GameCritics


Back in the heady days of the 16-bit console wars, the Sonic games were the only ones that made me waver slightly in my steadfast support of Nintendo. I reveled in every chance I got to visit one of my Genesis-owning friends and experience the gaudy loops and insane speeds of the Sonic series. Eventually, I even broke down and bought a used Genesis just to play Sonic games.

Now that the fog of war has lifted and Sonic is firmly in the Nintendo camp, I play Sonic Advance and wonder what the heck I was thinking.

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Expecting nonlinearity from Stuntman is a mistake, as a real movie stuntman does not get much nonlinearity in his line of work He gets paid to do a predetermined set of stunts and do them correctly. Anything less requires a retake, which, while frustrating, is also realistic, and provides the player with an incentive to do better next time. The game does not require perfection, though; most scenes allow you to miss some stunts with no penalty more severe than a smaller monetary bonus. Realism in simulations is often sacrificed for the sake of fun, but we shouldn’t be too hard on Reflections for taking a different route.

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With each new Tekken that comes out, I tell myself I’ve had enough, that I’ve already played these games way too much, but Namco has always pulled me back in with new characters, new mechanics, or even new graphics that make it a fresh experience. This just wasn’t the case with Tekken 4.

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I got the feeling that Yanya was trying too hard to be quirky for the sake of quirkiness. From the finger-board controller to the nonsense story and floaty physics, it seems Koei was trying to make a skateboarding game for people who don’t like skateboarding games. If Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is the American sitcom of skateboarding games, with predictable pacing and familiar set pieces, than Yanya is the genre’s ridiculous Japanese anime, always ready to mess with your expectations of what the genre should be. Much like New York City, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

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The most amazing thing about all of the DDR games is the sense of accomplishment and growth that beating a tough song provides. With other games I’ve felt similar feelings after beating an especially tough boss or solving a taxing puzzle. But when I truly master a song in DDRMAX, the sweat on my face and the swift beating of my heart magnifies the feeling. The soreness in my muscles and the burning in my lungs tell my body that I have actually done something worthwhile. It’s a singular sensation that can make other games seem like meaningless fumbling with the controller.

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But this goes to prove that developers don’t need to be phenomenally original with a sequel to make it a good one. They simply have to identify the parts of the original game that made it good and replicate them while eliminating the frustrating parts. With a solid base like the original Super Monkey Ball to build from, the job is simple. Simply adding additional levels and mini-games that share in the same spirit as the first game is enough to make this sequel worthwhile.

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How will video game characters react when they are smart enough to realize they are video game characters? Maybe they’ll be programmed to serve happily, boldly risking their lives for our entertainment. Maybe they’ll be angry at the malevolent player-gods that continually throw them into harm’s way. Or maybe—hopefully—they’ll have a sense of humor about their situation, like the characters in Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc seem to.

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Pre-adolescents that grew up on Mario flocked to Sonic in their adolescence. His rebellious nature appealed to a generation that was just beginning to assert its independence. In Sonic’s wake, platforming games in general started to slowly change. Color palettes became darker. Characters became more smart-alecky. Even Crash Bandicoot, one of the last bastions of platforming wholesomeness, had a sort of wry, devil-may-care attitude about him.

As gamers and games have continued to mature, so have platforming characters. You can’t turn around these days without running into a big-name action/adventure game that features a bloodthirsty vampire, an undead devourer of souls, or some other shallow characterization that just exudes darkness. Some marketing director at Acclaim seems to have caught on to this trend and tried to apply it to Vexx. He obviously didn’t try very hard.

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What Super Mario Sunshine lacks in gameplay innovation, it makes up for in its solid level design. Running around in the large, colorful worlds of Super Mario Sunshine made me feel like a kid unleashed on a huge new playground, with a near endless supply of things to do. Simply exploring the game’s huge world without a specific goal in mind can be very relaxing and rewarding, and the excitement of finding a new hidden area or making a tough jump in Super Mario Sunshine is just as strong as it was in Super Mario 64. It’s a testament to the game’s design that this sense of wonder manages to shine through despite the faulty mechanics…

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The appeal of War Of The Monsters for me came from the game’s one-player mode. Even though the same characters appear in the same order every time, this does not mean that the one-player story mode lacks for variety. One foe brings in a fleet of tanks with him as a distraction; another fight features dozens of weaker mantis creatures followed by a larger foe. One boss can only be defeated by his own bombs, a la Mouser in Super Mario Bros. 2. Each new battle brought with it a new and interesting scenario, and forced me to think up new strategies on my feet. Even without any person-eating mini-games, the one-player mode was engaging.

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