Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

Foreword

Oh I remember playing this game! It was extremely difficult and frustrating, forcing me to be very precise with the controls and have fast reflexes, or risk dying over and over again…but enough about my rambling. I bought this game at Wal-Mart in February 2014 after getting only one game (Other M) at Downsview Flea Market two months prior, which was a disappointment. I already knew what I was getting myself into after reading online reviews; however, it would change everything I knew and experienced about video games (like with Twilight Princess).

After the barrage of mediocre games that plagued the IP on the Nintendo Game-Cube, the big N wanted to reboot DK the way Metroid was with the Prime series. Since they were pleased with the results, they asked Retro Studios to develop another game for them. A few years back, they decided to make Donkey Kong Country 4 on the DS as a side-project, though they brought the idea over to the Wii in 2009. This was a smart move, since the console could accomplish feats not possible with the original trilogy first seen on the Super Nintendo and later the Game Boy Advance.

Returns is an excellent reboot that has superb graphics and a heartwarming soundtrack, simple yet precise controls and a superior gameplay, redeeming the reputation of the franchise. It’s faithful to the original trilogy, full of references that invoke nostalgia in veteran players, adding new concepts and mechanics that will captivate newcomers. As mentioned before, this is a highly challenging game that requires fast reflexes and precise button mashing to overcome the obstacles which are real brain teasers. Therefore, this is not something for casual gamers to play.

Presentation: 10/10

The graphics will immediately blow you away, with near high definition visuals in a colorful and vibrant world all rendered at native 480p SD and consistent 60 FPS. Retro Studios went for a more cartoony look, so you won’t be seeing realistic fur or photo-realistic backgrounds (though Tropical Freeze takes that route). Unlike Mario though, this is a 2.5 D sidescroller in terms of both graphics and gameplay; thus, you’ll occasionally control the ape in the background and foreground, which enemies and obstacles can harm DK in the middle (I find this to be awesome).

Background of levels corresponds with map, such as seeing the edge of the jungle upon entering the beach. Diversity is key as the color and lighting change for different environments that adds realism and beauty. Few levels have an art style of water-color painted background and a foreground (including the apes, enemies, and hazards) rendered in black vector silhouette…beautiful. Animation and modelling is breath-taking though the sharpness makes everything jaggy. Unfortunately, textures are rough from being a mix of cartoon and realism.

As soon as the title screen appears, you are immediately greeted with the original title theme, followed by familiar melodies in levels. These come from the original trilogy remastered to appeal to veterans, but that’s not to say newer tracks are neglected. Games ranging from jazz to blues while instruments including piano, bongos, and sxaphone all add something to spice up the soundtrack. This plus being rendered in glorious high definition (the audio, not graphics), and perfect balance between sound effects and music make Returns very rewarding to the ears.

Plot Analysis: 5.0/10

Story starts off with a volcano on a tropical island that erupts, releasing lava and a dozen fireballs that transform into sentient musical instrument – wooden carving hybrids called Tikis. A gigantic Tiki that is made of stone and lacks being an instrument is erected at the top, commanding its minions to hypnotize the islands’ animals. They are then brainwashed into stealing all the bananas on the island, including Donkey Kong’s banana hoard. Diddy Kong notices and gives chase, while DK is taken hostage by a Tiki, who fails hypnotizing the ape (guess he’s too stupid to know).

Now he must re-claim both the island and the banana hoard. Along the way, he is aided by Cranky Kong, Squawks, Rambi…and that pig. The couple fights many beasts that are brainwashed by the Tikis which are all eventually defeated. We soon a discover a factory manufactures that bananas and mined resources into Tiki minions. When they climb to the top, the apes discover Tiki Tong, the mastermind behind all this and uses bananas to power-up. But Tiki Tong is successfully defeated and peace returns to the island once again when DK punches the moon to crush it.

The plot isn’t something that is as good as say Zelda, though simple enough to captivate players and immerse them to play the game. This target audience is obviously kids, so get used to the corny jokes and sheer stupidity of the characters (yes, it’s worse than Colors). No words or speech are present, although the body language is very expressive to make up for the lack of dialogue. What’s a damn shame is the plot is bare-bones compared to more recent DK games, but I guess that’s just a consequence of rebooting the classics instead of the 3D installments (DK 64 was the only 3D game, sorry).

Cutscenes are few and far in between, and besides the intro and conclusion (rendered in stunning CGI), all else simply depicts them of the apes interacting with the Tikis and bosses. These mundane clips repeat the same formula: they arrive in the boss’ lair, Diddy Kong notices it, Donkey Kong stares and growls at it, Tiki hypnotizes the monster(s) and the fight commences. While the animation, camera, special effects, and choreography are done very well, the lack of quality and quantity of these corny cinematics are weighing the game down negatively – not good for a reboot.

Gameplay: 8.0/10

There is a limited amount of health that makes this extremely challenging, forcing players to be extremely cautious. You start off with only two hearts and can upgrade to four if equipped with Diddy Kong or even five with a power-up. Back then, it was only one to two HP with no checkpoints so be grateful. The young chimpanzee allows DK to hover with his jet-packs for longer and more precise jumps; a friend can join in and play as him for co-op, as Diddy is lighter and more agile than the gorilla. Different modes of transportation such as mine-carts, rocket barrels, and barrel cannons add more fun.

A new feature is the rocket barrel, which is what its name suggests and is an inspiration for the mobile game Flappy Bird…though less difficult and more fun. Another is the foreground/background concept I mentioned earlier; however, it’s hard to see DK so far away (background) though it helps you predict upcoming enemies and hazards (foreground). Vine walls and ceilings are a plus but Rambi is the only returning animal (for some reason the ostrich and swordfish are gone). So overall you can tell that it’s a game worth to be played.

You can either use the Wii Remote alone or combine it with the Nunchuk extension to play. The d-pad is to move; 1 button is for running, grabbing, and climbing; 2 button is to jump and maneuver rocket barrels and barrel cannons. Shaking the Wii Remote (and the Nunchuk if used) enables rolling, stomping, blowing, and beating the ever-living shit out of the Tikis and barrels. Diddy Kong hovers and shoots instead of jumping and stomping, while the control stick, A button, and B trigger do what the d-pad, 1 and 2 buttons do if you’re using the Nunchuk variation.

Precision is a must with the consequence of immediate death or health reduction. This creates many issues like added difficulty and small reaction time, with more frustration for the player. I did notice a benefit as it allows temporary invincibility when hit and poor collision detection in some instances (just like with Mario). It’s very simple to learn and master the controls, making the game welcoming to newcomers and casual gamers. There are no glitches that make this unplayable or unfair, so just keep practicing and you should overcome the aforementioned setbacks.

Believe me when I say this – Returns is the hardest game you’ll play on the Wii and for the 7th generation (okay, besides Dark Souls and Monster Hunter). It’s just as frustrating and challenging as the originals, if not even harder if you aim to be a completionist. This game is fair though since Cranky Kong has a shop that sells extra lives, heart booster, puzzle finder (Squawks), and map key…though you can choose to ignore these. Also, there is a Super Guide available if you die 8 times in a row. Returns does stay faithful by making you play until you quit from sheer frustration.

Content: 8.8/10

If you think beating the game alone wasn’t a challenge, then 2 player co-op and Flip Mode should make you want to pull your hair out. A friend or sibling can join in and play as Diddy Kong; however, both players do not share lives (just like Brawl), rocket barrel and mine cart levels is solo. To top it all off, Diddy Kong’s fast speed, great agility, and light weight makes it unfair to play as the gorilla. Flip Mode is simply playing the whole game again and with added difficulty: DK only has one heart, Cranky Kong’s shop and Diddy Kong are off-limits, and all levels are mirrored.

(But hey, if you’re a veteran and want extra challenge, then go for it). By having two controllers, one person can choose to play as Diddy Kong only, which is this game’s easy mode. Levels can be completed faster, enemies and hazards more easily avoided, and platforms are easier to cross – even the boss scenes and CGI ending changes. All these advantages make him superior to his…uncle? Time Attack Mode is a must for completionists; you basically beat a past level as fast as possible without checkpoints, being rewarded with a medal based on your time.

Level selection is achieved through a map of the island, rendered as a 3D tropical island with 8 different environments that somehow don’t blend into each other. Levels are represented as red dots and have landmarks to give you an idea of what to expect (much like NSMB.Wii). Beating them turns it blue and unlocks a single or multiple paths – you do need the map key to unlock the secret level. Defeating the boss unlocks access to the next world, while collecting all K-O-N-G letters unlocks a bonus level called a Kong Temple (clear all eight for a surprise post-game).

At first it may seem like a typical map hubworld, but it totally triumphs NSMB and rivals that of Sonic Colors. The eight worlds are brilliantly designed, with the landscape rapidly changing as you transition to the boss with different landmarks and scenery (not just the levels). As you climb up the island, you’ll also notice that the areas are in a specific order that transitions smoothly at an aesthetic and gameplay level, plus being very realistic. The island consists of jungle, beach, ruins, cave, forest, mountain, factory, and volcano (too bad there’s no desert or tundra).

Level design is what I have to admit is the strongest point of Returns. Retro Studios managed to successfully reboot the DK franchise to its former glory and retcon the flaws. Common but creative features such as hazards and enemies of giant proportions, enemies and areas from fore/background, platforms bringing danger and rhythm, and being chased by enemies and/or hazards are just too amazing. And with the unique levels like the rocket barrel, mine cart, barrel cannon, vector silhouette, and Rambi levels makes Returns a very enjoyable game.

Special memorable levels include the vine climbing, giant octopus, tidal wave, bat cave, insect swarm, giant musical instruments, and rising volcano all come to mind. If I were to describe a particular level, you’d instantly recognize it as each level is unique for being creative, frustrating, or amazing to play. They contain mechanics that appear in those levels never to be seen again. They’re filled with K-O-N-G letters and puzzle pieces to collect, as well as hidden rooms that serve as free mini-games. While there is only one goal, there exists multiple paths for some levels.

Most of the enemies are Tikis while others are animals respective to the specific world. This is underwhelming for such a diverse game – the enemies that are unique only appear in a few levels like the octopus or bat. You can easily defeat them by jumping, rolling, blowing then attacking, stomping, or throwing a barrel (works against all enemies). Because of this, they’re extremely forgetful, which brings down the fun of playing the levels. Tropical Freeze no longer has this issue though, as Retro Studios noticed and learned their mistakes by preventing it in the sequel.

I would have to say that the bosses are somewhat better but not by much; most are what you expect while some lack imagination. Fighting them is much, much better as they have multiple phases which they use different attack strategies, and take 6 to 9 hits defeat just like Zelda or Metroid. They’re not hard in the sense that they require you to problem solve, but their attacks are difficult to dodge and you can easily die if you’re too reckless. You fight two rhinoceroses, a team of pirate crabs, giant bird in a pot, mole crew riding a train, sentient fruit caterpillar, chicken in mech, and Tiki Tong itself.

Verdict: 8.3/10

Beating the game without collecting anything takes 4 hours; collecting all K-O-N-G letters and puzzle pieces increase it to 8. Clearing Time Attack Mode takes 16 hours, and completing Flip Mode takes 30 hours plus. As you can tell, trying out everything is where Returns truly shines and is heavily dependent on for fun…just like Colors. Collecting puzzle pieces unlock concept art, music, and dioramas whereas Time Attack Mode increases your skill, reflexes, and ego. You can even track your progress with a percentage on your save file for you completionists.

While this is a frustrating game, if you play it safe or only attempt harder tasks later on, it will be a fun experience. Returns is still forgiving in the sense that it offers ways to let you “cheat” without forcing it on you, and the levels are designed in a way to guide the players…just like Metroid. Beating the game with the amazing aesthetics does wonders for your senses, as well that practice does lead to perfection for mastering the controls. But believe me, trying hard and having a fast-processing brain to fix mistakes and have great reflexes is needed or you will die frequently.

Donkey Kong Country Returns is a superb game that not only rebooted the IP, but also brings difficulty in an era when games have become way too easy. It defies our expectations by implementing both great gameplay and aesthetics, something that is also rarely achieved. I personally enjoy playing the extraordinary levels – rocket barrel, mine cart, barrel cannon, silhouette – while I despise collecting the K-O-N-G letters and puzzle pieces. If you’re a DK veteran fan or just a hardcore gamer looking for a challenge, then Returns is the game just for you.

Final Review Score: 8.0/10

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

Foreword

I think we can finally agree that I’ve managed to live up to my promises of being consistent with the reviews, so now let’s move on with life. This particular review is special since it’s dedicated to gaining retribution on the mediocre reviews, back when I first started my career. I heard about Skyward Sword through IGN, by reading news articles and watching video trailers. I was somewhat of a casual fan back then, so I didn’t really give much thought on the quality – also, I was too hyped for the Nintendo Wii U back in 2010.

After two long years, I finally bought it along with Super Paper Mario at Wal-Mart during Boxing Day…funny how I still remember all of this. I assumed correctly that it was going to be quite similar to Twilight Princess in terms of gameplay and experience, though quite different with all else. I was very skeptical of how the game was going to be after doing some research on the validity of the perfect score it received (especially after remembering how Super Mario Galaxy 2 turned out). I also wrongly inferred that it would give me a relatively smooth experience.

According to Wikipedia, development began as early in 2008, when Nintendo wanted a more cinematic and gameplay-oriented Zelda game to succeed Twilight Princess after realizing its shortcomings. In fact, they didn’t even consider using motion controls (via the Wii Motion Plus), the cartoonish graphics, and basic plot, until the executives were convinced otherwise. This, along with the involvement of Monolith Soft (the creators of Xenoblade Chronicles) decided to co-develop it, thus resulting what was seen in 2010 during E3 and the final product in 2011.

The sad reality is that it received negative reception and little publicity when it was first revealed. We can all remember how humiliating it was for Nintendo at E3 when Miyamoto struggled with the motion controls. Along with it having cel-shaded graphics similar to Wind Waker – and Nintendo focusing more on the Wii U and Zelda HD – it became loathed by fans and widely forgotten after its quiet release in November 2011. When it came out, people suddenly became very bi-polar and soon regarded it as the best Zelda game since Ocarina of Time.

Skyward Sword’s plot combined with the aesthetics make it feel very much like Wind Waker, but the gameplay and controls molds it into Twilight Princess. This is a great strategy as Nintendo got what worked for each game, took out what didn’t; add in new innovative concepts and fuse it together to get the best of both worlds. You’ll find out later that despite its good points, there still exists many flaws that hinder the game from being considered “perfect”, as many critics would have you believe.

Gameplay: 7.0/10

Just like with the Wii port of its predecessor, you use both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to play; not just for pressing buttons, but also to use the motion controls and pointer to utilize the sword and shield, basic commands (i.e., rolling, swinging, balancing, and flying), and projectile-based weapons. New to this installment is the use of the Wii Motion Plus , which increases the accuracy and precision of the motion controls; thus, giving the illusion of more realistic controls. In fact, they put more of an emphasis on puzzle-solving than combat…sort of.

The control stick is used for moving; the Z button to reset the camera and lock-on to target enemies, people, and objects; the C button is to view in first-person mode and dowsing. This new ability is to track down certain people or objects to progress through the story or to find collectibles to replenish supplies and complete side quests. Pressing the A button allows primary actions (i.e., talking, pushing, opening); pressing the B button is for selecting and using items; the + and – buttons are for the pouch and map menus respectively; and the d-pad is for calling Fi for help and playing the harp later on.

Since the Wii Motion Plus changes everything, I’ll go out of my way and explain this new concept. You must move the Wii Remote in the desired direction to move it exactly the way you want it within the game, so it’s no longer rattling the controller like a baby’s toy. The spin attack can be achieved by shaking the Nunchuk horizontally, while the shield bash be performed vertically and with perfect timing (as the shield can break and you can now counter-attack). Many items take advantage of the new technology, so you’re going to have to twist, pull, shake, and rotate the remote.

While the controls are a big step-up over Twilight Princess, the problems come from its accuracy and usage (making it a controversial feature of the game). Games on the Wii have a bad reputation for abusing motion controls, and Skyward Sword is no exception as anything from rolling to flying and even balancing requires it and becomes gimmicky and repetitive as a result. Controls will easily not synchronize, have delayed or early responses, or do something you never expected – like why the hell does Link do a shield bash every fucking time I want to stab?!

There are of course ways to overcome these problems; you could re-calibrate the Wii Motion Plus by placing the Wii Remote upside down on a flat surface, pressing down on the d-pad, and (believe it or not) by swinging the Wii Remote vertically thrice. The last two options are the best as they instantly re-calibrate any wonky controls within mere seconds, being very helpful in the heat of battle. If you played Twilight Princess and other sword-fighting games on the Wii such as No More Heroes, it will be much easier to adapt to.

If you don’t know who Fi is, she is Link’s personal hint system who tells you things to overcome difficult situations. The sad reality is that she won’t shut up about the obvious (like low battery or health), she sounds and acts like an emotionless robot, and provide you with useless and/or irrelevant information when you need it the most (like in a dungeon). But hey, at least she tells you things like the main objective, enemy and character analysis, total play time, and environmental adaption…kind of like Navi from Ocarina of Time or Tael from Majora’s Mask.

You will use a bird called a Loftwing as a main method of travel through the sky (which serves as this game’s hubworld). It’s a much better alternative to walking and horse-riding in terms of speed and convenience, but it becomes tedious to always use motion controls, and it adds superficial value to the empty hubworld. Another mechanic is the Wii Motion Plus, in which everything from weapons, puzzles, and enemies exploiting it; while it may seem like Skyward Sword has become gimmicky, it really isn’t and works pretty well.

Nintendo heavily implemented it so you’re going to be strategic and forced to adapt. Playing Twilight Princess again makes it a breeze, except when it comes to combat and item-use. They just love to fuck with you with the rubber-band AI of the enemies by having them use mind games on you. The confusion of which direction or area to strike, topped with the imprecise controls, hinders to the experience but adds to the challenge. But, the enemies are pretty dumb and most of their attacks can easily be countered with the shield-bash.

Usually people will have their own strong opinions when it comes to the game’s overall difficulty as Skyward Sword is radically different. Many puzzles and dungeons this time require multiple strategies, items, weapons, and attempts – along with motion controls – in order to successfully solve. Bosses are a major improvement over Twilight Princess because they’re much harder with more health, strength, and intelligence. You will adapt to it but expect a few Game-Over’s occasionally (especially with Ghirahim and Demise).

Presentation: 8.0/10

Skyward Sword is a cross between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess in terms of the graphics – the art style being cartoonish, bright, and vibrant inspired by the former; the models, textures, and atmosphere based off the latter. What’s a big shame is that Nintendo still never learned its mistakes as the textures are still low-resolution and lack detail, models being jaggy, frame-rate inconsistent and low (onlt at 30 FPS), and backgrounds being blurry. Hey, at least the NPC’s are more realistic now with improved animations and facial expressions.

Models have been significantly upgraded to become more accurate to finally make Skyward Sword look like a Wii game (and not a Game-Cube game). The cel-shaded graphics along with diverse set of colors and excellent lighting makes it more appealing than its darker predecessor. For some reason though, some models have cartoonish textures while others have realistic textures (I guess to stand out in this blurry engine). Why is it that backgrounds and far away objects look like they’re in a painting – it’s just weird to have all these different art styles!

Another huge “renovation” to increase the aesthetics is the music, with orchestral and instrumental finally being implemented into Zelda as a series first. Nintendo has shown that they indeed learned from (most) of their mistakes by listening to what their fans wanted. Many compositions are memorable, diverse, catchy, and very “intense” so to speak, adding to the graphics and making dungeons and bosses all the more epic. I personally love Ghirahim’s Theme, Skyloft, Ballad of the Goddess, and the credits.

Thank the goddesses (I’m an atheist) that they’ve fixed the sound balance as music no longer drowns out the sound effects, nor does the Wiimote speaker emit loud noises like in Twilight Princess. Speaking of which – pun fully intended – Skyward Sword doesn’t use it as often as Twilight Princess as it’s now only used for when Fi has to tell you something (okay, never mind…I take this statement back). Here, they’ve tried using cartoon and comical sound effects that works perfectly for the style and setting, as opposed to its darker predecessor that tried too hard with being realistic.

Plot Analysis: 8.0/10

The plot’s structure of Skyward Sword is very much like…Twilight Princess; you start off with a long and cinematic prologue, then slowly decreasing and stopping before your first dungeon, and going back up during the middle only to be cut off with an epic climax at in the end. This strategy works somewhat as the gaps allow the player to immerse them in the gameplay, and to complete side-quests that have small stories of their own to let you relax from the plot. However, the plot heavily suffers from fillers by making the characters forgetful, picky, or just outright stupid.

I personally have little comment for the story; I mean, sure there are both good and bad things to mention, but the story overall is just…good. They did a good job explaining the origins of many characters, weapons, and events, yet there seems to be a lot of contradictions with future events. For example, how is Demise the past incarnation of Ganondorf if he was completely sealed in the Master Sword? They still did a great job with adding personality to the characters; making the once living world into now post-apocalyptic; and even had a romance between Link and Zelda.

Living up to their expectations, Nintendo did manage to present the story in a cinematic and climatic manner in the beginning, middle, and the end. The different camera angles, expressive body language, atmospheric and orchestral music, and special visual effects captivate players into the plot. Unfortunately, everything that is in between lacks most (or all) of these elements, and resort to the typical in-game dialogue cutscenes with the lame text boxes and grunting noises that characters often make (but at least they have emotions now unlike with Twilight Princess).

Again, Nintendo is still in their own little world by refusing to have voice-acting for the script. It’s quite sad how they assume the video game industry is just like it was back in the ’80s and ’90s. Why don’t they copy EA with The Sims and have all characters speak a gibberish language instead of just Fi and Midna? The way it’s written is okay without being too corny or too poetic, but come on, the lack of voice-acting just screams xenophobia! At least the simple vocabulary and use of daily language makes us relate to the characters more.

Content: 9.0/10

NPC’s are another major improvement over what was established in Twilight Princess and Wind Waker (not just the changes in emotion and personality). Many of the residents actually now give you helpful advice, react to recent events almost instantly, and/or say things that are relevant to who they are – these factors only applied to the main characters in the past (they even make funny jokes which is a guilty pleasure of sorts). Each NPC has their own unique face, name, appearance, personality, occupation, status, and role which adds more realism.

Besides playing the regular story mode, there’s also the somewhat new Hero’s Mode. This is much like the Master Quest from Ocarina of Time in which it’s playing the entire game over again but at a harder difficulty. The differences are that the game isn’t mirrored and there are no changes to the dungeons. Instead, it’s just that you take double the amount of damage as the enemies are stronger, there are no hearts laying around to replenish your health, and many items from the first file are brought over to make it a little easier.

A step down would be the overworld, but the dungeon design evens it out pretty well. Nintendo scaled down the map to roughly the total surface area of Ocarina of Time’s map. They also limited the diversity of the geographic regions to five:  sky, forest, volcano, desert, and water, as well as toning down the exploration by making the plot progression and travelling extremely linear. Skyward Sword does have great dungeons with memorable features, creative puzzles, intelligent layout, unique environments, hidden secrets, and challenging mini-bosses/bosses.

They made the overworld more dungeon-based by implementing platforming, rooms, puzzles, and even throwing in a few bosses and mini-bosses just to keep things fresh. Silent Realms, while similar to both the Twilight Realms from Twilight Princess and Dark World from A Link To The Past, have improved exponentially. They take much less time to complete; the tears of light are extremely easy to find and collect; enemy presence and threat is minimal (and manipulated to non-existant); and you can gain access to hidden or new routes impossible to access in the light world.

Some of the best and favorite dungeons among the IP and fans are from this title. I originally was going to include the story, but due to the length (and the fact that we all know the story), I decided to omit so I will state the names of the dungeons. The following dungeons are self-explanatory on what they are: Skyview Temple, Earth Temple, Lanayru Mining Facility, Ancient Cistern, Sand-Ship, Fire Sanctuary, and Sky Keep. They’re all extremely diverse unlike the overworld and show that Nintendo’s creativity still lives even after 25 years.

I didn’t really go over the items, though I’m entitled to since it’s a major component of Zelda games. It’s very innovative in the way newer items are designed, being able to do what the other could not as they’re not clones nor variations of older ones. This allows for newer puzzles, enemies, bosses, and side-quests to fully take advantage of it and increase the overall quality of the game. Plus, it exploits the usefulness of the Wii Motion Plus to add extra gimmicks and fun; even the older items got upgraded with new looks and also new control schemes.

For the old, there is the following: Sword, Wooden Shield, Tunic, Empty Bottle, Sling-Shot, Bomb, Gust-Bellows, Double Claw-Shots, Hero’s Bow, Arrow Quiver, Wallet, Hylian Shield, and the Master Sword. Then there are the newer items: Beetle, Item Pouch, Goddess Sword, Bug Net, Seed Pouch, Iron Shield, Digging Mitts, Mogma Mitts, Sacred Shield, Water Dragon’s Scale, Whip, Fireshield Earrings, Goddess Harp, Zelda’s Sail-Cloth, Time Shift Stones, Carry-On Medals, and the Triforce. This is a review and not an encyclopedia, so do your own research on what each does.

Enemies and bosses are a major improvement over what was seen in Twilight Princess as well. Not only are they much more difficult to fight, they also have more biodiversity (aren’t merely clones or palette swaps), have interesting lore that deeply explains their origins, and allows multiple strategies to defeat them. The enemies are scattered throughout and can appear in areas where you’d least expect them, and while it does suffer from different variations, it fits well with the theme or environment that they belong to.

Bosses require multiple methods and items to defeat, so you have to be strategic and be able to go past their strong defenses. Like with the enemies, you can resort to many different ways to dealing damage to the bosses, which adds even more creativity. Seriously, they’re so complex that some of them take nearly 10 minutes to beat or even a few deaths to get things right! They can range from giant monsters to humanoid beings and even a whole army of enemies; Ghirahim, Scaldera, Moldarach, The Imprisoned, Koloktos, Tentalus, Levias/Bilocyte, Bokoblin Army, and Demise.

Verdict: 7.0/10

As expected, Skyward Sword has a high level of replay value, nearly doubling the total gameplay time if one attempts to aim for 100% completion. First attempt lasts 60 hours, consecutive attempts at 30 hours, and speed runs take at most 15 hours. Old side-quests consist of heart-pieces, mini-games, and bug hunting which are the same, though it’s the newer ones that count. These make all your stress and worries of the main quest (for the most part), are fun and easy (with some exceptions), and is a great fan service since Nintendo listened to our demands.

Goddess Cubes are purple cubes scattered throughout pre-historic Hyrule that unlock collectibles in the sky when activated (to add superficial exploration of the barren hubworld). Then there’s this new and improved upgrade system, in which you have a blacksmith and a cook upgrade your weapons, pouches, and potions by giving them the natural resources or bugs they need to mix or craft to give you the finished product. About the gratitude crystals…you can find them by doing errands for the citizens of Skyloft so they show you their gratitude in the form of crystals.

The experience overall greatly depends on your gaming preferences; specifically, whether or not you’re into motion controls and a Zelda game that is a mix between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. For me though, it was like a stock-market: there are ups and downs with no guarantee on the future outcomes. I can say though I disliked it at first for the terrible motion controls, difficult bosses, frustrating side-quests, and the constant story and gameplay fillers. But then as I gained more experience and skill later on, I began to enjoy it and realized how much I sucked in the past.

Skyward Sword has the graphics of Wind Waker, music of Ocarina of Time, controls and gameplay of Twilight Princess, and all else being a melting pot of the entire franchise. While the graphics and controls are step-down; the music, plot, content, and gameplay is a step-up for the Zelda IP. I personally love the special game mode which allows you to re-try boss battles and silents realms; I hate how Nintendo spoon-feeds the casuals by offering too much help. Though not quite from being perfect, Skyward Sword is recommended for all Wii owners and Zelda fans alike.

Final Review Score: 7.8/10

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Review

Introduction

Remember back when a few months ago when I promised to not review games of the same IP, unless it was on a different system altogether or a spin-off? Yeah…I kind of take that back to not make myself a hypocrite and to be even with some of you. When most people mention Metroid on the Nintendo Wii, they usually think of Metroid: Other M; however, Nintendo actually released a title before that back in 2007. Originally being a launch title, and later being delayed for a year to add in motion-control schemes and fix unknown bugs, it finally revealed itself as Metroid Prime 3: Corruption by none other than that of Retro Studios.

Being the sequel to Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes on the Nintendo Game-Cube, and the finale to the entire trilogy, Corruption has big shoes to fill in. It’s drastically both an improvement and innovation, or at least that’s what the critics say. If I’ve never reminded you before, I bought this with 4 other Wii games at A & C Games in Toronto during March 2014. I also originally intended this purchase at the Downsview Flea Market, but I got Other M instead. Believe it or not, I only knew about this game while playing Other M back in 2013.

Gameplay

To start off, Metroid Prime 3 is different from other Metroid titles; instead of being a 2D shooter, it’s actually a 3D first person adventure game with shooting mechanics. You take control of Samus from her own perspective through the suit’s visor, using different weapons and items at your disposal; in order to solve puzzles, explore new areas, defeat hordes of enemies and gigantic bosses. It basically uses ideas from Zelda and combines it with Metroid.

Shooting is a mechanic inspired by first-person shooters and traditional 2D shooters. It’s very simple – use the reticle to aim and shoot at enemies and targets, while being able to shoot charged shots and unlimited ammo (since Samus uses a beam that shoots energy). You can use a variety of weapons: beams, missiles, bombs, and grappling lasso. Beams can damage enemies and obstacles, as well as having different elemental or non-weapon effects such as solving puzzles. Missiles do heavy amounts of damage compared to beams but with ammo, and the grapple lasso can be used in both combat and exploration.

Suits usually have an effect on the environment and add extra durability to her health. Visors allow Samus to see her surroundings in different ways, allowing her to solve certain puzzles or kill specific bosses and enemies that she can’t without. Missiles and beams can no longer be used individually, as similar to Metroid: Fusion they are stacked upon each other, adding extra firepower and special effects –  which makes boss battles way easier than in Echoes.

Visors make a return with 2 veteran and 1 new visor that I’ll spoil later in this review. The new visor allows you to control Samus’ famous Gun-Ship for the first time in the Metroid IP (and only time…besides Smash 4 and Nintendo Land for the Wii U), to fly through strange planets and attack large armies of strong enemies. You can even go inside Samus’ ship inside the cockpit, where you can save, rest, or interact with it. There are some cool gimmicks such as an intercom system and a bio-hazard scanner which people don’t know of or never use.

For those that want a more difficult challenge (this game is very easy after all) there are 3 sets of difficulties to choose from though you only start off with the two. These consist of Normal, Veteran, and Hyper Mode with each one being harder than the previous. Normal is honestly extremely easy, and disappointing for Metroid fans/veterans and hardcore shooting gamers too. Veteran is where it’s truly at for those people, with stronger and more durable enemies with more intelligent AI making Normal look like a complete joke. Hyper Mode is the most intense and increase the enemies’ health and strength beyond Veteran, difficult even for experienced Metroid fans.

The overworld of Corruption is one of the few characteristics which makes this game shine; comprised of one galaxy, three solar systems, and also two ships and five planets. Each planet and ship is extremely rich in diversity, detail, exploration, lore, enemies, puzzles, and landmarks. While Prime 3 is less open-ended and much more linear than its prequels, the exploration is still present with the illusion of non-linearity in terms of planet and plot progression with back-tracking. At least it’s not as restrictive as Other M and Fusion LOL.

Planets consist of Norion, Bryyo, Elysia, Pirate-Homeworld, and Phazee. Norion is a moon-like terrestrial planet with rocks, trees, ships, and mountains that serves as a military stronghold of the Galactic Federation. Bryyo consists of a jungle, fiery inferno, and ruins of an ancient civilization that is now a “factory” to produce Fuel-Gel for the GF and its allies and clients. Elysia is a gaseous planet with an industrial/steam-punk inspired city called Sky-Town above the clouds, serving as a spying site for the federation. Finally, the Pirate Homeworld and Phazee are enemy territory; the former being a high tech urbanized militaresque base and the latter being of complete pure Phazon.

You start off with the Varia Suit in the prologue, an upgrade to the Power Suit that reduces enemy damage and provides extreme climate and temperature protection but is only used temporarily. Then, right after, Samus acquires the PED Suit, granting the ability to enter Hyper Mode (not the difficulty) that I’ll mention later in this review too. There aren’t any other suits, which is a letdown from the previous two Prime games as they had the Power, Gravity, Fusion, Phazon, Dark, and Light Suit too.

Beams include the Power Beam, default and weakest beam that also acts as a vacuum to suck up health/ammo; Plasma/Heat Beam, stronger than the former and granting the ability to melt and burn enemies and specific heat-based or conductive objects – as well as being a sauter to fuse broken wires to fix circuits to activate broken devices; and the Nova Beam, dealing the most damage and can pass through Phazite (an alloy composed of metals and Phazon) to hit hidden switches or kill certain enemies that have this armor.

Each of these have unlimited ammo can be, charged up for devastating effects, or be used to kill certain enemies, open certain doors – regular, heat based, heat resistant, and so on – and solve certain puzzles. Missiles consist of only the regular and ice missiles…oh, and also the seeker missiles but the Super Missiles do not return. All can be used as homing projectiles to take down flying or fast-moving enemies, and do hell of a damage. Regular missiles are self-explanatory, while the Ice Missiles can temporarily freeze enemies to slow them down and damage them (and still retain its explosive properties…somehow); create ice platforms in lava to cross over; and open heat-resistant doors.

Seeker Missiles home in on multiple targets simultaneously to deal massive damage and disable special locks; it also has the effects of the Ice Missiles but use 5 missiles per each use. Going in tight spaces or tunnels require the Morph Ball, changing Samus to go from first-person to third-person perspective. Upgrades to it include the Boost Ball allowing the use of kinetic energy to power up mechanical switches, cannons, doors, and elevators mostly in Elysia…and to go faster to kill weak enemies and use half-pipes to access high ledges; and the Spider Ball allows anti-gravity travel on certain magnetic walls and ceilings.

The Screw-Attack, Space Jump, and Acid-Shield are other items that do what they say or obvious of what they do – the screw attack has been nerfed to let Samus only jump 6 times instead of infinite, can only be used for large gaps and walls, and are ineffective in killing/damaging enemies and bosses. Last but far from being least are the visors, which are as promised: Combat Visor, Scan Visor, X-Ray Visor, and Command Visor.

Combat Visor is the default that has the HUD, health/missile count, map, and enemy radar as well as the lore, logbook, and settings. Scan Visor is a scanner that can scan anything from enemies to lore, and give background and detailed information about it (like how to defeat a difficult boss) and has different colors based on what you can scan. X-Ray Visor does what it says and can be used with the Nova Beam to kill specific enemies, see through walls and invisible objects, and find weak points of enemies and structures. Command Visor activates, flies, lands, and carries your ship…by command (pun intended…okay, not really).

Enemies are typically Space Pirates, Metroids, robots, aliens, and humanoid enemies. Many return from past Metroid titles; however, newer enemies include different variations of older enemies, stereotypical inhabitants of their environment, or just Phazon variations and enemies capable of entering Hyper Mode…kind of like Zelda and Mario. The sad part is that they’re all very weak, being able to die in a few hits with beams and missiles or with the right weapons. Only the bosses and mini-bosses pose a challenge…unlike those in Zelda and Mario.

Bosses are incredibly tough to beat and make up for the enemies since they’re durable, strong, and intelligent for a change unlike the enemies. If you played Zelda, Skyrim, Dark Souls, Monster Hunter, or pretty much any IP or game with gargantuan bosses, then you know exactly what Metroid bosses are like in terms of battles. Okay, not all are huge as some are normal-sized or numerous in quantity. Berserker Lord, Meta-Ridley, Rundas, Korakk Beast, Mogenar, Defense Drone, Ghor, Helios, Gandrayda, Metroid Hatcher, Omega Ridley, and Dark Samus are all the bosses.

Since to Prime and Echoes, the only side quests are collecting the pick-up items, going for 100% completion (by getting every pick-up items), and playing the other difficulty modes for extended game lengths. This time around though, there is the achievement system, which you earn Metroid icon-tokens called “credits” each time you unlock an achievement that can be exchanged for music, stickers, diorama, and art which is totally optional. Another is the Energy Cell Quest, a fetch quest much like finding the Chozo Artifacts in Prime and the Sky Temple Keys in Echoes in order to reach the final boss.

However, you only need 5 out of the 10 energy cells and most are obtained as you progress in the game automatically as you go in Elysia and Pirate Homeworld. This is the easiest game in the trilogy, and one of the easiest in the franchise actually, only harder than Fusion, Other M, and Zero Mission (with the last two absolute jokes). Unless you never played an adventure game before, then you’ll have some decent challenge. Enemies can be killed by button mashing and lock-on targetting; exploration is very linear and guided by NPC’s all the time; and puzzles and bosses can be overcome with common sense and the Scan Visor. Bumping up the difficulty though certainly takes these problems away.

Controls

Because this is a Wii game unlike its Game-Cube predecessors, the controls are mapped out completely different. Both the Wii Remote & Nunchuk so you have to buy it if you don’t already own one. Use the remote’s pointer to move the on-screen reticle or cursor to shoot and toggle menus. The d-pad is to fire/charge missiles; the A button is to shoot or select while the B trigger is to jump and cancel menu options; the – button brings up visor select menu and pressing the + button activates Hyper-Mode. Moving the analog stick moves Samus, whereas pressing the C button is to turn into a Morph Ball and the Z trigger to lock-on target enemies, objects, people, etc.

Motion controls and gimmicks is what separates this from other Metroid titles (except from Other M), with commands, gestures, and even puzzles utilizing such a feature. With the Wiimote’s pointer used as the reticle for aiming and shooting, the tyranny of slow, inprecise aiming has finally come to an end. No longer do you have to use only one movement mechanism and aim with a slow reticle that results in unfair difficulty – you can also shoot and move at the same time instead of just standing and shooting in the prequels.

It may seem gimmicky at first, but once you get used to it, I can assure you that you will never want to go back, even if you hate or dislike motion controls (just like using the sword and shield with the Wiimote & Nunchuk in Twilight Princess). This also comes with extra benefits – being able to lock-on target and shoot even more precision and accuracy when compared to a gamepad controller; selecting menu options, looking over one’s surroundings, and using the visors easily to save time, stress, and health/ammo.

Items such as the Grapple Beam and Spring Ball that wasn’t even possible with traditional gamepad controls can now be used thanks to motion controls. You can even adjust the sensitivity of the pointer for even more precision and responsiveness, and turn on or off lock-on free aim to move the reticle while locked-on or not. Getting back on topic, the Spring Ball allows Samus to jump upwards in Morph Ball form by shaking the Wiimote, which is the solution to jumping with bombs that caused huge anger in Echoes when fighting bosses or solving puzzles.

Grapple Beam was an item that I neglected to explain, though since it ties with the motion controls, I gladly do so now. Just like in past Metroid titles, it acts as a grappling hook to cross large gaps that can’t be crossed by jumping. This time, there are two new variations that act as upgrades: the Grapple Lasso and Energy Lasso. With the flick of the Nunchuk, Samus can activate the lasso to grab and pull away enemy shields, obstacles, debris, and even switches in order to open latches, doors, and platforms to assist in solving puzzles and fighting enemies. This multi-purpose item is something that should be a staple of Metroid but unfortunately isn’t as it get retconned in Other M.

Other than that, there’s the Energy Lasso, allowing Samus to give and receive energy from whatever she sticks the rope on to, whether it be energy-activated switches full of or lacking energy or even enemies. This turns Samus into a Metroid herself in a metaphorical sense as the player can easily replenish their health when need be, even without the Gun-Ship, save stations, Phazon, or energy orbs lying around which should have been in Other M. Both of these as well as the traditional Grapple Beam grants Samus to solve any puzzle or defeat any enemy efficiently that other items cannot.

Gimmicks used by motion controls are either awesome or atrocious based on whether you love or hate it.  They’re simply number key-pads to give access to restricted doors blocking new rooms; energy hand pumps that give itself energy through manual pumping to activate nearby devices such as Fuel Gel pipes; switches to activate doors and elevators; touch screens and hand scanners to control nearby lifts; and finally twistable knobs only twistable by Samus’ beam cannon. These serve both as innovative mechanics and puzzles that add more fun to Prime 3.

Music

Prime 3 has some of the best music in the trilogy; with compositions being diverse in many genres and instruments, as well as being atmospheric, memorable, intense, pleasing, and catchy for all that listens to it. Many songs are remixed variations of older tunes such as Super Metroid’s Prologue Theme or Meta Ridley’s Theme that adds some nostalgia for older gamers. It’s mostly the boss battle themes such as Rundas and Gandrayda  being more intense and complex while themes for planetary environments such as Elysia and Bryyo being more atmospheric – which I think was a deliberate and well made design choice.

You may not really notice it, but there’s alot of detail and care put into the quality of the sound effects to make Corruption feel more alive. Similar to other launch titles and first-party games, Corruption allows certain sound effects to be played through the Wiimote’s speaker for added realism. What most people don’t know, is that all of them are accompanied by controller vibrations. This adds more life to the game than it already does with the vast NPC interaction and first-person perspective. Such excellent examples include sounds and vibrations of and while walking, shooting, and using motion-activated devices.

Graphics

The graphics for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption are actually good looking for a change, despite it appearing to be at first a minor upgrade from the past Prime titles. It’s not just upscaling then resolution and screen output to native 480p SD with 16:9 widescreen, rendered at a smooth and consistent 60 FPS; or either just upgrading the lighting effects and engine with improved physics and bloom effects (though those do help with it alot). Retro Studios also increased the polygon count, added high-rez textures with so much realism and detail, and completely changed the art style after fans complained of the dark and ugly Aether seen in Echoes for more than half of the gameplay time.

Everything in Corruption is colorful and vibrant, yet still maintaining the serious atmosphere and realistic effects…kind of like Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U (not the leaked 3DS port). Textures and models are so detailed that it gives the illusion that it belongs on a HD-ready console, like say the PS3, Xbox 360, or even the Wii U, instead of the Wii combined with the excellent lighting and high polygons. Particles such as acid rain, lava, ashes are present and well made that increases the life and charm of Prime 3.

Another cool thing I’ve noticed is the presence of minor graphical effects on Samus’ visor like her facial reflection, water condensation, or build-up of smoke that also adds the charm. Modelling (fashion pun is not intended) is probably where the graphics fall short of being perfect. If you were to look past the polygons, resolution, frame-rate, textures, lighting effects, and art style, you’d notice the flawed character, enemy, and background models. Without the aforementioned factors enhancing the aesthetics, it looks almost exactly of past Prime games.

But don’t freak out, as I’m comparing this to the abomination of NEW! Super Mario Bros. Wii as it’s nothing close to that. The models have drastically improved from the past, but the shaping is somewhat blocky, rough, dis-proportioned, and inaccurate; also the engine derives from the Nintendo Game-Cube as the prequels are from that system.  Therefore, it sort of looks like a Game-Cube game at first glance, hence of what I said before when I first started analyzing the graphics of this game.

Plot

The plot starts off where Metroid Prime 2: Echoes left off – Dark Samus. After the dark version of Aether self-destructs from the death of Emperor Ing, Samus barely escapes and finds herself back in Light Aether, which has its planetary energy fully recovered and the Luminoth race finally at peace and alive. Unknowingly to all, Dark Samus somehow managed to survive the collapse of the dark dimension even after Samus finished her off; however, she can only materialize into Phazon particles and not her humanoid self.

Dark Samus camouflages into Phazon debris on Aether, eventually being collected by the Space Pirates for lab expirements and regenerating herself in Phazon tanks within the Pirate-Homeworld. Coincidentally, the real and good Samus Aran wakes up from a nightmare dreaming about her evil doppelganger being revived by Phazon tanks in the exact same location. Samus immediately activates her Varia Suit in the cockpit of her Gun-Ship, flying it to the atmosphere right alone Norion. Transmitting the correct radio code, the Galactic Federation grants access to Samus to the G.F.S. Olympus.

Upon landing in the ship, she quickly goes to meet up with Admiral Dane to start a new mission, solving simple puzzles and exploring the vast ship along the way. Entering the room she finds Admiral Dane, some other bounty hunters, and an exact copy of herself wearing the Varia Suit too. Dane proceeds to tell Gandrayda to stop, prompting her to morph back to her true form as a female bounty hunter with shape-shifting powers. The admiral then thanks all for coming and calls upon Aurora Unit 242, an organic super-computer in control of the GF’s network…wow, another rip-off of Mother Brain besides MB in Other M (wonder what can go wrong).

Anyways, it then explains four months ago how the Space Pirates invaded a ship called the G.F.S. Valhalla on a training mission to steal, destroy, and kill all those on board. Another super-computer, by the name of Aurora Unit 313, was stolen by the pirates in which they planted a deadly virus soon after departure in order to malfunction the entire network. The federation noticed, shut down the network preventing the virus from spreading, and created and used a vaccine to cure any infected Aurora Units which worked as hoped.

Admiral Dane then states how dangerous it is for the network to be open, and as soon as he’s done talking, Aurora Unit 313 notifies everyone of a Space Pirate invasion…knew something would go wrong. Before the bounty hunters leave, Dane also orders them to visit Norion below to help fight against the pirates and make its planetary defense system back online which also got disabled. Samus makes her way back to the ship, defending weak troopers, killing Space Pirates, retrieving a stolen Energy Cell, witnessing other bounty hunters fight, and acquiring new weapons and upgrades along the way.

Right when she wants to leave for her Gun-Ship though, a large monster crashes through a window after killing some Federation Troopers and fights her in a simple yet tedious battle after commanding her ship to escape. Once Berserker Lord dies from Samus, electrical fences, and an explosive impact with a ship, Samus heads off for Norion by calling her ship back. Flying in her newly revised ship, Samus lands as she swiftly dodges incoming lasers from both sides of the battle from both laser turrets and fighter jets alike.

As she leaves the cockpit, she is greeted by a rushing trooper tells Samus of the scenario – all 3 generators needed to power the laser satellite cannon are all offline, necessary to act as the planet’s defense against any outer space threat. Samus hastily does just that as she gets the Grapple Beam, defeat more pirates, solves more puzzles to clear away debris and unlock doors. On her way to Generator A, Samus is forced to fight a dozen pirates and a few ships when even more enemy back-up arrives.

In the nick of time, all ships and enemies get frozen into ice shattered by ice grenades by an unknown sources. Rundas appears as the bounty hunter that saved Samus, alerting her that Generator B being restored by him and word from the GF that controlling ships to fly and land ships is now authorized, unlocking the use of the Command Visor. With that, he leaves by flying on ice platforms and Samus continues to restore Generator A. Once that is taken care of, she goes to Generator C; a Berserker Lord tries to kill Samus but saved by another bounty hunter named Ghor whom uses a mech-suit and is a cyborg alien himself.

Entering Generator C, Samus accepts the duel with a small group of Space Pirates when one of them betrays and kills the other two. This “traitor” transforms back into Gandrayda, casually telling Samus to finish the job for her as she killed the pirates for her. Taking some time to solve more puzzles to reveal and take an alternate route to the generator, Samus successfully restores the generators back online and the planetary defense system too – when suddenly Meta-Ridley appears and brings her down to the long tunnel below, surviving their last encounter back on Tallon IV in Prime 1.

Easily defeating the beast, she blasts three charged shots into Ridley’s mouth and hoping to survive as they fall into the lava pit. Again, Samus is luckily saved again by Rundas who appears from an alternate tunnel route, flying both of them to safely telling her to reach the control room on time. A large meteor-like object comes out of a wormhole in outer space, heading straight for Norion within 5 minutes. Aurora Unit 242 warns Samus of this, demanding that she meet with the others after the GF’s attempts to stop the meteor failed prior when they were activating the generators.

When Samus reaches the elevator, all of the bounty hunters activate the cannon, though just as the cannon can attack, they all get ambushed and fatally wounded by…Dark Samus herself well and alive. With the last hope of stopping the meteor eliminated and the bounty hunters unconscious, all seems lost when Samus somehow manages to get back up and push the button to activate the cannon before entering a state of long coma. After a month’s time, Samus wakes up immediately in a medical lab within the G.F.S. Olympus to discover herself in a completely new suit.

This is the PED Suit, or Phazon Enhancement Device Suit, allowing the chick to enter Hyper-Mode: a state of total invincibility and use of unlimited Phazon; at the cost of one full energy tank, risk of death by corruption, and a time limit of mostly only 15 – 30 seconds. Any of you that played the prequels can already fathom at what just occured. The mose deadliest, radioactive substance capable of fatally wounding, killing, and corrupting its victims into mindless savage beasts – as well as killing Samus quickly with its high radiation – is now your new best friend.

And unlike when you could only use it once against Metroid Prime and Dark Samus back then and risked your life using it, you may now use it at your leisure, making Prime 3 even easier than it already is. Did you know that you can also standing in pools of Phazon can heal your energy? Yeah, doesn’t make sense at all. Plus, you can actually get upgrades to Hyper-Mode, which are Hyper Ball, Hyper Missile, and Hyper Lasso. Being partially corrupt (when your Phazon meter becomes red and the screen prompts you to rapidly shoot) helps you more than killing you, as it allows you to use the excess Phazon to kill even more enemies and stay in Hyper Mode even longer than usual.

Moving back to the story, Samus is also made aware that the other bounty hunters have woken up earlier than her and also received PED Suits too to use the Phazon inside them. This is apparently due to the bodies “naturally” producing Phazon from being hit by Dark Samus, and the scientist then tells her that there are no negative effects (yet) and to meet up with 242.

It explains to the bounty hunter how the others mysteriously lost contact and went missing a week ago her waking up, while they were completing their missions on 3 separate planets – and her job is to find them and finish their missions for the GF to thwart the plans of the Space Pirates. The heroine hastily leaves the G.F.S. Olympus, and 242 tells her in the Gun-Ship that both Rundas and Ghor travelled to Bryyo and Elysia respectively to stop the spread of Phazon corruption from a Leviathan Seed (the meteor in Tallon IV, Aether, and Norion).

Gandrayda though was assigned to find and infiltrate the Space Pirate’s home planet to gather intel and stop whatever scheme they’re planning. So now, basically for the rest of the game, you have to do what the others were supposed to complete…and the plot dies out here in terms of cinematic cutscenes but this is when the lore starts to bloom and multiply which balances it out evenly.

On Bryyo, Samus arrives in the ruins of ancient civilization highly advanced in both science and magic, now turned into a wasteland with its inhabitants devolved into mindless barbarics (totally useless, but very interesting lore). She explores it, noticing ice blasts and structures left behind by Rundas that are at first pure ice but become mixed with Phazon later on; salvages intel from a satellite in a run-down GF base; and visits the rest of Bryyo to shut down two shield generators creating a force-field that is protecting the Leviathan Seed.

Samus then proceeds to go to the factory that produces Fuel Gel, finding even more trails of ice when she actually sees Rundas from afar who now remains silent and mysterious. Giving chase in hot pursuit, Samus eventually meets up with Rundas after he saves her once more from Space Pirates in an open-ended area. Confused, she attempts to talk with him which he replies with an ice blast in return, creating ice glaciers to fill the area and blocking all doors to prevent escape. She realizes something is not right with Rundas as he challenges her to a battle to the death.

Eventually concluding that Rundas has become corrupted by the Phazon inside him after seeing a mirage of Dark Samus, Samus is shocked and depressed, but must put a beloved friend back into his own grave for her own survival. After a long and very depressing battle, Samus salutes her fallen comrade as he dies as soon as he escapes his possession from the corruption, rewarding her with the Ice Missile.

242 calls Samus back to the Gf base in order to upgrade her ship with missiles to destroy the generators after failing to disable them from the terminals. With these explosives in hand (or in the ship LOL), she backtracks and bombs the first generator, travelling to a deep jungle to bomb the next while bombing some pirates, satellites, and barricades blocking the path. Samus discovers the other generator is protected by anti-aircraft turrets as her ship gets heavily damaged, so she must disable each turret manually.

With the turrets and second generator destroyed, access to the seed is granted for Samus to destroy to free Brryo of further Phazon corruption. Entering inside, it is noted how bizzare and different it is from the other seeds explored in Tallon IV and Dark Aether. Reaching the center, a colossal mech-robot wakens from Phazon and magic, challenging Samus to a duel, which she wins after a long battle with Mogenar’s constant stalling and mind games. The seed becomes destroyed at a cost of vomitting and increase of bodily Phazon corruption, leaving Bryyo for good in its recovered state.

Aurora Unit 242 advises to visit Sky-Town as the next destination, a floating “city” that serves as a spying facility for the GF above the gaseous surface and dense clouds of Elysia. Arriving there, the super-computer reveals another Leviathan Seed is here; that Ghor is still here but his location is unknown; and that another Aurora Unit by the name of 217 is here but was also a victim of the network virus. The vaccine is transferred somehow through Samus’ com system to rid it of Phazon corruption, but the gate leading to it is blocked.

Defeating another boss whom is a robot called Defense Drone to receive the Boost Ball to unlock the gate. When the heroine downloads the vaccine to rid 212 of Phazon corruption, Ghor appears out of nowhere and melts the circuit boards with a heat beam, stating in a peaceful manner that the only chance of reaching the seed is to restore Sky-Town’s network online after being aggressive before when he was mocking her.

217 activates after using the vaccine, thanking Samus for healing it. The first mission is to find and assassinate Ghor, using a mech-suit to fight a pathetically easy battle using a force-field, missiles, melee attacks, and heat beams to fight. He also becomes possessed by Dark Samus upon death. Samus returns to fix the severed cables after acquiring the Plasma Beam, bringing back Sky-Town’s network back online to give total control and access to the rest of the city. Samus travels back to Bryyo to acquire the Screw-Attack to aid in exploring the rest of the city after 217 recommends it. She comes back to 242 asking her to visit the wrecked ship G.F.S. Valhalla after leaving an alternate dimension (but it’s not needed to go for now).

Going back to Elysia after realizing Samus needs energy cells to explore Valhalla, 217 explains how a ship upgrade is necessary to assemble the three parts of a thermal-nuclear bomb that can destroy the force field, since both generators are hidden beneath the dense clouds as a ploy by the Space Pirates, which is the second mission. Samus comes upon another GF base (which is just a landing spot for the Gun-Ship), repeating the same procedure to give the ship its own Grapple Beam.

With it, Samus goes off to assembling all 3 bomb parts; discovering a hidden part of Sky-Town; killing off more Space Pirates and another Berserker Lord; and accidentally finding and releasing the Phazon Metroids throughout the solar system in a hidden lab. With the bomb finally complete after alot of backtracking and fetch-questing, 217 assigns Samus a third mission: to plant and fuse the bomb in the Spire Pod manually to protect it from any threats. It seperates and launches it close to the Leviathan Seed, becoming under attack by Space Pirates that detected its presence.

The pod becomes protected, and she leaves with an escape pod after fixing its broken circuits just as it releases the bomb, destroying the shield to access the seed. As before, she enters, fights the guardian that is this time a commanding Steam-Bot called Helios with an army of robots, and ditches Elysia when all is back to normal. Inside the Gun-Ship, 242 explains that Gandrayda left behind a communication space capsule right before she lost contact, revealing that another Leviathan Seed has corrupted that planet too, meaning that the pirates have become corrupted themselves.

The bounty hunter flies her way there, uses her stealth skills to sneak past the pirates and security, and saves a kidnapped Federation Trooper that turns out to be…Gandrayda. Laughing at her enjoyment of tricking her, the two females fight a long battle of her using clever mind-tricks, difficult strategies, and morphing into past enemies as a means to mock and test Samus. With all the hunters but Samus dead, the protagonist stands in silence as she helplessly watches the possession of Gandrayda from Dark Samus knowing that her weapons are useless against the mirage, with the Energy Lasso as a reward.

Samus manages to get the Acid Shield to protect herself from the planet’s acid rain as ironically advised to get by Gandrayda, and visits the other areas of the base through subway…or freight train after receiving orders from Admiral Dane to disable the planetary defense system so the GF can invade the planet (now I actually wonder how Samus invaded it). The badass bounty hunter fights more pirates, gets past more security, and finally malfunctions the planetary defense system after getting the Nova Beam, starting the assault.

The Galactic Federation arrives to help Samus by offering, or rather Dane offering, Federation and Demolition Troopers – the latter soldiers being weak in strength and numbers but crucial for the invasion to work as they have explosives that can take down large gates that are immune to all of Samus’ weapons (even Hyper-Mode). All of the strongest minions of the Space Pirates ranging from Beserker Lords to Pirate Commandos battle with Samus and her supporters; though many fall, the few survivors team up to destroy the final gate.

In the next room, a small remaining group of Pirate Commandos and another high-ranking pirate, calling her ship to shoot down the true final gate leading to the last seed via cargo route. Taking off her ship, she finally reaches the Leviathan Seed and enters the center, meeting up with Ridley who shockingly survived the fall back on Norion, appearing to have a Phazite armor protecting his chest and becoming more biological than cybernetic from Phazon corruption.

This new form is called Omega Ridley according to the Scan Visor, and engages in combat with Samus with her winning after a long intense battle of mind games, stalling, chasing, and breaking the Phazite armor. With the beast now seemingly dead, the heroine leaves the seed for good as well as the Pirate Homeworld. Aurora Unit 242 thanks her for her efforts but claims there is still one last mission before the horrors of Phazon is over.

According to 217 who did some spying on the pirates, the origin of the seeds come from a sentient planet composed of pure Phazon called Phazee, or at least, that’s the name of 242 came up with. The Galactic Federation plans a full-scale assault on Phazee to prevent more seeds from appearing and stop Dark Samus once and for all. However, it is too far away via regular space travel, so it must be accessed with a wormhole with a teleporter that so happens to be disguised as a Leviathan Seed above the atmosphere of the Pirate Homeworld. Samus reaches it via another teleporting device hidden within the Pirate Homeworld itself, but discovers that a special input code is required to use it.

Aurora Unit 242 recommends that re-visiting the G.F.S. Valhalla to look for any clues since it’s the only place to look for left. Flying to the abandoned vessel, Samus explores the wreckage to find debris, corpses, puzzles, Metroids, and Phazon. Using the energy cells collected throughout Samus’ quest, all rooms within the ship unlock to grant access for the bounty hunter to inspect to gather more pick-up items, solve puzzles, and defeat the last remaining Phazon Metroids. After finding the code, she also finds a message left behind by Aurora Unit 313 to warn the GF of Phazee, the Leviathan Seeds, and Dark Samus a little too late now that 242 and 217 have both found out.

The chosen warrior hastily flies back and activates the seed properly for the federation to warp to Phazee. Samus then rendez-vous with Admiral Dane and off they go to the final destination (Smash pun not intended). Warping to Phazee is greeted by a swarm of fighter ships controlled by the remaining Space Pirates who followed Dark Samus like a religious cult. The GF and pirates battle it out, while Samus individually travels to the planet’s surface to face her evil counterpart alone (so technically only Samus invaded Phazee).

Travelling a straightforward and linear path, she eventually reaches the core, after destroying some infant seeds along the way, and then dukes it out with Dark Samus. The two fight, with the villian using techniques stolen from the dead bounty hunters as well as using some tricks up her sleeves such as cloning and regeneration. The good Samus is victorious but this is when the tables turn with Metroid Prime gaining the upper hand. In a last ditch effort after being defeated multiple times, Dark Samus summons up a corrupted Aurora Unit 313 to become one with it.

Samus must now defeat Dark Samus disguised as the Mother Brain rip-off, who is actually Metroid Prime…which is actually a Phazon Metroid that became the guardian of the Leviathan Seed in Tallon IV. Permanently destroying it after a long and hard-fought battle, Dark Samus is forced out to leave 313, screaming in pain as she explodes and disintegrates into Phazon particles that dissolve into the atmosphere of Phazee. This removes the Phazon inside Samus, forever ridding her of corruption, but also starts a chain reaction that destroys Phazee (since 313 was attached and controls it with biotechnology).

The Galactic Federation leaves just as it explodes, with Samus appearing just as Admiral Dane declares her dead, and the two part ways after stopping the evil of Phazon and Dark Samus once and for all to enjoy a peaceful day in the galaxy…until Metroid II: Return of Samus. Overall, the plot is greatly presented and well-written in a cinematic, complex, and realistic, and story-driven manner. It caters to long time Metroid fans who are now adults with the serious, mature, and dark mood/atmosphere yet still having that sense of nostalgia and child-friendly material.

There honestly isn’t any flaws or plot-holes as said before and reading the scanned lore, and playing Prime 1 and 2 for the Game-Cube, explains everything about the origins and history of literally everything; from the people to the planets, and even the items and enemies. Cutscenes and animation are also all amazing plot elements since Prime 3 is much more cinematic and story-driven by using the cutscenes to explain the plot, besides just showcasing bosses, areas, and puzzles like it was back in Prime and Echoes.

Animation is fluid, smooth, and natural with realistic and believable movements from characters, enemies, bosses, and background objects. The script is great too with the lines fitting each characters’ personality or job unlike the cheesy and dramatic lines in Other M. Another cool new feature is voice acting, which is a series first and actually leaves a good impression; everyone but Samus can talk, which works very well despite Nintendo being against such an act (or do it poorly when they allow it, like Other M).

Verdict

Despite appearing to be a short game at first glance, Corruption is packed with high replay value as you can tell with how much I wrote for this review, which is just as long as my first review on this site LOL. Pick-up items, lore, energy cells, and credits boost the gameplay time exponentially, not to mention doing it all again in Veteran and Hyper Mode for extra length and challenge. Getting 75% all of the pick-up items unlocks a cutscene showing Samus mourning for her fallen allies on Elysia; getting 100% reveals the true ending with the heroine showing off her sexy ass body…I mean the Zero Suit before leaving Elysia in her Gun-Ship with another ship following hers, which is claimed to be Dark Samus – but she died along with Phazee and she can fly too.

Beating it on your first try nets you around 20 hours, 30 hours for the side-quests on 100% completion, and 10 hours on all other playthroughs (with 5 hours or less with speed runs). There isn’t really anything I like that I haven’t mentioned, so let’s discuss what I don’t; there are alot of cheap moments where you’re either severely disadvantaged or can easily die, such as when you protect the Spire Pod or disabling the anti-aircraft turrets in Elysia and Brryo respectively. The ending is also very underwhelming and anti-climatic for something that serves as the conclusion to the trilogy of some of the best games ever made of all-time. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption earns a 9.1 out of 10, in which I highly recommend as a must-have to add to your Wii collection.

 

NEW! Super Mario Bros. Wii Review

Introduction

Man, it’s been a really long time ever since I wrote my last review back in April, huh? After this and the Metroid Prime 3 review, I’ll be moving on to the third “saga” of reviews. Getting back on topic and as the name implies, this is basically the console successor to the original NEW! Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS. What I’m trying to essentially state is that it’s the rip-off to a rip-off. The irony of such a claim is that it’s actually the most unique game in the spin-off series, because its successors NSMB2 and NSMBU on the 3DS and Wii U respectively are even more ripped-off.

It started development and was surprisingly published in the same year of 2009. This was when the Wii was at its peak, only a few months later for it to be the casual kiddie toy that it’s remembered…er…forgotten as today. I recall everyone getting hyped for the game since it was the return of 2D Mario on consoles; there was co-op multiplayer for the first time; and the reboot of old characters like Yoshi, Kamek, and the Koopalings (okay, Yoshi sort of doesn’t count). I didn’t get it until December 2010 as I was too busy playing Mario Kart Wii back in 2009.

Plot

Just like with any typical 2D Mario platforming side-scroller game, all is well until Bowser comes and kidnaps Peach, prompting Mario in pursuit to save her. This time; however, it’s her birthday with the plumbers , along with two generic Toads as invited guests, which gets crashed by the Koopalings and Bowser J.R. Peach is brought to and taken hostage into their air-ship, where they head off to escape Mario’s grasp, but not before the game’s new power-ups being launched by cannons throughout the kingdom to aid Mario.

If you honestly expected this game to have an amazing plot, then this is the wrong place to look for. I understand that Mario games were never really strong in the story department, but ever since the cinematic storyline in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Paper Mario, it’s very disappointing to downgrade as something as shitty as this. They should’ve at least put some story cutscenes to expand upon the plot (besides the prologue and epilogue) and also place some dialogue text boxes for character interaction.

Gameplay

Basic concepts such as platforming and power-ups are present; however, there are some new gameplay mechanics. As with most Wii titles, motion controls are implemented in gimmicks one way or another. Unlike other games, NEW! Super Mario Bros. Wii inputs them as control commands such as spinning, grabbing/throwing, or activating motion-controlled “vehicles” and platforms. Another mechanic is the 4 player co-op that will be emphasized later; while objects, platforms, and enemies being of different proportion is a deliberate level design choice that will also be elaborated.

Other than single player, there’s also multi-player; three friends can join in the fray and play together simultaneously on-screen with four different characters. Each player has an option of either Luigi, Yellow Toad, or Blue Toad…with player 1 having Mario as default. It’s nice to have several people helping each other out to get hidden goodies or beat tough challenges that a single person usually can’t do alone. You can take advantage by grabbing, throwing, and even jumping on other players too – there’s also this super move that occurs when 2 or more ground pound at the same time.

Since it’s a series first, I’ll let some strings loose and not judge it for lacking online or having good teamwork design. On the contrary, I do find the screen and camera to be an issue because it always zooms out extremely with four players; it chooses which player to focus on – not always the first player or leading one; and anybody behind the camera can get killed and anybody ahead risks getting damaged by incoming obstacles and enemies. The whole co-op idea is a good start, though it honestly hinders progress more often than increasing it if your goal is to seriously beat the game.

Coin Hunting and Free-For-All are solutions to it as they fix these annoyances. The former is getting as much coins as you can by beating custom levels that are full of coins; the latter is beating any level except that no progress is saved and the screen isn’t as messed up as it usually is. The downside to these game modes is that you have to beat the levels in the main game in order to play all the levels in these modes, and also that your progress automatically gets deleted when you reset, turn off, or leave the multi-player menus.

What I forgot to mention was that the characters themselves are also underwhelming to play as. There is no difference in terms of stats at all, so each character are all clones and/or palette swaps of each other. Don’t assume that they’re as unique as they are in Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA) or in Super Mario 3D World. Returning from past titles are the Koopalings, Yoshi, Bowser J.R, and Kamek. The returning villians are much better in their modern appearances and boss battles, whereas Yoshi and Bowser J.R are disappointing with theirs.

Similar to NSMB, the Mushroom Kingdom is comprised of 8 worlds. Each area is based off of stereotypical environments such as forest, desert, and beach. They are all third-dimensional in terms of exploration with nice layouts and several great landmarks. Fortresses, castles, and houses fill up the maps, and each level icon has background objects giving clues as to what to expect when you play them…similar to Donkey Kong Country Returns. Alternate paths, hidden areas, and enemy battle-grounds are just some of the gimmicks used to enhance the map’s appeal and replay value.

Level design is above-average – most ideas are ripped straight from older Mario games or NSMB as I said before. Anything new is just enemies, hazards, and platforms of different sizes that gives the illusion of microscopic or gigantic proportions (which is actually pretty damn cool), motion manipulated platforms and vehicles are used too. Some levels use gimmicks only seen once and never again, such as skeletal roller-coasters over lava and flying manta-rays in the sky. It seems interesting but it pales in comparison to that of DKCR (which is a much better title).

There are returning and new items that are gimmicky but not situational. Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, 1-Up Mushroom, Mini Mushroom, and Star-Man are old items and are pretty self-explanatory. New power-ups consist of the Ice-Flower, Penguin Suit, and the Propeller Mushroom. The Ice Flower allows you to throw ice balls to freeze enemies into ice blocks; the Penguin Suit lets you have ice balls, better swimming controls, and sliding on water and ice to smash through enemies and blocks; and the last item grants flight and is the most OP.

Star Coins, alternate goals/paths, warp-pipes, cannons, and secret rooms are all the hidden goodies in NSMBWii unlockables include a completely new hidden world that is space-themed…spoilers, Toad House mini-games, and also extra game modes and hint videos. They’re all fun to find and collect, definitely adding to the replay value, though they do get tedious and boring afterwards. There are these golden stars that you can earn as you progress through getting the unlockables, but it’s just for aesthetics as it’s displayed on the save file.

Any player, for any odd reason, who cannot beat a tough level or boss battle can activate Super Guide. This is basically a giant, glowing green block with an exclamation mark that appears after dying in a level 8 times in a row and at a checkpoint (or the beginning of a level if you return after leaving it). When activated, the game will simply play itself and beat the level for you, which you just sit back and watch a computer controlled Luigi that slowly beats it. I honestly find it pathetic for the developers to spoon-feed the casuals, and very offensive to use gamers for making the game easier than it already is.

Controls

You can either choose the Wii Remote or the Wiimote & Nunchuk combo, but the former option is recommended and it’s the default. The d-pad is to move, crouch, enter doors and pipes, and toggle menu options. Pressing 2 is to jump and confirm menu selections; and the 1 button is to run and/or throw projectiles or objects. If you played the original on the DS, then you’ve pretty much mastered these controls too. Motion based commands include shaking to spin, grab, and throw certain enemies and items; titling the Wii Remote left and right enables the use of motion controlled platforms and vehicles as repeated dozens of time before.

Music

Another minor thing is the music which is a replica of the prequel’s sound track. There are some new compositions and remixes here and there but overall the tunes are generic, repetitive, and corny as usual. Different genres and instruments are evident; however, anybody who played NSMB agrees with me on how useless these efforts are to increase the music’s quality. Nintendo should’ve tried harder like they usually do with other IP’s instead of going the lazy route and not composing good music which they did here.

Graphics

Nintendo also put up a half-hearted effort with producing the graphics, and you can tell just by looking at it. The textures are extremely high-rez and the models being exactly accurate of CGI artwork; but everything else is mediocre and makes NSMBWii look only slightly better than its DS predecessors (which looks as bad as a N64 game). While resolution is at 480p standard definition, the frame rate is only at 30 FPS – and it’s not locked or consistent as it sometimes can drop to 25 FPS. Lighting and shadow is superficial since the graphics resemble a CGI cartoon animation with plastic, cartoony models like in Sonic Adventure DX.

Verdict

I honestly didn’t expect this review to be so short; replay value is ironically where this game shines the most, as beating the game by taking the most linear path; clearing all eight out of nine worlds; and defeating Bowser and his children to save the princess takes about roughly 8 hours. However, attempting to clear all levels, unlock every alternate map route, collect all Star-Coins, activate every warp pipe/cannon, and clear World 9 – which is not easy, even for skilled players – increases it to 40 hours.

We’re at the end of this, and you guys know what’s coming…so here goes. I like how this game is simplistic and easy, yet still being difficult with extra optional challenges. I also hypocritically enjoy the gimmicks, old mechanics, and the corny music despite what I said as it actually adds to the fun atmosphere and experience in my opinion. I despise how this entry lacks creativity and originality as almost all concepts are rip-offs from older Mario games. With that, I do suggest getting it but only at a reduced price through vintage stores/sites, and for casual gamers and Mario fans, so not a recommendation or a must-have. I mark this game off with a 6.6 out of 10.

 

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor Review

Introduction

I can’t believe I have to go back to this shitty game again. Goddamn it!  I hate this game so much for the brutal bosses, low and never increasing health, and story progression. It’s so fucking hard with its unforgiving level design and mechanics. Sin and punishment is right –  I feel like I’m being punished with its intense difficulty, and the game’s very existence is a sin on its own (pun intended but not in a funny way). Like, what the hell is this, why did I ever go back to this abomination in the first place? Oh yeah, that’s right: it’s to review this game for my gaming blog. I bought this game with Mario Kart Wii, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Excite Truck, and Sonic Colors at A & C Games back in March 2014.

I heard about this, not through TV commercials, online advertisements, or even through news, but rather through those recommendation pamphlets included in every first and second party Wii game (you guys know exactly what I’m referring to). Even after reading reviews, I still wasn’t sure if I should’ve purchased and played the game. Until I stumbled upon and was convinced by gaming networks – okay, it was only IGN and GameSpot but still – that composed lists of top Wii games to own – actually, top best 50 Wii games to own of all time – , I never actually considered getting it since I was turned off by the short length and hard difficulty (well, which I later did).

As it only six hours to beat, I’ll spoil all the juicy details later. Before I continue on, let me discuss the history of this IP. The original Sin & Punishment was an on-rails shooter with science-fiction and RPG themes, which was a Japan-exclusive for the Nintendo 64. I don’t know much about what caused its creation; what I do know though is that it was developed by a second-party company (or was it third-party?) known as Treasure, and they were supposedly working on a new IP for Nintendo at the time.

It never saw the light of day until its international release on Virtual Console, and the Japanese re-release, via the Wii Shop Channel. The Nintendo Wii U recently allowed N64 games to be downloaded through the eShop, though it’ll probably take at least a year before it even gets officially announced. As for this title Star Successor, or Successor Of The Skies elsewhere, I don’t know its conception either, though I assume the re-release of the prequel had some influence on it.

Plot

The back story isn’t going to be explained here because it’s already done so in the instruction manual, which can be viewed online officially through Nintendo or through piracy sites. It starts off with Isa and Kachi in a spaceship trying to run away from the creators, when suddenly they get hit by a laser beam from an enemy ship. Soldiers start invading it, prompting the couple to escape, defeating them in the process. Right before the ship crash lands into Earth-4, they escape and find themselves in an apocalyptic metropolitan city. Kachi explores the city and becomes lost, forcing Isa to to find her. He eventually does find Kachi wandering around with awe and curiosity, but not before fighting Orion Tsang, whom is associated with the Nebulox and demands the capture of Kachi in order for his life to be spared.

Isa destroys Orion Tsang, who is later revealed to be just a robot; no, cyborg…no, android…no, well, umm…I honestly don’t know. They then retreat inside a building, assuming to be safe, when a monster (later followed by an army of soldiers, beasts, and robots) give chase. After playing cat and mouse with them, Isa decides to enter a cave leading to a hydro tunnel system. He tells Kachi that it leads to the ocean, where this underwater labyrinth should be safe and free from any threat. Turns out Isa was wrong, because even more soldiers, as well as wild sea-creatures and hyper-advanced submarines, assault the traitors during their little detour. Ascending into the river surface forces them to fight the Nebulox again (um…spoiler alert).

Armon Ritter is the next challenger, who strangely resembles Adolf Hitler to me. Yeah, I’m not joking and I’m not being racist to the Jews either. The names both sort of rhyme: Armon, Adolf…Ritter, Hitler. They both dress in formal military-esque uniform/attire and have menacing faces that look serious yet mature. They even act like manipulative sociopaths too. Getting back to the game’s plot, he reveals to be a shapeshifter, transforming into killer dolphins and sentient rocks; unfortunately, he still gets defeated despite his OP techniques. He leaves them and says that the creators are always watching them no matter where they go.

While Isa travels along the water reflecting on the dictator’s advice, Kachi somehow activates a portal that teleports Isa to a dense forest. Kachi becomes trapped within the wormhole and tries to control her powers during her imprisonment. At first, Isa thinks he’s in a dream. Then after travelling and fighting for awhile, the forest brightens as a full moon shines from the dark sky and Isa immediately knows otherwise. He confronts an indigenous woman by the name of Ariana Grande…no, Ariana Shami! She says some metaphors about dreams and is later discovered as the third member of the Nebulox when she fights Isa (you only know about her identity and status in the manual, though her association with the Nebulox is kind of obvious at this point).

Her spiritual powers pose a tough challenge and her transformation into a bird-like monster make things even tougher. But Isa perseveres and defeats her in battle too. Kachi drops by at the right time since she now regained full control of her strange powers, warping both herself and Isa to a desert leading to Mt. Fuji (gee, I wonder where this game takes place in) the next morning. Isa discusses with Kachi about the philosophy of humanity (or was it before they teleported…sorry, it was only six hours and over a year, so my memory fails me) and even has a flashback about his monster father and human mother. Once Isa awakens, Kachi tells him of a strategic plan to evade the nearby guards.

Isa appears right when the soldiers are complaining about unable to find the two traitors and begin to pursue him. That’s when Kachi rides a dinosaur which distracts them, giving Kachi some time to ride atop a hovercraft, and the dinosaur frightens them to run away and set off an alarm to send in reinforcements. With a means of transportation, the couple travels through the desert, shooting down more mooks, monsters, and missiles. An animal hybrid that seems to be a chimera chases Isa before engaging in battle, later strangely allying him upon defeat.

The monster somehow communicates with Kachi, translating that their battle was a fun and decent challenge and is offering to repay them (I guess for defeating the soldiers). It flies and Isa and Kachi to the heart of Mt. Fuji…right where all of the hot, boiling lava is! They fly across the ocean of lava soon after the chimera beast leaves them, fending off navy ships in order to enter the nearby base. Another monster gives chase while Isa is on a cargo train leading into the fortress’ interior (leading to the exterior of another fortress, finally leading to the true interior).

It eventually dies after a battle inspired from Temple Run and Sonic Unleashed, but in a style similar to King Piccolo near the end of Dragon Ball, releases an egg far away in which an offspring hatches out from and kidnaps Kachi. She becomes the hostage and is tied to a weak rope attached to an unstable cargo mechanism over a pool of lava. After a game of teeter-totter, the offspring gives up and frees Kachi, falling into the lava itself and meeting its death (supposedly presented as a suicide for I guess failing at his life purpose or dishonoring his…parent).

They then fight the offspring’s sibling upon releasing Kachi from the rope who instantly appears from nowhere and vows to avenge its family but dies too after (thankfully) an easy battle. The couple infiltrate a highly advanced technological base, where robots, turrets, industrial blades, soldiers, and lasers greet him (to his death LOL). Halfway through, they encounter an Asian ninja girl who wants to fight but retreats as she warns that a giant monster is coming after sensing the presence of multiple intruders. Though the monster dies, its death starts a chain reaction that destroys the generator that destroys the room itself similar to before.

Isa and Kachi barely escape and continue to explore the base. Isa finally meets with the girl again, who is the fourth Nebulox member, challenging him to fight and even flirting with Isa to make Kachi jealous…which fails since Kachi is ignorant of love and romance. Fighting in what appears to be in an elevator shaft, Isa duels in a long battle with Hibaru Yaju, whom uses her katana blade and ki (DBZ pun intended) to counter Isa’s laser blaster and light sabers. Isa, of course, becomes victorious and leaves the base with Kachi, only to realize that there is another base hidden inside the previous one. Finally making it to the peak of the volcano after another onslaught of mooks, there awaits the leader of the Nebulox and former military commander – Commander Deko.

He remarks how things have changed since the last time they met as Isa is actually a former student of Deko’s who was the one who taught Isa the techniques he knows and uses currently. Deko infuses a bomb to set off to destroy the volcano within several minutes, to which Isa rebels. Deko proceeds to command his strongest underlings to eliminate both Isa and Kachi, in which they are successful after a long struggle. Commander Deko enters the fray and battles Isa himself once the soldiers all die and fail. They fight a long and hard battle where both combatants are barely alive; seeing that the bomb still has time to spare, Deko binds Isa together with chains and whips away Isa’s gun.

Isa is forced to fight in a hand-to-hand brawl with Deko, ending quickly (at least for me) with Deko being the loser. Humiliated at his loss, Deko retreats when the bomb finally explodes, ctaching Isa and Kachi off-guard. They both fall into the lava seemingly to their deaths; however, Isa protects Kachi and transforms into a typical RPG monster and heads for outer space to rebel against the creators. While in outer space (it’s actually inner space, but for convenience, let’s call it outer space), a gargantuan fleet of spaceships, laser cannons, and a giant satellite approaches Earth-4.

To the Nebulox’s surprise, the monsters and creatures that attacked Isa and Kachi earlier now ally with them to defeat the Nebulox and prevent them from destroying their world. With the new monster transformation, Isa is stronger than ever and faces the army of ships alone (with Kachi being inside his body). Finally confronting the Nebulox again, each member faces Isa in a one-on-one duel where they all transform into monsters equipped with giant weapons. Deko is the last to remain, and in a last-ditch effort to defeat Isa, uses his powers to steal and weaken Kachi’s soul upon his own defeat. Isa gets made, and not only saves Kachi, but also kills off Deko and talks back to the creators as a means to mock their very existence (sort of like what we atheists do to religious people).

If you haven’t noticed by now, Star Successor takes place in a futuristic post-apocalyptic sci-fi variation of Earth. Specifically, it takes place in the country of Japan…if the Mt. Fuji reference never rung any bells. You definitely won’t be able to know that at first (well, at least before that reference occurs). The plot gives off a dark and mature atmosphere while still maintaining a childish mood. The story itself is honestly good, well-written, and presented in a short and effective manner. What sucks though, is that this is probably the only good thing about this title since everything else from the gameplay to the graphics ranges from decent to mediocre quality.

Cut-scenes are decent and bad at the same time. What do I mean by such a contradictory statement? They do its job correctly – wait, did I already say this in a past review…oh, I already did, never mind (or did I not?) These cinematics also enhance the plot’s presentation and transition too; however, nothing else besides that is good. Camera always zooms in way too much and moves slowly, revealing the game’s horrible graphics with the low-rez textures, inaccurate models, and jaggies. Voice acting is sub-par as the voice actors sound very high-pitched and immature, as if they’re trying too hard to be hired as anime voice actors. Animation is decent but its speed is not “synchronized” correctly if you know what I mean…no, you don’t actually know what I mean.

Graphics

Aesthetics are also something I find to be underwhelming. As I said before, the models and textures are crap. Everything else on the other hand is – okay at most. For once, the polygon count is honestly really high, sort of upscaling the quality from bad to average. Larger models and character models (main, not the mooks or enemies) are better than the enemy and smaller models. Just like the latter though, they still suffer from rough textures, jaggie edges, and geometric flaws and inaccuracies.

Resolution is obviously rendered at 480p standard definition in 16:9 widescreen (weird for me to say that, but there are some games on the Wii that are actually still 4:3 LOL), but the anti-aliasing somehow gives the illusion of it rendering at 720i or even 720p HD. I only played this for 6 hours a year ago, so I’m not sure of the exact frame rate. I think it’s safe to assume that it’s at 30 FPS and not at 60 FPS. For the most part, Star Successor looks like a cross between a late Nintendo Game-Cube game and early Wii title.

No offense to the Nintendrones out there (told you I wasn’t a fanboy anymore), I’m being very honest here and I want to claim that this looks way better than The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Maybe because the latter was optimized for the Game-Cube and later ported to the Wii and Sin & Punishment: Star Successor being a Wii-exclusive title instead. Lighting effects are a really minor “feature” as it’s normal and nothing is good or bad about it. For some odd reason, the brightness, saturation, and hue barely change when the weather, location, or sky changes. Bloom effects are present; they’re extremely minor and not that obvious.

Controls

Controls are very basic and self-explanatory, especially if you’ve played shooters before on the Wii or even PC (with keyboard and mouse, no doubt). Point the Wii Remote to show and aim the reticle; press the A button to lock-on target and/or prepare a charge shot; the B trigger is to shoot with the gun or attack with the sword. The +, -, and Home buttons, and also the d-pad are obvious of what they do. With the Nunchuk, moving the control stick allows movement – since this is an on-rails shooter, you can only move within a set amount of space on the screen in a 2.5 D environment. Most of the time you’re in the air, so you control the jet-pack, but on the ground tilting up is to hover and the other directions are to walk.

To be quite honest, the controls make it feel like I’m playing a Metroid game. Many of the commands, such as charge shot, targetting, and evading can be done in the Prime trilogy or Other M. Basic mechanics like shooting and aiming is what makes this game familiar to gamers, making it easy to pick up and play…at least with the controls and not the actual levels. Besides aiming with the Wii Remote, there are no controller gimmicks. If it doesn’t suit you fancy, then alternative controller options and custom controller configurations are available. In my opinion though, it’s recommended to use the Wiimote + Nunchuk combo and nothing else.

Gameplay

Those familiar with shooters, be it first-person, third-person, on-rails, or even multiple perspectives and sub-genres (just like Other M), should feel right at home. I’m saying this not because I’m too lazy to review the in-game mechanics (though they are obvious and do get tedious to talk about after awhile). I’m saying it because I really feel like Star Successor is simply a generic shooting game with JRPG and sci-fi themes and elements included. Seriously, there’s nothing in this game that sets it apart from others, gameplay wise.

Only the plot and hard-ass difficulty (excuse the language) makes it remembered, not memorable for the good stuff like graphics and gameplay. Everything about the gameplay is terrible. Only four game modes exist to be experienced by players, which are single player, co-op, online, and time-trial. You can play as Isa or Kachi from the start in campaign, and fulfilling certain conditions allows you to alternate between either/or during the climax (get your mind out of the gutter if you assume I just made a sex joke).

Sadly in co-op, only the first character is on-screen, whereas the second player only controls a reticle and not Kachi herself (just like in Super Mario Galaxy). Online is limited to leader-boards, which can be hacked to get an impossibly high score and time record, and is therefore inaccurate. Besides, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Service was discontinued like a year ago so why bother going there? Time trial, or whatever the hell it’s called, lets you play just one level with no continues; as pathetic as it is, the quality and quantity of the gameplay appears to be very low.

Hubworld – wait, there is no “world” in Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, calling the different acts as “levels” would also be an offence (pun jokes placed but not intended to be funny in a good way but rather in a negative way). Sure, there are stages that transition smoothly as you progress, but they’re not really something you would consider to be levels. Level design is bare-bones all the way, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that. Since this is on-rails, you can’t move freely and explore the level. It simply scrolls automatically in a straightforward and linear path, like an interactive movie or something.

Except, unlike those story-driven games, there are no quick-time events (only in one level but it’s just a boss fight), on-screen button command prompts, or natural transition from gameplay to cutscene. Oh, and before I forget this, you also never stop in those levels, at all. The only time you stop is pausing or leaving the game entirely. When you reach a checkpoint or a new level, you’ll just keep going and never rest or you will die from the next set of enemies or bosses to come that fight you. Unlike the arbitrary NES games, there are segments in many levels that are free from danger allowing you to rest or explore without risk of losing health or dying. Star Successor would be a mindless shoot ’em up if it weren’t for the checkpoints and bosses.

Content, ranging from items to bosses, are a complete total ass. Barely any pick-up and recovery items even exist, and they’re extremely rare and hard to find and earn outside of mini-bosses and bosses which don’t matter as much (excluding the Nebulox). No weapon upgrades exist either; in fact, the only weapons are the gun and sword you start off with. Wow, just wow, this downgrades it to being almost as bare-bones as an Atari game. Enemies are way too easy and way too much, while the bosses are extremely fucking difficult.

God fucking damn! They have so much health, multiple attack “phases”, summon dozens of mooks to aid them, and attacks that can easily deplete your health to stun and kill you frequently. What the fuck is this shit? On top of all that, their AI trolls me constantly by always using the attacks I hate and suck at dodging/countering. Now for the worst out of them all: difficulty. This crappy game is so goddamn motherfucking hard! Why is it this fucking brutal and unforgiving with the difficulty?Limited health that is easily depleted and never gets upgraded; bosses durable as cock-roaches; delayed and slow response of movement, recharging, and combos; unfair placement of hazards, mini-bosses, and checkpoints; the list goes on forever!

Fuck, I freaking hate this game to the core. Star Successor is disgustingly not remorseful with its hardcore, intense challenge. Even on the easiest difficulty, I got several deaths and game-over screens, and expect that to happen all the time. Some may argue that it only makes things more fun, and that’s where they are fucking wrong! You will easily die all the time, by things I just mentioned, or even by random glitches, such as bad collision detection or delayed control responses. Oh yeah, this can be considered to the evil known as Dark Souls (or Demon Souls and Bloodborne) of Nintendo’s IPs.

If it’s this hard on easy, then I can’t even begin to imagine the monstrosities of medium and hard difficulties – no, I can’t and won’t even think about it. At least with other franchises like Donkey Kong Country, it has good graphics, music, controls, and gameplay, as well as being forgiving in certain aspects to make the experience less painful. Oh, did I mention that there;s cheap death moments in Star Successor and the fact that Donkey Kong Country Returns, another game I loath for the difficulty, is better in every way too? Thought so.

Music

Least and last thing to review is the music, which also sucks ass. Everything composed is either rock ‘n roll, sci-fi, techno, or a mix of the above. There is some genre diversity but they always seem to blend in with one another. All the tunes are generic and forgettable, coming off as annoying – probably even more annoying than the early 3D Sonic games; oh yeah, I just said that aloud, so what? At least the sound quality is good – nope, just kidding, it’s pretty shit too. This review of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor was very negative; didn’t I predict that only the plot and controls were good, while everything else from graphics and gameplay be terrible? Yeah, I thought so too.

Verdict

Not much left to say, yet I’ll say it anyways. While there is replay value, it’s very lacking and independent of the game’s length. Even with that, you wouldn’t be really motivated to go back and play this (I know I never did). Therefore, I’m not going to discuss the game’s replay value suckas! There are pros and cons; however, since the cons clearly outweigh the pros, and seeing that the only the plot and controls are good, I’ll leave out my opinions for this one small exception – also because I’m lazy reviewing this inferior game at this point. Despite what I said, many will recommend this as a must-have for the Nintendo Wii being one of the few “hardcore” titles for the library. But this is my review, which I say otherwise and give it a 6 out of 10.