Wednesday, September 9, 2009

DS Double feature!

I know, I know... you're all waiting for me to review something awesome, like Arkham Asylum (still don't have, waiting for a buddy to finish it and give me his copy), or Wolfenstein (made it to the Downtown area). But I sadly haven't finished a console or PC game in quite some time. Hey, I've been busy! Labor Day, vacations in Maryland, babies being born (not mine), and what have you have been eating up quite a bit of my time, and when I am home I've finally found a game that I can get my wife to play with me: Rock Band 2.

I have managed to sneak in some handheld time, and since I recently bought a new red-and-black DS Lite to replace my launch day white unit who's hinge finally gave up the ghost, that handheld time has been spent playing the DS, where I've finished two whole games. So, without further adeiu:

Mega Man Starforce 3: Red Joker

Around the time that the Gameboy Advance came out, Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune decided to reinvent Mega Man, in a way that his children could appreciate. The result was the Mega Man Battle Network series, a series that was popular enough with its target audience to get five animes and a manga series, in addition to six main entries in the series and a few spin-off games.

The Mega Man Starforce series, while featuring an entirely new cast, is largely a continuation of the Battle Network games. They're RPGs, with a heavy emphasis on collecting (and trading, I suppose) battle cards/chips/whatevers. The game is mostly isometric sprites running around, either in the real world or in the EM Wave world, which is where most of the similarities between Starforce and Battle Network lie. The main difference between them is the combat. Battle Network had a 3x3 grid on the left for Mega Man and another on the right for enemies. In Starforce, Mega Man can only move left or right over three squares, with enemies in front of him and a camera angle high over Mega Man's shoulder.

Despite the different versions of each game, there are really only three games in the series. Continuity is fairly tight between the three games, with events in previous ones being referenced, sometimes to the point of being major plot points, in the sequels. Starforce 3 might be the last one, though, as it does a good job of tying up lose plot points and resolving the series. What's more, while previous games in the series have come out on an annual basis, the newest Mega Man game looks to be some kind of crossover between Battle Network and Starforce, with more emphasis on Battle Network.

In general, I've found the Starforce series to be more fun than the Battle Network games, so if you're a fan of those you might want to check out Starforce 3. The difficulty was also more finely balanced than Starforce 2. However, the Starforce games are definitely aimed and the younger Pokemon/Yu-Gi-Oh!/whatever crowd, and probably isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Final Score: B-

Super Princess Peach

I'm not exactly sure what Nintendo was thinking when they came up with this one. Were they trying to capture a new audience by appealing to younger girls? Were they simply interested in bucking the status quo in the Mushroom Kingdom by having Mario get kidnapped and having Peach set off to rescue him, instead of the other way around?

Regardless of what was running through the developers heads, the result is a relatively solid, if a tad easy, 2D platformer.

Despite it's roots in the Super Mario Bros series, the game play is a bit different. Peach has an umbrella named Perry that gives her a few options unavailable to Mario. She can pick up most enemies instead of just Koopa Troopas, or she can smack them. Later in the game, she can even fire small blasts of energy from the umbrella. Also, like Super Mario Bros 2, Peach has a health bar. She starts the game with three hearts, but can increase that to five. Also like Super Mario Bros 2, levels aren't timed.

The most important difference, though, is that Peach has some emotion-based abilities. It's been argued that that's a little sexist, but I prefer to think of it as a side-effect of the game's setting of Vibe Island (that is, if Mario had been doing adventures on Vibe Island, perhaps he'd have emotional powers as well). She can get angry and catch on fire, giving her the ability to burn some objects and pound the ground. She can get happy and float through the air or create a little whirlwind around herself. She can get sad and cry, watering some objects and allowing her run a bit faster. Or she can get calm and recover lost health. She can't use those powers indefinitely, though. Her emotional powers come from her Vibe Gauge, just under her health bar.

The change in game play versus a traditional Mario game makes for slightly less linear levels. The game is still divided into eight worlds, and each world has a few levels inside and concludes with a boss battle. In each level, you still need to make it from the start to the goal, but you have the added goal of rescuing three Toads hidden in each level. There are also, especially later in the game, often multiple paths through a level. This combination of looking for hidden Toads (or other items) and multiple routes encourages exploration and replay. Later in the game, though, it also means that finding the Toads and navigating the levels becomes more of a challenge than the enemies in them, leading to a few frustratingly confusing and long levels with totally anti-climactic boss fights.

Ultimately, Super Princess Peach is a Mario game that's also not really a Mario game, one that's fun for gamers of all ages and genders, not just little girls. If you enjoy the Super Mario series, or just enjoy a well-crafted 2D platformer, you'll definitely want to check this one out.

Final Score: A-


Mike said...

Before you ask, Patrick, no, my brother didn't have another baby.

science412 said...

Hah! I wasn't even going to comment about it on here because I didn't want your brother coming down here and beating me up. Hi Jeremy!!!