Archive for the ‘GameCube’ Category

Baten Kaitos Origins

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

The original Baten Kaitos game was a little on the weird side. That’s OK, I like weird. I actually only played it because I found Origins, which is its prequel (that came out later), at my local video game store, and thought it looked like a pretty good game. But I didn’t want to play the prequel/sequel without playing the original game first. So I hunted down and bought a copy of the original game, and liked it enough to think that Origins wasn’t going to be too big of a waste of money.

Origins takes place something like 20 years before the events in the original Baten Kaitos. So you kind of get a chance to see the characters (at least the ones that have been born) and what they were like before they were old and embittered. And a lot of the holes in the story are filled in for you. Though, if you never played the other game, that’s not really going to matter. You don’t have to have played through the old game to enjoy Origins, but you’ll miss out on some of the foreshadowing.

The game plays a lot like its predecessor, but there are some pretty important differences.

  • The voice acting sounds like it was done by actual voice actors instead of people dragged in off the street, and the recorded voices don’t actually sound like they were recorded in a tile bathroom on the other end of an iffy telephone connection.
  • You fight your battles with those silly cards (‘magnus’), but you return to full health afterward, so you don’t have to worry about carrying around food that goes bad after a while.
  • Enemies drop money when they’re defeated, so you don’t have to lug a camera around with you to take pictures of them to sell for money (which was a completely ridiculous idea to start with).
  • You only have three people in your party to worry about, and they all share the same deck of cards, instead of the half-dozen characters each with a deck with 50+ cards in it. So you spend way less time micromanaging your cards.

There are a few more changes, but those were the big ones for me. I ended up liking this game as much, and maybe a little more than the old one, but I was really glad to have played them both back to back like I did. Right after I saw the ending sequence to the the first game, I unwrapped and popped in this one. I think having it fresh in my mind helped me to see some of the elements that tie the two together a little more clearly.

One of the things that still puzzles me is a particular song that plays during the game’s fights with the boss character in the video above. He gets his own song in this game called ‘Chaotic Dance 2′ which is a remix of his song from the first game called (shockingly) ‘Chaotic Dance’. Now, I’ll let you try and rationalize how a guy has a song called ‘Chaotic Dance 2′ in a game that happened earlier than the one where he has one without the ‘2′ on it. But the first version of the song had some kind of unintelligible lyrics. Here, take a listen:

Chaotic Dance Clip

Now, I naively chalked up not being able to understand the lyrics due to the wacky distortion that the composer used. It turns out that’s not exactly the case. I’d like you to compare that clip with this one:

Chaotic Dance 2 Clip

With the distortion removed, I still can’t make out the words. I think it’s English; I hear what I think might be English words in there. But there’s other sounds in the song that might be words, but I can’t make heads or tails of them. It sounds like all of the consonants have disappeared from the words, and consonants are some of my favorite letters. I guess another explanation is that the songs are being sung in Simlish, which means that my attempts to decipher the words are going to be in the worst kind of vain.

But other than that, I got a lot of fun out of this game. It plugged up most of the holes in the original game, and left most questions answered. There are still a few ambiguities left, but I’ll let the Message Board Pundits(tm) debate those.

Wario Ware: Mega Partygame$

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

The original Wario Ware game was pretty fun, but one problem with it was that it was for one player only. So, take the original game, which is already a bunch of little games wrapped up in a big game, and wrap it in yet another game, add four player support, and you have the makings for a pretty interesting party game.

The game features several short games where each of up to four people compete by playing the microgames. Let’s say, for example, that you’re playing the Disco game. Up to four people choose characters, and are each assigned a stage in a disco complete with cheering onlookers. Every so often a spotlight shines on one of them (or sometimes all of them) and the selected person has to play a game. They win and they continue, but things go a little faster. They lose and some of their crowd goes away. Lose all of their crowd and they are out.

This game is really well suited to parties. It’s the kind of game that you can pick up and play without really knowing what’s going on. It even auto-adjusts the game and makes itself harder for the better players and easier for the less experienced folks. And then you have the ‘Listen to the Doctor’ game where the doctor gives you some action to perform while you’re doing the game, like singing a song or with the controller on the floor in front of you. The other players are supposed to applaud based on how well you followed the doctor’s instructions, whether you finished the microgame or not is pretty much irrelevant, and certainly evens the playing field quite a bit.

I got a lot of use out of this disc and still break it out on occasion when the opportunity presents itself, and even though it’s pretty much a rehash of the Game Boy game it’s got the multiplayer which totally saves it and makes it a lot of fun… if you have people around. Otherwise you’re better off with the portable offering.

Resident Evil 4

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

I never really got into the Resident Evil thing when it first made the rounds on the original Playstation. Mostly because I didn’t have an original Playstation. I did get the remake of Resident Evil 2 for the N64, but I still haven’t opened it. Someday I will…


I did, once the remake of the first game came out, decide to try my hand at the series and found it to be pretty awesome. So when the fourth game on the series was coming to the ‘Cube, it was a no-brainer to pick it up. It stars Leon, the guy from the Resident Evil game I haven’t opened yet, on the hunt for the president’s daughter, who’s been kidnapped. Kind of a trite story, but you don’t need to worry so much about that. What you do need to worry about is the island and mansion full of zombie-like things running around trying to kill you. See, unlike the other games, the people in this game haven’t really been zombified, they’ve been… Well, I don’t think I should spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, ‘they ain’t right’.

On the GameCube, this game is gorgeous. It’s easily the best looking game on the system, hands down. It doesn’t really play like the older Resident Evil games, though. The older games had you going through some area or other, solving rather obtuse puzzles to proceed, and had the rare odd gun battle. This one has lots of gun battles and the odd (or sometimes very odd) puzzle to solve. It’s kind of interesting, since you’re not beholden to solving puzzles to slowly open up doors, you are able to explore a huge amount of game space, killing native villagers along the way.

I don’t think I can say enough good things about this game. I will say, though, that it certainly earns its ‘M’ rating. Young ‘uns need not apply… at all. But if you have the constitution for it, I’d highly recommend it.

Mega Man – The Power Battle

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

The games in the Mega Man series are pretty good games on their own, but they’re really about one main thing: fighting other robots and using their powers as your own. Everything else? Just gravy.

So what would we have is we stripped out the adventure mode and most of the story? We’d have Mega Man – The Power Battle.

This game is set up more like a fighting game than a straight action game. It’s you, as your Mega Man protagonist of choice, in a series of battles against the robot masters of Mega Man games past. You don’t fight all of them, just selected bosses from the first seven games, and then only eight. Win and you get the boss’s special weapon. Lose… well if you lose you have to put in another quarter and continue or walk away from the cabinet in shame.

I was only able to find this game one place: in the arcade of my local Super K-Mart, and once I did, I went there every Friday night / Saturday morning for the next several weeks… until the K-Mart shut down. I didn’t hear anything else about this game for years until the Mega Man Anniversary Collection came out. I immediately snapped it up, and now am quite pleased that I don’t have to go on any more midnight lurks to get my fix.

Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Double Dash is a lot like the older games in the series. It follows the gameplay laid down in the first two games. Race guys around a series of Nintendo-themed tracks. Nothing too groundbreaking here. But it seems that the older games were just practice for this one.

It’s still in 3D, but it looks less… ‘chunky’ than the N64 offering. The cars and characters look like actual cartoon characters instead of blocky messes. The courses are bigger, more detailed, and all unique.

But where this game really differs from the other games in the series is that it allows for two characters per kart. You have a driver, and you have a ‘gunner’ (someone in charge of using the special items). You can switch up between them at any time, and, yes, you can have another human player take control of the other driver. This makes for some interesting strategy, and some interesting shifting of blame in the event of poor performance. It really requires cooperation and teamwork between the pilots.

Another really neat feature of this game is that is uses the GameCube LAN adapter to allow you to set up two GameCubes, two copies of the game, and two televisions to allow eight people to play at once. Eight! Eight people playing Mario Kart in teams of two (or piloting their own karts) makes for quite the party game.

The Simpsons Hit and Run

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

I haven’t played any of the games in the recent Grand Theft Auto series, but my understanding is that I’ve played the next best thing with this Simpsons game.

Hit and Run is a driving-adventure game. And what I mean by that is that you wander around a giant city talking to people, getting missions, and then doing the missions, most of which involve driving in some way. It goes on and on like this, with you revealing a little more of the story with each mission you complete.

The story, as it happens, has something to do with a new cola, mind control, and aliens. Standard Simpsons fare.

I got pretty far in this game before I just had to quit. I had to quit because the game got too hard. But the thing is, it wasn’t the difficulty of the missions, exactly, it was the control of the cars. Your cars slip and slide all over the place, and traffic tries to hit you constantly. I guess that’s supposed to add to the realism, but it just made me angry. Especially when I had to restart a mission a few seconds from the end because some random car ran through an intersection and t-boned me.

I may go back and finish it some day, when the rage dies down.


Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Sinistar is one of those ‘golden oldies’ that folks get all misty-eyed when they think back to playing it in the arcades. It’s a space shooting game where you fly through space (duh) and have to destroy the evil Sinistar, which is essentially a giant robot face. You have to mine asteroids for materials that you use to create bombs (which are the only way to destroy the Sinistar), while two kinds of ships stymie your progress. One kind is the standard Warrior class that just runs around shooting you, and the other is a Worker class who also need your precious crystals to build the Sinistar.

I guess it’s kind of cool that the game talks. The thing did come out in 1982, so that was likely pretty novel. But I found this game to be extremely boring. I suppose that if I tried it a few more times I might start to learn the intricacies of the or some such. But after burning a few virtual credits on this game I decided to try and find something more fun to do.

Animal Crossing

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Animal Crossing is not so much a game as it is an activity. There are no scores, no bosses to fight, and no real goals to achieve. It’s really just kind of a life simulator. You, a human, move into a town completely inhabited by animals. Why? Nobody knows. You just set out to see the world, apparently bereft of cash, and direction. The minute you get off the train, in your new town, the local store owner makes you a deal for a house, which makes you indebted to him for quite some time. You work off the debt at first by doing some errands and some odd jobs, but you’re eventually free to do whatever you want. Don’t want to pay off your house anymore? OK.

So what else is there to do? Several things!

You could:

  • Meet your neighbors, send them gifts, chitchat, teach them catchphrases, or run errands for them
  • Pull weeds
  • Collect, plant, and sell the fruits that grow in your village
  • Fish
  • Dig for fossils
  • Design your own clothes
  • Decorate your house
  • Visit the mysterious island
  • Participate in the events throughout the year
  • Listen to concerts every week
  • Etc.

Lots to do!

The game seems to be set up to allow you to play (or ‘visit your town’) for a little bit every day. Certain events happen on certain days throughout the year to keep you going. This all kind of gives you the impression that your town is there and stuff’s happening, even if you aren’t playing.

This doesn’t really sound like the kind of game that I’d be interested in too much, and you’d normally be right. But there’s something oddly compelling about checking out this little town every day or so. Makes it worth coming back occasionally.

Okay, so the silly little town isn’t the main reason I got this game (although it didn’t hurt things). The real reason I even gave this game more than a quick look was that several NES games are available in the game, tantalizingly locked away. They’re pretty hard to get, but I did manage to build quite the collection, and eventually just played this game so I wouldn’t have to fight with my aging Nintendo to try and get these games to play.

Super Monkey Ball 2

Friday, November 30th, 2007

The original Monkey Ball game was simplistic, but was a blast to play. So, a sequel makes its way out a few years later, and I bought it without hesitation (once it went on sale, natch). I figured, “How could they screw up a sequel?” And, shocker of shockers, they didn’t.

Super Monkey Ball 2 is essentially the same as the first game, but with more. More levels, more pretties, more bonuses, and a completely nonsensical story.

It plays exactly like the first game, you have to guide your monkey in a ball to the end of the course, the catch is that you can only tilt the maze and not directly control the ball. It’s almost unnerving, and quite finicky. And though the game starts out insipidly easy, the game ramps up the difficulty to a diabolical level.

And then it gets tough.

I’m not kidding, either. This game can be so tough that you’re almost going to want to get a few extra controllers, in case you give in to your urges and break one.

As tough as this game is, though, you know that each of the stages is possible. It gives the game that ‘just one more try’ appeal that will turn a quick game into a multi-hour affair. But the real fun comes in the multi-player modes.

There are a lot of games you can unlock, most of them are pretty forgettable, but some of them are quite fleshed out, and could almost stand on their own as full games. Monkey Golf is, just as in the older game, stupidly tough, and not that much fun. Billiards, though, is pretty solid, and the puzzlingly-named ‘Monkey Shot’ is a cooperative shooting game, which is pretty awesome to play.

I never could actually finish that single-player portion of the game, but I was able to unlock most of the multi-player stuff, and that multi-player stuff kept this game in my GameCube for months.

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

I suppose it’s a tenet of video role-playing games that they have to be so inexplicable and have a story so mysterious that you’re not going to fully understand it until you play it several times over. Then you get to go on message boards and debate with other people who played the game what the significance of the scene with the chickens was, and whether or not the love interest was justified in giving the protagonist the cold shoulder.

The story in this game wasn’t particularly convoluted, but it was weird. The best I can remember (without spoiling too much for you if you ever decide to play it) is that at some point something catastrophic happened that made the earth uninhabitable and destroyed the world’s oceans, so some floating islands became the last place where people can live. It’s cool, though, because most people have ‘wings of the heart’ that let them fly around a little bit. The Empire (the bad guys… or are they?) have developed machines to help them with their everyday life so they don’t have to rely on outdated notions like ‘wings of the heart’. (Science vs. Faith, eh? Riveting!). Kalas, a young man with only one wing (outcast, you know), had his brother and grandfather killed by the Empire and is trying to avenge them by any means necessary. The plot takes lots of twists and turns to get you there, but that should get you started. What’s interesting is that instead of you taking on the role of the main character, you’re what’s known as a ‘guardian spirit’, a creature from ‘another realm’ that watches over the main character and provides advice (and some special powers). Occasionally Kalas will turn to the screen and address you directly, asking what he should do or what you think of the situation at hand. I thought that was a clever
way to draw the player into the story.

Story aside, it’s a pretty typical console-style role-playing game. You wander around the landscape talking to people, solving insipid puzzles, developing your characters and generally trying to work your way toward the next plot point. The battles take a different tack than what you might be used to, though. In this universe, there is a weird technology that allows folks to put items on cards called Magnus. Everything gets put into Magnus form, weapons, food, medicine, pretty much anything that’s not alive. What this means is that each character carries around a deck of cards to use in the battles. When your turn comes up, you pick attack cards to attack with, when it’s the enemy’s turn, you pick defensive cards to defend with (natch).

There are lots of problems with this system. Each character has their own deck of cards that you have to worry about. In the beginning this isn’t too big of a deal, but once you make some headway into the game you have over half a dozen characters, each with a maximum deck size of around 60 or so. You end up spending lots of time tweaking your decks to get the right balance of attack, defense, and healing cards. The other big problem is that you’re constantly at the mercy of the cards to dictate what you can do. Your turn to attack and all you have in your hand is defensive cards? Too bad. Enemy attacking you and all you have to defend yourself with is a hand with nothing but bananas? You get smacked pretty hard. Depending on your relationship with Kalas, some better cards might come up a little more often, just for him, but it didn’t seem to work very well for me.

The other big problem with this game is making money to buy upgraded items. In most games when you beat the native fauna to death they’re inexplicably carrying large amounts of game currency. Why? Don’t worry about it. But this made getting money a nice side effect of level grinding. In this game, though, things are a little different. When you’re building your deck, you have to put in special ‘camera magnus’. When these come up you run up to the enemy, usually in the middle of a barrage of sword swings, and take its picture (“Say cheeseburger!”). You then take these pictures to the shops to sell, and then use that money to buy what provisions you need. Of course, the rarer the picture is, the more it’s worth, so pictures of bosses sell the most. So part of your strategy is to avoid getting stomped into a bloody smear long enough for the camera to come up, take the picture of the boss, and then hope that you didn’t waste too much time and still have enough good cards in your deck to kill the thing.

The whole magnus system is weird, but it does have some kind of neat effects. Food that you get will eventually age and change forms. Grapes will eventually turn into sour grapes, which will eventually turn into wine, which will eventually turn into vinegar. Each of the stages does something different, so it keeps you on your toes and makes you have to fiddle with your decks more often than you would probably like. And you have to keep buying food all the time because yours keeps going bad, so you have to go out and take lots more pictures.

You’re also going to notice right away that the sound in this game needs a little more work. There is a ton of spoken dialogue, which is normally great, but it sounds to me like the folks at Namco compressed the audio a bit too heavily to get it all to fit on the disc. As a result, everyone sounds like they’re speaking inside pipes. It’s a little jarring and breaks the illusion a bit.

Those issues aside, the game is actually not too bad. I’m pretty jaded when I play these kinds of games anymore, but the plot twist in the middle I completely didn’t see coming, which was kind of refreshing. And to think, I almost didn’t play this game. I found the sequel (which we’ll talk about another day), thought it looked decent, then I realized it was a sequel, then sought out and found this one. I’m pretty glad I did, and that I finished this one first, since the stories dovetail nicely with each other.