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Gradius III

Gradius III is the most difficult game I've played in recent memory, hell, maybe in my life. I understand it was originally an arcade game, and I suppose that making the game so difficult would allow for more quarters to be pumped into the game, increasing revenue for the arcade operator.

But Gradius III is INSANELY hard, even more so than Gradius and Gradius II. There are so many situations in which the entire screen is full of bullets, and the only safe spots are spaces that are barely the size of your ship. At least in Ikaruga everything happens the same each time, so you could memorize patterns. This does not apply to Gradius III.

I've been working my way through Gradius Collection on the PSP for over a year and a half, playing it occasionally. I think it took me around eight hours over three days to beat the Stage 3 boss in Gradius III, Big Core MK III, even though it's obvious what needs to be done. You'll need to position yourself in between the initial diamond/crisscrossing lasers, which I was able to do consistently after some practice. After taking some damage, the boss will switch to shooting a wall of lasers, and the only safe spot is the gap between the shots.

The Stage 5 boss, Vaif, was also frustrating, and it took me another couple of sessions over two days to beat him. So for anyone who needs a strategy for this boss, here's mine. You'll need a few options and missiles/smart bombs, and working quickly is essential.

As you move into the boss area, move to the left side of the screen and position your options below you. This will allow you to take out the bottom left Moai quickly. The next Moai to open is the top right one. Move up next to the top middle Moai and shoot it out quickly. The next one to open is the top left, but you can't attack it just yet. Position yourself to take out the next Moai to open, with is the bottom right one, with either your missiles or lasers. While you're doing all this, eliminate the smaller Moai heads that the bigger ones shoot when you can.

Assuming you've worked quickly, at this point, you have three Moai gone. The only ones left are the top and bottom middle ones and the top left one. The top middle one is the next one to open, which is your next priority. Up until now, the smaller Moai heads haven't been too much of a problem. This will change, because more and more of them are being released, so you'll need a new strategy to avoid them. When they are released, move in a clockwise direction around the screen. You don't want to shoot them, since they expand, until you are back on the left side of the screen. You'll only have a short time after eliminating them to focus your fire on the top middle Moai. If you're lucky, while you're taking this one out, you'll also get the bottom one with your missiles.

When the only remaining Moai is the top left one, he will shoot out four smaller Moai. Again, move in a clockwise pattern, leading them to the right, and get back to the left to take them down. Now, you want to position your options near the mouth of the Moai, and this may take a few passes, avoiding the Moai's attacks before you succeed.

PS3, Wii impressions

At this time last year, there was a buzz surrounding the XBOX360 launch, and this year, I get to experience it again with the recent launches of the PS3 and Wii. I saw both consoles at Best Buy and Target, and I was able to play the PS3 a couple of times, but yesterday I played the Nintendo Wii for the first time.

On the PS3, I played NBA 07 and some racing game, which I really don't know the title of, but seems to be the demo at EB and Best Buy. When playing, the PS3, I felt the same way I did when playing the XBOX360 last year; sure, the graphics were clearer and sharper, but the gaming experience was pretty much the same.

As for the Wii, kudos to Nintendo for taking a chance on an innovative way to play video games. I played the tennis game in Wii Sports, and was pretty impressed with the controller functionality. Although there are only a few Wii titles out, I think we all see the potential for the system. It opens up a whole new dimension of gaming, and there is no question that game developers will find creative and innovative ways of playing games on the Wii.

I think sometimes people overlook the fact that Nintendo has innovated console gaming, with their competitors incorporating Nintendo's changes the following generation. For example, the N64 introduced an analog stick,
which wasn't available in Sega or Sony's consoles until later. Nintendo also introduced rumble (force feedback) and the idea of having four controller ports on the console itself, things which pretty much are standard in the next generation of consoles (Dreamcast, XBOX, Gamecube).

Now, Nintendo has eschewed conventional gamepad type controllers for something that detects your physical movement, and has made it the standard input for the Wii. The PS2 had EyeToy, but it was an optional peripheral, and only a few games supported it. If I remember correctly, Sony added the motion sensor feature to its Sixaxis controller after Nintendo announced the specs of the Wii controller, and I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft offers something similar on the XBOX360 in the near future. I believe that Sony and Microsoft will recognize motion sensing as the next hot thing in gaming.

One other thought on the Wii. There are certainly games available on the Wii and either the XBOX360 or PS3 (Call of Duty 3, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Need For Speed Carbon), and I bet that playing them on the Wii is an entirely different experience. It's interesting to see how different the gameplay will be for cross platform titles.

Crazy Taxi 3

Well, school's out for the summer, so I finally had some time to spend with my XBOX again.  I finally got around to finishing the Crazy X challenges in Crazy Taxi 3, which has been on my play list since last summer!  I also posted a user review of the game.

Anyway, I'm a big Crazy Taxi fan, since the original on the Dreamcast, and I own all three games.  It's my kind of game, the kind that doesn't take things seriously, and is easy to play, but hard to master.  The appeal is in trying to master the routes and shorcuts, cutting seconds off your time, and being rewarded by having your score appear in the high score list.

Crazy Taxi is a true arcade game at heart, much like Ikaruga, another one of my favorites, in which there aren't a whole bunch of levels, but you don't play to advance the storyline, you play in order to master the game.

Red Faction NGE

I finally finished Red Faction on the N-Gage some time ago.  It's one of the worst games I've played, and it took me quite a lot of patience to get to the end.  It has the worst hit detection of any game I've played, and you'll have to rely on what seems like glitches to be able to win.

With both bosses in the game, Capek and Masako, you can take advantage of them getting stuck in walls to launch your grenades or remote charages on them.

Probably the best glitch is to peek out behind walls and shoot at the right side of an enemy that's sticking out.  To do this, strafe against a wall, heading right, until you hit the edge, peek out slowly, and aim at an enemy that's half visible.  Since enemies won't react to being shot, you'll be able to kill them without taking damange.  Note, due to the non existent hit detection, this doesn't work if you try to peek out from behind walls heading left.

To beat the last boss, Masako, what I did was switch between the Riot Shield and the Remote Charge.  As long as you have the Riot Shield up and are facing Masako, you won't suffer any damage.  So I just ran up to her with the shield, switched to the remote charge, set it, ran backwards to get away, set up the charge, and brought up the shield again with the last weapon key.  The next time you rush Masako, all you have to do is use the last weapon key to bring up the explosive charge, without having to cycle through all the weapons.  This way, you can protect yourself and pick up the health powerups at your own leisure.  Hope she gets stuck in the wall once, and you can lob your grenades at her.  Your charges and grenades should be enough to kill Masako.

After you beat her and advance to the next room, you're greeted with the win screen:  "Congratulations, Parker!  You have defeated Capek, Masako, and Ultor!  You have saved thousands of lives!  THE END", after which the credits roll.

Numerous times I felt like giving up on this game.  The Merc command center took me a while to beat.  Later in the game, you have no room for error.  The mercs are unforgiving, and even if you do manage to kill them, you'll most likely take a huge amount of health in doing so.  Games can be over quickly in the later stages.

N-Gage Disappointment

Since I've ignored my handhelds since I started school, I started playing them today.  I got in about a half hour with Golden Sun, and spent the rest of the time with Red Faction on my N-Gage.  Looking at the N-Gage, I was initially a supporter of it.  The first game I played on it was SonicN, which I found enjoyable, and was looking forward to the games on it.  However, since I'm playing Red Faction right now, which I've concluded is a sub par game, I can't think of another really good game I've played on N-Gage.  Splinter Cell, MLB Slam, Tony Hawk, and Pandemonium weren't that great.  The puzzle games Puyo Pop and Puzzle Bobble VS were probably the most enjoyable for me.

I was optimistic about the N-Gage when I first got it, but I'm getting less enthused with it.  The more and more I play the N-Gage, the more I notice the really poor controls, at least on the classic version of the N-Gage (not QD).  I understand it's supposed to be a cell phone, but having to play with a cellphone keypad just complicates things.  The keys are too close together.  Worse, they don't feel like buttons, such as on a GBA.  It's like you're using the N-Gage to do something it wasn't intended for.

What's really bothersome is that it seems like every single N-Gage game runs slow and choppy.  While SonicN was nice, you could tell that it wasn't as fast as the old Genesis versions.  Framerates are poor for all games, quite noticeable in games like Red Faction and Virtua Tennis, which was ruined if you've ever played it on the Dreamcast.  Virtua Tennis on the Dreamcast relied on fast paced action, with both the players and ball moving pretty quickly.  The N-Gage version literally runs at about one fourth the speed, and basically kills the game for me.  This is pretty upsetting considering Virtua Tennis on the GBA retained the feel of the Dreamcast version much better, since it was fluid and wasn't so slow,.  Even in Puzzle Bobble VS, you'll notice the jerkiness when a bubble is shot, which is absent from the SNES or PS2 versions of Puzzle Bobble I've seen.  Why can't I get smooth and fluid graphics on an N-Gage?

Honorable mention goes to MotoGP which has some of most godawful graphics for an N-Gage game.  Try to make out details on your pixilated rider.  I still managed to enjoy the gameplay somewhat though.

The overall feeling is that the N-Gage wasn't designed for games, which sadly, it was.  You feel like you're playing a game on a cell phone, not a handheld video game console.

Soldier of Fortune Gold

Soldier of Fortune is perhaps the worst game that uses the Quake II engine, and is one of the worst games I've played in recent memory. I try to finish all the games I play, but as of tonight, I've given up on SOF. I've been patient with it, having started two weeks ago, and slowly making it to the final boss, but I've had enough.

I'm playing at the challenging level. First, the boss can take more than ten rockets and still not die. Maybe this is fine in other games, but similar looking enemies can only stand one. At one point while fighting the final boss, two autoguns turn on, and if you are in their line of sight, you're dead in about two seconds. They seem to be indestructible, but I wouldn't know, since when I resorted to cheat codes, something I never do, I get a "cheats not available" message.

I had a good initial impression of SOF. The first level is a cramped underground area, and blowing away enemies with the shotgun, which makes a pretty satisfying sound, was pretty fun. However, once you progress through the game, the ugliness of SOF becomes apparent. Inconsistent hit detection, enemies that spawn out of thin air, one hit kills, enemies with ungodly aim that kill you the instant you step through a door, and oh those godawful death animations in which you can't tell whether a guy is dead or just wounded. Also a couple of irritating bugs, such as if you are in between a door when it closes, your view will just snap to some direction, usually in the opposite direction you were facing before the door closed. Also, the inability of you to deal damage to enemies while they are in their "roll" animation. Another disappointing gameplay element is the limited saves. Combined with the one hit kills style, you almost feel you're playing Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon when you have to replay a section over and over.

I'm glad to remove this crap from my hard drive and move on to some other game.

XBOX 360 and Kameo

I was at the mall yesterday, and had time to kill, so I was at Target, and was surprised that they actually had a demo XBOX 360 unit. I got to play the Kameo demo for a while. Afterwards, I went to Best Buy, and there were people there playing Call of Duty 2.

Anachronox

I finished the alternate quests in Anachronox yesterday, so now I can say I'm finally finished with Anachronox.  It's one of the best games I've ever played, and I've posted a user review, giving it a perfect 10.  The only other game I've given a rating of 10 to is Grand Theft Auto III.  For me to give a perfect rating, a game not only has to be fun and immersive, but has to have gameplay that is a new experience for me, and both of those games do.

I can't say enough about Anachronox.  Truly memorable, it's probably one of the most overlooked games ever.

In other things, I was at Best Buy yesterday, and saw the XBOX 360 for the first time.  It was enclosed in a clear case, and some guys were playing demos of Kameo and Call of Duty 2.

Upcoming Games That I'm Interested In

The last week has been busy with two midterms, and I haven't had time to continue playing Anachronox.  But there are a couple of recent or upcoming games I really want to play: Serious Sam II, F.E.A.R., and Quake 4.

It was only about a year ago that I finished both Serious Sam First Encounter and Second Encounter, but I found out that I liked them, and were quite playable, so I hope Serious Sam II will be enjoyable as well.

F.E.A.R. had some hype going for it in the last year.  The screenshots I saw were really awesome, and now that Gamespot has given it a good review, I'd hope that it is one of those FPS that stands out from all the others.

And I've been a Quaker since the beginning, playing tons of Quake, Quake II, and Quake III, so I definitely want to get some playing time with Quake 4.

Hopefully all three of these FPSs will be enjoyable.  But I have to finish Anachronox first!

Revolutionary Games

The last week I've been playing Anachronox, definitely one of the best games I've played since after high school.  I'll leave my review for until I've completed it, but for now, I was thinking about why it appealed to me so much.

I think a lot of it has to do with how it's different from other adventure/RPG games I've played.  It uses the Quake II engine to create a world in which you can freely roam and look around.  Unlike other RPGs where camera control is fixed, you really have a lot of freedom to explore the game world.  The meat of the gameplay is really like a graphical adventure, in that you have to talk to people, obtain objects, and solves puzzles.  But it's applying the Quake II engine to an adventure game which makes Anachronox so revolutionary, in my opinion, and a breath of fresh air.

Looking back at the games in my years of gaming, the titles I felt were revolutionary were those in which I have thought "WOW" when I played them the first time, because they were radically different from anything else I've ever played.  Th following games have changed the way I perceived gaming at that time I played them.

The introduction of 3D worlds applied to games changed a lot.  While I spent a lot of time on Doom, and it remains one of the best games ever made, I didn't really think of it as revolutionary because I was so used to playing it, and the previous Apogee FPSs like Wolfenstein 3D and Blake Stone.  Tomb Raider II was the game that introduced me to 3D action adventure.  When I first played that game, it was really a different experience from anything else I've ever played.  A fully 3D world for me to look around from any angle and explore at my leisure, was so different from the 2D platformers I played from Apogee, etc.  Triple Play '98 did the same for sports games.  It brought a 3D world to sports games, in which before, I was accustomed to 2D games like Hardball III and IV, and Lakers vs. Celtics.  Quake II's network play was the first game I spent a significant time playing online.  And more recently, Grand Theft Auto III's gameplay was unlike anything else I've ever played before, and is in my opinion, revolutionary.

GTA3 and Anachronox may be the only post 2000 games I consider revolutionary.  There's nothing wrong with good games such as Burnout 2 or Half Life 2.  But the truly great games are the ones that aren't afraid to break out of the mold of their respective genres and try something new and different. There are few of these games in my gaming experience.

While the graphic adventure genre hasn't really seen much innovation in the past decade, Anachronox takes an old idea and puts a twist on it, and is one of the best adventure/RPG games ever made.
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