Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992, Nintendo, Super NES)

If you are a gamer, and someone asks you, "What is your favorite video game", we all realize that this question is difficult to answer. All gamers like alot of video games obviously, so you have, naturally, alot of games to choose from. But it never was a difficult question for me. My favorite video game was the game that got me into video gaming in the first place.

That game is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

This action/puzzle epic was the brainchild of one of the grandfathers of gaming, Shigeru Miyamoto. It was essentially a giant open playground, just waiting for you to uncover it's many secrets. You journey on a epic quest to save the land of Hyrule from the forces of darkness, uncovering many riddles and arming yourself with mighty weapons and useful tools.

The plot is simple, yet effective. You control Link, a boy who was awoken by a vision of a strange girl, beckoning him to come and save her from a horrible fate. Your uncle gets up, armed with a sword and shield. He simply states: "Don't leave the house."

The opening of the game is still one of my favorite moments in gaming, running through a storm going after your uncle. You find your uncle, near death. He gives you his weapons, and your quest begins........

It is deeper than that, but the short version is that you have to find 3 magic pendants, and then find 8 crystals.

The story is brilliantly conveyed throughout the entire game, and it's perfect for this kind of game.
The game looks fantastic, with well-detailed dungeons alongside a colorful overworld, cool effects including the 3D Triforce coming together in the game's intro and the Mode 7 scrolling world map. In short, LTTP is among the best of the 16-bit era graphically.

The sound and music in LTTP is phenomenal. Koji Kondo did a amazing job with this game. From the awesome tune in the title screen, the soothing music of the file selection screen, the epic and majestic theme of the overworld, the dark and menacing tune of the Dark World, the list goes on. LTTP has the best soundtrack on the Super NES, and has one of my favorite game soundtracks ever.

But LTTP's true calling is it's amazing, perfect gameplay(in my opinion). I have never enjoyed a video game as much as this one. It's a perfect blend of arcade-style action and deep, robust puzzle-solving. It's basically a much more fleshed out version of the original. A top-down action/puzzle game with some very light RPG elements. Whether you are exploring the land of Hyrule searching for it's many well-hidden secrets, trying to fight your way through a taxing dungeon, battling a intense boss, of simply swimming through the rivers, you will never stop enjoying this game. It has that perfect balance of difficulty: It's not a easy game, but it never feels cheap or frustrating. The most amazing aspect of LTTP is The Dark World. Imagine if you were living in your town/city, but suddenly, out of nowhere, everything became dark and evil, with certain death lurking around every corner. That is how it will feel in The Dark World, a evil and twisted version of Hyrule. It is a revolutionary game concept and the most ingenious in video gaming.

I can find no flaws in this game. It is seriously, to me, the perfect video game. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is quite simply the game to end all games. No gamer should not have this game in their collection. If it's on the original system, the Wii's Virtual Console, the Game Boy Advance, or even on a Emulator, you need this game. You need it.

LTTP proves that Nintendo was, and still is, the top dog in the gaming market. It proves that Miyamoto's creations are timeless and age gracefully. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is Miyamoto's magnum opus, and as I said before, the greatest video game of all time.

+ Simple, yet effective storyline.
+ Perfect blend of Arcade-style and Puzzle gaming.
+ Perfectly balanced difficulty.
+ Epic musical score.
+ Colorful and detailed graphics.
+ So many epic moments.
+ Revolutionary and Ingenious Dark World mechanic.

+ None that I have seen.

OVERALL: ****10 out of 10****

Friday, October 1, 2010

Okami (2008, Wii, Capcom)

I really never seen video games as works of art. Yeah, I understand that the developers for the most part put their heart and souls into their products, but I never constituted artistic value in video games.

Until I played this.

Okami was released for the Playstation 2 in 2006, created by Clover Studio and published by Capcom. It was released to near universal acclaim, some sites even giving it game of the year awards. But despite the critical success, it was not nearly as successful in the market, barely selling at all in the U.S. It was released a few months before the PS3 and Wii were released to market, so maybe gamers just seen the PS2 as a dying format?

Anyway, I have never played the PS2 game before, but I have played the Wii version extensively, so I will go over this edition of the game.

Okami's plot is complex and very compelling. You control the Japanese sun god Amaterasu, but strangely, you are incarnated as a white wolf. Amaterasu was summoned by the wood sprite Sakuya to save the land of Nippon (essentially Japan) from a evil force. This is the basis of the plot of course, but trust me, it's much deeper than that and there are many enjoyable characters that you will encounter on your quest. Okami's story is much better done than Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (a game I never cared much for anyway) and will keep you playing through till the end.

There is but one thing to say about Okami's graphics: absolutely brilliant. I have never seen a game quite like Okami. The game truly looks amazing, with a art style best described as looking like a Japanese watercolor painting. I haven't quite seen anything like it in any game, and in my opinion it is the most beautiful game I have ever played. Nothing looks bleak or bland, everything has life and color to it. It's really pretty.

The gameplay, however is where Okami truly shines. It is much like The Legend of Zelda series in structure, but it distinct enough to be it's own unique experience. You control Amaterasu through the land of Nippon exploring beaches, forests, caves, cities, and much much more. Okami's true call to fame is the Celestial Brush. By holding down the B trigger on the Wii remote, you will activate the brush and be able to "paint" images and objects that become real. This gives the player a lot of power, with such abilities as being able to cut the hardest stone in half with a stroke of your brush, or drawing the sun into the sky. It does a really good job at making you feel like a god and makes some truly unique puzzles that are a blast to solve.

The combat is similar to Zelda as well, but Amaterasu has access to more weapons than Link does. Her main weapon seems to be a flaming stone disc, but as you progress, you will acquire swords and bead whips to help in purifying the land of evil demons. Also unlike Link, Amaterasu can string together multiple hits to devastate opponents with her divine weaponry. On a added note, Amaterasu can also manually jump with the A button, unlike Link. You also have no transportation, but Ammy can run faster than Epona (Link's horse) can.

Like Zelda, there are dungeons to explore and epic bosses to be fought, but it seems less obvious than Zelda, it seems that everything seems to just seam together and give the game more momentum. The puzzles, like I stated before, are really fun to solve due to the versatility of the Celestial Brush. They are as taxing as Zelda's puzzles, and are equally, if not even more rewarding.

Okami is a lengthy adventure, even longer than Twilight Princess. I guarantee that you will not beat Okami in one sitting. The game runs about 30-40+ hours, and you will enjoy every moment of it.

The music is also fantastic, even on par with Zelda's or Mega Man's music. It has a eastern feel to it (which makes sense) and has an epic, sweeping effect on players. And I swear to god, Okami has the most epic final boss battle ever, just because of the music. (The Sun Rises)

As much as I love Okami, I don't like the amount of dialogue. It seems that you'll be doing a lot of reading thoroughout your adventure and that may put off some gamers. But the dialogue is very, very well written, especially Issun's dialogue. At least Issun isn't nearly as annoying as Navi from Ocarina of Time. On the same note, there are quite a bit of fetch quests, but it seems to be a nagging issue because every single game seems to have them in one way or another. The biggest gripe I have with Okami is it's difficulty, of lack thereof. The enemies and bosses don't seem to be particulary aggressive, and you can even avoid almost all battles outright. Your brush is a little overpowered, making the majority of fights, even the last boss, very simple.

From the very beginning to the very end, there is no better way to describe Okami other than beautiful. This game is truly a work of art, and is my vote for most underrated game of all time. All gamers, casual or hardcore, must experience this amazing game. The graphics are beautiful, the music is brilliant, the story is compelling and light-hearted, the gameplay among the best of The Legend of Zelda, Okami is truly best described as a brilliant work of art. And as far as I'm concerned, Okami has the best ending of anything. Ever.

Okami is a timeless classic in my book, and is one of my favorite video games. There is absolutely no excuse not to buy and experience this brilliant masterpiece.

Long live Amaterasu.

+ Best graphics in any game I've ever played.
+ Charming and compelling plot and enjoyable characters.
+ Brilliantly designed gameplay vaguely like The Legend of Zelda.
+ Unique "Celestial Brush" mechanic.
+ Sweeping, and even moving music score.

- Dialogue may disinterest impatient gamers.
- Combat is a little too easy.

OVERALL: ***9.8 out of 10***