Tuesday, May 02, 2006

QuickBlog: Battalion Wars

Since this is the first QuickBlog, I'll let you know what it is. That might help. A QuickBlog (catchy name, if I do say so myself) is a simple rundown on a game without getting too in-depth with all the details and paragraphs and all that complicated stuff. So, it's pretty much a mini-review. Enjoy!

7.5 [Great]

Gameplay: 7
Graphics: 8
Music: 6
Sound: 6
Value: 6

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Kuju Entertainment
Multiplayer: None
Console(s): GameCube
Reviewed on: GameCube
ESRB Rating: T (Violence)
BMR Rating: E10+ (Mild violence)

Battalion Wars is a light-hearted real-time war/strategy game from Nintendo. The bouncy characters, humorous design, and engaging gameplay sets it apart from the usual crowd. Nothing else quite captures the feeling of walking along the path to face the enemy with a trusty squad behind you. Although rather short in length and replay, its gameplay and charm still shines through. If you're looking for a comical take on war and/or strategy games, you should not hesitate to check out Battalion Wars.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Shadow of the Colossus

9.5 [Incredible]

Gameplay: 9
Visuals: 9
Music: 10
Sound: 9
Value: 8

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Team Ico
Muliplayer: None
Console(s): PS2
Reviwed on: PS2
ESRB rating: T (Blood, Fantasy Violence)
DMR rating: T (Blood, Fantasy Violence)

The Good Points:

Epic fights of grand proportions - Engaging exploration - Awe-inspiring visuals - Fantastic art style - Beautiful, beautiful music - Amazing bond with the horse - Lots of extras to keep the experience going - Unique and exciting climbing mechanic - Incredible scope - Subtle and facinating premise

The Bad Points:

Ocasionally frustrating moments of confusion while in battle - A few minor graphical hiccups here and there


Shadow of the Colossus is a game that always interested me, even before I really knew anything about it. Ever since I saw the game's cover art, I knew I needed to try it. I read a review or two, looked at the screenshots, and decided it would be worth a try. When I finally did get my hands on it, Shadow of the Colossus blew my mind with a pure sense of amazement more than anything else I have ever played. I knew that the scenery and views would be breathtaking, I knew that the giant fights would be incredible, but I can honestly say I was not expecting such a spectacular experience. But enough with how amazed I was; let's get to the heart of the matter.

Gameplay: 9

There is very little exposition in Shadow of the Colossus. All you know is that you, the hero, are bringing an unconscious girl (presumably dead) to a giant temple, where hopefully you can save her by defeating all the sixteen great Colossi. It sets a mysterious mood, and works very well for the setting. You'll mainly be doing two things in Shadow of the Colossus: exploring the deep and beautiful lands and, of course, fighting the Colossi themselves. An integral part of both experiences includes the climbing mechanic. When near a ledge, or something else that you can climb, you can press and hold R1 to grab on and scale whatever it is you're climbing. You can clamber up all kinds of objects, such as large trees, lonely temples, and ancient ruins. The well-made system is especially needed when climbing the Colossi, since, as the name implies, these things are big.

They each have a unique appearance and behavior, and their awe-inspiring power is earth-shattering. The only way to bring these creatures down is to find their weak point and plunge your sword into it, sending forth a fountain of dark blood. That will deal damage to your foe, and after several hits, bring it down. Getting to the spot is usually the hard part. You might have to climb onto the massive creature's back, or shoot arrows at it from a distance, or perhaps knock it off a ledge; any number of things to get on top of it. Imagine a really, really huge figure made of stone looming above, raising its cold, blunted sword. At the last moment, you realize... it's aiming for you. You dash off clumsily as fast as you can go, leaping out of the way just in time as the massive weapon slams down into the ground, causing such a terrible shake of raw power, and sending so much dust and dirt spraying into the air, that you can't see anything for several moments. You pick yourself off the ground and look up to see its colossal form stomping towards you once more. That's when you realize that this whole quest thing might not be as simple as you first thought. These climatic battles are epic in the true sense of the word, and require just the right mix of action and thought. Although it's ocassionaly frustrating when you can't figure out what to do, it's hard to find fault here.

Not enlarged to show texture.

While battling the Colossi would be enough of a game, exploring the lands can be just as fun and rewarding. Everything in Shadow of the Colossus is so real you could imagine seeing it in the real world, and the astounding amount of subtle detail draws you into this faraway land. Your character trips and stumbles when he jumps or lands awkwardly; your trusty horse whinnies and gallops with beautiful animation; and the rivers, cliffs, deserts, fields, and everything else in the scenery are amazingly crafted. Most games, even the ones that let you explore a good deal, like a Zelda or Elder Scrolls game, never even get close to touching what Shadow of the Colossus has done. Yes, a game such as Oblivion has a far larger world, and yes, Ocarina of Time is packed with more secret treasure; but they are different. In Shadow of the Colossus, exploring is almost impossible to define.

First off, the world is massive. You can go anywhere, and most places give you no special items or powers (although there are lots of great unlockables that I won't spoil). After finding a side path that leads up an awesome mountain, your reward is the breathtaking view at the top. After exploring a forest with shafts of sunlight coming in from the outside, you might find a beautiful lake and a large tree to climb for fun. And not all of it is complex beauty and deadly adventure: just goofing off is great time on its own, and there’s lots to see. Even though the story is dark and your plight is desperate, there’s still plenty of time for fun. And even when you are traveling the dark and dangerous paths, you don’t have to bear the burden yourself; you're not alone in this forbidden land. You have a friend who is with you from the beginning: your trusty and faithful horse.

The relationship between player and horse is incredible. He's there the whole time, through thick and thin. You go through peril after peril with him, adventure after adventure, battle after battle. You can just hang out near a lake and jump off rocks onto his back as he gently nuzzles your hand; or you might get thrown off of him in the middle of a battle, and while you lie stunned on the ground, you see him stumble and fall, which somehow makes you feel so guilty for bringing him into this whole thing. I've had many happy times aimlessly riding him around the vast fields and valleys, firing arrows into the sky for no apparent reason. I didn't really realize it as I played, but I became more and more attached to my horse as time wore on, and ended up giving him nicknames and found many games to play with him. He's the one individual who is there for you, and it truly is a wonderful thing. This just adds to the beauty and depth of the game. You can't really explain Shadow of the Colossus. It's something that you would do well to try for yourself.

It's times like this when it's good to have a very fast horse.

Graphics: 9

Never has a world been more beautiful and engaging than the one Shadow of the Colossus has created. From the sand that kicks up in the desert to the sparkling water of a lake, everything in Shadow of the Colossus is strikingly real. The animations for the characters and Colossi are life-like, the scenery is magnificent, and everything else is superb. The game has an understated haze to it, along with high-contrast lighting mixed with deep shadows, adding to the mysterious mood. The art design is fantastic, complete with intricately designed runes on the ancient towers and structures along with striking scenes of epic clashes. There are dozens of little touches you wouldn't expect, and several different kinds of small animals roam the colossal world, such as hawks and turtles. Every once in a while there will be some odd pop-ups for distant scenery as things grow closer, and the frame rate can dip slightly now and then, but that is easily excused by the fact that, not only is this one of the largest worlds I've ever seen in a game, but there is no loading time, not even a fade out, to get from place to place. You can travel across the entire map as a whole, from the depths of a cave out through the vast deserts, past the grassy plains, into quiet forests, all the way to the tip of a giant temple, which really enriches the experience.

Music/Sound: 10/9

The gameplay and graphics were superb, and the sound doesn't fall in standards. Once again, everything is spot on and realistic. It has all of the elements needed to bring the game together, and creates a believable world. The desolate sound of the winds blowing all around you creates a memorable atmosphere of a lonely yet beautiful world, with the beating of your horse's hoofs as the tempo for a journey. There is voice acting for the cutscenes, but the characters speak in a fictional language, which fits the game well. The music, however, is even better. From the dramatic fight songs to the victorious score that sometimes rings out while atop a massive Colossus completely brings you into the moment. Just listening to the music allows you to see the enourmus monsters in your mind, as the drums boom out the footsteps and the powerful-sounding horns and strings warn of their great might. This is quite simply some of the most masterful and greatest music I have ever heard, and I love every piece.

There are sixteen Colossi in all, all of which aren't overly difficult. Although it takes quite a bit of time to defeat every one of them, you'll find yourself wishing it wasn't all over at the end. However, the world is so big, it will take a long time to explore it all. And even if you do, you can fight the Colossi over again (with several different modes), find secrets along the way, and more. There's a lot packaged into this game, but I wouldn't want to spoil any of it for you; so in the end, the value is actually much better than you might think.

Tranquil moments such as these let you take in the beautifully barren scenery.


When I think of Shadow of the Colossus, very fond memories of epic battles, beautiful lands, and fun moments flood into my mind. It didn't just exceed my expectations, it rocketed past them and gave me a game that I will never forget. I cannot stress the fact enough that you must try this game; it's worth every cent you pay and is, quite simply, worth buying a PS2 for. After reading over my review, I realize that there is no way I can really explain Shadow of the Colossus. Just try it... trust me. If you have a love for sheer adventure, epic scale, and engaging exploration, you will not be disappointed.