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Here you will find short reviews and the like of various video games. Feel free to submit your own rant.


Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror - Here's an adventure game that I picked up for 5 pounds while I was visiting England. I'm always a sucker for a good adventure game, and this one is the sequel to one of my favorites (known as Circle of Blood in the States). The game follows the further adventures of George Stobbart and his French girlfriend Nicole Collard. This time they are attempting to unravel the mystery regarding a drug cartel and its relation to an ancient Mayan legend. Unfortunately, while an enjoyable game, it doesn't reach the quality of its predecessor. The original Broken Sword was not a shining example of character development, but it easily outshines the sequel by leaps and bounds. Our villain receives a minute amount of screen time and our two heroes receive no further past development. Fortunately, we do see Nico and George's relationship develop throughout the game. This severely hampers the otherwise enjoyable plot. The graphics are top-notch and this is easily my favorite style of visual presentation. The well drawn and animated characters absolutely come to life on screen. The music is also excellent, and it nearly always fits the mood of the scene. It also changes depending on what you are doing on screen. Unfortunately sometimes there are glaring gaps in the game which feature no music at all, which grated on my nerves. Gameplay is incredibly easy to learn. All you do is move the cursor around the screen and see if anything becomes hilighted. This simplicity can be a fault, however, in that some puzzles become simply an exercise in clicking random items in random spots. Also, sometimes items will be hard to distinguish on the screen and you may miss something important. One important gameplay item is a huge bug found at the end of the game. It is mentioned in the instruction manual, but a patch would be extremely nice. Lastly, the game is a tad too short. An adventure game doesn't lend itself to too many replays, so beating this one in a couple hours was mildly disappointing. Overall, however, the short time that I was playing the game, I had a blast. 6.5/10. 
Added July 19, 2000.

Final Fantasy IX - I really didn't have high expectations of this game after the debacle that is Final Fantasy VIII, but I was extremely surprised to find that FFIX is not only easily the best Final Fantasy available on the Playstation, but one of the best RPGs money can buy.  FFIX returns to the series roots in a very nice mix of the new (FMVs) and the old (a class system!) and the nostalgia evident throughout the game is wonderful for old fans of the series.  Also nice is the return of a four player party and shorter summons (you also only view a full summon occasionally); this greatly lends to faster battles which is refreshing after the tedium of the last game in the series.  The story is entertaing and the characters nicely developed, but don't expect anything at the level of Final Fantasy Tactics or  Xenogears.  This is a fun story and the characters entertaining; no mental freaks here folks, just good old fashioned heroism.  Gameplay is a nice mix of learning abilities which started in FFVI and the class system in FFIV.  This lends to using the characters' "jobs" in the story, while still keeping some freedom in learning skills.  The graphics are excellent for a Playstation game, but like the previous two Final Fantasy games the characters are incredibly blurry and the world map is barren.  These faults however are completely overshadowed by how much fun this game truly is.  For both those who have been playing the series since the beginning and those of you just starting, I can't recommend this game enough.  8.5/10.
Added April 22, 2001.

Front Mission 3 - Going into this game from Squaresoft I was hoping for a new Final Fantasy Tactics. Like FFT, Front Mission is a strategy RPG where you can move your characters around during fights in a turn based manner. In Front Mission, however, there is no world map for you to explore. You are taken through the game in a completely linear manner; you are simply thrown from mission to mission. I would normally enjoy this type of game, but the story just wasn't there to keep it fresh. It dragged, and dragged, you are led on wild goose chases throughout the majority of the game and it seems Square just wanted to try to keep its promise of 150 hours of gameplay (helped by two story threads to follow). When the game did finally end, I was more relieved than excited, which a lackluster final battle and ending did not help. Character development of the minor characters is much better in this game than in FFT, since there are no nameless characters who you may buy at a store. This helps immensely. However, no character in the game ever approaches the brilliance of Wiegraf and Ramza in FFT; don't expect another masterpiece. The music is a series of marches that fists the game surprisingly well; no complaints here, but nothing exceptional. The last thing that needs mentioned is the party size. During the game, you will only control 4 characters at any one time during a battle. This severely hampers the possibilities while fighting. Overall though, if you like strategy RPGs, you may want to consider picking this one up; in the end it is just an above average game, not the masterpiece I was hoping for. 6/10. 
Added July 21, 2000.

Gemstone 3 - This is one of the very first massively multiplayer RPGs ever made, and its starting to show. This used to be what I considered to be the best game ever made, and while it's still very close, its age is truly starting to show. This is a text based game, which truly takes nothing away from the overall experience. Gameplay is basic, everything is really self explanatory and easy to get into. The strongest part of the game, though, is the community within. Some of the nicest people I have ever met reside in Gemstone 3; there is no worrying about an idiot PK coming up and killing you for everything you have. Now the failing part of the game: there isn't anything new. I first played the game around 3-4 years ago, and nothing dramatic has changed. Also, while when I first entered the realms GMs were everywhere and events were constantly happening, keeping things fresh, this just doesn't happen anymore. I found myself just hunting and hunting rather than seeing new things every day, like I used to. In all, if you've never tried this game, I highly recommend it, but there isn't anything new for those of you who used to play. 8/10. Available at http://www.gemstone.net
Added July 24, 2000.

Jet Grind Radio - There are very few video games currently available that I consider art, especially ones that do not feature strong plotlines.  Here is an exception.  From the incredibly graphics to the brilliant level designs, Jet Grind Radio is a game that oozes artistic qualities.  The premise is simple:  spray paint graffiti and defeat rival gangs in a fake city.  What makes this so much fun is the dead on control.  I'm usually not very adept at games that revolve around skateboarding or rollerblading (like this one), but the simple controls and the ease of pulling off great tricks made the game surprisingly enjoyable.  Also, the music must be mentioned.  Its rare to hear a soundtrack so great not only as background music, but on its own.  That was a true treat.  The only fault of this game is the repetive goals.  Nearly every stage has the same goals, and the lack of many different stages hamper the replay value.  However, since you can now buy this game for 10 dollars it doesn't make that much of a difference.  8/10.
Added July 8, 2001.
 
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver - Another great Dreamcast (or Playstation and PC) action/adventure. Personally, I have never played the original Legacy of Kain, and I found this to be of no consequence whatsoever. The game is a graphical wonder, with huge gothic buildings towering over everything else and swamps covered with fog. I literally just looked around for 5 minutes when I first entered the game. Further, a surprisingly good story makes the game flow. You play Raziel seeking revenge from his master Kain who attempted to kill Raziel for growing wings before Kain. You seek your revenge slowly, however, and you slowly but sure work your way through Raziel's former brothers to eventually face Kain himself. Lastly, the gameply in the game is fairly good, with just a few bumps here and there. The control scheme is excellent and everything is incredibly intuitive and smooth. The faults lie in the puzzles. Most revolve around moving blocks and jumping from platform to platform, which severly dissapointed me. Such a brilliant game in nearly every respect should have better integrated puzzles. This is what takes my rating down.  You simply cannot go wrong by picking this game up. 7/10. 
Added July 22, 2000.

The Longest Journey - Really good adventure games have been few and far between lately, so I had really high hopes for The Longest Journey.  And it almost lived up to my expectations.  The game follows April Ryan in a refreshingly original and entertaining story revolving around two earths, a futurstic Stark and a fantastic Arcadia.  The story drags however, and never really picks up to the pace of any of the Gabriel Knight games, the supreme example of video game story telling.  The characters are what make the story so special.  Every single one of them is believable and developed enough to further April's adventure.  You will hate the ones you're supposed to and love the ones you aren't.  The graphics are average when compared to other new PC games.  The backgrounds are pre-rendered and look beautiful, but this lends to a lack of interaction between the characters and backgrounds.  The characters are fairly blocky and really don't look very good, especially when compared to Gabriel Knight 3.  The puzzles in The Longest Journey are a mixed bag.  Some are of Gabriel Knight calibre, but the many revolve around moving levers and pushing buttons.  The occasional pixel hunt also becomes annoying.  One last note:  there is a lot of dialouge in the game, similar, once again, to Gabriel Knight.  If you prefer King's Quest with its focus on exploration, you may want to be wary.  This adventure comes highly recomended.  7/10
Added April 21, 2001.
 
Resident Evil: Code Veronica - This is quite simply the best Dreamcast game I have ever played. Obviously, RE:CV continues the huge saga that began on the Playstation, but it overshadows all of its predecessors. The most obvious improvements are made in the visual and aural categories. First, the pre-rendered backgrounds have been thrown out the window in favor of fully polygonal environments, complete with camera movements, as seen in Konami's Silent Hill. The characters are huge and detailed; plus they're facial expressions simply astound me. Secondly, the sound absolutely helps create the excellent sense of atmosphere present in the game. Floorboards creak, zombies grown, and bat wings flap in the wind; the music's creepy overtones come on in exactly the rght moment throughout the game. Also improved is the story. This is a true movie like experience, with all the plot twists you would expect and characters you actually come to know and understand. Lastly, the gameplay is much the same as in other RE games, with its puzzles that really don't seem to fit (the reason the game didn't get a perfect score), but with an awesome control scheme and plenty of monsters to kill. If you own a Dreamcast, you owe it to yourself to buy this game. 9.5/10. 
Added July 21, 2000.

Skies of Arcadia - This Dreamcast RPG really makes me upset that the system is about to stop production. Skies of Arcadia is the type of game that oozes atmosphere.  The entire game takes place on floating islands in a sea of sky during a period of exploration.  This atmosphere, reminiscent of the 1500's in Europe, is always fresh and you won't lose interest just finding new sites.  The game graphics  only help.  This is the most visually appealing RPG I have ever played, with the close exception of the similar graphics of Grandia II.  The story and characters are both excellent.  With plenty of twists and turns, I was never bored with the game's plot.  The characters are slightly over-optimistic, but it never seems trite.  These characters have true hopes for the future and you can't help but like them or hate them (be they villains).  The problems in this game lie slowly in the battle systems.  There are two in SoA, one for hand to hand battles and another for ship battles.  Both run slower than necessary, with the ship battles taking simply way too long.  Sometimes you watch for several minutes as your ships simply move around.  Also, the random encounter rate, while not extremely high, does sometimes hamper the flow of the game.   Nothing more than other games of the genre, however.    Overall the story more than makes up for the gameplay shortcomings, making SoA the Dreamcast's premier single player RPG.  7.5/10.
Added April 14, 2001.