OlliOlli Review (PS Vita): “A New Standard for Skateboarding”

OlliOlli Logo Landscape

Decades ago, the sport of Skateboarding took storm across the United States. Over time, we’ve seen the sport make it’s way around the world. It’s popularity didn’t soar until roughly the time when legendary Tony Hawk wowed people from all over pulling off the first ever “900 Spin”. In the 80s, there was a retro skateboarding game called “720” that was quite the hit back in the arcades. During the 90s, the NES had a specific series called “Skate or Die”, which had two installments: the first being strictly about skateboarding events, while the sequel was an outlandish adventure. In 1999, we saw one of the most rewarding and groundbreaking skateboarding titles release, Tony Hawk Pro Skater. The game was a critical and public success that skateboarding itself really gaining a significant amount of attention. Since then, we’ve seen other game developers bring about their renditions of skateboarding titles, with the next biggest success residing with EA’s SKATE series. Now, UK-indie developer Roll7 has decided to rekindle the skateboarding genre with their title, OlliOlli on the PlayStation Vita. Does the developer pull off the “impossible”, or do they completely bail?

Junkyard Kickflip

OlliOlli is a 2D skateboarding platformer that meshed together the arcade style feel of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, while providing a complex and rewarding trick system that the SKATE series achieved. Remarkably, the game takes those two styles and perfects the mechanics in a way where it sets its own bar. OlliOlli brings you immediately into the gameplay, offering a tutorial that brings you up to speed in minutes. You’ll learn that OlliOlli is one of those games that’s simple to pickup-and-play, yet incredibly complex to master. Controls and tricks are mostly handled with the left analog stick (or D-Pad if you prefer), while kicking off for speed handled with the X button. Pulling off an ollie is simply done by pushing the analog stick down and letting go, while tricks are done by pushing the analog stick in a direction or rotation. Pressing the L/R buttons will result in you pulling off spins to your tricks, as well as nollies. To grind, you’ll simply press down on the analog stick, without any worries of balancing. Although you will have to be concerned on the amount of speed you can lose while grinding, which if you come to a halt, you’ll fall off your board and bail. Pretty straightforward so far, right? Well, now comes the intricate mechanics.

Base Helicopter Grind

Pulling off tricks and linking them together, between grinding and proper flip tricks, is quite intuitive and engaging to grasp. However, if you want all those hard-earned points to count, you’re going to have to land perfectly. That’s right, landing is actually a whole additional mechanic that can make or break your run…literally. To land a trick, you’ll have to press the X button, but at the proper timing. The time you press the X button will determine the rating you’ll receive, which also factors the amount of points you’ll earn. The rankings are as follows: Sloppy, Sketchy, Ok, Sick, and Perfect. Sloppy will net you only a few points, while Perfect will earn you thousands of points. Pulling off a Perfect landing is immensely rewarding and once you nail the timing, it’ll become second nature to achieve. Even when grinding, you’ll have to press down on the analog stick at the right time to earn a “perfect” grind. Doing so will actually affect the speed you maintain to grind. Maintaining a solid line and earning a perfect combo is what it’s all about if you want to rack up a ton of points.

The Career Mode will have you tackling 10 levels within five environments: Urban, Junkyard, Base, Port and Neon City. Five of the levels are handled on Amateur difficulty, while the other five are for Pro. Each level contains five objectives to complete, whether it be earning a high score, earning a high combo, completing a specific gap or line, collecting items, etc. To advance to the next level, you need to only reach the end of the run, even if you don’t complete any objectives. However, achieving all the objectives in a level will unlock the Pro level of that run. The levels will ramp up in difficulty and intensity nicely, without making the player feel degraded from what they’ve learned. Should you bail, it’s back to the beginning of a run. Luckily each run lasts for about 30-90 seconds. You’ll have to watch out for various obstacles, including grass, snow, stairs, spikes, barricades, etc. Now should you completely every objective in every level (both Amateur and Pro), you’ll unlock RAD Mode. RAD Mode will test out the most skilled players by success only being achieved solely through Perfect Grinds and Perfect Lands. Anything else will result in a seriously painful, run-ending bail.

Neon Five-O

Aside from the Career Mode, there are also 50 spots to take on. Every level you complete in the Career can be tackled in Spot Mode afterwards. Spot Mode has you doing a specific run in the level where it’s all about pulling off the highest score you can, all within a single combo. Your score will then be posted on the leaderboards, so you’ll be able to see where you rank amongst your friends and other players around the world. Additionally, Roll7 incorporated a Daily Grind Spot, where everyday you can partake in a single event against all players. You’ll be able to practice the run before posting for a score, and the reason you’ll want to do this is because you only get one shot at the run. Whatever score you get, even if you bail, is all that counts…no do-overs. Upon completing the run, you’ll see what rank you achieved worldwide throughout the 24 hour time period of the Daily Spot. It’s a terrific mode that has you coming back constantly. No matter which mode you’re playing in OlliOlli, you will certainly find yourself coming back for more, time and time again. Even after taking breaks from the game, I was always eager to jump immediately back in and try to perfect more runs.

Visually, OlliOlli is a nicely hand-drawn, retro-style game that harkens back to the classic days of gaming. Animations are fluid and detailed, while retaining the old-school vibe. The skater himself moves quite smoothly, even when bailing. The more he bails, the more of a beating you’ll notice on him where clothes will rip and blood will run down him. It’s nothing “too” bloody, but it’s a noticeable detail for added effect. Environments are nicely detailed as well, with numerous objects pertaining to specific areas. The Base area will have tanks and airplanes to grind on, while Neon City will have a bullet train speeding by in the background with neon signs and purple Godzillas to grind on. OlliOlli’s soundtrack is very suitable, accompanying the gameplay and setting very well. The sound effects are top-notch, with every audio clip perfectly matching the skateboarding and boarder perfectly. Whether you ollie, grind, land, trick, bail, or collect an item, it all sounds precisely like it should.

Port Crooked Grind

OlliOlli may be the PlayStation Vita’s first skateboarding game, but it’s one of the best games to grace the console since launch. Roll7 has delivered an amazingly rewarding and addictive skateboarding title that truly should not be missed. In the way Tony Hawk Pro Skater kept me coming back for more back in the day, OlliOlli achieves the same feel and experience that’s very much needed. Here’s hoping we see an OlliOlli sequel in the near future. Until then, back to perfecting lines I go.

Overall Score: 9.5 out of 10 = MUST BUY!

A special thank you to Roll7 for providing us the review copy for “OlliOlli”! Copy tested on the PS Vita.

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PlanetSide 2 and DC Universe Online Making the Leap to PS4

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The PS3 has seen the expansion of MMO games, typically found on a PC or Mac platform exclusively, onto the console market. DC Universe Online is just such a game, and with its free-to-play platform has seen quite a lot of success with its player base. Planetside 2, a fresh remake of the original massive first-person shooter, is also developing quite a following on the PC.
Now, it’s been confirmed that both of these games will be making their way to Sony’s PS4 console.
DCU Online is already present on the PS3, so it’s likely its next-gen counterpart will feature the same gameplay but with greatly improved graphics and social options. PlanetSide 2, on the other hand, will present an entirely new experience for console owners, allowing players to join one of three factions and battle it out for planetary control, fielding a variety of classes, weapons, and vehicles to do so. The PC version of the game is quite processor-intensive, but given the projected power of the PS4’s hardware, it’s safe to assume PS2 will look and run great after it’s released on the PS4.
Stay tuned with us as we continue to cover hot topics in advance of the E3 2013 conference. Be sure to tune in with us on Monday and Tuesday, June 10th & 11th, as we live blog E3 right here on GamersXtreme.org!

Toki Tori 2 Review (Wii U): “The Wii U’s Answer to ‘Braid’ and ‘Limbo'”

Toki Tori 2 whistle

Indie titles have become a pivotal element this gaming generation, with numerous exceptional ones that set new ground for both developers and gamers alike. With ingenious indies such as Braid, Limbo, and Journey (just to name a few), it’s hard not to pay attention to unique and fresh titles. In 2001, developer Two Tribes released a puzzle-platformer called “Toki Tori” for the Game Boy Color. It was a well received title for the GBC and was also, one of the last to grace the portable console. Over the years, Toki Tori has received enhanced versions available via Steam, iOS devices and WiiWare. Fast forward to 2013 and Two Tribes has delivered their sequel, Toki Tori 2, to the Wii U. After many years, has Two Tribes delivered the next indie hit?

Toki Tori 2 underwaterUpon starting up Toki Tori 2, there’s no story, no HUD and no tutorial to what the game is about. All you’ll realize is that black smoke seems to be affecting the land. Other than that, you’re literally thrown into the game knowing nothing else. While this may sound a bit odd, it slightly felt like Limbo…which is a good thing. Toki Tori 2 is still the puzzle-platformer the original was, yet it’s scale has been significantly increased. Gone is the “level” format and in is the “adventure, open-world” aspect. While the world is broken up into areas, they’re all connected through gateways along the path. The closest thing to relate this to is a “Metroidvania” type of game, which is always a very welcome style. The controls are as simple as they can get. You’ll control Toki Tori with the GamePad’s analog stick or D-Pad, stomp the ground with the B button and whistle with the A button. However, it’s figuring out what stomping and whistling near another creature will cause that’s part of the fun. For example, a crab may be sleeping in a movable platform and you’ll need to have him move it toward you. Whistling at him will cause him to wake up and make his way toward you so you can advance forward. However, if you stomp next to him, you can push the platform away from you. Basically, whistling will attract attention while stomping will scare them. Another example are certain little bug creatures that may need to move along a ceiling since they can’t jump platforms, so stomping right next to them will make them jump up and attach to the short ceiling. When in dark caves, there will be fireflies that can illuminate the area. Whistling will lure them toward you as the sound attracts them. However, there may be skulls that live in the dark, ready to stop you in your tracks, but having the fireflies near you by whistling will make this obstacle go away. Toki Tori can’t “fight” anything that poses a threat to him, but rather, can rely on using his whistling and stomping to aid in his defense. If Toki Tori gets hit once, he’s done for and it’s back to the nearest checkpoint (which are very close together).

Dangling in the sky, overlooking the world map.

Dangling in the sky, overlooking the world map.

Now I mention the “whistling” as one of the abilities…and honestly, it’s not just a simple button press. Instead, the closest aspect to relate it to is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time when you would have to play a song on your ocarina with certain notes. Toki Tori can whistle short, long, low and high notes. Depending on when and how long you press the A button affects the notes whistled out. When exploring the land, you’ll come across a white bird occasionally. The white bird will teach you a certain “tune” to whistle that will have various effects. Should you be caught in a bind with no means out, whistling a “short, short, long, long” tune will teleport you back to the nearest checkpoint you activated. Another tune will let you use the GamePad and snap photos of creatures in the environment. Doing so will add a picture to your Photo Lab collection (or as the developers put it, “Tokidex”). As you venture the land, you’ll come across gold fragments that you can collect. However, finding all of them will take time and since there’s no HUD, keeping track of which areas you completely collected them from may be difficult. Thankfully, another tune points arrows in all the directions of the area you’re in to find the remaining pieces. Lastly, a few hours into the game, you’ll learn one of the most handy tunes which allows you to fast travel to “teleport stones” you’ve found/activated around the world. A bird will snatch you and you’ll then see the whole land through Toki Tori’s eyes as you dangle in the sky. I won’t spoil anything but you’ll need this to fulfill the rest of your adventure. Should you ever need to refer to your song list, it will be displayed on your GamePad. Speaking of the GamePad, when viewing the world map, you’ll be able to drag “yellow balloons” as markers for important areas you know need to be revisited. Since there’s no text in the game (other than the title), that means the locations won’t have names either. Additionally, when in areas, you’ll see a meter at the bottom of the GamePad showing where you are, as well as where the exit gates are and the direction they’re in. It’s a handy addition to have on the GamePad when playing on the TV.

Toki Tori 2 is a game that demands you pull out your thinking cap…and be prepared because some of the puzzles are real mind-benders. Everything in the environment is there for a reason, so pay very close attention to your surroundings. Honestly, some of the puzzles had me completely stumped where I had to walk away from the game, then come back to it with a fresh mind and realize the solution. The puzzles in this game are very clever and immensely rewarding upon solving them. With the Wii U, players have access to the Miiverse, so naturally people will be posting screenshots and asking for a little bit of help…and that’s very much encouraged. Honestly, this is one of the few games on the Wii U where talking to each other will help people advance through the game if a puzzle may seem too difficult. While there’s no in-game Miiverse connectivity like New Super Mario Bros. U or Need for Speed: Most Wanted U, the community will surely be a great one to be a part of. In the near future, Two Tribes is looking to add the “Level Editor” feature to the game, which will surely add a ton of longevity to an already lengthy game.

Toki Tori 2 lavacave

Visually, Toki Tori 2 looks absolutely beautiful on both the TV and GamePad. The lush colors of the environment, whether it be the trees, water, rocks, or the creatures that inhabit the world, Toki Tori 2 is one of the most stunning looking games available on the Wii U. Every environment is ultra-detailed, with excellent backdrops and foreground that show a superb level of design, while all running in 60 fps. Toki Tori, as well as the other inhabitants, are rendered and animated astonishingly well. Little details such as pollen in the background of the forest and seeing Toki Tori’s feet when dangling from the sky are nice touches. When switching the game from the TV to the GamePad, you’ll see Toki Tori on the TV leaning over the top of a Wii U GamePad on the screen while you’re playing on your actual GamePad. You’ll see a fraction of the GamePad’s screen on the TV and impressively, this isn’t a static image. It’s a replication of your GamePad’s screen and while it’s a very tiny portion of it, it’s clear that the developers wanted to show that it wasn’t a simple image. Toki Tori 2’s audio is equally as impressive as the visuals. The whimsical and charming music that accompanies the game is very catchy and goes hand-in-hand with the setting. The sound effects are also cheery and effective, whether you’re hearing Toki Tori whistle, other creatures make sounds or other environmental ambiance, it’s all done quite well. Two Tribes cut no corners in the game’s visuals, audio and presentation.

There are a few minor complaints that slightly hurt the game’s overall score that should be mentioned. The first was that some of the puzzles’ solutions required very precise object placement. When coming across some of these, frustration started to kick in a bit. Second, as integral as whistling is, there were times that I was trying to keep signaling fireflies to follow me and as I was doing that, I’d end up teleporting back to the nearest checkpoint. Apparently, I kept whistling the tune to go back to a checkpoint by accident. It just seemed a bit easy to accidentally whistle a specific tune when you’re only trying to get the attention of a creature. Aside from these, it’s hard to find anything at fault.

Toki Tori 2 blacklavacave

Simply put, Toki Tori 2 is one of the most refreshing, unique experiences of 2013. Two Tribes has delivered a superbly crafted world to explore, with astounding visuals, charming audio and clever gameplay mechanics. The Wii U has become a prime console for developers to bring indie titles to and Toki Tori 2 is a stellar example of originality and creativity at its finest. Two Tribes deserves a round of applause, as Toki Tori 2 ranks up there amongst Braid, Limbo, and Journey. If you own a Wii U, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pick up Toki Tori 2.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to Two Tribes Games for providing us an early review copy for Toki Tori 2! Be sure to follow us on FaceBook and Twitter for all the latest news and reviews: @GamersXTREME

Radio Xtreme – Episode 29: “PlayStation 4 Recap and Thoughts”

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In this special episode of Radio Xtreme, Glacier928 and special guest, K20NY, recap the Sony event and discuss all the latest info for the PlayStation 4. Sit back and enjoy as we condense the 2 hour conference into 20+ minutes!

Radio Xtreme – Episode 28: Sony Predictions, Wii U Content, Gaming Deals and Much More!

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In this episode of Radio Xtreme, Glacier928 and R17 discuss the following topics:

– PS Plus: Vanquish and Mega Man Maverick Hunter X go FREE
– Wii Street U impressions
– Best Buy “Buy 1, Get 50% off second” Wii U deal
– F-Zero SNES coming to eShop for Wii U on 2/20 for $0.30
– Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Releases 2/19
– PS4 thoughts/Sony Event 2/20

Dead Space 3 Review (PS3/360): “A Proper Finale to a Masterpiece of a Trilogy”

Dead Space 3 Wallpaper

Visceral Games surprised many gamers back in 2008 when they released their new action/survival-horror IP, Dead Space, for the PS3 and Xbox 360. The blend of its dark, creepy atmosphere combined with terrifying creatures known as Necromorphs and its lack of a sense of “safety” provided it to be a refreshing take on the genre. With its sequel, the game still retained that same feel, adding more action and cinematic elements, while also giving Isaac Clarke a personality. It has been more than 4 years since Dead Space first stormed consoles and now Isaac Clarke returns to finish what was started. Does the final installment to the Dead Space trilogy end triumphantly or does it suffer the fate of those who come in contact with the Marker?

Story: 5/5

Isaac Clarke isn’t exactly the luckiest person out there. We find him in his apartment angered about leaving Ellie until all of a sudden, he’s attacked by two EarthGov agents, Robert Norton and John Carver. Norton explains to Isaac that he’s in need of a “Marker Expert” for a mission. While Isaac refuses, Norton states that Ellie was the one that referred them to contact him directly. In exchange for helping them, Isaac is looking for redemption to make amends with Ellie again. Unfortunately, things aren’t so black-and-white and we find Isaac once again battling the Unitologists, a cult that feels the marker is a means of rebirth for civilization. Doing everything he can, Isaac soon finds out that the marker homeworld is on the snowy planet of Tau Volantis. What awaits Isaac is a fate that lies in the balance of saving the whole human race…

Dead Space 3’s story is one that’s just as engaging and well-written as its predecessors. Isaac once again proves to be an incredibly likable protagonist, while Carver is a tough-as-nails soldier that has his own issues. When playing through co-op, the dialogue and witty banter that occurs between these two are effective and quite funny at times as well. The story as a whole serves as a finale to the trilogy…and every moment leading up to it gets you pumped for how it all resolves.

Dead Space 3 Gameplay 7

Gameplay: 5/5

Dead Space 3 plays very much like its predecessors, while adding an optional online co-op partner should you want to bring someone along for the journey. The same key elements are in place that make it “feel” like Dead Space. Visual indicators replace an ordinary HUD, with health and stasis being monitored on Isaac’s (or Carver’s) back, and ammunition showing up above your weapon when drawn. The holographic inventory still remains the same as it did in the first two games as well. For fans of the series, you’ll notice that the controls remain exactly the same as it did in predecessors, with only a few button additions. Isaac now has the ability to dodge, which you can simply do by double-tapping the run button while moving in a specific direction. Also, you can now crouch by clicking in the R3/RS button, which was originally the objective location button. However, if you hold R3/RS for over a second, then it will bring up your objective location instead. Aside from this, controls remain exactly the same. Honestly, from the moment the game started and I took control of Isaac again, it provided a nostalgic feeling that was relatable…something very rare nowadays in games that try to change too much to “evolve” them.

Returning also are times where you’ll enter zero gravity, allowing you to fly around. In this installment, you’ll be able to fly around space during the first half of the game which brings about some space exploration. While you could move around in space in the first two games, the third one brings about a more “open-world” feel to it. The reason? There are now optional missions that you can tackle, alongside some co-op exclusive missions that explore Carver’s past. The optional missions will detract from your primary directive but should you complete them, you’ll earn some great loot that you can use to upgrade your weapons and rig. However, it’s Carver’s co-op missions that you should definitely complete when coming across them. Revealing his story not only provides to add more into the plot, but also provides for unique experiences for the person playing as Isaac and the other as Carver. While Isaac may seem to be a bit more sane, Carver clearly has some inner demons that he’ll witness. The interesting element to this is that the player controlling Carver will see things in the environment that the person playing as Isaac can’t see. I won’t say what those “things” are in particular but it can prove to be a bit unsettling.

Dead Space 3 Gameplay 1

One of the key elements in Dead Space was to find power nodes to upgrade your weapons and rig. In Dead Space 3, they changed up this whole formula to give players something a little bit more fresh. Seeing as how Isaac is an engineer, he can now craft his own weapons based on the resources you acquire. For example, you can create a Pulse Rifle with a Shotgun attachment underneath it. Or maybe you’d like to have a Plasma Cutter with a Grenade Launcher attached to it. This system takes some time to get used to, but once you do, you’ll be crafting weapons like a pro. You can even share blueprints of your creations to your co-op partner so that they can wield your crafted weapon. However, should you feel like the crafting system is a bit overwhelming, you can collect blueprints that allow you to instantly form a specific weapon, including the more iconic ones from the series. Due to the change in acquiring weapons, upgrading them is entirely different as well. You will collect upgrade circuits that increase the stats in the following areas: Rate of Fire, Reload, Damage and Clip. Early on, the upgrade circuits only increase one stat point per field, but as you get further, the upgrade circuits will provide twice the perks (such as “+2 Damage +2 Reload”). The one thing you need to pay attention to though is where you assign these upgrades. There are two sections to upgrade with a weapon: the upper and lower tools. The upper tool is essentially the main component of the weapon, while the lower is your secondary. If you place a “damage” circuit to the upper tool for example, then it will only apply directly to that, not the secondary fire/lower tool. This may sound a bit complicated but trust me, it really isn’t once you grasp it. You can only carry up to two weapons instead of four in Dead Space 3, mainly due to the fact that each weapon has two functionalities in one. One item that takes up one of the D-Pad slots later in the game is a Scavenger Bot. These little bots will scour the areas for resources that allow you to further upgrade your weapons and rig. There will be specific resource locations that will make for prime areas to drop off a scavenger bot and there’s an audio cue to signal it. Additionally, when you aim these bots, you’ll have a radar that directs you to where to drop one off. You can drop these bots off anywhere you like though, so you’re not restricted to only using them in specific spots.

Dead Space 3 Gameplay 3

One of the most gratifying elements to Dead Space lies within the shooting mechanics. They’re still just as perfected as they were in previous installments, making dismembering a blast. The fact that enemies don’t die from headshots, but rather more strategically placed shots makes the combat still feel fresh and exciting. There’s nothing more satisfying than dismembering the enemy’s leg, followed by arms and head, followed by a curb stomp or two to ensure they’re dead. While necromorphs were a terrifying enemy to come across in the original Dead Space, we’ve come to know what these creatures are capable of in the series, thus eliminating a portion of the scare factor. However, these enemies will still do their best to get the drop on you no matter what, featuring some of the most vicious AI in a game. Dead Space 3 is a challenging game, no question. As a matter of fact, I found myself dying more in this than the first two games combined…and I’m a seasoned Dead Space player. New in the game are soldiers that will fire back at you (similar to Chris’s campaign from Resident Evil 6). However, the use of them here is sparse and makes complete sense, while all making it still retain its Dead Space elements. Sometimes you’ll enter a confrontation between the necromorphs and soldiers within the area, and if you’re trying to be conservative with resources, you can try and utilize that as a distraction to advance. Boss battles aren’t abundant throughout but each one is memorable. It’s also worth noting that the final chapter and boss battle is incredibly epic. Unlike Dead Space 2 which had a very straightforward final boss fight, this one feels very climactic and suitable for the trilogy’s finale.

The game’s 19 chapters will take the average player between 10-15 hours to complete, depending on difficulty and whether you tackled the optional and co-op missions. However, the fun doesn’t end there. Aside from the game’s “New Game +” and Dead Space 2’s infamous “Hardcore Mode” returning (where you have to beat the game without dying), you’ll have two more modes to play. The first is “Classic Mode”, which is geared towards hardcore fans of the original Dead Space. The difficulty is dramatically amped up, utilizes classic aiming and is strictly a single-player affair. Also, weapons can only be built from blueprint sheets. The second new mode is called “Pure Survival Mode”, which is all about scavenging and collecting every item you come across. Items become a rarity and enemies don’t drop ammo and health. If you want resources, you’re going to have to depend on your scavenger bot and whatever resources you find within the environment. Overall, Dead Space 3 is a game that’s jam packed with a ton of content and will have you coming back for quite some time.

Dead Space 3 Gameplay 4

Graphics: 5/5

Dead Space’s visuals were some of the best available on consoles back in 2008, and with each sequel, it’s gotten better. In DS3, the visuals are stunning to say in the least. The phenomenal lighting when out in space, to the rich texture work on both the character models and environments, this game is absolutely beautiful…that is when you’re not getting dismembered of course. When setting foot on the snowy planet of Tau Volantis, the snow effects are very impressive, with snow glistening and detailed footprints leaving a trail of where you’re going. Whether you’re in space or on Tau Volantis, just viewing the backdrops in awe as you rotate the camera is an experience in itself, thanks to fantastic art direction. Animations are superb as well, with Isaac and Carver moving fluidly while necromorphs creepily animate when in sight. One of the most satisfying visuals (out of many) is seeing Isaac’s mask form around his face. This never gets old and always looks just plain badass.

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Sound: 5/5

Dead Space has always had some of the best audio effects in the industry with an unsettling score to accompany the atmosphere. In Dead Space 3, the audio effects are just as detailed and powerful. Every weapon sounds like they pack a punch, environmental effects are both creepy and memorable, and the isolation of audio when setting foot into space is always a joy to experience. Voice acting is very well done once again, with Gunner Wright reprising the role of Isaac Clarke, who really fleshes out the character as a believable protagonist. The biggest improvement in this department though is the game’s soundtrack. Jason Graves composed some great tracks in Dead Space 1 and 2, but in the third installment, he is also joined by composer James Hannigan (known for his work on the Command & Conquer series). Dead Space 3’s soundtrack provides to be the most prominent and intense one yet. The tracks truly immerse you deeper into the game, elevating the intensity and perfectly conveying the setting. This is an audio experience that truly deserves to be taken in, so crank up those speakers.

Dead Space 3 Gameplay 2

Overall Score: 20/20 = 10 out of 10

Words can’t describe how masterfully crafted Dead Space 3 is. Visceral Games struck gold when they created the first installment and maintains that course all the way through. In a way, the first thing that came to mind for me upon completing Dead Space 3 was how it felt like the video game equivalent to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy”. All three games are spectacular to say in the least and feels like one massive game when played together. Visceral Games should be very proud of the work they’ve achieved with Dead Space 3, as it maintains that high quality they’ve nailed in the first two games. Between the absolutely stunning visuals, brilliant audio design, intense soundtrack, gripping story and perfected gameplay, Dead Space 3 not only stands as a fantastic finale to the trilogy, but a rare masterpiece that should not be missed by any means.

PROs:

+ Outstanding gameplay

+ Brilliant audio

+ Stunning visuals

+ Immersive story

+ Proper finale to the trilogy

CONs:

– Weapon crafting takes some getting used to

– Not “scary” but on the other hand, it’s still very tense

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

The V Podcast: Episode 2 – PS4 Announcement, Killzone: Mercenary Discussion, Wii U Sales and Much More!

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As a change of pace from the site’s Radio Xtreme podcasts, I guest starred in a podcast with Vengeful Torture in his newly debuted, The V Podcast, on YouTube. Within the 80+ minutes, we discuss a variety of topics that vary between the Wii U sales talk and why it’s not doing as poorly as people make it seem, Killzone: Mercenary’s announcement, some upcoming DLC for games like Battlefield 3 and PS All-Stars, the possibility of a Resident Evil “reboot”, and of course, the inevitable PS4 announcement and leaked Uncharted 4. Sit back, grab a drink and tune into this special podcast!

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge Review (Wii U): “Ninja Gaiden Reborn”

Back in March, Tecmo Koei and Team Ninja released their latest installment in their infamous ninja series, Ninja Gaiden 3. Under the direction of Yosuke Hayashi and practically a whole new team over at Team Ninja, they aimed to westernize the franchise a bit while still trying to retain elements that made it “feel” like Ninja Gaiden. Unfortunately, many fans and critics were incredibly displeased with the changes made to the franchise, with complaints made toward the game’s dumbed-down AI, lack of gore, “simplified” combat, QTEs (Quick-Time Events), lack of weapons, lack of multiple Ninpo and lack of upgrades. When I reviewed NG3 back in March, there was no denying that I enjoyed the game despite all the changes made to the gameplay. However, after testing out NG3: Razor’s Edge back in June, then during NYCC 2012, and now with my own copy of it, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge completely decimates the previous version that released in March.

Story: 4/5

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge’s story has remained largely the same as the version that was released in March, although the game’s prologue has been completely removed. Ryu Hayabusa is visited by Ishigami and Mizuki McCloud from the Japanese Self-Defense Force, in which they, and the Ministry of External Affairs, are looking for his help. However, Hayabusa is being demanded for by an unknown terrorist organization which is why Ishigami and Mizuki have reached out to Ryu. Shortly into the game, it turns out that the alchemist known as the “Regent of the Mask” is the one demanding to confront Hayabusa for his own needs. After battling the alchemist, he casts a curse on Hayabusa known as the “Grip of Murder,” in which the Dragon Sword gets absorbed into Ryu’s arm and effects him due to the amount of people he has killed with that blade. Over time, the Grip of Murder will take over his whole body and kill him but as the story progresses, you’ll find out what exactly the whole purpose this curse holds. From here, Hayabusa will do whatever is necessary to stop the Regent of the Mask, no matter his condition.

To add a bit more to the story, Team Ninja has added two new chapters to the game in which you’ll see what the kunoichi, Ayane, is doing parallel to Hayabusa’s story. While it doesn’t add an enormous amount to the game’s story, what’s here is a nice bonus that ties in to little extra details and NES Ninja Gaiden fans will nod to the person Ayane is working for. Unlike Itagaki’s poor attempts at piecing together a story for Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge’s storyline actually makes sense and gives you a reason to continue the game for its narrative, much like the NES titles.

Gameplay: 5/5

Played Ninja Gaiden 3 on the PS3/360? Yes? No? Whatever your answer, throw anything you recall of it out the window. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge brings back an astonishing amount of features and content that were evidently missing in NG3. Upgrades? Check. Dramatically decreased QTEs? Check. Multiple weapons and Ninpo? Check. Wanting to smash your controller repeatedly against a wall due to absolutely vicious difficulty? Checkity check check! Razor’s Edge is the quintessential Ninja Gaiden 3 edition that fans were truly hoping for. Team Ninja took the feedback from fans and critics to heart and rather than just simply port NG3 to the Wii U as was originally planned, they decided to rebuild the experience with all the complaints rectified.

Ninja Gaiden has always been known for having one of the most fluid, visceral and downright stunning combat systems in any action game. While NG3 may have been stripped down a bit from NG1 and NG2, Razor’s Edge brings the combat back in full swing by adding three additional weapons to the three that Hayabusa had in NG3. Aside from wielding a specific sword, Eclipse Scythe and Falcon’s Talons, Hayabusa will also gain access to utilize the Lunar Staff, Kusari-Gama, and Dual Katanas. Every weapon feels unique from one another and also provides more strategy to the combat due to certain enemies being weaker to specific weapons. The original three weapons from the NG3 have also been revamped and have even deeper combo sets than ever before. You’ll be provided new weapons when reaching a certain save point in a chapter or by collecting a set amount of Golden Scarabs. Fans, you heard right. Golden Scarabs are back for collecting and there are 50 scattered throughout the game that are waiting to be found. Much like Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 (although in NG2 you collected Crystal Skulls, which is in no way associated to the awful Indiana Jones film), for every five Scarabs found, you’ll unlock a new upgrade or new weapon. Speaking of upgrades, Hayabusa can now obtain new and helpful abilities that can be purchased with Karma Points. While playing through the game, you’ll obtain Karma Points based on how creative your combat is (in which you’re graded on after an enemy wave), your combo string, Golden Scarabs, etc. It’s a very rewarding system and one that helps keep the combat fresh as you try to string for a crazy hit combo (very gratifying when you achieve a 200+ hit combo).

In NG3, when an enemy was on the ground, they would simply plead for their life (except for the Black Spider Ninjas) and you’d just finish them off to basically shut them up. In Razor’s Edge, when an enemy is on the ground or is missing a limb, they’re going to come at you with a last stand to take Hayabusa’s life with theirs. However, you can quickly end their life by pressing the strong attack button and watching Hayabusa obliterate his enemy in an incredibly visceral style. One of the complaints with NG3‘s combat was the “Steel on Bone” QTE action that initiated when finishing off an enemy. Well, that’s no longer the case but “Steel on Bone” hasn’t been removed either. Instead, to pull off a “Steel on Bone”, you’ll have to dodge an enemy who’s trying to grapple you (you’ll know from the red aura glowing around them), and then quickly press the strong attack button to instantly kill them, while then linking it to another enemy. The more your weapon is upgraded, the more of a kill chain you can pull off. As you keep cutting through your enemies, Hayabusa’s arm will glow red allowing you to initiate an immediate Ultimate Technique (which are now MUCH more jaw-dropping to see in action, especially the Dual Katana’s when it’s upgraded to Level 3). While UTs were in the original version of NG3, that was the only way you could pull them off. Instead now, you can still pull off an Ultimate Technique by standing still and holding down (charging) the strong attack button, just like NG1 and NG2. Another complaint about NG3’s combat was the restriction of only one Ninpo. Now, Hayabusa has the three Ninpos he had in NG2: The Art of the Inferno, The Art of the Wind Blades, and The Art of the Piercing Void. Each Ninpo has it’s own meter to fill up during combat and can also be upgraded in the Ninja Skills menu. Like NG3, Ninpo attacks will recover some of your health depending on how many enemies it successfully hits. Since you can’t carry any health items, building up your Ki meter is essential if you want to stand a chance in some of the tougher fights. Thankfully, when your Ki meter is full during a battle, it’ll stay that way unlike the original version where you either had to use it in that specific wave of enemies or you lost it. That tense feel of combat is back in Razor’s Edge and every battle actually feels like one that you have to fully concentrate on to ensure survival. Playing through on the Normal difficulty setting, it’s essentially playing NG3’s “Hard” mode from PS3/360…except without the monotonous waves of enemies. Team Ninja has definitely paced the game significantly smoother and feels less repetitive than the previous edition. The only problem that still lies within the combat is the camera. There are still a good amount of times where the camera gets a bit caught up during the intense combat. While Ninja Gaiden has always has some camera issues during combat, it’s still an occasional issue here.

NG3 introduced the new “Kunai Climb” ability in which Hayabusa would have to scale up a wall by alternating the trigger buttons. In the previous edition, you had to go at a certain speed with pressing the buttons when climbing and if you let go of both triggers, Ryu would fall. Razor’s Edge fixes this and makes it much more fluid by allowing you to climb faster based on how fast you alternate the buttons. Also, you don’t have to hold down both buttons to ensure Hayabusa stays on the wall, making the climbing sequences significantly simpler and more streamlined. Team Ninja also looked back at some of the levels and tweaked them. Kunai Climbing, while simpler this time around, has been reduced a bit and any sequences that required you alternate the triggers while traversing with a rope are completely gone. Some levels may have lesser waves of enemies, a bit more platforming and a few extra areas that contain Crystal Skulls. Each chapter contains a hidden Crystal Skull, which when found initiates a Test of Valor challenge. These challenges will bring Hayabusa and/or Ayane to a specific locale from Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, in which you’ll face three waves of enemies, followed by a boss from the first two Ninja Gaiden games. These challenges are a true testament that Ninja Gaiden fans will eat up while newcomers will cower away from. To make it even more intense, should you die during the challenge, whether you’re on the third/final wave or up to the boss, it’s back to the first wave of enemies. It’s a real test of skill and endurance but completing them will net you a ton of Karma Points to use for upgrading.

There were moments in NG3 where Hayabusa’s curse would become severe and the camera would zoom-in over his shoulder. All you had to do was one-hit kill each enemy in a wounded state and then walk to a specific point for these segments to end. In Razor’s Edge, they’ve completely changed this concept into a more artistic direction. Instead, Hayabusa will be in a different dimension dishing out damage on enemies that flood his environment. The catch here is that your health is continuously depleting and can only increase slightly with each kill. Once you defeat all of Hayabusa’s “inner demons” in a sense, you’ll then return to his proper state. It’s actually a solid change that is definitely welcome.

No Ninja Gaiden game would be complete without boss fights and this installment provides for some truly intense and memorable battles. Each boss battle has been completely reworked as well. They now provide stiffer challenges than they already were back in the previous version but they also provide health bars at the bottom of the screen. Whether you’re facing the Regent of the Mask, a Helicopter on top of a skyscraper or a Gigantosaurus (yeah, there’s a dinosaur boss and it’s intense), these will all provide jaw-dropping moments and heart-stopping intensity. However, be prepared for some frustration to really kick in here. While some bosses will take a few tries before you figure out a strategy, others will be just downright difficult and merciless. If you’re the type of player that gets frustrated easily and tends to throw your controller, you may want to invest in the Wii U Pro Controller. This way should you throw and break a controller (which I won’t recommend you do anyway), you’re “only” breaking a 50 dollar controller that’s replaceable as opposed to a Gamepad that costs about 150+ dollars. Regardless, when tackling boss battles, keep your cool and examine their attacks. It’s an old-school challenge that is immensely rewarding upon completion.

Well crap…time to prepare for controller-throwing frustration again

Additional to Hayabusa’s tweaked campaign, Team Ninja added two new chapters in which you’ll control Ayane. Her move set will be familiar to those who played Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, while also introducing new moves and abilities. Ayane’s combat is essentially the same as Hayabusa’s, only faster due to her light but lethal Fuma Kodachi weapons. Ayane also has her own Ninja Skills upgrade tree so any Karma Points you earn with her are strictly for her only. It’s great to see Team Ninja added these two chapters as it helps change the game’s pace a bit.

The single-player replay value has also been significantly amped up this time around. Team Ninja has brought back the Chapter Challenge mode which allows you to revisit any chapter you want. More impressively, you’re allowed to replay any chapter with either Hayabusa or Ayane, regardless of who the default character was for that level. This is a nice addition and one that will add replay value for those who prefer one character over the other when aiming for the leaderboards. Additionally, there’s a New Game Plus so that you can replay the game with all the upgrades you’ve obtained and continue to finish upgrading the characters. Even after you’ve finished upgrading Hayabusa and Ayane’s abilities, you can use your Karma Points to unlock their alternate costumes (including Hayabusa’s original NES blue costume).

When accessing Shadows of the World (multiplayer), you will have the option of playing Ninja Trials or Clan Battle. Ninja Trials are essentially the co-op setup that players experienced in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, with a number of missions to complete varying by difficulty. This time around, you can play as both Hayabusa and Ayane in Ninja Trials. Also, it’s worth noting that if you’re playing Ninja Trials solo, you can now pause the game, which you oddly couldn’t do in the previous version. Unfortunately though, if you plan on playing with a friend, you can’t send them an invite. Their work around for that is to host a session where the parameter is set to “Friends” and your friend will have to search within the same parameter. Probably not the most streamlined approach but its good to see they at least have the parameter to keep sessions amongst friends. Clan Battle is your competitive mode, a first for the Ninja Gaiden series. To be honest, I really wasn’t too thrilled about it when it was announced. Thankfully, I can say that it’s not as tacky as I expected it to be. You’ll be able to customize your own ninja with specific weapons, different colors, headbands, gear and Kanji symbols to distinguish your character. You unlock more customization items the more you level up. When commencing a 4-on-4 Clan Battle, you’ll be pitted in certain levels from the campaign and have to just hunt the other players and cut them down. However, while it’s basically everyone running into the middle of the map to kill each other, there are more strategic approaches. Utilizing rooftops to snipe with your bow and walking to have your ninja cloak within the environment and prep an instant stealth kill are just a few examples.  The multiplayer may be nothing groundbreaking, but it’s surprisingly addictive and a great change of pace from the typical other multiplayer offerings out on the market. Unfortunately, the online player base is barely even touching this and trying to get a session going will take some time. This could change in the near future as more people get the Wii U and try the online mode for this game.

Ninja Gaiden 3’s original version was a different take on the franchise. One which was an admirable effort in trying to take a risk, but as stated, didn’t reside well amongst fans and critics. However, Team Ninja has really worked tremendously within the past 8 months to completely fix all the issues with the game and provide fans with an experience that is completely relatable to them. What they’ve accomplished here is quite impressive and ultimately feels like a true sequel to Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. Where as NG3 felt repetitive, Razor’s Edge was incredibly hard for me to put down, just like Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 were. Despite still having some camera issues that the series has always had, it doesn’t really disrupt the game from being an absolute blast.

Ninja Trials now allow you to play as Hayabusa and Ayane

Graphics: 4/5

Team Ninja has always boasted some impressive visuals in their titles and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is no different. Hayabusa’s character model is incredibly detailed, being able to see every cloth line on his scarf, every glimmering shine on his sword and top-notch, fluid animations. As Hayabusa cuts down his enemies, their blood stains on his body and the more you kill, the more bloodied up Ryu gets. It’s definitely a great little detail that further adds to the immersion. Ayane has been very well designed also, with the same level of detail and attention as Hayabusa. Enemies all have a distinguished look to them and have a good amount of detail as well. Seeing enemies decapitate again is also a very welcome return that further adds to the gory visuals. The environment detail can occasionally be a mixed bag however. Certain areas look pretty nice with some great detail. At other times, it just looks more on the bland side. The game still runs at 60 fps, which is a necessity for an action game like this. Unfortunately, the game’s framerate does dip at times depending on how much action is happening on-screen at once. It’s nothing too major but still noticeable. Impressively enough, the Wii U Gamepad can be used to play the entire game on there, while also retaining the 60 fps and visual detail.

Sound: 4/5

Ninja Gaiden 3′s overall sound design is incredibly well done. The sound effects of cutting through enemies is very powerful and gruesome to hear, perfectly accompanying the visceral combat. The excellent soundtrack also conveys the action in a way that truly engages you into the gameplay and will stick with you well after playing the game. Hayabusa’s voice actor, Troy Baker, does a solid job of delivering dialogue lines during cutscenes. However, it’s his incredibly badass battle cry while in combat that provides adrenaline during battle. Voice acting for all the other characters are pretty good, but nothing stellar that we’ve come to witness throughout this generation. “I don’t wanna die…I don’t wanna die!” is no longer a line that enemies will say during combat and their banter is not as repetitive as it was in NG3. Ayane’s voice is a bit on the “bratty” side though and comes off a bit childish at times. Regardless, the sound effects and adrenaline-fueled soundtrack really bring out the best in the audio department.

Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is proof that the new Team Ninja has what it takes to develop further installments in the franchise. I can’t stress enough that this is the quintessential version of Ninja Gaiden 3 that should not be missed by any NG fan. With one of the best combat systems, a coherent story, devilish difficulty, tons of extra content, replay value and an exceptional soundtrack, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is a must-own for any NG fan and Wii U owner. The game’s tagline may be “Violence Reborn”, but I say it’s “Ninja Gaiden Reborn”.

PROs:

+ Feels like a completely different experience; More in-line with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

+ Visceral combat system is amongst the best ever designed

+ Outstanding soundtrack and audio design

+ NES Ninja Gaiden references

+ Great replay value; Multiple costumes and “Chapter Challenge” returns

+ Ninja Trials now feature Hayabusa and Ayane

CONs:

– Voice acting can be a mixed bag

– Some bland environments

– Camera can still be an issue during combat

– Framerate dips occasionally

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Unboxing The Wii U Deluxe Set And Pro Controller

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Greetings everybody! I am happy to report that I have survived it through the waves of Wii U fans, and was able to purchase my very own Deluxe Console and Pro Controller at midnight. Check out the video below of me unboxing not only the deluxe system, but pro controller as well.

Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection Review (PS3/360)

Back in 2004, when I was still going through High School, I remember going to my friend’s house after the day ended and seeing his brother playing Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3. While I was only into the Dragon Ball Z series during the Saiyan and Namek Sagas when I was younger, I had lost interest shortly after. Watching my friend and his brother facing off in DBZ Budokai 3, I was immediately intrigued by how intense the combat system looked and how it set itself apart from other fighters on the market. From that moment, I ended up getting DBZ Budokai 3 for my PS2 back then and played the hell out of it, regardless that I had lost interest in the series when I was younger. A few months ago, Namco Bandai Games announced that they were prepping an HD collection for the Budokai series that would contain the fan-favorite first and third installments. So how exactly does the HD treatment fare for these two titles?

Gameplay: 4/5

When it comes to the Dragon Ball Z Budokai series, you’ve got to hand it to Dimps Corporation. They definitely studied the source material and provided fans with gameplay that replicates the intensity of battles like those from the show. You’re not only fighting on the ground or solely punching and kicking your way to victory. This is Dragon Ball Z. You’ll be Kamehameha-ing your way through fights and going Super Saiyan 3 to be all badass. Now Budokai 1 and 3’s gameplay mechanics may appear similar at first, but both games certainly have differences.

In Dragon Ball Z Budokai, players will venture through the Saiyan, Namek and Android Sagas, playing as various characters that were involved in those stories. Aside from this, you’ll also have your Duel, World Tournament and the unlockable “Legend of Hercule” modes to keep you busy. Duel is basically where you’ll go to compete against the computer or a friend of yours. In this HD version, they’ve added the feature for the second player to customize their skills, making fights much more balanced if you want to do custom skills for characters. World Tournament is precisely as you’d expect it, competing in a tournament bracket to be the best fighter. You’ll take on the CPU in various difficulties but should you lose, you’re out of the tournament. The “Legend of Hercule” mode will provide some humor for fans of the series, as the story will consist of Hercule trying to take on Cell himself but the Z-Fighters try to stop him from getting killed. From here, you’ll be pitted in 11 fights and should you lose any match, it’s back to the beginning.

In Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3, players will notice that the game’s story mode has now been replaced as a Fighting/RPG hybrid mode called “Dragon Universe”. In this mode, you’ll choose your character that you want to progress with and witness their whole storyline. You’ll have to ability to fly around the environment and search for capsules, zenies (money) and fights to initiate. As you progress, you’ll earn experience points based on how well you fought a battle. The more sophisticated you are, the more experience points you’ll be awarded. When you level up, you’ll be able to upgrade your Health, Ki, Attack, Ability, etc. It gives the game a very addictive element of trying to make your character as powerful as possible. Aside from Dragon Universe, you’ll have your Dueling and World Tournament modes just like Budokai 1.

Stages are interactive, in which you can knock opponents through mountains, or simply Spirit Bomb the hell out of half the planet and completely alter the environment. Fans will pick up on familiar locations such as the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, Supreme Kai’s World, Inside Buu, Planet Namek, and other key locations from the various sagas. The roster list is no small feat either. Budokai 1 contains 23 characters from the Saiyan, Namek and Android Sagas while Budokai 3 contains over 40 characters from not only DBZ, but the original Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT. Again, Dimps did their homework and tried to really gives these games the attention of detail and fan service that the series deserves.

In terms of the combat between both games, Budokai 1 definitely feels a little bit more stiff compared to the fluidity of Budokai 3’s. Budokai 1 is more straightforward, but still allows for complexity thanks to the Capsule Skills you can acquire. Equipping these will give your character new abilities and perks to utilize during a fight and switching these up always keeps the fights interesting. Powering up your character’s Ki gauge is integral if you want to utilize your abilities as much as possible during a fight. By simply holding the block button and double-tapping (and holding) back on the D-Pad/Analog Stick, you’ll begin to charge your Ki gauge. However, knowing when to do it is key as it leaves you vulnerable to attack from your opponent. You can then knock your opponents into the air and continue the fight off the ground, just like the show. Budokai 3 builds upon the same formula but also introduces mini-game/quick-time events during fights. These really ramp up the intensity of a battle, whether with the CPU or even better, a friend. They’ve also added teleport moves so that when you knock someone in the air, you can teleport behind them and attack several times. Pulling this off is simple but immensely gratifying, especially when countering a move this way. Should both of you shoot a Kamehameha at each other at the same time, a sequence will initiate where you’ll both have the rotate the analog sticks like a mad man (or woman) to push your blast through to your opponent. Some specials might involve the attacker to press a random button while the defender hopes to guess the same button to deflect a hefty attack. It’s these moments where the fighting mechanics felt unique back in their original releases and still hold up really well now.

Graphics: 4/5

When it comes to HD collections, there are some where the games just further show their age as opposed to truly enhancing them. Thankfully, that’s not so much the case here. Budokai 1 and 3 both had different art directions. The first game had a more “3D” look to it but was a bit bland, while the third game had a much more “cel-shaded anime” style and infused more life into the visuals. Basing the game on the PS2 versions and putting it side-by-side with the HD version, the difference is night and day. The HD version upscales the visuals immensely and while the first game looks a bit dated, Budokai 3 made me forget that I was playing what was originally a PS2 game. The only thing that will remind you of the game being a last-gen title are the ground textures during some of the stages. They’re not bad, but seem a bit more washed out compared to the upscaling the environmental backgrounds and characters received. Also, menus and cutscenes still retain a 4:3 ratio as opposed to 16:9 widescreen support.

Sound: 4/5

I have to hand it to the developers that the game sounds just like you’re watching the TV show. The DBZ theme song that plays when booting up Budokai 1 certainly brought back memories of my childhood and the fighting audio effects sound like they were ripped directly from the show. While some of the audio effects sound compressed or muffled, it’s literally how they sounded when watching the show. It didn’t bother me at all as it made the game feel more authentic and true to the show. All the original voice actors remain intact for both games on the collection. In addition, they’ve included the Japanese voiceovers for Budokai 3 (sorry, not available in Budokai 1), which was never in the original version of the game. However, there is one thing they did change, the soundtracks. If you had any fond memories of certain music tracks from Budokai 1 and 3, you won’t find them again here unfortunately. However, the reason why you won’t find them here is because the original composer, Keiji Yamamoto, was accused of stealing music and claiming them as his own compositions. Instead, they pulled some songs from the Budokai Tenkaichi series, while also providing some new songs. What’s here still definitely captures that DBZ feel and fits the game while playing it.

Replay Value: 4/5

There’s no question that DBZ Budokai HD Collection contains a ton of content to get through between both games. While Budokai 1 will hold your attention for a solid amount of time, with it’s Story and World Tournament modes, it’s Budokai 3 that will certainly keep you busy. Budokai 3’s “Dragon Universe” mode will keep you occupied in trying to complete all the characters’ campaigns and there are plenty of unlockables to go for. As with all fighting games, getting your friends gathered around a couch and taking turns will provide several hours of competitive fun. If you plan on switching between Budokai 1 and 3 while in-game, you’ll have to quit out to the XMB/Dashboard and go back in to choose your game of choice. It would’ve been nice to be able to swap between the games while in-game. Also, the one thing that’s a shame is that they didn’t add in an online multiplayer component for this HD Collection. Had they gone back and added this feature in, there’s no doubt that DBZ fans, especially those of the Budokai series, would have spent months online with it. Still, for $39.99, you’re getting a great bang for your buck and countless hours of entertainment.

Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Dragon Ball Z is a series that many have come to love over the years. Namco Bandai has released their share of DBZ games for the PS3/360 but there are Budokai fans who were dying to see this particular franchise return and for good reason. Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection contains two fan-favorite installments with impressive attention to HD upscaling, as well as some tweaking around to make these the ultimate versions. HD Collections can occasionally fare worse than their original versions if not carefully developed but DBZ Budokai HD Collection avoids that entirely. DBZ fans who’ve never experienced these really owe it to themselves to grab this collection, if not for Budokai 3 alone due to how expansive the game is. From its lush HD upscaling, to its intense combat system that still measures up incredibly well today, Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection is a must-own for not only DBZ fans, but fighting fans as well.

PROs:

+ Ton of content between both games

+ Tight gameplay that still holds up very well

+ Very clean HD visual upscale

+ Replacement soundtracks do a solid job

+ Budokai 3 is still as awesome as it was 8 years ago

CONs:

– No online play

– Original soundtracks are missing in action

Enjoy the review? Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @GamersXTREME

A special thank you to Namco Bandai Games for providing us an advance review copy of Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection!