Game Reviews: Grand Theft Auto V

gta5.jpg

Grand Theft Auto V

I eagerly anticipated this game from the moment it was announced. I wasn’t sure how it would play based on the news leaks; three concurrent storylines in one story? Being able to swap characters in the middle of a mission? Okay, I trusted Rockstar Games to get the job done because Grand Theft Auto IV was so damn good.

I purchased the game and and took the day off of work on launch day.

After 20 minutes of uploading updates to the game (What updates are required on a game on launch day? ugh?) I was ready to play.

The game opened with an epic bank heist. Nice. Then a flash forward to Mike, a retired thief trying to live a domesticated life. Awkward. Then we jump to Franklin, living in the hood (reminding me of San Andreas). Then we jump to Trevor (reminding me of where some of my High School friends probably ended up). I was confused for a while, being forced to swap between different missions. I enjoyed Mike’s storyline the most, mostly chilling in his cool LA pad and robbing the expensive rides in that part of town (and one weird bike mission with his son).

Then the stories converged.

The game is so much more dynamic than Grand Theft Auto IV. The missions are more more creative. The graphics are better. The missions are harder and there are more things to do. Underwater-check. Skydiving-check. Helicopter-check. Plane-check. Jetski-check.

My personal favorite mission is the jewel heist. It was a pain to get all the stuff required to set it up, but the actual robbery was fun.

The last 3 missions were almost like a movie ending, which was good, however part of me felt the game ended too fast. With a game this size, I think the story could have been twice a long.

I’m not a completist, so I wasn’t obsessed with getting all of the achievements. I tried playing online for a while, but kept getting sniped by people randomly sitting around the city waiting to attack. To me, GTA will always be about the story mode.

I can’t wait for GTA 6. I’ve tried playing LA Noire and Red Dead Redemption and it just isn’t the same.

Game Rating: 9.5/10

GUEST REVIEW: GAMERDOG69
What kind of G-rated review was this? Is he getting soft? Why did he not talk about the drug dealing in the game? Or the strip club? Or taking the strippers back to your pad? Or Beating your therapist up? Or the weird Yoga instructor? What about Trevor and his antics?  Or how about this? The game is called Grand Theft AUTO buddy. I’ve robbed 2000 cars in the game. What the hell have you been doing? How many garages did you fill up? Or how about this you damn poser, did you rack up enough cash to buy the country club? No? Yeah, that’s right. You ain’t no baller and you certainly didn’t truly beat the game.

 

Game Reviews: ActRaiser (SNES)

2363111-snes_actraiser.jpg

I got this game as a christmas gift. When I opened it, I said, “Cool, another Super Nintendo game to try out.” I thanked my Uncle and went on to play Super Mario World for the next week. To me, that is why I wanted the system in the first place. You see, Mario had this new sidekick Yoshi that he could ride … well, I digress.

Eventually I got to ActRaiser, and at first, maybe due to my age, I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. I mean, I would play a stage, and then it would give me some Tinkerbell type angel to help build a city.

Act-Raiser-3.jpg

I didn’t know what the hell I was doing for the longest time, mostly because the game was brand new and my friends didn’t even have it (back in the day, most of the key gamer “tips” came on the bus ride to school in the morning and after). Without a key gamer support system, I went out and learned the game by myself, eventually, beating the whole thing. It was a game that could be saved, so there was little problem taking the slow approach. Someone mentioned on my Sim City blog that this was the first simulation they played, and to me, this was more of a mix-sim. There was some city building, but the options were mostly where to build the next section of town.

bitwars_snes_actraiser.jpg

I still remember attacking the fucker from above. He was like a swamp-gargoyle. Like every stage boss, he had a trick to beat him. To beat this particular foe, was to realize he acted like some programmed robot (for some strange reason) and just jumped up and down and then to the other side to slowly shoot fireballs at you. All I had to do was sit on the edge of the ledge and hack him down.

215528-287836-ActRaiserUSA007png-620x.jpg

My favorite stage was the snow stage. The big boss was this cosmic snow dragon who could be beat fairly easily (I think just hitting the attack button to get multiple hits on it everytime it swooped down did the trick).

Eventually, after you vanquished all the mini-bosses and build a town on the entire continent, it was time for the final challenge. You attacked some alien big boss with an “enemy” power bar that seemed to take up most of the screen. It was brief and exciting, but seldom did I want to play the big boss again. I would go back and play the snow dragon, possibly foreshadowing my love for Game of Thrones 25 years later.

CHECK OUT MY REVIEW ON A FULL SIM GAME

Game Reviews: Star Wars Rebel Assault (PC)

rebel1cover.jpg

Do any of you remember Star Wars Rebel Assault? It was quite the unique game that was ahead of its time in many ways, but had a bunch of confusing moments that made my head spin. I owned this game back in the day and played it around the same time as X-Wing for the PC. The game aimed more for a cinematic experience and had numerous movie cut scenes between chapters. What bothered me and still bothers me a little is they used a new character on Tatooine to train up, disregarding the movie canon in some flabbergasting ways. Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.38.43 PM.png

This guy, “Commander Farrell” is confusing to me. I don’t remember seeing him in the movie (more on him later) and think if anything, he actually resembles Tycho from Return of the Jedi more. (Tycho was the one who led the tie fighters away from Lando in the flight to the core reactor). Anyhow, this guy along with a woman pilot are your primary teachers in the game.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.38.50 PM.png

The game is a pretty closed world. The flight paths are very narrow. You can move a little bit, but for the most part, you are taking the hits and dodging stuff while shooting targets and accomplishing objectives. When this came out, it looked state of the art. Now it seems a bit constrictive. Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.40.04 PM.png

I still remember this stage. I called it “Stone Pillar” stage and remember getting frustrated as hell. I don’t remember how many A-wings I lost, but let’s just say I would question the logic of training of the rebellion for putting their pilots through crazy shit like this.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.45.24 PM.png

One X-Wing vs a Star Destroyer? Of course! This was the big sell of the game. Everyone wanted to go heads up and take one of these suckers down and boast to your lunch table that you were the greatest star pilot in the galaxy pretty good at the game. This was the most memorable stage of the game for me.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.41.01 PM.png

Now we are on Hoth attacking AT-AT’s? Okay, who cares about movie cannon. I guess the Empire is striking back really hard now even though the rebels haven’t blown up the Death Star yet. It was a fun stage and ahead of its time. Many games since then have done a version of this stage. What I found funny was seeing the lasers actually having an impact on the armor.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.47.28 PM.png

If you managed to get through the Hoth stage, you would finally get to the attack you bought the game for. The cinematic cut was pretty cool, although a random Star Destroyer shows up to defend the death star with tie fighters then jumps into hyperspace. I don’t know if the game designers had the game done and said to themselves “hey, the game isn’t long enough, so lets add some random stages.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.42.00 PM.png

Here we are in the trench. The cockpit looks pretty cool, however the trench looks a bit like the old Hollywood movies and the green screen look for the background. There were a bunch of random objectives just to get to this point that I don’t remember from the movies. By this point, I just want to blow this thing and get the heck out of here. Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.44.14 PM.png

But then WHAT? Did Lucasarts not have rights to show the Falcon and Han Solo in their own game? Commander Farrell aka Tycho shows up in his puny A-wing and saves the day and shoots Vader outta there. For the life of me, I didn’t understand why they couldn’t give fans the satisfaction of Han and the Falcon coming in to save the day.Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.43.51 PM.png

Are you confused again? You just got saved by the A-Wing and blow up the Death Star, then all of a sudden you are being celebrated on Yavin IV all by your lonesome. I was so confused. You were not Luke Skywalker in the game, but now you dress just like him from the movie? Instead of Han and Chewie walking down, they have nobody? Not even Commander Farrell?

Overall, the game has some nostalgic appeal to me, however, I don’t think I ever want to play through it ever gain. It was clearly one of the many Star Wars games that let fans down and was a money grab to exploit fans who only wanted to replay the events of the movie.

Game Reviews: Clash Royale

clash-royale-apk-1.jpg

Clash Royale by Supercell

As an avid player of Clash of Clans, I watched with anticipation when Clash Royale was released in beta test. Clan mates told me to download it on some other server, and I frantically tried for twenty minutes to switch and reboot on my iPhone but couldn’t find the game. Canada. Sweden. Argentina. It didn’t matter. It was like a gamer mirage. I was forced to watch youtube videos which looked a little disappointing. But then I finally downloaded the game a couple weeks ago at the urging of another clash addict.

I now have a Clash Royale problem.

It is one thing to have an addiction to one game, but now with Clash Royale I find myself playing it at all hours of the day. When I wake up. When I eat lunch. When I watch TV. When I lay in bed. The game is deceiving in a way. It has four slots to fill with chests after a win. It keeps you checking to open chests that open after time expires (3 or 8 hours). What gamers don’t quite realize is as you level up, it becomes harder to win, and at the highest levels you will find yourself playing for thirty minutes to get your four wins. We are being programed in the Supercell way by giving us fast upgrades and easy battles and slowly turning the water on high.

Supercell-soft-launches-Clash-Royale.jpg

The moment I realized I had a problem was this morning. Usually I shut off my alarm eight times on my phone before slowly reaching over and refreshing my Clash of Clans account like an addict. I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this, but it is habit like brushing my teeth.

This morning I refreshed my Clash Royale account first. Then fought four battles.

Hello. My name is MM Leonard. I am addicted to Clash Royale.

I am only a level 6 right now. I don’t really have any tips to give right now. I prefer using a card deck of the giant, goblin hut, the giant skeleton, the knight, the barbarians, the musketeer, and the balloon. Sometimes I do the inferno. Sometimes I do the skeleton hut. Sometimes I use a witch. I wait until he other players attacks first and do a counter move then drop a giant or knight on the opposite side. I don’t know if there is a name for this yet in Clash Royale lore. Call it counter punching. Barbs counters land units. Musketeer counters the dragon and minions. Arrows counter the skeleton mass. The witches are good behind a heavy unit.

Supercell was smart learning from their Boom Beach disaster. I thought the game sucked and I quit after a week. Based on the adoption level of my my Clash of Clan mates, they agreed it sucked and the majority of them quit. Supercell then went the Angry Birds route and used the proven characters that they have curated over the years. This is the heart and soul of their games. Much like Super Mario. It took them some time, but they had to level up someday too.

NEXT: REVIEW OF SUPERCELL’S SMASH HIT, CLASH OF CLANS

Game Reviews: Street Fighter 5

street-fighter-5-launch-roster.jpg

When I was between the ages of 10-12, I played Street Fighter 2 like a boy with a vision. I beat the game with every character except Dhalsim because he was slow as hell and couldn’t beat some of the faster characters. Maybe there is a person out there that was the greatest Dhalsim player this side of the Mississippi. Maybe it got him somewhere.

Street Fighter 2’s popularity peaked right before Mortal Combat came out and hours upon hours were spent learning the special kill moves to “finish him.” Challengers would show up to my house and I would vanquish them one by one (my memory is biased). My mother would bring us food and snacks and every three minutes there would be yelling as epic clutchness surely ensued the end of every round.

My player of choice was Ken. He was like Ryu, except he wore red. Why Capcom made two characters that are exactly the same, I don’t know. I’m sure there was some cut-scene story to it. Ken in a way taught me all the karate I’ll ever know.

I have two distinct memories of how Street Fighter 2 paid off for me.

I remember in college when someone dusted off their old SNES and brought it to the dorms. I walked down a hall to see a crowd in one room and jostled my way in to see what the commotion was about.

They were playing Street Fighter 2.

The owner of the system was defeating everyone easily. “He is unstoppable” said his roommate. Others nodded in approval as if they had just seen a miracle. I hadn’t played the game in at least six or seven years, but anyone that knows what it was like to play Street Fighter 2 at its peak knows the memorized moves stay with you forever, much like the Contra code.

“I can beat him,” I said.  The crowd grumbled like I was the biggest gamer poser. Supposedly this guy had just left a hundred dead bodies on the floor and was thought to be untouchable. They handed me the controller and he picked Guile.

I picked Ken.

The first round kicked off and my hadouken was just a powerful and fast as I remember. It was all muscle memory. Ken beat Guile in round one and the crowd was roaring. The owner’s hands started to sweat. He looked at his controller to act like maybe there was something wrong. Round two kicked off, and his sonic booms were no match for me. The key to Street Fighter 2 is know it is a block and counter game. You block everything from a distance and up close, you usually do a low sweep or grab-and-throw. I won the game and the crowd was shocked. I tried standing up like a champion. All those hours as a kid paid off, somehow, someway.

He wanted a rematch.

1495527-0007.png

This time he chose Ryu. He wanted to prove I was a fluke. It would be hadouken vs hadouken. With a crowd of countless people (it was probably only a dozen), we kicked and punched and uppercutted but it was no use. I had simply “trained” more for this moment than him. I beat him again and he finally handed the controller to someone else saying he was tired. He could still hold his chin up. He was like 40-2 for the night.

That was my first memory of Street Fighter 2.

Whenever I pass by an arcade, I look for four games, all from the early 1990s. This is one I’ll stop and donate a quarter to. That quarter usually lasts me twenty minutes, except for one time in Vegas. I was at Circus Circus.

maxresdefault-1.jpg

Yes, the mythical casino of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The place is a relic at this point, but one cool thing is that it sports an awesome arcade in the back. So after losing maybe $150 in roulette, I roamed the place broke. In the arcade, I spotted the machine. I put in a quarter and began my usual 20 minute campaign. It wasn’t a regular machine, maybe it was Marvel vs Capcom or some variation. About five wins in, some Asian guy about twenty years older than me showed me a shiny quarter and motioned that he wanted to play against me. The only common language he spoke was Street Fighter. I said ok and he stuck in a quarter.

I beat him. He looked a little upset, but nodded gracefully.

I continued playing.

He came back with 4 fresh quarters. I nodded in approval and we played four more times and the result was the same. He nodded gracefully again and smiled but he wasn’t someone who gave up easily.

Then he came back and placed five dollars in quarters on the screen (for those who never played in an Arcade, if you place a quarter on the bottom edge of the screen and top of the dashboard where the planes meet, the quarters will stand up and make it easy to show how many you have left while not really blocking the screen). I looked at him, and he nodded as if this as life or death. His asian wife held on to her purse about five feet off to the side (she probably feared getting blamed for jinxing him). Part of me wondered if he was a designer on the original game. If you are reading this Circus Circus Asian man, let me know, because that would be an epic fact.

We kicked and punched each other in Circus Circus that night. Somewhere in his stack of quarters, he did beat me. Evidently he finally cracked the code to my weakness, which I won’t say, but there is definitely a character and sequence of moves I’m not great at stopping. It was fun.

When I rented Street Fighter 5 on PS4 this past weekend, I wish I could say the same. First the game asked me to download a 37 minute update. WTF? Then it has a minute of cutscenes to teach people who to fighter. WTF? Then each match takes like 20 second to load to a cutscene you only want to skip. WTF? The basic combos are all the same. Do all kids need a damn tutorial to play any game? What happened to just putting in the game and hitting start? Evidently the entire game is online, just playing with lag with other online players and ranking up. I have skill, but no time, so I stuck to the single player campaigns which are easy. I beat half the character’s storyline and barely got hit. The graphics are surely better and combos are kind of cool to see, but there is nothing original about the gameplay other than a random dancing bear with a red collar on one of the stages. I then decided at 12:30pm to try to do the 100 person survival mode. Here you fight a hundred players by only getting small boosts after each round. I put it on the hardest level … “hell” mode. I expected a tough fight. Instead, I vanquished the first 10 opponents easily. Evidently kids these days still don’t know how to block like I was taught. I was bored and tired and shut the game off. There is probably a kid out there at the top of the Street Fighter 5 PS4 leaderboards who thinks they are the greatest ever, but they would be greatly mistake. Somewhere in the world there is a middle aged person working at a job they loathe, with the golden reflexes of a champion.

I won’t be playing Street Fighter 5 ever again, but will still stop if I see the old arcade machine somewhere, or will ask about the old SNES you have in the corner of your living room if you invite me over. Don’t be sheepish. Let’s play.

NEXT: A GAME REVIEW OF CLASH OF CLANS (HOW I GOT SUCKED IN TO THE GAME)

NEXT: THE SUPER MARIO SPEED RECORDS (HOW FAST CAN THEY BEAT IT?)

Game Reviews: Contra (NES)

Contra.jpg

For those of you born after 1990, you do not know the awesome that is known as Contra. This was the game where you could enter the secret thirty-man code (up up, down down, left right left right, B, A, start!) and boom, you and your buddy would run the through the game blasting the enemy as if you were invincible.

img.png

And do you remember the S-gun? Spreading red balls of glory to an enemy near you. It was glorious and epic and deadly. I don’t remember how many times I beat the game without the thirty-man code, but it doesn’t matter now, does it? It was the coolest feeling you could have without having a damn game genie.

I played this game with friends whenever they came over. The coolest thing you could do to help a bro out was to lend them a life. To ask, “Can I borrow a life” was like “Shit man, I suck.”

I don’t know how many times I beat it, but I think I want to beat it one more time. It is time to search ebay and score myself a great copy.

Classic Game rating: 9/10

CHECK OUT MY STORY ON BUYING THE XBOX 360