Radio Xtreme – Episode 29: “Gamescom Predictions, Vita Talk, and More”

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In this episode of Radio Xtreme, Glacier928 and VengefulTorture discuss their GamesCom predictions, this upcoming week’s releases, the Killzone Mercenary beta, Castle of Illusion PS3 exclusive pre-order bonus, and much more!

The Last of Us Review (PS3): “Naughty Dog’s Perfect Sendoff Letter for the PS3”

The Last of Us Wallpaper

The Last of Us is Naughty Dog’s latest game for the PlayStation 3 that deviates from the adventurous style of Uncharted, and puts you into a post-apocalyptic setting where survival is key. The Uncharted trilogy has definitely made Naughty Dog stand out as a top-tier developer this generation, so does The Last of Us provide to be their proper sendoff letter to the PS3?

Story: 5/5

The story in The Last of Us is a difficult one to discuss here, as almost anything said will spoil what awaits. However, I will keep this as spoiler-free as possible. Joel is a hardened survivor who has witnessed much in his time dealing with the plague that is putting an end to humanity. In a time where resources are scarce and safety seems to be a term unheard of, Joel does whatever he can to stay alive. Early on, Joel is partnered with Tess, who like Joel, does whatever it takes to survive. They have a friendship in which they work together to take on smuggling jobs so that they can obtain the essentials to survive another day. Upon taking one of their jobs, they run into the task of having to escort Ellie, a 14 year-old girl who’s importance is not explained from the get-go. Along the journey, you will meet a cast of characters that all have their own struggles, as well as get attached to them. You will witness that not only is the plague that’s turned people into infected the enemy, but survivors as well. It’s survival of fittest as they struggle on who can be trusted and who can’t.

Naughty Dog is known for their astonishing storytelling and The Last of Us continues that trend. Characters are fleshed out immensely and their voice actors steal the show. It literally takes seconds to get enticed in the brilliantly scripted story and once you do, there’s no turning back. When you finish the story (which took me exactly 12 hours to complete), you’ll feel that you’ve went on as much of a journey as Joel and Ellie have in the game…which is something very few games have ever achieved.

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Gameplay: 5/5

When Naughty Dog announced the game back at the 2011 VGAs, many people wondered if the game was going to essentially be an Uncharted with a post-apocalyptic setting. Over the course of time, we’ve seen and heard that it would be nothing like Uncharted. I can easily say that The Last of Us is a unique experience from start to end. Instead of your hollywood-style action set pieces, you’ll be placed in a setting that’s all about survival, and that every little resource you have can either lead to your survival or your death. If you think this is a game you can just “run-n’-gun” your way through, you’re going to be in for a surprise. Naughty Dog aimed to bring a true feeling of survival in a desolate setting that appears to have no hope. You won’t be unloading 400 rounds of ammo in a single action scene…and that’s a good thing because it’s fair to say a ton of games in the market already do that.

You will control Joel in a move-strafe method with the control stick, while naturally controlling the camera with the right analog stick. There is no “jump” button but you will jump or scour up walls if you’re near them by pressing the X button. Melee is handled primarily with the square button, while triangle may counter or grab the enemy. The melee is extremely raw and visceral by the way. Every time you get into melee combat with an enemy, it’s not over-the-top or hollywood-ish. Each punch, attack and reaction is incredibly realistic and nails the sense of struggle perfectly. When handling guns, it is much more like Resident Evil or Dead Space, where you must aim first and then you can fire. There’s no aimlessly firing from the hip. Also, when aiming down the sights, Joel will not keep a steady hand and you’ll see the reticle swaying back and forth a bit. It’s not excessive, but it makes the shooting combat more challenging and rewarding. Realistically, if you’re in the situations Joel is put through, there’s no way you’d be able to keep a completely steady hand when fighting away these terrifying creatures. It reminded me much of Resident Evil 4, whenever Leon would aim, you’d see his laser pointer on the guns shake a bit…which is realistic. A huge portion of dealing with scenarios in the game revolves around stealth. However, Joel can enter Listen Mode, which amplifies the audio of enemies in the environments and highlights them. You’ll simply hold down R2 and Joel will be able to move very slowly (or stay still) while having an idea of where the people and/or creatures are.

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One of the coolest elements in The Last of Us is the crafting system. Since you’ll be scouring the environments for any resources you can find, you’ll need to create some items to ensure your survival. Simply pressing the Select button will have Joel go through his backpack, seeing what items and resources he’s collected. When you go into the crafting menu, you’ll be able to see all the resource materials you’ve gathered. These range from alcohol, tape, blades, rags, etc. So should you be low on medical kits, you can choose that item and the game will automatically highlight which resource items are needed to create one. Thankfully, the crafting system is one of the simplest I’ve come across in any game and makes crafting a cinch. However, choosing which items you craft is the important step. Some resources are used for a few different crafting items. If you create a medical kit, it uses one of the main ingredients to creating molotov cocktails. Do you create something to benefit your condition or something to give you a greater chance of clearing out infected enemies? Do you create a shiv to stab an enemy in the neck, attach a shiv to a melee object or create a bomb that shreds through anything near it? It’s these type of crafting decisions that make all the difference. Then, there are points where you’ll reach a workbench. At these points, you can upgrade Joel’s gear with the tools you’ve found. You’ll be able to upgrade the reload speed, clip size and fire rate of your weapons, and even add an extra holster for a pistol and long gun so that you don’t have to access your backpack when swapping those weapons. You will not be able to upgrade everything on your first playthrough, but that’s fine, as there is a New Game + mode to tackle when you complete the game once. Also, you will find supplement pills throughout the campaign. When collecting enough of these, Joel will be able to enhance some of his abilities, such as increasing your health, crafting speed, Listen Mode distance, etc. There are a ton of choices to make when it comes to upgrading both Joel and the weapons/gear you’ll carry.

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When it comes to AI in The Last of Us, it really is unrivaled. Enemies all react dynamically based on their attributes and no enemy ever follows the same line or path. For example, enemies known as “Clickers” can’t see anything but they hear even the slightest bit of noise. So if they hear you, they’ll be sprinting toward that direction. However, if you manage to stay quiet enough where they can’t hear you, they may stop looking for you but they certainly will not return to the area they originally were. Scenarios such as this (which are quite often) help convey a sense of tension that I haven’t felt with a game since Resident Evil 4. A big element of the game is sound, so should you throw a brick or bottle at a location, enemies will check it out and look around the particular area until they’ve found something. There are a variety of infected types you’ll take on and they vary based on how long infection has spread on a poor soul’s body. Infected aren’t the only enemies you’ll have to worry about though. There are hunters out there that will kill anyone for food, clothes and resources. Non-infected hunters will work together to flank you should they spot you…and they’re a force to be reckoned with. Should a group spot you, they’ll be packing heat and wielding lead pipes and 2x4s, aggressively coming after you. The enemy AI isn’t the only impressive element in the game though. Since a massive portion of the game is having Ellie alongside Joel, one must wonder how they’ve handled partner AI. Thankfully, Ellie is one of the most advanced AI’s I’ve witnessed in a game to date. She may be a young 14 year old, but she’s grown up in this mess of times and has become a product of her environment. For example, if an enemy grabs Joel from behind, Ellie may quickly run to you and stab the enemy from behind so that Joel can break free to finish the enemy off. She’ll also shout out to Joel if an enemy is trying to sneak up on him by saying, “Joel, behind you!”

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Nowadays, developers feel a pressure that multiplayer has to be implemented into their games to increase longevity. Sure, it can provide for some fun times but lets be honest, many games have throwaway multiplayer tacked on just to have the feature checked off on a list. However, Naughty Dog doesn’t just “tack” features on in their games and we’ve seen that with Uncharted 2’s multiplayer. When that released in 2009, the multiplayer won over the hearts of many gamers (myself included with over 120 hours in that mode alone) and proved how to make a multiplayer mode that flawlessly transitions the gameplay mechanics from the single-player to online. With The Last of Us, many wondered how the multiplayer would be. Well, The Last of Us implements the entire campaign’s gameplay mechanics into the multiplayer the same way Uncharted 2 & 3 did for their campaign to multiplayer transition. Much like the campaign, you can’t run to the middle of the action, guns blazing and thinking you can win. It just doesn’t work like that at all. When you start up the multiplayer (known as Factions), you’ll be presented with two faction types: Hunters and Fireflies. Upon choosing this, you’ll be locked into your faction until one of the following happens: complete the 12 week survival cycle or if your clan dies. Now let me explain this a bit more, because here is where the setup of the multiplayer differs immensely from your typical “gain XP for literally everything you do”. There’s no XP or “level ranks” to be found in this game. Instead, you’ll will earn supplies the better you play. The more kills you get, the more supplies you can nab off your opponent. At the end of a match, if you met the minimum quota or more, you’ll have more “survivors” join your cause. The more survivors that join, the more supplies you’re going to need to sustain them. Upon getting survivors, you’ll see three statuses: Healthy, Hungry and Sick. Healthy means you’re earning more than enough supplies to keep your survivors alive. Hungry means you’re doing ok, but not good enough to cater to everyone. Sick means you’re doing a poor job in matches and not acquiring enough resources. Beyond this point, your survivors can die and if all of them do, your online run is done. You have 12 weeks to try and survive, as well as keep your survivors healthy and kicking. Every match counts as a single day, and each week presents a new story element to the multiplayer that you can check in the Clan Messages. Next to your PSN ID (or Facebook name since you can connect with that), there’ll be a number. This number signifies the amount of weeks you’ve survived. It’s an incredibly refreshing setup and style that replicates the aesthetics of the campaign and its setting.

There are two multiplayer modes you can play: Supply Raid and Survivors. Supply Raid is basically a team deathmatch of 4v4, where each team will have up to 20 respawning lives that all players on a team share. There’s constantly a respawn timer cycling as you play so you won’t always respawn in 3-5 seconds, as it can be upwards to 20 seconds the most. Survivors is still the 4v4 team deathmatch style but takes place in rounds. At the start of round, each player gets a single life. If they die, they’re out of the round. The team that wins four rounds total wins the entire match. Interestingly, the team that’s losing towards the end of a match will be given a slight advantage by seeing a proximity of where the opposing team is hiding by a massive red flash on the radar. Like Uncharted’s multiplayer, you’ll be able to customize your loadouts and emblems. You’ll be given 9 points to allocate to your loadout, which if chosen carefully, can have you going out there with two weapons and four perks. Naturally, it’s all about finding the weapons and perks that work best for you. As you progress through the multiplayer, you will earn new perks and weapons for you to test out. In the hours I’ve spent with the multiplayer, it was lag-free and incredibly addictive. There’s no question that many will extend countless hours just playing online.

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Graphics: 5/5

Naughty Dog’s engine has really blown away gamers worldwide, with visual detail that almost no other developer has been able to achieve on consoles this generation. With The Last of Us, they’ve not only surpassed their visual benchmark, they’ve crafted what is very well the most visually stunning game ever designed this generation. The rich level of detail on the character models has completely exceeded those one would come to expect. Facial animations are so realistic, it’s scary. Whether you’re fighting enemies, exploring the environment, or unfortunately dying, the facial animations are precisely what you would expect them to be. Environments are also insanely detailed, with every single little texture being given as much attention as those of the more pivotal elements. It may be a post-apocalyptic setting, but Naughty Dog has crafted their environments in such a superb style that makes you feel like you’re right there with Joel and Ellie. All the characters’ animations are very realistic and animate precisely the way they would in real-life. For example, when in cover, if you go up to exactly where Ellie is, Joel will still hug the wall over Ellie with his arm extended a slight bit but next to her as close as possible, with no clipping of the models or collision boxes to prevent this. If Joel walks under a stream of water, he’ll put his hand up to cover his face from getting wet. Even when Joel takes a hit to the face from a lead pipe, you’ll see blood dripping from his face and onto his clothes. Little details like this go a long way to further flesh out the game’s aesthetics and environment. Naughty Dog was dedicated to providing their best visual representation and they’ve done so with flying colors. This is by far, the best looking console game…ever.

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Sound: 5/5

Where do I even begin to praise the stellar audio in this game? Well, lets look at the stars of the show: Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie). TLoU has the most believable voice acting in a game to date. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson bring their characters to life in such a way that you grow immensely attached to them and feel for their causes. They definitely have a chemistry that works flawlessly and are almost always conversing with each other, whether in a cutscene or during gameplay. Infected enemies like “Clickers” have the creepiest audio effect when they’re spotted in the area and provide a sense of fear I haven’t felt since El Salvador (chainsaw guy) from Resident Evil 4. Guns and weapons all have an incredibly impacting sound to them. Whether you’re firing off a pistol, revolver, shotgun, or rifle, each gun sounds like they pack a punch and are distinctive from one another. Melee combat sounds brutal and painful, as it should. If I hit someone with a lead pipe or get hit by one, you should be reacting based on the audio and The Last of Us nails that. The soundtrack composed by Gustavo Santaolalla provides a very fresh and unique style to the game that grows on you the more you hear it in-game. Recurring themes help convey the sense of despair and hope that the characters are clearly showing. Music isn’t always playing in the background either, whether exploring or in combat. It plays only at moments it truly needs to and while that’s something that would normally bother me (since I’m an audiophile), the voice acting and superb audio effects carry the game on its own perfectly. Do yourselves a favor…play with the audio all the way up.

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Overall Score: 20/20 = 10 out of 10

The Last of Us is one of those games that will go down in history as one of the biggest achievements in gaming history. Naughty Dog is known for pushing the boundaries within their games and The Last of Us is no different. With one of the most engaging stories ever told, rich atmosphere, phenomenal visual and audio presentation and flawless gameplay, The Last of Us is easily the best game of 2013 so far and is an experience that should not be missed by any means. It’s the perfect sendoff letter for Naughty Dog to leave the PS3 with so that they can focus on the upcoming PS4.

PROS:

+ Best visuals in a console game to date

+ Powerful audio

+ Incredibly believable voice acting

+ Outstanding story

+ Flawless gameplay

+ Fresh, addictive multiplayer

CONS:

– The journey comes to an end…

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.

The V Podcast: Xbox One Reveal Thoughts

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VengefulTorture and myself (Glacier928) discuss our 100% honest thoughts about the Xbox One reveal in episode 10 of “The V Podcast”. Breaking down every feature of yesterday’s announcement, we talk about the pros and cons with what was shown.

Top 10 GBA Games that Need to Come to Wii U VC

Wii U GamePad

Nintendo has finally rolled out the Virtual Console service for the Wii U and they’ve mentioned that we will see GBA and N64 titles hit the service in the near future. For this Top 10, I’ve decided to look back at some GBA classics that I feel would make a perfect fit for the Wii U VC service.

10. Advance Wars

Advance Wars

Intelligent Systems is one of Nintendo’s top-tier developers. Known for their Fire Emblem series, as well as Paper Mario, they’ve always developed games that are worthy of their praise. With the GBA, they created a new IP called “Advance Wars”. Incorporating strategy-tactics gameplay, with an excellent visual presentation, Advance Wars was a game that really took off on the GBA. It had some great depth and immensely gratifying gameplay that would do well for tactics enthusiasts on the Wii U.

9. Bomberman Tournament

Bomberman Tournament

Since Bomberman’s debut back on the NES, we’ve seen the character receive countless titles in the series on a ton of different platforms. Whether it be the NES, Game Boy, SNES, GBC, or N64, chances are that you’ve played at least a single Bomberman title. They’ve always been known for their simple, yet incredibly addictive multiplayer. So with a title like “Bomberman Tournament”, you would think the game focuses on a more multiplayer-central component, right? Well, here’s the interesting part. While the game has the excellent multiplayer intact, the single-player played like a Legend of Zelda title. This story mode shift for Bomberman was actually one of my personal favorites, as the Zelda-style gameplay worked brilliantly for the game. This may have been a title that many missed out on for the GBA, which is one of the many reasons it would do very well to release on the Wii U VC.

8. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2

The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series was a tremendously successful franchise, selling millions and millions of copies…and for good reason. The concept of completing goals within a two minute time limit, the complexity of the trick system, great soundtracks and nearly impossible to put-down gameplay made the series relevant for the gaming community. When Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 launched alongside the GBA, developer Vicarious Visions showed the power of the system by providing an absolutely superb rendition of a much beloved console game. This was the very first GBA game I ever played prior to owning my own GBA, and remains one of my most remembered. I earned 100% game completion with every single character…and I would easily do that again should the game release for the Wii U VC.

7. Golden Sun

Golden Sun

Camelot Software, known for their excellent Mario Golf and Mario Tennis titles, graced the GBA with a knockout RPG, Golden Sun. Camelot Software had experience in the RPG field, as they were behind the Shining Force series for Sega. The fantastic visuals, gripping story and top-notch gameplay really made the game stand out among the top GBA titles ever released. Golden Sun is a game that I feel would be a prime fit for the Wii U VC. Maybe we could see a Golden Sun hit the Wii U in the near future? One can hope…

6. Sonic Advance

Sonic Advance

Sonic has seen a ton of titles in its lifecycle. The blue hedgehog has been around for over 20 years and when Sega decided to leave the hardware business, Sonic has seen a good amount of his titles come to Nintendo’s platforms. In particular, the very first Sonic game to grace Nintendo’s portable format was Sonic Advance for the GBA. Visually, the game was vibrant, detailed and ran incredibly smooth. The gameplay was rock-solid and was one of the better Sonic games in the series’ history. While Sonic Advance had three installments, the first one was the one I was most fond of on the GBA…and would love to see hit the Wii U VC.

5. Metroid Fusion

Metroid Fusion

Metroid is another golden franchise that Nintendo has established. From the days of the original that shocked everyone that Samus was a girl, to the SNES classic that’s soon coming to the Wii U VC, to the spectacular Prime series that Retro Studios handled, it’s a series that deserves the limelight. Metroid Fusion was a title I never got around to fully playing until the 3DS Ambassador Program. At the time of the game’s release alongside Metroid Prime for the GameCube, I only had enough money to get one game, so I went with Metroid Prime. I had always been eager to play Fusion and once I did at the end of 2011, it stands as one of my favorite Metroid titles. The dark setting and storyline, challenging difficulty and well-paced gameplay gave me a hard time putting this game down until it was beaten. I really loved that Samus was being hunted down throughout the game, at times giving it a survival horror feel. Nintendo would do very well to release this to the general public of Wii U owners.

4. F-Zero GP Legend

F-Zero GP Legend

F-Zero has always been a racing franchise I’ve held near and dear to me. Ever since I first came across it on the SNES, to the heavy metal sequel on the N64, F-Zero X, to the GBA launch of Maximum Velocity, and then my personal favorite installment (and racing game of all-time), F-Zero GX, I couldn’t get enough of it. Nintendo had decided to release an animated cartoon in 2004 based on their franchise titled “F-Zero GP Legend”. Naturally, a game was made for the GBA based on the cartoon universe. Now this was a title that I picked up back in the day for $4.99 in a bargain bin at Toys R Us…and damn was this an awesome game. It played very close to the SNES classic and GBA launch predecessor, Maximum Velocity. The main difference from the previous GBA iteration was the amount of content and story mode. F-Zero GP Legend was another excellent installment that got overlooked on the GBA but really had the same level of quality that should be expected from an F-Zero game. Nintendo, bring this classic to the Wii U VC while we wait for the proper F-Zero game to hit the Wii U!

3. The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap

Legend of Zelda Minish Cap

The Legend of Zelda…an immensely popular franchise for Nintendo that still excites gamers today. Thanks to its ingenious level designs, interesting characters and plots, fine tuned gameplay and superb soundtrack, there are plenty of reasons it’s successful. I’ll admit, I never got around to playing Minish Cap on the GBA when it released. It wasn’t until the 3DS Ambassador Program when I got the opportunity to play it and was appalled at myself for never getting it back in the day for my GBA. The game was excellent to say in the least and had a terrific soundtrack to accompany it (the Minish Woods track is incredibly catchy). While we wait for the Wind Waker HD, Link to the Past 2 and the new Zelda for Wii U, The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap would be a no-brainer for Nintendo to release for the GBA VC on Wii U.

2. Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Advance 4 - Super Mario Bros 3

Over the GBA’s life-cycle, we’ve seen Super Mario games get some nice remasters. From the launch day title, Super Mario Advance, that completely remastered Super Mario Bros. 2, to the last entry that remastered Super Mario Bros. 3, they were “advanced” for on-the-go entertainment. So why did I choose SMA4 over SMA2 which brought us Super Mario World? Simple. Since Super Mario World is now available on the Wii U VC for the SNES, and the fact that very little was tweaked to SMW, it seems like the most logical choice would be to have the “advanced” Super Mario Bros. 3 available. SMB3 is, and always will be, a fine gaming masterpiece that should not have been missed.

1. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Castlevania Circle of the Moon

My very first game for the GBA was not only my favorite Castlevania title ever made, it stands as one of the greatest games of all-time in my book. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon introduced us to Nathan Graves, the new protagonist that wielded the “Hunter Whip”. The story is about Dracula’s resurrection (as are most Castlevania games) but the characters had a good amount of depth to them. However, Circle of the Moon’s gameplay was as flawless to game design as it could get. Taking the gameplay style of Symphony of the Night and expanding upon it dramatically, it was unbelievable to see the game running on a GBA and of such high quality. The interesting mechanic was the DSS Card system, which allowed you mix and match between 10 Action cards and 10 Attribute cards. This gave the player a hundred different combinations to create and utilize, giving Nathan new weapons and abilities. Finding new cards was addictive and seeing what the combination of cards created was always exciting. I could spend days talking about Circle of the Moon’s perfection. Simply put, this MUST come out to the Wii U VC service immediately.

These are my personal “Top 10” picks on the topic and here’s hoping that Nintendo follows suit on releasing some (if not all) of these titles on the platform. Which GBA titles do you guys want to see release on the Wii U VC? Have any memories of the titles mentioned above? Sound off in the comments below!

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.

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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.

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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!

Kung Fu Rabbit Review (Wii U eShop): “A Charmingly Addictive 2D Platformer”

Kung Fu Rabbit Wallpaper

The indie title trend continues on the Wii U, this time with an enhancement to a mobile device game. Kung Fu Rabbit is a 2D platformer that was originally released by developers CTools, Cazap and Bulkypix for the iOS and Android devices last year. Developer Neko Entertainment liked the game so much, that they worked with the original developers to get the appropriate access to bring the game over to the Wii U eShop. In an interview I conducted with them, Neko Entertainment stated that they thought it was something great, but the touch controls didn’t provide it the precision that it needed. While Europe has had the game for a few weeks, North Americans finally get the opportunity to try out the game for themselves. The game certainly has a very charming, cutesy style to it, but how well does it play?

Kung Fu Rabbit starts off with a comic-book style story panel being displayed, showing your fellow rabbits being kidnapped. However, abductors left one rabbit behind…you. It’s up to you to platform your way through 80 levels to save all the abducted rabbits. While the story isn’t much to write home about, it’s there to give you the basic reason as to why you’re navigating the levels. Plus, while there may not be much story, the character designs are very appealing.

Kung Fu Rabbit Gameplay 1

The gameplay is very reminiscent of old-school 2D platformers, as well as some recent indie ones such as Super Meat Boy. Each level has you running, jumping, wall jumping, collecting carrots and slashing enemies as you reach the goal to rescue a kidnapped rabbit. The game takes place within three worlds, each containing 20 levels to tackle. The controls are incredibly simple and responsive, as any 2D platformer should be. You’ll use the control stick or D-Pad to move, the A button to jump and B button to use items. Neko Entertainment wasn’t kidding when they said they wanted to provide proper controls, so you can use the GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remote and Wii Pro Controller…and they all feel right for the game. Since this is a platformer, jumping is a tremendous element to the game, so precision is a must. Thankfully, controlling Rabbit is a charm, as his running speed and jumping feels just right. Even jumping off walls works the way it should with the right amount of physics applied. Rabbit can attack enemies, however in a non-traditional method. Instead of being given an attack button, Rabbit will be able to slash an enemy automatically by simply approaching it where their “Achilles Heel” is. Enemies will have a certain spot where they’ll have a glowing blue design, and it is here where you can attack them. If it’s behind them, then you’re going to have to run into them from behind. If it’s on their head, then you can give them the good ol’ “goomba stomp” that we’ve grown accustom to since the days of Mario. In each level, you’ll come across carrots. There are three regular carrots in every level, alongside a gold carrot that gives you extra. The carrots are used to purchase items for you to use, whether it be single-use, artifacts or unlockables (such as the Mexican Avenger costume). The single-use items vary from cleansing the area of enemies, activating checkpoints, deflecting projectiles, etc. Artifacts are essentially perks, which will enhance Rabbit’s abilities: “Carrot Juice” will let you run faster and jump higher, while “Death from the Sky” allows you to defeat any enemy by simply jumping on them (regardless of their weak spot), “Feet of Ice” will freeze breakable platforms so that you can pinpoint your jump better, “Claws” lets you slide down walls slower, “Feather” decreases your falling speed, and lastly, “Master of Arms” lets you run into any enemy and defeat them instantly (basically making you invincible against them). The catch with the Artifacts? You can only equip one at a time. If a level is giving you a hard time, you’ll want to figure out which Artifact to bring with you.

Kung Fu Rabbit Gameplay 2

Kung Fu Rabbit’s platforming starts off very simple, allowing anyone to be able to dive into the game. However, as you progress, expect the difficulty to certainly ramp up, demanding for some spot-on platforming skills. Aside from the enemies, Rabbit will have to worry about the “dark goo” that fills some of the platforms. Whether you’re jumping over dark goo, or wall jumping precisely to avoid it on walls, it’s a big obstacle throughout the game. As a matter of fact, almost everything poses a threat to Rabbit, as he dies instantly when coming in contact with an enemy directly or the dark goo. Thankfully, levels are very short and the game rarely leads to frustration. The overall difficulty curve is actually nicely handled and never feels like it spikes dramatically. Aside from the 60 main levels, there’s also a bonus world with 20 additional levels. These will test your skills further and if you wanted more of a challenge, you can unlock the game’s hard mode called “Hardcore Rabbit”. Basically, this will have you revisit levels but they’ll have a plethora of extra obstacles and enemies placed around. This mode alone will double the game’s length and keep you coming back for more.

Kung Fu Rabbit’s visuals are really appealing to the eye. The art direction for the game is very charming, with nice color palettes and a smooth frame rate. The character animations are a bit simplistic but that doesn’t detract from the overall experience. The environments definitely have that “asian” feel to them, whether you’re in the forest, cave or indoor dojos. It may not be anything overly complex, but that’s fine, as the game’s aesthetic is certainly done right. Even playing on the GamePad looks great, with barely any loss of visual quality. Audio wise, there are a few music tracks here and while they capture the setting appropriately, they become a little repetitive. Also, there is some “voice-work” done for the characters. I use the term “voice-work” lightly because there’s no dialogue, mainly just chants from the creatures and Rabbit. However, hearing Rabbit cheer when he rescues a kidnapped rabbit is very catchy. Funny enough, when Rabbit would die, his shout reminded me a bit of the Rabbids from “Rayman Raving Rabbids”. One of the main issues I had with Kung Fu Rabbit was it’s menu design. There are images for each icon to give you an idea of what part of the menu you’ll be accessing, but it just feels somewhat off when navigating them. It’s nothing detrimental that severely hurts the game, but something that stuck out immediately and never really adjusted to. On the plus side, the menus provide for full touch-screen navigation or through regular buttons, so you have either option.

Kung Fu Rabbit Gameplay 4

Kung Fu Rabbit is a game that’s simple to pickup-and-play, yet challenging enough for gamers of all types. Don’t let the game’s cutesy appearance turn you away. This is no doubt a fun and addictive game that you’ll find yourself coming back to. For the $4.99 asking price, there’s a good amount of content to be found here and is almost impossible not to recommend. If you’re a fan of platformers, don’t think, just buy this game.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to Neko Entertainment for providing us a review copy for Kung Fu Rabbit!

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007 Legends Review (PS3/360/Wii U): “A Legendary Mess”

007 Legendswallpaper

“James Bond Will Return…” It’s a line we’ve seen at the end of the credits roll over the course of the film series’ 50 year history. Ever since GoldenEye 007 graced the video game market for the N64, we’ve seen numerous Bond games get released over the last decade and a half. Developer Eurocom was on board to celebrate the “Bond 50” anniversary by working on 007 Legends for the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U. Eurocom is no stranger to the 007 license either. Their first entry, The World is Not Enough for the N64 was a great title (PS1 version wasn’t so good) that gave fans hope that a non-Rare developed Bond game can work. From there, we’ve seen Eurocom develop Agent Under Fire and Nightfire for the PS2, GC and Xbox. Agent Under Fire was a pretty solid entry, while Nightfire stands as one of the best 007 games released (alongside GoldenEye and Everything or Nothing). Recently, with Activision owning the rights to the Bond license, they decided to bring GoldenEye back as a re-imagining, with Eurocom behind the project. The game scored very well amongst fans and critics alike, both the Wii version from 2010 and PS3/360 version from 2011. With Eurocom having a solid stature on the franchise’s history of games, they surely would know how to celebrate Bond’s 50th anniversary…right?

Story: 2/5

With the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, that released in November, Eurocom decided to build a story lightly around one of the key moments that happens early in that film. As it is no surprise as this was shown in the movie and game’s trailers, Bond is caught in a chase after an operative who obtained a disk drive that contains all of MI6’s secret agents’ covers. While in a fight on top of a train, Bond’s partner for the mission tries to provide aid by reaching a clear location to snipe the enemy Bond is after. His partner is told to “take the shot” by M and she misses, hitting Bond instead. Bond is then pushed off the top of a train, off the overpass and free-falls to what is presumably his death. As he hits the water, the developers decided to use this as a way of Bond recollecting memories of previous missions from previous 007 films: Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, License to Kill, Die Another Day and Moonraker. It’s an interesting plot device to explore some of Bond’s history but it’s here where any “cool” factor gets thrown out the window. When celebrating an iconic character’s history, it’s essential to make sure the source material is close. Since the game isn’t intended to be a re-imagining like GoldenEye was, it’s strange how detached the game feels from the movies it’s based on. Remember the war-like scene in Goldfinger outside of Fort Knox with helicopters crashing and a million soldiers? How about the the scene in License to Kill where Bond destroys other vehicles while on top of a racing oil tanker with a single bullet from his pistol? Or the scene in Die Another Day where you’re driving on ice and the car isn’t invisible (not to mention Jynx doesn’t even look anything like she did in the movie)? Remember how Patrice had a rocket launcher with infinite rockets in the beginning of Skyfall? Yeah…I don’t remember those happening that way in the films either. While I don’t mind so much that the developers try to change it up a bit from the movie counterpart, none of the missions within those movies tie into each other coherently by any means. It’s a disjointed structure and a real shame as the story starts off with potential.

007 Legends Gameplay 5

Look carefully and you’ll notice how many character models are duplicated…true story.

Gameplay: 2/5

007 Legends is an FPS at heart, while trying to incorporate some stealth elements, on-rail vehicle segments and driving sequences. Eurocom has done all these things before in previous Bond titles, so it would seem like a safe bet to stick with it in 007 Legends. Unfortunately, everything here just doesn’t work as smoothly as it has in the developer’s past with the franchise, which is incredibly odd. You’ll control Bond with standard FPS controls, although, for some reason the sensitivity is either way too slow or too fast, no matter how much tweaking you do in the options menu. What’s even more odd is that when you try to aim vertically, it seems always slower than the horizontal speed, making aiming more of a chore at times. As you progress through the game, Eurocom does incorporate MI6 stations where you can upgrade your weapons, equipment and abilities. This is actually a nice addition that helps give you more freedom with what you can equip. You’ll earn XP by completing certain tasks in game and with those points, you can spend them on upgrades. Bond can purchase and equip up to three perks, such as increased health, increased stamina, quicker reload, quicker weapon swap, etc. As for the guns, you can purchase red dot sights, faster rate of fire, grenade launcher attachments, laser pointers, etc. While this is a nice feature, the attachments don’t “attach” to every weapon. For example, you may be using Bond’s signature P99 pistol and buy a laser pointer for it, but that attachment won’t go onto the pistol…making you waste a purchase. The same goes with a few other weapons…which makes you scratch your head wondering why it’s here in the first place.

As mentioned in the story section, the game revolves around six of the Bond films, each containing two to three levels per film. They sometimes throw you into an on-rails vehicle sequence such as the skiing scene from On Our Majesty’s Secret Service or the motorcycle chase from Skyfall. The skiing scene is ok, and reminded me a bit of Eurocom’s skiing scene from The World is Not Enough on the N64. The problem with this was the awkward steering controls, which felt like moving a tank and led to plenty of frustrating “Mission Failed” screens when smacking into three consecutive trees. Then there’s the Skyfall motorcycle chase…and this one I have no words for. This chase sequence had to be one of the sloppiest segments in the entire game. First off, again, the controls are awkward, and feels like you’re handling anything but a motorcycle. Second, the scenario design of where and when certain “on-coming” vehicles appear are just questionable beyond belief, not to mention how poor they look. Honestly, I found myself laughing hysterically at how abysmal the whole scene was handled. Then there are the free driving vehicle scenes (which I mean allows you to fully control the vehicle), which thankfully handle much better. While the scenes aren’t anything too memorable, they’re enjoyable while they last. The controls are responsive but the physics can be pretty wonky when hitting a barrier or object.

007 Legends Gameplay 6

There are times where you can tackle a scenario without getting yourself into a heavy firefight through stealth. After all, it wouldn’t be a Bond game if there was no stealth. Stealth mechanics aren’t too bad, where sticking to the shadows and behind objects to stay out of sight is key. Enemies that notice you will have an indicator on the screen showing how much suspicion they see in the presence. The indicator will start off white, meaning they’re slightly noticing something (that “something” being you), however it’ll quickly switch to orange, meaning they’ve noticed suspicious activity. If the indicator hits red, well, stuff is about to go down. There will be cameras in the vicinity at times as well, but you’re given a few seconds for the camera to fully notice you before the alarm triggers. If a camera scans an area where there’s a body on the ground, expect the alarms to sound. Occasionally, there will be “Critical Stealth” points where getting caught once will result in “Mission Failure” and send you back to the nearest checkpoint. The stealth segments aren’t too bad and can be somewhat enjoyable. A new mechanic that’s introduced in 007 Legends are the quick-time, “Punch-Out” style fight scenes. At times, whether with an ordinary thug or a specific villain, you’ll resort to having to use the analog sticks to throw left and right punches, while swinging high and low. This is interesting when it’s first introduced to you, but wears off very quickly as the enemy you’re brawling with just stands there like a fool, leaving a clearly specific spot open for attack. It’s like they’re saying “hit me…here!” Plus, every time you hit them, it shows the hit in slow motion. Cool at first to show the effect, not so cool after the fifth enemy and 30th punch. However, when caught in hand-to-hand combat with Gustav Graves in Die Another Day’s sequence, you’ll be followed by a quick-time dodging event that gives you literally a tenth of a second to react to multiple different dodges. Missing the button once results in death and having to repeat the hand-to-hand fight again, which is prior to the quick-time dodging event. This particular scene is just plain frustrating for the worst reason.

Aside from the game’s 5-7 hour campaign, there are also Challenge missions. These are akin to the MI6 Challenges that were in GoldenEye Reloaded back in 2011. These handful of missions will put you behind a variety of different scenarios, such as stealth, defense, assault, etc. You will be scored based on your performance and to make things more interesting, you can modify each scenario to your liking. Tweaking things such as enemy health, their accuracy, Bond’s health and paintball mode all affect the points multiplier for your overall score of a mission. These are fun little missions to tackle, but wish they had a co-op element to them.

007 Legends Gameplay 1

Playing through the Wii U version of the game, I was hoping the GamePad would be utilized decently. Well, it is and isn’t. The GamePad shows your inventory and you can switch between weapons and gadgets by tapping the appropriate icon. While you could just press a button to switch between them, I actually did find myself using the touch screen more. The screen also displays a mini-radar, which is also shown on the bottom right corner of your HUD on the TV. The radar is minuscule on the GamePad and pretty much just fluff since it’s easier to just pay attention to the radar on the TV instead. There are times where you’ll have a keypad to enter a code or hack into a safe using your watch. While you can use the standard controls, Eurocom has incorporated them to be utilized through the GamePad’s touch screen. It’s nothing great and the visual representations are incredibly choppy and low-res, but it’s a nice touch. Unfortunately, there’s no off-TV play allowed unless you play local multiplayer…which is a real bummer.

Naturally, multiplayer is a huge portion of the Bond experience ever since the days of GoldenEye on the N64. Eurocom has brought us some great multiplayer experiences in their Bond games in the past as well, whether it be The World is Not Enough, Agent Under Fire, Nightfire, or the GoldenEye remake. Unfortunately, 007 Legends’ multiplayer is poorly put together…and this doesn’t make sense either. GoldenEye’s remake had a terrific multiplayer that brought back a classic feel of gathering friends around a couch to shoot it out, as well as taking it online. 007 Legends has the mechanics in place, but has forgotten to incorporate the “fun” aspect to it. First thing was that the online doesn’t feel smooth at all, with movement feeling somewhat stilted. The next element missing (and this is a big one for me personally) was that there was no in-game music during matches. Now many may not be thrown off by that, but when all of Eurocom’s previous Bond efforts had music for multiplayer and then omit that here, that’s a mistake. There are several different game modes that stand out from the typical “Team Deathmatch” such as “Golden Gun” and “Legends” mode. Unfortunately, trying to find a match in anything but “Team Conflict” was near impossible. You can play locally with friends, but I recommend just sticking to the GoldenEye remake. Better yet, fire up the original N64 GoldenEye, The World is Not Enough (N64), Agent Under Fire, or Nightfire if you have any of these accessible. Overall, 007 Legends’ gameplay is functional and can be very mildly entertaining, but it’s incredibly buggy and unpolished.

Bond: "Do you expect me to talk?"Goldfinger: "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to sit through this game!"

Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?”
Goldfinger: “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to sit through this game!”

Graphics: 2/5

Ok, so this is probably one of the more laughably infuriating elements I came across in the game. 007 Legends is an ugly game to look at and incredibly rough around the edges. The strange thing is that GoldenEye 007 (the Wii version, not even the enhanced PS3/360 version) looks better than 007 Legends. Honestly, 007 Nightfire, a game that Eurocom developed a decade ago for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube, looks better than this game at times. Now that’s just sad. Character models look somewhat decent, with a very good job done with the facial scans of iconic Bond villains. However, the enemy death animations and physics are just jarring. Killing an enemy behind cover usually resorts to them leaning against that cover in a weird forward position that looks…well, awkward to say in the least. Shooting an enemy with a shotgun or explosive has them fly backwards and flip, but in a slow animation that seems just plain poor. Environmental textures are incredibly inconsistent as well. Some areas look solid, such as the Ice Palace from Die Another Day and the Space Station from Moonraker. Then there are other areas that are subpar to today’s standards. The frame rate holds up alright during intense action sequences…but that’s about it. Sometimes it shoots up to 60 fps in closed-in, non-action areas, but is very rare. The thing is, the engine they built for GoldenEye Reloaded for PS3/360 rans at a rock solid 60 fps and looked significantly better than Legends…so what went wrong here? Visually, it’s serviceable…but that’s about the extent of it.

007 Legends Gameplay 3

Sound: 3/5

The audio department is easily the better designed element to the game…but nothing overly impressive. The game may portray Daniel Craig as Bond (even though he wasn’t in most of the movies incorporated here) but it sure isn’t him voice acting the role. Timothy Watson has stepped in to take on the role of Craig’s Bond and honestly, it’s not bad at all. The other voice actors that take on of the roles of classic villains and Bond girls do a decent job as well, except for the times where you’re investigating a scene and they say the same line over and over again. An example of this would be “James, I bet you can use your scanner to find clues”, with only seconds until it’s followed by “James, I bet you can use your scanner to find clues” followed by…well, you should get the pattern by now. The sound effects for the guns and explosives are adequate, but never heightens the scale of shootouts. In terms of soundtrack, while it’s nothing too memorable, the music here is effective and helps capture the game’s moments pretty well thankfully. The overall audio isn’t poor by any means, but far from great.

007 Legends Gameplay 2

Overall Score: 7/20 = 4.5 out of 10

007 Legends is a prime example of a product that sounds great on paper and falls apart miserably in execution. For a well established license such as this, and a grand sense of accomplishing 50 years in cinema, this is not a great game to signify it. We’ve seen some stunning Bond games in the past, from GoldenEye 007 (N64), The World is Not Enough (N64), Nightfire and Everything or Nothing. The biggest shame is how Eurocom, a talented developer that’s had a great track record with Bond games, has been shut down right as soon as this game released, making them go out on a thud rather than a bang. Activision should be ashamed for rushing the developer to release the game within a year of GoldenEye Reloaded’s release just for sales sake. If you’re a Bond fan and want to relive some of these iconic moments, you’re better off buying the “Bond 50” DVD/Blu-Ray Collection. If you still have interest in the game, I advise you only get this in a bargain bin…and even then, you may be disappointed. I did have some mild enjoyment while playing the game, but the amount of issues and inconsistency lying within 007 Legends is inexcusable.

PROs:

+ Decent soundtrack

+ It’s got Bond

CONs:

– Severely outdated visuals

– Poor storytelling

– Skyfall’s missions are hilariously abysmal, including the Motorcycle chase

– AI and physics is questionable

– Multiplayer isn’t nearly as smooth as GoldenEye (Wii) or GoldenEye Reloaded (PS3/360)

– Aiming controls are inconsistent

– Feels incredibly rushed

Copy purchased by reviewer for review purposes. Game was played through on the Wii U.

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Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge Review (PS3/360): “The Quintessential NG3 Experience”

Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor's Edge Wallpaper

Back in March 2012, 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 last year, there was no denying that I enjoyed the game despite all the changes made to the gameplay. However, after playing Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, it completely decimates the previous version that released in March 2012.

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.

Ninja Gaiden 3 Gameplay 8

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 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).

NG3 Razor's Edge Gameplay 1

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 is essentially like 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.

My...what big hands you've got!

My…what big hands you’ve got!

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.

NG3 Razor's Edge Gameplay 5

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. Regardless, when tackling boss battles, keep your cool and examine their attacks. It’s an old-school challenge that is immensely rewarding upon completion.

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.

NG3 Razor's Edge Gameplay 4

The single-player replay value has also been significantly amped up this time around. Upon completing the game, you will unlock Momiji and Kasumi to play with in Chapter Challenge and Ninja Trials. 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, Ayane, Momiji or Kasumi (a first in the NG series), 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’s, Ayane’s, Momiji’s and Kasumi’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 Hayabusa, Ayane, Momiji and Kasumi 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. 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.

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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.

NG3 Razor's Edge Gameplay 2

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, Momiji and Kasumi have 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. Since the game is based on the 1.3 patch update for the Wii U, the frame rate has been stabilized tremendously and rarely drops. It’s great to see Team Ninja improving the game from a technical standpoint as well.

Well crap...time to prepare controller-throwing frustration again

Well crap…time to prepare controller-throwing frustration again

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. True story: I’ve listened to NG3’s soundtrack for over a year now on a daily basis…yes, it’s that’s awesome. 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.

Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor's Edge Gameplay 1

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 Razor’s Edge is the quintessential version of Ninja Gaiden 3 that should not be missed by any NG fan. If you already own the Wii U version, there’s no reason to pick this up again on the PS3/360 (even if there are some extra costumes). However, if you held off for Razor’s Edge to come to the PS3/360, then don’t pass this up at all. With one of the best combat systems ever designed, a coherent story, devilish difficulty, tons of extra content, replay value, a truly exceptional soundtrack, and a raw intensity that little to no games can match, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is a must-own for any NG and/or hack-and-slash fan. 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, Ayane, Momiji and Kasumi

CONs:

– Voice acting can be a mixed bag

– Some bland environments

– Camera can still be an issue during combat

A special thank you to Tecmo Koei for providing us a review copy for Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge! Game was reviewed based on the PS3 version.

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

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

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Review (PS3/360): “An Engaging, Anime Gaming Experience”

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Wallpaper

The Naruto series is an immensely popular manga series that’s been around for over 15 years. Over time, the series received a sequel called Naruto Shippuden in 2007. Naturally, with any popular series, it’s inevitable for the property to reach out to other audiences. Naruto has had no shortage in video games, and developer CyberConnect2 has created over 10 games in the series’ history. “Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3” is CyberConnect2’s latest installment in the franchise. Does it hit all the right notes or does it simply not do the series justice?

Story: 4/5

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3’s story takes place showing the event of Nine Tails attacking the village of Konoha. After witnessing this flashback, the game will fast forward years later to continue right from where the events left off in Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. We find that Naruto discovers his best friend, Sasuke, has betrayed the Hidden Leaf to work with the Akatsuki. In the meantime, there’s word that Madara Uchiha is still alive and is looking to obtain the power of Nine-Tails. The game will start off during the Five Kage Summit story arc and go all the way through the Shinobi World War arc. The story found here is certainly deep and complex. The characters are all represented very well and the presentation really makes it feel like you’re watching the anime.

There’s plenty happening in the story here…and what’s interesting is that even if you’ve never played or seen anything with Naruto, you can still pick up on what’s happening here. CyberConnect2 really wanted to enhance their storytelling a good amount and they’ve certainly done so. The story doesn’t exactly take off until roughly Chapter 3, but once it does, you’ll be really engrossed as to what to look forward to next. The cutscenes are very well told, with mostly great dialogue and interesting plot events that unfold. Personally, I never had the chance to get into the Naruto franchise but the game does a great job of engaging the player into the narrative.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 4/5

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 provides a few game modes: Ultimate Adventure, Free Battle and Online Battle. The Ultimate Adventure is where you will be clocking a ton of time with, as the adventure is quite…well, ultimate. Spanning over the course of 10 chapters, plus a prologue, you’ll embark on a journey that provides for a ton of variety that keeps you on your toes. The game will start with an epic boss battle against Nine Tails, teaching you the ropes of how you can expect a boss battle to play out. This particular battle will allow you to easily leap between buildings and nimbly move your way to the target to attack. Occasionally, quick-time events will trigger that you’ll need to successfully pull off in order to dish out some serious damage. However, every boss battle later in the game plays out different, and I’ll touch on that later on. Shortly after, you’ll be introduced to one-on-one combat…and this is where mechanically, it feels entirely different from all the others on the market.

This isn’t your standard fare one-on-one combat that you’re used to in fighters like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Dead or Alive, etc. This combat is handled on a free-roaming 3D battlefield. You’ll use a single button for close-up attacks, while pushing a specific direction on the analog stick in conjunction with the attack button can switch up your combos. Pressing the Triangle/Y button will let you use Chakra, which channels energy for your character. Holding still and pressing Triangle/Y will let you recharge your Chakra meter so that you can unleash Jutsu moves. These devastating, awe-spectacle moves looks as slick as they are deadly. You’ll be able to block any incoming attacks with the R2/RT button, but holding it down for too long may result in your opponent eventually breaking your defense. Should you want to dodge an attack or break free from an opponent’s combo, pressing the L2/LT button will initiate a Substitution Jutsu. This will confuse your opponent by attacking a log or other object instead of you, giving you the upper hand to teleport behind them and attack. Careful though, as you can only do this up to four times in a row before the meter can fill up and allow you to dodge again. The X/A button will allow you to jump and dash around the battlefield to dodge and weave your way to the opponent. While doing this, you can also throw shurikens to stun them for a second. Fights will get very intense as the AI doesn’t let up. However, this makes the game very rewarding and does an excellent job of making battles feel like you have to give it your all. If you’ve never played a Naruto title before, this can seem a bit complex or overwhelming, but once you start to get a feel for the mechanics and learn that it’s not your typical fighter, you’ll really start to appreciate the fresh and unique nature of it.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Gameplay 2

Throughout the game’s very lengthy campaign (15+ hours to beat), you’ll not only be doing standard one-on-one fights. Instead, the developers incorporated other gameplay styles into here as well, such as Free Roam and Mob Battles. Free Roaming will take a portion of the in-between battles, where you’ll venture around the areas, partake in optional quests, advance the storyline and visit shops to buy items. The items will be used to equip for any battles so that you can increase your chances at success. Mob Battles will switch the game’s mechanics to play like a “hack-and-slash”, incorporating the game’s combat system while also introducing some slick QTEs to pull off. For example, you’ll face a number of foes at once, each with their own mini-health bar hoving over their head. While beating an enemy to a pulp, when their health depletes entirely, you’ll be able to press the jump button to speed dash to the next enemy and continue stretching out your combo. When you fill up your special meter, you can pull off a Boost Attack which has you speed dashing to every enemy in the area and pressing the appropriate buttons to deal serious damage to them. This gameplay mechanic was very entertaining and just wish there were a bit more of them. The thing about Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm’s campaign is that it really tries to throw new gameplay mechanics at you to make the game feel fresh. A brand new gameplay element for this installment are the Ultimate Decision moments. There will be times scattered throughout the game’s story where you’ll have to make a Legend or Hero decision that affects the battle and difficulty. If you want to be a Legend, expect the difficulty to spike up a good amount. Going the Hero route will keep the difficulty on par with your skills and is more for the average player. The decisions also affect the amount of points you’ll receive in the Legend/Hero department. Certain items will only be available with a Legend build, while others may only be available with the Hero build. The more you stick with a certain path, the extra experience points you’ll earn for that path. The experience points will level up that path, which allows you to carry better ninja tools and higher capacities of those tools as well.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Gameplay 7

I mentioned earlier that boss battles all play out differently, and they do honestly. Every boss battle in the game will have you going into it feeling entirely different than the one previously that you completed. Unfortunately, mentioning the methods of play during these boss battles would be a spoiler, so I’ll avoid ruining their experiences. What I will say is that they’re incredibly cinematic and grand in scale. They actually nail the aspect of what a boss battle should be like. During the boss battles, you’ll be able to initiate Interactive Actions (IA). These are QTEs where you’ll have to press the appropriate buttons and sequence they appear in to achieve the jaw-dropping scenes during battles. You’ll earn stars during IAs and the faster you are at pressing the buttons upon prompt, the more stars you’ll earn. If you earn the maximum amount, you’ll be treated to a Secret Factor, which shows a flashback between the characters that are fighting. These sequences are incredibly flashy and a complete spectacle to see in action. Sometimes, certain battles will contain Secret Actions to unlock. These will require a very specific move to be pulled off at the right time to trigger a cutscene to few. You’ll know these are available when an icon appears on the top-center of the screen inside a bubble. The bubble will have a little image in there to give you a slight hint as what to do to initiate the Secret Action. The only thing I wasn’t fond of during a boss battle was that the camera would lose focus of the action at times. When you complete the Ultimate Adventure, you’ll be able to go back and complete optional quests that you may have missed, as well as try to fill out your Ninja World Timeline. The Ninja World Timeline will let you replay any moments from Ultimate Adventure, whether it be fights, action sequences or any of the cutscenes. However, you can unlock other events that are parallel to the game’s core story. As much as I enjoyed Ultimate Adventure, there were times where the cutscenes were so abundant and lengthy, that you forgot there was a game to play in here too. And the questionable design choice was to occasionally watch a lengthy 10-15 minute cutscene, regain control of a character, run outside the area within 5-10 seconds and watch another 10 minute cutscene. I completely understand that the story is very integral to the experience but too many cutscenes can bog down the flow of gameplay. Thankfully, the story is great to back it up.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Gameplay 3

Aside from Ultimate Adventure mode, you’ll be able to go through Free Battle mode. There are over 80 characters to choose from and 40 stages to fight on. Here you’ll be able to take on the CPU or a buddy in either Single Match or Team Match. Single Match is your one-on-one combat, where as Team Match lets you bring in two additional characters for support. For Team Battle, depending on who you choose as your main character, followed by your two support characters, will determine certain attributes that can be handy in battle. If you want, there’s a Practice mode so that you can go in and get further acclimated to the game’s fighting system, as well as master your favorite character. Additionally, there’s Tournament Mode, which lets you choose from three different types: Free Tournament, Perpetual Change Tournament and Challenge Tournament. Free Tournament is basically your standard fare bracket setup, with no special stipulations attached to it. Perpetual Change Tournament will keep things interesting by adding certain elements to a battle. Before the match starts, both players will have a random element chosen to change the effects of battle. For example, you may receive slower Chakra regeneration while your opponent may get faster Chakra regeneration speed. It keeps things a bit more challenging and interesting. Lastly, there’s Challenge Tournament, which breaks down the tournaments into a variety of difficulty levels and scenarios. As you complete each course, you’ll unlock new ones and higher difficulties. Each course will contain specific character rosters to go up against as well.

Lastly, there’s the Online Battle. You have your Player and Ranked matches to choose from. Ranked matches are straightforward battles where you’ll be recorded with wins and losses and try to level up your rank. Player matches offers a bit more variety on the other hand. You can still participate in a standard fighting match, but you can also choose Endless and Tournament modes as well. Endless will have you fighting opponents until you lose, whereas Tournament has you aiming for the top spot. Endless can definitely provide for a ton of fun, especially if you and others in the room are trying to take down the consecutive winner. You’ll also be able to customize your Ninja Info Card. Here you can choose your card image and title to display when challenging opponents online. Interestingly, you’ll be able to trade these cards with opponents you come across online. I was able to test out a few rounds online prior to the game’s release and had mixed experiences. If an opponent had three full signal bars, the game played pretty well online. However, the moment someone with one or two bars joins in, the lag is very noticeable. Hopefully the netcode gets a patch update in the near future to provide for smoother online play.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Gameplay 5

Graphics: 5/5

Visually, words can’t begin to describe how beautiful Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 looks on-screen. Simply put, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, with its incredibly rich, detailed cel-shading, superb animations, terrific character models and varied environments with excellent lighting effects, showing the light rays cutting through clouds and tree lines. The game literally looks like you’re watching the show, if not better. CyberConnect2 is a developer that should be very proud of the astounding visual representation they’ve nailed with Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. Even the cinematography of the epic battles when initiating Jutsu moves and boss battles in their entirety just looks like an awe-inspired spectacle. There were a few times where the framerate slightly dropped but it’s so rare that it’s barely noticeable. Overall, this game is one of the best looking titles out on the market.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Gameplay 8

Sound: 4/5

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 has some great audio. The soundtrack is impressive and fitting for the cutscenes, exploration, and crazy battles that are waiting to ensue. It’s a blend of a Japanese musical elements fused with a cinematic orchestra that works really well and immerses you into the experience. Voice acting brings all the original voice actors onboard for both the English and Japanese voice tracks. Yes, that’s right fans, you get the choice of both language tracks so which ever you prefer more, you’ve got the choice. Another nice touch is that characters will exchange words with each other during battles, giving them a more charismatic feel. The sound effects are incredibly powerful as well, making all the battles “sound” more intense. However, lip-syncing for the English voiceovers seems a bit off at times. Also, the “Character Vs.” lacks any audio to build up the tensity of the upcoming battle and is too silent. Overall, it’s still a great audio experience.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Gameplay 6

Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is quite an experience that fans will really love. The presentation and story is really impressive, the gameplay is engaging, the soundtrack is great and the visuals are simply stunning. Aside from a few quirks here and there, UNS3 is a great game that fans should not miss out on.

PROs:

+ Engaging combat system; varied gameplay mechanics

+ Mob Battle is a nice change of pace during Ultimate Adventure

+ Tons of content (80+ characters, 40 stages, etc)

+ Solid amount of replay value

+ Great soundtrack

+ Deep, complex story

CONs:

– Lip-syncing is off at times

– Camera during boss battles can lose focus

– Story can bog down the game’s pacing

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 Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3”!