords with their own agenda invade Corusant many are swept up in conspiracy filled agendas. As the war begins anew Jedi and Sith will clash with bounty hunters and senate soldiers thrown into the fray and nothing in the Old Republic is safe.

High level view of the story setting the stage but the story does much more than by introducing the key players in the upcoming BioWare game. Meeting Jedi Satele Shan, Bounty Hunter Braden and Lt. Tavis makes these books worth the read. These are just three of the characters, main ones in these comics, that set the stage for what to expect in The Old Republic. They show a few of the character classes, how they interact and how unique this game will be. Different personalities, agendas, settings … it’s all laid out here for fans itching to get into the game. The comics do a good job of setting the stage for such a grand story.

The Design & Art – The look and feel of the Old Republic has been established for years and seen in the Knights of the Old Republic games and comics. Jedi, Sith, troopers and bounty hunters all have unique attributes within a set mold and this can also be expected of the game. The art is very, very solid with a realistic look to each character and setting. TOR won’t win any awards on its art but it gets the job done and looks way better than some of the previous Star Wars comic art. Good effort and shows Dark Horse did not mail it in on this series to make a buck.

Why Gamers Should Care – Characters, planets, settings, design, story … the beginning for The Old Republic video game. When it comes to a game like TOR fans expect an engaging story, which they will get, but having a chance to expand that story in a good comic, well that just can’t be missed.

Overall having read prior Dark Horse Star Wars comics and seen the variety of art from poor to outstanding, The Old Republic finds a nice niche above middle ground. The story is solid but the game will be needed to complete it while the art is better than average. There is solid pacing and readers get a taste of all aspects of conspiracy in TOR. The game is going to be outstanding and the comic has set the stage.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow on PS3 Impression

A solid 3D Castlevania rocks the PlayStation 3 with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Is it possible for a new Castlevania to fly under the radar? It seems like due to past failures of moving Castlevania into 3D the new adventure, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, did not get the pub it deserves. This is a solid 3D outing for the franchise and while it has its issues and much newness for the franchise it’s a solid game that any third-person fan-boy can dig, regardless of background. What makes this a solid entry for gamers to take on this Halloween season, let’s take a look.

Gameplay – It’s a new take on Castlevania in 3D, done right and taken outside the castle. Fans of God of War, Dante’s Inferno and Bayonetta will feel right at home in this third-person adventure. Gamers assume the role of Gabriel, a man on a mission and sadness in his heart, one that sees him taking on the tides of darkness sweeping the globe. Environments range from frozen winter to swamps full of poisonous mist and of course castles. A handy cross/whip which can be upgraded is the weapon of choice with secondary weapons supported (love daggers and holy water) while Gabriel can also wield magic. Gabriel is a Belmont, one out to kill the Dark Lords, not only the Drac we love. Know this gamers, Lords of Shadow is a new entry in the franchise not a revamp of what’s been done before so enjoy the ties to the franchise past but get ready for a truly next-gen 3D adventure that will devour hours and days of gameplay time.

Graphics – Characters retain a very Castlevania look while the settings are unique, detailed and luscious to traverse. The real world mergers with the land of old gods, like Pan, in settings that need to be experienced in true HD. The cut-scenes look outstanding which is fitting as everything about this game looks good, really solid.

Sound – Haunting and oh so delicious. Patrick Stewart delivers an audio feast while Gabriel shows the emotion and accent needed. As good as the voice acting is the score is a mixture of gothic sadness, mystery and Celtic lore weaved beautifully together. The lack of sound also helps to set the mood as all that can be heard is nature. The standard for Castlevania was set with Symphony of the Night but for the first time since another Castlevania is setting new standards.

Design – Easy to call this a God of War clone but this is not a knock. There are well used timed events and amazingly fun creature designs. Hack and slash, scale giant beast and dodge while enjoying the best 3D Castlevania yet. While this last comment may not be saying much given Castlevania’s history in 3D, Lords of Shadow finally realizes what the franchise should be in 3D. Including Kojima Productions was a brilliant move as was taking a good portion of the adventure outdoors in levels that just beg to be replayed with multiple paths and percentages to achieve completion.

Miscellaneous – Life if good for Castlevania fans. Not only do they get the solid Lords of Shadow but console gamers can download and play with a buddy in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair and iPhone owners can put a puzzling spin on the franchise with Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night. These two titles offer a new take on the excellent franchise. Jump online with Harmony of Despair and fight with friends, strangers or nobody in boss oriented levels then fire up the iPhone for some puzzle battles set to Alucard’s adventures in the ol’ castle. Addictive and oh so fun.

Overall Gabriel don’t need to collect no stinking items or do much exploring. He needs to upgrade his weapons, take the most obvious path to complete his objective and look visually stunning doing it. It’s Castlevania but pulls nice slices from many awesome games such as God of War and pulls it off gracefully. The mixture of established gaming elements weaved into a decent story, outstanding voice acting and a visual feast offers gamers a great chance to turn it off and enjoy a truly enjoyable game. While not perfect Lords of Shadow delivers in so many ways. This gamer loves Castlevania but any gamer can love Lords of Shadow.