‘Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3’ Review (Xbox 360)

Bad BreathMortal Kombat! If I were to scream that at you, chances are that hypnotizing techno beat that fell behind it in the first movie would come rushing back to you in an instant. Much like that simple phrase, getting your hands on an old school Mortal Kombat should bring back the good old days as well, but after playing Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, I’m disappointed I ever played this game in the first place. How did I ever think this game was cool?

My first interaction with an Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 machine was at my local bowling alley when I was only a wee child and my grandparents gave me some quarters and I played as Nightwolf. I remember how cool it was performing that glowing bowshot and trying my hand at his fatality – the real reason to play the game. I expected those same feelings to come back to me, but upon starting the game up, it makes me wish I could go back into the past and slap the quarters out of my own hands.

Now whether it is a case of the game simply being bad and not knowing any better at the time or rather that it just doesn’t hold up well when compared to today’s games and played on the Xbox 360 remains to be seen, I just know that I don’t like it.

The controls are what you’ve come to expect from the Mortal Kombat series and fighting games in general. For Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for the Xbox 360, you’ve got the X and A buttons being used as your punches of different degrees, your Y and A buttons are your kicks of different degrees, the left thumbstick and direction pad control your character’s movements, and you’ve also got a block thrown in there for good measure, because nobody enjoys being punched in the face. New to the Mortal Kombat series was the inclusion of a run button, which allowed players to quickly sprint across the screen to their enemies and perform a combo.

Flame OnHowever, though the controls mimic that of many other fighters at the time, what defined the Mortal Kombat franchise was the Fatalities, which were hilarious/gory finishing moves meant to humiliate the fact your opponent lost rather than look particularly cool, which are 100% not what they are today. Perhaps I was easier to please back then, but the Fatalities and other assorted finishing moves lack the panache I used to hold them up to.

Okay, now let us get into why this game is bad – essentially everything. First up, the controls are an unresponsive mess, as everything seems horribly jerky and I find it insanely difficult to perform the true moves that are anything other than a punch or kick. For instance, Sub Zero’s ice throw is the exact same control movement as a Ryu fireball in Street Fighter, and in that case I can throw one after another in rapid succession because of the fluidity, but here it seemed as if I only got lucky when I managed to pull off the movie.

Secondly, the game is extremely cheap and difficult even on the easiest difficulty selection; when you jump in the air over someone, you should be facing the way in which you land and have to turn, not jump over someone and be able to spin in mid-air to perform a kick to the back of my head. Enemies also seemed quicker at pulling off their moves than me, managed to get complicated combos to land time and time again, did a stupid little kick jump to knockdown my hopping butt, and everyone loved sweeping my legs right out from under me I expected them to all start singing, “Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey, Chim chim cher-ee!” And if you don’t get the Mary Poppins lyrics reference to sweeping, so help you all.

Gushing BloodThe graphics and animation are also unexplainably atrocious. I once thought it cool that the players looked like real people instead of anime characters like in the Street Fighter series and other 2D fighters, but now they just look ugly. I’m not even just talking about the characters either, as the special effects generally look like nothing more than bright globs of green and orange. The animation is what makes it all really bad though, as characters are so rigid, especially when doing something as simple as jumping in the game. It almost looks like the game placed these characters in the starting motion of a movement, then placed them in the ending of their move, and then decided to call it a day. And I didn’t remember this from the old days, but when a character gets smacked down and loses all their life, there is no ragdoll physics or anything even remotely close, because instead players suffer from instant rigor mortis and topple over backwards like a rigid domino being pushed over; I laughed so hard. Beyond the graphics, the sound is equally bad, especially the music.

If I were forced to list a bright spot, it would be the online play over Xbox Live, though my games suffered from lag, and of course I was competing over Live with this abysmal game. But if you like the game, hey, whatever gets you your kicks. As for me, I would be taking the time now to delete this file from my system’s hard drive, but I’ve already forked my money over for this waste, so I’ll keep it where it is in its place of shame. I once loved you Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, but I was young, didn’t know better, and only now am I learning what true love is…namely not playing a nine or ten year old game on a brand new cutting edge system.

Unless you are a die-hard fan, I wouldn’t buy this off Xbox Live.

Rating: 2star
Our Scoring System

‘NARUTO: Clash of Ninja 2’ Review (Gamecube)

Naruto AttacksNaruto? Believe it! The hit manga and anime series has finally released its second fighter for Nintendo’s soon to be defunct Gamecube, and it is one that is sure to please fans of the property, though in reality that should be a given. The real question is, should players who don’t know their Kakashi Hatake from their Sasuke Uchiha still pick it up?

THE STORY SO FAR
Some year’s back, the nine-tailed demon fox rained chaos across the lands, but thankfully it was sealed away, but its essence was placed inside the young boy who would grow up to be Naruto. Shunned by his village for that specific reason, Naruto seeks to prove himself by becoming a ninja and proving himself to everyone.

Throughout his trials and tribulations, Naruto is joined by fellow classmates Sasuke and Sakura, as well as their teacher Kakashi. As the story progresses, Naruto runs across others individuals, both friend and foe, as he continues his quest to be the best ninja of them all.

If you’ve been reading the manga volumes or watching the English dub currently airing on the Cartoon Network, I’ve got both good news and bad news for you regarding the single player Story Mode. The good news is that the story will be very familiar to you, as it starts off near the beginning of the series, with the trio forming a team, going on their first mission, and then the Chunin Exam battles. The bad news is that, beyond the Chunin exams, American audiences are pretty in the dark as the manga and anime have yet to move past that, as it is only now where Naruto is training for the third portion of the Exam test. If you play this game, you’ll know a good majority of what happens after, during the third test, though not “everything” will be revealed (but lets just say I ultimately know what happens to the people you really care about).

Kakashi PunchTold through still cutscenes featuring little square boxes with the face of the characters in conflict along with actually voiced text by the dubbed anime voice actors, it does a good enough job of presenting the story, though not everything works out. For example, I’m a fan of the series and have been watching the anime, so I know Lee isn’t going to beat Gaara during that portion of the game, and yet you have to win just so you can lose during the cutscene. Also, the cutscenes don’t show enough of the action, like saying how during that segment Gaara damages Lee really bad instead of the nothing that happens here, and when Sasuke screams in pain after Orochimaru attacks him, the game doesn’t explain or show well enough that he has actually just bit him and placed a cursed mark on Sasuke, making him go evil when he can’t control it.

For non fans, it presents the story well enough so you might be interested in reading the manga or catching up on the anime after your time with the game.

GAMEPLAY
Since it is a fighting game and the single player and multiplayer segments are practically the same thing, let us just cut out the middleman.

The main modes of the game are the above mentioned Story Mode, as well as a handful of single player endeavors, such as a normal round robin progression seen in all other fighting games before, as well as a Survivor mode where you try to last as long as you can, as well as a Time Attack, to see how fast you can get through the ten bouts.

By competing in these modes, you’ll amass money, which you’ll be able to use to buy all sorts of goodies from the shop, with the real draw being hidden characters, but there are also sound tests, profiles, and other fan goodies that will take you quite a while to unlock, as you don’t earn much money at a time, and some of those goods can be expensive.

Go HinataFighting is amazingly simple, with there only really being a handful of buttons, shying away from the typical two strong kick and punch buttons or the three kick and three punch buttons. Instead, for Naruto, there is a strong attack (A button), weak attack (B button), throw (Y button), and your special jutsu (X button). You’ve also got the triggers acting as both your side steps and your substitution jutsu should you have enough power stored up.

Though the fighting does seem a bit dumbed down and more button masher friendly, I still really enjoyed the game as a fan, because there are just some things the non-fan wouldn’t get, like why Naruto turns into a woman, why the substitution jutsus are replaced with wooden logs. For the fans though, they’ll all kick a kick out of these moments, as well as the special jutsus, where you’ll see Naruto’s shadow clone jutsu, Ino’s mind transfer, Gaara’s sand coffin, and my absolute favorite, making Lee open the Eight Gates of Life and roiding out and going super powerful. For fans, you’ll smile as all these favorite moments are carried out by you.

I’m sad to say that, for non-fans, there won’t be much here to whet your appetite, as this really is a game made for the fans. Besides that, even I got tired of the game after only a handful of hours, after I’d already beat the Story Mode and found myself using the same combos and game plans to succeed every time. I’ve still got several characters to unlock, as well as all the other goodies, but to keep playing the same battles over and over to achieve that, it makes me not look forward to that time.

GRAPHICS
If you’re a fan of the anime, you’ll love the cell shaded graphics, as they capture the spirit of the anime perfectly, as everyone looks just like their anime partner, and they all move in many of the exact same ways.

SOUND
The voice acting is good (as it should since it is by the show’s voice actors), but the same sound bytes are used over and over, plus the fighting effects also repeat too much. However, I do like the before battle quotes are sometimes tailor made for certain situations, like Hinata getting all shy and offering Naruto a healing ointment before and after their battles.

Four Way BattleIN CONCLUSION
As a big fan of Naruto series, I’m happy to report the game will appeal to the fans, but even the less than the headband wearing diehards will have a hard time being enthusiastic about constantly playing the game after only a handful of hours and the nostalgic new car smell and gimmick wears off. And non-fans are probably better off leaving this game alone altogether, or at least playing it over at a friend’s house after they bought it. Believe it!

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

‘One Piece: Grand Adventure’ Review (PS2)

ChaserArlong-HachiAbout the 78th time that Portgaz D. Trace ran me over with his irritating little land-speed-boat-thing, a super-move that he can repeat an infinite number of times in this match, I found that not only had my lifebar been crushed, but also my will to play. I let the Playstation controller drop to the carpet, analog light staring futilely skyward, while I weighed my options. I found myself frustrated, and not the pleasant sort of frustration you undergo when you’re tugging at a complicated problem to solve or a tricky situation.

No, this was more of a Monday morning frustration, the knowing that in order to advance, you’re going to have to do the same thing over and over again for a while, so you can get better at… well, doing the same thing over and over. You’re either going to resign yourself to it, because it matters to you or you have no options – or you’re going to walk away.

Now, if One Piece is a subject that matters to you, you may find enough motivation to keep coming back to One Piece: Grand Adventure, by Namco-Bandai for the PS2. And there’s a lot of material in it to come back to. One Piece is a manga series that has been running for close to ten years in Japan, and has spawned an anime series as well as a massive fan following. You don’t really need an understanding of the source material to play the game, though I did occasionally find myself asking questions like, “How is it that every single place I go to is an island? The entire planet is islands – can that really work? Isn’t shipbuilding the sort of thing that would require a continental nation’s resources to do? Have they been through some sort of massive global warming that raised ocean levels everywhere? Has no one warned them about the dangers of aerosol cans?” But I digress.

One Piece: Grand Adventure is the story of Monkey D. Luffy, at the very beginning of his quest to find the mythical One Piece and become the King of Pirates. It’s a fighting/party game, and will remind gamers with a few consoles under their belt very strongly of Power Stone for the Dreamcast. Luffy isn’t really very great with words, so most of the time when he is faced with a challenge in his quest, his basic solution is to punch this problem in the face. “Hey, you’re a good navigator! Come work for me, or I’ll beat you up some more!” “Hey, you’re a pretty good swordsman! If I beat you up, can we be friends?” Et cetera. Grand Adventure, then, offers you a world full of face-punching action in the form of 3-D environments where Luffy and his press-ganged clan of pirate friends can run, jump, dash, punch, kick, and throw the opposition, as well as picking up clubs, burning lamps, crates, wands, and numerous other implements with which to throw, swing, or otherwise forcefully explain your point of view.

ChaserBuggy-RitchieThe game doesn’t give you very much in the way of tutorial or explanation to get your feet wet. You can look in the instruction book, and often between scenes or at the end of fights, a description of a new type of move will appear. But if you’re a total stranger to this type of game, you may find yourself a bit at sea when it comes time to start playing. Never fear. If you can move an analog stick and hit a button at the same time, you’ll find your way soon enough. Fans of fighting games often refer to titles disparagingly as button-mashers, meaning that rather than memorize complicated combination sequences or learning to time a counter-attack to one exact frame of animation, that all you need to do is hit buttons faster to win. That is not an entirely accurate description of One Piece, but it’s got some truth to it. And you know what, it’s not a bad thing. Anyone can walk up to this game and play it from the get-go, and there is such a wide variety of characters available that you will certainly find one of them that fits your play style.

Most moves are a simple combination of either the X or Circle button in various orders; Super moves are activated by holding down the L1 button in addition. The trick in learning to play the game effectively isn’t in learning the characters’ moves – it’s not a fighting game like Soul Calibur or Tekken, where the mechanics of play are intricate strategies that you apply against your opponent. Rather, to get good at Grand Adventure, you’ve got to learn to keep your wits in a free-for-all. If you can keep an eye on the three swordsman charging in at you from the corner, the honeycomb of angry bees that just got overturned in the middle of the ring, the platform that’s collapsing under you, the giant chef shooting flames at everyone standing, and your opponent charging at you all at the same time, and manage to keep your cool, then you’ll be doing okay. If you can pay attention to all that and also hit your super-move at exactly the right moment, you’ll be sitting pretty. And for the technicians, the Accel-Heat technique will add a significant amount of depth to the system by enabling you to break a combo in the middle, and immediately launch another attack or super-move. The truly dedicated can use Accel-Heat to construct some extremely deadly combinations, but you’ll find the need for such techniques will mostly arise when you’re fighting with friends. More on that in a bit.

Arena and Tournament modes enable you to select from various options of simple, direct combat against friends or the computer. However, moves, costumes, new mini-games, and other features are unlocked primarily through the story, or Grand Adventure mode. This is the meat of the game, and also the area that will determine whether or not this game is a renter or a keeper for you.

CrocGA-DrumIslandYou’re initially presented with just Luffy’s quest, which is simple, straightforward, and can be completed easily in under three hours. As you travel from island to island, you’ll continue to unlock more playable characters, more battlefields, and more “Support” characters that can be summoned in mid-battle to add to the general chaos. With every victory, the character you’re using gains experience, and when he or she achieves a new level, you will receive a point to add to their attack, defense, special attack, support creature, or item-handling skills. Once you’ve completed his quest, a number of new and more difficult full adventures starring other characters will begin to appear, giving you even further opportunities to unlock and power up more characters. Your powered-up characters can be used in the versus modes in your own game, or imported to your friends’ memory cards by way of using a password system that will recreate your powered-up character elsewhere.

Now, considering you’ve got some twenty-four characters to potentially be powered-up, at least five full story-mode adventures to be played through, plus a wide array of unlockables like costumes, power-ups, and cards from the One Piece trading card game (you can’t actually play the game, but you can check out the art), there’s a certain amount of replayability. But to me personally, adding hours of repetition to the potential gameplay doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making the game more playable. With good fighting games, you can hone your technique; with puzzle and rhythm games, you can improve your reaction time. Even with standard RPG titles, even though you’re mainly raising the value of your stats and gear, these things also change the way you play and the strategies you use. But with One Piece, when you’re getting run-down by a successively repeated super attack time after time, and you know that pretty much all you can do to raise your performance level is just fight countless weaker enemies on exactly the same 10 battlefields (20, if you count the ‘day’ and ‘night’ views for each one), building up your attack and defense values one point at a time until you can win that bigger fight, just to repeat the process for the next boss who’s five levels ahead of you – suddenly, it doesn’t feel so replayable.

It has its’ merits, though. If you find that you really don’t get tired of the battles, if you’re a big fan of the One Piece world, if you’re young or your budget is low for other reasons, you might enjoy the game for some time to come. The vs. modes make this a really good game for parties, and if you get a lot of mileage out of playing the game with your friends, then the gradual progression of each character through experience adds a dimension to the play. You’ll want to take as many characters through the single-player adventure as you can, to gain access to their better super-moves and stay competitive with the other players. The story-telling mechanisms are extremely simple – character portraits exchanging dialogue in text, with the occasional VO line accompanying them (that may or may not actually match the words in text) – but if you’re okay with that, then you’ll be happy that they pack a lot of little details in along the way to flesh out the One Piece story. I find the voice acting to be average, but at times extremely irritating, not unlike the music.

LuffyKuro-CatInvitationGraphically, the quality of the 3D cel-shaded world Ganbarion has created for you is consistent and cute, but there are so many games out there, now near the end of the PS2’s life cycle, that are scraping the very limits of what the hardware can do, both graphically and in terms of unique, inventive gameplay. Among them, One Piece: Grand Adventure simply gets lost in the shuffle. The controls are responsive and the action is engaging for a short session of play, but when you get comfortable with them, you start to find that there are camera issues that are inexcusably frustrating in a game that relies so heavily on rapid action. It’s a competent brawler that has a little appeal, but fails to excel at any particular thing. Nevertheless there is something eternally entertaining in its’ brightly exploding cartoon violence, and the opportunity to light your friends on fire or smack them over the side of a giant ship is something that never gets old. I’d recommend giving it a rental if you must, and if you find it hooks you, then pick up a copy and you won’t count the money wasted. For me, though, the Grand Adventure turned out to be a bit short-lived.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

‘One Piece: Grand Adventure’ Preview (PS2/Gamecube)

ChaserArlong-HachiFor fans of the series, One Piece: Grand Adventure is probably already a sell and those people will need little reason to plunk down their money when the game is released. But what about everyone else? Why should anyone else care but those diehards? It turns out, beyond appealing to just the fans, One Piece: Grand Adventure brings quite a few tricks to the party, and there looks to be just as much there for the uninitiated as there is for the followers.

One Piece: Grand Adventure takes a lot of different game style elements and merges them together into one tasty concoction. Part party game, part fighter, and part action adventure, One Piece: Grand Adventure (OPGA from here on out) tells the story of Luffy as he sets out to be a pirate and discover the hidden treasure of One Piece. Along the way, Luffy will run across some friends, some foes, and then some foes who end up becoming friends. If you are familiar to the series then the story of the Adventure Mode will make you feel right at home, but for those who’ve never read one of the manga volumes or seen an episode of the series, the story of the game is told up to and beyond the anime that is currently airing in the US, and though it doesn’t reveal all the key details (you’ll want to experience those through the manga/anime after you fall in love with the game) it does tell the main story of One Piece from the beginning, so you shouldn’t be confused or lost in the slightest. Told through a variety of cutscenes, the game also includes actual lines of dialogue recorded specifically by the actors who portray the characters in the anime series.

ChaserBuggy-RitchieThe main draw with OPGA is the Adventure Mode – an all-new mode to the series – which tales the main story of One Piece and a whole series of possible “what ifs” and side story scenarios. First off, you’ll complete Luffy’s story, which is that of the main manga/anime. After completing this first Adventure, four more await you, and with each new one more and more of the story will fill out, showing you what might have happened or what did happen on the side while Luffy was completing his story. As you traverse the game world/board, you’ll complete ‘main quest’ battles, but you’ll also have the opportunity to take on side quests as well, which can lead to such unlockable bonuses as new support characters.

And though the fighting system is setup to be very user friendly (a bit more on that in a little), don’t go thinking that OPGA will be a cakewalk you complete in a matter of minutes. Going through Luffy’s Adventure alone will take you approximately 6-8 hours, which is the current length of most games nowadays it seems. Throw onto that number the other four Adventures and you’re looking at a game that could take you 40-50 hours to complete once everything is said and done. The thing about OPGA’s Adventure Mode is that the difficulty gradually creeps up as you complete one after the other, so while Luffy’s might present an adequate challenge, don’t go thinking the final one will be just as easy; early reports indicate that the first battle of the last Adventure alone (the first battle mind you!) can be extremely difficult and you’ll need fairly high character levels to even put a dent into this final Adventure.

CrocGA-DrumIslandWhat’s that? Character levels? Is this a RPG or a fighting game? Actually, OPGA is kind of both. As you play through the OPGA Adventure Mode, you’ll amount experience points from completing battles, and after your character amounts enough EXP, they’ll advance up a level just like in an old fashioned role playing game. After going up a level, you’ll then be rewarded a point that you can distribute to your character, such as upping their attack, increasing their defense, etc. By allowing players to customize their experience, the game really rewards those commitments by ensuring that players are allowed to play the game how they want it. But beyond leveling up characters to help complete the Adventure Mode, OPGA has one more cool feature up its sleeve.

The key to any good fighter is how it plays when it is you going up against your buddy. OPGA looks to raise the stakes by allowing players to truly customize their characters to fit their style and for them to showoff their hard work by actually rewarding them with better characters. Say, for example, you and your buddy both love Luffy, but one of you wants to focus on offensive upgrades and the other defensive – you could both have Level 10 Luffy’s on your hand, but the fact you chose to focus on different aspects of the character means that you’ll both experience different fights that correspond to how you chose to upgrade. Beyond simply taking a memory card to your buddy, the cross platform ability of the game (characters are given passwords) allows you to train your Luffy while playing the Gamecube version of the game, and should you go over to your friend who has the PS2 version of the game, you can input your password and BAM…there is your hard earned character on the other system. You can also email your passwords to your buddies, so they can load that character data into their game, and then they can experience how you are training your characters. It is a very, very cool idea and feature.

LuffyKuro-CatInvitationAs already said, the game is very user friendly, featuring easy to input commands. The free roaming game style was chosen so that the developers could properly display the styles and personalities of the One Piece characters, whose larger than life characteristics make them perfect for this free roaming world; plus, with the support characters helping you during the battles and an interactable environment, OPGA just couldn’t have been done justice had it gone for the more Street Fighter/left to right/2D fighting experience. As you pull off various moves, a power meter will continue to go up, and this special system can be unleashed to pull off several different maneuvers: Level 1) catch your opponent off guard, 2) stop opponent from blocking, 3) the benefits of both previous levels, plus faster speed.

If you’re a One Piece fan, you’re probably drooling in anticipation now after hearing about all the features new to you (oh, did I forget to mention there are eight new playable characters as well?), and for those who have never read a page of the manga or seen a minute of the anime, I hope you can see how much you have to be excited about as well, because while the game does go after the fans, making sure to please them, it also knows that there is an interesting game there for the casual player who may not know the source material, and there is just as much there for them as those diehards who can sing the One Piece theme song in their sleep.

E3 2006: ‘Mortal Kombat: Armageddon’ (PS2) – Impressions

Perhaps it is my old age talking here – jeez, is 24 really that old – but I remember the good old days when the Mortal Kombat franchise was new and unique. I still recall dialing in my first Finisher and watching as the computer controlled player died horribly at my hands. I remember the glee I got from using Scorpion’s harpoon for the first time. I got to play the next installment in the Mortal Kombat franchise while at E3, and I can only wonder “Did I really enjoy this back then?”

Lumber MillFor fans of the Mortal Kombat series, Armageddon looks to be the ultimate amalgamation of all the previous installments. Though not every character was available in the preview, I’ve still been told that every single playable character from the past games will be playable in the final retail version. In a geeky sort of way that is very, very cool – a fan’s dream come true – and that does tug at my nostalgic love for the past, but nostalgia will only carry a product so far, and ultimately the gameplay must be there.

I haven’t played the Mortal Kombats of the current system generation, but if Armageddon is any indication, the game today is most definitely not how the original used to play. To my knowledge, the original games in the series were practically like the Street Fighter franchise but with a darker twist, plus lots of gore. I do not remember the original games being so “dial a combo” friendly. As I first got my hands on the new game, it was really frustrating to get anything to happen; I’d push buttons and maybe get a smack, but where were all the cool moves. As I dispatched enemy after enemy, I kept waiting for something to click, but it never did. Time after time I managed to takeout enemies by only doing one single hit after the next; I only learned the “dial up” combos once I got frustrated and started jamming on the controls. After my unique discovery, gameplay got a bit more interesting, but it still felt like I was playing “Simon Says” instead of really getting the sense that I was fighting someone.

Besides the typical hand-to-hand fighting, the player is also able to switch to a secondary attack style, which focuses on weapons instead of fists of furry. Much like the hand-to-hand styles, the weapon stances were also based on dialing in the right moves, but the character actions felt slower given the large, bulky nature of the weapons.

Graphically, the game looks pretty nice, and the characters all seemed to get some new skins for the Armageddon installment; though the looks were varied, it was still easy to say “Oh yeah, that is so and so.” The environments were also nice, but not because they were graphical beauties like those seen in the recent Dead or Alive games, but rather because of the ways the player was able to kill someone using their surroundings. Since I didn’t have the move list available to perform one of the signature finishers, I was forced to rely on killing my enemy with the environment, and they were always discovered by accident. The only real environmental kill I discovered was one where I hit the enemy into the air and the above rotating fan cut them into little pieces.

Goros LairMortal Kombat: Armageddon also features the Konquest mode again – a role-playing-esque fighting game – but I was unable to get my hands on that mode and only saw video of it in action. New to the franchise, however, is the ability to create your own character, and it appears as if the player will be able to create some truly unique fighters with fighting styles tailored to what the player wants.

Ultimately, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon looks to be more of the same “dial a combo” combat of the past few iterations, and the level of excitement for the game will hinge on whether or not that appeals to your fighting desires.

E3 2006: ‘Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2’ (PS2) – Impressions

Goku vs. VegetaAnime fans are very protective of their franchises. It is one of those genres where people are judged based on what they choose to like. A Cowboy Bebop viewer is likely to be heralded as a connoisseur with taste, while a Dragonball Z fan is likely to be shunned. That doesn’t mean Dragonball Z fans take their disapproving glances lightly, as they are always quick to defend the anime they love, and that includes the several games that have branched forth from the series. Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is the next fighting game in the Dragonball Z Budokai franchise, and it is set to bring fans the same fighting action with their beloved characters.

By choosing the cell shaded graphical styling over more realistic character models, the developers really tap into the anime series and it feels almost exactly like the player is controlling the action during one of the show’s episodes. I’ve seen practically the entire Dragonball Z series, so trust me when I say I know what I’m talking about. I’ve mentioned before about cell shaded graphics and how hit or miss they can be, but with Budokai Tenkaichi (what a seemingly nonsensical name) I wouldn’t want the styling any other way. When I’m controlling Gohan I like Gohan actually looking like Gohan, because it instantly brings back all my fond memories of the series, such as when he went Super Saiyan for the first time.

The environments are the same open areas featuring nothing but a few rocky hills, but that is okay because the fighters need some room to fly about in. Also, the environments are the same way in the anime series, so it is still keeping that flavor. Though the environments are fairly void, there is a limited amount of interactivity as the player has the ability to hit enemies against and even through some of the rock walls. Otherwise, the environments are mostly air, so that the player has plenty of room to fight about and fly through.

By what I could tell – though the roster wasn’t finalized in the E3 preview on the show floor – Budokai Tenkaichi looks to feature as many fighters as it can possibly squeeze onto one disc. Of course fan favorites like Goku, Gohan, Vegeta and Piccolo will be present as always, but it looked as if slightly more obscure characters will be available as well to do battle. No definitive number of fighters was listed, but rest assured that fan favorites will most likely be in the final game, along with the series more popular villains.

Super SaiyanAs stated, the environments and characters are really quite nice, but sadly the gameplay seemed a little dumbed down. The combos and attacks were very simply – almost hack and slash – tap one button over and over to damage. As I was playing, it never really felt like I was performing the exact moves I wanted, but rather I got lucky and managed once and a while to perform some unique attack. Besides the regular hand-to-hand attacks, chi like attacks were also at the player’s disposal, which are powerful blasts the characters can channel from their hands. To anyone who has seen the show, the chi blasts will seem like second nature by now. My single largest complaint about the actual fighting gameplay is the fact that every character seems to play exactly the same with the exact same combat moves; really, the only thing I ever noticed different were the character models performing the moves.

Fans of Dragonball Z could probably care less about any complaints, because all they are probably hearing is “Oh, tons of characters! Oh, more DBZ fighting!” For everyone else out there, the style is certainly there, but I have hope that the gameplay will go through some tweaking before the final product is released.

Nintendo Names New Characters in Smash Bros. Game for Wii Console

A brawl at Nintendo’s booth last night left dozens of gamers stunned — and wanting more.

Nintendo unveiled a spectacular video of Super Smash Bros.(R) Brawl for the company’s upcoming Wii(TM) console. The amazing footage also revealed a variety of new Nintendo characters who will be playable in the game, including Meta Knight, the sword-wielding nemesis of Kirby(TM); Pit, the angelic archer from Kid Icarus(R); Zero Suit Samus, the powerful Metroid(R) series heroine minus her versatile armor; and Wario(TM), who demonstrated a noxious attack of gastronomic proportions.

Nintendo also revealed that the game would include Snake, the gritty soldier from Konami’s hugely popular Metal Gear series.

Nintendo issued the surprise announcement during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, which continues through May 12. Super Smash Bros.(R) remains one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, both for its fun, over-the-top battles and because it brings the most popular characters in Nintendo’s universe into one common setting. The latest incarnation, Super Smash Bros.(R) Melee, is the best-selling game of all time for Nintendo GameCube(TM).

In-game In-game
In-game In-game

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D3Publisher of America Announce ‘NARUTO 2’ – Believe It!

North America has gone wild over NARUTO – Believe it! Following the successful launch of NARUTO: Clash of Ninja and NARUTO: Ninja Council in March 2006, D3Publisher of America, Inc. (D3PA) and TOMY Corporation will present NARUTO: Clash of Ninja 2 for Nintendo GameCube and NARUTO: Ninja Council 2 for Nintendo Game Boy Advance at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center from May 10-12, 2006. The latest video games follow the storyline of VIZ Media’s hit anime series SHONEN JUMP’s NARUTO, and will feature more playable characters, new locations and added gameplay features including multiplayer modes for up to four players.

“The critical and retail success of the NARUTO video games in North America are a testament to the global appeal of the franchise, said Alison Quirion, vice president of marketing, D3PA. “NARUTO: Clash of Ninja 2 on GameCube and NARUTO: Ninja Council 2 on Game Boy Advance will build upon the success of the first titles by offering a host of new playable characters, non-stop ninja annihilation with heated multi-player battles and challenging gameplay modes that are sure to please gamers of all ages.”

“We are very pleased with the response for NARUTO thus far and are excited to be working with D3PA to bring these Naruto games to the USA,” said Laura Yoshioka, senior marketing manager, TOMY Corporation. “The Naruto franchise continues to be enormously popular and we look forward to bringing more quality titles featuring the rich storylines and fascinating characters from the hit TV series to American gamers.

NARUTO: Clash of Ninja 2, developed exclusively for Nintendo GameCube, will offer non-stop ninja style combat action for 1-4 players where gamers choose to play as one of 23 total available characters. All-new multi-player modes will engage players in frantic simultaneous four player battles and single-player modes will offer more gameplay choices than before with survival and timed attack modes that allow players to showcase their taijutsu and special jutsu abilities. Developed by 8ing, NARUTO: Clash of Ninja 2 is anticipated for release in September 2006.

The second Game Boy Advance title in the series, NARUTO: Ninja Council 2 builds on the storyline of the first game and will allow players to switch between 3 unique characters on the fly to strategically conquer each challenging level. All-new multiplayer modes offer head-to-head action or cooperative play for up to four players. Developed by Aspect, Ninja Council 2 is anticipated to be released in Fall 2006.

NARUTO takes place in a world where ninja hold the ultimate power. Infused with the spirit of a once fearsome Nine-Tailed Fox, Naruto Uzumaki is a ninja-in-training who is learning the art of Ninjutsu with his classmates Sakura and Sasuke. The trio studies under the instruction of their teacher, Kakashi, who helps the group face dangerous and daunting tests and challenges. Through their adventures, the young ninja learn the importance of friendship, teamwork, loyalty, hard work, creativity, ingenuity, and right versus wrong.

Seven New ‘NARUTO: Ultimate Ninja’ Screens

NARUTO: Ultimate Ninja Screens

Silent as the night, “NARUTO: Ultimate Ninja” sneaks into your email in-box and disappears without a trace, leaving brand new screens as the only calling card. Based on the hit anime series from VIZ Media, “NARUTO: Ultimate Ninja” is scheduled to hit retail stores in June 2006.

“NARUTO: Ultimate Ninja” puts players in the vivid and vibrant manga world of Naruto Uzumaki, a student of Ninja Academy. Players can choose from more than 12 characters including Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura and master their chakra to perform deadly ninjutsu in the heat of battle. With 12 dynamic stages taken from the manga and anime series, gamers can switch stages mid-combat to outmaneuver the opposing ninja. When danger is near, gamers can unleash combos, projectiles and super attacks to ascend the ranks and become Hokage — the greatest ninja of all.

SNK Ships ‘King of Fighters Neowave’ for Xbox

SNK PLAYMORE USA CORPORATION, the US publishing arm of the SNK PLAYMORE CORPORATION, announced today that they have shipped – THE KING OF FIGHTERS NEOWAVE exclusively for the Xbox video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. THE KING OF FIGHTERS NEOWAVE will feature full Xbox Live online game service support including head-to-head fighting and Tournament Mode.

THE KING OF FIGHTERS NEOWAVE features a collection of fighters from the franchise’s history, grouped into twelve three fighter teams, along with seven hidden characters. Three modes of play: Super Cancel, Guard Break and Max2, yields almost unlimited hours of excitement. A number of bonuses, such as hidden character art and a full character color edit tool are included as well.

“Gamers will immediately be impressed when firing up NEOWAVE by the bright, clean visuals and the fluidity with which they animate,” said Charles of Onyett of IGN.com.

“From controller configurations, to character alterations, to gameplay tweaks – NEOWAVE has got ’em all,” said Rob Semsey of Teamxbox.com. “Fighting fans with even the most specific needs should find something to like here.”

KING OF FIGHTERS NEOWAVE Features:
* Xbox Live support featuring head-to-head fighting and Tournament Mode.
* 36 classic SNK characters each with their own fighting styles and unique moves
* 7 hidden characters to find.
* 12 of the most dangerous fighting teams fight it out in 3-on-3 battles
* Link combo-moves to beat your opponent senseless and inflict “game over” damage
* Turn up the heat – up your attack strength using “Heat Mode”
* 3 modes of play: Super Cancel, Guard Break and Max2.