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: Fallout: New Vegas (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2015.

Fallout 4 is finally out. I haven’t played it yet. But I did want to talk about the previous console Fallout installments before getting to the new game.

Fallout: New Vegas was the unnumbered sequel to Fallout 3. But as has become the trend, direct sequels aren’t usually numbered anymore, at least until the next console or generation of games. While this usually leads to confusion over what the chronology of games is in certain series, Fallout has only done this once. It certainly isn’t anywhere near as confusing as the clusterfuck that is the Assassin’s Creed series.

This game came out exactly two years after Fallout 3 and it plays exactly the same. It is an amazing game and pretty close to the masterpiece level of its predecessor but there just isn’t enough new stuff to set it apart and the story is less interesting. Also, the Wasteland seems more vast but the geography makes it more diverse. But even with that environmental diversity, it just feels like it is retreading the same formula.

The exchange of metropolitan D.C. for Las Vegas isn’t that exciting either. Sure, Vegas has a totally different vibe but it is much smaller than D.C. was and the casinos don’t serve much purpose, as they are simply aimless mazes with no real function other than a few plot points.

There are new creatures added to the mix of this game, as it is in a different region of the United States. However, most of them are more annoying than exciting when engaged. The damn mutant wasps are just a nuisance. I’d rather smash giant scorpions and blast on radioactive crab people and mutant bears.

Had this come out before Fallout 3, it would probably have been heralded as one of the best games of all-time but it came out after and just didn’t live up to the Fallout 3 experience.

I also had issues getting the DLC content to work. I played through one of them but there was a glitch preventing me from accessing the second and third ones, which is never fun after you pay for them. No patch seemed to fix the problem and that just adds to the other technical issues I faced with this game. I’d often times get stuck in the ground or a rock surface, the game would freeze, it would lag or I’d lose companions and never be able to find them again.

Even with all the negative points I’m making, this is still a thoroughly enjoyable game. It just isn’t as great as Fallout 3 but perfection is hard to replicate, even when you’ve created the formula already.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Fallout 3 and Fallout 4.

Video Game Review: Fallout 3 (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2015.

Fallout 4 is finally out. I haven’t played it yet. But I did want to talk about the previous console Fallout installments before getting to the new game.

Fallout 3 was a masterpiece. It is also my favorite game of the series up to that generation.

The world was vast. In fact, it was the most vast world I had ever played in, up to that time. The graphics were solid, the game play was incredible and the story was pretty good. The game also introduced me to the magical world of DLC content and produced some of the best DLC content of all-time.

The reason I like this game better than its follow up, Fallout: New Vegas, is because it just seemed grittier, more dangerous and a lot more interesting. It also took place in Washington D.C. You could walk through the Capitol Building, the museums, access the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The final battle of the game took place around the Jefferson Memorial. There was also a massive aircraft carrier that was converted into a city.

The game also featured D.C.’s subway systems and sewer, which were full of ghouls (essentially radioactive zombies) and other terrors. The city streets were overrun by raiders (savage human gangs) and super mutants (giant hulking beasts with heavy armor and big guns). The Wasteland, the area outside of the city, was a vast desert with all kinds of danger and monsters.

Fallout 3 came chock full of side quests that made the game pretty much endless. You could play this thing for well over 100 hours and still find new things to do. It never got boring, it never got stale and I still fire it up on a regular basis and storm the wasteland looking for action.

This game was the precursor to what Skyrim became. It took a formula successful from the Elder Scrolls series and repackaged it in a more modern setting. It was nothing like Fallout and Fallout 2 before it and it benefited from the change.

The VATS combat system was unique and a cool new way to experience a fight in a video game.

The greatest thing of all, were the humongous super mutants called “Behemoths”. Battling one of those is one of the greatest experience you can have in a video game. It was like one man versus King Kong. But a sick, twisted, yellow, hairless King Kong.

Hunting Deathclaws in caverns was also a huge thrill. It was more frightening than most horror games and this isn’t really a standard horror game. It is a post-apocalyptic action game with a lot of scary threats that will make your survival a real challenge.

Fallout 3 is pretty close to a perfect game. There really isn’t much that one could do to improve upon it with the technology and capabilities of its time. Well, except for the bugginess and lag that I experienced on the PS3 version. My friends who played this on Xbox said that it ran smoothly, all the time.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4.

Video Game Review: The Legend of Zelda (NES)

There have been a lot of games in the Zelda franchise. Most of them have been pretty great. This however, is a review of the very first game in the series, which is still my favorite and is actually, still to this day, one of the greatest, if not the greatest video game of all-time.

It is a bird’s-eye-view game and 8-bit, as it came out on the original Nintendo way back in 1987 (1986 in Japan). It features Link and his quest to rescue Princess Zelda from the evil Ganon. To do so, he must acquire all the pieces of the mystical Triforce. Each piece is hidden away in a different dungeon and requires the player to have to beat a boss before collecting it.

Back in the summer of 1987 I was eight years-old. That didn’t stop my friend Kenny and I from dedicating our entire summer to conquering this epic game. At the time, this was the most epic interactive experience either of us had ever encountered. In fact, when we would get stumped, one of us would have to beg our parents to allow us to call the Nintendo Hotline at 99 cents per minute because strategy guides and the Internet did not exist at that time. After about three months, we stormed into the evil warlord Ganon’s throne room and cut him down – rescuing the princess and reuniting both Triforces (after having to reconstruct one of them throughout the game).

I have never had as much fun playing a video game as I did the first time I played through this masterpiece. Final Fantasy VII is a very close second though.

Maybe my interpretation of this game relies heavily on the deep feeling of nostalgia that I experience whenever I think about The Legend of Zelda. However, the fact of the matter is, no other game has had the ability to generate a sense of nostalgia as strongly as this one does. I still pick this game up and play through it once a year. It brings me back to that place and it still feels like a great adventure. The only difference now is that I can beat the game in two hours, as opposed to three months.

This game really showed the potential that the video game medium had. At the time, everything was quick and pretty much beatable within a half hour. This introduced gamers to what the future of gaming would bring. It was the first game that I know of that had the ability to save your progress. That alone, to my eight year-old mind, was pretty profound.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Zelda II: The Adventure of LinkDragon Warrior, Final Fantasy.

Video Game Review: Boom Beach (Phones & Tablets)

*Written in 2014.

Since having to finally give up on Windows Phone due to no new devices and lack of development, I ended up not going back to the Evil Apple and instead went Android for the first time because the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge looked like an awesome piece of hardware. It is, by the way. Amazing, actually.

Getting back on an OS that actually has a lot of stuff being developed for it was a welcome change. I forgot what it was like to have a lot of good quality games on my phone. The most addictive, by far, has been Supercell’s Boom Beach.

I’ve played this thing for countless hours now and it is one of the few games that I have actually spent money on, as far as in game currency. For me, that is a pretty big deal. Usually, once these free games start needing money in order to advance through them, I lose interest and then go on to play another.

Now I get that this money generating scheme is how these developers stay in business and initially the software is free but it is still irritating. You see, I’m still of that old school gaming generation though; the one that pays for a game and expects it all to be there.

Typically, I don’t like waiting for a timer in a game to hinder my progress. I don’t mind that so much with this game. Although, I’d still like it to be speedier.

The graphics and animation are great. The game really is pretty slick to look at and with the fun factor pretty high, it is a rare gem in smartphone games. Plus, the whole point of the game is to blow shit up – a lot of shit.

I actually need to hurry up now and finish this review, as I have to go check on my gunboat, which should be upgraded to Level 8 by now.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Supercell games.

Video Game Review: Toy Soldiers: War Chest – Hall of Fame Edition (PlayStation 4)

There is one reason why I purchased this game and that is because I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to lead a Cobra army into war with G.I. Joe. Granted, I also wanted to play as the Joes and to try out the Eternia army lead by He-Man. If it wasn’t for the licensed properties that this game had, I wouldn’t have cared about it all that much.

The game also features an army lead by Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed games. I didn’t care about that one so much and actually haven’t played as them because I wasn’t motivated enough to buy access to it or to play through the game long enough to unlock them. And that’s one of the problems with this game, the fact that you have to buy the extra shit or work your way through countless missions in an effort to unlock stuff. I just wanted to jump in the game as Cobra and kill stuff.

I can’t complain though, as unlocking Cobra only cost me like $5 and I got the game for about $12. It’s been out for a few years and by the time I got around to it, it was more than affordable. Which is good because I would’ve been unhappy had I paid full price.

The game is fairly cool as you start to play through it. However, it gets really repetitive very quickly.

You mostly just build turrets and fix them while getting bombarded by enemy forces. As you fight, you unlock upgrades and other weapons. Eventually, you can unlock a soldier to play as on the battlefield but it doesn’t last very long.

In the case of Cobra, you get to run around and kill things as Cobra Commander. But that’s kind of odd, as Cobra Commander is a total coward that usually sits behind the battle in a massive temple or some big armored vehicle protected by a wall of other armor vehicles. It would’ve made more sense to make someone like Major Blood an on the field commando.

Still, this is a fun game for the most part but after a few hours, I was done with it. I may fire it up once in awhile when I want to live vicariously through Cobra soldiers shooting plastic armies but it isn’t an urge I get too often.

It’d actually be cool if this game spun off into its own G.I. Joe or Masters of the Universe real time strategy game but even then, they’d have to make it more exciting, less redundant and add in a solid story of some sort. But it’s a good template for something more ambitious than what this is on its own.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Any good mobile real time strategy game, as this plays more like a highly boosted mobile game than something for a console.

Video Game Review: Transformers: Earth Wars (Phones & Tablets)

Transformers: Earth Wars is a real time strategy MMORPG. It’s kind of like Boom Beach but with Transformers characters, which immediately makes it superior. I also prefer the playing style of this game, even though I was quite the avid Boom Beach player for a year or so, at one point.

One thing that actually makes this a more fun experience than games like it, is that upgrading doesn’t seem to be as much of a resource depleted/time consuming hassle. I’ve progressed at a speed that has helped to keep me engaged and invested. I’ve now gotten to the point where some upgrades take a few days but you can upgrade up to five things at the same time. Plus, getting material isn’t as painstakingly difficult as it is in similar games. You can get building materials pretty quickly in battles and since you can upgrade your characters fairly quickly, acquiring more materials is pretty easy. I often times find myself with more materials than I need.

On the flip side, when your base is attacked by other players, it isn’t as catastrophic to your progress as it probably should be but I like this. Maybe those similar games could learn from this one, as not getting pillaged for your essential materials keeps you moving forward at a swift pace instead of constantly getting close to an important upgrade only to get hit by an attack and pretty much finding yourself back to square one. That is actually what eventually turned me off from Boom Beach, as I was stuck in an endless limbo.

Transformers: Earth Wars is a well balanced game for its style. You have to work at it but you are rewarded at a pace that is acceptable and keeps you wanting to play. The events and the alliance aspects of the game are also well crafted. It’s the first time where I’ve played a game like this and I wasn’t in an alliance that needed me to be engaged 24/7. That’s hard to do when you have a life. This game gives you a good mix of events, war and regular play, which is important if you need to battle for materials.