Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Review (3DS) – “The Hunt Returns in a New Dimension”

MH4U Wallpaper

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (MH4U) is the 12th installment into the series, but the 7th that we’ve seen in the states, and only the 3rd that we’ve seen on a Nintendo platform. It’s had raging success overseas, but hasn’t shone much in the past few years. A new marketing plan, some overhauls and new ideas seem to have put it in the spotlight along with the New 3DS XL; but does it live up to the hype? Or does it get trapped in its own pitfall…trap?

Gameplay: 4/5

Monster Hunter is infamous for its grind-heavy gameplay nature…not so much for its story. In fact, this is really the first MH game to attempt a story and somewhat succeed. Past titles have simply thrown you into a town with the “it’s you’re duty to protect this village” cliché. MH4U starts off with some pretty enticing cutscenes to introduce the village you’ll be spending a lot of your time at. We’re introduced to who will be essentially our guide – a rugged adventurer who is pretty much the epitome of a role model in this world. He states (through text mind you, though mumblings are spoken but the only form of communication is through text) that something is happening and they need to get to the bottom of it. With his newest recruit (you), he decided you’d be the best to venture into the wild – untrained – and ascertain information about the impending doom of monsters overruling the village.

The story starts out somewhat slow, which is nice. It gives you a chance to explore a little bit of everything in the mechanics before pulling you in too strong. But as you complete more quests, the story slowly begins to pick up. In traditional fashion, one solution leads to another problem’s discovery, and before you know it, you’re slaying just about anything you can find in a ‘monstrocidal’ rampage fashion. Essentially, there is a wild virus that is going around making all of the monsters crazy. Not terribly long after you get the hang of the game, you’re forced up against the foe making all of this happen. It might have been a little rushed to pit you up against a monster of that caliber so soon, but this really is a game that you can move at your own pace with. You find that even after killing that monster, something still isn’t quite right. Many other monsters are being noticed when they shouldn’t be and it’s your duty to discover why…and that’s pretty much what you’ll be doing for about 90% of the story. Miscellaneous quests will become available with some small dialogue that attempts to make it seem like killing this monster in particular will lead us to the next. Like a bad game of Clue, you just need to push to the end to reveal the secrets behind this children’s “mystery”. Successful completion of the story nets you a bunch of village upgrades and unlocks a ton of content though. So while it is necessary, it feels like they may have forced it a bit too much – much like the childish jokes and comedy rampant throughout the game that simply distract the player rather than add anything to the value of the dialogue. Once the story is completed though, there really isn’t anything left as far as a structured outline. You’ll partake in a plethora of different quests, both offline and online, and it begins to feel like monster hunter all over again.

MH4U Gameplay 2

Grinding has always been a major part of the Monster Hunter series; and it’s no different in MH4U. If you’re against grinding, then you’ll want to stay away – but really, MH has a way of making it feel like it’s not even grinding at all. There are hundreds of quests in 4U that pit you against 70 different large monsters and a handful of smaller ones. The premise is simple: you defeat a monster, use what you earned from it to make better equipment, and repeat the process until you’re satisfied (spoiler: many of the people who play these games are never satisfied). In order to complete this task, you’re given 14 different weapons, an all-time maximum! You can choose to take on monsters alone or with a group of 3 others, and considering the difficulty doesn’t scale to the number of players, having more only makes things easier. [It needs to be mentioned here that this is the only MH game I have ever had difficulty playing online with others – not due to connectivity but due to greed. With so many people “needing” different things, most won’t help unless it’s what they need – an issue I haven’t encountered as being this pervasive before. Nonetheless that doesn’t take away from the score.]

Considering there are 14 completely different weapon classes, and 70 main monsters… there’s a lot of gear to make! So understandably there’s a lot of hours that can be put into the game, making the replay value shoot through the roof. Monsters are programmed to know where you’re at and exactly how they can combo you into fainting if you’re not careful. Three faints in a quest and you fail so you really need to learn the monster’s attacks and how to avoid them. In many respects, this is one of the most skill-based games on the market meaning that no matter how much time you put into it, you can always improve, adding additional challenge and an overwhelming feeling of success after every hunt.

MH4U Gameplay 3

A few new mechanics have been added to hunts as well, further expanding on the knowledge and strategy needed to successfully pull off a quick quest. Mounting is by far the most prevalent of the additions. MH4U takes the fight to the third dimension by allowing verticality within the levels. You can climb and jump off of ledges and cliffs and attack midair. Successful attacks on a monster will cause you to enter a “mini-game” where if you complete it, the monster falls over for a extended period of time, completely open to attacks for the duration. At first, I was skeptical of this mechanism, but over time I came to realize it is well balanced and pivotal in controlling the moral of certain fights. (Also, for those veterans, this solves the issue of upswinging).

They’ve also added a plethora of new skills to the game. Skills are unlockable abilities that come with certain armor pieces. Combine enough of the right pieces and skill points and you’ll unlock the ability. The new skills either contain a very special ability, like consuming an item only to have your stock count remain the same; or a combination of skills bundled into one. Considering skills are one of the most important parts of the game, these can really push the odds in your favor.

One of the more robust changes to the game are expeditions. These are ‘free hunts’ that set you out into a procedural (never the same) forest where you encounter a variety of different items and monsters. While this does add a new dimension to the game, it feels like it does more harm than good. Many of the large monsters included in the 70 are actually hidden behind this expedition wall. In order to unlock them, you must go on an expedition and encounter a different monster. Killing it, or giving evidence of its discovery, will offer a small chance that you will unlock a guild quest. Guild quests can be stored (up to 50) or registered (up to 10). Registered guild quests can be posted in the guild hall like any other quest, with one catch. Every time you complete it, it levels up. You can level it all the way from low rank to high rank and then to G rank. The issue is that this drastically limits the number of monsters available to most people as personally it took a few days of extended play for me to acquire a guild quest for one monster. Once I had that monster, it wasn’t long before I had leveled it up and it was no longer useful to me (needing low rank parts and it had leveled to high rank), meaning that I had to grind expeditions again. There is no indication as to what monsters found in expeditions will give rise to certain guild quests, so you’re pretty much just guessing out there.

MH4U Gameplay 4

Expeditions also yield armors and weapons that have their own upgrade paths outside of the traditional means. Many of these armors contain skills not available outside of expeditions (or in rare quantities), and therefore can be useful in armor sets. With the exception that drops are completely random and often armors are lacking in many other qualities, these could theoretically be used, though they truly seem to be a wasted effort in such a coordinated pre-established system. The weapons on the other hand are a different story. Much like the armor you can discover, you can also find misc. weapons on expeditions. These weapons also have set stats, but unlike their normal counterparts made from the smithy, they’re stats can vary wildly. Essentially this equates to a random number generator (RNG) process where you may end up with an incredible weapon, or something utterly useless. Monster Hunter has always been known for its ability to stick to a straight statistical format, rewarding those who put forth the effort to overcome the odds of accumulating rare items. This new process appears to thwart this system by offering high reward for simply being lucky (much like the talisman system already in place). While it is entirely up to each individual if this is desirable or not, it stands that it is breaking away from the traditional Monster Hunter formula.

All things considered this is a Monster Hunter game, and it definitely plays like one. The addition of the third dimension blends extremely well with the hunting system and there’s more equipment than you could ever imagine. If you’re a fan of collecting gear and working for it, then you’ll be right at home.

MH4U Gameplay 1

Graphics: 3/5

Considering this is my first 3DS review (as well as first 3DS game), I really don’t have a lot to compare to personally. However, I’m no stranger to watching playthroughs or other gameplay videos of 3DS games so I have certain expectations. In all honesty, I was somewhat impressed at the start of the game. The graphics in the cutscenes were vibrant, full bodied and detailed, leaving very little to desire for. However, instantly upon seeing actual gameplay, I began to cringe as it looked nothing like I was anticipating. Environmental textures are flat and near-dimensionless, which really makes you feel as though you’re playing something from the early 2000’s. I was even more upset when it looked as though the armors and weapons didn’t stand out from the environments like they have in past titles (see MHP3 HD). Considering they are the crux of the entire game, I would have thought some more effort would have been put into making the gear you create more visually nourishing. While they are certainly detailed and in their own right, impressive and cool looking, there is nothing about their graphical quality that alleviates the disappointment of a world constructed on pixels. Luckily, monsters seem to be somewhat of an exception here. While they definitely do not stand out as better quality, many of the monsters you fight appear to be much smoother – getting away from the rigidity of the square infestation that is the overwhelming pixel ratio.

God forbid you ever try to play in 3D, the already unimpressive graphics take a drastic plummet, giving both me and my friend headaches within 10 minutes of use.  In such a fast paced game, it truly doesn’t make a lot of sense; as with the 3D turned all the way up frame rate begins to stutter from time to time, really taking you out of the experience. While visually the game leaves a lot to be desired, it should be pointed out that the game is still lively and vivacious, making the poor quality easier to forget when you’re enjoying the warm palette of the volcano, or the bitter scheme of the frozen tundra. In the end, it seems as though the game is limited by its console; it tries exceptionally well to bring a lot of detail, color and crisp visuals, but instead falls short and the graphical conflicts are brought out twice fold.

MH4U Gameplay 5

Sound: 4/5

Monster Hunter has always been known for its ability to encapsulate the feeling of the game perfectly in its soundtrack. Unfortunately, it has managed to miss its mark a little bit in this entry. While many of the quests are paired with great music counterparts (mostly taken from past games and reapplied), the villages and guild halls have been paired with songs that tend to make you feel as though you’re at the carnival, rather than a smoky tavern filled with life-risking bad asses (and your overly occasional 12 year old). Perhaps the developers were trying to go for more of a contrast between on and off a quest, playing on the light-hearted nature of the scenery; but it just doesn’t seem to quite fit. Nonetheless, the monster’s roars, the sound effects of hurling your friend high into the air while simultaneously tripping a monster with your elemental great sword are spot on and immersive. I cannot recommend enough that you use a decent headset while playing this as all of the sound effects in a hunt get brought out marvelously. So while the majority of the sounds in the game are adrenaline-inducing, there are a few times when you’re painfully reminded that you’re not a small child standing in line for a cotton candy at the nearest amusement park. [And as a side note for all of the MH veterans, the main, epic, incredible MH theme song does not appear in the game until the third song in the credits]

MH4U Gameplay 6

Replay Value: 5/5

While the expedition quests don’t make a lot of sense when trying to acquire new armor and weapons, it does add one element to the game: replay value. The random assortment of monsters that can be combined in a guild quest acquired from an expedition feels limitless. This addition, combined with the built-in online, makes for a truly unique experience. Any hunters can post a guild quest and work with others to level it up; this means that beyond the hundreds of other quests in the game, you now have an entirely new, ever-changing repertoire of quests to undergo. Happen to enjoy a particular quest? Then ask that friend to share it. Anyone can send you any guild quest they’ve acquired and you’ll receive it at the base level it was discovered at. Since you can store 50 at one time, you can really build up some fun and exciting hunts!

Beyond expeditions there are well over thousands of weapons and armors to make, meaning you’ll need to do quite a bit of hunting of every monster in the game, but it’s all worth it for that shiny new sword! There are also challenge quests that pit you and a single friend against certain tough monsters – the catch? You have to use the equipment they provide! Completing all of these unlocks something special of course, so it’s definitely worth your time! With challenging gameplay that never fails to put your skills to the test you can sink hundreds of hours into the game.

MH4U Gameplay 7

Samus joins the hunt…

 Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate holds true to the series’ pre-established grind/reward system, offering players an impressive array of equipment if they put in the time. While a number of new additions work very well, there seems to be the beginning of a shift from a statistical system to a random number system, contrary to nearly every past game. The graphics leave a lot to be desired and 3D should never be used, but the sounds are immersive and boastful. If you’re a fan or the series, or enjoy collecting an extreme plethora of different, powerful, and unique equipment, then you should definitely pick it up! Don’t let the score fool you, the core gameplay is sound and enjoyable and yields to an incredibly impressive replay value.

 

Pros:

+Gameplay is fluid and reliably the same as past titles

+Extremely large replay value

+Insane amounts of creative equipment to make

+More weapon classes than ever before

Cons:

-Story is a good attempt, but feels forced and drawn out

-Graphics draw away from the experience and 3D is abused

-Some childish moments clash with the blood spewing gameplay

-Some establishment of RNG takes away from theme of putting in time and effort to get reward


Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was purchased by the reviewer and tested for the New 3DS XL system.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Wipeout: Create & Crash Review (Wii U/Wii/3DS/360): “Not a Total Wipeout”

Wipeout Create & Crash Logo

Wipeout has become quite the reality show on ABC over the past few years. Essentially being an Americanized version of the cult-hit “MXC” on Spike TV years ago, Wipeout brings together contestants to tackle absolutely insane obstacle courses with completely unexpected traps to dodge. Naturally, with a mixture like this, it was only a matter of time before the gaming industry tried to formulate this into game form. Wipeout: Create & Crash is the fourth installment in the Wipeout game series, but is it an obstacle course worth tackling or should you just avoid this “big balls” of a game?

Gameplay: 3/5

Wipeout’s gameplay is simple: you’ll run along a set path on the obstacle course, jumping and sliding past the traps that await you. You’ll take part in 12 episodes all based on specific themes, such as pirates, halloween, wintery scenes, prehistoric times and even your traditional classic Wipeout theme. Each episode has you running the gauntlet in four levels, the first and third being always being a specific course, the second being a mini-game (which I’ll explain in a bit) and the fourth being the Wipeout Zone, where you’ll face the most brutal of obstacles in the biggest spectacle possible. Controls are incredibly simple and straightforward that practically anyone will be able to pickup the controller and play. The camera is fixated behind the character’s back, always facing forward. You’ll move forward by pushing up on the analog stick and can take steps backward pushing the stick down. You never adjust the direction you’ll be facing and only push the stick left and right to change spots on a specific obstacle or when zip-lining to avoid obstacles on the sides. You’ll also be able to jump with the A button, duck with the B button and slide with the Y button.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 4

Before tackling an episode, you’ll be asked if you’d like to partake in a Daily Course Bonus Challenge. Once a day, you can participate in a single run through a randomly generated course for a few extra Ballsy Bucks. During episodes, I mentioned that there are four levels. The first level is a Qualifier Round, where you’ll be sprinting your way through a course as fast as possible. The second level is a mini-game where you’ll either have to shift lanes on the tracks to avoid incoming obstacles, or bounce on angled trampolines while avoiding getting nailed by an airborne obstacle. The third level is just like the Qualifier Round, only with less people in the standings. The fourth and final level of an episode is the Wipeout Zone, which is the grand finale. Here, you’ll be tested with the most challenging obstacles and start by being launched into the water and swimming your way to the start point. The course itself is always over-the-top with fireworks, flames and spectacles around. There are two difficulties you can play the game on: Normal and Black & Blue. Normal mode is basically “easy” mode, where if you fail an obstacle at a certain checkpoint 3 times, it’ll automatically advance you to the next checkpoint (but you do add 10 seconds to your timer every time you fall in the water). Black & Blue mode removes the “3 try” rule and makes you keep repeating an obstacle until you successfully pass it, no matter how much time you accrue on the clock. I highly recommend playing on Black & Blue mode off the bat as it gives the game a bit more challenge. Speaking of challenge, while the game is pretty easy, this year’s edition of Wipeout brings a huge improvement over last year’s “Wipeout 3”. The course designs are more demanding and imaginative than ever before, with some pretty crazy obstacles to dodge. When you get knocked into the water, you can press the B button to see an instant replay of your “wipeout”, with a few cinematic camera angles that try to replicate the feel of the show. These are ok, but often times the camera does a poor job of showing the “pain” of your mistake.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 3

Aside from the main episodes you’ll complete, there are a few more modes to explore. Wipeout Max is new this installment, where you’ll play through an endless amount of randomly generated levels that increase in difficulty. This is basically an endurance of how far you can get before a course becomes too challenging for you to beat. It’s a fun little mode that helps keep things interesting. However, the biggest addition to the game that’s the main selling point is the Course Creation system. For the first time in a Wipeout game, you’ll be able to become the mastermind of some truly devious courses. You’ll use your Ballsy Bucks to purchase themes based on the episodes you complete, at which point you can purchase and choose the layout of your choice to customize. Once selected, you will enter the course creator, where you can select between 6-12 adjustable obstacles depending on the layout you chose. Creating a course is incredibly simple to use that anyone can easily jump into and create something in literally minutes. You’ll use the D-Pad to scroll to each adjustable obstacle, at which point you can cycle through the variety of pieces to place, as well as the difficulty of each set of obstacles. There are 3 difficulties to cycle between, each with their own unique obstacles. Depending on how big the obstacle section is determines the type of obstacle you can place, such as a catapult, a straightaway with 8 wrecking balls, a spiral spinning cylinder, a zip-line trail and more. You can also test out each obstacle at their specific locations or just test run the entire course without any load times at all. The bummer with the obstacles of choice is that no matter which theme you choose, you can’t use the theme specific obstacles. So if you choose to make a course with a snow theme or a pirate theme, the obstacles will always be the same default choices.

Wipeout wouldn’t be Wipeout without a multiplayer mode (which is completely omitted on the 3DS version oddly). I mean, it is based on the TV show where contestants are competing against each other. The game’s multiplayer provides two modes: Party Mode and Trap Attack. Trap Attack gives players with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk the chance to run the gauntlet on the TV screen, while the player with the GamePad will see fixed camera angles of the course from the GamePad screen directly. The GamePad player can launch balls at the opposing player, as well as trigger specific traps to mess up the opponent and make them fall off the course. Party Mode is more the traditional multiplayer where players take turns running the course and competing for the #1 spot for the fastest time and of course, the Wipeout winner. It’s nothing great or overly engaging, but can provide for some solid fun with friends and some laughs as well.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 2

Graphics: 3/5

Wipeout: Create & Crash has a basic, fun art style to it, that’s certainly passable and pleasing on the eyes most of the time. However, there are some seriously wonky physics issues. Whenever your character gets knocked backwards, you’ll see them cycle through a variety of animations stuck in place, hovering over the ground. Get hit by a wrecking ball and you’ll see the character clip completely through the ball in slo-mo, then launch to the side. Then there are the balls being shot at you outside the course…except they literally appear out of nowhere in the distance when shot towards you. Another weird design are the water effects. When swimming in water, there’s almost no effect shown that your character is swimming in the water. Even when you fall in the water, the splash is incredibly minimal and is essentially flat textures layered over each other. Some unpolished issues aside, the level designs are pretty solid, with a decent amount of detail given to the obstacles. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, but an average one that’s hindered a bit by some wonky animations and visual effects.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 1

Sound: 3/5

Wipeout’s audio consists of an entirely appropriate soundtrack that provides the vibe of the TV show and themes of each episode. Commentary is provided by John Anderson and John Henson, with Jill Wagner providing additional lines. While they are the commentators of the show, they’re just not very entertaining or funny to listen to. John Henson’s lines in particular always fall flat and are just plain bad…almost like he’s trying too hard to be comical. Lame jokes aside, the sound effects are exactly what you’d expect of Wipeout nature, with over-the-top effects kicking in when being nailed by an object. The audio isn’t too bad and is solid overall, just don’t expect anything great here.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 6

Replay Value: 4/5

Wipeout: Create & Crash offers a solid amount of replay value, especially compared to the previous installments. While completing all 12 episodes will only take 2-3 hours to complete, there’s plenty of characters and gear to unlock. Additionally, each of the episodes has you aiming for bronze, silver and gold Ballsy Trophies, as well as additional objectives in each level. However, this year’s installment introduces the new Course Creation mode, which is where players will spend most of their time on. Using the Ballsy Bucks you earn in the game, you’ll unlock numerous obstacles and themes to build your own crazy courses with. Add in the new Wipeout Max mode that has you doing an endless endurance run of randomly generated levels until you fail and there’s some really good replay value. There’s no online mode to find here and sharing level creations is done in a very archaic method of swapping 14-digit generating codes.

Wipeout Create & Crash Gameplay 5

Overall Score: 13/20 = 6.5 out of 10

Wipeout: Create & Crash is without question, much better than last year’s Wipeout 3. It brings more content, more ideas and more creativity to the table. If you enjoy Wipeout games, you’d do quite well to give Wipeout: Create & Crash a look, especially with the Course Creation system that opens up a solid amount of game time. While it’s nothing great or memorable, what’s here is still an entertaining game.

PROS:

+ Fun gameplay

+ Course Creator is simple to use

+ Interesting course designs

+ Good amount of unlockables

CONS:

– Wonky physics

– Sharing created courses is dealt in an archaic method

– Commentary isn’t funny at all

– Some technical bugs

A special thank you to Activision for providing us a review copy for “Wipeout: Create & Crash”! Copy tested on the Wii U.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review (Wii/360/3DS): “Ahh…Shell Shock”

TMNT 2013 Wallpaper

Over time, we’ve seen some stellar media franchises progress over the years. One particular franchise that’s had numerous changes has been the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Between it’s dark toned comic, chipper late 80s/early 90s cartoon, to the comic-based 2003 cartoon and now, Nickelodeon’s rendition that started in 2012, there’s no question we’ve seen the turtles in a variety of ways. However, if there’s one thing that fans of the franchise will remain fond of, it’s the video games that released in the early 90s. Whether it be TMNT: Turtles in Time, TMNT II: The Arcade Game, TMNT: Hyperstone Heist, TMNT III: Manhattan Project or even the 2003 TMNT game for the PS2/GC/Xbox, they’ve always been known for their downright fun, beat-em-up gameplay. Well, with a new media rendition comes a new game based on the latest cartoon. Developed by Magic Pockets and published by Activision, is the turtle’s latest return a radical one or should it stay in the sewers?

Story: 2/5

There’s one thing for sure: TMNT games are never really known for their story. However, if you plan on incorporating one, make sure it’s somewhat coherent. Unfortunately, TMNT’s story here mainly falls flat. The turtles are thrown into mischief as there’s a mutagen bomb that Stockman plans on detonating in NYC that will turn all its inhabitants into vile creatures. Fans of the show will instantly recognize characters such as Fishface, Dogpound, the blob known as “Justin”, Krang bots, Foot Ninja, Karai, and naturally, Shredder. The story is told through very brief cutscenes with minimal dialogue just to remind you there’s something to connect the player to the scenario. However, as opposed to the story being somewhat engaging, it’s very shoddily pieced together. It doesn’t help that the presentation of the story is downright poor and incredibly rushed. Even though it’s nice to see familiar faces return, the story is minimal and very subpar.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 2/5

“Well, that was incredibly mediocre.“ Leonardo states this numerous times throughout the game, and it pretty much sums up the gameplay of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The game is designed as an old-school style brawler where you can choose between all four turtles on the fly, which is nice since you don’t have to wait to lose a life before choosing another character as had been done in previous TMNT games. This option gives you the chance to try out any of the characters during any point in the game. Yet while each turtle has their different variation of moves, they are very limited and the game becomes more of a continuous button masher. Each turtle has a basic attack move, a special attack, and a throw feature (along with jumping). The problem is that the moves and gameplay are incredibly repetitive. Each level is a series of areas where you need to defeat a horde of foot ninjas and Krang bots. Once destroyed, you continue on your path until you do it all over again. This continues until you complete the level.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 5

There are 5 levels in TMNT and each level contains 3-4 sub-levels. Yet with the exception of the last sub-level on each level, you are basically attacking enemies until you complete the level. There are some minor collectibles that you can locate in order to gain more points, and pickup items such as throwing stars and smoke bombs, but they are pretty much useless in the game as you can just slash your way through everything. At certain moments, you can access your camera device to locate hidden doors. If you locate them, you can find additional mutagen canisters needed to unlock a mini-game (which is essentially the classic arcade game “Defender”, TMNT style) in the Extras area. The last sub-level is a boss battle that pits you against some of the main enemies from the TV show, such as Dogpound, Baxter Stockman and the Shredder. These boss battles deliver a change of pace and strategy, which was refreshing, but not enough to help ease the boredom that the game delivers. The game is also extremely short, taking only about 2-3 hours to complete, and in a way, I’m glad it was short because of how tedious it is. While you can co-op your way through the game on the Wii and 360, the 3DS is mysteriously missing this option, which is strange. I did enjoy the ability to upgrade each turtle by collecting orbs from defeated enemies and then using them to update your characters strength and move set, but most of the upgrades aren’t even needed to complete the story mode.

Once you do finish the game, other options become available to you, such as Time Attack and Survival Mode, but they are more of the same and offer nothing new to the experience. You can tell that the game is geared towards a younger audience based on the easy difficulty, and that Nickelodeon wanted to quickly put out a product that aligned with the popular show.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 3

Graphics: 2/5

Let me start off by saying, the versions I am reviewing are the Wii and 3DS version, not the Xbox 360 (which is already an odd assortment of consoles they chose to develop for…omitting the PS3, Vita and Wii U). However, even for a Wii game 7 years into the console’s lifecycle, the visuals here are less than average. Washed out textures, incredibly blocky character models, stiff animations and lifeless, mundane environments round TMNT to be one of the most inexcusable visual games for 2013. The TMNT game that released in 2003 for the PS2/GC/Xbox looked next-gen compared to this…and that was 10 years ago! When I look at a 10 year old game and am immediately blown away by the comparison, it’s just plain sad. On the 3DS, it’s a bit more excusable and less ugly due to the condensed resolution. The only benefit visually is that the game runs quite smooth, with only a few rare instances of slowdown.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 2

Sound: 2/5

Turtles games have relied heavily on energetic soundtracks to really engage the player during the beat-em-up fun, with the pinnacle soundtracks being Turtles in Time and Hyperstone Heist. What we have here is something that matches the tone of the show a bit, which is fine. Although there’s nothing memorable to leave the game humming too, it’s still serviceable background music that neither adds or detracts from the experience. The voice actors from the TV show reprise their roles, but they all fail to deliver any excitement to the game. Some of the line deliveries just don’t match the tone of certain scenarios and just feel stiff. For example, there’s a boss battle where April will keep shouting “keep it up guys, you’ve almost got him!” but I didn’t even hit the boss once yet. The boss battle lasts for about 5 minutes and she repeats it every 20 seconds…so do the math and it’s pretty nonsensical. Worse yet, occasionally some voices will be blown out while others will be much lower. Sound effects are pretty poor overall as well, feeling like stock sound effects for an amateur game development program.

TMNT 2013 Gameplay 4

Overall Score: 8/20 = 4.0 out of 10

When I heard there was a new TMNT game coming out, it was easy for me to get excited. Being a die-hard turtles fan, I’m always eager to play a new game in the series. However, what I was left with was an immensely rushed and pale imitation of the SNES/Genesis beat-em-ups from years past. What the game lacks is soul. It feels lifeless, generic and doesn’t have anything that the older TMNT games didn’t do better…in 1992 or even 2003. While I had the slightest mild enjoyment playing this game for the fact that it was a TMNT game, the game itself is just incredibly dull and unimaginative. The only thing going through my head as I played it was, “Ahh…Shell Shock”.

PROs:

+ Has the show’s intro

+ Turtles can be upgraded

+ 4-player co-op on Wii/360

CONs:

– Ugly visuals

– Awful audio mixing

– Subpar, rushed storytelling

– Unimaginative, bland levels

– Very spotty hit detection

– Too easy

– 3DS version omitted co-op completely

A special thank you to Activision for providing us a review copy for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”! Copy tested on the Wii and 3DS.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Big Bass Arcade: No Limit Review (3DS eShop) – “A Cheap Flop”

splash

The Nintendo 3DS’s eShop platform seems perfect for delivering more casual, bite-sized games, and there’s certainly been no shortage of these since its inception. For those looking for a quick pick-up and play fishing game, there’s Big Bass Arcade: No Limit by Big John Games. The third in their line of fishing simulators for the Wii and DS, they’ve now taken the leap to the 3DS platform with 3D graphics and expanded gameplay mechanics. But is it worth playing, or should you throw this one back?

The basic premise of the game is – no shocker – selecting different locations (or levels) to fish in, moving your boat to find a good fishing spot, and trying to catch the biggest fish you can. The gameplay itself is probably best described as a grab-bag of mini-game concepts, and you may feel like you’re playing several separate games during even a single round of Big Bass Arcade. First, you need to position your boat in a spot where the fish are biting – but this is done by simply moving your boat left and right along a single axis. An arrow will change color from red to yellow to indicate how the fish are biting – the yellower, the better. Once you pick a spot, you use a power meter like those found in so many golfing games to determine how far you cast your line. Pressing the A button will start the meter, which will bounce between low power and full, and another press will lock it in and cast your line. From here, you need to start reeling in your line to lure nearby fish. An audio cue from the game’s announcer will let you know when a fish is close – and once he hooks on, the most intense portion of the gameplay begins. You need to keep reeling in the fish with enough strength to fight it, but the more the fish struggles, the more your tension meter will fill up. Pull too hard, and your line will break. Give too much slack, and the fish will get away. This hectic element is further exacerbated by an overlapped quick time event element. All the while you’re trying to reel the fish in, the announcer will require you to press one of four directions on the D-pad (or swipe that direction on the screen) to keep fighting your hooked fish. Once the fish gets close enough to your boat, you can press or swipe up to capture him. If you’re successful, the game will record the weight of your fish, and the gameplay starts over.

large

This is basically how the game’s Free Fish mode plays out, and while the controls aren’t bad by any means – you can use the 3DS’s buttons or the touch screen to play – the gameplay does get repetitive pretty fast; for all the variety it offers, there’s very little cohesion between the gameplay elements. It can at times feel like someone is standing nearby, throwing you some new game to play every time a new thing happens, and it’s pretty jarring. There’s no sense of accomplishment once you figure the game’s controls out, though – it’s more like a barrier for entry than an element to master, so it comes down to the game’s different play modes to keep you engaged. It’s also no contest that the Wii version in the series has the best controls – the WiiMote’s motion controls make the game much more immersive, but Big John could only do so much with the 3DS platform.

However, Big John Games placed a surprising sense of progression into the game, as you’ll need different types of lures to catch different types of fish, and you’ll unlock additional lures by completing certain challenges in the game, such as catching a certain number of fish or an especially large fish from one breed. It’s actually a nice way to promote replay value, and it’s a good addition to the game. You’ll also need to complete a specific challenge to unlock the game’s tournament mode, so if nothing else, Big John made sure to set some goal for players to reach for.

Big Bass Arcade includes several gameplay modes to keep you busy with, aside from the previously-mentioned Free Fish mode, which allows you to fish for as long as you want with no restrictions. The game includes three challenge modes, requiring you to fish under certain conditions. No Limit has you catching as many fish as you can within the time limit, Bass Only will only credit you for any Bass that you catch, and Catch ‘Em All – coincidentally sharing Pokemon’s motto – similarly has you trying to catch every type of fish present in the stage, and while Red could take his sweet time, you only have 10 minutes to accomplish the feat. Catching 20 lbs. Of Bass in the Bass Only challenge will unlock the game’s Tournament mode, which sees you trying to score higher than your AI opponents by catching bigger and more uncommon fish. Each of these modes puts a spin on the game, but it boils down to the same simple gameplay concepts in each one, so the variety present is minuscule at best.

HfJ99_lLKhiRYZLa40Er-DNVcp6m4QYo

It’s also worth noting that the game’s tutorial would be better described as a brief, in-your-face instruction manual. Rather than introducing gameplay elements to you at a slow, comfortable pace, the tutorial throws every single control at you one after another with no chance to test it until you’ve read through the whole thing. Given how simple the game is, it’s not even like the tutorial does much for the player, but the format it’s present with serves to confuse rather than teach. It’s still worth a quick look to acclimate yourself with the controls, but aside from that, it leaves a lot to be desired.

The game’s audio-visual details are actually its best and worst qualities. The game’s graphics are surprisingly decent for a downloadable game; fish show a surprising level of detail in their movements and behaviors; your lures behave like you’d expect, even down to tassels and flyaways moving and spinning as they glide through the water. Textures and other details in the graphics are competent, and overall it’s more than you’d expect in an eShop game. The 3D is also done quite well, and gives you a real sense of depth; you’ll feel how far your cast your line, and the water has a real sense of volume when looking around. However, one area that isn’t nearly as good is the game’s audio. The game’s soundtrack consists of only a few simple tracks – a repetitive guitar ditty at the menu screen, a string-plucker while fishing, and an aggressive electric guitar track when catching a fish. All of these songs are just a few seconds in length and play on a loop, and are mind-numbingly repetitive. Then there’s the sound effects; it’s not all bad, as the splashing noises when your lure hits the water are crisp and clear. Once you get a bite, though, the game’s sound effects devolve into childish, cartoony noises that are a complete departure from the rest of the game’s tone. You’ll hear uncharacteristically-deep swooshing noises as your tiny minnow struggles in the water, silly bumper noises as the fish rebels against you, and a high-pitched sound effect straight out of Looney Toons when your line is about to break. Finally, the game’s announcer speaks in an unsettling, creepy, quiet tone, and while I’m sure Big John was going for an announcer that makes you think of a relaxing day on the lake, his tone comes off as less fishing buddy, more Jason. There’s also a lack of variety in his speech – there’s pretty much just one thing he says for each gameplay event. As soon as you hear “he’s getting close…!”, you’ll know a fish is chasing your lure, as soon as you’re over that chill going down your spine. I see what the developer was going for, but a little foresight in their audio department would have done a lot for the game, making it an upshot rather than an anchor.

Big Bass Arcade 1a

Big Bass Arcade: No Limit tries to take the previous games in the series further, but in the end, contrary to its name, it comes off as a very limited experience. Gameplay is a repetitive jumble of mini-game concepts, the different challenge modes do little to expand on the game’s premise, and the sound effects are a major negative on the game’s experience. There are some positives to out-weigh the negatives, but the fact remains that there are better fishing games out there – even No Limit‘s predecessors. Unless you’re desperate for a 3D fishing experience on the go, it’s best to look elsewhere.

Overall Score: 5.5 out of 10 = Wait for a price drop…

A special thank you to Big John Games for providing us a review copy for Big Bass Arcade: No Limit!

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Coaster Creator 3D Review (3DS eShop): “Coaster Creativity On-The-Go”

Coaster Creator 3D Logo

During the late 90s, PC gamers were graced with a specific simulation game that won over the hearts of many, Roller Coaster Tycoon. Over the years, we’ve seen that series make a few sequels and expansions, giving the player tons more content to ellaborate on their ultimate roller coaster creation and theme parks. However, the series has dwindled down and aside from the new one released on the 3DS, roller coaster creation games have been a bit rare to come across, especially on consoles. Thankfully, the team over at Big John Games have accepted the challenge of bringing a roller coaster simulator for on-the-go gaming for the 3DS with Coaster Creator 3D. Does it succeed in bringing the genre over to the 3DS? Let’s find out.

Coaster Creator 3D allows for two main modes to choose between: Career and Sandbox. Choosing the Career mode, you will partake in 20 challenges that progress in difficulty. Each challenge will teach you a certain attribute that you could adjust for your coaster, such as the G-Force, corkscrews and loops on a track, steep drops and adjusting the track positions entirely. You’ll adjust all of this through the bottom touch-screen. On there, you’ll see a blueprint of the coaster that’s on the top screen (which shows the 3D environment and full rendering of the coaster being designed) and move around the tracks of the coaster to your liking. You’ll have a ton of tools to utilize to ensure you create the coaster of your liking. When you click on the track you want to adjust, you’ll be able to twist the track, add a track in between to make it a peak point or lower curve, corkscrew, loop, etc. It’s simple and intuitive to use for the most part, but was sometimes hard to distinguish the angle I was viewing the track from. Granted, you can rotate the camera of the blueprint with the D-Pad, but it occasionally looked a bit off. The Career mode will definitely be the staple that gives you an idea of how to create an amazing roller coaster down the line. Also, progressing through the Career will allow you to unlock other features for your creations between the 3 Track Types, 5 Locations, 17 Cart Styles, 10 Decals and 10 Special Fronts. The one gripe with the Career mode is that while it may serve as a tutorial for your custom creations, there’s no “proper” tutorial to what the tools do exactly. However, there is a “help” menu you can access in the pause menu, which gives you a more detailed breakdown of each tool.

Coaster Creator 3D Gameplay 2

Aside from the Career will be the main attraction to Coaster Creator 3D, Sandbox mode. This will allow you to bring out your creative side by creating the craziest, most thrilling ride you can imagine. When you begin, you’ll start by creating a new track, which allows you to pick from particular parameters: Location, Track Type, Lifter Turn and Height. Upon choosing those, you’ll have the chance to draw out a rough layout or outline of your coaster. You’ll have 70 Sketch Points allocated to draw out your design from the start point and end point. You can then place hills between the tracks so that you can elevate your ride. Afterwards, when you’re ready, you’ll advance the creation and enter the park in its 3D environment, alongside the blueprint for editing on the bottom-screen. Naturally, the tools I mentioned in the Career are in full effect here, with no restrictions. As you’re editing your coaster, you can test it out in the editor mode in slow-mo, standard and fast speed, as well as rewinding…allowing for precision editing when trying to find the specific point where you need to edit your coaster. When you choose Quick Ride in the pause menu of the edit, you’ll be able to view your final product from a variety of camera angles. You can view the ride from the front of the cart, showing all the riders, as well as through a first-person perspective to get a personal feel of how the ride plays out. More interestingly, you can view the ride from any seat of the coaster.

Coaster Creator 3D Gameplay 3

Big John Games also went the extra mile by providing a feature to have your Mii characters participate on your coaster creations (which is unlocked through the Career mode). When you’re done with your roller coaster creation, you can exit out of the edit and build up the park a bit. You’ll be able to choose a variety of props and storefronts to plant around your track, but you can’t place an unlimited amount. You’ll be able to place at most, 20 objects, and you only have $32,000 to spend. You can choose between generalized items (such as Bumper Cars, Bounce Castle, Soda Stand, etc.) and themed items, which all depend on the location you chose to place your coaster in. Lastly, you can finish up the track with some customization. The track and support’s colors can be altered, as well as the cart style and seats’ colors. Once done, your coaster is ready to ride at any time. Additionally, you can play a mini-game called Star Roller, which has you riding your coaster while moving your character’s hand to grab the stars randomized on the ride for a high score. It’s nothing amazing, but a neat addition nonetheless. Now you can share your creations with friends, but not in the way most would expect. There’s no online connection, nor any local connectivity to be found here. However, Big John Games have implemented the ability to export QR codes. These will allow you to share your creations with anyone that scans the image, which will then be stored into their game. While it’s strange that there’s no wireless connectivity to share creations, it’s nice to see there is at least a way to do so.

Coaster Creator 3D Gameplay 1

Coaster Creator 3D’s visuals are bright, crisp and colorful, with a solid amount of detail put into the environment, coasters and riders (even the Mii characters look really good). While playing without the 3D slider, the game ran at a near 60 fps, but occasionally dipped depending on how much detail was on screen. When playing with the 3D slider up, the game drops to 30 fps, so some of that smoothness is gone. Thankfully, the 3D effect is very well done, never overdoing the depth at all and is fairly easy on the eyes. In terms of audio, the audio effects of the wind zipping by and the cart rolling down the tracks are spot on, nailing the feel of being on an actual roller coaster. While there’s only a handful of music tracks, the mixture of cheery songs during the creation, to the atmospheric menu music all work very well. It’s an enjoyable audio experience that helps with the overall game experience.

Coaster Creator 3D does exactly what it’s supposed to do, provide players with the tools to create their own roller coaster on-the-go. However, Big John Games provides a game that has plenty of depth that will keep roller coaster enthusiasts entertained for quite some time. With it’s simple and intuitive design system, crisp visuals and audio, and overall engaging gameplay, roller coaster fans would do very well to download this on their 3DS for the $9.99 asking price.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = Buy it!

A special thank you to Big John Games for providing us a review copy for Coaster Creator 3D!

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf Review (3DS): “A New Leaf That’s Also A New Blast To Play”

Animal Crossing New Leaf Wallpaper

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the latest iteration of the cute life simulator Nintendo franchise. Developed by Nintendo and Monolith, this is the most fleshed out and full Animal Crossing to date.

Gameplay: 5/5

Animal Crossing has always had simplistic but engaging life simulation gameplay since its culmination on the west on the Gamecube (Nintendo 64 in Japan). The games had you cutting trees, bug catching, fishing and other such fun little activities to raise money, pay off your debts to Tom Nook and make friends in the town. While the core mechanics remain fairly similar here, Animal Crossing New Leaf’s twisted the entire concept by making the player the mayor of the town, giving them town-wide responsibilities such as maintaining citizen approval, keeping the town clean and sprucing up your own place as best as you can (while paying off Nook’s stinking debts).

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 2

As per the norm, the ‘story’ begins with your avatar, a random villager, moving to a new town. Another character interviews you and the questions you answer set the stage for the game. You can choose a randomly generated map to be your town, a variety of attributes such as gender, names and other things. All of this becomes a part of your identification as mayor and also how the entire game will play out as long as you maintain your save file.

When you play the game, you will start out with practically nothing but a shabby tent until your house is set up. Nook charges you plenty for your down payment and much more overall. This gives you a lot of time to do other things (as Nook gives you as much time as possible to pay off the loan), such as picking trees of your town’s common fruit, talk to your neighbors and engage in other activities. Picking weeds and doing other friendly deeds will improve your approval rating and bring you closer to your goal of being a good mayor and shaping a fun and thriving town.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 1

Be prepared to play the game in short bursts across several days at least. There are many instances where characters will reward you for your efforts, but often those rewards will have to wait until “tomorrow.” For example, after I paid off my down payment to Nook, I was told to wait a few days for the house to be built and he was not kidding. Animal Crossing’s sense of time is real time, so when it is morning for you in real life, it will be morning in the game (provided you set your timezone’s hour as the game’s).

Online Multiplayer works quite well. Like in the previous game on Wii, players can visit their friends’ towns and engage in a variety of fun activities. You can give each other presents, help each other accomplish tasks and play multiplayer games. Players can open their gates to allow friends or StreetPassers to visit their towns through local wireless connections as well as online. The multiplayer is virtually lagless and even offers an immersive way to merge the interactions of your towns. For example, a kitten character in my friends’ town (whom I visited early on) actually became a resident in my own town and asked me to take her to other towns. It was very interesting to see these interactions occur so randomly. It was almost like an MMO.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 5

Graphics: 4/5

New Leaf doesn’t seem like a particularly taxing game and its art style is ultimately identical to earlier iterations. Character models are cutesy and stubby in nature, and textures are just as simplistic. Your villager avatar can show a variety of different emotions and wear a vast array of accessories and clothes, but all-in-all the style remains. In the end, it all matches the game’s cutesy aesthetic and the graphics work well enough for what they are doing. If you have played a previous Animal Crossing game, the graphics in this iteration will not really surprise you. That’s not to say they are inherently bad, or even all that flawed mind you. They do precisely what they should.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 3

Sound: 5/5

The soundtrack in this game is nothing short of brilliant. Cute little towns help make for a relaxing world, and KK Slider’s DJ and guitar music are bouncy and fun. The compositions involved are extremely creative with DJ’d mixes of Slider’s songs from earlier games, as well as songs performed exclusively on the groovy pup’s acoustic on Saturday nights. Fun and familiar sound effects are used on recognizable items such as the Mario coin and Master sword from the Mario and Zelda games respectively. Character dialogue is adorable high pitched mumbling, occasionally actually enunciating the words being spoken. If there is one thing you will not like about this game, it probably won’t have anything to do with the soundtrack.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 4

Replay Value: 5/5

This game has replay value. A LOT of replay value. With the amount of activities to do, characters to interact with and friends to share stories and experiences with, you will find this game has a great deal of longevity. Paying off your loans will not happen over night and it won’t be a boring chore to get there.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Gameplay 6

Overall Score: 19/20 = 9.5 out of 10

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a must have game for any 3DS owner looking for a social experience with a little more depth than the latest Facebook game or microtransaction ridden free-to-play game. Animal Crossing is fun to play, fun to listen to and just plain fun. There’s very little I don’t like about this game. If you have friends who play this game, there’s no better time to jump in.

PROS:

+Fun, replayable gameplay

+Cute and quarky soundtrack

+Solid multiplayer aspects

+Very full and interactive experience

CONS:

-Graphics are familiarly basic

Copy purchased by author for review purposes.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Project X Zone Review (3DS): “The (Somewhat) Ultimate Crossover Game”

project x zone

Failing to truly capture an audience in Japan, the mega crossover game on Nintendo 3DS has actually been released westside and is trying try to find its audience in other territories. Developed by Namco Bandai and including characters from the franchises of Namco, Sega and Capcom, this game opts to be the ultimate fan-service game and succeeds (somewhat).

Story: 3/5

The story is nothing short of paper thin, and is about as engaging as the story-driven (and I use that term loosely) Subspace Emissary mode in Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii. Each of the early chapters present themselves very repetitively, going from “Hello character A, let’s search around this area and figure out what’s going on,” to “Look character B! There are some characters from another game series we may or may not know!” Then the characters mingle with a villain or two, then you actually start the gameplay. It feels as if there are simply too many characters and the writers were just desperately seeking a way to bring them together in a variety of ways.

The story presents itself in text dialogue coupled with some well drawn anime-style stills. Reading the dialogue is somewhat engaging, but mostly when it’s a character you know of, as well as their personality traits. For example, I am very unfamiliar with many of the more Japanese-centric characters, but I was able to get (and even laugh out loud) a lot of the dialogue and references for Frank West. It is in this sense that the story does redeem itself; fans will love the little references that come with the dialogue and will most likely smile at what they read as the game progresses on. Anyone who does not know any better will not have any idea what any of these characters are talking about.

Event3

Gameplay: 4/5

Gameplay is stylized to feel like a strategy game, but in this sense, it’s very bare bones in nature. Your characters move about on a grid-like map, allowing you to pick and choose your positions, as well as who to attack. The combat mode is somewhat different from the grid map. Hitting the A button and holding down a direction on the D-pad will initiate different combo attacks, and that’s basically the entire combat system. If characters are near each other, you can create assist “Cross” attacks and deal even more damage against the opponent. There are no blocks, no options, just three combos and possibly the solo and team assists depending on which characters are in your party or next to you on the grid map.

FiveCharactersAttack_2_2

Fortunately, what the game lacks in substance it makes up for with flare. The actual combos you initiate are incredibly cool and fun to watch, and because you switch from character to character so often, it’s difficult to get used to the amazing well done sprite animations. Furthermore, when initiating basic combos without any Cross attacks, you are required to actually time when you start the next combo so as to make sure all hits land on the opponent (they bounce around during combos in a similar style to a Capcom/Namco fighting game).

In between turns, you can use items and skills to keep yourself alive during chapters and you will definitely need them. There are chapters where the game leaves your team members spaced apart and heavily outnumbered by small, large and boss enemies. So while there is little strategy involved, what little there is in question is crucial. Positioning your characters together will give you an edge with Cross attacks and this will allow you to boost your XP, an attribute you gain during combat, which can be used to revive fallen team members, counter, defend, and even initiate devastating and beautifully animated ultimate moves. These ultimate moves utilize special attacks from each characters’ respective franchise, combines it with a nifty anime animation and deals colossal damage on the poor sap who is receiving the brunt. This makes for a fun and unique experience for fans, if just a somewhat disengaging one.

FiveCharactersAttack_3_3

Graphics: 3/5

The visuals in Project X Zone leave something to be desired. The environments have very limited draw distance, sometimes explicitly allowing the player to see the edge of the world. Said environments are also quite bland and feel somewhat soulless. Even familiar landmarks will feel desolate and uninspired. The grid map chibi sprites also don’t seem particularly engaging, looking about as impressive as an NES Final Fantasy sprite.

All of these complaints are rendered moot in all other areas however. During character dialogue, characters are represented by much more appealing anime artwork with a variety of stills to convey that character’s current emotion. In combat, the sprites, while still somewhat chibi-style, are much more engaging than their grid map counterparts. The attacks are drawn and animated beautifully, as are the aforementioned ultimate attacks. Each character looks and behaves as they should, using a variety of moves from their own games and sticking true to their actual style.

FiveCharactersAttack_2_3

Sound: 4/5

The soundtrack is actually quite superb. While it does simply remix older themes and has some bland in-between tracks, it is a viable and enjoyable soundtrack with a sense of personality. Attacks sound devastating and the all Japanese voice work is actually quite good. Some side characters do sound strange and some of the generic monster enemies sound incredibly annoying. Overall, not much to mention but much to complain about either.

Attack_1_1

Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10

This crossover game will definitely enthuse fans, as it most likely was meant to do. But those looking for a full and fluent gameplay experience, or perhaps an engaging crossover story with their favorite characters may walk away feeling disappointed. I would recommend playing the demo on the eShop before making the plunge; this game is most certainly not for everyone, but for 3DS owners, it is definitely something worth at least giving a try.

PROS:
+ Flashy, fun character animations
+ Fun character references in story
+ Solid soundtrack and voice work
+ Has some decent strategy elements

CONS:
– Not all characters are recognizable for everyone
– Gameplay is disengaging and repetitive
– Visuals on grid map are bland
– Story is not particularly deep

Copy purchased by author for review purposes.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Soccer Up 3D Review (3DS): “Kick It Away from Your 3DS”

Soccer Up 3D Logo

When it comes to the most popular sport in the world, soccer is the one that’s always on top. Spanish developer EnjoyUp Games, who has been putting out a decent amount of titles for Nintendo’s DSiWare format has decided to finally release a 3DSWare title, Soccer Up 3D. While we’ve seen yearly releases of soccer sim games like FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer, EnjoyUp wanted to bring a more simplistic, pickup-and-play game for a more accommodating price. However, is Soccer Up 3D worth your time?

Soccer Up 3D is actually an enhanced version to 2011’s WiiWare release, Soccer Up. EnjoyUp Games listened to some of the criticisms the game received and aimed to provide solutions to those in the 3DS edition. Now, if you’re a soccer sim buff that loves FIFA or PES, I will say right off the bat that this game will probably not satisfy your soccer needs. This is a more basic, old-school approach soccer game that’s not looking to carry any real soccer players or locales.

Soccer Up 3D Gameplay 5

Soccer Up 3D provides a World Cup, Exhibition and Training mode to play around with. World Cup has you aiming for the big trophy that every soccer hopes to win. Exhibition lets you play a single match against the CPU. And lastly, Training has you get acclimated to the controls and mechanics. All of these modes provide for some customization as well, whether you tinker the game time, control setup and stadium you play in. The core foundation of the game is here, but there’s a single important problem…it just doesn’t play well.

Soccer Up 3D Gameplay 1

Controls are more or less easy to grasp for a soccer title, albeit with an additional mechanic known as “After Kick”. This lets you slightly curve the ball after kicking it, which is a nice feature that’s rewarding to pull off. Aside from this feature, the mechanics start to feel less fleshed out. Controlling players on the field is pretty responsive, but switching players is a pain. When it released on the WiiWare, the players would automatically switch. On the 3DS, they give you the option to switch players manually. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well as it should, usually picking a player that’s not closest to the ball. Another severe issue is the slide tackle. The button might as well be labeled in red saying “DON’T PRESS THIS BUTTON!” because no matter how perfectly you position your slide tackle, the opposing player will trip and the whistle will be blown. What’s the purpose of the button/mechanic if all it does is penalize you? There’s no way to take the ball from your opponent except to run up to them and hope your player grabs the ball from them. Another issue experienced with the game is the glitched “injury time”. After doing a 90 minute game, the injury time went up to an additional 40 minutes…and I can say right now that there wasn’t anywhere near that much time that happened in the match that needed 40 extra minutes. This happened twice in similar occurrences during my playthrough of the game.

Soccer Up 3D Gameplay 2

Now, it wouldn’t be a sports game without a multiplayer component. After all, sports game shine quite well when playing with friends. First off, I need to give EnjoyUp credit for how they handled this. The game offers Download Play, but actually provides the non-owner the entire game to play until they quit the application or shut off the system. This is a very welcome approach to Download Play and I hope many other developers take note to this. Now, the multiplayer seems to work decently most of the time, but again, glitches were found here. Some laughable, some not so forgiving. During my multiplayer run, my friend and I were running mid-field trying to take the ball from each other and then suddenly, we were teleported to a corner kick. Another issue (that’s not a glitch) was the penalty shootouts. While in reality, I hate penalty shootouts because it’s nothing more than a game of luck, this shows you where your opponent is aiming to kick. While that may seem handy, that just seemed odd and makes the intensity of a shootout less engaging. The multiplayer is certainly more entertaining than going up against the CPU, so aim to have someone else with a 3DS nearby to get a bit more enjoyment out of the game. There’s no online play, strictly local play only.

Soccer Up 3D Gameplay 3

When you play two hours of the game, you’ll unlock the Mii feature to add your Miis to a custom team, choose the jersey colors and which Mii belongs at which position. It’s a cool feature for sure, but you never really see your Miis up-close in action. Speaking of teams, you do get to choose to play as your favorite nations around the world…except every player has the same generic look to them. The only difference in all honesty when choosing a team is the jersey color they represent…that’s about it. Visually, the game looks ok for a 3DSWare game, but the banners around the stadium are low-res. Animations are serviceable and get the job done for a soccer title. The 3D effect is done pretty well, without it straining your eyes much at all. Audio wise, there’s menu music (only one song in the whole game) and a few lines of dialogue the commentator says. There’s no “real” commentating though aside from “Kick-off”, “GOALLLLLL!” and calls of that nature. Sometimes you’ll hear the crowd in the stadium but it kicks in and out too seldom. The sounds of the players kicking the ball and running on the field are appropriate though.

Soccer Up 3D is an enhanced version to the WiiWare title released in 2011. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t play well enough for me to recommend to soccer fans of any type. It’s buggy and just simply, not much fun at all. While it may be a budget soccer title for on-the-go entertainment at $5.99, think carefully if you want to spend it on this game. It’s not godawful or anything like that, but it’s certainly subpar.

Overall Score: 4.5 out of 10 = Don’t Buy It!

A special thank you to EnjoyUp Games for providing us the review copy for Soccer Up 3D!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for all the latest news, editorials and 100% honest reviews!

Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon Review (3DS): “Luigi’s Ghostbusting Return”

Luigis-Mansion-Dark-Moon2

Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon is the long awaited 3DS sequel to Nintendo’s cult classic Gamecube title, Luigi’s Mansion. Over a decade after its predecessor, Next Level Games (of Mario Strikers Charged fame) aimed to make Luigi a more expressive and likeable character through brilliant design and animation. Unfortunately, it’s just shy of being a perfect package.

Story: 4/5

Luigi’s Mansion did not have a very complex story and its follow-up is no exception to this rule. Luigi is once again tossed into paranormal shenanigans when Professor E. Gadd‘s friendly ghosts suddenly go crazy and start running amok, creating all sorts of havoc. The cause is due to the lack of a Dark Moon, which has been split into pieces across several different mansions in the area. So of course while E. Gadd sits lazily where it’s safe, Luigi is forced to jump into the fray with a new Poltergust vacuum and a trusty flashlight in order to put down the paranormal mischief and bring order back to E. Gadd’s research environment. It’s a charming little story with enough twists and turns to ‘wow’ younger audiences as well as entertain older ones. The character animations are nothing short of adorable, not unlike a CGI cartoon.

Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon Gameplay 6

Gameplay: 4/5

Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon’s gameplay is a remastering and reimagining of the first game’s ghost catching gameplay, made less repetitive and far more intuitive. Ghost catching is much simpler and much more fun than it was previously. Like in the first game, Luigi’s ghost capturing mechanics are based on stunning a ghost, then sucking them into the Poltergust with some exploration and fetch questing in between. A problem in the previous game is that ghosts would occasionally glitch and disappear after being hit with the flashlight. This problem is completely nonexistent in the followup as the flashlight will only ever stun ghosts when you ‘flash’ them with the A button. The flashlight can now be charged to unleash a huge flash that can stun more ghosts within a greater distance, making the act of starting a ghost capture somewhat skill based. The ghost will remain stunned for a few seconds and you can use the Poltergust without fail. There is also a brand new mechanic where after pulling on a ghost’s tail for long enough, you can “zap” them with the A button and reduce their health even further, bringing their counter closer to zero and increasing the financial reward when captured.

Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon Gameplay 1

Luigi now has a “run” button, which can be used when strafing with the flashlight and the Poltergust’s vacuum mechanic, which largely comes in handy. To those concerned about the lack of a second stick, Next Level Games has effectively found a way to keep the controls smooth with a single nub. Luigi will turn a little toward the direction he is moving, making strafing much less of a chore than one would expect and rendering the dual stick control in the first game practically obsolete. Remember grabbing objects with the Poltergust in the first game and how finicky it was to shoot them? There is now an automatic targeting system, so you will never miss. Assuming you’re not inexperienced of course.

The minimap on the bottom screen is pretty effective for navigation, providing insight on rooms, floors, locked doors and other things you will discover. Among capturing ghosts and completing missions, you can also seek out invisible objects, Boos, money, gems and other such goodies to increase your final score. Levels can be replayed at one’s leisure, adding to the game’s immense replay value.

Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon Gameplay 3

Speaking of which, to my surprise, Next Level Games provided an oddly good multiplayer component in the game. You and three other multicolored Luigis will work in a cooperative, and equally competitive, Ghostbuster-style to capture ghosts in Hunter mode, find an exit in Rush or seek out mischievous Polterpups. You can compete in a variety of modes and difficulties for first place and therefore, more reward which goes towards your overall money count in the single player mode and bring you closer to your next upgrade. The developers were kind enough to add some voice commands as well as an “Over here!” command for when you tap a room on the minimap to add some communication between players. Sadly, it’s insufficient and playing locally or using Skype when playing online is highly recommended. Online playability is surprisingly fantastic and I have experienced very few drops when playing with friends, even when using a poor online connection.

Sadly, here is where we have the only real flaw I see with this game, the glitches. There are game breaking ones, primarily in the multiplayer mode. My friends and I have experienced glitches of several different types that were sometimes funny, but often times frustrating. For example, we found a glitch that actually made a ghost get stuck in one of our Poltergust nozzles and rendered him unable to enter/exit doors. This was during a Rush mode where all four players are required to be in a specific room. We tried everything to help him get unstuck, but to no avail. This is only one of such glitches that will prevent you from ending the game properly. This is an issue that Nintendo would do well to update, akin to the online update they provided to Mario Kart 7’s unfair Maka Wuhu shortcut. Overall though, the experience is very fun and adds a ton of replay value, but requires some polish.

Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon Gameplay 4

Graphics: 4/5

The graphics in Luigi look pretty similar to the graphics in Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Tennis Open, minus the bloom lighting. It’s actually pretty similar stylistically to the predecessor at times. The atmospheres are dark, but the game is overall more colorful than the first game, making for a more interesting visual experience. The ghosts are colorful and charming, if simplistic. The cutscenes are also appropriately cinematic and the animations are very cute. It’s no graphical marvel, but Dark Moon’s graphics are hardly anything to ignore.

Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon Gameplay 2

Sound: 5/5

With funny little sound bites and a cute and charming soundtrack, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon is quite fun to listen to. Not only are moody, ambience-like background tracks used, but now there is a situational score that moves with Luigi as he gets scared in cutscenes. The music will swell as a ghost sneaks up on him and burst when Luigi jumps up in fright. A minor nitpick is that the mission complete track is not nearly as interesting as the one used in the first game, however the ringtone used when E. Gadd calls you is one of the catchiest tunes I’ve ever heard in a Nintendo game.

Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon Gameplay 5

Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

Luigi’s Mansion is not a perfect game by any means. There is some polish needed here for sure, mainly with the multiplayer, but don’t let that deter you. Play this game. Borrow it, rent it, get your hands on it if you have a 3DS. This is a brilliant game only hampered by minor issues that, while not ignorable, do not harm the overall appeal of this game. It’s a great game for Mario fans and a must own for anyone with a 3DS. And for Luigi’s Mansion fans, this is the proper sequel we’ve waited over 11 years for.

PROs:

+ Fun and addictive gameplay

+ Adorable character animation

+ Well made online/local multiplayer

+ Solid soundtrack

+ Lots of replay value

CONs:

– Game breaking glitches in multiplayer

– While the graphics are great, they aren’t as strong as its predecessor on Gamecube.

Copy of the game was purchased by the staff member for review purposes.

Naruto: Powerful Shippuden Review (3DS) – “A Whimsical Ninja Adventure”

Naruto Powerful Shippuden Wallpaper

While many game developers are content to release lackluster video game tie-ins to television shows and movies, the Naruto series of games has proven that the genre can be something more. The most prominent example of that fact is the Naruto: Ninja Clash series of games, giving birth to a totally new style of 3D fighter while remaining authentic and tied to its roots. With Naruto: Powerful Shippuden, Namco Bandai is taking a more whimsical shot at the series, presenting a mission-based side-scrolling brawler, featuring super-deformed versions of many of the series’ popular characters and a quirky, humorous script style. It’s a big departure from games past, but is this one a powerful new entry in the Naruto franchise?

Story: 5/5

The game’s story picks up right after Naruto finishes his two-and-a-half-long training period with his mentor Jiraiya, and follows a large portion of the story arc featured in the Naruto: Shippuden series of manga and anime media. The game is split up into missions that tell bite-sized portions of this over-arching plot, and most of them feature dialogs between characters before and after the mission takes place. The story will be extremely familiar to Naruto fans, but is easy enough to follow for players new to the series as well. While the story is great on its own, what really steals the show here is the game’s presentation style. All characters are presented in a cartoony, mini-size version of their normal counterparts, and act just as silly to match; in fact, I was surprised to see how early the characters were willing to break the fourth wall and let slip that they know they’re in a video game. This makes for some hilarious dialog between characters, and the game’s quirkiness evolves each character’s personality above and beyond their anime versions. The silliest of characters (such as Might Guy) will make you laugh out loud, and even normally-serious ones such as Gaara will garner a giggle or two in response to their effective (and seemingly-accidental) deadpan delivery. The developers have done an excellent job of pandering the story to all age groups – the cuteness of the story’s presentation will certainly appeal to the younger crowd, but even older gamers will find plenty of endearing qualities to enjoy.

Naruto Powerful Shippuden Gameplay 1

It’s really the relationships between the different characters – and the art style that enhanced them – that make Powerful Shippuden’s presentation so endearing. These little details make themselves just as important as the overall plot. You’ll be playing as both Naruto and Rock Lee, and both characters serve as equally-important protagonists to the game’s plot. The gameplay supports this idea very well, and encourages you to switch between the two characters to complete story missions in each of their mission maps. Some missions for one character can only be taken once making some progress in the other’s mission map, so there is a lot of presence from both main characters.

The game does unload a bit of backstory on you in the first few minutes of play, but it’s not so much to leave you chomping at the bit to skip the cutscenes and dive right into the gameplay. It’s a real achievement to be able to say that the story isn’t just supplemental to a game’s overall enjoyment, but is actually a central component of it.

Gameplay: 4/5

Powerful Shippuden isn’t the first side-scrolling adventure game in the franchise’s history, but it’s clear that Namco Bandai took cues from the other games in its history to heart when creating the game’s combat system. There’s a good mix of the familiar and the fresh here, and remains accessible while rewarding players who delve deeper into the game’s mechanics. While there’s a lot of depth here, the game does a good job of presenting new gameplay elements to you at a fair pace through its tutorial system; it’s handled very well and teaches you the game without feeling like a chore.

Naruto Powerful Shippuden Gameplay 2

Each character can unload a series of normal strikes by repeatedly hitting the Y button, or use some of their Chakra to use special techniques and strikes with the X button, which are more powerful and may be helpful in taking down tougher opponents. These moves can be chained together to form powerful combos. Chakra is also used defensively, allowing characters to dash quickly from enemy to enemy, block attacks, or even avoid them entirely, and is refilled by collecting Chakra orbs or by landing normal strikes. If a particularly-strong enemy crosses your path, you can perform a special technique by pressing R+Y, which will use up a chunk of Chakra but is usually guaranteed to take an enemy out in one hit.

Both Naruto and Rock Lee have access to the abilities listed above, but that’s where their similarities end. The two protagonists present completely unique combat styles to master; Naruto is a competent fighter but also has a selection of tricks up his sleeve, being able to summon Shadow Clones to fight for him and take down tougher foes with his Rasengan. Rock Lee, being unable to utilize Ninjutsu at all, focuses on being a strong fighter, and can unleash a flurry of powerful blows to knock enemies flat. He even gains the ability to enter a super-powerful state by activating his Eight Gates ability, allowing his strikes to hit a lot harder but being unable to regenerate Chakra through attacks during the duration of the ability. Eight Gates can be toggled on and off (almost) whenever it’s needed, so it’s not uncommon to blaze through a swath of foes and then disable it to regain your Chakra.

Naruto Powerful Shippuden Gameplay 8

Each of the game’s missions has the player trying to complete a victory condition (such as defeating all enemies or reaching the stage’s exit by a certain time) while avoiding a defeat condition, but there’s also a lot of leeway in letting you play a mission the way you want to. Each mission also feature five personal challenges to choose from, placing an extra stipulation on the mission (such as completing it within a time limit), but rewards the player with an experience point multiplier if they succeed. There’s no downside if you fail to meet those conditions, so it never hurts to pick one before entering a mission. You can repeat completed missions later on to try to beat your score and earn additional experience.

Speaking of which, experience points are earned as you complete missions, and are given based on your performance in performing combos and meeting objectives within a time limit. These points can be spent on improving your character’s strength through extra health and attack power, extra Chakra reserves, improving special abilities and techniques, increasing resistance to status problems, and even powering up your support characters and granting access to special ninja items. This system rewards experimentation, and allows the player to withdraw any experience points spent on a certain aspect of their character to assign elsewhere.

Naruto Powerful Shippuden Gameplay 6

Similar to some of the Naruto fighting games (and others, such as Marvel vs. Capcom), your character can also collect support characters to call on during a mission, requiring time to charge up but presenting unique and powerful attacks and support abilities whenever they’re ready. Up to three can be brought into a mission, allowing you to customize your support team to fill in any gaps in your strategy. If a particularly tough group of foes is stacked on a spot, call on Sakura to smash them with her fists. If your health or Chakra is low, call in Tenten to throw you a random assortment of recovery items while launching throwing weapons at your foes. There’s plenty of characters to collect, so it behooves you to complete as many missions as possible to collect them all.

Powerful Shippuden’s gameplay mechanics don’t take any major risks, but is great because of how well it blends several well-established gameplay styles into an overall-enjoyable experience. The missions are varied and exciting and lend themselves well to the game’s pick-up-and-play style. At the same time, the addictive combat will keep you itching to try out that next mission or unlock just another upgrade to improve your character. It may not be groundbreaking, but Powerful Shippuden is a rock-solid gameplay experience.

Naruto Powerful Shippuden Gameplay 3

Where Powerful Shippuden falls short of perfection is in a couple of features it could have included. Most glaringly-absent is any sort of co-op mission mode, normally a staple of side-scrolling beat-em-ups. Given the ability to go back and re-play missions, it would have also been cool to have had an online leaderboard system to allow for competing with your 3DS friends for high scores. Despite this, there’s plenty of play to get out of Powerful Shippuden.

Graphics: 4/5

One of the Naruto series’ trademarks is its beautiful art design, and while Powerful Shippuden may not boast the jaw-dropping 3D cel-shaded graphics of its console cousins, it takes the series in a new direction and presents a game centered around a cast of “chibi” (or super-deformed) cartoon characters. The artwork is beautifully-rendered and appears crisp and clean on the 3DS’s dual screens. The characters are drawn in an adorable, endearing style both in dialogs and in gameplay, and while the animation may not be as fluid as other current 2D games, it harkens back to the style so prevalent in 90’s arcade games, adding a nostalgic touch.

Naruto Powerful Shippuden Gameplay 5

The game’s missions place character sprites in front of 3D backgrounds; these backgrounds add a sense of variety and vibrance to the action taking place and are surprisingly well-detailed, but don’t steal the show either; instead, they really let the characters in the foreground pop off the screen. The 2D sprites used for characters and items do appear slightly pixilated and scaled down during missions (unless the camera zooms in on you), but are not immersion-breaking. Perhaps one of the greater aspects of the game’s graphics is the full use of the handheld’s 3D capabilities. Characters in the foreground pop out from the backgrounds behind them, and create a true sense of depth during special abilities, which may engulf the screen in vibrant special effects. Landing a particularly-powerful blow on an enemy may even send him soaring out towards you, leading to some hilarious results. Powerful Shippuden may not push the 3DS to its limits, but it’s no slouch, and serves to admirably enhance the game’s presentation.

Sound: 4/5

Powerful Shippuden’s sound direction really works to capture the unique flavor of the Naruto mythos. The series’ trademark musical style is present here, blending traditional Japanese influences with modern rock guitar riffs and rhythms. The music always fits the mood of the situation, from the whimsical to the insense, and though the same tracks may come up frequently, it’s hard to get tired of Powerful Shippuden’s soundtrack. The Japanese voice actors from Naruto Shippuden are present, and even if you don’t speak the language, it’s easy to tell that the cast performs their roles admirably. There are no conversational oddities here – each character’s lines are delivered well; the right tone always comes through. These voice-overs are really only delivered during missions and are limited to simple exclamations, but they do their job. The game’s sound effects are also adequate, with familiar slashing and clashing sounds to accompany battle sequences, as well as whimsical and comical effects during really hilarious moments. Overall, the sound quality is very good in-game, with music, voices, and sound effects coming through crisp and clear on the 3DS’s speakers.

Naruto Powerful Shippuden Gameplay 4

Incoming!

Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

Naruto: Powerful Shippuden is a fine example of how the experience of a television or movie franchise can be extended and enhanced through video games. Namco Bandai didn’t take the easy way out, but rather delved deeper into a portion of the Naruto storyline with excellent gameplay elements and a delightful, whimsical presentation style. Not just a game for the kids, Powerful Shippuden is an excellent portable game for series fans and newcomers alike.

PROs:

+ Mechanics are simple to pick up but reward exploration and practice

+ Story presentation is delightfully funny

+ Missions provide a nice variety and encourage play with both main characters

+ Look and feel of the graphics and sound direction are authentic to the series

CONs:

– Story may be predictable for Naruto fans

– 2D sprites appear pixilated at times

– Lack of a co-op mode or leaderboards

Enjoy the review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for all the latest in gaming news and reviews!

A special thank you to Namco Bandai Games for providing us a review copy for “Naruto: Powerful Shippuden”!