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Okamiden Review

Review – Okamiden

Meanwhile back at Golgotron headquarters…while the rest of the Golgotron crew was busy playingPokemon WhiteandBlack, I snuck away to play a different type of game. I picked upCapcom's adventure gameOkamidenfor theNintendo DS. Okamiden is a true sequel toOkamifrom theSony Playstation 2andNintendo Wii. The story picks up nine months after the end of Okami and takes place in the same environment. The original heroesAmaterasuandSusanohave moved on and their roles in this adventure have been replaced by their sonsChibiturasuandKuni. The similarities are many but is Okamiden different enough from the original to warrant a purchase?

Those of you that have played Okami are going to be right at home with Okamiden. Returning is the same fantastic, very Japanese art Okamiden's art is one of the best parts about the game. Its a very long game and having something pretty to look at made it that much better. The game looked pretty stretched out on theDSi XLso I switched over to theDSiwhere it turned out to be one of the best looking DS games that I have played. Okamiden takes place in the same world as Okami and evil has returned to overtake the landscape in much the same way as what happened in Okami. The difference is that an earthquake has rockedNippon(Japan for the rest of you gringos, and yes very ironic) and has changed things enough to make new puzzles and layouts for the levels.

The landscape isn't the only returning feature, as the play weapons, power ups, and characters are all familiar to players of Okami. You primarily control the wolf pup Chibiturasu and interact with many of the same non-playable characters from Okami as you are placed in the same home village. While you don't get to feed the animals like in Okami, you will collect praise orbs for performing good deeds to help you level up your life bar and your number of ink pots. The ink pots serve to fuel your primary tool in the game, theCelestial Brush. This brush does just about anything and everything for you in the game from puzzle solving to boss battling and attacking. This is where Okamiden make a strong change for the better to stand on its own merits from the original Okami game.

Because Okamiden is on the DS, the touch screen enabled hardware becomes the best thing since sliced bread. My biggest complaint about Okami for the Wii was that the controls for using the Celestial Brush had you point your Wiimote at the screen and draw what you needed. I don't think this needs to be said but this made for very frustrating moments when you needed something specific and precise to happen in the game. Those frustrating days are gone with the use of the touch screen on the DS. You can draw exactly what you need when you need it and do not find yourself having to cancel your attack and redraw it over again. For me, this made Okamiden much more enjoyable than the original game.

There were very few drawbacks or problem areas for me in Okamiden. The DS touch screen makes the use of the Celestial Brush work great but only having a d-pad makes controlling Chibiturasu difficult in some of the tighter levels in the game. It is not enough to be a deal breaker for the game but its about all I could find wrong with it. It might be easier to play Okamiden with the analog stick on the new Nintendo 3DS but I haven't had the chance to try it out. The only other issue for me was with the story of the actual game. The setting of the series takes place in ancient Japan but somehow computers and time travel make an appearance in the game. I won't go into any more detail on that part of the game so I don't spoil it for anyone. This is also not a deal breaker for the game but did have me confused for a little while.

The issues I had with the controls and story are very minor and I cannot help but recommend this game as a buy for any adventure game fan. If you enjoyed Okami you have an obligation to pick up Okamiden. Okamiden's story ends up filling in a lot of holes and answering a lot of questions left about the history of the Okami universe through the odd addition of time traveling. This makes Okamiden exactly what a sequel should be rather than existing as just another game in the Okami universe. You are also going to get your money's worth here as you could easily spend 30 hours playing through all of the main story and side stories. There is also replayability with the standard Capcom end game rating system to encourage you to go back and get a better rating than you did your first time through.

I predicted it before in a previous article and my theories were confirmed. Okamiden is a much better game than it's primary competition in the other twoZeldagames for the DS. Go out and buy this today!

Nintendo at PAX 2010

Nintendo at Penny Arcade Expo


Nintendo opened its doors to the gaming press at E3 in Los Angeles back in June. Starting September 3rd, consumers will get their first chance to play the upcoming Fall lineup at PAX in Seattle. Just like at E3, The Penny Arcade Expo will feature playable versions of Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Metroid: Other M, 007 Goldeneye, and NBA Jam.

PAX visitors however, are being given the first chance to play Fluidity, a new physics-based puzzle game due out on WiiWare this Fall. Fluidity will focus on moving water in its liquid, ice, and cloud forms through a series of increasingly difficult puzzles. No further details on Fluidity are available at this time, so look forward to more on this and Metroid: Other M next week.

The Big N is also continuing is tremendous show of support for Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. Visitors who bring their Nintendo DS system along with their copy of Dragon Quest IX will have the chance to download a special map called "Orgodemir" through the Tag Mode feature of the game. There will be a separate lounge with a Dragon Quest IX theme for players to meet up and download the new map as well. This lounge will increase the chance for you to meet the crazy person that Nintendo Tweeted about earlier this week, with over 150 hours logged into Dragon Quest IX. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of Starry Skies was released on July 11th of this year.

On a PAX side note, much like Nintendo, Golgotron.com will be at PAX. If you are attending, look for us on Sunday at 3:30 PM in the Serpent Room. The "charming fellows from Golgotron.com" will be joining forces with Chatterbox Video Game Radio and Alon Waisman to give out prizes for the Chatterbox Treasure trivia show. Hope to see you all in Seattle.

Angry Birds Speading Its Wings

Angry Birds Speading It's Wings


The number 1 downloaded app from the ITunes store is spreading its wings, quite literally. Soon PSP, Palm Pre, and Android users will get the chance to see what IPhone and IPod touch owners have known for months. After selling 6.5 million copies on the ITunes store at the low, low price of $1, it is now available for the Palm Pre and is expected to hit the Android Marketplace within the next couple of weeks and will be available on the Playstation Store this Fall.

The secret to Angry Birds success is in its simplicity and solid physics. Did I just use simplicity and physics in the same sentence? Sure did. Thats exactly what Rovio has done with Angry Birds. Take a sling shot and put it on the left hand side of the screen, add a couple of birds for ammo and launch them at towers of stone, glass, and wood pieces while trying to destroy some green pigs. It sounds simple enough but there is an incredible amount of strategy that goes into the game. You have different birds with different power ups to fire at different stacks and towers through out 150 plus levels. Its so easy, even my 3 year old was able to pick it up within a couple of minutes. This game is well worth the $1 price of admission.

When Angry Birds is made available for the PSP later this fall it will feature a new group of levels, an extra bird, and a new hidden golden egg. The touch screen controls from the other mobile devices should work out just fine on the PSP with the use of the analog stick. There is no word on whether this extra content will be made available for Itunes, Android Marketplace, or the Palm Pre or if it show up on DSiWare. Whichever one of these devices you own, Angry Birds should be downloaded and enjoyed.

GoldenEye - I Love Goooold!


GoldenEye – I Love Gooooold!

GoldenEye fans will have the chance to get a bundled control option when they pickup GoldenEye for the Wii later this year, but it's not what you would expect for the motion-sensing Wii console. Rather than coming out with a Wii Zapper-type holder to use the Nunchuck and Wiimote combo, the optional hardware is a golden Wii ****c Controller Pro. This just further advanced my opinions that Activision does not have much faith in the traditional controls. This could have been seen going back to E3, when Activision had GoldenEye setup at the Nintendo booth four of the white ****c Pro controllers. I really wish the developers would put more time into the motion controls for their games. For a game like GoldenEye that is going to draw heavily on players nostalgia for the N64 ****c, they cannot stray too far from the original formula.

Halo Reach Update


Bungie released new details about the much anticipated release of Halo Reach last week, including a new video trailer. As I have stated previously after playing the Halo Reach Multiplayer Beta, this game is high on my list for 2010. The new information announced only confirms my beliefs about how good this game is going to be.

The single player campaign, which is a prequel to the other Halo games, is featured in new trailer below. Bungie has promised that the campaign in Halo Reach will be "the most ambitious campaign in Halo's history". This is what I am looking forward to the most out of Reach. You pretty much know what you are getting into with the multiplayer, but the campaign will be the wild card. A good campaign will take this game out of the "just another Halo title" status, and into being a must-own.

As for multiplayer, Bungie has already displayed new elements on the beta bundled with Halo 3: ODST. They have now announced that the Firefight mode, also introduced on ODST, will be making a return to Reach. New updates from the Firefight mode include the ability to have player versus player matches, pitting Spartans against Elites. This should make things much more difficult as the original ODST Firefight only allowed play as a human team fighting against waves of incoming computer controlled Elites. Hopefully Bungie has made the decision to open up Firefight to matchmaking options, as previously it was limited to only being playable with other players in your XBOX Live friends list.

Halo Reach will be available on 9/14/2010.

E3: Nintendo 3DS Impressions


The biggest announcement at E3 2010 was the new Nintendo 3DS. While it was expected that Nintendo would be launching their newest handheld game console at the event, what the device would be capable of was met with much speculation. Nintendo put all of that speculation to bed, however, by having over one hundred of the consoles on display as the crowning jewel of their E3 booth, Ii you can even call it a booth any more… Moving along. The lines to get on the stage to play th 3DS were long and winding throughout day. Depending on what time of the day you got in the line, you could wait anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to get twenty minutes with the new hardware and a variety of available software.

The name 3DS makes it obvious that Nintendo has taken part in the 3D movement by adding 3D capabilities to the system, this being the top screen. The top screen is now larger than the bottom touch screen, a departure from four previous versions of the DS (Phat, Lite, DSi, and XL) which had uniform sizes for the top and bottom screens. Now I know what you are going to say, "The 3D is just the newest gimmick in a long line of new hardware options from Nintendo". Maybe 3D isn't for you and that's okay, because you can turn it off. There is a slider on the right hand side of the top screen to adjust it from 2D to full 3D and anywhere in between. The main thing that Nintendo is pushing with the 3DS is that you don't need to wear glasses to view the games in 3D, and it does look very good. However, the drawback of this is that you need to be looking at the screen dead-on in order to see the 3D clearly. Any shift to the left or right will make it appear very blurry, so you can forget about having your friends crowding around the 3DS like the in the DSi XL commercials. I suppose when these moments, which are bound to arise, you can just slide the switch down from full 3D into 2D.

Sticking with the new screens, the graphical horsepower has definitely been turbo-charged and the screens have been upgraded to keep up. To give you an idea for what you can expect graphically from the 3DS, Nintendo had several impressive tech demos on display. Sure, they had trailers for the movies How to Train Your Dragon and Legend of the Guardians, but the most impressive display was Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater. Yes, this is a remake of the Playstation 2 game, complete with 3D done specifically for the 3DS, and it looked fantastic. This was not a playable demo, but it was a video of the gameplay that you can expect, starting with the opening credits and then ending with the final battle between Snake and the Boss in a sea of white flowers in glorious 3D.

The software announced was possibly the biggest announcement of all with tons of original Nintendo titles and third party support. There were very few playable titles up on the stage, as most of what was on display was tech demo videos of what you can expect in the future. In addition to the previously meantioned Metal Gear Solid game, you could take a look at Animal Crossing, Nintendogs and Cats, Resident Evil Revelations, Paper Mario, and Star Fox 64 (which was playable). Star Fox was pretty cool in 3D and it actually helped out a lot for the gameplay itself by giving you a better depth of field for moving your fighter plane around enemies and obstacles. The biggest games that were announced for the system were nowhere in sight on the stage. Those titles being the return of Kid Icarus and the remake for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Hopefully Ocarina of Time will get some polish on it to get it more on par with the capabilities of the 3DS than a straight N64 port with added 3D depth.

In addition to the 3D and upgraded internal hardware, there were several external changes made to the hardware. A couple of steps forward are the analog stick, WiFi switch, and the addition of another camera. The analog stick is very smooth and if you have used a PSP you know what to expect here, but it has been improved upon. It is a much larger button and it has a small lip on the edge to keep your thumb from slipping off. The addition of a switch for turning WiFi on and off may not seem like a big deal, but as a DSi user, I can tell you that it is a welcome addition. On both the DSi and DSi XL, if your WiFi is not enabled, you need to restart your DSi and go into the software settings to turn it back on and then return to your game. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal but it's a minor fix to solve a minor problem. The addition of a second camera on the outside of the 3DS is to aid with the overall 3D theme of the console. You will now be able to take 3D pictures as a result of the two cameras. The quality of the photos that they produce has been upgraded to 0.3 megapixels (yeah I know 0.3, but still beats VGA).

Other additions are a motion sensor and a gyro sensor. These were mentioned in passing and not many details were given, but this will be a huge addition to make for some very interesting gameplay elements. Other than these changes, the rest is pretty much the same. The D-Pad and YXBA buttons are solid like the they are on the DSi. My only complaint is that they went back to a slider for the volume control. Though it is not as bad as the volume slider on the DS Lite, I don't know why they would go back when they had it dialed in so well on the DSi.

Overall, this is a very solid package which will take handheld gaming well into the future. The hardware upgrades are numerous and welcomed. The software support seems to be starting off very well, which is traditionally a problem for Nintendo systems at launch, besides a few first party titles. I was very impressed with the package that was presented and this will be a day-one purchase for me sometime in 2011.

E3 Hands On: Okamiden DS


I got my hands on Okamiden at E3 and it did not disappoint. Okamiden will be released on the Nintendo DS and is the sequel to Okami which was released for the Playstation 2 in 2006, and then for the Wii in 2008.

The series shift to the Wii was easy to understand using the WiiMote as a new control element. The main puzzle-solving tool in Okami is the Celestial Paint Brush which requires users to use ink some paint bridges, clean up the landscape, and even attack enemies. While Okami for the Wii was somewhat frustrating to control with the WiiMote, Okamiden using the DS touchscreen is much more clean and crisp.

This time around you are playing as the children of Okami's main heroes. You will control Amaterasu's wolf cub Chibiterasu and Susano's son Kuni. Having two main playable characters will add some new elements to the puzzle-solving aspect of this adventure game, which has drawn many comparisons to the Legend of Zelda series. Taking advantage of the DS hardware is just an added bonus.

Although it probably should, Okamiden won't sell more copies than either of the Zelda games for DS. I believe Okamiden will be much better than either of those games. While Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks are good games that play very well on the DS, they are only shells of their console counterparts. Okamiden on the other hand, looks to be true to the original and that is what it should be. Just because it's going on a hand-held doesn't mean that it needs to be watered down. Put this one on the top of your list for 2011.

E3 Booth Round Up: Nintendo


I spent the majority of Wednesday at E3 checking out the Nintendo booth. They had all of their upcoming games and also plenty of third party games on display for both the Wii and the DS. There weren't very many surprises as far as the games that were coming out, but there were a couple of games that were surprisingly fun to play.

I will start with all of the DS games that were featured. The Nintendo titles that were on display were Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Professor Layton: Unwound Future, and Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini Land Mayhem. I got a chance to play Golden Sun and Mario Vs. Donkey Kong but only caught the trailer for Professor Layton. The newest entry into the Professor Layton series starts off with the Professor receiving a letter from himself from ten years in the future, warning him of the trouble to come. This should be another solid entry into the puzzle solving series. Golden Sun was pretty limited for what you could do, but it takes full advantage of the touch controls to cast spells and attack enemies. Look for more on this title in the future.

My favorite of the Nintendo DS games was Mario Vs. Donkey Kong. This series of games doesn't get enough credit, in my opinion. It is a puzzle-based game in which you must move mechanical Mario around the screen, gathering coins and other bonus items while avoiding spike pits and Donkey Kong's barrels. It is very similar to Lemmings from back in the SNES days. Mecha Mario can only march in one direction until he hits a wall or gets to the edge of the map. This strategy comes into play when you only have so many items to use for new floors and walls. If you have missed the other games in the series, do yourself a favor and check this one out.

There were many third party DS games on display as well. Square Enix was showing off their latest entry in the Dragon Quest series, while Capcom had Okamiden and 5th Cell brought out Super Scribblenaughts. All three of these games are new entries for existing properites but all three of them looked to stay true to their series' roots. Okamiden stood above the rest for me. No matter what your tastes are for handheld games, it was definitely a great thing to see such a good group of third party titles being supported inside this Nintendo event.

There was also no shortage of third party titles available for play on the Wii. I got a chance to play Sega's Sonic Colors, EA Sports' NBA Jam, and Activision's GoldenEye 007. None of these titles were a disappointment in their demo form. Sonic Colors was a surprise for me, as it looks to be what a Sonic game should be: no story and plenty of speed. The camera switches back and forth from side scroller to third person follow behind, but in either mode it flows nicely and keeps you moving forward through the level. My concern here is will there be enough content to justify a $50 price tag? The NBA Jam demo was just fantastic as EA took the game back to basics. The Wii controls are very well done and feel very natural for this arcade-****basketball game. Another item worth noting about this title is that EA let the fans vote for their three favorite players from every team. Hopefully the upcoming NBA free agency period doesn't mess up those rosters too much.

The good news with GoldenEye is that it will support multiple control options. It was playable on the floor, but only in multiplayer and only with the new Wii ****c Controller. I don't want to read into this too much, but having it setup with only the ****c Controller is telling me that Activision isn't putting their full weight behind the WiiMote controls. That being said, they are shipping the game with a Golden Gun attachment to aid with using the standard Nunchuck/WiiMote combo. The game played just like a typical Call of Duty title, however, and it worked very well. The two systems setup at the booth were ready for two- and four-player split-screen, but hopefully the shipped game will support online multiplayer. Yes Oddjob is in the game and yes, he can throw his hat.

There were plenty of first party Wii games also available. There was a new Pokémon game, a new Kirby title, another Mario-playing-random-sport game, Wii Party, and then a brand-spanking new Donkey Kong Country game. I skipped playing the first four and went right for Donkey Kong Country. This game looks like it will be no slouch, as it is in the same vein as all of the SNES Donkey Kong Country games. You can play this game in single-player or two-player mode with one player controlling Donkey Kong and the other Diddy Kong. The two-player game is a co-op game, requiring both players to work together to complete the levels and collect all the items. For example, Diddy can jump on DK's back to complete a hover move to jump over larger gaps to reach secret puzzle pieces and all of the letters to spell KONG.

The highlight for Nintendo's first party software and the winners of longest lines were for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Metroid: Other M. I didn't wait in the line for Other M, as there were only four stations setup for this game and it releases at the end of next month. I did, however, spend an hour of my life waiting in line to get ten minutes in with the first Zelda game built specifically for the Wii. I wish I could say that it was worth the wait, but it is not the game I was looking for. I was really hoping that Nintendo would keep moving in the direction of Twilight Princess and continue with a darker theme. Instead, they have moved in the opposite direction with a much brighter and more colorful color pallet, at least for the demo. There isn't a whole lot that you can discover about the story from the game from the demo. The only new things that you can see from the demo are the new tools that have been added to Link's arsenal. You still have your sword, shield, bow and arrows, bombs, and slingshot. The new additions are a whip, flying beetle, and the ability to roll your bombs like a bowling ball. I didn't get much of a chance to mess around with the new items as the demo was limited to 10 minutes. Instead, I spent more of my time working with the new Wii Motion Plus controls for the sword. The sword follows your movements almost exactly. However, how you are holding the WiiMote in your hand is how the sword is represented in the game. This seems like it would be a great idea, but it didn't translate that well when fighting enemies. Even with the Motion Plus attachment, it still felt like waving your arms around until you got an attack to land. Keep in mind that this is just a demo and that the final game will not be released until the end of this year, which leaves plenty of time for these types of issues to get ironed out. I would not be upset or surprised if this game does not get pushed back from holiday 2010 to a spring 2011 release date. I still have pretty high expectations for this game, but so far they have not been met.

That about wraps it up for the software that Nintendo featured at E3. Overall, I was pretty happy with the games that I played, and the future looks bright for both the Wii and the DS. The main thing that impressed me was Nintendo's support for the third party developers. Often frowned on for their system's lack of third party games, Nintendo not only has good third party games to look for in the next couple of months, but they are using the largest stage possible to help bring more attention to them. The first party games that they have in the pipe are also something to be excited for. All of this new software is coming out and I didn't even get a chance to mention the biggest announcement of them all, the new Nintendo 3DS.

Halo Reach Beta Impressions


The Halo Reach beta test launched about two weeks ago and I have had quite a bit of time to play the game. I took notes for the rest of you that may not have had as much time or the chance to check it out yet. Overall I am pretty happy with the updates that Bungie has made in this new version, keeping in mind that it is only in beta format. Bungie has made quite a few new additions that they have been showing off and testing out. This includes a new interface and the gameplay itself. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights.

The first thing that you will notice is that the match-making has been modified to get you into the map you want to play right away. In Halo 3, you were given a random map and the players voted yes or no if they wanted to play that map. If the vote passed, you moved along and the game loaded up that map. However if it got voted down, you waited another 20 second for the new map to load and you had no choice but to play it. The new system for Halo Reach gives you four choices instead of one. You will be given three maps (with the potential for different game types also) to choose from and a none-of-the-above option that gives you three more selections. I'm hoping they change the none-of-the-above option to random to keep things moving forward instead of starting another round of voting.

Once the game loads you will see another new addition to the game. Before the match starts you will have the option to choose a player **** The four ****s have special abilities that are sprinting, shield, jet pack and invisibility. The special abilities are pretty self-explanatory, but each have their own benefits and drawbacks. The sprint ability can get you away from enemies more quickly but it can also get you to them more quickly if you aren't careful where you're going. The shield is the worst out of all of them, in my opinion. It makes you invincible but it also freezes you in a crouching position and does not let you attack. Sure, it lets your teammates find you to hopefully clear out enemies that might be around waiting for the effects to wear off, but if they time it right you will have zero-chance to fight back. The jet pack is cool but the novelty will wear out quickly here. This should be much more interesting in the single-player campaign than in online multiplayer. And that just leaves invisibility which is the same as the blue orbs from Halo 3. All of the abilities have specific time limits and automatically regenerate. You can also change your special ability before each respawn.

Along with the four abilities, it also gives the chance to have different starting weapon options. Previous Halo titles had all players starting with the same weapon set at the beginning of every round. This allows for more diverse game play as each game type and special ability can have different primary and secondary weapons as well as different amounts and types of grenades at the start of each round. All of these new options are going to make it much more difficult to balance, but should make for much more enjoyable gameplay as you can play to your individual strengths. For me, I'll take the sprint ability with a shotgun and a gravity hammer all day long.

Other than the new abilities, the game play itself is almost the same as Halo 3. The biggest difference that you will see is the ODST-****heath meter. You still have your primary shield like in Halo 3, but once your shield is gone your heath starts running out. Health will not regenerate like your shields anymore. Instead you will need to look for health packs on the walls to get back up to 100%.

There are some new weapons also. The Battle Rifle appears to have been replaced with a more powerful midrange rifle that does not fire as many shots as the old weapon. You will also find a new grenade launcher and the return of the Halo 1/ODST zoom pistol. Most of the other new weapons are just updates the guns from Halo 3.

The choice to have your player avatar be a Spartan or Elite is gone in this game, as Bungie has given the Spartans and Elites different play ****. These play **** are highlighted in new game modes that have been introduced. The two main ones that I have been playing are Generator and Invasion. Generator is a 3 VS 3 battle with each team taking turns protecting and attacking the generators. The Spartans always defend and the Elites always attack. The Elites do not have the ability to sprint but instead have the ability to duck and roll for a speed-boost. The problem with the Generator mode is that it is only 3 VS 3. If you have someone drop out of the game, it becomes nearly impossible to destroy all Generators for the win. Having it setup for 4 VS 4 would make it more interesting in my opinion, and also make the loss of a player have less of an impact on the rest of the team. The thing I liked about this mode is that it takes advantage of the ability to pick your spawn point. There are 5 different points that you can scroll through to pick for your starting point so you can be closer to destroying or protecting the generators.

The other game mode is Invasion. I don't think this one is quite ironed out all the way. However, it has a great concept and the potential to be one of the best new game types for Halo Reach. This is a 6 VS 6 Spartans vs Elites match up that takes place on a huge map. The Elites are on the attack while the Spartans are defending several key points on the map. It starts off with two zones that the Elites need to stay in for 20 seconds to deplete the shields. Once this is done the Spartans fall back to defend another rally point and eventually a main key that needs to be stolen by the Elites like capture the flag. The match ends when time runs out or the Elites steal and return the key to their home base. There are a bunch of flaws with this game-type, though. First, players on each team are broken up in to groups of two. The point being that you can use the previously mentioned spawn point choice to move to the best location on the map. This means you can also spawn right next to your buddy from your group of two to give a helping hand. The problem with this is that it doesn't always allow you to change your spawn point. If your buddy is flying through the air on a Ghost, you will spawn in mid air and then immediately suicide straight to your death. I'm going to assume that this is a flaw in the beta that does not always allow you to change your spawn point, as I fell to my death three times in a row and almost broke the D-PAD on my controller from trying to pick a new spawn point. The other issue is the scoring to win the match. It is nearly impossible for the Elites to win the match as they have to steal the final key in order to get enough points to win. One point is awarded for destroying each of the sets of shields while the Spartans are given 3 points for defending the final key. Overall its a lot of fun but probably needs a little bit more balancing to get it just right.

"Overall a lot of fun but needs a little bit more balancing" is probably how you could best describe the whole Halo Reach Beta experience. Bungie has introduced some really cool stuff that takes Halo multiplayer to the next level. And thats the thing, it's still Halo. If you are still playing Halo 3 then Halo Reach will be a welcome addition to your game collection. However, if you are on your last legs for this franchise then you may not be as excited as there is nothing ground breaking here. Yet. I have been doing my best to keep in mind that this is a beta test of a game that won't be ready for retail release until this fall. That leaves plenty of time for Bungie to pull out all the stops and come up with that game changing new addition. I have faith in Bungie that they won't disappoint.

DSi or DSLite: You Decide


On the eve of the release of the DSi XL in the United States, I have found that there are many people out there that believe that the DSi (although newer) is inferior to the DSLite. Since I am a sucker, I am going to be picking up the DSi XL in several hours and adding it to the original DSi in my ever growing collection of consoles. In the meantime, I would like to offer the following reasons why the DSi and DSi XL are better than the DSLite.

First and foremost, the most obvious reason for upgrading from the DSLite to the DSi is the larger screens. The DSi XL takes this to the next level by increasing the viewing area to 4.2 inches per screen over the DSLite's 3 inch screens. As a result the DSi and DSi XL are larger overall and in the case of the DSi XL, portability comes into question as you will need some good size pockets to carry it around. The DSi however is not much larger than the DSLite and this is not an issue.

The next item on the list is the sound. The speakers on the DSi are much better than the DSLite. The speakers and sound quality on the DSi can only be achieved on the DSLite by plugging in headphones. This is one of the major upgrades for the DSi as the background sounds and music can be heard much more clearly on the DSi. Also, the controls for volume are much better on the DSi. The DSi has up/down buttons for the volume controls while the DSLite has knob that slides from left to right. It is not hard to figure out after using both, which one has the superior sound quality and the best way to control the volume coming out of the speakers.

Now that you have fired up the DSi and have seen the bigger screens and heard the upgrade in sound quality, the next thing you will notice is the upgrade to the interface. The DSi has a very similar interface to what Wii users are familiar with. This is needed for the next item that the DSi has over the DSLite: access to the DSiWare download service. While the DSiWare service has not been opened to its full potential in my opinion due to the lack of downloads for NES, SNES, Genesis ETC, there is still a lot or original content and games that can be downloaded and accessed only on the DSi. Other than the DSiWare download service, the overall interface has been improved greatly and is much more user friendly. It is also upgradeable so new features can been added at any time.

Other hardware upgrades include the addition of 2 cameras and an SD card slot. One of the cameras is located on the outside and the other on the inside next to the microphone. They do not take very good pictures and are not even high enough on the quality scale to be listed in mega pixels. That being said, they still do well enough to accomplish what they need to do and upcoming games like "Photo Dojo" make them worth having around just in case. The SD card can be used for storing the pictures that you have taken or storing extra downloads from DSiWare. You can also upload songs but the DSi only supports AAC files so you will need to convert your MP3's.

While the DSLite and DSi both use WiFi for online gaming, the DSi (like the Wii) adds an Opera based web browser. If you are looking for a fully functional web browser you will not find it here. My expectations were not met for the speed and abilities of the browser but the DSi is capable of loading any mobile site just as fast as you would expect your IPod or cell phone to load. While the screens on the DSi are not as crispy as those on most cell phones, you can get what you need to get done on the Wifi from your home network. However, at the end of the day, the web browser on DSi is something that the DSLite does not have.

The last and most important thing in my opinion that was upgraded on the DSi over the DSLite was the controls. The DPad on the DSLite is very loose. The DSi returned to the tight controls of the original DS. This is especially noticeable on a game like Mario Kart where you are using the DPad to control your cart for the entire game. It is much easier to get a turbo boost when you have that feedback of the DPad clicking when you get to the limit instead of just guessing on the DSLite.

At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide of the sum of the above upgrades is worth the extra $40 bucks to upgrade to the DSi instead of the DSLite. Sure the DSi had to get rid of the Gameboy Advance slot to accommodate the larger screens and SD card slot but if you are new to the DS altogether, this should not be that big of a deal. Unless you have a huge library of GBA cartridges or plan on buying one, this is not that big of a deal and my opinion, is far outweighed by the other benefits of the DSi. Me, I'll be picking up a Bronze DSi XL at 10 AM on 3/28/2010. Don't ask me about the recently announced 3DS which will hopefully put all of 4 iterations of the DS to shame…

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