Posts Tagged ‘2002’

Game 37: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Posted: March 10, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , , ,

Game 527/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Time again to visit the land of Hyrule and indulge in a little Zelda action. Today my friend Kat’s game collection takes us to the 2002 classic game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker which was the console-based sequel to the earlier covered Majora’s Mask. Despite these games being released one after the other they really are worlds apart. The lush landscapes are now replaced with a vast expanse of oceans and the graphics underwent a direction which no fan of the series could have expected.

Our Thoughts

So here’s another Zelda. Now the Gamecube’s Wind Waker. No fart jokes today, we promise. I am so embarrassed with you for that remark. Seriously, you just needed to go there. No, I’m just saying we’re not going to …and I’m an ovum. I haven’t noticed that yet…

The Wind Waker will always be special to me as it was the first console game of Zelda that I ever owned (not counting Ocarina of Time which was packaged with my copy of The Wind Waker). This is similar as to how Link’s Awakening will always occupy a soft spot in my heart as it was my first on a handheld. Since I had previously played Majora’s Mask at a friend’s house I was already aware of the graphic style of the typical Zelda game… something which The Wind Waker famously deviated away from.

For those who cannot remember, or did not pay attention, to the controversy leading up to the release of this game (Link’s first foray onto the Gamecube) I guess a brief explanation in order:

Normal console Zelda games had always attempted to have some degree of realism to them whilst also being able to allow for the fantasy elements of staple races such as the Deku. Here in The Wind Waker the developers instead opted for a cel-shaded animation feel where 2-dimensional sprites were found in the 3-dimensional world. This later caused the game to be dubbed as Celda (and caused many Zelda-purists to denounce the game before it’s release).

Thing is… I never found a problem with the graphics. I have always been a fan of stylised graphics in a game as the look and feel of it is far less likely to age when compared to it’s contemporaries. If you’ll allow me to interject here, yeah, the graphics are clearly a different style, and I can see how it bothers people. The thing is that the simplification in graphics did not have the same effect on gameplay or story – this is still a difficult game – but its looks are deceiving here. Thing is, between the different games in the series, the graphic style already has its changes, and the SNES Link to the Past already had a similar change in graphics, so I can’t see exactly where it comes from. The main thing that bothered me is that because it looks this way, Link actually look quite a bit younger – which can be a bit weird. You have this ten year old kid fighting bosses and running around volcanoes. He might have been intended of a similar age in previous games, it looks weird.

This age relates to the beginning of Ocarina of Time where Link starts out as 10 and then ends up at 17 after the time jump… if I remember correctly. He is definitely in his late teens in Twilight Princess. Making him younger than most games in this one… and it feels weird. Anyway, it does mean that his emotions look a bit more exaggerated. He looks very determined just sidling past a ledge. The look of concentration on his face is just darling. He also throws a mini strop if you stop playing for a while; he gets a little bit bored and sways back and forth until you start playing again. Yeah, he’s a sweet young kid, I suppose.

What’s interesting about using a cel-shaded look (apart from making it look like an anime) is that there is a bit of a contrast between the violence and the childlike surroundings. Very true, actually. The NPCs look funny and sweet. At the same time, the enemies are dark and somewhat frightening at times. At the same time, the environments work in the same way. You have bright environments in the towns and cities, and then in the dungeons it’s dark, filled with skulls, with just torchlight lighting up some of the areas.

An aspect where the cel-shading helps make it slightly creepy is the eyes. No matter how dark it gets the eyes of Link and the NPCs still stay fully lit. With Link it’s cute, with the rats and bats it’s rather macabre. This can make the game rather jumpy at times; e specially during the (rather un-Zelda) stealth parts. Those early stealth parts really did shake me, this was helped incredibly by the use of incidental music. Yeah. Not helped by the fact that you have no weapon or anything else to defend yourself with it. Add to that that getting back after that takes a long time, making it awkward, complicated, and frustrating. It’s very tense.

There is also a great freedom in this game which comes from your need to sail between the islands (using the Wind Waker’s power to bend the breeze to your will). Yeah, they creating a feeling of a large world without boundaries, where you actually need to cover some ground before you get somewhere. At the same way it does remove the more detailed overworld with stuff happening as you travel between parts of the overworld, which is (mostly) replaced by endless oceans. All without a loading screen, which was impressive considering the size of the area related to the consoles processing power. That’s true. It’s all seamless, so they never break immersion. It’s smooth and simple.

Last thing I’d like to say, a fairly small thing – the voicing. I’m sorry, but not only does he look cute, Link sounds even cuter in this game. Adorable, that’s the only word I have for it.

That’s the thing; The Wind Waker does feel adorable which probably stands as the reason that is rarely mentioned in the same heartbeat of Zelda console games as Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. It’s my favourite game of the Zelda series since I feel that they were able to contribute a great degree of gaming depth with some very distinctive graphics. It has it’s own identity separate from the rest of the series (minus Phantom Hourglass) and while that is The Wind Waker’s greatest strength it is the sole thing going against it in the annals of gaming history… it visually looks a bit too much like child’s play. And because of that, the best way to do this is probably that this is a great game… just possibly not the best example of a Zelda game. Although to just hold its graphics against that would also seem… petty. In gameplay and difficulty, it’s worthy of the name.

Final Thoughts

So that’s Wind Waker, the second Zelda game we’ve covered here, after previously covering Majora’s Mask. (Ocarina of Time is coming up Very Soon too, so keep an eye out for that). Looks-wise, sound-wise, it’s more kidsy, cuter at times than the other installments, but at the same time it’s challenging. It’s far from impossible, but it’s at that right level of difficulty where it’s challenging, but you know you can beat it.

Is it perfect? Personally, I have a few issues with the sea mechanism, but that’s mostly due to me comparing it to the other Zelda games – it seems better than just randomly warping somewhere clicking on a location on the worldmap – at least for a game like this.


Game 530/1001 according to the list

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PS2/Gamecube/X-Box
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Free Radical Design
Publisher: Eidos Interactive

Of all the first person shooters out there I have lost the most of my time on the Timesplitters franchise. As much as I loved the first installment it was still fairly rough around the edges since it appeared that they rushed in order to have it as a release title for the Playstation 2. For the sequel, however, they had plenty of time to iron out the kinks and add a lot of elements that would go on to become known as Free Radical’s trademark humour. With critics upon the games release naming it as an essential title for shooting multiplayer it is little wonder that this made the 1001 list.

Our Playthrough

In Timesplitters 2 there are three major gaming modes: Arcade, Challenge and Story… so we gave them all a good go.

Our Thoughts

So here we are. Another game inspired by Goldeneye 007. Well Perfect Dark doesn’t really count as they were by the same developer. Granted, but in any case we see another step in the game’s lineage. Probably helped by many former employees of Rare going to off to form Free Radical Design who were the brains behind this game. The sequel to the warmly receieved Timesplitters that improved upon the formula in every way. An odd order, but true, it has improved on the previous games mentioned here that I’ve played. Good graphics, good multiplayer, rousing music and what seemed to be the start of an interesting story and gameplay.

Whilst our 5 hours of gameplay did mainly focus on Arcade and Challenge modes there is a very good Story mode, but from my many hours of experience this was the weakest of all game modes, despite completion of it leading to a wealth of unlockables. Why’s that? It seemed fun to play through, and rather jumpy at times. Which is where I suppose I should mentioned the thing you can do here you rarely see in such games – coop story mode. Play through the levels together, rather than on your own. Yes the option of a co-op story mode is indeed an extreme in it’s favour. I mean there are very few games that can boast such a feature. Some games in the Halo franchise being the main ones that come to mind. As well as some RPGs that I can think of, my beloved Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale being the obvious ones for me.

I guess that the multi-player was just so ahead of it’s contemporary competition that it’s hard not to focus on this as being it’s extreme strength. The story line itself just is not enough to drive this game. You find it hard to connect with Cortez and Hart during their quest through history… even in the explosive finale. Something that was very well improved on in Timesplitters: Future Perfect where the story mode becomes such an incredible asset that it still pains me that Timesplitters 4 has remained in development hell for the better part of a decade. Everyone knows Free Radical games for their sense of humour (and their love of monkeys) and this is something that is lacking in the Story missions but is present in spades within the Challenge and Arcade modes. I guess that the increased use of cutscenes and witty dialogue with it’s fair share of idiotic puns (“time to split” anyone?) are what I miss most of all.

Wow.  In other words, keep an eye out – it may be a while, but we’ll be getting around to this better future game. Well, I always said that it was a better game. The book itself is a bit contradictory on the issue. Basic summary: The single player mode improves in the third game, but the multiplayer and arcade modes are great. And that’s very true, it’s addictive and fast enough that it leaves you wanting to play another round, helped by a competent AI that actually makes the game more difficult, rather than just being there to be slaughtered. It managed to fool me at least – and as is well known, I’m not the best at those things. The fact that you can play with a maximum of 10 AI opponents during the arcade modes bring a fantastically chaotic feeling. Also the variety of gaming modes within the Arcade section is great. Not only are there the typical Deathmatch and Capture the Bag modes but also aptly named Assault, Vampire, Shrink, Flame Tag and Virus. MONKEYS! Yes, yes, yes, monkeys. FLAMING MONKEYS! Purple monkey dishwasher? I didn’t spot that one. Nevermind.

Worth mentioning are the graphics. They’re not OMG brilliant as we’ve been before here – they feel off at times. Considering that this game is nearly 10 years old they are still very acceptable. It helps that the characters are stylised in a cartoon-like fashion which means it has aged far better than other games released in the same era. Unlike the first Timesplitters which looks pretty bad a few years later so who knows how it’ll look now. The feeling is that they could have made a bit better use of that – it’s trying to be just realistic enough that, during a few cutscenes, it seemed a bit jarring. Oh? The first cutscene of the game has two guys talking to each other. The movement seemed unnatural – not entirely a cartoony talk, but still mouths opening and closing without matching the tone of speech. I didn’t feel the same way, but fair enough.

I guess that this is something that we will have to compare when we get to Timesplitters: Future Perfect.  My only hope is that we don’t have to wait until game 500+ to get there. Agreed.  And I’m sure we will, as this game makes for some useful filler time as well.

Final Thoughts

So there we are. A nice follow-up on some of the FPSs we’ve covered before, with possibly the best multiplayer experience we’ve had so far It’s a shame the single player falls flat in comparison, which is something that’ll get better in the coming sequel to the game. The graphics are good – not great and dated at times, but more than bearable. And the music… I was jamming to it while waiting for Peter to be ready for a multiplayer match. Worth a try for that experience alone.

Game 19: Soulcalibur II

Posted: January 15, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , , , ,

Game 507/1001 according to the list

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco

It is with great pleasure that I introduce our first attempts at covering a fighting game!

Being a long-time exponent of the fighting genre it was great to see so many included on the list itself, and there are fewer better ways to introduce them than with SoulCalibur II. Having started out in Japan as an arcade game this was successfully ported onto the PS2, XBox and Gamecube with the latter being the best reviewed of the three. Each version also contained an exclusive character with Link appearing on the Gamecube, Heihachi Mishima was on the PS2 and comic-book character made his way onto the XBox.

It was thanks to this game that the Soul series was able to join the ranks of fighting games alongside Tekken, Street Fighter and Virtua Fighter.

Our Playthrough

There is only way that you can play through a fighting game; play every mode in the attempt to unlock all the characters as well as teaching Jeroen who is the true king of beat ’em ups (as other people have found out in respect to Tekken). We will be playing the Gamecube version that I bought in New York with birthday money… the fact that this means I have to keep my Gamecube since it’s unplayable on my Wii does make it slightly annoying.

Our Thoughts

So buttonmasher, your first beat ’em up from the list. So it is. Although I’m not sure ‘buttonmasher’ is entirely appropriate. I tried to use some strategy; I just forgot half the controls at the second session which resulted in you doing the same punch for an entire round. It worked and I changed it around later, made my tactics more varied (which was much appreciated), it made it a lot more fun.

Although, as we can state, right now it’s not a genre I’m as proficient with as you are. Beat ’em ups/fighting games have always been one of my favourite genres. The Soulcalibur series being one I love (except the third one, which was pants).

That leads me to the question that matters here. We can go on about graphics, sound, gameplay, design, story and more of that in a bit, but what my main question is (as someone who knows nothing about this) – what sets the series, and this part in particular, aside from other similar games?

Firstly is the use of handheld weapons. The SoulEdge/Calibur series may not have been the first to introduce them into a conventional fighting game but they were the ones who have made them a real boon. Each weapon comes with a different fighting style (and dare I say personality) which leads to a highly varied gaming experience. Something I’ve noticed with the different characters that we’ve played.

In your conventional beat ’em up everyone has a set radius of attack, when you introduce long-range weapons such as large axes and the Valentine Blade versus shorter range ones like nunchucks and a rapier then you really have to formulate a variety of tactics. This nicely co-insides with a wide variety of characters where each of them has fleshed out back story meaning you can understand their intentions for fighting rather than it being a free for all.

The controls too were very well organised, especially on the Gamecube (less so with the Xbox version) meaning that it is not too much of a stretch to go from a simple vertical slash to a complex throw. The variety of tactics shows itself clearly, and broke me up during our two player games, where my performance depended a lot of what I could do.

The controls were well organised as long as you can remember them. I probably didn’t play long enough to get the reflexes and innate memory. Reflexes are something that develop from a lot of fighting game experience. Bear in mind I’ve owned titles from the Soul, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat franchises.

I guess that’s why (as you said when we were playing) button mashing isn’t rewarded as much in this game. The controls don’t seem to make it easy to execute combos or allow you to be effective that way most of time, while even going into a bit more makes the game better. The effort gone into getting the control pays off soon which means there is a great ‘pick up and play’ quantity even for amateurs. Yeah, it works for players on multiple levels, and the difficulty in the game seems to be able to scale based on that; although some game modes are more difficult than others.

The Weapon Master mode is an interesting side section, especially since it allows the purchase of different weapons for each character which then influences play even more. Such as a weapon which enhances strength but leeches from your health. The game seems to contain a relatively large variety, even if it does not show in all game modes.

Another interesting thing of note is the console-exclusive characters. I mentioned this already in the introduction but this is something that they actually repeated again in SoulCalibur IV so thought it worth another shout out. It’s an unexpected touch, but that makes it interesting. The PS2 really got the bad deal with theirs, since Heihachi Mishima is a stalwart of the Tekken series. If anything Link (exclusive on Gamecube) was the most interesting as they had to invent his attacks basically from scratch. Which means he’s horrid to play as… but worth a go (even if I have yet to actually do so). It’s weird when he whips out the bow and arrow and then follows it up with a bomb. Not something that’d normally fit with the game, but it also seems like it’d be possible to fit it in. But with all of them being different-range melee characters, one focussing on range doesn’t seem like he’d fit and the limited size arenas don’t help that feeling.

The arenas themselves are beautifully made though, such a variety of environments. Made me wish there were more of them. Makes me itch for the sole entry from the Dead or Alive series… now there is a game who knows how to make arenas. That’s for another time

Still, obviously this is a game worth playing for the fans. I’m not sure whether it’s the best for the beginners to the series (where I suppose the Super Smash Bros series would be better), but even then it seems worth a try to get something different.

Final Thoughts

The graphics are beautiful. Some may no longer consider them as realistic as they could be, but they hold up and the art style matches, with the arena being even more promising than the characters you play. The variety is surprising and shows how these games have moved past a simple matter of two characters fighting in a 2D environment, where forward, back, punch, kick and dodge is all you do and where everyone looks the same anyway. With a full storyline with some minor RPG elements, the fighting is almost little more than a gameplay element, which makes the game more fun to play.