By Agence France-Presse LONDON -- One of the most eagerly-anticipated games in the history of the Sony PlayStation has been delayed because of concerns some of the background music may offend Muslims, the game's developers said Monday. LittleBigPlanet, in which gamers can customize the rag-doll protagonist Sackboy and allow it to roam through an interactive world filled with different challenges, had been hailed by video games website IGN as "nothing short of astounding" and given a review rating of 9.5 out of 10. But its release date has been put back after one of its background music tracks, a song by Mali-born artist Toumani Diabate, was found to have included expressions from the Koran, which could be interpreted as an offense to Muslims. "We're sure that most of you have heard by now that one of the background music tracks that was licensed from a record label for use in the game contains two expressions that can be found in the Koran," a statement on the game's website read. "We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused. "We will begin shipping LittleBigPlanet to retail in North America the week of October 27." According to a separate statement on the website of Media Molecule, the British-based developers of LittleBigPlanet, they were "shell-shocked and gutted" by the delay to the game's release. "We learnt... that there is a lyric in one of the licensed tracks which some people may find offensive, and which slipped through the usual screening processes," the statement read. "Obviously MM and Sony together took this very seriously. LBP should be enjoyable by all." A post on a Sony public Internet forum alerted developers to the issue, noting that Diabate's "Tapha Niang" included two expressions from the Koran that could cause offense to Muslims. The forum user, who identified himself only as "yasser", said that "Muslims consider the mixing of music and words from our Holy Quran deeply offending (sic)," in a post on Thursday. The delayed release was welcomed by some Muslim commentators, with Manzoor Moghal of the Muslim Forum think-tank telling the BBC that the game's developers should be praised for "taking decisive action by withdrawing these games immediately, and releasing a version that is not offensive to Muslims." Sony was forced to apologize in June 2007 when it emerged that one of its video games, "Resistance: Fall of Man", featured a violent shootout inside a building that resembled an Anglican cathedral in Manchester, northern England. The news was condemned by Anglican leaders, who demanded that the game be removed from store shelves, a request Sony refused. In 2005, the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, deemed blasphemous in the Islamic world, in a Danish newspaper sparked outrage and violent protests in several countries. The caricatures were then reprinted earlier this year by several other Danish newspapers.
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By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net Traveller's Tales must be quite happy with what they've been doing for the last few years. Its LEGO Star Wars adventure games have been hits among kiddie and older gamers and these successfully introduced younger people to the historic Star Wars franchise. It's quite a tall order for a developer to create a new game, using the same game engine on a different franchise and make it successful. Not surprisingly, it did. Traveller's Tales (and publisher LucasArts) introduced the same gameplay to Indiana Jones starting with the original trilogy. It brings the same blocky in-game players, the same action gameplay, and the same of the old platforming and puzzle-solving adventures that the LEGO Star Wars fans enjoyed. The LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures is a sure-fire hit that even those not familiar with the Harrison Ford-starred films will have as much fun playing as finding out where the Indiana Jones history started. As the title implies, LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures is based on the first three movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade. Nearly all of the most memorable scenes in the movies have been incorporated into the game but to avoid confusion, the developers made Barnett College as Indy’s "base of operations.” This is where he teaches. To start an adventure in one movie the player has to go through portals which are Indy's office, a theater and an artifact room. Upon entering, each of the portals will first direct to a short cut scene describing that part of the movie scene. The base of operations concept in this game is similar to the LEGO Star Wars games where the players have to start in a Mos Eisley cantina, which has doors leading to certain stages in the game. Those who have played LEGO Star Wars might wonder how LEGO Indiana Jones would fare without Force-powered Jedis or gun-totting droids and soldiers. Not to worry, Indy's whip is as good as a lightsaber and his other buddies Marion Ravenwood (who is also present in the more recent Indiana Jones movie), Elsa Schneider, Willie Scott and even Indiana Jones Sr. have skills that are useful in the game. Some characters are also unlockable, such as Thugees, Rene Belloq and Walter Donovan who are adept in problem solving. There are missions in the games that may require the special skills of particular characters in the game, which is why players opt to be familiar with the playable characters in the game. Only two characters can be used in each game and control can be transferred to the other character for specific purposes. Humorously, the developers also added a bit of zest in the game by introducing the phobias of each of the characters. These phobias can be in the form of snakes (for Indy), spiders (for Willie) and rats (Indy Jones Sr.). The characters will freeze and move slowly when these creatures are around them so players have to change control to another character to avoid being affected by the presence of the creature, after which the frozen character will start moving normally. The game is both an adventure and a puzzle-driven game. However, the puzzles are not too difficult even for younger kids. Some puzzles require players to build vehicles, which are pieces of strewn LEGO pieces in a certain area. When the pieces are formed, players can use these to travel to the next stage or to escape enemies. There are also a few mini-games, noteworthy of which is the boulder scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, which will require the player to run away from a LEGO boulder through a tunnel while avoiding bumping into walls and falling into spiked pits as the camera continuously shifts. There are times when puzzles do not need to be experienced or even finished as the game's major puzzles will already allow players to unlock the next scenes. The good thing about this is that players can always go back to these mini-puzzles which also unlock treasure chests, similar to mini-kits in LEGO Star Wars. Prizes found in these treasure chests will go to the artifact room in the Barnett College and can be viewed when Indy goes back to the base of operations. As for the combat system, LEGO Indiana Jones tries as much as it could to be more family-oriented since so much of the guns in the game are still toys. Likewise, because Indiana mostly uses his whip, he can just pick up guns dropped by his enemies and pick them up to shoot others. The guns have limited ammunition though normally they're not necessary as Indy's whip can do quite some damage on its own. On the other hand, humor is also flavorful in this game and make up for the lack of dialogue. The mime-like actions of the LEGO characters already tells a lot about what the game is all about. The game isn't too hard to beat and can be finished pretty quickly (about 8 hours in easy mode and only the major puzzles are played). It's also difficult to actually die in the game because characters respawn in previous areas. It does not take away the fun at all because characters can die several times in some of the more difficult puzzles. It's also highly replayable due to the presence of many mini-puzzles or mini-games, which can only be played by using the correct character. Surprisingly, the PlayStation 2 version of LEGO Indiana Jones holds up in terms of graphics with the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. This is largely because the game is based on an old but modified LEGO Star Wars game engine that also came out on the PS2. Hopefully, Traveller's Tales will release a game version of the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull just to complete the series, much as it did with Star Wars.
By Agence France-Presse SINGAPORE --Sony has no plans to cut the price of its PlayStation 3 game console, the company's chief financial officer Nobuyuki Oneda said Friday. "This year, our strategy is not to sell more quantity for PS3 but to concentrate on profitability," Oneda told a forum in Singapore. "Our plan is not to reduce the price," he added. His comments followed a report in the Wall Street Journal which said Microsoft plans to cut the price on a popular model of its Xbox 360 game console in an effort to boost sales in the face of stronger competition from rival Sony. The Journal report cited people familiar with the matter who said the price cut would come as early as Sunday. Oneda also said he expects Sony's PS3 operations as well as the broader game segment to be profitable for the current year ending March 2009. With a report from Dow Jones Newswires.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net LET'S see if an Iron Man video game based on the movie-comic book tie-in would save the world from the bad movie-video game curse. Nope, it won't. Our faith in even the most beloved comic book franchises cannot save the poor gamer from having to suffer from the effects of playing video games based on movies. At some point you would ask, "Why do all movie-video game tie-ins suck?" Iron Man the game is a big joke. Which begs the question: why do developers and publishers bother releasing a title that they know will suck? Simple: some of us get suckered into shelling out a few bucks to satisfy our curiosity and at some point, to falsely believe that there's a future for video game-movie tie-ins until they're dashed the moment we chuck the game disc into our players. Just the same, it is still the duty of a few poor reviewers to play the game all throughout just to come up with believable and unbiased reviews, to save other gamers the trouble of having to play a crappy game. Luckily, Iron Man for the PlayStation 2 is one short stint. I can't say the same for reviewers on the other consoles but most likely they'd share similar sentiments. Iron Man the game is loosely based on the movie of the same name (that's obvious enough). The video game's story begins almost the same way as the movie does where Tony Stark gets kidnapped by Afghan terrorists (incidentally called Ten Rings, a direct reference to the Ten Rings of Power wielded by Iron Man nemesis the Mandarin) to make a weapon using Stark's own equipment. Instead, Stark whips up a simple armor to make his escape. He returns to the US where he develops a new armor, which he uses to stop the Ten Rings, and later on, against the Iron Monger worn by his rogue executive Obadiah Stane. The story arc continues beyond the movie and Stark faces off against other enemies from his comic books including Titanium Man, Melter, Controller and Whiplash, all of whom are bosses. The story is pretty simple and does have a lot of reference to the comic books. But I can't say the same for the gameplay, which is nothing short of being deadweight. The game is played in third-person perspective with the camera right behind Iron Man. The control scheme is similar to nearly all first-shooters; the left analog button is for movement (forward, backward, strafe left and right) and the right is for the camera angle. R1 is for firing weapons, R2 is to activate flight and L1 is for hovering. The D-pad serves as a power conduit wherein the player can set where the energy level of Iron Man will be utilized, such as his propulsion, his palm repulsor blasters, and armor strength. The game features a lot of explosions but they are all repetitive. The first time Iron Man takes flight the player will get a chance to enjoy flying around swooping and shooting ground enemies with his repulsor blasters and most often his Gatling gun. When bored, the player can use Iron Man's Unibeam, which is similar to his repulsor blast but is much wider and can take out more enemies. However, it takes some time to charge up the Unibeam and in which case, it won't be used that often unless during boss stages. Yes, Iron Man is particularly tough even in the game. In the comic books, it takes much more powerful weapons to even dent his armor. The video game gives that much credit to Iron Man so he won't need any life globes to charge up. What he uses is backup battery power. When Iron Man's armor level goes down he goes into a "life-threatening" power drain. No worries. The player can start it up again simply by playing a mini-game to defibrillate Iron Man. When properly timed Iron Man can charge up his armor level again and he can go back his merry way destroying enemies. Unfortunately, it's not always merry because the enemies are somewhat slow, uncoordinated and less challenging. Iron Man can just fly around destroying anything that's moving. Even the boss stages are pretty easy. I would have half-expected the Titanium Man to pose a challenge to Iron Man but I'm left just avoiding his attacks and countering with the Gatling gun or repulsor blast. Bar none, Iron Man the game is one of the most boring movie-video game tie-ins ever made. Not even the game's 3D cut scenes and the borrowed voice acting of some of the movie's actors (Rober Downey Jr. and Terrence Howard) can bring the game to life. It's a total waste of time.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net IT certainly is the most absurd mini-cartoon series ever created but it does a lot of good for the heart, because it'll make you laugh pretty hard. Harvey Birdman is one of the characters in "Adult Swim," a late-night show that is one of Cartoon Network's most original comedy animations. It is quite a surprise that a video game was released by Capcom to emulate the show's off-beat humor. The PlayStation 2 game Harvey Birdman, Attorney-at-Law is largely an interactive video game that takes the player to the world of Harvey Birdman, a retired 1960s superhero-turned-lawyer for a law firm called Sebben and Sebben. The entire series is very short; about four to five hours, depending on your speed of gameplay. Speaking of which, this game doesn't have much gameplay. Would-be players of Harvey Birdman may have to be told to watch out for its lack of the normally fast-based gameplay that is expected of a video game. There is barely enough playing around and it's basically a TV series offshoot squeezed into a DVD game. Its interactive nature is more of pointing and clicking on items on the screen, moving forward and backward and, well, that's basically it. However, what it lacks in gameplay it makes up for with its utter absurdity to comedic effect. The humor used in this game is just as good as the Adult Swim TV series and it will give players moments of laughter, especially with the dialogue of the characters. Just as in the TV series, Harvey Birdman will take on court cases that range from finding out who robbed a bank to proving that Harvey's partner, Peter Potamus (another Hanna-Barbera cartoon character way back in the 60s) is not an arsonist. You play Harvey Birdman to solve these cases. Each case will require Harvey to search for evidence or clues that he can use during the court case. Harvey can interact with witnesses (most of whom are also 60s characters) and police officers to help him out with his cases. It's quite easy to examine crime scenes as the animation would almost always point these out and the relevant items themselves stand out already. All throughout his investigation, Harvey will have to contend with characters whose idiotic statements could be used in his case. Investigations will require Harvey to ask questions, which the player will have to choose via an on-screen menu. Many of the selections are just very easy but once in a while you'll want to ask stupid questions and most often, the responses are comic. Some statements are truly funny but definitely not for kids. Once the investigation is completed, off he goes to the courtroom where the gameplay moves somewhat faster. Here, you will examine your witnesses and cross-examine the other lawyer's witnesses. Just as in the investigation, you'll have to ask questions and listen to witness testimonies before using your evidence, which you could either present or press against the characters on the witness stand. Making correct choices in pressing or presenting evidence will give the players additional crests, which serve as life bars. Making wrong moves, however, will reduce the crests and it's game over if you run out. It's fairly common that you'll be making mistakes and running out of crests but the good part here is that the game has its own save system so that you can backtrack a few times to make the correct choices. It can become a bit tedious at times but the verbal exchanges between the lawyers, witnesses, and even the judges and jury are very funny and sometimes it you almost wouldn't even be able to tell if you were playing the game or watching a really long episode of "Adult Swim." The overall look and feel of the game isn't any different from the TV series. In fact, it is the TV series. The only difference is that it that gives the player/viewer a chance to play the second-rate-former-superhero-turned-second-rate lawyer for a firm that defends has-been cartoon characters. The storylines for each of the cases are continuous so there is little downtime. It's even a form of encouragement for players to finish their investigation quickly so they can move to the courtroom where much of the witty dialogue takes place. For anyone who expects action and lots of clicking, this isn't the game for you. Only fans of the series or just anyone who wants a hearty laugh should watch/play this. Not everyone will say it's worth P2,000, but people who love cartoon comedies will be happy to have paid the amount.
By Relly Carpio INQUIRER.net THE LATEST installment in the Turok first-person shooter series will become available starting Thursday at DataBlitz stores, according to Maricel Espiritu of DataBlitz. "Turok for the PS3 will be available tomorrow at all our branches, though there is still no advisory yet when it will be available for the Xbox 360," Espiritu said. One thing going for this latest version of the game is the simplicity of the story. No longer are alien masterminds or alien technology involved (well, not too much, anyway). Also, what sets it apart is the multiplayer FPS setting where aside from worrying about your opponents, you have to worry about dinosaurs walking around trying to have you for lunch. Turok has the beginnings of a survival horror survival game as you start with nothing but your trusty knife. But from the initial images and videos, you will be using your trusty knife a lot as the game has a lot of cool knife action scenes built into it. Considering that Turok has always been a great bows and arrows and knife game, this was sort of expected, but using current generation console technology, it is an immense leap from the unrealistic dagger waving of old. Turok, Son of Stone began as a comic book character that first came out in 1954. Since then he has appeared in various incarnations of the comic, the last being from Valiant Comics and Acclaim Comics. Turok will also be available for the PC in March.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net I’M an air guitarist, that is I strum my fingers without a real guitar. Actually, I don’t know how to play the guitar nor will I have the patience to learn how to. I just use my imagination like most non-guitarists. But Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (PlayStation 2) just about made me wan to pick up a real guitar and learn how to pluck chords. This is the very first time I’ve played a game from the Guitar Hero series, which has been getting more and more popular and gave PS2 owners a reason to actually keep their PS2s for quite a while. This is not a game about graphics and as such players will not be concerned or distracted by the 3D background, which I would say is nominally good in some sense. All the players will be concerned about are the five colored notes from the top of a screen coming down along a virtual guitar neck and the player will have to press the corresponding fret button on their guitar controller. It’s also important that every time a fret button is pressed the strum bar has to be pressed down as well. As in a real guitar, there is also a whammy bar for hammer-on and pull-offs for rapid, consecutive notes. First-time players like me will find playing the game difficult to start with, especially when having to press five buttons with only four left fingers (the left thumb is at the back of the guitar neck). Most of the time, the index finger will be used to press two buttons as it is the most movable finger among the four. Still, it takes quite some time to learn what to press and can be daunting even with the easy mode. The concept is similar to the arcade Dance Dance Revolution wherein the player has to time their button press when the notes hit the empty colored buttons at the bottom of the screen. Missing a note will cause some points and the Rock Meter to be shaved off. The Rock Meter serves as the player’s health and when it drops to zero it will cause the music to stop. Not missing for a while will give special bonus points to the player. Bonus points become harder to achieve as the levels increases. Getting in the “groove,” that is, being able to completely following the buttons on screen would take at least 1 hour. But once the buttons are mastered, it’ll be hard for anyone to let go of the controller. If just following the buttons is fun enough, there are little touches in the game that makes playing Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock even more fun. One is the use of the Star Power Meter. This is a special meter that has to be filled first by correctly pressing notes with stars. Its main use is to double the points earned during gameplay. When filled, the player can activate the Star Power Meter in two ways: either by slamming the whammy bar near the strum bar or raising the guitar vertically. The latter is more fun especially if the guitar has that gyro-type function (mine does!) and it makes you feel like a real rock star. Another feature to Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is the two-player game, either in cooperative mode or battle mode. For the cooperative mode, one plays the lead guitar while the other plays either a rhythm or bass guitar. Meanwhile, battle mode has you compete against another player. Technically, I didn’t have a second controller and my companion had to use the standard PS2 controller. Nevertheless it was still fun. Veterans of the Guitar Hero series will be familiar with some of the in-game characters such as Johnny Napalm, Axel Steel and Izzy Sparks who will be strutting their stuff. But rock music fans will be familiar with real rock stars Tom Morello, Slash, and Bret Michaels who will make appearances as boss stages in the career mode. Of course, what’s Guitar Hero if not for the playlist? While this is the very first time I’ve played a Guitar Hero game I could say that it the latest version has a very good playlist that gave me days of fun. It’s also one of the very few times that I’ve actually stood up for at least 2 hours playing the game if only to listen closely to the music (the constant tapping on the fret buttons could sometimes be distracting). As the name implies, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is all about the big-hair musicians of the early 70s, 80s and 90s, with a few new bands that play classic rock music. Among the legends here are Kiss, Alice Cooper, Cream, The Who, Rolling Stones, Metallica, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedy, Scorpion, Aerosmith, Guns ‘N Roses, Black Sabbath, among others. Newer bands include Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, The Killers and Beastie Boys. There are at least 150 songs in the game. Take note, half of the songs here are not easy to strum. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is available on all of the game consoles (Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3) as well as PC and Mac, but the PS2 is already so much fun for both newbie players and veterans of the series and has a lot of replayability and can be fun for a group of music fanatics. It would be easy to say that this game becomes a legend of its own.
By Erin Chupeco, hackenslash Contributor INQUIRER.net PICTURE this: you are a recently orphaned student who has just enrolled into Gekkoukan High -- a prestigious establishment that seems normal by all outward appearances -- that is, until the stroke of midnight, when the world literally changes. People are transformed into "coffins," to protect them from hordes of enemies called Shadows that patrol the area, seeking fresh meat to feed upon. Fortunately -- or perhaps unfortunately -- you are one of the chosen few with the ability to summon Personas; entities that are a part of your character’s psyche, that can be used to combat these Shadows. You are, however, the only one in the student body to switch and use multiple Personas in combat, granting you leadership of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad, formed to defeat the Shadows once and for all. And it only gets weirder. In terms of storytelling and plot concepts, Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is a revolutionary breakthrough, playing and telling its story like no other franchise to date. While players do not need to be aware of previous Persona installments to understand the game, fans will find a few similarities in the game with its predecessors. Optimism, rainbows, puppy dogs, and general happiness; these are not necessarily things that you will find while playing Persona 3. The game presents different complex concepts, raising issues like the psychological implications of sanity, paradigm shifts, and even mock "suicides" -- most of the characters for instance, can only manifest their Persona during battle by pointing an Evoker (a gun-like weapon made to force Persona out of one’s soul) to their heads and pulling the trigger. Hardworking student by day, Shadow killer by night Life in Persona 3, however, isn’t all raindrops and emo music. Players get to experience the life of a regular student during the day -- the character gets to study (increasing his intelligence if successful), plays sports and extracurricular activities (increasing his strength), or even watch chick flicks to increase his charisma. More importantly, relationships with other characters can be established and further developed -- this plays an important role during the Dark Hour, which lasts from midnight until 1 in the morning. The level of friendships that you maintain with other characters can determine the type of Persona or bonuses that you can receive once the battle is done. How you choose to spend your day will adversely affect your combat abilities at night, and the limited time available forces you to prioritize the abilities that best suits your playing style. As the only character with the ability to use and switch among multiple Persona (each with their own specialty ranging from attack to support), the player also has the ability to combine multiple Persona in order to form a new and more powerful entity, and there are almost unlimited possibilities for combination. The Persona themselves can range from the insufferably cute, to forbidding warriors, to fantastic beasts, to even strange brain-like entities with appendages. After every battle, a small card game is played, where players can earn new Persona or bonus items, though these can depend on the character’s relationship with other members of the party. The downside to Persona 3’s gameplay, though, is that you are unable to control other characters in your party; instead these are relegated to AI, which allows these characters to fight depending on their current health status. Players however, can set tactics to determine the type of combat they should engage in during battle. While the AI acts intelligently for the most part, players may find it frustrating that fights can’t be finished faster by commanding other characters to place elemental or status attacks against Shadows weak in that particular element, or because another character heals yours a little too late. Abandon hope and a sense of direction, all ye who enter Another restricting feature of the game may revolve around Tartarus -- the dark, uninhabited building where most of the battles will be taking place. There are no random battles that take place here, and upon spotting any one of the Shadows lurking around the corridors, one can have the opportunity to launch a first strike -- not always an easy task, because your inability to control the other characters in your party can cause them to obstruct the path. While floor layouts change frequently with every exploration, many may find this aspect of leveling up and battling their way through repetitive mazes of virtually similar-looking doors and rooms very tedious. Some floors can only be unlocked through story sequences, so players will find themselves going through the same levels again and again as dictated by the storyline. The longer you explore Tartarus, the lower your party’s physical status becomes -- once it drops to “tired” or “sick,” their combat ability becomes limited. Leaving Tartarus and spending a good night’s sleep replenishes their health. The music heard throughout the game mixes a hefty dose of rap, rock music, and urban accompaniments -- which would have worked well for the game, had these not have been repeated over and over again. Graphics-wise, Persona 3 does not boast the best visuals of most 3D games, but they are nonetheless appealing eyecandy. Most of the character art during dialogues are well-drawn in mature anime themes, and every Persona is well-rendered and visually creative. Battle sequences are masterfully crafted, although perhaps the most visually shocking sequences in the game are when characters shoot themselves in the head with their Evokers, sending what may or may not be figurative glass-like "brain matter" shooting outwards. Multiple personas, multiple fun Controversial or not, Persona 3 does work in terms of its singular storytelling and gameplay, and its masterful take on themes where most other companies fear to tread. Once you get past the sometimes grueling leveling, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is a decided must-have for every gamer who’s keen on trying something new and challenging -- it encourages players to plan out the skills and fighting styles they would like their characters to possess, and ultimately, plan out how they would like to play the game. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Genre: Role-Playing Game Developer: Atlus Publisher: Atlus ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
By Erin Chupeco, hackenslash Contributor INQUIRER.net THERE are very few 2D rendered games in the market today that would even dare to compete with the more aesthetically pleasing 3Ds and FMVs trends that most current games have adopted. Fortunately, Odin Sphere for the PlayStation 2 is one of them. Combining beautifully hand-painted artworks and compelling gameplay with well-thought out plot twists and lovable characters, Odin Sphere is a traditional masterpiece, and one of the last few games for the PS2 worth waiting for. Save the Forest Witch, save the world Odin Sphere is a story of five people, all destined to play a part in changing the world and stopping the coming Armageddon -- or furthering its progress. Odin Sphere is also a fairy tale -- tales of love and triumphs set in the midst of war. The game starts when a young girl named Alice wanders into her grandfather’s attic. Selecting a book prompts the player to read (as Alice), and play through the lives of the character featured. Completing a book unlocks more books, and therefore unlocks more characters to play through -- five in all. Once finished, a special book involving all characters is then made available for play. The talking frog should have been playable. Seriously Gwendolyn is a young Valkyrie who had just recently lost an older sister, and fights under her father, King Odin’s, banner -- not to win the war, but to win his love. Cornelius is a young prince of Titania, who wakes up one day to find that he has been transformed into a Pooka -- an anthropomorphic rabbit. Taking up the sword of a fallen ancestor, he must now fight to break the curse. Mercedes, a fairy princess who lost her mother during the Fairies' war against Odin, must now assume the mantle of queen, aided by a frog who is more than what it appears to be. Oswald is a human knight fighting for the fairies -- but when a betrayal leaves him with no master to serve, he decides to pursue the interests of his heart instead. Velvet, royal survivor of the destroyed nation of Valentine, must piece together the meaning of a prophecy handed down by her mother, to halt the Armageddon -- and to defy her destiny, which predicts her own doom... Characters don't always fight on the same side Playing as Gwendolyn, for example, the player may be forced to fight Mercedes as a boss; while playing Mercedes will pit the player against Oswald. Best of all, some enemies you'll have to fight aren't always the bad guys -- just misunderstood. Sometimes, you'll even find yourself questioning the motives of the character you yourself play. The Aenir and the Faeries are at war -- each side battling to control the Cauldron, where powerful weapons called Psyphers can be forged. Powerful wizards called the Three Wise Men plot behind the scenes, seeking to bring about the prophesied Armageddon, where they shall rule in its aftermath. Each character's stories are told from their own perspectives -- viewing these stories in their entirety can be accessed by picking up Alice's cat instead of selecting a book. Attentions to detail is what makes the game one of the best in its genre -- some lingering questions players may have while playing Gwendolyn, for example, are answered upon playing Oswald -- and transition from one tale to the next is smooth and easily understood despite the changing views. Different weapons for every gamers' preference Each character comes with different skills, and plays differently. Gwendolyn flies, but must land to use her spear. Oswald's skill turns him into a powerful shadow, and Velvet can swing from chains to avoid enemies. Mercedes, by far the most unique character, can fly without limits and shoot from her crossbow at a distance. Cornelius can perform sword spin attacks -- that, and you play him as a talking rabbit. Each area route is shaped like a sphere and are linear -- players must clear enemies from one sphere before proceeding to the next, leading to the stage's boss. Extra bonuses are given for areas cleared with little or no damage taken, or completed within a timeframe. Enemies become phozons (balls of energy) when they die, and the characters are equipped with Psyphers -- weapons that can absorb phozons and increase their Psypher levels, increasing attack strength. Characters do not get experience by defeating enemies. Instead, seeds are planted; eating the fruit from these seeds increases your HP total. Eating at Pooka cafes speeds up the process -- you only need to bring along the ingredients needed, and one of the five different coins used in Erion as payment. Alchemy also comes into play; combining different potions and items can produce different power-ups and healing aids. Where 2D art pwns 3D While Odin Sphere is a 2D game, it does not take away the beautiful watercolor effect it evokes. Backgrounds are painted in lush, vibrant colors, and while fighting many of the bosses (which include flying dragons, an underworld queen with shocking endowments, giants, and three-headed creatures that fill up the screen), you can’t help but stop and admire them in-battle. The character art is breathtaking, though sometimes impractical. (As pretty as Velvet looks, she could not have spent her life living in the swamps clad in nothing but lingerie.) Odin Sphere is also one of the few games where most of the English voices were pleasing to hear, though paraphrasing could have been better in some parts instead of opting for the literal English translations, to keep the dialogue fluid. The Japanese voice cast on the other hand, composed of many A-list voice actors in Japan’s seiyuu industry, is near flawless. No one said averting world's end was going to be easy Don't let the pretty art deceive you -- Odin Sphere is fairly difficult to play. It takes some trial and error to find a pattern in a boss' routine to beat it, and players will need to level up on their own (and eat a lot of Pooka delicacies) to beat the game. Perhaps one of the main contentions of Odin Sphere is its loading time. Hordes of enemies coming at you all at once tend to bog down the screen. The amount of items characters can carry is also severely restricted compared to the items you can get per sphere, even at the maximum. Finally, the land of Erion is composed of only six to seven main areas; this means that by the time you get to play Velvet, you’d have run through the forest swamp area five times playing as the other characters, albeit with different enemy difficulties. That said, however; the story sequences, amazing art, and persuasive storytelling are worth what few vexations Odin Sphere has. In fact, the (good) ending is more than worth all the effort. Gamers with a love for good stories and well-developed characters will be enchanted by this modern fairtytale, and fans who like their games challenging won’t be disappointed. Odin Sphere is a one-of-a-kind game destined to be a classic many years from now in the same class as Ico or Shadow of the Colossus. Odin Sphere Genre: Action RPG Developers: Atlus, Vanillaware Publisher: Atlus ESRB Rating: T
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net IF there’s one popular Marvel character in video games, it's Spider-Man, who has had several titles under his belt in the last 30 years. He started out as an 8-bit hero in 1982 in the Atari 2600, then in 1987 in the Sega Genesis and PC until he became a major franchise title in the Sony intendo and Microsoft consoles. Spider-Man has been reincarnated in just about every known console. In his latest video game adventure, the developers (Next Level, Artificial Mind and Movement, Beenox Studios) made major changes in the storyline of the web-slinger that may not be considered as canon. But most of these changes are actually coming from the last three Spider-Man movies and while the video game-movie tie-ins did not fare as well as the movies, the other Spider-Man titles that were not related to movies were quite successful. I'm reviewing the PlayStation 2 version, and Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is one such title wherein the adventure is very loosely based on the movies. As in past video game adventures, Spider-Man will swing his way through levels of enemies up until the boss battles. But one unique difference in this game is that the end-level boss becomes Spider-Man’s sidekick, in much the same vein as in the Final Fantasy video games where the bosses become summoned guardians. Simply put, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is an action-adventure game and as such, he’ll be fighting a lot throughout the game with only a few minor puzzles to solve. The plot revolves around an unknown enemy who seems to be controlling Spider-Man’s foes using parts of the meteor that spawned Venom. Spider-Man is initially helped by S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (who remains unplayable in the PS2 version). This enemy is also using the meteor to summon ghost-like monsters called phantoms. Therefore, Spidey’s mission is to find out who the mysterious enemy is but in order to do so, he’ll have to employ the help of his legendary foes who are mind-controlled. By the way, his foes mostly look like the ones from the Spider-Man movies, particularly Doctor Octopus and Green Goblin whose costumes came directly from the films. His other enemies that can be played as sidekicks include Venom, New Goblin, Sandman, Rhino and Scorpion. One good thing about this game also is that Spider-Man is faithful to his trademark humor. The video game Spider-Man remains funny all throughout the game, though players may find it slightly disturbing that his foes almost never put up a fight (I mean after the boss battle) when Spider-Man is trying to convince them to join him in finding out who their tormentor is. The story may be simple but it’s just as good as any other action-adventure video game. However, the gameplay leaves much to be desired. Anyone who has played such games as the four-player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Lego Star Wars would notice that the gameplay becomes boring and repetitive. If playing in single battle, Spider-Man can choose any of his foes who can join him in his adventures. Spidey and his sidekick can be played by toggling so you can play either as Spidey or the enemy. Also, take note that it’s not just his enemies that Spider-Man can play with. His other partners can be heroes, too, such as Silver Sable, Black Cat, Prowler and Iron Fist. But while playing any of his friends and fiends may be a treat, it’s not as good as playing the webhead himself. He has a lot more special attacks and combos that can deliver more damage to enemies. The game’s artificial intelligence also isn’t particularly, well, intelligent. The enemies would just come in and attack. Sometimes, they actually wait in line when Spidey is being attacked by another enemy though there would be open opportunities for enemies to attack from behind. Of course, by the time they get behind Spider-Man or his sidekick, the enemies in front would already be dead. In fighting enemies, Spider-Man would still get damage so there are red orbs coming out of dead enemies that can be collected to replenish life. By the way, it’s also very hard to die in the game, even in its hardest mode. The missions are divided into cities or historical places such as Nepal, Tokyo and Cairo. Spider-Man and partner have to swing their way through. Well, Spider-Man doesn’t necessarily have to swing around buildings that much. He can just run around or climb buildings but most of the time he’ll just run. The game is also particularly short and can be finished within 10 hours. The graphics in Spider-Man: Friend or Foe isn’t as great as in previous games. It’s outdated and seems to have come from past Spider-Man movie games. The developers could have gone with cel-shading like the one used for Ultimate Spider-Man (which should be considered as the best game in the series). Sad to say, the graphics is outdated. Overall, the game feels like a remake of older Spider-Man games so it’s not particularly fun. However, if fans of the franchise want to taste something different in playing a Spider-Man game, especially the opportunity to play alongside Spidey’s long-time enemies, then this is the game for you. Other players may want to play the next game. Spider-Man: Friend or Foe Genres: Action/Adventure, Beat 'Em Up Developers: Next Level Games (360, Wii, PS2), Artificial Mind and Movement (DS, PSP), Beenox Studios (PC) Publisher: Activision ESRB Rating: E 10+