"New" site, same stuff.

Many of you may be wondering why the site is down.  Its simple business.  I wasn't making enough profit from the site to justify keeping it up.  While it was a joy to work on Zero for these past four years, its time to realize when enough is enough.  I'm done with the web comic or anything resembling that.  Blogspot will be my new home for my ramblings, reviews, and rambling reviews.  While I'll greatly miss spending time tinkering with the site, I look forward to another doing the majority of work, leaving me to write in peace.  Here's looking to brighter skies.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines was published by Activision on November 16, 2004. The game runs on Valve's Source Engine, notable for running Half-Life 2. The game begins with you creating a vampire by either answering a questionnaire or directly picking you vampire's clan and stats. The clans are diverse in their abilities, ranging from pet summoning to invisibility.

You start the game as a freshly turned vampire, when you and your sire are attacked and brought before a gathering of vampires. Apparently there are certain rules that all vampires must abide by to keep up the masquerade, and creating more vamps without permission of the presiding Prince of the Camarilla (see: Guy Le Douche) is a big no no. So your sire is executed and you're in short order as well, until the leader of the opposing order, the Anarchs, calls out “Bullshit!” quite literally and you're saved. You then become a pawn of the political war between both parties as your try to make your way in a strange new dark world.

The game is amazing at putting you in the shoes of a little fish in a big pond. The game is divided into four hubs surrounding the LA area (Santa Monica, Downtown, Hollywood, and Chinatown) with plenty of nooks and crannies for you to creep around. Vampire provides plenty of spooky atmosphere and plenty of thrills as you are totally immersed in the world of hidden monsters. From exploring haunted hotels to visiting your favorite club, this is a game where nothing feels out of place, yet nothing is what it seems.

You will encounter plenty of people to lunch on and run errands for as you make your way to the top of the vampire underworld. This is a true RPG in the sense that you must make your way around town and talk to everyone to progress the story, with most of the game taking part in the dialogue choices you make. The amount of content within these encounters was breathtaking, making replaying the game as different clans enjoyable and fresh and dialogue for the most part was tailored to the traits of each clan. A conversation can be manipulated through the use of different abilities such as manipulation, charisma, and seduction. Use of said abilities can greatly alter the way parties respond to your character and the game itself. As I played through the game, I felt myself making attachments to certain characters by protecting their secrets and on the flip side, plotting the demise of any douche bag that crossed me. Vampire has numerous endings, depending on whom you ally yourself with.

The combat is as varied as the dialogue with weapons ranging from handguns to severed limbs to your own innate vampire abilities. The game can be played wither from the first or third person perspective. The character is moved with the standard WASD controls and the camera by the mouse. Typical to this setup, shooting is easiest in first person, but all melee attacks are automatically switched to the third person perspective. Shooting was spot on but melee combat felt sloppy. The lack of a lock on feature is a blessing and a curse, making fighting mobs easier, but also making it hard to keep a bead on a single target as the AI strafes and ducks realistically. Vampiric powers can also be used in combat, and these are solely based on the clan you choose at the beginning of the game. Each clan has trait abilities, such as invisibility, super speed, transformation, etc. You can use these powers in conjunction of a weapon, such as super speed strength katana to make short work of most enemies. The variety of enemies themselves was impressive as well, ranging from thugs to other vampires, ghosts and werewolves. For myself, the combat wasn't the draw of the game, rather I felt myself wanting to get through it as quickly as possible so I could get back to the dialogue.

Vampire is a beautiful gem of a game, shining brilliantly almost every minute played. Alas, there are some flaws, small but noticeable. Sometimes the sound would clip off and speech would stutter, nothing major. The biggest problems I ran into were when I would load into an area and the game would shut down, sometimes setting me back hours because I forgot to save. Another major issue was when I was in a sewer portion. I had to fill up a chamber with water, to move from a lower level to a higher one. When I had filled said chamber and then moved into it, I could not go up. I looked beneath and above, seeing the gentle waves of the water, but nothing in the space that I occupied. I reset the game a few times, even loading older saves, but nothing would work. Eventually, I had to make it so I could move through walls to proceed with the game.

Overall, this is a game well deserved of the praise it received, despite its flaws. The more I played, the more I regained that nostalgic feeling I had playing my first RPG's, the sense of adventure lost long ago. It has plenty to offer, with a vast amount of missions to complete and ground to cover and never is there a dull moment. It quickly became one of my top five favorite games and I recommend it to anyone looking to be sucked into a world other than their own.

Game completed as a Male Toreador with all missions cleared. Santa Monica section cleared as a Female Malkavian.

"In dreams you may be human again, and I will be a dinosaur! RAAAWWWRR!"

Parasite Eve 2

Ah, Parasite Eve, what can I say? Overall, an amazing series thus far, and my second favorite Square entry besides the Final Fantasy Series. I picked up the game years ago and played it over a weekend, not getting very far before I abandoned it for Resident Evil: Code Veronica. When I came back to play it last week, I found that I was only in the first 20 minutes of the game and decided I should make this another notch on my belt.

I absolutely loved the first Parasite Eve and getting the second was only a matter of time. And time it took, I had absolutely forgotten about the game until I saw it in a local video store on sale for $2.50. I'm not about to pass up a deal like that, so I made my purchase and it sat on my shelf for 4 years now. My first impression was that this was Square's attempt at a Resident Evil. It succeeds a great deal in this with the controls being near identical but some of the game play from the first PE was transported poorly to this game.

You have the basic tank controls for movement and after a few minutes, they become fairly comfortable, but still one element persisted, it's damn near impossible to avoid enemy attacks. Whereas the first PE had you moving in an open field, 2 has selected camera angles for you to use and maneuvering can be a challenge. A fair comparison would be a real time Final Fantasy where you chose the timing of your attacks, but still must trade blows with your adversaries. The most frustrating part of this was the Puma ANMC. I was constantly knocked down as my pathetic handgun traded blows with this beast hell bent on keeping me down. Eventually I opted for the grenade gun and those problems were soon put to rest much like the puma who hounded me.

A major disappointment to me was the use of your Parasite Energy powers. In the first game each power had an important purpose and it was almost essential for the player to have them all in order to beat the game. Here, you just need an AoE fire spell and Heal. I kid you not. Those are the only two I ever used to breeze through. I was saddened to see that "Liberate" was removed entirely and the PE powers dumbed down to power attacks to make the game easier.

Another issue I had along those lines was the lack of weapon and armor customization. In the first you could do nearly anything and everything you wanted to your items to customize them to your playing style, here, not so. You have your basic handgun, shotgun, machine gun, and grenade launcher. 1st game, you could combine all these into one. Now: you have 4 wasted inventory slots on your armor. The only weapon you could tweak was the machine gun, adding different attachments such as extra clips and grenade launchers, ho hum.

Speaking of the armor, there were only a few variations and like the guns, not very customizable. The only thing I could find to add were extra pouches, increasing the amount I could hold. Pathetic. The one weapon I wanted in the game, and a huge reason why I bought it, beyond it being a Parasite Eve title, was the gunblade. I loved FFVIII and especially the gunblade. When I heard Aya could swing it around like Squall and dish out some major damage, I nearly wet myself. But I find out it takes insane amounts of time spent farming kills to get the necessary "S" rank at the end of the game to receive this holy weapon on your next play through. I rushed through the first time and received the worst ending in the game, my second time through I took the time and did everything I could and earned the best ending in the game, but still fell pitifully short on the gunblade. Why is it that I can get this weapon with my character in WoW, but not in a Square game!? Gunblade link: http://www.wowarmory.com/...31204

Beyond the lack of weapon variation, the art design threw me. The concept art was beautiful, you can tell Nomura was starting his descent into the Kingdom Hearts style, but the in game models looked nothing like the artwork. Kyle looked like a gangly moron with his slack facial expressions and Aya seemed so generic, like a 3rd rate RE character. The enemy design was lacking, with all the enemies mooing or neighing from their obvious human faces. Now that I think of it, they were bipedal Seamen sans the back talk.

The story line was fairly interesting and kept me hooked until the end of the game. Not quite as epic as the first, but still nothing to laugh at. Myself, I think the game could have been a bit longer, stretching out the Dryfield and Akropolis sections as I went through the both of them combined in under an hour. Personally, I loved Dryfield and really wished they made the town larger with a focus on saving survivors. As it was, it short and sweet, but with a great deal of potential missed. The shelter was fairly bland, much like the labs from RE, but when I made it to the Ark, I remembered I was playing a Square game. Not as grand as I would expect from them, but still grand on a large and beautiful scale. That's something I notice them shying away from, an awe inspiring sense in the player. If you don't believe me, check out the intros of FFVII and VIII, and then compare them to Parasite Eve 2 and FFXII.

As a whole, this is a decent game. On par with a Resident Evil, but missing a few elements that would have otherwise made it great. I don't regret buying as I do with some other titles, but maybe I'm just frustrated I still don't have my gunblade.

Pokemon Diamond

Pokémon is one of Nintendo's money makers. It’s as though they found a Pikachu and then discovered that beyond it being a mouse that shoots electricity, it can also shit money. Piles and piles of money. The series began in 1996 with the release of Red and Blue. 12 years later, it continues as strongly as ever with Diamond and Pearl.

I had bought Pearl for Kim earlier in 08, picking up Diamond for myself a few months later. What began was an addiction most refer to as Pokefever. This was the first Pokémon game that either of us had ever played. We didn't expect it to be anywhere as good as it was. Simply put, this series has the RPG down. From the turn based battles to the interactions with people and towns to further the plot, it's all gold. What adds to that is the fact that you need access to both games to complete the Pokedex in your copy. It was an interesting mechanic that made sure Kim and I played together, catching extra Pokémon for one another. We could then use said Pokémon to battle on another over the DS's Wi-Fi network resulting in many silent dinners and glares from across the room.

The game begins like many of the other games. You're a young trainer whom is ready to start your journey of catching and training Pokémon. At the start of the game, you can choose one of three starting Pokémon, and more likely than not, this little guy will stay in your party all the way to the final boss. Your goal is to fill up your Pokedex by seeing all 150 species in your region, beating the eight gym leaders, taking on the elite four and finally the Pokémon master herself. Not to mention, you also have to stop an evil organization from stealing everybody's Pokémon and destroying the world. That's quite a lot for a kid only weighing 88 lbs.

While the story is pretty lengthy, it's the load of features that will keep you playing this game much longer than any Final Fantasy. From trading and battling your buddies, to importing Pokémon from the Gameboy Advance games to building underground bases and even breeding them like Chocobos, the game is far from over when you enter the Hall of Fame. One of my favorite features was in the beginning where you create your character, naming your rival. Most cases this is the guy who stole your toys as a kid, gave you wedgies and made your life an unbearable hell. Nintendo made one of the smartest moves by not including a name filter. In Fire Red he was Douche, his Diamond incarnation is Dildo. This was a happy memory.

Overall, Diamond and the Pokémon series as a whole can't lose. The game play is solid, the graphics keep getting better, this last outing looking an awful lot like Link to the Past, and the music is catchy enough to make you skip a beat. Still a worthy game to pick up unless you have the patience to wait for Platinum which is hitting stateside March 22.

Story mode beaten. Importing Pokémon from Fire Red and Ruby. 202 caught so far.

Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

I finally played Dirge of Cerberus and was very disappointed to beat it the very next day. This to me was the little game that could, but was riddled with minor things that surmounted to making it only mediocre. As I've stated, I love most anything Final Fantasy, the only major exceptions being Tidus and most of the X story line. But as much as I wanted it to be, this just did not feel like a Final Fantasy.

The game play was like a bastard child of Devil May Cry and Star Wars: Battlefront. The controls were almost a direct rip from SWB except they weren't the tight and precise controls I was used to. Even after adjusting the camera speeds to something of my liking, it still felt very sloppy, taking me a few hours to adjust to. Even after the adjustment though, I would still have a difficult time taking multiple enemies. Some elements that were added to the US release, such as a double jump and pulled back camera, felt like Devil May Cry, but you can easily tell they were just thrown in last minute and did not mesh with the environments at all. Much like the original Kingdom Hearts, I found my biggest opponent was the camera. To say that this provided a challenge would be an understatement, but I found that if just kept my gun out, navigation became much easier. As for the jumping, it was unnatural in that Vincent could obviously clear some obstacles, but would be stopped by an invisible wall. This was most obvious when in stair wells or on balconies. Heaven forbid that I be able to jump down a three tiered balcony, that would just be ridiculous. Instead, I was faced to navigate through crumbling ruins to find stairs and doorways which under normal circumstances could be easily bypassed.

Unlike DMC though, this game was incredibly easy. I hear this is based on SE making the game easier for Japanese players whom were not used to playing shooters. The US version did away with the easy mode and replaced with a very hard, but still, the game is a walk in the park compared to DMC 3. Very Hard Mode is just an increase in enemy numbers and making them a bit more suicidal. Other than that, not much changed. A bonus with the very hard mode was that you could save your weapon stats from a previous play through, although I feel this should have been incorporated into all modes of play, like it was for the bonus missions. As for the boss fights, they were simple as well, felling more like harder encounters, than an actual boss. No real strategy was needed to take down an individual boss. 90% of the time, I would plant myself in a corner and let loose a volley with Cerberus and would emerge unscathed. Compared to other shooters, the bosses fell amazingly short of my expectations. You can shift into Vincent's beast forms as a limit break, but I never found a need to except in one of the final boss battles, but you're doomed to lose that battle anyways as it is part of the story.

Another complaint is how repetitive the game play is. Sure, you'll fight a few enemies from FF7, such as Gargoyles and Sahagin, but the majority of what you'll fight are Deepground soldiers. They come in standard varieties, such as grunt, sniper, rocket, etc., but sadly the mix is not enough. Most can be killed in a single shot, which I enjoyed quite a bit as it made Vincent feel more powerful than he really is. Most of the levels follow the same drab layouts, such as Edge and Midgar. The wilderness levels were all bland and uninteresting and it felt more like I had to navigate a maze. During game play, you'll come across side missions, which will pause the game and cover the screen with needless details to tell you what you need to do, although you've already done it countless times before.

Another major problem, as I mentioned with the side missions, that the game play is interrupted far too much. It seemed that every five minutes I stopped playing to watch a cutscene or mission statement occur, sometimes these would take up to 15 minutes. It really was like a sequel to The Bouncer in that respect as it was more a movie than a game, and that really hurt the game. SE games are upsetting that they're following a trend of babysitting the player and holding their hand through a majority of the game. Those that can be found guilty of this are: Kingdom Hearts 2 (the first five hours are a tutorial on how to use the effing char) and Final Fantasy XII (the first few hours follow KH2's lead). The developers were too in love with the story to let the player actually play the game.

The story itself was impressive, but some of it put me off. The major thorn in my side was Lucrecia. My God, there is no other game character that I would like to see die a horrible fiery death more than her. She loves Vincent, but at the same time can't be with him because she feels responsible for his father's death. She flirts with him and it seems they could make it, but then she has one of her frequent freak outs where she chooses to hook up with Hojo, whom you can tell is only a self serving prick at the very early stages of the game. Hojo knocks up Lucrecia with a plan to experiment on the baby, Sephiroth, with Lucrecia's full knowledge and consent. Vincent doesn't think it's such a great idea, so Hojo blows him away with a hand cannon and Lucrecia once again flips out because she loved/couldn't be with Vince/could have saved him that fate, but decided to be a overly dramatic bitch to him and does nothing but cry about things she did herself. Hojo experiments on Vincent's body, ditches him and then starts tampering with Sephiroth. Lucrecia once again flips out that she can't see her child and that he's being experimented on like this. AGAIN, she agreed to all of this before hand and knew full well what was going to happen. She then turns Vincent into a monster and cries some more about what was happened to him, although she is once again the cause of it all. She really reminds me of Jodie Foster's character in Flight Plan. Running around, crying and doing absolutely nothing. So much hate for a fictional character. So much hate.

In a bizarre twist, you find that Lucrecia's memories/dreams were uploaded in the computer like mind of 19 year old Shelke, who is trapped in the body of her 10 year old self. It's never stated directly, but I'm convinced Vince ends up hooking up with this dead mind trapped in a child's body, thereby breaking into the taboos of necrophilia (he and Lucrecia are both technically dead) and pedophilia ( she looks like she's 10 for fuck's sake). Another bizarre love story is between two of the bosses who are also brothers and share a deep love. One is dead, the other wants to bring him back to life and then merge with him so that they'll never be apart again. Somewhere along the line, SE got really weird.

All in all, I'm glad I waited half a year for the price to drop to $15. For non FF related players, the game is a rental at best, I beat it in under nine hours my first time through. FF diehards will probably buy it and like me, enjoy it despite its many flaws. I really believe this could have been a great game if only the developers took the time to add and work with very basic features found in the genre of gaming. This is the epitome of a little train that could have, but sadly did not.

Resident Evil: Degeneration

I like to consider myself a strong willed person. I'm very skeptical when it comes to movies, not wanting to find myself wishing that I had the last two hours of my life back after watching a particularly awful movie. But there are certain franchises that I'm a slave too, Resident Evil being one of them. By no means am I a fanatic, I don't collect every action figure (though I tried...) and I resisted the venomous hooks of the shooters and ports. But when I saw that a CG film was in the works, a film that should by all rights make up for the atrocious live action films, I nearly wet my pants with excitement. I still don't know how I blocked out all the flaws of the CG cutscenes in the games.

RE: D is a cash in, short and simple. Capcom looked past the innovation of the brilliant RE4 to pull the rotting horse carcass out of the closet to bludgeon it some more. The trailer was misleading, it gave an exciting look at a new scenario, an airport. This is a classic horror movie scenario, but Capcom said screw that and went the safe route. The movie moves at the same pace as most of the games: Zombie infestation - Discover a lab where the virus being bred - Discover a traitor in the group! (shock! surprise!) - Fight the giant mutant monster - Survive life ending explosion. It was disappointing to say the least.

The RE universe is slowly moving away from Raccoon City, giving the series a much need breath of fresh air, but it seems that for every step the series takes forward, it takes two lifeless shambles backwards. The events in the movie take place a number of years after Raccoon City went boom and Claire Redfield is working for an organization hellbent on stopping testing being done with the T/G viruses. She's arrives in an airport where a corrupt Senator who supports said virus testing is waiting out the media frenzy that got wind of his arrival. Claire meets a mysterious stranger with more points dumped in his charm stat than a hooker in an Amsterdam brothel when a zombie shows up and starts chowing down. Did I mention that she also has a young girl dumped on her by a work associate before all hell breaks loose? I'm so sick of this plot line/pain in the ass mission of protecting children prone to screaming and ruining your day. So, zombies are running amok when a plane crashes into the side of the airport. Claire loses the kid in the mix, gets stuck with the Senator and finds the plane must have been piloted by a zombie as the zombie passengers start to disembark. Claire says Oh fuck and we cut to the Special Response Team wondering how they're going to resolve this situation. Cue Leon Kennedy taking charge and taking in a team of two, a trigger happy dumbass and a girl too well endowed and naive to be a top agent. They infiltrate the airport save Claire and the survivors and lose the trigger happy dumbass in the process. The airport is quaranteened and the mysterious stranger from before shows up again and turns out to be the lead researcher for the cure to the T/G virus. He and Claire take off to the lab after the supplies blow up. Cue the traitor bit and lab explosion. Leon and Tits McGee make it to the lab after she reveals her brother is a possible bio terrorist. Turns out her brother is there and turns into the giant monster that must be destroyed. He wipes out a squad of soldiers and then turns to make mutant babies with his sister as the countdown for the bomb that will blow up the lab starts to tick down. I can't even finish this, it's so horrible.

Resident Evil's story line is about as good as the voice acting and animation. Some huge flaws were the Botox filled facial features The lips barely moved to deliver the emotionless lines and the only expressions were blank stares and a small crinkle in the eyebrows. Everyone had a shiny tone to their clothes, no matter what they were wearing, and they all moved like puppets on broken strings. Everything about the movie was stiff, not even the hair moved when the characters would move or even hang upside down. The only thing that looked fluid was the final creature, but even that looked off. It looked like a claymation monster from a Tim Burton film. It was a poor effort all around, but nothing surprising from Capcom.

Like I said before, I'm slave to this franchise, but mostly thanks to the games. It would appear that Capcom is unable to put out a good movie. I can only wait in terror for the fourth RE live motion flick.


Before this game came out, the last time I had heard of Ghostbusters was 15 years ago. Still, I felt an odd tinge of excitement as one of my childhood joys was coming back. Kim came home with this gem, and that night I was reintroduced to Egon, Venkmen, Stantz, and Winston.

When I started playing, I hadn't seen the movies in roughly 10 years, so there was plenty I was missing. The game is full of nods and winks to fans of the movies, from the dialogue to the various artifacts you find sprinkled throughout the game. This didn't stop me from enjoying the game immensely though. From the story to the game play and voice acting, everything is top notch and polished to a level rarely seen.

Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd took up the pen once more to finish their masterpiece trilogy. The entire original cast has reprised their roles to make the voice acting top notch. The story starts off simply, much like the movies. You play as the new ghostbuster whose job is testing the experimental equipment. Nothing stays quiet for long if you're a ghostbuster, and sure enough, everything starts to go haywire. From start to finish, the story is beautifully paced and there is rarely a dull moment. You'll move from familiar locations such as the New York Public Library and hotel Sedgewick to the New York underground and Central Park.

As you move through the game, you'll use the tools of the trade to investigate, track, and bust all the paranormal fiends. You'll use the PKE meter to look for clues and hidden ghosts. This is implemented seamlessly into the game and it's a good thing, as you'll spend 80% of the game looking through your Para-Goggles. It seems excessive, but it balances well with intense busting required. Once you find a ghost, it's time to break out the Proton Pack and bring them down. Once they're weakened, it's time to throw the trap. Start to finish, busting a ghost just feels right. The pull of the proton stream and the struggle of reeling them in, every encounter is different and just as satisfying. The controls are spot on and a large variety of ghosts keeps the game from getting stale.

To keep up with the ever changing ghosts, the proton pack comes in four different modes that can be upgraded with cash you earn. Cash is made by trapping ghosts, finding artifacts, and collecting clues. Each mode is effective against a specific type of ghost, and you'll find switching on the fly to be smooth and easy.

Once you've finished the main storyline, you're ready for the perils of multiplayer. It comes in six flavors from survival to busting as many ghosts as you can. You earn cash like in story mode for upgrades and special abilities. This is for those with an itchy trigger finger and a drive to win.

The only problem I would run into was that I would occasionally get lost. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but it would stall the game until I found where it wanted me to go. The game is open only in that it will let you explore a tiny bit. If you can't follow the path it's laid out for you, then you're going to wander around for a bit.

Aside from that minor issue, Ghostbusters is an incredible game. The story, game play, and overall atmosphere serve as the perfect finale to the Ghostbusters trilogy.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

I've been putting this one off for a long time now. I picked this little gem of a game the day it came out, March 25th. This review is long overdue and has plagued me since I finished the game months ago.

Starting off, CC is an amazing game, hands down. There are so many elements that drew me in and very little that kept me at bay. For those of you that don't know the story, you play as Zack Fair, the legendary SOLDIER that inspired Cloud to live his life the way he did during Final Fantasy VII. Zack is a 2nd class member of SOLDIER eager to move his way up to 1st with the likes of his heroes Angeal and Sephiroth. Along the way, they find that another member of SOLDIER, Genesis (Guy Le Douche) has gone renegade and taken a small army of SOLDIER operatives with him. It's up to Zack to uncover why and try to bring said army back to Shinra. CC is a prequel to the events of FF VII and fills in all the gaps, leaving no questions unanswered. I wasn't a huge fan of FF VII myself, but this game cast a new light on that world, making me fall in love with it in conjunction with Advent Children.

The game play is sleek and streamlined. It functions as a much improved version to Kingdom Hearts battle system. The battles take place in real time with a list of attacks and magic available to you, depending on what you have equipped. Combat is pretty intuitive, I had no trouble jumping right in, but later on in the missions, the game can be quite challenging, providing for a fair bit of strategy on your part. Overall though, the game was quite easy, even on the hard setting. I cleared the game without dying during the main portion, only falling in battle during the missions. I found that I didn't need to use magic beyond Curaga, leaving Zack to a hack n' slash fest. In addition to the abilities you pick, there is a slot wheel that spins round and round throughout battles. This slot enables the use of random effects, such as invincibility, summons, limit breaks, and leveling up. This was a pretty cool addition, but towards the end of the game, it made everything too easy as you were made into a demi god laying waste to everything on the screen. Fun, but a little unbalanced.

The only complaint I had with the combat system is the way you entered and exited combat. You wander the mission map and when a fight springs up, a voice and screen flash announces when combat begins and ends. Sure it was cool the first few times, but quickly got annoying the next 5000 times I had to hear it, especially when I could only take two steps between each fight. The game is broken up between the main story and 300 side missions that you can take on from a save point. The missions quickly became repetitive with the same objectives and map layouts. While they were a load of fun, and perfect for gaming on the go, it becomes a little tedious when going for gaming marathons.

My chief complaint has to be one character though, Genesis. Not since Lucrecia, have I hated a video game character so. Sadly, it isn't because he's a good villain, he's incredibly annoying! He has no real words of his own. He's just constantly quoting a fictional work of literature, the play of FF VII, Loveless. Supposedly, he's based on the Japanese pop star, Gackt. I can see it and the long slow spiral of death that Tetsuya Nomura is bringing Square Enix to. From the first time you meet him in the game until the final unsatisfying battle with him, it seems that no punishment would be too great to inflict on him. Each encounter is a test of your patience as he rambles and prattles about utter nonsense. This is a great game, but Genesis is one of the worst characters ever created, I can't stand him.

The highlight of this game, though, is clearly Aerith. I didn't much care for her in FF VII. I made no real connection with her. But in CC, I fell in love with her instantly. You can see what made her one of the most beloved characters in all of gaming history. From the moment Zack meets her, to his final journey to her, your heart breaks over the inevitable outcome. This is a love story that only falls short of FF VIII by mere inches.

The overall game is beautiful, from start to finish, and well worth a purchase even if you're not a fan of the FF series. The graphics are superb, easily the tastiest eye candy the PSP has to offer. It is quite impressive from the in game to the fully rendered cutscenes. There's plenty to do, from materia fusion, to collecting every item in the game, to make this game worth replaying time and time again. I'm glad to see Square getting back on track with their games, after the disappointment that was Dirge of Cerberus. This is the first FF game to feel like a FF since IX. It's sad that it has taken this long for them to produce a quality game, but the wait was well worth it. This is the little train that could, and did.

Game cleared on normal and hard modes. 75% of missions cleared.

Bullet Witch

Every game reviewer has a gimmick, something that they're known for. The only one that I have is that I try not to buy shitty games. Well, you can't win them all. Long before I had the 360, there was a game that I wanted. The art design had sucked me in, and even though I had no idea what it was about, I had to buy it. Books and their covers... The game was Bullet Witch and I finally bought it for $14. It's worth about $2, and that's only for the DVD it was burned on.

The setting is as bland as it could get. Demons have been unleashed on the world, decimating the human population to the point of near extinction. There are pockets of resistance fighters who live underground and generally get their asses kicked. You play as Alicia, a witch with great power and amnesia. The story is incredibly forced, the voice acting kept at a monotone level, and the game full of dull gray/brown rubble.

You start in a stereotypical suburb that is under siege by said demons. After plowing through their forces, you move into a city of twilight backlit by a large bright moon ala Final Fantasy. In the city, Alicia meets up with a band of fighters where they find their underground base overrun by more demons. Moving through the base, they head to an airport. Take a doomed plane trip to the mountains where you enter a haunted and absurdly fog filled forest to the let down of the game's climax. All so you can head back to the now destroyed city to take on the game's final boss. Cue one of the worst open-ended endings and you have Bullet Witch.

Like I said, it was the design of the game that drew me in. The lead character, Alicia, had a unique look and the screenshots looked fantastic, but this was before I even had the 360. But screenshots and box art can be misleading; playing the game in action was different. Beyond Alicia and the second level, the entire game was bland and uninteresting. There's only a handful of variety to the enemies, the bulk of them being soldier grunts (cannon fodder). The levels are full of concrete and dirt, no real variety in any of the six. That's right.  There are only six levels in the entire game. If you weren't constantly getting lost due to poor level design, it would be possible to beat the game in less than three hours, maybe even two. That makes me feel quite sorry for anyone who paid full price for this joke of a game.

The only challenge comes from two types of enemies, and only because they're cheap one hit kills related to the poor physics of the game. Type one is the sniper. If you don't know precisely where they are and kill them instantly, you'll die if any part of your body is exposed for longer than 0.5 seconds. It can be incredibly frustrating while you use a trial and error system to lock on their positions. Type two is a telekinetic type picks up cars and any other large pieces of rubble to hurl them at you. Normally this isn't a problem, you can kill them easy enough if you're far away, but Heaven help you if you're too close. Sure the projectiles are slow, but if they hit anywhere near you, it counts as a hit. A hit equals death, quite cheap indeed. This is a problem that should have been remedied back in the 16 bit days.

In the end, this is another game that I tried desperately to enjoy, but it just couldn't happen. Sloppy controls, uninspired enemies, confusing level design, and emotionless voice acting, these are my least favorite things. I would have expected this from a tie in game, some sort of cash in attempt, but it wasn't even that. This review is very late, so I can compare it to Ghostbusters, another product of Atari. Ghostbusters shows that if they put in the effort, they can make an incredible game. Obviously their heart wasn't in it with Bullet Witch.

Aion beta

Well, now that the NDA has been lifted, I can bring you an in depth look at my new crack pony. She’s something else, yet strangely familiar. Depending on what nerdy circles you stay in, you’ve either been tracking this game for years (like myself), or you’ve heard nothing about it. For those not in the loop, Aion is the “new” (it’s been out in Korea for a year) MMO from NC Soft. Finally given a release date of September 22, this game is banking heavily on its graphics, but will that be enough to dethrone reigning king WoW?

Like I’ve said before, Aion touts about their supreme graphics all the time. They have reason to; it’s a gorgeous game. From the incredibly detailed character models to the lush and vibrant world, this is the most visually stunning MMO out there. There’s a catch 22 to that though, the more visually stunning a game is, the better a computer you’ll need to run. The big draw to WoW is that any goon can play it with an off the shelf computer. With Aion, Kim and I had to upgrade both of our computers to even have a hope of playing it. But if you can run it, the game is definitely worth it. Animations are silky smooth, characters are meticulously detailed, and the world has an amazing level of immersion.

Graphics alone do not make a great game. A majority of it comes down to how it plays. For the most part it works, but it is not without some glaring flaws. While I know the game is in beta here in NA, like I said before, the game has been out for a year in Korea with this control scheme. You have the standard WASD control scheme and you can use the click to move, but the real problem comes with flying. The gimmick to the game is every character having wings and being able to fly everywhere. This is not the case. You must use the R and F keys to rise and fall respectively. This is extremely confusing as every other game uses the space bar to go up and X to go down. Seriously, every other MMO involving flying uses that control scheme. So, why not the game that makes a big selling point of universal flight? Related to the issue of controls, you have to change the controls for each character, instead of setting a universal control scheme. This just doesn’t make sense. Usually players move their characters about in the same manner, so why must I set it up for individual characters? While I’m on the subject of customization, there’s no budging the interface, not even a pixel. This is basic stuff. It should never be an issue. Fortunately, many others have pointed these issues out, so here’s hoping NC Soft takes notice and makes the appropriate changes.

Once you’ve made peace with the controls, the game plays fairly well. The game uses a combo system for each class, and it works. Combo attacks automatically replace one another resulting in smooth, fluid combat. To me, it resembled a lower grade Soul Calibur. The system made it extremely easy to string together attacks and the whole thing felt right. Aside from the combat, it felt like I had played this game before. For the first 15 minutes I hated the game. It reminded me of Lineage 2 or even a free MMO, Shaiya. While I enjoyed those games, I felt let down after looking forward to this game for so long. First impressions wore off quickly and by the end of the beta weekend, I had logged over 20 hours into the game.

Aion implements something else in the form of personal shops. At first I wondered why personal shop were needed with an AH in place, but then I thought of all the people in WoW slinging their enchantments and this seemed to fit. There’s some real merit to this, but douche bags have already ruined the system. The second weekend of beta, I saw ass hats recruiting for hardcore guilds. You know the types, “Go to our websites, fill out an application, and we’ll get back to you.” The game won’t be out for three months, why on earth would you need to fill out an application? All it would say is, “I’m unemployed, have a level 10 cleric and I just got a sweet resurrection spell!” So you already had the portal into the major city filled with idiots recruiting for their guilds, which won’t be active for another three months. There were personal shops as well, and all were cluttered together, lagging down the game and cluttering the screen with shop signs. It will only get worse once the game launches and the gold farmers start in. Sad as I am to see it fail, for the community of gamers, I would like to see the personal shops removed. As a whole, we’re not mature enough to use it properly.

The only other complaints I have are small. Kill stealing is an issue. I had many quests go longer than they should because a higher DPS class would steal my kill. A quick change to “first hit takes kill credit” and the issue is resolved. Another issue is that guild names are only 10 characters in length. Unless players get ridiculously clever (they won’t), there’s going to be problems. Lastly, you can’t invert the mouse. For some this isn’t a problem. Myself, I struggled all weekend to get used to it. Again, these should not be issues, especially for a game that has been out for some time.

After reading this, I ask myself why I want to play this game, with all its problems. Simply put, I enjoyed it. Enjoyed the world, characters, and near lack of elitist assholes. It’s the near perfect merger of City of Heroes and WoW. I don’t think it will take down WoW, but it will get a loyal fan base, just like any other MMO. After writing this, I feel conflicted about the game, but then I remember how much fun I had playing it. In conclusion, there are some neat aspects to the game, but gimmicks don’t equal greatness.