Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown Review (PSN/XBLA)

A lot of us have fond memories of playing Virtua Fighter in the arcades; the visuals, environments, and cutting-edge, tight controls made it one of the most enjoyable arcade titles of its time. Nowadays, with arcade sticks and the widespread release of arcade titles on home consoles, developers are bringing the arcade experience to your living room. The most recent iteration of Virtua Fighter 5, Final Showdown, is a massive tweak to the original Virtua Fighter 5, bringing about tons of character balance changes, extra costumes, and some solid online multiplayer. There’s no question that this is the best Virtua Fighter to date, but at just $15 (or $30 if you want some extra customization options), is it worth the price tag?

Gameplay: 5/5

Virtua Fighter has long been considered one of the tighest, most technically proficient fighters on the market, with its precise controls and deep, yet approachable combat system. The latest iteration of the series refines this even further, with massive character balance changes to set everyone on even footing. The system is fairly simple, and moves are composed of punches, kicks, and combinations thereof to deliver a wide range of attacks. In fact, most characters have an average of 30 moves they can perform with various combinations of the D-Pad and punches and kicks. These moves can be chained together into combos, rewarding players with ways to deal massive damage if they can set up their opponents properly. It’s not all about the attacks though – characters can block, jump, and dodge attacks to interrupt combos, and a well-placed strike after a dodge can completely turn the tables on your opponent. Players can also throw opponents (great against heavy blockers) and perform a few heavy blows that can absolutely wreck an opponent if timed correctly. Similar to other games in Sega’s “Virtua” series, the game plays itself off as a fighting simulator, and it works – no fireballs or 20-foot jumps here. Every character practices a real fighting style and the whole experience feels authentic. Speaking of characters, the roster is made up of 20 characters, including returning vet Taka-Arashi and newcomer Jean Kujo.

Arenas are composed of square or rectangular 3-dimensional areas of varying sizes and locations. Some arenas are open, leaving the opportunity to defeat your opponent by knocking them out of the ring. Others have walls surrounding the edges of the arena, allowing for some wicked wall combos if you can knock your opponent into them. Finally, some arenas feature new half-walls which allow for special moves, like El Blaze’s take on the Hurricanrana. You can also do wall combos on characters knocked low on half walls, or throw them over them with high strikes.

Half walls provide a whole new angle to your combat strategy.

The single-player package is a bit limited, and includes standard Arcade and Score Attack modes. The game’s Training option is very robust, however, and does a great job of teaching players the ins and outs of not only the standard controls, but each character’s moves and combos as well. A game as technical as this demands a complete training option, and Virtua Fighter 5 certainly doesn’t disappoint. After getting your feet wet in the single-player modes, you can take your fighter online to fight one-on-one against other players in your region or around the world. This is where Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown truly shines, with near-flawless netcode and a balanced metagame, as well as the ability to make private rooms or use the game’s built-in matchmaking service. If you bought Virtua Fighter 5 for the PS3, you may have felt left out with no online multiplayer mode. Its addition alone makes Final Showdown worth buying for PS3 owners. For Xbox 360 owners, this is less of a compelling reason, since the original version had this feature (it even has it in the title).

Finally, while more of an additional feature than a selling point, Final Showdown supports additional customization options for your fighters’ costumes, available through DLC. It’s a fun feature, but nothing to write home about compared to the excellent gameplay jam-packed into the core game.

Graphics: 5/5

When Virtua Fighter 5 was first released nearly 5 years ago to date, it was hailed as the best-looking fighter on the market. Amazingly, the game still holds up to today’s standards, and in some ways still surpasses them. First, the characters. Each of the 20 fighters are incredibly life-like, sport fluid animations and realistic physics, and are proportioned well. Character models are smooth and sport sharp textures and realistic hair physics. The environments look amazing as well, with intricate attention to detail and wonderful special effects. Water splashes in response to footsteps, snow and sand are brushed aside as characters move through them, and even interact with the fighters themselves. Expect skin to glisten and clothes to get dark and damp when fighting in a watery arena, for example. Perhaps one of the best aspects of the game’s graphics are the excellent lighting. Sunlight gleams through openings in one stage’s windows, producing a beautiful glow effect and reflecting on surfaces, including the fighters. Another arena sees fighters battling on a lit-up dance floor, and shadows dance off the characters as they perform their movements. The best part? The game runs at 60 FPS the whole time. It’s truly amazing to see a game engine from 5 years past hold up to today’s standards – or perhaps developers nowadays have a goal to surpass.

The lighting effects are absolutely phenomenal, even by today’s standards.

Sound: 3/5

Sound in Final Showdown is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the soundtrack is somewhat generic and in-line with other Virtua titles, but well-done enough to get you pumped for a fight. Some, in fact, may stick in your head after you stop playing, such as the training theme (my personal favorite). The game has an all-new soundtrack as compared to Virtua Fighter 5, and all-in-all, it does what it’s supposed to and does it well. The game’s sound effects are generally well-done as well, and all the classic hit sounds from previous Virtua Fighter titles return, adding a nice sense of nostalgia to each and every fight. The main area that Final Showdown falls flat is the characters’ voices. Characters from Asian regions, such as China, Japan, etc. will speak Japanese, and it sounds fine. But other characters speak English, and it sounds extremely corny and stilted. I’m looking at you Vanessa! Jeffry may be the only exception to this rule, if only because his loud, aggressive demeanor is so outrageous that you have to laugh anyway. Even worse, the character voices are compressed, so the lack of sound quality will be readily apparent, especially when the game’s soundtrack is playing immediately behind it. It’s a shame, because the awful voice quality is a large detraction from an otherwise well-done sound direction.

Replay Value: 4/5

Nowadays, a fighting game lives and dies by its online capabilities. One can only play through arcade mode on the highest difficulty so many times before they get utterly bored and shelve the game for a while. Thankfully, as previously mentioned, Final Showdown sports an excellent online mode. There’s just something addictive about hopping on each day, showing off what you practiced, and seeing how you stack up against other players around the world. The matchmaking service is generally good, and will try to match you with other players of similar rank. At times, you will be matched with other players who are significantly higher- or lower-ranked than you, but due to the game’s nature, you still have at least a small chance in each match. The online system tracks your Battle Points, which are tallied like Experience Points in an RPG to determine when you rank up. There are only two things I take issue with – the game includes a measure of how often you disconnect from a game, like in most modern fighters. This would be a great feature, except the game can’t seem to tell whether you or your opponent disconnected from the game. Thus, you can be thrashing an opponent, and just before you can get the final round win, he can disconnect and not only rob you of Battle Points, but lower your disconnect rating as well, making others less likely to want to play you. Why the developers didn’t implement some algorithm to tell who disconnects baffles me, and leaves the door open for sore losers to grief their opponent hard. Other than that, it would have been nice to see some sort of Tournament mode, where players can participate in an elimination tournament. Aside from these gripes, the online multiplayer is where players will find the most replay value in the game, unless they set out to master every character in the game and run them through the Dojo and Arcade modes. This is only recommended for the most hardcore fighter fans, however, as that could take quite a bit of time.

Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown proves to be the most definitive version of the fighting simulator to date, and boasts some nice improvements over the base game, especially for PS3 owners who have been clamoring for online play. Some could argue that Final Showdown doesn’t boast the flash and flare of Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom, and other technical fighters like Dead or Alive and Soul Calibur could threaten it, but the bottom line is, Final Showdown is a solid fighter that’s both approachable to new players and rewarding to master by fighting veterans. At $30 (or currently free for PlayStation Plus members), it’s a full-featured fighter at a reasonable price, but owners of Virtua Fighter 5 Online on the 360 may want to pass this up, as it’ll feel like more of the same.

PROS:

+ Excellently-balanced fighter action

+ Online play is addictive and fun

+ Graphics are excellent, even by today’s standards

CONS:

– Voice work is laughable and corny, and voice files are compressed

– Disconnect score is calculated inefficiently, leading to griefing

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II Review (PSN/XBLA)

Fans of Sonic the Hedgehog have waited patiently for Sonic 4: Episode II, and the wait is finally over! This game does a nice job of connecting past Sonic games in both story and style, as many familiar faces and locales return. The story revolves around Metal Sonic being reborn by Dr. Eggman after his defeat in Sonic CD (originally released on the Sega CD and now also available on PSN/XBLA). During the events of Episode I, Dr. Eggman revived Metal Sonic to locate Sonic while he planned to build a new Death Egg (mk. II). Sonic and Tails race to stop Dr. Eggman and Metal Sonic before the new Death Egg can be completed.

Episode II plays similar to the first episode, yet with some enhancements to the gameplay. This time around, Sonic is no longer solo in Episode II, as Tails returns to aid the blue hedgehog. Tails can either be controlled by the computer in single-player, or in multiplayer in local or online co-op play. With the inclusion of Tails, Sonic can now perform new combo moves, such as the Tail Lift and Power Spin Attack. Tail Lift gives Sonic a temporary chopper lift that he can use to hover in order to reach elevated areas. It also serves as a quick escape from death during certain levels in the game. Meanwhile, the Power Spin Attack combo grants Sonic and Tails a powerful roll (similar to Sonic’s regular spin attack) that can destroy mostly anything in their path. This combo move definitely comes in handy during some of the boss fights.

Special stages also return in Episode II. Similar to how Episode I revived the special stages from the original Sonic, Episode 2 borrows from Sonic 2’s special stages. These special stages are based on a half-pipe race showing a rear view of Sonic and Tails as they try to collect a certain number of rings. If you succeed in acquiring all the rings during a special stage, then Sonic is able to retrieve a Chaos Emerald. Also returning are the Red Star Rings (which were last seen in Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations). One Red Ring is hidden per act, and an achievement/trophy is unlocked after collecting them all.

Also, a nice addition to owning both Episode I and Episode II will unlock you the Episode Metal bonus stages. These stages explore how Metal Sonic survived his battle with Sonic after the events of Sonic CD. During these levels, you take control of Metal Sonic as he races his way through reworked zones from Episode I. Not only are these zones a little different from the first Episode, but there are short segments that show how Metal Sonic received the power he now has in Episode 2, and how he caught up with Sonic and Tails at the beginning of this game.

The old school challenge of Sonic the Hedgehog is still apparent, with creative boss battles and reworked levels from previous Sonic games. It would have been nice to see newer zones rather than older ones retooled for Sonic 4, but the level designs are engaging and fun, and they are reminiscent of past Sonic games. Sonic’s movements are still a little sluggish compared to the originals, but you easily get used to it and the controls don’t detract from the gameplay experience (except for the “flying” stage as Sonic and Tails head for the Sky Fortress in their Tornado plane. This segment was difficult and somewhat boring in its length). The boss battles were well crafted as well, as they gave the player an old school strategy feel. At times, these bosses could prove frustrating, but once you were able to figure out each strategy, the feeling of accomplishment overcame the frustration.

Sonic 4: Episode II is a great DLC game that all Sonic fans (as well as new fans to the series) should play. I’m hopeful that we’ll see an Episode III, but from what’s been said, that would depend on the sales of Episode II. Sonic deserves to remain in 2D form, so I hope to see more DLC episodes down the line.

VERDICT: BUY IT!

The House of the Dead 4 Hands-On with Full Demo Playthrough

The House of the Dead has been around for roughly 15 years and still to this day, is a ton of fun to just pop-in for mindless, zombie shooting action. While previous iterations were released on home consoles, The House of the Dead 4 never saw the light of day on systems. Thankfully, SEGA has decided to finally port it over to the PS3 with PS Move integration, providing players with a similar experience to that of the arcade version, especially if you have the PS Move Sharpshooter peripheral.

Upon starting the demo, you’ll take control of James Taylor, the protagonist from HotD 2, or Kate Green, who’s new to the franchise. Interestingly, James’ voice acting is just as laughably mundane here as it was back in HotD 2…which means you should prepare to laugh your ass off when you hear his lines. Normally, this would be a bad thing but you can’t help but feel nostalgic when you hear the “so bad, it’s good” voice acting. The demo allows you to tinker with the game settings, including how much life you want, the amount of credits and the difficulty. After calibrating the PS Move controller, I was ready to mow down zombies with the series’ new machine gun. Previously, we used pistols in the first two installments and a shotgun in HotD 3. The zombies take a good amount of bullets to go down though so you won’t be mowing them down instantly with each shot.

In terms of gameplay mechanics, it’s still the same HotD formula we’ve come to love over the years. Move forward, blast all the zombies, move forward some more, blast more zombies, rinse, lather and repeat. Aside from the new weapon you’ll be wielding, one extra mechanic they have added was the ability to shake off enemies that grab onto you, ala Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles/Darkside Chronicles. This is certainly a very welcome addition as it leads to less cheap shots at you and gives you some defense. Additionally, you can also toss grenades, which certainly help clear the screen of enemies when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Visually, the game looks pretty average, more like a game from the start of this generation. Although, the game still retains its signature 60 fps that was every installment beforehand. The soundtrack consists mainly of techno style music and fit the game pretty well. From what was heard so far, it’s nothing amazing, but certainly a bump up from the previous installments…granted, the boss music from HotD 2 was really catchy.

The demo is quite brief, but when the full game releases next week for the mere price of $9.99 ($6.99 for PS+ members), fans of the series or any light gun rail-shooters may want to pick this up. Check out the gameplay video I captured of the entire demo below!

Binary Domain Review (PS3/360)

Binary Domain is a third-person, squad-based shooter from the creators of the Yakuza series. Published and developed by SEGA, the game features an optional headset functionality. Binary Domain is available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Story: 5/5

During the early years of the 21st century, the effects of global warming have caused most of the world to lie in ruins, forcing government leaders to build new cities above the devastation. With millions dead, robots were created to be used as the humans main labor force. America became the world superpower when the Bergen company dominated most of the robotic industries. However, the Amada corporation in Japan tried to sue Bergen for stealing their technology, but that case ultimately failed. As the years passed, the government passed a new set of international laws, dubbed the “New Geneva Convention.” One of these laws, clause 21, banned any research dealing with robots that could pass for humans, also known as “Hollow Children.” The IRTA (International Robotics Technology Association) created a task force called the “Rust Crew” to deal with issues relating to clause 21. Many more years passed, and a Hollow Child attacked Bergen Industries, but was wounded in the process. To their surprise, the Hollow Child had no idea that he was a robot himself. With this newfound knowledge, the IRTA sent a Rust Crew to Japan to question Yoji Amada, head of the Amada Corporation, as they believed he was responsible for the Hollow Child.

The story behind Binary Domain is a very interesting concept, and one that will keep you guessing throughout its many engaging cut-scenes. At times, the story made me wonder how the concept of ‘hidden’ robots could eventually become reality, and also made me think twice about certain choices that needed to be made. The story line revolves around the main character (Dan), a member of the Rust Crew, who eventually comes into contact with other agents of different nationalities/ governments. These members then make their way towards the Amada Corporation while tackling a myriad amount of robotic soldiers. Towards the end of the game, the story shifts depending on the character interactions you have with your teammates, leaving many players with different outcomes. Binary Domain sucked me into the game by the story alone, and pushed me through it just to see how it would all end.

Gameplay: 3/5

Binary Domain is basically a squad-based shooter that incorporates a cover system. It’s very similar to many 3rd person action games like Gears of War, Dead Space, and Vanquish, but differentiates itself with a few gimmicks. First off, the game can be played with a headset, giving you the option to issue commands to your teammates. While this is an innovating idea, you realize that some of the commands don’t always register, leaving you to continuously shout commands to your teammates until they copy, or become frustrated by your lack of communication. Plus, you just sound silly issuing simple commands to your television when no other human is around (or even when others are around).  Another addition to the game is the Consequence System. Trust plays a key role in how your teammates view the player (Dan). Their opinion of Dan is determined by how Dan interacts and responds to his teammates, which affects both the story line and game play. As you progress through the game, your teammates could offer assistance or leave you to defend yourself depending on how you treat them. The story line itself can change, and not all of your teammates might survive depending on the choices you make, leaving you “responsible” for their outcome. This was a nice change of pace to the game, as the story was its biggest asset, and made you care for the characters in the game.

However, as entertaining as Binary Domain was, it was a pretty repetitive affair; even though the developer tried hard to change the game play through its six chapters, such as rail shooter moments and vehicle sections. Yet, the biggest issue is that you mainly just destroyed robots with your main assault rifle and firearm, and an optional third weapon scattered throughout the game. It was nice to also have different types of grenades to lash out at the enemy, but it was all standard fare. There were a few moments of stealth and level interaction, but it mostly boiled down to walking into an area filled with robots, destroying the robots, and moving ahead until you need to destroy more robots. The boss battles did enhance the game play, as there were many different types of large-scale bosses, and most of the time, a strategy needed to be implemented with your team in order to survive (there are many one hit kills, so gunning it alone isn’t a good idea).  An upgrade system is also present in the game (this too is similar to Dead Space). “Kiosks” are scattered around the area that give you the ability to upgrade or purchase additional nanomites (health, armor, etc.) or weapon upgrades for you and your team. Destroying robots gives you credits to purchase the items, but you never felt stingy as there was always a surplus of money to be obtained.  Binary Domain had a lot of great moments, whether you were running and gunning, manning turrets, being chased on a transport vehicle, or riding jet-skis, yet the repetition kicked in too frequently throughout the game.

Graphics: 4/5

It’s impressive to see the robots built in layers, and as you shoot them with your weapons, they break apart into pieces revealing more of its interior design. A lot of Binary Domain is like this, with interesting set locations, enemy design, realistic looking characters, and lighting effects that gives the player a futuristic landscape to observe. There are a few moments however when the locales are bland, but for the most part, Binary Domain is a very pretty game to look at.

Sound: 3/5

There were moments in the game that drove me insane, and one particular moment that comes to mind is the repetitive comments from some of the characters. Being a squad-based shooter, teammates are supposed to interact during certain situations, but when you are trying to defend them while they are busy operating a machine, you hear the same comments again and again in a very short time period, which gets really annoying. Plus, when Dan gets wounded, he lowers himself to the ground and the player tries to crawl himself to safety as you wait for aid from one of your teammates. Yet that help sometimes never arrives even though the teammate is saying they’re coming. Still, the voice acting is really well done (although do we really need another game with characters cursing when there is really no need to curse), and the music, while limited in tracks, has a very good soundtrack that gets you into the game.

Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10

Overall, Binary Domain is a very good game, with many inquisitive moments during its storyline, relentless action, and interesting additions to its gameplay. For being a new title that is mostly unheard of, and not just another sequel, Binary Domain surprisingly holds its own, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it in the future.

PROS:

+Engaging story line.

+Innovative features (headset, consequence system)

+Impressive Graphics and cut scenes

CONS:

-Repetitive gameplay

-Annoying character interaction

-Inconsistent headset functionality

Jet Set Radio HD Hitting Consoles and PC this Summer

Remember Sega’s “Jet Set Radio” for the Dreamcast? The cult classic is receiving a nice HD upgrade for the PSN, XBLA and PC this summer! No price has been announced yet but you can guess it’ll most likely be $9.99/800 Microsoft Points. Sega is also holding a contest on having your personalized graffiti art placed in the game. Submissions are due March 15th and all the details can be followed here.

For those unsure of what this title is, here’s the description the Sega Blog posted about the game:

“If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Jet Set Radio lets players join the GGs, an up-and-coming street gang in the futuristic city of Tokyo-to, fighting for the right to self-expression against an overbearing, corporate-controlled police force. Rolling and leaping through crowded urban environments on magnetically driven inline skates, players take control of gang leader Beat and his growing posse of deviant artists as they steal turf from the local gangs by covering the city with colorful graffiti. Guided by Professor K, DJ for the hottest pirate broadcast in town – “Jet Set Radio” – the GGs will ultimately uncover the sinister plot hatched by the controlling powers of Tokyo-to.”

Did you play “Jet Set Radio” back in the Dreamcast era? How about it’s sequel on the Xbox “Jet Set Radio Future?” Sound off your thoughts in the comments below!

The House of the Dead 4 Finally Gets a Console Release

The House of the Dead franchise has always been a great shooter to play in the arcade with a buddy or even dual-wielding two guns for yourself. I remember literally having a group of people watch me complete the original House of the Dead when I dual-wielded two guns by playing as two players. Good times.

SEGA released sequels throughout the years but one installment never received console treatment, The House of the Dead 4. Well, time to dust off those PS Move Sharpshooters. Aside from The House of the Dead 3 being released via PSN on February 7th with full PS Move support, The House of the Dead 4 will also be coming to the PS3 this Spring. Those who’ve been waiting for this release will finally have the chance to play the game.

Will you be getting The House of the Dead 4? Needed a reason to pick up the PS Move? Sound off in the comments below!

Shinobi Review (3DS)

Shinobi is the latest release within the Shinobi franchise. It was published by SEGA and developed by Griptonite Games. After not seeing an actual Shinobi game since Nightshade (Kunoichi in Japan) for the PS2 back in 2003, is this the proper return to bring this franchise back to fans and newcomers?

Story: 3/5

Shinobi serves as a prequel to every game within the franchise to date. You wield the katana as Jiro Musashi, a ninja of the Oboro clan who is also the father of fan favorite, Joe Musashi. The story starts off with Jiro’s village being attacked in 1256 A.D. Feudal Japan. However, that soon changes as a mysterious rift opens the gateway to a more futuristic time period in 2056 A.D. It is here where Jiro must slash his way through the Zeed corporation and find out what is going on. The story is told with barely any dialogue and while you usually have no idea what’s going on, it is clear that Griptonite Games wanted to keep an old-school feel to it by having the brief anime-style cutscenes connect the levels so that it makes sense as to why you’re in the next location. The cutscenes are pretty cool to watch, regardless of whether any of it makes sense or not. The story is quite non-sensical, but it’s in Shinobi fashion. The game knows it’s old-school and doesn’t care to match up against other story driven titles.

Gameplay: 4/5

Let me get this out of the way now. Shinobi is pretty damn hard. This game has “old-school” written all over it. Trial-and-error, memorization and fast reflexes are what you’re going to need to get through this game. The game offers multiple difficulty levels but even on Beginner mode, you will die…a lot. If you’ve played Shinobi III: Return of the Shadow Master on the SEGA Genesis, then most of the mechanics should feel second nature to you. I emphasize most because this time around, melee combat is a big portion of the game. Jiro’s combat will have slashing, sliding, juggling and parrying your opponents a great deal and you better learn how to parry because that’s the main way to deflect any attacks thrown at you. Jiro has a simple three-hit sword combo while standing still but if you hold the circle pad up, you can uppercut them into the air and finish them off with a mid-air attack. If you double jump and use your sword attack, you will do a slashing slam attack to inflict a greater deal of damage.

Now it wouldn’t be a Shinobi game if you didn’t have your shuriken/kunai to throw at your enemies. Jiro can throw up to six at a time and then must replenish his inventory by waiting for a few seconds. Think of it as a reload on projectile attacks. Jiro can spray the screen with kunai just like Joe Musashi could in the original Shinobi titles beforehand, which will prove incredibly helpful when bombarded with enemies in later levels. Platforming also makes a return in this game in which you will be double jumping, ledge grabbing, wall jumping and grappling your way through the stages. This game marks the first title in the franchise in which you have a grappling hook to utilize for traversal to higher platforms.

The level designs throughout Shinobi are varied and provide great set pieces throughout the game’s eight missions. Each mission will last you roughly 15-25 minutes to complete, which is a bit lengthy for a handheld title. Luckily, the missions are broken up into multiple areas and if you pause the game, you can save and quit so that you may return to the latest checkpoint you reached. Throughout the missions, you will be scored on how well you’re playing and penalized every time you get hit or lose a life. Upon level completion, you may earn in-game achievements which unlock cheats, music, artwork and challenge maps. While the game is not terribly long, it’s the old-school difficulty that will add to the hours of play time. If you play through Beginner mode, the game should take you between 3-5 hours. Play through Normal mode though and expect the campaign to take minimum 5-7 hours. Beginner mode allows the player to have more generous checkpoints, unlimited lives, weaker enemies and auto-saves your progress after each level. Normal mode gives the player five lives, unlimited continues and auto-saves your progress after each level as well. However, tackle Hard or Very Hard and the game promises to be more relentless and old-school in which when you do game over, it’s back to the very first level…regardless of your save progress.

Fans of Shinobi III will immediately notice throughout some of the levels the borrowed references from the game. Whether you’re riding a horse, ninja surfing, going up large elevators in which soldiers lie prone to shoot at you through vents or attack brain-like enemies that bust out of cryopods, fans will be taking a trip down nostalgia lane. There’s a neat section in the game’s main menu in which you can read all the history for every Shinobi game ever released to be brought up to speed with their storylines and learn fun facts.

Graphics: 4/5

Griptonite Games did a great job with the game’s art style. The Japanese culture oozes out of the screen and the character animations are quite fluid. While the game’s visuals are solid, some of the later environment’s texture seem to be a bit lacking. Also, the 3D effect seems to feel tacked on and does little to add to the immersion of the game’s visuals. Regardless, Shinobi is a vibrant, colorful and mostly beautiful side-scroller to look at and see in action.

Sound: 4/5

If you’re expecting a truly outstanding soundtrack like Revenge of the Shinobi, Shinobi III: Return of the Shadow Master or Shinobi for the PS2, then you may be a bit disappointed. However, if you go into this game not having that in mind, the soundtrack here is quite well done and fits all the levels perfectly. Norihiko Nobino, known for his work on the Metal Gear Solid series, jumps on board to provide a cinematic soundtrack that provides orchestral, rock and electronic beats. Sound effects do exactly what they should and are abundant leading to a great audio experience overall.

Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10

Shinobi is a really good game and easily Griptonite Games’ best effort to date. The developers certainly have the talent to continue this franchise and will hopefully be onboard to release a sequel in the near future. Fans of the originals will really enjoy the tight gameplay found here and newcomers will find plenty to take in. The game provides an old-school challenge which can’t be said very often this generation. Even after completing the game, you will be going back through the levels to try and best your previous playthroughs. It’s one of those games where you start off playing poorly by dying left and right, but as you stick with it, you start to master the mechanics and look slick playing it.

PROs:

+ Old-school gameplay

+ Tough, rewarding difficulty

+ Slick combat

+ Sleek art-style

CONs:

– Cutscenes are cool but doesn’t make much sense

– 3D effect feels unnecessary

– Gameplay mechanics may be “too” demanding for the average player

Daytona USA Trophy/Achievement Guide

Daytona USA has finally hit PSN and XBLA. If you’re looking to nab 100% of the trophies or 200 G for your Gamerscore, follow this guide to ensure you get all the trophies/achievements within an hour! I posted the guide on PS3Trophies.org and is currently in submission as well.

Overview:
Estimated trophy/achievement difficulty: 1/10
Offline: 11 (6,4,1) (185 )
Online: 1 (1) (15 )
Approximate time to 100%: 1 hour
Minimum number of playthroughs needed: 3+
Glitched trophies: None
Missable trophies: None
Do cheat codes disable trophies? N/A
Road Map

Introduction:
Daytona USA is the hit arcade racing game from the 90s that was later released for the SEGA Saturn. It was then remade for the SEGA Dreamcast, but was not the same version as the Saturn or Arcade. Now it has hit PSN with crisper visuals, eight-player online play, steering wheel support and a karaoke mode.

Walkthrough:
Simply put, this is one game that doesn’t really “need” a trophy guide, but I decided to piece one together just in case there are those who are curious to what needs to be done for the 100%.

Step 1: Tackle the Arcade Mode
Honestly, tackling Arcade Mode is the first thing I would do to get those trophies out of the way. Put the game’s difficulty and time difficulty at “very easy” and you’ll bang out the Arcade trophies within 10-15 minutes. Each race is actually one playthrough.

Step 2: Tackle the Extra Modes
Again, nothing strenuous by any means here. I will list what needs to be done to achieve the trophies in this department below.

Trophies/Achievements

 

First Place BEGINNER  / 10 
Win a BEGINNER Course in ARCADE Mode (any difficulty level is ok).

Jump onto ARCADE Mode, set the difficulty and time difficulty at “very easy.” Sit back, race through eight laps and take the top spot with ease. Each lap should take you between 15-18 seconds.

First Place ADVANCED  / 10 
Win a ADVANCED Course in ARCADE Mode (any difficulty level is ok).

Jump onto ARCADE Mode, set the difficulty and time difficulty at “very easy.” This course has a few more turns to be weary of but a little application to the brakes is all that’s needed for some of those turns. Still straightforward and simple. This course contains four laps and you should be clocking in lap times within the one minute mark.

First Place EXPERT  10 
Win a EXPERT Course in ARCADE Mode (any difficulty level is ok).

Jump onto ARCADE Mode, set the difficulty and time difficulty at “very easy.” The course is littered with sharper turns that requires you to apply the brakes more often. If you keep crashing, don’t worry. That’s what the purpose of the “very easy” mode is for, to not worry about the AI catching up to you. This course is two laps long with each lap averaging roughly two minutes.

Slot Machine  15 
On a BEGINNER Course of ARCADE Mode press “Special” in front of the Slots to stop the 3 reels.

When playing the BEGINNER Course on ARCADE Mode, you’ll notice a slot machine right before a quick overpass. Press the “select” button three times (you can rapidly press it more than that however) to stop each reel. Trophy/achievement should pop up seconds after doing that.

YOU JUST LOST YOUR…  15 
Find the hidden sign at the dead end in ADVANCED Course of ARCADE MODE.

When playing the ADVANCED Course on ARCADE Mode, do a 180 from the starting line and stay on the right hand side of the track. You’ll notice a ramp that goes up and to the right into a cave. Go in there and read the sign that says, “Congratulations! You just lost your sponsorship!” Trophy/achievement should pop up within a couple of seconds after approaching it.

Flipside  15 
On an EXPERT Course of ARCADE Mode, upend the Jeffry statue by repeatedly pressing “Special”.

When playing the EXPERT Course on ARCADE Mode, you’ll notice a big statue of Jeffry from Virtua Fighter roughly 30-40 seconds into the course (you can’t miss it). Just stop the car nearby the statue (with the statue in view) and rapidly press the “select” button to rotate the statue. Keep rotating the statue until the statue pops up and you’re good to go.

Repair HORNET  / 2
Repair damage in the Pit during Arcade Mode.

Best way to get this is to play the BEGINNER level in Arcade Mode. Reach a speed anywhere between 180-200 mph and then hit a wall head-on. The car will appeared banged up at this point. Pull into the Pit Stop on the left side of the starting line and as the car approaches the crew, the trophy/achievement will pop up.

Rank In  15 
Upload your record to the Time Trial Mode scoreboard.

Go into the Extras Mode, select Time Trial, then race on any track of your choice. Complete the time trial and the game will upload your time to the server. Make sure you’re signed onto the PlayStation Network when doing this.

Challenge Clear  / 2
Clear a challenge in CHALLENGE Mode.

Literally what the description says. Go into the Extras Mode, select Challenge and do the very first challenge. Complete that and this trophy/achievement is yours.

Survive: 5000  / 2
Log over 5000 in SURVIVAL Mode.

When you select Survival from the Extras Mode, I recommend doing the Beginner level. The “odometer” is your points in this mode and the longer you race, the more points you’ll rack up. The only thing that can prevent you from getting this trophy is the time limit. However, just keep passing your opponents and reaching checkpoints to increase your time and this trophy/achievement is easily yours.

Karaoke Racer!  / 3
Play KARAOKE Mode until the end.

Alright guys, time for the hardest trophy to get in the game. Go into Karaoke from the Extras Mode, choose any song, any level and set the “auto drive” to “on.” Start the event, put the controller down, let the song roll and the trophy will unlock at the end of the trophy. I know you might’ve broken a sweat with this one, but SEGA can’t just “give” you the trophies/achievements 😛 .

100 hits  / 2
Hit the sign or road cone 100 times. (no. of hits is the cumulative total)

Now this trophy is a “slight” grind…and I use the term very loosely. The game has a “rewind” feature to let you correct any mistakes that might have costed you the race. Well, there’s any use for it and I’m going to explain how to utilize it for this trophy. Go to the Advanced level in Arcade Mode and at the start of the race, stay on the left hand side of the track. You’ll notice there are four signs next to each other within a line. Lineup the car to takedown all four signs. After hitting the fourth sign, pause the game and press the  or  button to initiate the “rewind” feature. Rewind to the point right before you hit the first sign, then press the  or  to start the race again from that point. Keep doing that until you’ve used all your “rewinds” available. Then, pause the game again and press the  or  to retry the event. Keep doing this until the game has registered that you’ve hit 100 objects and the trophy/achievement is yours.

Daytona USA Coming to PSN/XBLA Later this Month

Time to relive an arcade classic

Sega has just confirmed that Daytona USA is officially being brought to the PSN and XBLA later this month. The port will feature enhanced visuals for 16:9 widescreen support, steering wheel support and 8 player online multiplayer. The game’s original soundtrack from the arcade and Sega Saturn version will return along with an additional “Karaoke Mode” for the fanatics who can’t help but sing the game’s tracks.

Daytona USA will be released on October 25th for the PlayStation Network for $9.99 and October 26th for Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points. Europeans will have to wait until “late November” according to Sega. Will you be returning to DAAAYYYYYTTOOOOOOOOONNNNAAAA? Sorry…couldn’t help it. Sound off in the comments below!

Sonic CD Announcement Trailer (PSN/XBLA/PC/iOS)

SEGA just released an announcement trailer for the much beloved Sonic CD.  It will be coming to the PSN, XBLA, PC and iOS (iPhone/iPod/iPad) this holiday.  Check out the trailer below and comment!