Mar 112013

Contender for the 2013 award for most convoluted game title ever.Vampires are just one of the many occult creatures that heavily pepper today’s pop culture. We have vampires that write diaries, vampires that sparkle when exposed to sunlight, and even vampires with a Southern drawl living in the Louisiana bayou. One thing there aren’t a lot of is stories about old timey vampire hunters with magical chain whips, and perhaps that’s a role Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate can fill. Set over 1000 years ago, it tells the story of one Simon Belmont and mysterious shadowy figures helping him as he infiltrates the castle of Dracula to learn the fate of his long lost father and avenge his death.

One trope that has been consistent in Castlevania games is a nonlinear progression through levels, and Mirror of Fate is no different. Right out of the gate, players will see areas that are not accessible with the character’s current abilities. The expectation is players will want to backtrack to earlier areas of the castle and explore the locked areas once they have the appropriate abilities. Explorers will be rewarded by getting to witness the incredibly varied locales of the castle. There are rooms with obstacles ranging from malicious merry-go-rounds to tiny, dirty nooks Simon must shimmy through as zombies clutch at his ankles. However, if you’re the type of gamer that likes to take a straight shot through a game, then that’s something you can totally do.

The intuitive way to control a game that almost exclusively calls for two dimensional movement would be to use the D-Pad, but unfortunately that is not an option. The only way to guide the protagonists’ movement is with the Circle Pad, which can feel awkward at times. While you’re guiding Simon and his cohorts as they platform their way to Dracula’s lair within the castle, hordes of undead minions will be in your way. There are typical, run-of-the mill ghouls and rabid dogs, but the developers also threw in things like harpies and magic books that conjure more enemies while sapping your life or magic just to keep things lively. Boss design was inventive as well – especially when you consider the large breasted bisexual succubus. It’s not often game designers throw in foes of that nature!

To dispatch these foes back to the depths of Hell from whence they came, you will be flailing a whip around with more fervor than Willow Smith when she whips her hair back and forth. The whip mechanic works well and makes for not only some interesting combat sequences, but also some unique exploration opportunities once the weapon is upgraded. You will also earn various secondary weapons you can equip, such as new ax to throw at flying enemies, or Molotov cocktails to clear out a crowd with fire. As you earn experience points from defeated enemies, Simon and his co-conspirator will unlock new combos with the whip, as well as other abilities. Players will not get a choice as to which abilities unlock or when they do, but this pseudo RPG element adds some welcome depth to the game.

When a problem (like a skeleton monster) comes a long, you must whip it!

When a problem (like a skeleton monster) comes a long, you must whip it!

Another cool aspect of the combat is the ability to get various spirits to aid you during your fight against Dracula and his minions. The first one is a handy shield that draws energy from Simon’s magic supply to block attacks, but each one you befriend offers a new ability. They prove to be valuable assets, and most players will probably find themselves scouring each area for refills on the magic they need to summon their spectral friends.

The visuals in the game look pretty decent, and the 3DS has no problem running the game at a full frame rate. However, there is nothing overly remarkable about Mirror of Fate’s look. The cutscenes are some of the best visual treats in the game, but the cell shading used in them is so different from styles used in the rest of the game that it is a little unsettling; almost like you are seeing scenes from a different game. During these cutscenes is the only time you should attempt to utilize the 3D function, because during standard gameplay you will probably be so frantically smashing buttons that the effect will make your eyes hurt rather than wow you. The environments are incredibly dark, and while that is understandable considering the game’s subject matter, it caused difficulties while playing. Thankfully, there is an option in the game’s settings to turn the brightness up and this helps immensely.

Whip it...into shape!

Whip it…into shape!

The music for the game is actually quite exceptional, especially when listened to with headphones. The themes are all very dramatic and some of them sound like they’d be right at home in an old horror movie starring Vincent Price or Bela Lugosi. There is quite a bit of good voice acting in the game as well, which is something a lot of gamers still probably aren’t used to when it comes to a handheld title.

Castlevania is one of those game franchises with an intensely dedicated fan base, and a lot of those fans will be vehemently opposed to any changes to their favorite series simply as a matter of principal. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is a solid game with passable graphics, and combat that could only have been improved if the protagonists were actually whipping their weaves around instead of chains. However, if you have enough garlic and holy water on hand and are brave enough to insert the cartridge into your 3DS, you will be treated to a fun action platformer with a sprawling and labyrinthine Gothic castle to explore.

Whip it...whip it good!

Whip it…whip it good!


Pros: The combat and level design in this game are top notch, the soundtrack is something other 3DS developers need to take notice of.

Cons: The visuals aren’t the best seen on the 3DS, and playing with the 3D on is not advisable due to the amount of movement your system will be experiencing. Some people may get bored trying to explore every nook and cranny if the castle. Playing with the circle pad is pointless considering movement is almost solely up, down, left, right.

Value: Players that are really into heavily exploring the game will fund this game well worth the money. Those wanting to blow right through the story may be underwhelmed, considering the hefty $40 price tag.

Verdict: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is an excellent addition to any 3DS owner’s library, even if it is the first title they’ve played in the franchise.

Score: 7

Whoops…wrong video.

Feb 192013

Revengeance Title

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, as all fans of tactical espionage action and their grandmothers know, is the exciting new almost-sequel-but-mostly-spinoff of Hideo Kojima’s exalted Metal Gear franchise. The crazy things about this entry, of course are A) the genre shift from a stealth/shooter hybrid to a balls to the wall hardcore action game and B) Platinum Games being behind development with Hideki Kamiya (The freaking creator of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta) spearheading the insanity. This is not a Metal Gear game in the traditional sense. Pack up everything you thought you knew about the franchise (except for nanomachines of course) and get ready for one of the wildest rides the genre has to offer. Forget buckling up; seatbelts are for nerds. Continue reading »

Nov 142012

I get way too excited for HD re-releases. Nothing beats that feeling of a fusion of nostalgia and awe that comes with revisiting a classic game from the past with a fresh coat of high-definition paint. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t work because either something goes wrong or the game in question isn’t interesting enough in the right ways to justify the touch up, but I’ll eat my words if I encounter a set of games more fitting for such a treatment than Zone of the Enders. Continue reading »

Mar 012012

"All I can see is a normal tree. Just a cute fuzzy wuzzy adorable tree."

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D is out and it’s a pretty darn good game. The 3D effect does really add a lot to the game. The Photo Camo…eh not so much. It’s a cool idea and Kojima has always added fun little diversions into the games (anyone else remember Snake vs Ape Escape) but it still doesn’t feel “practical.” Still, Snake in Mario camo is fun to watch.

Hey, here’s a fun idea. Over here is a version of the comic with a blank slate. Why not download it and make your own camo? Feel free to post it in the comments section or on our forums.


See you next week.

Feb 292012

Konami has announced that Zone of the Enders HD Collection will be making its way to PS3 and XBox 360 this autumn. The collection will include Zone of the Enders and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner remastered in HD. Both games premiered on PlayStation 2 and were developed by Kojima Productions, the studio behind recent Metal Gear Solid titles .


Feb 212012

The Simpsons Arcade Game arrived on the scene in 1991, two years after the animated family debuted on FOX. It’s not often we review games that debuted so long ago, but with a port of the game recently released for XBox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, we figured we’d make an exception and see how the classic arcade brawler holds up in the modern day.

The story kicks off when the youngest Simpson, baby Maggie, picks up a diamond that billionaire and local power plant owner, Mr. Burns, has been plotting to steal. Rather than negotiate with the family, Burns has his right hand man, Waylon Smithers, kidnap the girl which sets the other members of the Simpson clan on a chase to save Maggie. Needless to say, the story isn’t very deep and is filled with extreme plot holes. Under what circumstances is Maggie able to snag a priceless diamond? Wouldn’t kidnapping an infant land you in enough trouble that the police would be at your door instead of the child’s family carrying out a vigilante mission to retrieve her? While almost all games require some suspension of logic, the faults are impossible to ignore. Thankfully, 90s arcade brawlers aren’t known for their storytelling, so it’s not game ruining or unexpected that the plot leaves a lot to be desired.

Hard to believe anybody would mess with Maggie.


While questionable plots can be overlooked, combat is undeniably the most essential aspect of gameplay in a beat ‘em up and is a major fault in this game. You can take on your enemies as either Homer, Marge, Bart or Lisa Simpson, though who you select merely affects what weapon you use. Bart attacks his enemies with his skateboard, Lisa uses her jump rope as a whip, Marge wields a vacuum cleaner, and Homer charges into battle with his bare fists, but they all there’s next to no variation beyond slight visual differences. The best titles in the genre adhere to a ‘simple to pick up, difficult to master’ fighting system where novices can initially get by with basic punches and kicks, but in time progress to advanced maneuvers to deal with stronger foes.  The Simpsons Arcade Game offers a limited number of actions in battle and never lets the player make the jump from relying on simple blows to having a growing arsenal of attacks at his command. Rather, the majority of your time fighting is spent mindlessly mashing the attack button. You can also carry out a jumping attack and when partaking in multiplayer, you can perform a combo with the aid of a fellow Simpson. When you’ve had enough of your fists, or er, vacuum cleaner, doing the talking, there are also items scattered through the levels you can fling to inflict damage. It’s a rudimentary system and the repetitiveness becomes draining after a few levels.

The game supports 4 player co-op so friends can get in on the action as well. Obviously, the more players there are, the easier it is to breeze through throngs of enemies. Since you’re so often outnumbered and death can feel cheap and undeserved, this is a good thing, but be warned a party of 4 can lead to the screen being extremely cluttered and confusing.

Those already familiar with The Simpsons Arcade Game will find themselves right at home. The emulation is spot on and longtime Simpsons fans will take pleasure from seeing some of the series’ lesser known and forgotten characters (yes, that is Bleeding Gums Murphy) hanging out in the background. Though the game provides some fan service in offering visual gags, it lacks the polish and tone that we’ve come to associate with The Simpsons. More recent titles featuring the family have been full of humorous dialogue that rivals that found in the show’s finest seasons, and plenty of allusions that hardcore fans can pick up on. That can be attributed to the technological limitations of the day and the fact that in 1991 The Simpsons hadn’t yet hit the peak of its humor, but it’s worth mentioning that the few funny moments in the game will be in the form of visual gags and not the side-splitting dialogue or situational humor the show has come to be associated with.

Fans of the show's early seasons will enjoy sights like this one, but that's where the humor stops.

The game doesn’t look awful, considering its age, but it definitely doesn’t stack up to modern games. The animation is often stiff and characters look block-like, but for players of the original, it’s preferable to a visual update with the same dull mechanics. The locations of levels are interesting, even if they don’t make sense within the context of the game. Areas like the graveyard and the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant are diverse enough to keep the scenery looking fresh and Dreamland is a trippy, monochrome delight. In the event you needed to be reminded you’re playing an arcade game, there’s a border around the screen to resemble an arcade cabinet by default. Personally, I prefer to turn the option off because it takes up too much of the screen and doesn’t add value to the experience.

Enter Dreamland and find yourself facing an oversized bowling ball with boxing gloves. Why? Why not.

Needless to say, with a massive improvement in technology over the last two decades, what passed as quality gaming in the early 90s seems far less impressive by today’s standards. Though the game deserves accolade for being a spot on emulation, it’s those who have a fond nostalgia for the arcade game  who will bestow praise on it’s latest incarnation as a downloadable title. Undeniably, The Simpsons Arcade Game has noticeably aged and those discovering it for the first time may be easily turned off by the blocky animation and simple mechanics. Younger audiences and new gamers are likely to gloss over the positive facets and focus on how poorly it stacks up to contemporary games. I know it sounds unfair to criticize a game that came out over 20 years ago for looking old, but truthfully its age shows and the gameplay isn’t enough to make up for it. The replay value is low, and after beating the game there’s little incentive to try for a second playthrough.

Believe it or not, kids, this game and this family were considered visually appealing in the early 90s.

Overall, Konami‘s port of our favorite yellow family’s arcade adventures is a sound choice if you’re looking to take a stroll down memory lane, but those picking it up for the first time could have disappointment in store.

The Simpsons Arcade Game

ProsExcellent emulation of the arcade game; Diverse levels with interesting art design; Fun co-op
ConsCombat is over-simplified and a bore; At around 40 minutes the game is extremely short; Low replay value; Exhibits little of the series' trademark humor
VerdictIf you loved the arcade game, you'll probably enjoy the port though it's obviously aged poorly. If you've never played the arcade game and don't have a nostalgic investment in it, steer clear.
Feb 022012

GameInfromer has confirmed that The Simpsons Arcade Game will be coming to XBLA and PSN soon. How soon? Well the XBLA release date is tomorrow, February 3rd, while the PSN is slated for Tuesday February 7th. PSN Plus users can get the game free while XBLA owners will pay the low price of 800 MS Points. The game will feature four player online co-op as well as “new modes, and additional bonus content featuring a never-before-seen Japanese version of the game, view classic flyers and posters, and a characters guide.”


As an old school beat ‘em up fan and Simpsons lover I can’t begin to discuss how awesome this is. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.



Nov 172011

Metal Gear Solid creator, Hideo Kojima, has announced that the stealth action franchise will be making a return in Metal Gear Solid 5.

The news was mentioned in a preview for the newest issue of Official PlayStation Magazine UK, available later this month, which will feature an interview with Kojima. In addition to discussing his plans for MGS5, the interview will also have Kojima talking about past Metal Gear Solid games, and comments on Metal Gear Solid Rising, the first game in the franchise he didn’t write or direct.

Keep your eye on RoboAwesome for more details as they emerge.


Oct 022011

No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise is a High-Definition port of No More Heroes, a game that was originally released on the Wii and shouldn’t require an introduction. For the sadly deprived and uninformed, No More Heroes was the first major success by Suda51, who is now known as one of the craziest men in the video game industry. Full to bursting with wild punk rock energy, toilet humor (literally) and hilarious anime parodies, No More Heroes follows the adventures of Travis Touchdown, a super horny otaku with a past in pro-wrestling residing in the “NO MORE HEROES Motel.” After a drunken night at a bar he meets Sylvia, a mega babe that convinces him to participate in a ranked battle of assassins. Travis grabs the lightsa-er, “beam katana” he purchased on an online auction website and promptly beheads the lowest ranking assassin in the opening cutscene. What ensues afterwards is one of the zaniest action games of all time.

Continue reading »