Mini Reviews Q-Z
Mini Reviews

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Ridge Racer (PSP)
Score: 3.5/5

An all around solid racer that's very easy to get into but offers considerable challenge later on. Fantastic control and an impressive number of courses (including day/night variations as well as racing them in reverse). Nice song selection, but it seems you have to pick at the start of each race, rather than being able to make a playlist. Most courses seem to be reused from previous Ridge Racer games, but since there's some changes to the game engine and controls, playing them shouldn't feel exactly the same. Graphics aren't PS2 quality, but are very impressive for a handheld system.

Rocky (Xbox)
Score: 2.0/5

I wanted to like this game, and I did early on. It features lots of boxers and locations from the movies, and familiar music, but very easy gameplay. The boxers look pretty normal for game characters, and you can definitely tell who they're supposed to be. The graphics in general are better than I expected. The training session mini games get annoying fast, and they're required to make a powerful boxer. The game is just too simple and not nearly long enough, even on the toughest setting. Maybe add half a point for big fans of the movies.

Sid Meier's Pirates! (Xbox, PC)
Score: 4.0/5

This is the best version of Pirates! available today. This reworking of the classic title retains all the things that made it a great game while making mostly beneficial changes. The game now has a step by step process you can follow to complete the story and get an ending, but you're also free to ignore this and do whatever pirate activities you'd like to do. The game is now in 3D, making combat more impressive than ever, but the style is still pleasantly familiar to previous versions. The only thing I didn't like about this Pirates! were the strategy game style battles that occur when you try to capture a large city, and the fact that the dancing mini-game can be quite repetitive. A great game for fans of this classic game, but also a fun choice for any new player who likes the sound of a nonlinear Pirate videogame.

Sonic Heroes
Score: 0.5/5

(Didn't complete the game) Don't bother with this one. It may star a well known character from a popular series, but it's the worst title I've played in a very long time. Terrible control, awful camera, voice acting that's about as bad as anything I've heard in a game, and boring levels that go on far longer than necessary. Add to this the fact that the team based gameplay takes away the only thing that was good about Sonic Adventure 1 & 2, the sense of speed, and you have a platformer that's not even worth a rental.

Soul Calibur 2
Score: 1.5/5

(Didn't complete the game)
Well... I'm just not that much into fighting games, so don't take the score too seriously. Now, I thought that the weapon master mode wasn't that good, with long, boring dungeon areas, and challenges that tended to annoy me. Arcade mode is more fun, but gets repetitive after a short while. Graphics are amazing, though, and the music was alright. I'm sure fans of the genre would have a much better time with it.

Spiderman 2
Score: 3.5/5

This game has a lot going for it, including exploration of an entire city without any load times. Control is good, fighting is somewhat interesting though button mashing works too, camera is just okay. Graphics are pretty good close up, but when you're swinging from building to building, the detail is a little lower, presumably to keep the framerate up. The story follows the movie somewhat, but also features new characters and some other differences. The game has you doing lots of random things, and solving crimes to earn hero points. This gets annoying quick as none of these manage to be that interesting, and you'd usually rather move on with the story.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Score: 3.0/5

This sequel to Jedi Outcast is a big improvement over the original game. Instead of huge maze like levels that make no logical sense, the stages here are smaller and less complicated, but a lot more varied. This is an action title with some simple switch puzzles and things here and there. The graphics are nice and work well for this type of game, but there's really nothing that'll amaze you. Third person mode when using the lightsaber, and first person for everything else. Challenging at times, and you can change the difficulty. Lots of good music from the Star Wars films. Story is not very deep, but characters are fairly likeable. Because you'll use your saber and force powers so much, standard weapons are pretty much a useless part of the game. It's worth a purchase, but can make a great rental, too.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Score: 5.0/5

One of the best games I've played in many years. Great for RPG fans and Star Wars fans, but also for gamers in general. Go darkside or lightside and have many quest differences, pick from a number of character class combinations, tons of feats and force powers... lots of customization. there are two endings, great characters and voice acting, a battle system that works just right... as close to perfect as I could expect an RPG to get at this time.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords
Score: 3.0/5

This one is for fans of the original game only. The story is complex and generally interesting, but doesn't live up to that of the first game. This is due to party members you can't quite bring yourself to care about, a noticeable lack of humor throughout, and an extremely unsatisfying conclusion that's apparently designed to setup another sequel. Battle system remains the same with some new feats and powers. It's generally very entertaining, but no level cap means an extremely easy time for most character types, especially nearing the end. Graphics engine is also the same as before, but there's some more slowdown now. Playing through areas from the original again becomes annoying, but there's more new than old. The game does add some good things to the series, including party members that change alignment with you depending on your influence over them, one truly excellent new character, and several new prestige classes for lightside and darkside, among other things.

Super Mario 64 DS
Score: 4.0/5

It's Mario 64, with new playable characters, new stars to collect, and altered graphics. All things considered, this is a wonderful port of the classic, and the new additions are integrated into the game really well. There are pros and cons to each of the new characters, but all are useful in some way or another. And you'll now need them in order to use certain powers, like turning into Metal, and to get certain stars. Along with the new characters are some new stages used to unlock them, as well as a few other bonus areas. Someone new to the game probably wouldn't realize that they weren't a part of the original, but fans will appreciate having something new to do. Stages now have a permanent map on the bottom screen, showing where you are in the level, and sometimes where the star is located. There's even a bunch of fun unlockable mini-games you can access from the main screen that serve as a demonstration of what can be done with the touch screen.

The graphics are beautiful, and many areas have been improved over the original. I'm sure some gamers would have wanted the stages from the N64 version left alone, but it's hard to argue with the results after entering the first level and seeing how nice it is. Side by side screens of the two versions really let you see the improvements clearly. The DS doesn't seem to have any trouble running this game, which means that more N64 ports are likely, for better or worse. Music remains unchanged from what I can tell, except for a little bit of new stuff for areas added to the game. And of course, voice acting for Wario, Luigi, and Yoshi has been added.

The only drawback is play control. The best option is to use the D-pad, and I think many reviewers were a little too hard on this method. But it's also possible (and more challenging) to use the touch screen in order to get precise analog style control.

Mario 64 still holds up as one of the best 3D platformers out there, and the DS remake offers the levels and gameplay you loved with some great improvements. I highly recommend it.

Sword of Mana
Score: 1.5/5

A very disappointing entry in the series. I've never played Final Fantasy Adventure, which this is a remake of, but I was expecting at least a decent action RPG to pass the time with. Despite starting out fairly good, things just never got going with this one. There are so many serious problems that I can't recommend it even to the biggest fans of the series.

You get one party member at a given time, and he or she is completely useless 99% of the time. They constantly walk into traps, can't fight well, and get stuck behind things all the time. If you thought your party members were difficult to tolerate in Secret of Mana, you haven't seen anything yet. It's perfectly acceptable, often much easier, to let them run out of HP and finish a dungeon solo.

I leveled up strength stats so I could be a warrior type character rather than a mage. And I ended up being powerful enough to beat any boss in seconds. You get a ton of weapons, but you only need about 3, and those only because you're forced into it. Getting through the game was so simple and dull that I felt like I was using cheat codes. I didn't sit there leveling up endlessly or anything. This is just bad game design.

Graphics are pretty good, though not so nice as Secret of Mana. A good level of detail though, and seeing familiar enemies again was nice. There are a couple of memorable songs, but most of it is pretty mediocre stuff. Another real problem is with the story... it's just not written well. I expect most of it is a matter of poor translation, but the end result is characters that you don't care about and conversations that frequently don't make much sense.

Just stay away from this one. It wasn't even worth the time spent to rent it.