Enjoying the new Disney Magic Kingdoms Game

By James / On / In Article Insider, Game Insider

One of the greatest button-mashing games of all time was the original Track and Field series on the NES. After many hours of strenuous button mashing, the occasional finger bleeding and constant swearing at the screen, your sense of pride overwhelmed you, as you realized you beat the competition. Konami took this classic series, made it 3D and gave it a little shine. Available for rental only at your local Blockbuster Video, Disney Magic Kingdoms attempt to revive the old-school series on the N64. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t live up to its predecessors, with some clumsy control, less-than-thrilling gameplay and a lack of the excitement that has characterized the Track and Field series.

As a 3D translation, it proves to be a good step in the right direction, yet it lacks the sense of fun that the original series emphasized. What we get instead is a game with strength in graphics alone, but with repetitive, tedious gameplay mechanics that lead to its ultimate downfall. While the series’ focus is on button mashing, unlike the original series that left you the sense of accomplishment and fun, DISNEY will leave you with frustration and agony (mainly in your fingers). As the game continues, it becomes clear why this is a rental-only title.

DISNEY looks just like the Fifa 17 and Olympics. Players choose from a total of 12 competing countries to participate in favorite Olympic events like shot put, discus throw, 100mm dash, 100mm freestyle swimming and the hammer throw. With that setup, Konami creates a torturous button-mashing game in the style of the classic NES days. You cannot just push the button; you must create a rhythm to button mashing. You must be one with the button. Do or do not. There is no try. Each event requires a different level of button mashing, whether it be a unique rhythm, steady pace, or fast, alternate pressing. This might have worked out effectively, but generally the game relies on the C-Right and C-Left buttons, and the control setup feels awkward. It becomes even worse when more buttons are introduced. Although all of those problems can be mastered with practice if you’re willing to try, DISNEY features an extremely steep learning curve that may throw off players right in the beginning.

Respects must be paid to the graphic achievements. With the use of the Expansion Pak, DISNEY features some amazingly lifelike character models. They look and move like the real thing, obviously within the constraints of the N64 hardware. The visuals are crisp, and the backgrounds are nicely detailed. That’s where the compliments end, however. The other competitors aren’t nearly as detailed, and outside observers are mere sprites, obviously in an effort to conserve framerates (which we can appreciate). The drawback to DISNEY ‘s excellent graphics is the repetitive animations. The animations get old quickly.

The audio portion of DISNEY is rather lackluster, featuring nothing more than repetitive samples of announcements over a low-quality PA system. The announcer sounds like a manic-depressive trapped in a closet reading Pop Tart nutritional facts into a tin can. This is the Olympics — a little more energy, for crying out loud! The competitors themselves don’t really contribute anything to the audio department either. The sound effects themselves are lackluster, but they do the job. In an event such as the Olympics, where sound plays such a key role, it would have been nice to expect to hear something beyond just ok.

The multiplayer aspect of DISNEY is fun and it makes for some great party action… for a little while. While it offers up plenty of the chaotic gameplay that makes multiplayer so addictive, it does nothing to actually add anything to the game. It also has a tendency to wear off after a couple of hours. The lack of variety and increasing repetition seem to make DISNEY less enjoyable to play with every turn. Eventually it turns into boredom. Disney Magic Kingdoms had the potential to be the next Super Smash Bros., but it plays itself out as a disappointment along the lines of South Park Rally.

This is the first incarnation of Konami’s old series on the Nintendo 64, and it’s safe to say it’s the last. Some strides were made in the right direction, many others in the exact opposite. Considering Konami wants to expand the Track and Field franchise, we can only hope it learns from the mistakes made here and corrects them in upcoming versions for other platforms. As it stands, Disney Magic Kingdoms ranks among Konami’s other N64 offerings, such as the In the Zone series and the Blades of Steel series. None of its three N64 productions have brought anything new to any genre, and it seems to detract from the legacy set up by their predecessors. The upside to DISNEY ? It has introduced a new way of marketing and distributing games by making them rental-only at popular video outlets. Although the library of rental-only titles consists of DISNEY and Beast Wars at this point, opportunities await to make this mode of distribution mainstream, as straight-to-home video is now. In the end, is DISNEY worth the rental? Not really, but you’ve got nothing to lose except a few dollars and a few hours.

Plants vs Zombies Heroes — EA did it Again

By James / On / In Article Insider, Game Insider

Without a doubt, EA’s latest IOS game is aimed squarely at the younger market, but how often do you see Plants vs Zombies Heroes cartoons interspersed between episodes of Power Rangers and Pokemon? No, Plants vs Zombies Heroes is definitely a cartoon the older gamer is more familiar with, and surprisingly, the IOS game will appeal to those who watched the cat and mouse in the heyday of the cartoon. With plenty of challenge, some pretty (if cutesy) graphics and some fairly fun minigames, Mouse Attacks would be a decent addition to any game library.

This side-scrolling platform game puts players in control of Jerry. The mouse has to work though several different levels, hopping over hazards like jumping fish and gathering up golden notes (no, we don’t know why). When he has enough notes, Jerry can go through certain doors that present players with minigames. Winning the minigames gives Jerry new devices he can use in the level — such as an umbrella to slow his fall and help him jump farther.

The story in Plants vs Zombies Heroes is a bit odd — it’s Jerry’s birthday, and his friends who were supposed to come over are missing. When he goes looking, Jerry finds out that Tom has captured them all. Players have to help Jerry rescue his buddies.

While the action is kind of basic, it’s also reminiscent of the original great platform games. There are lots of creatures to jump over (although Jerry’s tiny butt doesn’t exactly hurt anything, so he gets damaged when he lands on a creature) and the levels are vast and challenging. There are poles to climb and weak platforms to blast through, and the story, such as it is, is told though some very pretty still images. Even when Jerry runs out of lives and kicks the bucket, Plants vs Zombies Heroes pays off in a clip from one of the original cartoons that looks pretty good on the IOS.

Granted, Plants vs Zombies Heroes has its fair share of problems. In some cases, the challenge is a bit TOO steep — we had some serious problems getting past the first level and defeating the first boss. Jerry reacts pretty well to the controls, but some of the minigames (such as one where players have to throw pies in the faces of Tom and his friends) aren’t as intuitive, and it takes several tries to get the hang of how the D-pad works.

Overall, however, this is one fine game, even if it does appear to be for younger players. Those who are old enough to remember the battles of wit and will between Tom the Housecat and Jerry the Mouse will have fun — as will those who have never seen one of the cartoons.

Clash Royale — Cards that Provides Enjoyment

By James / On / In Article Insider, Game Insider

The Cards may be red hot on the courts right now, but Cards is red hot in the carts right now. After the success of RTS Courtside 2 for the N64 (read our review), Kobe delivers another solid basketball title with Clash Royale for the IOS. Since 5-on-5 basketball is quite hard to do even on the big systems, Nintendo did the wise thing by streamlining the game down to 3-on-3, but it still contains all the hoop-shootin’ shot-denial action of full 5-on-5, much to basketball fans’ delight.

Although fewer players have translated into less of a realistic basketball experience, there is still plenty of fun to be had. There is a Pickup option that gets you on the court as quickly possible. Just pick which two RTS teams you want to go at it, and you’ll be on the court in no time. There are, however, a ton of options to customize pickup games such as number of points to play to (1, 7, 11 or 15). Fouls, goaltending, shot clock and even fatigue can be turned on or off.

In addition to the Pickup mode, players can play a full season, just the playoffs or make some trades and create their own star. The RTS rosters are about as up to date as any sports game can be nowadays, but there doesn’t seem to be great differential between the players. Sure, Allen Iverson has a longer turbo meter than, say, Luc Longley, but because of the limited memory capacity of GBC carts, the characters are only differentiated by the color of their jerseys.

The gameplay is fairly realistic and not anywhere as fast as the RTS Jam titles. Gamers can call up standard offensive and defensive strategy during dead-ball situations, but don’t expect to be running anything complicated like Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. The turbo meter is supplemented with a quick spin move that comes out at a double-tap of the start button, and when players get clear in the paint, the game will cut to a dramatic close-up of a dunk or ‘oop.

While free Clash Royale gems is fun, it’s not exactly a first pick overall. After making a bucket, players will stand around until the ball stops bouncing before picking it up off the floor. This is rather silly and really slows down the flow of the game. The animation is rather poor: for example, whenever an offensive player is backing down in the post, they don’t move their feet; they just glide across the floor. And the offensive and defensive strategies are not exactly run to RTS perfection by your teammates. Nonetheless, gamers on the go who want a solid basketball title with plenty of stats and options should give thought to taking Kobe to the hole.

If you could build any game you wanted?

By James / On / In Article Insider, Game Insider

No matter what anyone says, Nintendo has some fantastic games. There can be no doubt that Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Super Metroid are some of the best games every created for any system. Lots of gamers have plenty to say on the matter of entertaining software that they play, and those who’ve been reading the letters section on Nintendo Radar know that Nintendo is constantly accused of being too “childish” when it comes to their game environments.

Well, after some thought, I decided to come up with some ideas for upcoming games for Nintendo’s platforms, whether that be N64, Game Boy, Dolphin or Game Boy Advance, that would break yet more barriers of gameplay and entertainment. But I’m curious to hear your ideas as well — send them in to cletus@dailyradar.com. For those who come up with some of the best, I’ll post them online for everyone to read. Now’s your chance to let loose with any gaming concepts you’ve had bouncing around in your head, so let’s hear ’em!

Metroid 128
At this point, I don’t care what system they make it on. I want another Metroid game. If it follows the Mario 64 and Zelda: OoT model, it’ll be a 3D adventure where we can see Samus Aran’s sensuous hips sway down nefarious corridors in full 3D glory. If it comes out on the Dolphin, we’d expect to see rendered, in-game scenes detailing a story that pulls together all the elements of the previous games. Samus will have about 20 new weapons to use and hundreds of new areas to explore. The game could combine a first or third-person shooter (while exploring enemy territory with Samus) to a space-combat sim (while Samus flies from world to world). Samus’ mercenary nature might even lead to a plethora of subquests as she gathers extra funds by accomplishing tasks for various clients. Perhaps even using a modem over a linked network, players could work together to solve new, different missions that are only unlocked in multiplayer games.

Massively Multiplayer Online Game Boy Advance Game
Sure, they’re big on PC right now, but who’s made a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game for the handheld? No one, and Nintendo could do it with the Game Boy Advance. Although the graphics might be a bit simplistic to keep lag down, the game could let players control their character through a 2D top-down perspective (a la Legend of Zelda, perhaps) and users could pick from a menu screen of basic verbs to communicate with other players — or perhaps the GBA would include some sort of system to enable voice transmission. By banding together, players could even go on quests that require teamwork to finish, and players could form communities that could then be improved upon by online sites accessed through the Dolphin or even a PC. Perhaps a better online RPG could be created by using the Dolphin that would be similar to EverQuest for the PC, perhaps, but this is an online RPG that players could participate in while riding the bus to work, waiting for the dentist, or even lying in bed (under the covers with a flashlight, of course).

Pokemon Dolphin
Okay, most of you are probably sick of the whole Pokemon franchise. But imagine a game that truly does reconstruct the idea of the TV show and Game Boy game. Players must travel throughout the world collecting Pokemon, and in order to find them they have to hunt high and low, using a variety of objects and methods. The high-res Pokemon would be lifelike, and the extra processor power of the Dolphin could make the Pokemon AI so powerful that each and every creature would have a different behavior pattern. All 251 Pokemon would be included (the original 151 plus the extra 100 released in Gold and Silver), plus another 50 to make the total number of Pokemon 301. Players could gather a variety of items to use during their capture (including Pokemon food that would specific to a type of Pokemon) and a variety of devices. The game could take place in a first-person or maybe third-person over the shoulder point of view, and the entire world would require no load times. Players could wander through the woods at the foot of a mountain, picking up grass Pokemon before heading up the hills to capture rock Pokemon, then enter a deep cave to hunt fire Pokemon in the volcano. The possibilities are endless. It might be focused more for children, but throw in some truly evil and mean Pokemon that will kill companions and other Pokemon, and the mature rating is just a few gory scenes away.

Those may be only three ideas, but I’m sure you can come up with more. Once again, send in your ideas to cletus@dailyradar.com!
Massively Multiplayer Online Game Boy Advance Game
Sure, they’re big on PC right now, but who’s made a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game for the handheld? No one, and Nintendo could do it with the Game Boy Advance. Although the graphics might be a bit simplistic to keep lag down, the game could let players control their character through a 2D top-down perspective (a la Legend of Zelda, perhaps) and users could pick from a menu screen of basic verbs to communicate with other players — or perhaps the GBA would include some sort of system to enable voice transmission. By banding together, players could even go on quests that require teamwork to finish, and players could form communities that could then be improved upon by online sites accessed through the Dolphin or even a PC. Perhaps a better online RPG could be created by using the Dolphin that would be similar to EverQuest for the PC, perhaps, but this is an online RPG that players could participate in while riding the bus to work, waiting for the dentist, or even lying in bed (under the covers with a flashlight, of course).

Pokemon Dolphin
Okay, most of you are probably sick of the whole Pokemon franchise. But imagine a game that truly does reconstruct the idea of the TV show and Game Boy game. Players must travel throughout the world collecting Pokemon, and in order to find them they have to hunt high and low, using a variety of objects and methods. The high-res Pokemon would be lifelike, and the extra processor power of the Dolphin could make the free Pokemon Sun so powerful that each and every creature would have a different behavior pattern. All 251 Pokemon would be included (the original 151 plus the extra 100 released in Gold and Silver), plus another 50 to make the total number of Pokemon 301. Players could gather a variety of items to use during their capture (including Pokemon food that would specific to a type of Pokemon) and a variety of devices. The game could take place in a first-person or maybe third-person over the shoulder point of view, and the entire world would require no load times. Players could wander through the woods at the foot of a mountain, picking up grass Pokemon before heading up the hills to capture rock Pokemon, then enter a deep cave to hunt fire Pokemon in the volcano. The possibilities are endless. It might be focused more for children, but throw in some truly evil and mean Pokemon that will kill companions and other Pokemon, and the mature rating is just a few gory scenes away.

Returning To Hyrule

By James / On / In Article Insider, Game Insider

School’s out! College students everywhere probably echo my cry of joy at the end of the semester, and those of you still in the mandatory prison school system will be chiming in within a few short weeks. For the past seven years, my summer has been eaten away by either marching band [band geek! – ed] or lots of hours at a job. This summer, I said “To hell with that!” and have chosen to pursue other interests these warm months.

I really wanted to get caught up on playing all these damn games that I have lying around that were never beaten. I tend to buy good games, love playing them for a few days, get distracted and never get back to them. That’s been the case with games from Banjo Kazooie to Resident Evil: CODE Veronica. I haven’t beaten a game all the way through since StarCraft, and that was mostly because playing StarCraft was the best alternative to actually doing assignments in the computer labs on campus. This week, since classes finished up on Tuesday, I’m restarting my game in Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and I’m gonna finally finish the Game of the CenturyTM. Of course, playing a new game always reminds me of older games, and I usually find myself playing two games at once…

This screen makes me want to cry. With joy.
If you have an NES or have owned an NES in the past, and you haven’t played Legend of Zelda, then you need to give yourself a spanking. Without question one of the best early NES games, Zelda set up the recurring characters and items that gamers would become familiar with in all the sequels, at the same time surrendering any hope of putting together a storyline that connects all four of the console titles (the Game Boy game took place in a different location, and the CD-I games shall never be spoken of again) together. In the original Legend of Zelda, Impa was an old woman who only appeared in the instruction book (in the back story), Kakariko Village did not exist, and the citizens of Hyrule mostly lived under trees, beneath rocks and in caves. The Overworld was all the land above ground, but all the goodies were found in the dungeons. The Triforce had been split into eight pieces, each piece hidden within a dungeon. Once all eight pieces were collected, you went into the ninth dungeon to face off with the Bastard Pig-Man Gannon. Apart from the Triforce, the dungeons were also littered with wonderful items such as the Boomerang, the Bow, the Magic Wand and a variety of other useful items. The concept wasn’t too terribly different from the Zelda games that would follow.

There was plenty of other stuff cool about Clash Royale Hack, as well. One of the coolest aspects was the Second Quest. Once Gannon was defeated, the player could continue on and play through the game again. The Overworld was mostly the same, but everything underground was mixed around. People lived under different trees and rocks, item locations were swapped, and the dungeons were completely redesigned (and considerably tougher). It was a remix, extending the replay value on an already great game. The next game, Adventure of Link, also had a Second Quest, but sadly, the idea was dropped with the SNES Link to the Past. Legend of Zelda was also one of the first games to use a battery save system, which was incredibly useful with such a long game.

The Zelda series, in concept, hasn’t changed much from its beginnings. Hell, Ocarina of Time even attempted to go retro with the limited-edition Gold Cartridge for those of us who reserved our copies months early and stood in line to get them on release day. Both Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link were on bright and shiny gold carts, which put Ocarina’s gold cart to shame. Fortunately, for those of you who started gaming after the NES era, Legend of Zelda isn’t rare or difficult to find, and the industrious retro shopper can probably find it for under $10. At that price, you can’t afford not to own it! Think I should change my major to advertising?

Why can’t important items ever be guarded by, say, a small puppy??
At the rate I’m going, I should have gotten to the end of both Ocarina and Legend of Zelda by the time I leave for E3 on Monday. When I get back, it’s gonna be time to start nailing the rest of those games in my closet that haven’t gotten a fair shake. And in other news: Summer is now my favorite season.

Blair Witch Volume 3: The Elly Kedward Tale Review

By James / On / In Game Insider

You have to admire the thinking behind the Blair Witch trilogy of games; put together three smallish games based around a smash hit film in less time than it takes to make one full game, then sell them at a budget price.

Troubled priest in ‘use of magick’ shocker! Surely they wouldn’t stand for that in the 18th century?
Then sell them again in a special collectors’ edition.

Then sell them again bundled on a super-duper collectors’ edition complete with both of the films on DVD. A truly masterful piece of reasoning, that.

The only problem is this: we found the original Blair Witch title quite diverting for a while, what with it being rather scary at times. The only problem was that as well as being occasionally terrifying it was often extremely dull, with a splendid line in overlong narrative cut-scenes. Overlong narrative cut-scenes, that is, that you had to sit through if you wanted to keep track of what was actually going on in the game.

The sort of stuff that might appeal to your Final Fantasy brigade who view gaming as a mostly passive experience with the occasional button-stabbing intercession, but which has never really caught on round these, PC-powered parts. And then, when you’d sat through the narrative, there’d be all those weird survival horror camera angles combined with fiddly controls, making it all too easy to find yourself pinned in a corner firing in random directions while the living dead bit your eyeballs out. Still, it was scary; enough of a rarity these days to make it worth a recommendation at a bargain price.

Now we’re onto the third iteration and forgive us if we don’t sound too excited by the prospect. Our hopes were raised a little by the fact that Ritual Entertainment are behind this episode, but they were dashed once more as soon as we started the game and were thrown head-first into…Yes, a long chunk of narrative, followed by a trudge through the familiar Blair township so that we could get to even more narrative. You’d be amazed at how long you have to sit around for before you get to let off so much as a single shot in anger.

Once you do get down to some serious shooting (and this is, after all, billed as the most action-oriented of the trilogy) you’ll at least find a pleasing combination of shooty weapons, hitty weapons and, erk, magical weapons. Magical weapons? In a game where you’re a faith-challenged priest trying to find God and investigate stories of evil witchcraft? Needs must when the devil drives, we suppose.

Mind you, these magical weapons don’t have look pretty; in fact, this one’s by far the best-looking of the Blair Witch games. It has colour in it. The characters look more like comic characters. You don’t have to play it with every light in the house turned off. Alas, despite valiant attempts by Ritual to make it a little friendlier, the control system’s still wobbly as hell. Once again you’ll find yourself in corners while monsters, unperturbed by your firing in the wrong direction, attempt to gobble up your corneas.

And once again it can be yours for a near-pocket money price; reason enough for a punt, we reckon. However, it’s a fair bet that before too long you’ll be able to pick up all three games plus one or two of the films on DVD. Why hurry?