Date archives for September, 2008

September 25th, 2008
Blog Entry

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood – First Impressions

Sonic’s first ever RPG experience is released in Europe tomorrow, September the 26th, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few hours hands-on time with the game already. Can Sonic’s speed rejuvenate the often dull RPG genre?Sonic Chronicles - out Friday!

To Sonic Chronicles‘ credit, it dismisses the often-lengthy introductions seen in RPGs, and you’re guiding Sonic around the Green Hill Zone within seconds, just as things should be. The whole game is stylus-controlled, with characters following your pen to run, fly, climb and smash their way around the map, but the real control innovations are found in the game’s battle scenes.

Each character has access to several Power Moves, each of which has a different method of activation – some require you to drag your stylus along paths, others are more timing-based and have you tapping targets in rhythm. The added interaction makes the battle system much more interesting, particularly as you can also counter enemy Power Moves in a similar fashion, keeping your attention at all times. There are similarities to classic Sega RPGs as well – veterans of the Phantasy Star series as well as Skies of Arcadia and Shining the Holy Ark fans will feel right at home with the turns-based, squad-of-four fights.

The story so far hasn’t kicked into high gear yet, but it references various stories, mainly focusing on those since Sonic Adventure, as well as more obscure plots such as the Emerl situation from Sonic Battle. Pleasingly there’s an in-depth Codex that explains any characters or events that may be unfamiliar, but there are also unexpected cameo appearances from characters along the way to fill in any blanks. I’m reserving judgment on the story until I’ve got past Chapter Two, but so far it’s done its job and kept me playing past the introductory levels.

As you progress through the game, you encounter Chao, which you can “bond” (equip) to your character, giving you bonuses such as a free revival or elemental attacks. Each enemy has different elemental resistances, so it’s important to change Chao to water if you spot a robot enemy on the world map, for example. These Chao can be traded with friends to increase their power – initially this was advertised as a Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection feature, but it is only available via local multiplayer, sadly. It’s not a huge loss as Chao aren’t that important, but considering the best way to discover and maximise all Chao is to trade with completely different people you might struggle unless you have a large circle of DS-owning, Sonic RPG-craving friends.

Sonic Chronicles - buy it!Graphically the game is very well-presented, with beautifully drawn environments and characters, which take their cues from the Sonic Adventure and Sonic X versions of the characters, which is fine by me. Some textures are rough and occasionally items and character portraits have a blocky white line around them, which lets the overall polished feel of the game down, although this could just be me not being used to the DS (having been a PSP owner for the past eight months). The sound quality is good, with new themes sitting alongside remixes of classic Sonic tunes very nicely, as you’d expect from any game blessed by the touch of the one and only Richard Jacques.

I’ve got a few gripes with the game though, the main one being its sometimes confusing terminology and statistics system – characters have both Defence and Armour attributes, yet the differences aren’t fully explained. In fact, characters with low Armour often have increased Defence, making you wonder quite what the point is. There’s also a huge range of status problems, including Weakened, Empowered, Sluggish, Fortified and Vulnerable, most of which are caused by Power Moves. Although the in-game help explains these effects, it isn’t available mid-battle, often leaving you unsure of the effects of your Power Moves.

As I said earlier, I’ve only spent a few hours on the game, which is an achievement in itself as it’s not officially released in Europe until tomorrow, and next Tuesday in the US! I won’t give it a score yet, but I will say that it’s a very enjoyable mixture of extremely fast-paced battles and Sonic Adventure-style exploration and skills-based gameplay. The real joy for me will come when the rare weapons and items begin to show up, and each character begins to play a more important role in battle – early RPG battles are almost always simply a case of everyone attacking at once!

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is definitely worth buying if you’re a Sonic fan, or even just a DS owner after a good-looking and substantially different RPG that eschews the usual dungeon plod in favour of a good helping of action.

September 22nd, 2008
Blog Entry

Carnival of Video Game Bloggers, September 2008 Edition

It’s only been three weeks, but there’s always time for more Carnival! Yet again we have some superb articles on games ranging from Mass Effect to MegaMan, and Pokémon to Prince of Persia. Well, without further ado, let’s get stuck in!

Kicking us off in style this month is Miles Moen, with three posts at his superb website “The Necessities of Life” (extra marks for the right spelling, Miles!). His three posts The N Game Review, Death of My Xbox 360 and Mass Effect: Review are insightful, honest and entertaining – who could ask for anything more?


Well, I might as well get this month’s Herbertathon underway – here’s our current offerings from the Chancellor of the Carnival himself, HRH David Herbert, all posted at I don’t know if King David knows I know he’s set up a script to spam us with every article he posts, but the second article is a dead giveaway he doesn’t put in as much thought as he should.

PSA-Happy Birthday Pariah’s Guild!
Games-Coming Out This Week-August 31st-September 6th
Games-Videos-Street Fighter IV Japanese Vega vs. Chun Li Gameplay
Games-News-New PSN Games And Trailers!
Modding Warehouse-Interviews-Naruto: Naiteki Kensei
Games-Videos-LittleBigPlanet Exclusive Adventures of Sackboy Trailer
Games-News-Playstation Home Is “on track”
Games-News-Red Vs. Blue Anime!
Games-Reviews-Castle Crashers
Games-News-Sony CEO Admits That The Wii Is Superior In Demographics
Games-Videos-Dissidia: Final Fantasy DKS3713: Tidus vs. Jecht Gameplay

Next up is another veteran of the Carnival, the old wizard himself, old-wizard! As usual he’s conjured controversial countdowns, the leader of which is his “Top 10 Worst Types of People“, including “people who try to defend the Sega Genesis over the SNES” and “People who don’t appreciate 16 bit gaming”. You’re a talented writer, OW: baiting Sega fans is below you (though you seem very good at it!)

61D9EXWNZ6L._SL500_AA280_ After such controversy, OW shares with us his Top 10 Mega Man X Bosses and his Top 5 Racing Games. I’m sure you’ll be extremely surprised to discover there isn’t a single Sega racing game in the list!

Next up is Jet Set Radio legend Jam, with an article on how to “Increase Your Battery Life” posted at Jam’s Ubuntu. Nice work Jam, but how about getting those blades on again?

Now it’s time for one of my favourite posts, How Sweet is the Shepherd’s Sweet Lot: Rickey Reviews “Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise” at Riding with Rickey. I recently got a DS Lite ad Viva Piñata, and I’m loving the game so far – it’s a huge step better than I thought it would be, but don’t take my word for it, read Rickey’s review!

A challenger for Old Wizard‘s magic crown now, the freakily-named Glowing Face Man, with his article Real Life Tool-Assisted Speedrun (TAS)? posted at Glowing Face Man: Awaken the Badass Within. He has this to say about this arcane magic: a “speedrun” is a movie of a video game being beaten extremely fast. It made me ask, what if there was a speedrun of Real Life?

An insightful list next from Cancerkitty, with some great ideas on Improving Video Games, posted over at DelSquacho. I can’t say all the ideas apply to every style of game, but there are certainly some good points that developers would do well to respond to.

That fine chap Jason O from Unfettered Blather is next, busting Another gaming myth – converting the pirates. Taking a logical and well-reasoned look at the notion pirates simply choose not to pay for games, this is an excellent article that debunks a long-held myth.

Time for my favourite posts of this month now, all from the excellent Ryan Rigney at His first post, Why Pokémon is the Bane of America is a genuinely funny article that, judging from the comments, some people have taken far too seriously!

His second post Top 5 Upcoming Gaming Sites contains some very familiar faces, including regular Carnival supporter! He just ranks in above my good friend Damien McFerran‘s excellent VC-Reviews site, although curiously I’m nowhere to be seen. Maybe next time..?

Despite my praise for Mr Rigney, he still feels the need to justify himself, explaining to us all “Why I Own an Ugly Xbox 360“. There’s no need, Ryan – we love you just the same. Seriously, relax.

harvest-moon-a-wonderful-life.429186Last from Mr Rigney is his letter to Natsume, entitled Dear Natsume, How to Make Harvest Moon Great Again. As a big Harvest Moon fan I have to say I was massively disappointed with HM: Magical Melody on Wii, which was excruciatingly slow and repetitive even by Harvest Moon standards. Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon on PSP broke the mould with some superb ideas, but if Marvelous implement just a few ideas from this post they’ll be onto a winner.

Eclipse is our penultimate Carnival patron this month, with two posts at his site Gaming My Way. His first, Gaming for Perfects, tries to break out of the mentality that playing defensively in a fighting game is the best way to humiliate your opponent. When you put it like that, Eclipse, you’re absolutely right!

Afterwards he looks at the company we all love to hate, EA! Electronic Arts Still Doesn’t Get It tackles the sticky subject of Digital Rights Management, which made me realise something: this page is currently the only one on the whole Internet that doesn’t mention Spore’s piracy problems! Amazing.

Wrapping up with Vishal k Bharadwaj and his post Prince of Persia Revisited, over at his homepage He has this to say: as we eagerly await the next-gen Prince of Persia, I take a little look back at the game that started it all. Having recently rediscovered the genius of Prince of Persia on my Mega CD, I really enjoyed reading this post and I have to say I’m quite looking forward to the next-gen PoP title, even though I’ve never played a 3D entry in the series. I also recommend a look at his design and illustration page, which contains some superb stuff!

Well, I hope you all agree that was a fantastic edition of the Carnival of Video Game Bloggers! It’s very rewarding to see a mix of new faces with my favourite writers each month, and I hope you agree. Please post a link to the Carnival on your website, and if you’d like to enter next month’s then head over to the Blog Carnival submissions form. Next month’s edition is on Monday, October 21st, so don’t miss out!

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September 18th, 2008
Blog Entry

The collection is complete!

It’s taken fifteen years and hundreds of pounds, but my dream console collection is now complete*! Yes, what started with my beloved 8-bit Master System has reached its fruition with my final purchase, a beautiful 8-bit Game Gear. Funny how things work out, sometimes!

Of course, I’ve been missing a Game Gear for years, so why did I choose to buy one now? Good question. Truth be told, the idea hadn’t even crossed my mind until a few weeks ago, but if there’s one thing to be said about collecting consoles it’s this: it’s really very addictive.IMG_0101-small

Around two months ago a chap came up to the counter and asked if he could trade in some retro consoles. With 99% of customers this translates as “buy my PS1/N64”, so I wasn’t all that excited. That is until he mentioned my favourite four-letter word, and began to produce black console after beautiful black console from his bag.

On any normal day the appearances of a pristine Sega Saturn (Mark One, incidentally) and Mega Drive II would be cause for concern, but I was much more interested in what was attached to the Mega Drive unit. Only a bloomin’ Mega CD 2! It’s always been something of a boyhood dream to own a Mega CD (along with anything else bearing the Sega logo), but I’d never seen one in the wild. And here I was, holding one in my hand!

Just when I thought I couldn’t be any more excited, he played his stunning trump card – a 32X console! It’s a good job there’s no such thing as a lethal Sega overdose. Although there was only one game with it – Doom of all titles! – I was so thrilled I didn’t really mind. In all my years of visiting game shops I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much Sega goodness in one place.

Welcome to the Family, People!

I even bought the Mega Drive II, mine being packed away in the loft somewhere. It goes without saying I paid a reasonable price – there’s no such thing as overpriced when it comes to classic Sega consoles and games!

Since then I’ve only bought one game for my new systems, the completely stunning Sonic CD. Sadly the first copy I bought was lacking a manual and froze when playing he opening movie, but my new copy is in stunning condition and the absolute apple of my eye at the moment. I feel bad that my first copy has since been destroyed – for a Sonic fan, it’s hard to reconcile being responsible for there being one less copy of Sonic CD in the world – but there was no way I would settle for second best in this regard. I’m going to own Sonic CD for the rest of my life!

Shortly after completing Sonic CD, I realised I was only one game away from a complete home Sega console Sonic collection – Sonic Shuffle on Dreamcast. I’m not duplicating titles – I have Sonic Spinball on Mega Drive and Sonic 3D on Saturn  – so Shuffle is the only original title I’m missing. I wonder what my next purchase might be…

This got me thinking about other Sega-shaped holes in my life, and by far the biggest was my lack of a Game Gear. Yes, I knew all about their sub-PSP battery life, blurry screen and wasp-in-a-bottle sound, but love is blind (and deaf). Just the other day a package of pure beauty arrived at work, containing a Game Gear, mains adaptor and around a dozen games, including Sonic, Sonic 2, Sonic Chaos and Shinobi II.

For all the joy this collection is bringing me, it feels very strange to contemplate my last Sega console purchase, but I made a promise and I fully intend to keep it. There will be no Multi-Mega, Nomad or Mark III in my future collection, but I have included a (secret) clause that will allow me to buy up to twenty thousand Dreamcast 2s.

I also no longer own any Sony consoles, having traded in my PSP to afford a DS Lite in time for Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood next week, which is shaping up to be awesome. I feel at least 90% purer than I did three weeks ago.

If you just skim-read this article, here it is in picture form:sweet6-small

* I say complete, but what I really mean is “I’d better stop now before Hannah kills me”.

September 10th, 2008
Blog Entry

Phantasy Star Zero for DS announced!

Phantasy Star Zero is a completely original adventure for DS that draws the best bits from both online Phantasy Star series. HUmarl and HUnewm races are being introduced for the first time, and presumably there will be new races of Force and Rangers to play as well, and inevitably huge numbers of new armour, weapons and red drops to get excited about. From the screenshots released so far, all the areas and enemies are brand new, but the action palette survives, pushed onto the bottom screen along with your HP, TP, map and inventory. I was a little worried they’d change the controls to involve tapping on enemies, but it seems it will still be an extremely PSO-like experience.Dragon

I’m trying not to get my hopes up about PSZ, because having bought my PSP just to play Phantasy Star Portable, Sega confirmed it wouldn’t see a European release! Even more typically, I traded in my PSP the other day and Sega of America are now expected to announce a US release date for  Phantasy Star Portable any day now.

HUnewmThe most regrettable aspect of Phantasy Star on PSP was the lack of online play, but Phantasy Star Zero is confirmed as having a four-player Wi-Fi Connection mode! Phantasy Star Online’s Guild Card system is a natural fit for Nintendo’s insistence on Friend Codes, but hopefully lobbies will survive to team up with strangers and take on the new challenges. Even better is that Sega have clearly taken notice of my previous article “How Nintendo Got Online Wrong“, by making full online communication an integral part of Phantasy Star Zero, with the most exciting feature being “Visual Chat”, which lets you draw your icon icons and text on the touch screen to use as manga-style speech bubbles when adventuring.

Rappy attackI was extremely disappointed to hear that despite Phantasy Star Portable‘s amazing sales in Japan, it would not receive a European translation, which is understandable considering the huge amount of text involved. That’s the thing about Sega, though: just when you think they’ve let you down, they come around with something even better.

Full credit goes to for the Famitsu shots and news tip-off.

September 9th, 2008
Blog Entry

Happy birthday Dreamcast!

Yes, today marks the ninth birthday of the Dreamcast (going off its American release date of 9-9-99). I love my Dreamcast very dearly and I can’t imagine how I ever lived without it.Photo-0028

Some things that happen in life are simply unfair, and the demise of the Dreamcast falls squarely into that category. There’s been so many millions of Dreamcast postmortems, but this isn’t a post about why it’s failed, it’s about celebrating its arrival in the first place!

Dreamcast brought us the first Internet play on consoles, an extremely forward-thinking memory card (PS3 and PSP are only just doing some of the things Sega started almost ten years ago!) and countless iconic games – Skies of Arcadia! Shenmue! Jet Set Radio! Space Channel 5!

Happy birthday Dreamcast! I love you more than even your super-powerful processors can comprehend.

September 1st, 2008
Blog Entry

Carnival of Video Game Bloggers Revival!

Well, it’s good to be back! After a far, far too long absence the Carnival of Video Game Bloggers has finally returned, ready to share with you all the amazing articles written by the top game bloggers of the world. Rejoice!

We’ll soon be back to our regular pattern, so if you’ve got an article you’d like to appear in the next Carnival simply head over to the Blog Carnival Submissions form and it’ll appear in the next Carnival, due for posting on September 22nd!

For now, let’s get stuck in with the Carnival!

David Herbert presents Games-News-Trainer Mechanic Will Appear In Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 posted at (For David’s other articles, click here).

Aury Glenz presents This Game Sucks: GTA IV Edition posted at Trash Flavored Trash.

Jaklar presents Age of Conan Launch Impressions – Good News, Bad News posted at InfoAddict.

96well presents [game] Mechanical turk for Science posted at Reportergene.

Redskyy presents Guitar Hero Increases the PR Pressure posted at media spec.

Harrison presents Top 10 Video Games of All Time posted at Watsonreview’s Weblog, saying, “Some of these games on this list might just surprise you”

Danogo presents Play Games For Cash And Make Money posted at – Discover. Inspiring . Media, saying, “Why play regular online games when you can play them and make money too”

old-wizard presents Top 5 Girls From Nintendo posted at

old-wizard presents Ask DestructoMaximo: May 29th, 2008 posted at

Heather Johnson presents Guest Post: Health Researchers Obtain Grants for Video Game Study posted at Patient Centric Healthcare.

Anthony De Franco presents The 3rd String Safety: Nearly Perfect: A Review of Devil May Cry 4… posted at The 3rd String Safety, saying, “We are a blog focused on the interests of young men, including sports, MMA, television, and of course Video Games. We cover the hype and releases of many games in addition to reviews of any games we play.”

Aonxe presents Warhammer Online Guild System Heads Up posted at Aonxe, saying, “An interesting, in-depth article about the new game Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning and how their new revolutionary “living guild” system works.”

Fiona King presents Virtual Learning: 25 Best Sims and Games For the Classroom posted at College@Home.

JakeT presents Episode 1 “Roll it Gal” posted at Jak in the Box. Sims 2 machinima.

Meg presents Simpson’s Paradox » Blog Archive » Priorities posted at Simpson’s Paradox. World of Warcraft related.

Matthew Boyd presents Sailing away with “Harpooned.” posted at Kwanzoo, saying, “Harpooned – A fine example of video games as rhetoric.”

Eclipse presents The Purpose of Video Game Reviews posted at Gaming My Way.

old-wizard presents Classic Console Review: Super Nintendo posted at

Michael. presents Halo 3: Microsoft Xbox 360 Combat Re-Evolved posted at Review Hookup.

old-wizard presents Top 5 Hardest Video Game Castles posted at

Mark presents Are DVD’s Big Enough for Xbox 360 Games? posted at Second Story Gamer.

Christopher Swenson presents PS3 Streaming Video: Mediatomb posted at High Def Delight, saying, “A PS3 streaming video tutorial.”

Jenny presents Gaming Addiction | The Inner Shopper posted at The Inner Shopper.

Solid-RKO-AVV presents METAL GEAR SOLID 4: Method to the Madness posted at Today’s Shenanigans, saying, “Commentary on METAL GEAR SOLID 4 and the sub-text of Hideo Kojima. A metaphor as a direct commentary to games such as HALO’s new popularity within the videogame industry, or GEARS OF WAR, or KILLZONE, or the numerous others that base themselves on war violence that have been saturating the market.”

Alvaro Fernandez presents Brain Age, Posit Science, and Brain Training Topics posted at SharpBrains: Your Window into the Brain Fitness Revolution, saying, “In summary, the great news is that there are more tools available than ever before to assess and train a variety of cognitive skills. The bad news (is this really news?) is that we shouldn’t be expecting magic pills and that “brain age” is a fiction.”

Jenny presents Lego Indiana Jones posted at The Inner Shopper.

M Pratt presents Nintendo wii Zelda | Nintendo wii Game Console posted at Nintendo wii Game ConsoleNintendo Wii – Massively Popular, saying, “wii rocks”

Francis Lui presents How to Increase Your Motivation Even After Your Game Fails posted at Relaxing Entertainment Blog.

Matthew Boyd presents State loses court case to the ESA. Again. Has to use taxpayer money for legal fees. Again. posted at Kwanzoo.

SomeAudioGuy presents The Best of the WORST videogame voice acting. CHOAS WARS! posted at The Ramblings of Some Audio Guy, saying, “I’m sure you’ve seen the chaos wars video, but couldn’t see it in any recent carnivals. Worst voice acting EVAR!”

Sagar Satapathy presents 50 Ways to Use the Wii In Your Library | OEDb posted at OEDb: Online Education Database.

old-wizard presents Top 10 Reasons That Super Nintendo Dominated the Sega Genesis posted at

old-wizard presents Top 5 Video Game Makers posted at

old-wizard presents The Top 10 Arcade Games posted at

Fiona King presents 100+ Sites for Playing Free Video Games Online posted at Internet Service Deals.

Sean Fear presents I Am Handheld: Episode I: Attack of the Famiclones posted at I Am Handheld.

Eclipse presents The Use of Mini-Games posted at Gaming My Way.

Eclipse presents Buying Video Games New or Used posted at Gaming My Way.

Nahiyan Malik presents PlayStation Direct: PS3 VS XBOX 360: Exclusive Games for 2008 posted at PlayStation Direct, saying, “The reign of the Xbox is almost over. As of late the PS3 has been looking better and better. Looks like 2008 will be the year of the PlayStation. PlayStation 3 has many big name titles coming out this year and if the all games from the list are all actually released this year, all we can say is WOW.”

Scott Davis presents How I would have proposed if I was smart…. | posted at Bejeweled.

Jordan Bieber presents New Free Game: WordBomb – George W. Bush Edition posted at Jack Games, saying, “Free game featuring the wit and wisdom of George W. Bush.”

Bil Smith presents August 3rd, 2008 – Synapsis posted at Bil’s Game-A-Day Blog, saying, “Bil’s Game-A-Day Blog is here to deliver a game review each and every day, with a link to the game. All games are free to play, all sites recommended are free to join. I love casual gaming, so to help people get involved with my hobby, I filter out the best of the best to lure them in.”

Ayman presents E3 posted at Tech Talk, saying, “Just a gaming blog”

Shawn Arnold presents Vice City Game Cheats posted at The Thrifty Reviewer, saying, “Vice City Game Cheats”

Shawn Arnold presents Grand Theft Auto 3 Cheats posted at The Thrifty Reviewer, saying, “Grand Theft Auto 3 Cheats”

Charlie presents State of the Industry posted at Charlie’s Blog, saying, “The current state of the video game industry as it stands.”

Brent Bond presents The XBox Ring Of Death – What Does It Mean? posted at XBox Ring Of Death Blog.

Jigsaw hc presents Giveaway: 1600 Marketplace Points for 1600 Ratings posted at XBLA Ratings.

Don Salva presents Warhammer Online to be released?trimmed! posted at Don Salva’s Blog.

Meg presents Simpson’s Paradox » Blog Archive » WarCraft and Weddings posted at Simpson’s Paradox.

Meg presents Wizard 101 posted at Simpson’s Paradox.

I apologise for the rather lazy presentation of this month’s Carnival, but returning to 194 entries is quite a daunting prospect! I promise next month’s Carnival will be back to the usual shining style you’ve come to expect from the Carnival of Video Game Bloggers! Don’t forget to make your submissions here, and check back on the 22nd of September for all the goodness!

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