Featured Content from Ebay

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mass Effect 2, a must have sci fi adventure on the Xbox 360

You know, I think it is time for another game review.  Yesterday, I talked about Castlevania Harmony of Despair, and today I will talk about Mass Effect 2.  By the way, I did play through Mass Effect 3 twice, though I will talk about that game on another post (by the way, feel free to submit game reviews if you want as realistically I will probably not get to every single game for the Xbox 360 due to time and budget restraints).  Mass Efect 2 has been out for a while and I do have to admit that I am a fan of the game and series.  This game is definitely a must have if you are into science fiction games and films (like Star Trek).  Like in the last game review, I will rate this game under a letter grade ranking system (with an A meaning that the game and features are perfect, while an F means it is lousy).

Above is the official launch trailer for Mass Effect 2 posted by EA on Youtube

Overview / Story - A

If you like science fiction fantasy games and films (i.e., Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Knights of the Old Republic, etc), you will probably love Mass Effect 2.  This game was the official sequel to Mass Effect 1 and is the second of a 3 game series created by Bioware/EA Games.  In this action packed sequel, the game continues the story of Commander Shepard in his quest to ultimately stop the reapers from destroying the galaxy as we know it.  In Mass Effect 1, you played as Shepard (along with his crew) as he/she stopped the rogue specter Saren (who was posessed by a reaper called Soverign) from taking over the galaxy (for more information about the first game in the series, you can either buy the game here or read the article on the game on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_Effect_(video_game)). Of course, little did Shepard know is that the story is far from over.  In the prologue of the game, the Normandy (Shepard's ship) gets attacked by a mysterious race called the collectors and was apparently killed during the encounter.  2 years later, Shepard gets resurrected by Cerberus, which is a shadowy organization headed by the Illusive Man which wants to establish human dominance across the galaxy (a spinter group from the Alliance).  Although initially branded as a "terrorist organization" by the Alliance (some of the side missions in Mass Effect 1 even had you fighting Cerberus operatives), Ceberus sets aside their hostilities when entire human colonies begin to "disappear" as a dangerous alien race known as the collectors basicallhy begin launching a genocidal war against the human race by abducting and killing human colonists across the galaxy.  Shepard is forced to forge an uneasy alliance with Cerberus (even against the wishes of the Alliance), recruit a whole new set of squadmates and launch an epic and very survivable suicide mission against the Collector base (which is located literally at the center of the galaxy near the edge of the massive black hole at the galaxy's core).  Some squadmates from Mass Effect 1 (like Tali and Garrus) make their returns as squadmates (though you will have to "recruit" them once again), while others (like Liara, Ashley/Kaiden, and Wrex assuming he survives Mass Effect 1) return as NPC characters and so you will have a whole new set of squadmates this time around, including:

1) 2 Cerberus operatives: Miranda and Jacob (who join your party towards the beginning of the game)
2) A mercenary called Zaeed who was a former Blue Suns gang member and is an expert at combat
3) A salarian doctor/scientist named Mordin
4) A biotic convict female called Jack who was imprisoned on a huge prison ship headed by the Blue Suns who seems to have a grudge against Cerberus.
5) A justicar named Samara who is initially stationed at Illium (a huge Asari colony).  By the way, if you are going evil in Mass Effect 2, you can also replace her with her "evil" daughter named, Morinth , who is like a succubus (she has a reputation for killing people she mates with including Shepard if you decide to romance her).
6) A drell assassin called Thane
7) A prototype Krogan named Grunt
8) A "friendly" geth named Legion
9) A sophisticated female thief named, Kasumi (comes with the "Stolen Memory" DLC that you can buy and download on Xbox live).
10) Tali (who was initially on a pilgrimage) and Garrus (who was going by the alias of the archangel and is initially being hunted down by thugs on Omega (a huge space staion on an asteroid that doesn't have an official government and an Asari crimelord named Ari acting as the leader of Omega).

The game is divided into 3 phases, with several intermissions in between. In phase 1, you recruit your squad mates.  Phase 2 has you doing their loyalty missions (while the loyalty missions are optional, it is recommended that you get your squadmates' loyalty for best results on the suicide mission and plus it extends the game significantly as the game will seem extra short otherwise) along with optional side missions known as N7 assignments (these are pretty much random side missions you can do and have you do various miscellaneous tasks like doing "treasure hunting" on various worlds, fighting pirates, salvaging ships that have crashed, etc).  Phase 3 has you doing the climatic suicide mission against the Collector base.  There are also several extra storyline missions, including 2 where you have to investigate human colonies on Freedom's Progress and later on Horizon, as well as 2 where you have to do some covert ops on collector/reaper vessels.  Personally I liked the storyline, videos, and voice acting.  By the way, if you haven't played through Mass Effect 1, I do recommend playing through that game before doing Mass Effect 2, and there are several benefits of doing so:

1) You get the full backstory for Mass Effect 2, including the story with Saren, Soveriegn, planets you visited in Mass Effect 1 (such as Zhu's hope, Virmire, etc).
2) Choices you make in Mass Effect 1 do effect how Mass Effect 2 (and Mass Effect 3 for that matter) plays out.  Several key choices from Mass Effect 1 includes: did you save Ashley or Kaiden on Virmire (there is a situation where both of them were in dire situations on Virmire and you are forced to save one or the other, but not both) and by the way, while the choice doesn't have much effect on Mass Effect 2 (besides who returns), both become romance options in Mass Effect 3 (for example, if you are male shepard and want to romance Ashley, she will need to have survived Mass Effect 1 for you to play as her).  Other key choices will be Wrex's fate on Virmire (it appears he can be killed off on Virmire too) and if he dies, he will be replaced by his brother Wrev in Mass Effect 2, whether or not you save the council at the end of Mass Effect 1 when the citdel gets attacked by Sovereign, (the council will be more suspicious of Shepard if you didn't save them in the first game), whether Captain Anderson or Udina are the human councilors.  Also, it appears some NPCs do make appearences on Mass Effect 2 if you played Mass Effect 1 (such as Conrad Verner).  By the way, if you haven't played Mass Effect 1, those choices will be made for you (whether you like them or not) though there does seem to be a DLC add on (Genesis) that lets you make the key choices from Mass Effect 1. 
3) Imported Shepards do have their benefits, including extra experience points and power ups, free credits, free resources for upgrades, etc.

Finally, like Mass Effect 1, ME 2 does have a "choose your own adventure" style format where you have control over the conversations, Shepard's actions, etc.  You can either make your guy an "angel" or you can make him a total jerk too.  In mass effect 2, you also have new interupt options that appear on certain conversions, with paragon interupts being where Shepard trys to help or comfort the person he is interacting with, while renegade interupts has Shepard pulling more aggressive responses (such as shooting/threatening someone during arguments).  Also, some of your choices will have an impact on Mass Effect 3 (for example, squad mate who die on the suicide mission will not return in Mass Effect 3 and will usually be replaced by someone else).  By the way, Shepard can enter into relationships with certain squad mates.  As male Shepard, for example, you can enter into relationships with Miranda, Jack, Morinth (though she literally kills your character if you decide to go that route, though it is somewhat funny too), Tali and your first mate, Kelly Chambers.  As female shepard, it appears you can have relationships with Thane, Garrus and Jacob.  Finally, the game does have several possible endings, and it is possible for Shepard and his/her entire crew to die on the suicide missions (it is not supposed to end that way, but it is possible for Shepard to die at the end if you made poor choices both before and during the suicide mission, though personally, I found it much easier to survive the game's final mission than to get everyone killed off).  The only thing I didn't really like about the story is 1) the repuation bars do fill up slowly, and 2) some conversation options pretty much require you to max out your reputation bars (either renegade or paragon).  For example, I remember one part in the game where Miranda and Jack get into an argument about Cerberuse and Shepard is called to break up the arguement.  If you want to keep the loyalty of both crew members, you have to choose the paragon/renegade options, otherwise you will have to side with one of them at the cost of the loyalty of the other crew member, and yet sometimes the paragon/renegade options are unavailable even if you have a high paragon or renegade score, so you would have to commit to either going fully paragon or fully renegade early on in the game if you want to be able to use the extra conversation options (I remember on the Shadow Broker mission too, where in one of the conversations, the paragon/renegade options were greyed out even when I "maxed out" my paragon gauge).. 

Replay value - B

Chances are, you will probably find yourself playing through the game more than once.  There are several possible endings to the game: 1) everyone survives the suicide mission, 2) everyone (including Shepard) dies on the suicide mission, 3) some people survive/die during the final mission, and plus you can get either a parogon/renegade ending too (mostly depends on what you do to the collector base at the end, whether you decide to destroy the base or give the base to Cerberus, though that decision doesn't really seem to affect Mass Effect 3, so it doesn't really matter either way).  Also, there are lots of variables at play (especially if you played through ME 1) and they do affect Mass Effect 3 (for example, if you want to enter in a relationship with Tali or Miranda, you have to romance her in Mass Effect 2, otherwise you will miss out).  It can also be easy to miss things the first time or so around too (such as items you missed the first time).  Also, if you decide to romance squad mates, I found it easy to mess up and miss the opportunities (as the opportunities to get into relationships are limited and usually only come in short windows, where you have to pick certain conversation options for it to work, and you don't always get a second chance at it if you mess up the first time).  Also, unlike Mass Effects 1 and 3, Mass Effect 2 seems to have the most DLC content of all of the Mass Effect games, with extra missions you can download and play (such as the full version of Liara's quest to stop the evil shadow broker who wants Liara dead, as well as a mission that aims to fill the gap between Mass Effects 2 and 3 where Shepard has to do a covert mission on the batarian homeworld and later must make a tough decision to stop the pending reaper invasion, which also serves as a precursor to the events of ME3).

Sound - A
I didn't really notice anything I didn't like about the sound, music and voice acting.  Also, the cut scenes play quite nicely too (by the way, you can usually skip conversations and clip scenes if you want too, usually by pressing the b button, though sometimes that can cause you to automatically choose dialogue options during conversations too, whether you meant to choose them or not).

(to be continued later)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Castlevania Harmony of Despair Review

In a nutshell, if you are a Castlevania fan (especially the more recent titles, like Symphony of the Night, Portrait of Ruin, Dawn of Sorrow, etc), you will probably like Castlevania Harmony of Despair.

Ah, it's been a while since I posted here last (btw, this is not the only blog I have as I have several other ones as well, along with other stuff).  Lately, I have gotten my "hands" on the game, Castlevania Harmony of Despair for the Xbox 360 (it is on Xbox live) and I do have to say that I definitely like what it has to offer (especially after playing through previous titles like Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin.  Initially, I got the demo version, where you simply play through the first stage of the game, and later got the full version when I got the extra money for it (along with all 5 of the DLC levels as well).  The game is divided up into 6 lenghty levels, where you basically spend time fighting bad guys, collecting powerups from treasure chests, upgrade your character, and ultimately fight huge goulish bosses as you make your way through the stages.  In addition to the initial 6 levels, there are also 5 extra levels you can download as well (though they will cost you extra per DLC level), which can be useful for extending the game significantly if you find the game to be too short (considering that the main game is only 6 levels long).  The game also offers a huge co-op multiplayer mode (which is unique to the series as most other Castlevania games don't offer multiplayer game play) where you can team up with your buddies or people from around the world  and work together through the levels (which can be useful if you find the single player mode to be too difficult).   In this game review, I will rate the game and aspects of the game in letter grades (where an "A" means that it is the best game out there and an "F" means that the game is the worst game out there).  By the way, this review is based on my take of the game and you are free to agree or disagree with me (btw, feel free to comment below about your experiences with this title).

By the way, here is a short gameplay video of the game I found on Youtube (shows some dude playing through level 5 in the game):

1) Storyline - B
The game does borrow from other 2D Castlevania games, so you probably will get a feeling of de ja vu (especially with the boss fights), though the developers to add various twists through the games and levels.  Also the game is somewhat liner (though you do have huge maps to explore) and are filled with a huge array of enemies to fight through, puzzles to solve (for example, some doors require you to flip a switch that you can find hidden in the level).  The game is pretty much arcade style, so you won't get a complex storyline like you would in other games in the series (like Symphony of the Night) full of voice acting and all, but each level is unique and has their own elements.  By the way, Count Dracula is the main antagonist of the game, which will probably appeal to the traditional Castlevania fans (especially considering that not all of the newer titles have Dracula as the final boss).  The game also offers a decent collection of characters you can play as, including Soma (from Dawn of Sorrow), Alucard (Symphony of the Night), Shamoa (Order of Ecclesia), Jonathan (Portrait of Ruin), and Charlotte (Portrait of Ruin), though there are extra characters you can play as from the DLC content, including Julius Belmont, Richter, Simon Belmont, Maria, and others (which can be useful if you want a bigger collection of characters to play as, as well as if there are specific characters you want to play as not offered in the initial game).  Also, each character do have their own power, strengths and abilities.  Alucard, plays alot like the Alucard from Symphony of the Night (though toned down a bit, such as not being able to turn into mist or wolf form indefinitely like he could in Symphony of the Night) and is great at close range combat with a huge array of weapons and swords he can use.  Soma Cruse plays alot like the Soma from Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow and like in those games, not only is he good at close range combat, but he can also absorb "souls" (or abilities) of the characters he defeats.  By the way, like in dawn of sorrow, Soma won't always absorb souls of the enemies he defeats as it seems to happen at random, and by the way, unlike in Dawn of Sorrow, he won't automatically absorb the souls of the bosses he fights like he did in Dawn of Sorrow, so you will likely have play through the same stage and defeat the same bossess several times before obtaining the bosses' souls (which can get redundant and frustrating for some if you are trying to obtain all of the souls in the game, including the rare ones).  Charlotte and Shanoa are the powerful mage characters in the game, and while their regular weapons are relatively weak compared to some of the other characters, their spells do pack a huge punch and can easily desimate otherwise difficult to defeat foes (for example, Shamoa's lightning attack can easily topple dullahans in the game).  Jonathan is a whip user (though he can also use conventional weapons as well like the other male characters) and does have access to the different sub weapons he gets from Portrait of Ruin (such as axes, paper airplanes, richochet rocks, etc).  Of course every character do have their own unique strengths and weaknesses and some will have it easier than others on the levels you play through, so you will probably mix and match them in the game.  My favorites so far are Shanoa and Soma.

2) Difficulty / Gameplay - C
Like most other people who have played Harmony of Despair, I do have to admit that this game is extra challenging and each level does get progressively tougher to play through (especially after level 5), though with all of the power ups and abilities you get, they usually do get a little bit easier over time, though they will take some time, patience and effort.  Of course, if you find single player to be too difficult, then you can always take advantage of the co-op mode on Xbox live and work togther with other players on each level, and there are advantages and disadvantages to the multiplayer mode, which I will explain later.  I have heard about some people quitting after a while (for example people giving up after fighting the infamous Puppet Master boss on the second stage in the game), though each level is masterable and all of the bosses do have their unique patterns and weakenesses for you to learn and exploit (especially the first boss in the game, Gergoth, where his attack patterns are easy to learn and remember).  It is also worth mentioning that each levels is on a timer (usually 30 minutes) which constantly counts down as you play through the levels (when the counter hits '0') your character dies and it is game over, which can be a nuisance to some, especially if you take your time exploring each map, and naturally some levels are longer than others (for example, levels 8-11 can be extra challenging given the huger than normal map layout and all).  By the way, there really is no pause feature (even on single player mode) as the timer will count down and enemies will make their moves even when you need to "pause" the game or change your equipment, weapons, etc and that can be problematic if for whatever reason you need to take a short break of you have interuptions while playing (i.e., having to use the restroom, your family having dinner, phones ringing, someone at the door, etc) as the game will go on with or without you.  Also, your character can take damage from enemies or obstacles (such as when your character falls on a spike) while in "pause" mode, and this can be bad if you have to be away from the game for a little while (for example, your parents serving dinner while you are playing on the level).  In fact, remember recently, I was playing through level 7 and I got interupted and had to be away (everyone else in my family was home and I probably had to empty the dishwasher or something) for a bit, and even though I "paused" the game, by the time I got back, my character died and I had to do the level all over again. 

3) Multiplayer mode - C+
This is a unique feature to Castlevania HOD and I have yet to see another Castlevania game that also has a huge co-op multiplayer mode like the one you see in this game and is comparable to multiplayer modes you would find in games like Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, where you can team up with other players (whether it is your buddies or other people from around the world) and work together as a team to play through specific levels of the game (usually chosen by the "host" player).  To get the most out of Castlevania Harmony of Despair, you should probably consider trying the multiplayer mode at least occasionally, and there are seveal benefits and drawbacks to the multiplayer modes:

- Great for playing on levels that you are struggling on,  I know that some levels can be tougher than others (especially on the boss fights.
- Up to 6 people can play at the same time (by the way, assuming you each choose different characters, that can be to your advantage as every character does have their own unique abilities, strenths and weaknesses, and naturally you will have some stonger players in each level with you, especially on a typical game with 6 people in your team).
- You can obtain extra abilities earlier in the game.  For example if want more powers and abilities for your characters that you can't obtain earlier in the game, playing on multiplayer can simply that process.  Whenver treasure chests are open, everyone gets a power up in it  This can be especially useful if you are playing as Soma when obtaining the "souls" of your enemies since whenever you or your team mate(s) defeats an enemy, there is a chance you will get that sould power (which can be especially useful if you have some really good players in your team busting through the map as at least in my experience, you can play through the maps you will likely find a random soul powerup seem to pop up out of nowhere and you get that soul).  Also, assuming you are trying to get every treasure chests on a certain level, you might find that some are impossible to obatain on single player (at least for the charater you are playing as).  For example, some treasure chests and shortcuts for that matter will require Shanoa's magnus ability to get at.  Also, in the first stage of the game, there is a purple treasure chest that nearly impossible to get on single player without Soma's "medusa head ability" (which lets you hover as you jump) or Alucard's Mist form.
- You do have access to shortcuts and areas that you could not reach on single player.  For example, on the first stage, there is an elevator that you can use as a short cut to another section of the map that can only be used on multiplayer mode (where one person holds the switch down while you use it).
- Some levels will seem to be shorter and easier (especially if you have some really good characters in your team).  It has happened to me on various occasions, where you get some advanced players on your team who are able to get to the boss before everyone else does and beat them long before you get to the boss (a classic example of this is on level 3, where you fight Menace from Dawn of Sorrow, where someone will likely reach him before everyone else does and take him down rather quickly).
-  Whenever you beat a level as a team, you get credit for beating it no matter how far you are in the game (even on single player mone).  For example, if you just started a game and are on level 1, and you join a multiplayer game that plays through level 6 and your team successfully beats that level, you will get credit for beating that level and be able to jump ahead if you wanted to.     

Drawbacks of Multiplayer mode:
- Considering that the game has been around for a while, there do seem to be less people playing Castlevania Harmony of Despair lately, and even when doing "quick match" you won't always to be able to find a team to join, and that can be a bit frustrating too if you are trying to play on multiplayer mode.  The quick match usually scouts out possible teams you can join and if it finds a team you can join, you will automatically join that team, though it does not always yield teams for you to join, which means that you will have wait and try again.  Of course, you can always start your own team either invite your friends to join (assuming you have friends on Xbox live that have the game) or wait for random people to join your team (which usually doesn't take long if you are willing to wait a few minutes).
- If you go with a random team, you never really know who you will get paired up with and some people can definitely be out of your league (for example, his/her gamings are immensly superior to yours or vice versa).  For example on the last few times I played this game on multiplayer mode, the teams I got paired with usually played "level 10" on hard mode  (Castlevania Harmony of Despair has both a "normal" mode for casual players and a "hard" mode for more advanced players), and my character(s) usually don't last long on level 10 before getting defeated (I am still playing through normal mode as it is on single player, currently on level 9).   Also, you usually do get a few players who really know what they are doing and beat everyone to the end boss on the levels which can make the levels seem shorter than normal and can limit your ability to explore the map.  By the way, if your character dies on multiplayer mode, you will turn into a skeleton and will have to play through the maps in skeleton form unless if someone revives you (and on hard mode, skeletons are weak and can usually be killed within 1 or 2 hits) and each time someone dies, the game seems to penalize the team by reducing the time limit a bit and if everyone dies or the time runs out early, it is game over and you have to start over.  So, you will probably want to be selective on what teams you want to join.  Also, I find that some hosts can be a bit rude at times (especially if you have to make any preparations before a level, such as buying power ups, changing your character, etc).  For example, one time I joined a team and decided to change my character real quick (usually switching between Soma, Alucard and Shanoa), and the host decided to boot me from his team almost immediately (I guess he was in a hurry to start the game he was hosting and didn't like me changing my character).

Controls: A
Personally, I liked the controlls alot (at least the Xbox 360 version), and they are pretty easy to use and master.  By the way, if you need help learning certain moves and abilities, the game does offer a built in game manual that shows how you can use them (for example, copying the abilities of some of your foes as Shanoa, such as lightning and ice attacks).  They should be pretty straight forward. 

Replay value: B+
With so many characters to choose from, multiplayer modes, level designs and all, you will probably find yourself replaying various levels in the game over and over again.  Also, why play as only one character when you can try out the other characters as well?  For example, mage characters can be pretty fun to play as some times as you can hurle fireballs, lightning and similar attacks at your foes and bosses.  Also, there is quite a bit of DLC content and levels (including 2 based on the levels and bosses from Symphony of the Night, along with a level where you basically relive the good ol 8-bit castlevania games, particularly Castlvania 1, with lots of next gen twists and format and even has the classic remixed "vampire killer") music playing in the background as you play through the level you can add to the game if you find the initial game too dull and short as there as 5 additional levels you can download, extra characters you can play as, etc. 

Sound: A
You will probably like the remixed music that the game has (most are from the previous games in the series).  Personally, my favorites were the background musics of stages 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 1).  Also, the boss music is pretty much the remixed versions from the games the boss was originally from (for example, Dracula has the classic remixed version "Dance of Illusions" playing when you fight is 3rd form), The Puppet Master, Menace and Gergoth all have the same boss musics from when you fought them in Dawn of Sorrow, and so fourth.  By the way, as with Sonic Generations, if you don't like the background music on the levels you are playing on, you can always change it from the options menu (though it appears that you do have to beat the level that you want to change the music on at least once either on single player mode or multiplayer mode before you can change it).  Also, I did like the voice acting in the game, for each characters too.

Overall score: B+

I can go on an on about Castlevania Harmony of Despair, but I would give the game as a whole at least B+ as an Xbox 360 game.  It is definitely not perfect, but this game is definitely a must have if you are into the Castlevania series.  Sure the difficulty levels of the game may turn away some people (for example, there is nothing more frustrating when you fight the Puppet Master boss on stage 2 and he manages to kill you off by placing a voodo doll of you into one of the many iron maidens scattered throughout the stage, which can kill you within 1-3 hits depending on how high/low your health bar is) and the game does get progressively tougher as you progress through it (boy if you thought level 2 was hard even on normal mode, just wait till you try level 10 on hard mode even on multiplayer, now that is insane).  Also the game doesn't really have a pause feature (you open up an ingame menu when you hit start or access one of the books scattered throughout the stages that let you change your gear, powerups, etc), and so if you have to use the rest room or have other interruptions while you are playing through each level, you will probably want to keep that in mind, plus the time limit can be a nuisance to some people (and it does count down even if you try to pause the game too), especially on the bigger maps where you have more areas to explore, switches to flip, enemies to fight, etc, specially on level 10.  The multiplayer mode definitely has its benefits and does allow for co-operative play, and can be extra useful for levels you can't get through on your own on singleplayer mode, though it does have its obvious drawbacks too (like playing with people way out of your league or playing levels on "hard mode" when you are not ready for hard mode yet).  Overall, the game is decent and despite the drawbacks of this game, it does have an arcade feel to it, and the levels are pretty fun to playthrough and I do recommend it for almost any Castlevania fans out there.  By the way, the demo verision has you playing through all of stage 1 (better than some games where they cut your gameplay short long before you finish the demo stage, as is the case in Sonic 4 Episode 2, where the game resets before you finish the first level of the game). If you are interested in playing Castlevania Harmony of Despair, you can find it on Xbox Live arcade (I think there is also a version for PS3 and possibly the Wii, though I haven't tried those versions yet).  The game was a bit pricy for me, especially if you decide to get the extra levels as well, but it is defintely worth it.

By the way, have you played through Castlevania Harmony of Despair?  Did you like it or hate it?  Feel free to comment on this post and share your feelings about the game.

Similar games you might like (at Amazon.com).  Note: this is not an exhaustive list of Castlevania games as there are mroe out there of course).

Castlevania Symphony of the Night

Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow

Portrait of Ruin

Order of Ecclesia

Castlevania Lords of Shadow - this is the lastest 3D installment in the Castlevania series and functions as a sequel to Lamment of Innocence and Curse fo Darkness, though the storyline is definitely different from the previous 3D games and is a bit darker too.

Castlevania 1 - this is the original Castlevania game for the NES.  Note: level 10 is inspired by Castlevania 1.

As well as other Castlevania Games

Other similar games you might like includes:
Sonic Generations: this game seems to be Sega's answer to Castlvanis Harmony of Despair and is the latest installment of the 3D Sonic franchise where you pretty much play through remixed and both 2D and 3D versions of various levels throughout the series (including levels from Sonics 1-3, Sonic Adventures 1 and 2, etc) along with other features (I will go into more detail abotu Sonic Generations another time though).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Got Mass Effect 3 recently

Here is another thing worth posting about:  I got Mass Effect 3 lately and beat the game once as a paragon character.  I will post more about this game later.  By the way, here is a trailer for it you are curious about Mass Effect 3

Game features that you might like:
- Epic finale to the Mass Effect series
- The reapers have arrived and chaos ensues and Shepard (who was temporarily suspended after the events of Mass Effect 2) is called upon once again to save earth and the galaxy from extinction at the hands of the reapers (who launch a genocidal war against all races).
- New multiplayer mode (these didn't exist in the first two games in the series) where you team up with other players and battle hordes of enemies across the galaxy, including reapers, Cerberus (they officially become villians in the 3rd game), and geth
- Lots of story and fateful decisions to make (btw, if you played mass effects 1 and 2, some of your decisions and consequences will carry over to Mass Effect 3, for example if squad members die in the other 2 installments, they don't return in Mass Effect 3). 
- Romance storylines - Shepard can have relationships with other squad members.  Also, it appears that if you had 2 different romance partners from the previous 2 games, they will get jealous, which is kind of funny.
- There are multiple possible endings in the game (both good and bad).

I will talk more about Mass Effect 3 later.   By the way, have you played Mass Effect 3 yet?  If so, what are your experiences?  By the way, if you are new to the Mass Effect series, I recommend playing ME 1 and ME 2 first since not only do you get the full back story, but you have more control over what happens in Mass Effect 3 (otherwise major decisions from the first 2 games will be made for you).

Been playing through Castlevania Harmony of Despair lately

Hey guys, sorry it has been a while since posting last (btw, this is not the only blog I have as I have several other ones as well, both here on Blogspot as well as a blog at Instant Blog Subscribers).  Anyways, I recently got the full version of the game, Castlevania Harmon of Despair and it is definitely a classic in my opinion.

I am actually currently on level 6 in the game (technically the last level of the game unless if you have the DLC levels), and I do have to admit that it is pretty fun and challenging too.  Currently, I've been playing through the game as Shamoa (a female mage), though I will probably play through as other characters as well over time.  The game is pretty fun and is defintely a must for Castlevania fans (especially if you enjoyed titles like Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow, Portriat of Ruin and Order of Eclessia). 

Cool features in Harmony of Despair:
  • 6 levels long (though there are 5 DLC levels that you can add too, for much longer gameplay)
  • Multiple players to choose from, such as Shamoa, Soma, Alucard, Jonathan, Charlotte, as well as other castlevania characters (some can even be downloaded too, like Richter and Simon Belmont)
  • Huge boss fights (especially on levels 2 and 3), by the way, they do get progressively more challengeing as you go along, especially on the battles against Death and later Dracula)
  • Has both single player and multiplayer mode
  • Lots of power ups and treasure chests.
I will post more detailed review about this game later, but I am definitely a fan so far.  By the way, if you are struggling on the single player mode, I recommend trying the multiplayer mode as it is usually easier on multiplayer mode (especially when you have a bunch of people in your party).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Got Castlevania Portrait of Ruin recently

Here is an update on games I have.  I recently got the game, Castlevania Portrait of Ruin.  The game is a prequel/sequel to Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow and in the main game, you play as Jonathan Morris and/or Charlotte Orlean as they battle through Dracula's Castle in their quest to stop the evil Brauner and ultimately the vile Count Dracula.  The game also has several other modes where you can play as Richter Belmont (from the Dracula X and Symphony of the Night), as well as the sisters Stella and Loretta.  I don't have a whole lot of information about this game yet, but it is pretty good so far, much like Dawn of Sorrow in the way (by the way, many of the monsters from Dawn of Sorrow are present in Portrait of Ruin as well, including Lillith, the treasure mimic monster, zephyr and others). 

By the way, here is a trailer for the game from youtube:

Have any of you played Portrait of Ruin before?  What do you think about this game?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beat Mass Effect 2 today as a renegade character

Hey guys, I've been playing through Mass Effect 2 lately (especially in the light of the forthcoming of Mass Effect 3 this year) and just beat the game as a renegade.  Here were my stats:

- no deaths of my squad members (on my first playthrough as a paragon character, only Jack died since she was not loyal on the mission)
- gave cerberus the collector base
- Tali is officially my guy's girlfriend (on my first playthrough I ended up with Miranda)
- All of my crew survived
- My guy was a level 30 engineer

I will try to post a picture of my character later. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This year's pick for Halloweenish themed games: the Castlevania Series

It's that time of year again, Halloween (2011).  Are you looking for some good halloweenish titles to play on your favorite game system (or emulator)?  Here is a short list of halloweenish games you will probably love.  Some are completely halloweenish, while some others are not really halloweenish (though they do have some noteworthy halloweenish themes to them)
image caption: picture of Count Dracula in the game, Castlevania Symphony of the Night (you can find the original screen shot at Moby games at http://www.mobygames.com/game/xbox360/castlevania-symphony-of-the-night/screenshots/gameShotId,430217/).  Count Dracula is the main antagonist of the famous Castlevania series and is a classic if you are looking for halloweenish titles.

Ah, it's been a while since I have posted last.  Been a bit busy, plus this blog is not the only blog I have, as I also have several other blogs, including a blog about demos at http://rjstoredemos.blogspot.com (talks about demos I do, has a section on special promotions online from select retailers, as well as several other features).  I also have 2 relatively new blogs, including one about siberian huskies and alaskan malamutes at http://instantblogsubscribers.com/?w=huskies (yes, I am trying out a new blog host for that blog and it is pretty similar to blogspot, with some differences, such as cleaner layouts for blogs, less restrictions on what you can post about, as well as more ways you can monetize your blogs, such as adding clickbank affiliate links, referral links for your Sokule downline, as well as built in referral links to IBS) and a general animal videos blog at http://rjanimalvideos.blogspot.com.  Feel free to check them out and subscribe to them too as I try to add new posts to them often too.  Anyways, on to this post.  As you probably know, it is halloween season and you might be wondering if there are some good halloweenish games to play, and one game series that you are bound to love is the Castlevania Series (it is definately a classic and a very halloweenish game)

The first game series that SHOULD be on your list is probably the Castlevania series.  This game certainly does bring back memories, especially back in the days of the classic NES when Castlevania 2, Simon's quest came out, when you played as Simon Belmont in his mission to lift a hiddeous curse that turns people into monsters as well as to defeat the evil Count Dracula.  Of course, that is just one of many games in the Castlevania series.  In case if you are not familiar with the Castlevania series, it is a lengthy series of games created by Komnai (the same people who made the Contra series) about heroes such as Simon Belmont (as well as his predecessors and successors) in their struggle against the evil forces of demons lead by the evil Count Dracula, who is the "dark lord" (Satan-like) and the main antagonist of the series (though some of the newer games do have a new villian, such as Satan himself at the end of the Lords of Shadows game, besides the 2 expansion packs).  Many of the games come in different forms and have evolved quite a bit since the NES games with plenty of hit titles, including "Symphony of the Night", Circle of the Moon, Lamment of Innocents, Lords of Shadow, and many other titles. 

Typical themes in the Castlevania Series:
- you fight through hordes of ghosts, goblins, monsters, demons, and other foul creatures of the night that you would find in a halloween themed game, movie or show.
- Plenty of hideous bosses to fight. In most if not all Castlevania games, you are bound to fight some huge and monsterous minions of the evil Count Dracula (which varies by games), with some noteworthy boss fights including: Frankenstein in Super Castlevania 4, Death (the grim reaper, who is pretty much 2nd in command of Dracula's forces), the "Forgotten One" (a very goulish optional boss you can fight in Lamment of Innocents), Legion (a huge ball of dead bodies that appears in some of hte games), Dullahan (the headless horseman look alike), as well as many others. 
- The final boss in most (though not all Castlevania games) is usually Count Dracula (who usually teleports around a room and hurling fireballs and other projectiles at you), though he usually comes in 2 forms (a human form, followed by a huge demonic/dragon form).
- Levels do come with good Castlevania style music, especially in the earlier games in the series, such as the "vampire killer", "beginning", and "bloody tears" themes (though many of the newer games have different sound tracks).

Noteworthy titles in the Castlevania Series:

1) Lamment of Innocence -

this is the official prequel of the Castlevania series and is almost like a movie in a way (given the 3D nature of the game as well as the voice acting of the characters and all) and features Leon Belmont, who is a distant grandfather of Simon Belmont, who is on a quest to stop an evil vampire named Walter (who happens to be one of the predecessors of Dracula) and save his wife who was kidnaped by Walter (in an attempt to lure Leon into a cat and mouse game at his castle).  While the game may seem a little short, the levels in the game are pretty lenghty and you will fight hordes of skeletons, flying eyeballs (peeping toms), ghosts, zombies, and other creatures of the night, along with some huge bosses like Medusa, a succubus creature, an undead parasite worm, as well as several others.  Even in the main castle, the music is creepy, and yes, there is a hideous monster (known as the "Forgotten One") lurking at the bottom of the main castle that you can fight towards the end of the game when you have gotten a certain item to open the door leading to him and you can hear him moving around as you get closer to him. 

2) Castlevania 64 -

 This is definitely another classic.  If you have a Nintendo 64, you would probably like Castlevania 64 (though the camera graphics can be a little choppy).  You play as either a girl named Carrie or a decendent of Simon Belmont, named Reinhardt Schneider in their latest quests to Dracula's Castle in their mission to stop his evil plans.  By the way, the storylines are slightly different depending on who you play as (for example, if you are Carrie, part of your quest will involve hunting down an evil witch named, Actriz, who is bent on kidnapping and sacrificing young children all in the name of preserving her "youth") and as Belmont, the main mission is to hunt down Dracula (who unbeknownst to him happens to be a mysterious child named Malus though that fact does not get revealed until the end of the game).  Plenty of  memorable features in this game:

- The eerie feel when playing (especially on the first few levels where you are in the woods and heading into the castle).  Also, I do like the boss music as well (the shutter theme) on the early bosses.
- On the 3rd level, you will be going through an eerie maze chasing after Malus (a mysterious kid, who is really Dracula unbeknownst to Reinhardt/Carrie), while watching your back as you have 2 gargoyle dogs and literrally a crazed Frankenstein monster armed with a chain saw (just two hits from that baby can prove fatal for Reinhardt/Carrie) chasing after you for the entire maze portion level (btw, there is a major boss fight at the end of that level).  It is bound to get your adrenaline going, as one false move and it is game over there.  Even the castle you enter before the maze is eerie as it is full of ghosts, vampires (some of them serve as mini bosses too), a "friendly" ghost named Rosa (who becomes a boss character later on in the game), as well as some other eerie features.
- You do collect gold in the game that you can use to buy items and power ups. Be warned though: the salesman is really a demon in disguise as a salesman and if you buy too often, you will have to fight him as a boss character in the last level of the game (before you fight Dracula).
- You do fight vampires on various occasions, and they can turn you into a vampire if they "bite" you (which comes with negative effects too).
- Epic boss battles too, including a massive battle against Death (has the boss theme from Castlevania Dracula X when you face him), Renon (the "businessman" if you buy from him too often), Actriz (the evil witch in the game), as well as a 3 fold battle against Dracula (including the imposter version of Dracula that you fight at the top of the "Clock Tower" level), as well as an epic two part final battle with the real Dracula. 
- Plenty of clip scenes too (plays like a "silent film" though).

As you can see, Castlevania 64 is a one of a kind game for the 64 and is definately a title you don't want to miss.  A few downsides though: 1) deaths do come cheap on some levels (by the way, it is possible to fall to your doom in this game), 2) the camera angles can be tricky sometimes, and 3) no voice acting in most of the clipscenes (the dialogues play out a bit like that of a silent film where the game shows subtitles when the characters "talk" in the clipscenes).

Tips with Castlevania 64:
- It is recommended that you play on Medium or Hard since you won't get to the end on "easy mode" (the game ends on level 5 if you play on easy mode, which is not really the final level of the game as much as it might seem like the final level at first).
- You do have to try to get through the levels as quickly as possible since you are kind of in a race against another vampire hunter named, Vincent (who is a reckless vampire hunter who wants to reach Dracula before your character does).  If you take too long or you use the sun/moon cards too often, you will have to face Vincent as a boss character, and that makes it so you get the bad ending (though the imposter version of Dracula will seem like the final boss on the surface, especially given the "dance of illusions" theme when you fight him). 
- Be careful not to buy from Renon too often, as you will have to fight him as a boss at the end of the game if you do.

3) Castlevania Dracula X (and it's alternate version: Dracula X Chronicles) -

this game is probably one of my favorites in the series.  You play as Richter Bemont (one of the many successors of Simon Belmont).  Count Dracula had been resurrected by a corrupt priest named, Shaft and Dracula proceeds to kidapping Richter's sister, Maria, as well as his girlfriend (Annette?) and it is up to Richter to "pay a visit" to Dracula's castle, rescue Maria and Annette, and defeat Dracula once again against all odds.  The game spans about 8 levels or and has an arcade style feel.  Some of the levels also have some of the classic Castlevania music tracks, such as the "Bloody Tears" theme on level 3.  At the end of the game is an epic battle against Dracula.  Note: while I have played the SNES version of Dracula X, I haven't played the Dracula X Chronicles verion yet.  I used to have a PSP, but it broke, but I am planning to get a new one some time, and then I can get the game then.  However, I have seen videos of the game on Youtube and definitely seems to be alot different from the SNES version (besides some similarities).  By the way, personally I liked Castlevania Dracula X more than Super Castlevania 4 in many ways (probably given the newer feel to the game).

4) Symphony of the Night -

This is the official sequel to Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles (it appears this game takes place after the events of Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles, not the original Dracula X game).  Set around the time of the end of Dracula X Chronicles (aka Rondo of Blood), Richter Belmont thought that he had defeated Shaft and Dracula and ended his evil plans, but the not yet over, not by a long shot.  Soon, the evil priest named Shaft comes back into the picture, "kidnaps" Richter and causes him to turn evil by making him into "lord" of Dracula's castle, and soon plans the resurrection of the evil Count Dracula (which seems to be inevitable with Richter out of the picture at the time).  However, Dracula's "son", Alucard (who seems to be sympathetic towards the human race) intervenes (thus betraying Dracula's cause) and sets on a quest to rescue Richter from Shaft and Dracula's clutches, defeat Shaft once and for all, and stop Dracula's resurrection before all is lost.  This game is definately a classic and seems to be the inspiraton for many of the current generation 2D Castlevania games, including Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, Portrait of Ruin, and others.  You go through not 1, but 2 huge castles (the other one is really a clone of the first one, but everything is upside down there) facing countless foes, hiddeous boss characters (including the infamous Legion/Granlafoon boss, Death, Cerebus, and many others), and make your way to rescue Richter (who is under Shaft's influence) and save the day.  The game also uses a level up system, plenty of weapons, shields and other items you can use to help boost your stats and to help progress through the castles, making your character stronger and more powerful as you progress).  It also comes with a satisfying ending too.  It is probably my favorite Castlevania game.  I used to have the game on the Playstation, but decided to sell it along with the original playstation I had around the time I got the PS 2 (sold it to a guy on Ebay).  Though, I wouldn't mind getting the Xbox Live version some day. 

Well, there are many other noteworthy games in the Castlevania series (this list would be too long if I posted them all) and is worth mentioning.

By the way, what do you think of the Castlevania series?  Do you have any favorites?  The latest one I've played is the Lords of Shadow version, which is the latest 3D Castlevania game, where you play as Gabriel Belmont in his quest to avenge the death of his wife and rescue her spirit (which is in limbo after her death).  The only downside to the Lords of Shadow version is that it is definitely much darker than many of the previous Castlevania games I've played (even on the boss battles, your character now has gruesom fatality moves that you can use to completely destroy bosses when you beat them) and plus part of the game takes your character to Hell (literally), with the end boss being Satan himself (I guess they decided to make Satan the angagonist for LOS), which may be offensive to some, especially mothers.

Looking for a information about particular Castlevania game?  Take advantage of this search widget below from Amazon: