Friday, March 23, 2012

Street Fighter x Tekken Review

These days it isn't good enough to have one elite roster of characters to fight with anymore. Gone are the days of owning a Street Fighter, Tekken and Soulcalibur title. These days you are playing titles which take the best of the best (for example the Marvel vs Capcom series) and now two of the biggest franchises in the business have joined together to create one almighty package. Now true fighting fans will be able to recognise that Street Fighter is a 2D battle which Tekken takes to a 3D arena for their fights. For this title the Tekken characters have lost a dimension to accommodate for the Street Fighter style of play (A Tekken x Street Fighter game is rumoured to be in development by Namco). There is a lot to offer in this game that improves on the already powerful SFIV offering we witnessed last year.


Being primarily a Street Fighter title means that the art direction of Super Street Fighter IV has been taken on board when creating this game. All the characters have been heavily stylised with the cartoon layer on top of what could be realistic graphics. All the character models look brilliant and the Tekken characters have been crafted with a lot of detail which is especially important.

As always, the backgrounds are weird and wonderful creations that feature complete different environments depending on the circumstances, whether it be story related or just a random match. A lot of action happens in the background with people moving around which to me just adds an extra layer on top of a stationary location. Moves are flashy and super moves bestow an extra sense of power as they hit an opponent. The flashes and special effects that evolve while fighting all add to the brilliant consistency of this package and why Street Fighter is such a robust series.

There is quite a nice soundtrack which compliments the gameplay. The tracks aren't going to be anything you have heard before, instead opting for beats that fit the fighting genre. They work well but aren't going to deliver a memorable experience. While there isn't a colossal amount of voice acting present in the game, the small amounts which generally appear in cut scenes between fights throughout the course of arcade mode are well done and fit the character nicely.


For those who have never ever touched the fighting genre before, this is probably a brilliant title to start your adventure off on. For me this is my third fighting game after Mortal Kombat and Super Street Fighter IV, even though I have played a bit of Tekken previously. Mortal Kombat is all about brutality and vicious finishing moves but Street Fighter is aimed more at skill and the actual fighting involved. This is a good thing because it extends just how much you can play this game. Going from a beginner with a limited skill set to someone who can hold their own using devastating combos online is a challenge that will take a vast amount of time to complete. That being said, this game does a good job to make it more appealing to new players by tweaking the way matches are played.

To perform moves that extend past basic kicking and punching you need to be able to successfully string a range of button presses together. I know from experience that this is a daunting task for newcomers and may throw some people completely off the game. That is why you can play with either 'gems' which help you perform some tasks. These are great but only make one small part of the game easy to use. The other are beginner controls which make the move sets able to be pulled off with fewer manoeuvres, which come at a cost of decreased power for example. This is an excellent idea that lets new players hold their own in online battles without advanced people using this to advantage to beat others. While you will still most likely get beaten by a seasoned pro who knows it all off by heart, you won't get embarrassed like previous iterations.

Playing Street Fighter can be done by either playing other humans or the computer, these are available in a variety of modes. When going solo, you can attempt to conquer arcade mode. This is a fun mode that while only lasting several battles encourages multiple playthroughs. You choose two characters, what franchise they are from is irrelevant, and take them through a short story mode as such fighting other duos and eventually an end boss. The great thing is that while this repeats itself, the story is different for every pairing so some interesting results appear at the end of the game. With a huge list of characters to choose from this could easily control your attention for many hours. You can also take part in certain missions which challenge your skill and provide you with objectives to complete. This mixes up the standard arcade formula and adds a bit of variety.

For the social creatures among us, you can head online or play locally with up to 4 people. Tag team matches in Street Fighter x Tekken are a heap of fun and provide you with some good bonding fun with friends. A bit of a warning, tension may build if one person has a bigger ego than the others and refuses to tag you in. Fighting online is a heap of fun and will take over your life if you let it with the addicting action that will engage you. There are a variety of different modes on offer that you can't play against the computer which really encourages you to get involved. As stated earlier, players can use easy controls so they don't get blown away by the extreme competition which is lurking out there. This is vital for making the experience enjoyable for everyone and I love it.


Collaborations are the new thing and you won't find many better than the partnership between Street Fighter and Tekken. Adding the Tekken brand to the Street Fighter universe expands on the already great quality of Street Fighter IV. I really enjoy the new features they have added to make this a more user friendly experience for newcomers while also keeping the challenge and thrill for players of old. This is a fighting game that everyone can play and that isn't a statement which can be stuck on many fighting games these days. If you were ever thinking of picking up a title from this genre, Street Fighter x Tekken is the game for you.

Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Overall - 8.5/10

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SSX Review

No matter how much time I invested into GTA San Andreas on the Xbox, there was always one game which was played more than SSX Tricky. That game defines the last generation for me and became the go to game for me and my friends for so many years. Crazy tricks, amazing locations and Eddie doing the worm once you reached tricky created a game that never got old. Not to mention the soundtrack by Run-DMC that for me is more iconic than any other video game song before it. So when EA announced that they were reviving a series that had been left out in the cold for far too long, its safe to say that I was more than excited. I believe I even pulled out the old Xbox and played SSX Tricky and SSX On Tour for a good few weeks while my backlog of games built up around me. The pressure was on the developers to keep the nostalgic experience of Tricky for childhood fans like myself, while bringing a new and exciting experience that will be attractive to new players. After the original Deadly Descents trailer the game seems to have had a complete overhaul as requested by the fans, which is great to see. And god, they sure pulled it off!


SSX is a beautiful game and is the first thing you will notice once you actually play it. Videos of gameplay before release don't do the title justice and you won't be able to fully appreciate the scope of SSX until you see it at full speed. What made the older titles so successful was the slickness of the animations and how there were no frame rate issues which made such a smooth process like snowboarding into a jagged mess. This has continued in SSX and whether you are racing down a mountain with an avalanche in hot pursuit or pulling off crazy tricks in the air it all looks spectacular.

Gone are the days of amazing creations like the iconic Tokyo Mexaplex from SSX Tricky as a more realistic approach has been taken, to creating the tracks at least. Mountains in the game are modelled off real world peaks and feature the biggest in the world such as Everest and Kilamanjaro. With the help of NASA they have created mountains which replicate the gradient and ferociousness of these slopes, while also adding in a variety of jumps, ramps and rails to make it interesting. Unlike Tricky which had bright red rails revolving all through the land, this title takes a more subtle approach by trying to make as many items as possible simply blend in. When in China you will be jumping off parts of the Great Wall, where as finding yourself in a cave will have you coming across old mine tracks to grind on. While I missed the extremeties of past titles, it was all soon forgotten by the sheer beauty of the tracks as well as the extra detail put into the nine deadly descents. That being said, a lot of time and love was put into crafting each slope in the game.

A fan favourite line-up of riders has returned and a few new ones have been brought into the franchise. Despite my anger when realising that Eddie was a pre-order incentive that I've now had to purchase off eBay, its great to see the riders I spent days and days racing with having spiced up haircuts and outfit choices. Gone are the days of Elise's tight lycra or Psymon's singlet, everyone now rocks the classic baggy pants and jacket that snowboarders are known for. Whats great to see is the uber tricks for riders returning. Getting 'tricky' is easier than ever so you can perform these uber tricks at will unlike perform where dedicated timing of jumps was required to get these off. They all look spectacular in motion and the intense speed that they are performed doesn't detract from the awesomeness of taking the board off your feet and spinning it around in your hand. Neither does grinding off a helicopter in the air mind you.

The one bright shining light out of all the awesome aspects of SSX is definitely the soundtrack. It's obvious to see what the developers were aiming for when they went for the electro-dub score featuring many popular artists such as Example and Nero. The beats are bumping and the bass drops regularly which all sets the game up perfectly for the exhilirating run down the mountain. The classic "It's Tricky" is back but only if you go to the menus and choose it over the new dubstep remix by Pretty Lights. As much as I love the original, I chose the remix as it fits in well with the rest of the songs and is a damn good song at that. They have mixed the songs into the game well, adjusting perfectly to your situation just like in Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. When you fill your tricky metre 'It's Tricky' starts playing and really spurs you on.


By now I'm sure you have heard of SSX's slogan of Race It, Trick It, Survive It. These are the three modes in the game, expanding on the two of previous titles. These events can all be played in either Global Events (SSX's take on multiplayer), Explore or Deadly Descents which is the main story mode in the game. For the first time they have tried to incorporate some reasoning behind snowboarding and in particular why the SSX team wants to conquer the nine deadly descents. It is quite an odd storyline because a whole team of elite snowboarders are trying to beat one single person to conquering all descents, which either way I look at it seems to make Griff out as the better snowboarder. Nine snowboarders onto one is quite unfair but its fairly irrelevant as no one is here for the story, it's all about carving in the snow!

Deadly Descents are mountains that have treacherous qualities that are unique to that slope and require special equipment if you even hope to survive. These range from giant rocks in the way to the regular tendency of avalanches or even the lack of oxygen if you don't descend fast enough. These all offer an unique challenge and definitely do well to mix up the formula. I came in expecting to hate this new addition but they have made sure to put it in the game, but not make it the focal point (Hence why Deadly Descents was dropped from the title). Explore mode basically opens up the entire game and lets you compete on all 153 race, trick and survive events to try and achieve bronze, silver or ideally gold medals. Unlike Deadly Descents which I completed with no troubles or repeated plays to level my character to complete tracks, I found that the gold medals actually offer a challenge and encourage multiple plays in order to achieve the high scores. A lot of time can be quickly sucked away from playing through explore.

While there was no online play in earlier titles, it sure was a social game for me. Myself and my three similarly aged neighbours would spend rainy days inside competing for glory on SSX Tricky. I was hoping that we could continue this with SSX, especially online, but it hasn't appeared in the form I was expecting. Global Events lets you compete for credits which are the currency for buying boards, gear and suits (These are also available to earn in the other modes) by coming in different rankings. Your time or score is ranked against other peoples time and competitions run for only a certain amount of time. Featuring all the runs of explore mode there is a lot to do here, but racing ghosts lacks the same intensity at racing people in real time. Friends can post times up that you can attempt to challenge kind of like NFS' autolog system which adds the competitive nature. A stock standard online component is what this really needs added on top to make the complete package.

When it comes down to it, SSX is just so much fun to play. I found myself doing runs multiple times and never taking the same path twice. Little collectibles called Geotags encourage you to soar high and look low to earn more credits and levelling up your characters will take you a while to max out. Most of all, after that it's good to see the game still have that classic SSX fun factor. Simply put, I enjoyed racing and doing crazy tricks for the fun of it in a game that doesn't take itself seriously and is created as a completely arcade snowboarding game. It is smooth, reliable and the trick stick works great for pulling off a large array of tricks.


Apart from the lack of true multiplayer, SSX has lived up to my lofty expectations and has delivered everywhere that I hoped it would. This would be close to my most anticipated game for 2012 and that isn't downplaying the quality of this years lineup but merely reemphasising the respect I have for this series. Snowboarding is as fun as ever, the deadly descents are a big risk that have been pulled off to great success and this game is probably bigger than ever with the multiple routes on the 27 mountains available. I want everyone to buy this game so the series can be revived and once again prove why it is the king of extreme sports in gaming. SSX is back baby!

Graphics - 9.5/10
Sound - 10/10
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Overall - 9.5/10

Monday, March 5, 2012

Asura's Wrath Review

Asura's Wrath, the one word I can use to describe it is mental. I have never ever played a game before where the main character has that many underlying issues that causing him to have extreme anger at almost every turn. The rage built up inside is granted however and allows you to unleash complete fury on your foes which is always exciting. The developers took a few risks when creating this game involving how the game is presented. While this is a full on action game at heart, the whole story is broken up into episodes and mimics a television series by having 20 minute stories which overall meld together to form the game. This was an interesting gamble that was very hit or miss as the interactive side of the game coupled with the vast amount of time watching cut scenes may deter some gamers.


The art direction of this title is quite an unique experience which I can best associate to the fighting series Street Fighter. To me the game looks like a hybrid combination between hand drawn images that have been given a cartoon style overlay. The game looks stunning and every part of the game has been lovingly crafted to provide a high level of detail. Characters each have distinguishable features and the animations are spot on. Throughout my time with the game I didn't encounter any frame rate dips, which is surprising since there are times when a lot of stuff is happening at once. Early on in the game a giant creature breaks its way through earths core and starts attacking the demigods. It's an incredibly busy scene which holds up nicely.

Being more of an interactive adventure than anything else, the choreography of the cut scenes is incredibly important. All the scenes look spectacular and give correct camera angles to receive the full experience. This seems fairly simple but its amazing how many games can struggle to pull this off. Sometimes the text is a bit hard to read if the bottom of the screen is made of darker colours but most of the time it is fine. The worlds you see are extravagant, mystical creations that you won't find outside of a Japanese creation. It looks great and is something you can really appreciate if you take the effort to understand the storyline.

The musical score for Asura's Wrath is excellent and does a nice job of complimenting the action. Since Asura is angry for a majority of the game, the score is tense and upbeat while also slowing down for more of the subtle, emotional areas of the game. Being a Japanese title the developers can sometimes make weird choices when bringing the game to an western market. The voice actors do a great job and each one matches the tone of the character they play. The game isn't the best you've seen or heard in terms of blow away graphics, but what it has tried to accomplish it can succeeded in by sticking to their limits.


For a game which is strictly an action game, it is surprising that the developers took an extremely hands off approach to the title. As I have now mentioned, Asura's Wrath is more of an interactive show that features a lot of watching the story unfold in between unleashing an onslaught of fury on your foes. While it does include an interactive element in the experience of quicktime events titles such as Final Fantasy XIII-2 or Battlefield 3 have, quite a lot of the game is about resting your fingers and taking in the experience. The time out of the game is only heightened by the games 'episodes' which extend the beginning and ending of every segment of story. They have pulled off the presentation of the game superbly, but the ratio of cut scenes to actual gameplay is probably slightly out of whack.

As an action game that is almost solely based on a hell of a lot of hacking and even more slashing, this is a super experience. While the game is constantly changing, the main processes remain throughout. You have light and heavy attacks which can be used in conjunction with jumping as well as ranged attacks for foes that prefer aerial combat. There are brutal finishing moves and all of it helps built up your wrath to unleash a deadly array of attacks when the bar is full. The true action sequences are so much fun and are varied from episode to episode. You will move from on rails shooter sequences to classic one vs many action scenes to some just downright bizarres objectives which I will leave you to find on your own. Trust me, you won't believe they let this n a video game that was given the tick of approval for sale in Australia!

The two biggest gripes I have with Asura's Wrath is the length of the game and the lack of action for the length. It won't take you very long to complete this game. Each chapter took approximately 20 minutes to complete on average and with 18 chapters it will take 6 hours on the easiest difficulty. This bumps up to around 8 or 9 hours on the harder difficulties but still this is quite short. What makes it worse is that a large chunk of this time is taken up by watching a story which will take a really dedicated effort to understand and appreciate, so the amount of time playing as Asura is short. By the time I finished the game I just wished they had extended all of the action.

The story is simple to understand but difficult for you to really get connected to emotionally. It starts off strong but teeters off as you progress. Asura is a demigod that fights alongside other demigods to protect heaven and everything good in the universe. Very early on you will learn that Asura is betrayed and his family are taken from him, leading to a long trail of revenge and fury to recover them. He is killed and revives himself centuries later out of anger alone, which anyone who has experienced this will know that its not good for your emotions. A lot of screaming and shouting will follow as you follow Asura throughout many different worlds.


Asura's Wrath is a good game that absolutely shines in its presentation and delivery but ultimately falls down in the length of the title. For a full priced title, there are too many cutscenes and not enough action for a game this short. I like the idea of episodes and the mimicking of television shows, but they needed to squeeze more out of the story and have Asura fighting more people for longer periods of time to make this truly successful. Asura's Wrath is a superb game if you can find it at a discounted price as it probably isn't worth the full price of admission. Perfect for anyone who likes to resolve their anger issues and end the day by watching credits roll like any good show these days!

Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8.5/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Overall - 8.5/10