Video Game Review: Alien vs. Predator (PS3)

I was really excited when this came out because I love both Alien and Predator franchises and especially love when they come together. Well, maybe not in the movies but I always liked the Alien vs. Predator comics, as well as the video games before this one. That old Atari Jaguar game was great for the time.

This boasts good graphics, solid maps and the ability to play as a Predator, an alien or a human space marine. There are three different story routes and a lot of cool game play options.

One thing puts a real damper on this game for me though and that’s the overly complicated controls. I typically play as a Predator because why wouldn’t I? Predators are the friggin’ best and I can turn invisible and violently rip enemies to shreds with my knife gauntlet or blast them into smithereens with my shoulder cannon.

But that’s the problem. Predators can do too many awesome things that keeping track of it all, in the heat of battle, is sometimes difficult. Playing as an Alien xenomorph or a human isn’t that much easier either. Running around as a xenomorph can be very disorienting.

I think that this game was a good step in the right direction for what this needed to be but maybe it needed more refinement. And the learning curve to get the controls down is tough. One certainly can’t be ready to be thrown to the wolves after the weak and brief tutorial mission.

This is a lot of fun once you do get the hang of it though but it seems to lack in replayability.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Alien vs. Predator games and similar sci-fi/horror first person shooters.

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation)

There are lots of great video games over all consoles and platforms, spanning five decades. Few, however, are actual masterpieces. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of those rare masterpieces.

I can’t say a bad thing about this game. I love it wholeheartedly and playing it in 2018 made me weep for myself, as I haven’t replayed through it enough over the years. This experience though, has assured me that it is something I’ll have to play through over a weekend every couple of years. Man, I really enjoyed stepping back into this for the first time in over ten years. It also made me feel the sense of excitement and awe that I had for it when I first bought it and took it home in 1997.

I have always been a fan of the original three Castlevania games and this takes the best elements of the original trilogy of titles, mixes them together and pushes away all the negative parts.

While most people don’t like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, I always adored that game and how ambitious it was for the time. That ambition and it’s RPG like style mostly just upset people that wanted it to be more like its predecessor. But Symphony of the Night borrows the RPG elements, throws them in here and presents it all as something closer to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, which was a much better version of the style of the original game.

Like Simon’s Quest, you have to round up pieces of Dracula’s body in order to fight him. And also like Simon’s Quest, you have the freedom to go where you please and obtaining certain items unlocks access to new areas.

The thing is, and most Americans in 1997 didn’t know this, but Symphony of the Night is actually a direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, which didn’t come out in the States until later and was then renamed Dracula X. I’ve never played Rondo of Blood but now I want to after revisiting this. Rumor has it, that a version of it is being released for PlayStation 4 soon.

Anyway, apart from this tapping hard into Simon’s Quest, I also love how many firggin’ boss fights you get in this game. There are bosses everywhere in the castle. It’s like you can’t go ten minutes without encountering another boss to fight. What’s also great though, is that the classic bosses return, as well. You get to fight the Grim Reaper, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy and Medusa. You even get the annoying hunchbacks, the pain in the ass gillmen and the mindless zombies, as well as so many other regular enemies that every section of this game is new and fresh.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is absolute perfection in an artistic and interactive medium where such feats are incredibly hard to achieve. Kudos to Konami, as this is one of the best games the studio ever produced and my favorite in the great Castlevania series.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The original Castlevania trilogy for NES, Super Castlevania IV for SNES, the Gameboy Castlevania games and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (also known as Dracula X).

Video Game: Dragon Warrior (NES)

The original Dragon Warrior or Dragon Quest was the first legit role-playing game that I ever played as a child. I played this before I touched any of the Final Fantasy games and just after I had conquered the original Zelda, which was more of an action RPG.

My childhood best friend and I spent a lot of time on this but we weren’t in a rush. We loved the experience of playing through this and not having the Internet around to walk us through the tough bits. We spent months on this after school but eventually we got to the end and beat the big bad. We actually saved the game in a way that we could both have a shot at fighting the final boss.

Dragon Warrior was such a great experience that I got RPG fever and had to play through its sequels, as well as the Final Fantasy games that came out for the original Nintendo and the Game Boy.

Whenever I play any RPG, I can’t stop myself from comparing it to my experience playing this game. The only other game in the genre that made me feel like this was Final Fantasy VII for the original PlayStation, almost ten years later.

Dragon Warrior was an imaginative game that gave me the Dungeons & Dragons experience that I missed out on because my uber religious mother wouldn’t let me play the “Devil’s Game” with my cousins in the ’80s.

Having just played through this masterpiece again, I was transported back to the late ’80s and felt the excitement and emotion that this gave me back then. Truth be told, I have to fire this up every few years, just to bask in its awesomeness and perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.

Video Game Review: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES)

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse was really f’n cool when it first came out because of one reason, you could play as Alucard, the son of Dracula.

Well, you could play as a few characters but Alucard was just badass and you could turn into a bat and fly through certain areas. But each character had their own special purpose.

Most importantly though, this returned to the game style of the original Castlevania, which most people wanted after the more complex, tougher and RPG-like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. I am of the minority that loves that second game though, even if it’s a favorite classic NES title that people love to shit on. Those people are just simple minded and can’t solve more complex problems and puzzles though.

Anyway, Castlevania III is back to basics with some added flourish in the form of the characters Alucard, Sypha Belnades and Grant Danasty. Your main character is Trevor C. Belmont, as opposed to Simon Belmont, as this game is actually a prequel set a few hundred years earlier.

And while it does return to the formula of the first game, it branches out and is more creative, as it allows you to make choices that effect the game. You can choose different paths and the game has different endings based off of what you do along the way.

This allowed the game to have long lasting replayability. As different people beat it in different ways, kids talking on the playground came to realize that they needed to try different things in order to see the various finales. And this is back in the era when beating a game was a massive undertaking, especially since it typically had to be done in a single sitting. Castlevania III monopolized many summer vacation afternoons.

This is just a solid chapter in a solid series what was fun to play and exciting because of the options within the game. It really was a step forward in gameplay and storytelling evolution.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other NES Castlevania games: the original Castlevania and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, also PlayStation’s epic sequel Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Video Game Review: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)

The Legend of Zelda is, in my opinion, the greatest video game ever made. So when Zelda II came out, I was f’n ecstatic.

When I fired it up, however, it was similar but then all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

You wandered an overworld but the mechanics were different and more like that of a standard RPG. However, when you got hit by a creature, instead of going into a standard RPG battle mode, you entered a side scrolling action world. Part of me was confused and part of me was excited as hell!

In retrospect, Zelda II isn’t the masterpiece that Zelda I is. But it is a phenomenal game that might not have been what anyone was expecting from a Zelda sequel but in a lot of ways, was a better playing experience than just giving fans a rehash of what they already experienced.

Not everyone shares my sentiment. A lot of people hated this game because it wan’t what they wanted. Also, this game was tremendously f’n hard, the deeper you went. I couldn’t beat it way back in the day but once I got into my mid-’20s, I really chipped away at it and finally beat the thing. As a kid, I could get to the final boss but it always ended in me getting my ass kicked… hard.

Anyway, this game has a vast world, secret areas and really cool mechanics. It was extremely well thought out and meticulously designed.

love the boss battles in this game. Each is pretty unique and a lot of fun. While the bosses of the first game are more iconic and would be the ones that would go on to be in future sequels, this game was still highly creative in doesn’t come with a dull boss or really, a dull moment.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is, by far, one of the best video games of its era. It has aged really well, for those of us who still like their games 8-bit. I fire this thing up almost yearly.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The Legend of ZeldaDragon Warrior, Final Fantasy.

Video Game Review: Godzilla (PS4)

I’m a massive kaiju fan, tokusatsu fan and Godzilla fan. I know it may sound silly to some but this game is the one that made me finally break down and buy a PlayStation 4. I also got it for Uncharted 4 but it’s this game that really made up my mind for me just because I wanted a great Godzilla fighting game with great graphics and mass environmental destruction.

Sadly, this doesn’t live up to the expectations I had for it but I did enjoy the hell out of this game, regardless. It has several flaws but even those didn’t distract me from the monster on monster combat for the first few weeks that I played this. But eventually, those flaws caught up to me and I wanted much more from this game.

If you are also a fan of the classic Godzilla universe, this will probably make you happy, for the most part. Luckily, this game is cheap as balls now because I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for this thing, as it runs its course pretty quickly.

You don’t start out with all the monsters being playable. You have to play the story mode multiple times to unlock every character and then you also have to play more to unlock points that can be used to enhance the abilities and stats of your monsters. This is fun for a little while but I doubt anyone will ever want to finish this arduous task because the game suffers heavily from repetitiveness.

It’s fun to play through this a few times but it is just the same thing over and over again.

Also, there really isn’t a good versus mode in this and the other modes kind of suck. The story mode is where it’s at but this is sadly, a one trick Minya.

There are some key monsters also missing from this game. I had hoped that there would be some DLCs that would add more monsters to the game but this was a commercial failure and nothing extra was developed.

Another negative, is that the environments are fun to destroy but you are confined to an area and can’t really roam too freely. Every stage has a border around it. It’d be much cooler if there was a massive map of Tokyo and you could actually walk from one side of the massive city to the other, confronting other kaiju along the way.

The game does do a good job of replicating the Shōwa era by using all the familiar music and giving you many levels that look like sets from those films. You can even knock down the Tokyo Tower on one stage. However, that nostalgia wears off the more you play the game.

It also doesn’t help that the monsters have a very limited move set and clunky controls that seem to work against you.

If you don’t give a shit about Godzilla, you should steer clear of this. If you do like the franchise, this is worth a buy if you can get it for like $10-$15.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Sadly, there aren’t a lot of kaiju games, at least in the US. But I bet this pairs well with the Japanese Ultraman games. If you have the ability to play imports, I’d suggest those.

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Knight (PlayStation 4)

*I played the PlayStation 4 version. The game is also available on Xbox One and Windows.

Playing this was long overdue.

This is one of my favorite video game series of the last ten years and it is the best video game series to star a comic book hero. Also, it stars the coolest hero.

Out of all the Arkham games this is probably the best one overall. I think I liked Arkham City a bit more but this one had so much content and new elements added to it that it really takes the cake from a narrative and technical standpoint.

I guess the biggest addition to this chapter in the series is that it is the first game where you can drive the Batmobile. And you don’t just get to drive it, you get to do battle with it. There are a lot of parts in the game where you have to go into vehicular combat and there are different styles, as well. There are side missions that play out like straight up car chases and then there are other missions where you go into “battle mode” and you are essentially a tank in a firefight with other tanks and aerial drones. It’s actually pretty incredible stuff and this element never got old.

The only Batmobile stuff I didn’t like was the racetrack sequences, which are worked into the Riddler side missions. I don’t play Batman games to race cars, I play them to save Gotham City from scum and villainy. They also work the Batmobile into the equation where you have to solve some of the Riddler’s puzzles. I love the Riddler, I just liked his side missions the least because of these bits.

I liked the new Arkham Knight character, even though it became fairly obvious who he was and that he wasn’t actually a new character but just a new twist on a known character. I also like that changes to his character were instrumental in Deathstroke coming into the game. But sadly, you don’t get to exchange fisticuffs with him. But that leads me to one other minor problem with the game.

There are no real boss battles. Well, there are big boss battle feeling moments like when you take on the Arkham Knight’s tank or when you reach the big crescendo in the Mr. Freeze side missions but you never actually fight any of the major villains with your fists except for Killer Croc.

Still, I do like how the big battles go down in the game. I just wish that I got to have more intimate physical encounters.

And man, there are a ton of villains. And even though the Joker is dead, he is very much a big presence in the game but I don’t want to reveal how, as that will spoil the story. But Mark Hamill, as the Joker, probably has as much dialogue in the game as Batman.

I liked that Scarecrow was the biggest villain in the game, as he’s a character that gets shafted in favor of the better known villains in Batman lore. Plus, the version of Scarecrow used in this game series is my favorite version of the character to date.

Ultimately, this is the best game in the series overall and thus, I’d say it is the best superhero video game that I have ever played. It brings the story full circle and is a nice conclusion to Rocksteady’s Batman franchise.

But really, I hope that this isn’t the actual end. I’d love to see a Nightwing, Red Hood or Batgirl game spun off from this series.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The three previous Batman: Arkham games.