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Nintendo Wii Video Game Review: WarioWare Smooth Moves

Another wonderful party game featuring Wario and many more characters utilizing the Wii technology!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: WarioWare Smooth Moves

PLATFORM: Nintendo Wii

COMPANY: Nintendo

WarioWare’s back with an idea so crazy, it could only be made with the latest technology: the Wii Remote™. When Wario™ stumbles upon a strange device called a Form Baton, he and his friends use it to learn new moves that are as fun as they are wacky. With hundreds of microgames, this game is just as wild as you’d expect from the name WarioWare, but the game play has been revolutionized. Under Wario’s tutelage, and with the help of the Wii Remote, players swing, spin and squat their way to victory.

  • With more than 200 lightning-quick microgames and controls that range from scribbling to flailing, WarioWare: Smooth Moves takes interactive gaming to a whole new level. Players steer cars, twirl pizzas, saw logs and dance their way to victory. All they need to be the champ is confidence, a Wii Remote and their best moves.
  • With games that are as much fun to play as they are to WATCH people play, WarioWare: Smooth Moves brings the party to its feet. It’s hilarious for players and audiences alike.

Finally, “WarioWare SMOOTH MOVES” makes it to the United States on the Nintendo Wii and after a full year of hearing about it, watching the Japanese video clips, was this game worth the wait? HECK YEAH!

The latest installment in the popular WarioWare series features more than 200 lightning-quick microgames and controls that range from scribbling to flailing, WarioWare: Smooth Moves takes interactive gaming to a whole new level.
Players steer cars, twirl pizzas, saw logs and dance their way to victory. All they need to be the champ is confidence, a Wii Remote and their best moves.

Although, WarioWare games have simple storyline, the main storyline for “Smooth Moves” revolves around a pursuit of a strange creature that steals Wario’s snack. Wario then stumbles into an old building called the “Temple of Form” in which he finds a mysterious and mystical treasure called the Form Baton (the Wii remote). Wario learns that the Form Baton gives him special powers depending on the way he holds and moves the baton. Thus with the new treasure, the form craze spreads throughout Diamond City.

Our usual suspects such as Wario, Mona, Jimmy, 9-Volt, Orbulon, Dr. Crygor and more are back in a very innovative way to play the game.

I was very surprised to see how easy this game was to pickup. The controls are easy to learn and playing different games such as using the From Baton to box, a pulling motion to saw, striking the form baton like a sword, using it to place a key and open a door or knock on a door. Nintendo developers did a great job finding innovative ways to use the controller. Most people might think that this is all one player but fortunately after you beat the game, you open the multiplayer section which allows for playing games like darts.

If I had one problem with this game is how easy it was compared to some WarioWare games. Granted, WarioWare games are not meant to be frustratingly difficult but I expect a challenge. Especially during the boss levels.
I found the bosses too easy to beat. For example, on Ashley’s final boss stage, all that was required was required was to put the Wii remote down while a burger was being made and picking it up when it was completed. What challenge is that?

The game will not take long to beat and when you do, you will find yourself playing it again to make sure you opened up all mini games or collected all poses, thus there is replay value.

All in all, WarioWare: Smooth Moves is a fun, innovative game. Not the best WarioWare in the series but still worth the purchase.

POSITIVES:

+ A fun game that utilizes the Wii remote’s innovation.
+ Easy to pickup and learn
+ After beating the game, there is replay value, multiplayer mode and mini-games.

CONS:
– Not much of a challenge. Very easy.
– The boss mode aren’t really that
challenging. Compared to previous WarioWare boss levels, not too much of a challenge.
– Wish there was more music integration like the DS “WarioWare Touched”.

PSP Video Game Review: Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble (喧嘩番長3 全国制覇) from Atlus for the Sony PSP

If you enjoyed games like “River City Ransom” or even the fighting aspects of “Shenmue”, you’ll definitely dig “Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble”!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble (喧嘩番長3 全国制覇)

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

DEVELOPER: Spike

COMPANY: Atlus

In Japan, a video game series created by Spike known as “Kenka Bancho” has had a solid following since 2005. The series has spawned a total of three games (the first game for the PS2 was re-released for the Sony PSP in 2009) and a fourth game set for release in Japan on Feb. 2010.

In the US, Atlus has released the third game “Kenka Bancho 3: Zenkoku Seiha” for the Sony PSP titled “Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble”.

The video game focuses on “yankii” culture which in Japan, describes anti-social people who typically are part of a gang. Often known for having pompadours or a certain way they wear their clothing, similar to the gangs in the US, these guys fight with other gangs in various parts of the city for dominance (others become member of Bosozoku, biker gangs) and for some, its just a phase in high school and live productive lives and for others, when they get older, some move up to become yakuza members or get into some type of trouble.

In “Kenka Bancho”, you are a high school student named Takahashi Sakamoto who wants to be the top “Bancho” in your city. Your father teaches you how to fight, how to use your “Menchi Beam” (a stare down in which you either get respect from other yankii’s or initiate a fight) and if you are about to get into the face of someone, you will be given a phrase which you will be shown each word from the phrase and must quickly select the right word from a total of four words. If you succeed, you get the first punch/kick against an opponent, lose and they get the first hit/kick against you. You also learn from your father on how to use the “Kiai Charge”, which keeps your spirits high and prepares you for anything and help regain your yankii spirit.

The object of the game is to beat the other bancho leaders from other cities and with a one week school trip in Kyoto, what best way to achieve your goal by beating up other yankii’s and stealing their trip itinerary and learning where these banchos from other cities are headed for their trip, so you can beat them and make them your peons. But during the game, you have decisions to make. Do you want to fight all bancho’s, find love with the various female interests? Depending what choices you make can lead you into different storylines.

There is also a clock in the game, so you need to follow whether or not the bancho’s will be at a certain area during the morning, afternoon or evenings and also make sure that you are in your room by curfew (at 19:00) but during curfew, interesting things go on at the Inn that you and your classmates are staying.

So, while others are on their school trip for historical fact finding, you get to roam around various cities and kick ass, earn some money, impress a girl and buy some souvenirs. But most of all gaining the respect in order to be the head bancho.

There is a two-player co-op mode via ad-hoc.

CONTROL:

Controls are quite simple. Use the analog stick to control your character and use R button for the Menchi beam, square for a charged attack, triangle for a finishing attack, X button to charge and circle button to jump. Use a combination of these buttons for a combo attack.

GRAPHICS:

Controls are good but not great. I suppose if you compare this with something similar, it would be “Shenmue” on the Dreamcast and “Shenmue” has more detail and looks better than this game. We see various shops and people walking around but the graphics are not super detailed but for this game, I do like the fact that you can go through different cities and roam around different areas.

AUDIO:

Audio is good. Mostly rockish game music and sound effects when you are punching or the sound of the “Menchi Beam” or picking up items from the ground left over by the goons.

“Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble” is a pretty cool game. The story is not super deep but the game is fun as it focuses on beating up various yankii’s on their turf, and gaining their respect. I think for those who are wanting an action game that just focuses on kicking ass, “Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble” is perfect. In a way, it does remind me of “Downtown Nekketsu Story” (aka River City Ransom) in which you fight, build up your character and use money earned to buy food but in this case, also getting better as you fight and earning more stronger moves that you can select. But for those who want a fighting game with a deeper story (ala “Shenmue”), then this game might not be for you.

Personally, so far I have been enjoying the gameplay and just grinding and building my character in order to prepare myself for the bigger brawls against more competitive bancho’s. It’s a very cool game and personally, I love anything like “River City Ransom” (which happens to be one of the first games I bought for my NES) like. And the fact that there are multiple characters that you interact with and although not a deep story, there is a story that is quite entertaining.

UPDATE: I have since beaten the game with two storylines (ignoring all potential love interests and one focusing on the Manami storyline). And there are several storylines I have yet to beat, including beating the main boss (if you lose, the game ends and you don’t get a choice of a refight. So, you will need to reload your saves). Upon beating the game, you carry over your stats and clothes but you literally play the game over again but trying to beat all the banchos and trying out various storylines. I really enjoy this game a lot and great replay value.

Overall score: 89%

PROS:
+ A very cool fighting game for the Sony PSP reminiscent to “River City Ransom”.

+ Interesting characters that you interact with.

+ Controls are easy to use and the game loads quickly.

+ The ability to gain more abilities and fight over 30+ banchos.

+ For some: More action, less story

+ Great replay value with different storyline branching

CONS:
– Some may find the grinding a bit repetitive.

– For some: More action, less story

– Camera sometimes obstructs your view of the action (ie. behind a tree).

Reviewer’s Score: 8.5/10

Nintendo DS Video Game Review: Tokyo Beat Down

For those who enjoy challenging Japanese beat ’em up video games, “Tokyo Beat Down” is reminiscent to games like “Renegade” with an ’80s flair.

TITLE: Tokyo Beat Down (野獣刑事 東京同時多発テロを鎮圧せよ!)

DEVELOPER: SUCCESS/TAMSOFT

PUBLISHED BY: ATLUS

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RATING: T for TEEN – Alcohol reference, Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence

The sweet satisfaction of classic coin-op beat ’em ups returns with the Beast Cops! With an ever-growing threat of violence, crime, and terrorism, these cops will do whatever it takes, inflict as much damage as necessary to restore peace and security to the streets of Tokyo.

  • Beat ’em up that lets you shoot ’em up – When fisticuffs aren’t enough, add guns to deliver a whole new brand of justice to the mean streets of Tokyo. Pick up a variety of weapons, ranging from handguns to rocket launchers, for intense action on each level.
  • 70’s cop shows have nothing on this – Outrageous style, over-the-top substance, and no holds barred hardboiled police action mix with madcap humor and sharply-written dialogue. Dishing out justice to the seamy underbelly of Tokyo has never been this satisfying.
  • Multiple characters & endings – This sordid tale of Tokyo’s criminal set unfolds through the eyes of three different cops with unique play styles. Story branches lead to multiple endings that determine whether you’ll get your shot to beat down the ultimate crime boss.

Ah! I’ve been wanting a video game similar to what I enjoyed back in the early ’90s such as the popular coin-op arcade games such as “Renegade”, “Streets of Rage” “Final Fight”, “Double Dragon” and several others that I grew up playing at the arcade or old school consoles.

But then I heard Atlus was releasing SUCCESS’s Nintendo DS game “Yajuu Deka” stateside! Granted, I knew nothing about this game but having wanted a beat ’em up game, I was hooked by the artwork. It reminded me of Ryoichi Ikegami’s work on his ’80s manga series “Crying Freeman” mashed with old school “Miami Vice”.

“Tokyo Beat Down” is a game about the “Beast Cops” of Yaesu Station. World famous as police officers who take on the baddest of the bad in Japan.

The Beast Cops are:

* for playable characters

* Captain Takeshi Bando – Responsible for the Beast Cops and keeps them in line. Although his tactics can be a bit excessive. An offensive character.

* Sr. Patrol Officer Lewis Cannon – The hotheaded, reckless cop who enjoys kicking butt. A well-balanced character who keeps telling bad jokes.

* Patrol Officer Rika Hyodo – Not scared of getting into Cannon’s face if he is out of line. A tough, agile character with a bad mouth.

Sergeant Hiro Suzuki – An all-purpose officer known to give good advice and when the going gets tough, he can get you from point A to point B.

Chief Eiji Watanabe – The head chief who dresses up in cool duds. Older gentleman who reminisces of the old days.

Patrol Officer Shin Koga – The rookie cop who goes by the book and doesn’t like Lewis’s fight first talk later. Shin believes in communicating.

Officer Madoka – Keeps the file room organized.

Inspector Jean Saburo – An elitist sent from the main office to work at Yaesu Station.

GAMEPLAY:

In “Tokyo Beat Down”, you play and start off with the character of Agent Lewis Canon. Fighting goes from right to left, similar to “Final Fight” and yo get hoards of enemies coming at you. Some punch and other shoot guns. Meanwhile, your job is to take them out. Fortunately, there are crates, garbage cans and vending machines that you can break and pick up an item for energy.

During the course of the game, you get to play with three different characters and depending on how you play the game, you can get three multiple endings.

CONTROLS:

The controls are straight forward. Control pad to move your character in a direction. B to jump, Y to punch and X to kick. R to guard and L to break out your gun (note: bullets are limited). The “A” button is used to communicate with others. Using a combination of buttons such as Y+B allows you to throw, pressing on a direction twice and quickly allows you to dash and R+Y or R+X allows you to do special attacks. Although, special attacks use up some health.

GRAPHICS:

Graphics are like Playstation 1 style graphics. Not the prettiest looking game but fortunately, the art work of the still-art of the characters are pretty cool to look at with the ’80s style of art

AUDIO:

So far, the background music I’ve heard is a bit jazzy and a bit of funk and most of the noise from the characters are grunts and clicks and gunshots.

So, far I’m really digging the game and its artwork. For those looking for innovation, you’re not going to see anything new. It’s more or less along the lines of beat ’em up games like Taito’s 1986 game “Renegade” but in this case, you are part of a kick-butt police agency and you have hoards of enemies from street punks and people in camouflage all going at you at once and shooting you. Timing is very important in this game and also listening as a click is a precursor to bullets shooting at you. Although, you can’t see the bullets, you just have to time your movements and hope you dodge it.

As expected, the game gets pretty tough. In the beginning, I was flying through the game but when you have people surrounding you on both sides and shooting at you, it makes things quite challenging. Especially when you have a weapon and you hope that he can get it out in time but it’s not as quick as you hope, so you need to improvise. But I still have yet to beat the game and will follow up this review upon completion.

The negatives are quite a few in this game from repetitiveness, repetitive enemies with different color pallets for clothing, repetitive scenes and unresponsive special attacks plus a difficult and challenging game. It all comes down to your patience and learning which moves to beat the enemies but even then, the repetitiveness gets to become too tedious at times.

So, is this game worth it? For me, I love these type of games and it’s an Atlus game, so I’m going to pick up no matter what. Again, it’s not a pretty game but if you want pretty games, then you would be playing on an XBOX 360 or PS3. For the DS, it’s good. But another positive selling point for me was that Gamestop sells it for $14.99 and that’s pretty cheap for an Atlus game.

Overall Review: 75%

Pros:

+ A Japanese beat ’em up game for the DS

+ ’80s style characters inc. bad humor

+ The ability to learn more moves for your characters

+ Ability to play different characters

+ Cheap price

Cons:

– Repetitive enemies and repetitive stages

– Enemies all wear the same clothes but different colors

– Graphics and music are not that great

– Cheap bosses and enemies makes this game quite difficult at times

– Control issues and unresponsive moves

A PSP Video Game Review: Kinnikuman: Muscle Generations (キン肉マン マッスルジェネレーションズ)

If you enjoyed “Kinnikuman” (Ultimate Wrestling), you’ll definitely enjoy this wrestling game. Although not sporting the better animation like the GameCube game, this Sony PSP features more characters, fun gameplay and many special moves!

TITLE: Kinnikuman: Muscle Generations (キン肉マン マッスルジェネレーションズ )

DEVELOPER: Aki Corporation

PUBLISHED BY: Bandai

CONSOLE: Sony PSP

Kinnikuman: Muscle Generations is a PSP fighting game based on the manga and anime published on Weekly Shonen Jump. Many people are familiar with “Kinnikuman” through the 80’s toys called M.U.S.C.L.E as well as the animated show “Ultimate Muscle” and through the Nintendo GameCube game “Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation”

The original show portrayed Kinnikuman as a hero who can turn to a giant and take on monsters, later on it became a comedy/fighting series which Kinnikuman and others take on rivals in the wrestling ring.

THE GAME:

The object of the game is broken down to several modes.

VICTORY MODE: This is where you take a fighter (you start off with around a dozen or so different fighters) and battle through a half dozen opponents. When you beat the final challenger, you open up new characters.

BATTLE MODE: Where you can play single battle, tag battle, tournament battle, elimination battle (5 vs. 5) and survival battle.

TAG TOURNAMENT: 8 tag teams fight for the tag team championship

The collection page shows the miniature figures of each character. Opened up when you win in victory mode.

And another mode which I can not access yet since I haven’t played the game to completion with each character just yet.

GAMEPLAY:

The gameplay is similar to a wrestling and a fighter. Square button to block, X button to hit and kick, triangle button to jump and do a combination of grappling, and circle a grapple button. Top shoulder buttons are utilized to trigger a special move(s).

Unlike wrestling, there is no pinning. You pretty much go at it until the person’s health bar is depleted.

In the beginning, once you figure out the moves it may seem boring at first…because you can do the same thing over and over again but once you start advancing, you realize that your opponents are stronger, will block and counter your moves, use grappling moves that will make you feel for your character as it cringes in pain and is about to lose.

This is where it becomes fun because with so many characters in the game and the fact that you want to open up these characters, this game will keep you busy.

But if you are in it for a straight forward wrestling game or straight forward fighter, this game is not that. Some may feel that it can be repetitive because each character doesn’t have a large move list but with a large roster, this is one of those games you can pass the time on a long commute. Note: You can’t save your progress during the match, it will save your progress when you beaten the game with the character and open new characters but sleep mode will come in handy.

It would have been cool to see an implementation of a tournament where you can create a fighter or take your character with its own storyline to rise to the top but the game is straightforward with no overwhelming story behind the character unless you have read the manga or watched the anime.

GRAPHICS:

Where the GC game is cel shaded, the characters are rendered like a 3D fighter. When you do your special moves, they are done well, some characters look very cool and really, on the PSP, it looks good. But the cel shaded look on the Gamecube version is what I enjoyed more.

AUDIO:

During the match, you hear the two announcers talking about the match. You get your grunts and bone cracking but unfortunately, this is no WWE Raw vs. Smackdown and you get a lot of voice and really, there are no cut scenes in that same manner. Well, you get the intro and the stare down and trash talk of the characters right before the game) A year later and seeing how games have implemented so much on the PSP games (video, audio, gameplay in Syphon Filter to the mass amount of videos and songs in DJ Max), you wish that there could have been much more to the game in the audio department. I did like the announcer, sounds like Jillian (announcer of WWE Raw vs. Smackdown) doing the introductions to this game.

Playing games like BLEACH 2 and with the upcoming NARUTO game on PSP, you want to see the combination of animation and voice being integrated with a game like this.

USER FRIENDLY FOR NON-JAPANESE SPEAKERS:

This game is indeed user friendly for non-Japanese speakers if you want to get in there and play a match. You can figure it out if you can’t read Japanese.

Let me just say that I’m not a reader of the manga, I have not watch too many episodes of Ultimate Muscle. But I am a fan of fighting and wrestling video games (and heavily into import gaming on the portable consoles). Although, the game felt repetitive at times because I can use a certain move over and over to beat an opponent, you realize as you progress of how tough these other characters can be. How frustrating it can be.

Remember the days of trying to beat M. Bison in Street Fighter II and how many quarters or continues you’d have to use to beat it? This is how “Kinnikuman: Muscle Generations” made me feel and gave me more excitement to find strategies to beat the final three opponents with each character.

RECOMMENDED: For those looking for a different hybrid fighting/wrestling game than what is currently offered on the PSP. Definitely for fans of the series.

RATED: 80% / 100

POSITIVES:
+ Many characters in one game to unlock and play against or play with
+ A variety of modes
+ With the vast number of characters, you will be playing this game for a long time.
+ Bosses will offer you a challenge but can be beaten (in other words, not as frustrating as an end boss of a SNK KOF game)
+ Based on a series that many people enjoy and the ability to play those characters

CONS:
– Unlike other games based on an animated or manga series, doesn’t utilize video or audio all that much and what is in the game is somewhat limited to just the announcers, intros and bone crunches. So, don’t expect animated shorts, videos or audio on par with games like BLEACH 2 or the upcoming NARUTO game.
– Fighting can get repetitive with the use of the same moves over and over because of low move list per character. Do not expect large move lists like WWE Smackdown vs. Raw
– No story implementation for each character.
– This is being nitpicky but it would have been nice if you can create your own wrestler/fighter but this is not WWE SvR so…no biggie.

Reviewer’s Score: 8/10

PSP Video Game Review: Densha de Go! Pocket: Chuuousen Hen (電車でGO! ポケット 中央線編)

The second game with more modes and bonuses and less concrete jungle!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Densha de Go! Pocket: Chuuousen Hen (電車でGO! ポケット 中央線編 )

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

COMPANY: Taito

The second PSP game for the “Densha de Go! Pocket” series is here with the Chuuou-Sen Hen, the line that bisects the Yamanote Line (the first PSP DDGP release) in Central Tokyo. The goal is to drive the orange densha (train) aka Kaisoku and the white train (futsu) through Tokyo Station, Shinjuku, Kanda, Ochanomizu, Yotsuya, Kunitachi and over 20 more stations.

And now, the drive through Tokyo is through areas where you see more homes, warehouses, store buildings as opposed to the major concrete jungle in Tokyo that is on the first PSP release.

Densha de Go! Games are games that are an acquired taste. In a million years would I ever thought I would be into train simulators but since playing the original Playstation game and for nostalgic reasons, remembering the “riding the densha in Tokyo” experience, I have enjoyed the games. But how does the second game compare to the first?

Since I prefer the city locations and more excited driving through the busy concrete jungle in the heart of Tokyo as such in the first release, I score this second release a bit higher than the first because it has a lot more features than the first game.

MODES:

DRIVER’S WORK: Your role is to drive the train to each destination and taking care of your passengers New to this game is the ENJOY MODE where you don’t worry about timing or arrival schedule but speed and brake.
CONDUCTOR’S WORK: Your role is to make sure the train goes to the right destination and you signal the correct time for the announcement. More or less a way to watch the train drive to destination from outside of the train in different camera modes.
DRIVER’S ROOM: Your stats
BUSINESS CARD EXCHANGE: This will allow you to trade business cards (think of it as a trading card) with others who own the game to play different trains they have accessed via wireless.
MUSEUM: Train Introduction and videos that you have opened
OPTIONS: Sound, Display and Controller settings

GAMEPLAY:

Starting off as a driver, your goal is to maintain the speed of the train (a indicator on the bottom right screen tells you of upcoming speeds (KM/H) that your train will need to be and also utilizing the brakes. The goal is to make it to your destination (the next stop) and stop exactly where the indicator says you have to stop. Go passed it or way before the stop area and you will receive negative points. Brake to hard and do something crazy and you will injure your passengers.

You start off with figures that represent your passengers (a total of 10) and you have to make sure you don’t lose them all. By missing a stop or by braking too quickly, you will lose passengers and when you lose them all, your game ends. Fortunately, you can continue and start over.

You start off with three levels. The first is a tutorial and when you scroll through the list, you see several opened levels which you can test your speed and braking skills through several stops on the Chuuou Line.

By successfully completing your stops and beating a stage, you earn money which can be used to buy new levels in the game. Otherwise, you replay the stages you played to earn the money needed to access the next level.

Also, by doing well, you will be able to access several bonuses and videos.

As conductor, it is very different. It’s actually quite easy. The main goal of the conductor is making sure you announce the right stops. This may be difficult for non-Japanese readers or those not familiar with the Japan because you are told where to go, then given a map, you will need to select the area where you are going. Fortunately, the instruction booklet has the translation of the city stops (or you can select via direction pad and guesstimate the cities quickly). Otherwise, the main reason for this mode is to watch the train from the outside (overhead or sideways) as it is driving towards a destination.

YAMANOTE vs. CHUUOU: Gameplay is a little more challenging in Chuuou because there will be times you will be guessing the speed that you must go (more than likely 80-100 kmph). Where the first game kept an indicator of how fast you go, for some reason Chuuou does it a bit less. Also, since you are going at faster speeds, you will definitely need to time your braking to the stops much sooner than Yamanote Line. Also, you will notice hills that increase your speed when going downhill, so fine tuning with your speed decisions come in to play much more in this game. Also, arrival time in certain points of the game is even more important.

Also, new to the Chuuou Line is the light indicators (similar to stoplights) which you will see a few times when going through the line. Seeing a yellow light means you go 45 km/h, 3 white lights at 25km/h

Last, with the addition of ENJOY MODE, people who want things easier can now just worry about just the basics…speed and braking.

GRAPHICS:

The graphics are very well done. I played the original PlayStation version and the PSP version is such a big leap in terms of graphics. How they captured the buildings, trees and local areas around the station while riding the train is beautiful. Only in Conductor’s Work Mode, will you see something which I didn’t like which was the people at the station. They are photo cutouts of people waiting. I wished that Taito would add possibly several 3D characters waiting or moving around the station like real life than just photo cutouts of people that are just standing there.

The difference with this game versus the last is that you get more scenery and you see more homes and warehouses, whereas the first game (Yamanote Line) features many buildings. Also, marker indicators have changed in this game and you will see more light indicators now on your indicator.

Also new is museum mode which if you do well, you unlock weird things such as UFO’s and other Taito trademarks (Space Invaders).

AUDIO:

The audio in this game makes the game very much appealing. Hearing the music of the station before boarding to the female voice explaining about procedures for people to leave the train and much more. Also, the conductor talking about upcoming stops and much more. Just like riding a real train around Tokyo.

CONTROLS:

In Driver’s Work: Controls are actual very simple. Directional pad up and down to control speed and square button to break and X button to release breaks. That’s pretty much it. In Conductor’s Work, direction pad selects the stops you are announcing and the shoulder buttons will be used to play the audio needed when riding the train.

USER FRIENDLINESS TO NON-JAPANESE READERS:

The game is actually very user-friendly for Driver’s Work mode. Although the tutorial is an animated character explaining the game, diagrams and arrows telling you to press a button to break or to speed up is pretty self-explanatory. For Conductor’s Work mode, it may seem unnerving at first if you have to select a city when the map comes on. Fortunately, you have seconds (enough time) to quickly guesstimate the stop that you are going to next by selecting stops on the map as quickly as possible. I do highly recommend looking at the manual since there are lights which indicate a certain speed you need to go by.

All in all “Densha de Go! Pocket – Chuuou Line” is a very enjoyable game for the PSP. It’s really hard to promote a game like this for American video gamers and will appeal to those who enjoy trains and want a simulator or those like myself who reminisce about being in Japan and riding the JR trains everyday to get to destinations.

The second game adds a little more to the train experience which makes the game a bit more challenging and fun but also the addition of the ENJOY MODE, makes it easier for people who are challenged by the gameplay. Also, the wackiness of MUSEUM MODE and the addition of the Narita Express (yes, that long ride from Narita Airport to Tokyo is in this game and can be earned).

As I enjoyed the first game (Yamanote Sen-Hen) because you ride through the busy Tokyo areas, Chuuou Sen-Hen is more about driving through neighborhoods and warehouses which you see a bit more scenery but nevertheless, if you need to choose one game to get, because this version features less high rises and buildings and more scenery, with two DDGP Tokyo games out, you now have a decision of which Tokyo backdrop that you prefer to drive in.

I still have the same feelings for this game that I had with Yamanote in exact stopping but I learned that the rule of thumb is not to be exact and that stopping before the exact point is still good.

Nevertheless, this game does what the game is intended to do. Operating a major train through Tokyo and stopping around 25 stations while maintaining happy passengers and getting them to their destinations in time. For me, it’s more of a nostalgic feeling of riding a train to various locations and Tokyo (minus the large crowds) and thus making it enjoyable.

OVERALL SCORE: 86%/100

PROS:

+ A train simulator going through major stops through another line of Tokyo but more near residential versus in the metro area makes things different.
+ Addition of ENJOY MODE to make the game easier for people who find the game challenging.
+ Wacky additions to MUSEUM MODE
+ For people wanting more of a challenge, with less reference to a speed monitor and downhill speeding makes focusing on speed a major factor in Chuou Line.
+ You can play the driver or the conductor
+ Ability to open up new routes and bonuses
+ Business cards allow trading of trains with people who have the game
+ Driver’s Work mode is pretty user-friendly for non-Japanese readers
+ Quick load up time
+ Chuuou Sen-Hen is more scenery based with more homes and store buildings and greenery and less concrete jungle.
+ The ability to open the Narita Express route and reminisce of that long ride from Tokyo to the airport.

CONS:
– Although the control scheme is simple, maintaining happy passengers and breaking exactly in the stop areas of the station is a challenge.
– Less use of speed monitor in this game makes guessing speeds a challenge.
– Wireless trading is great but chances of finding people living outside of Japan owning the game may be a bit rare.
– Conductor’s Work mode maybe a challenge for non-Japanese readers or people familiar with the stops.
– In Conductor’s Work mode, I wish there are people moving around instead of photo cutouts of people in line waiting for the train.
– For people who want negligence in the forms of bad accidents, you are not going to find it in this game. This is not Burnout Legends.
– If you prefer city lights and tall buildings, then the first game – Yamanote Sen-Hen is for you because driving through neighborhoods, store buildings and warehouses may not appeal to certain people.
– BEING NITPICKY: Taito’s opening theme sounds and looks like it came from a Japan Railways training video and yes, uses the same theme as the first game.

Reviewer’s Score: 8/10

A PSP Video Game Review: Street Supremacy

It’s “Tokyo XTreme Racer” (Shutokou Battle) for the Sony PSP…but with the decline in franchise, this racer is not as good as it used to be.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Street Supremacy (首都高バトル )

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

DEVELOPER: GENKI

COMPANY: KONAMI

Ahh….the days of playing “Tokyo Xtreme Racer” on the Sega Dreamcast. Well, now the racer that critics hate but has a pretty good following is now out on the PSP. In Japan, known as “Shutokou Battle: Zone of Control”, “Street Supremacy” (US title) has made it to America but is it worth getting?

Well, before I go on with the review…I want to say that the selling point in the US is the name Tokyo Xtreme Racer (as Shutokou Battle is used in Japan). Why deviate from a name that is well known among fans of the series? “Street Supremacy” should have the TXR name to it. Anyway…

On to the review…

TXR has its strong fan following. Why is that? Well, before “Need for Speed Underground”, “Project Gotham Racing” and other racers available today on the consoles, “Tokyo Xtreme Racer” introduced us to illegal Japanese street car racing. Sure, there was “Initial D” but TXR gave us the opportunity to freely roam the freeways of Tokyo, passing through some noteable areas and highways of the city, tuning our cars and most of all… with being the unknown racer…you follow a racer (member of a team), flash your headlights and initiate a race and it was so enjoyable. Most of all, the game offered things for your vehicle that screams Japan and gave you the opportunity to race awesome Japanese cars.

Unfortunately for the series, with the PS2…despite a cool video showcasing Japanese street racing, the games since then have been lackluster compared to what was being offered on the consoles (Need For Speed Underground) and the arcade (Initial D: Arcade State v3). TXR was pretty much the same game over and over but still maintained its fan following (like how things are with Dynasty Warriors…few upgrades with release but pretty much the same game).

Well, now we have “Street Supremacy” on the PSP. A game that would feature new gameplay and heck…TXR portable. The game offers 3 modes:

* TEAM RUMBLE – The main game
* TIME ATTACK MODE
* REPLAY THEATER

GAMEPLAY:

The object of the game is that you are part of a racing team (I don’t use the word gang because in Japan…they are usually reserved for the pompador haired motorcycle gangs) and your job is to gain some rep and challenge other rival teams through races. Increase your level means more money to buy better cars and you can customize up to 25 cars. You can also purchase more cars but they are already customized.

The racing is focused primarily Kanto area (Tokyo) but what was my favorite part of TXR which allowed you to roam around and drive all over Tokyo to find a rival, the mode is now removed and are given a select area featuring a map with where the rival teams hang out and race and where you can challenge them.

There are three types of challenges/battles:

+ FREE BATTLE – Where you can challenge a rival team member and you can win experience and CP (CP is your money)
+ RANKING BATTLE – This is how you move up in ranking of your team. Beat a team member and move up.
+ TEAM BATTLE – When your team takes on another team and you can dominate their area. Beat a rival, you can get them to join your team. You want to build loyalty.

GRAPHICS: Well, the graphics are good. Nowhere as good as “Ridge Racer”, “Initial D: Street Stage” or “Burnout Legends” but ok. You see occasional black marks near the bottom but if you played TXR on a console, graphics have never been the series strong suit.

AUDIO: No, you are not going to get NFSU hip hop or rock music. Nor are you going to find dialogue. For dialogue, text is displayed. What you do hear is the sound of your car, the music which is usually fast electronic music and if you bump into something.

CONTROLS: I prefer using the D-Pad over the nub stick but cars are not as smooth as “Ridge Racer” but ok.

“Street Supremacy” is still “Tokyo Xtreme Racer” minus the free roaming around the city and the excitement of driving around the freeway and going behind them and flashing your lights is unfortunately gone. But still, quite a number of rivals to go against which is the meat of the game. And the fact that you don’t have to drive for long periods of time, definitely is a time saver for those who want a quick game to pass the time.

The appeal for this game is surely going to be targeted towards fans of the series, fans of import racing or Japanese street racing or people who want a cheap racing game.
The game is also among the cheapest PSP games out there, going for $29.99.

I am a fan of TXR..having bought nearly every game that has come out. I’m glad it is out for the portable but like the “Dynasty Warriors” series, fans of the game have always wanted more from it. “Street Supremacy”, although a fun game that us TXR fans are going to buy anyway, it’s really lacking the other parts of what we enjoyed from the console version.

It’s as if Genki rushed this game out in Japan and although over a year later since its release, you would expect something more from the US release. The rumored online multiplayer is not in the game, load times are still slow (but not WWE Raw vs. Smackdown slow) and even worse, Konami doesn’t even ad the TXR name to the game.

Still…I can’t deny that I still will support the series and I do enjoy the game despite its shortcomings because for it’s low price and the fact that the core function of the game is to challenge rival team racers on Tokyo highways, customize your car and these things are still in tact, that’s more than enough for me to enjoy another version of a TXR game.

SCORE: 72%/100

PROS:

+ TOKYO XTREME RACER for the PSP
+ What we love about TXR is on here…challenging racers from teams, customizing vehicle and riving on Tokyo highways.
+ For the busy racing video game fan, the matches are not only fun but also very quick.
+ Cost under $30

CONS:

– No TOKYO XTREME RACER on the title and replaced with cheesy “Street Supremacy” title.
– Some aspects that we enjoyed about TXR are not on the PSP version such as the ability to drive around freely on the highways and using your flashing headlights to initiate a race.
– Compared to other racers on the PSP these days, graphics are ok.
– Game seems rushed and no true improvement for the US release. Where are the multiplayer modes?
– Loading times although nowhere near as bad as WWE:RvsS….Still….ughh….

Reviewer’s Score: 7/10

A PSP Video Game Review: Naruto: Narutimate Hero – Mugenjo no Maki (NARUTO-ナルト- ナルティメットヒーロー)

The first Naruto game on the PSP console is enjoyable but may be a bit too tedious for others!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Naruto: Narutimate Hero – Mugenjo no Maki (NARUTO-ナルト- ナルティメットヒーロー )

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

DEVELOPER: Artdink

COMPANY: BANDAI

Many fans of the anime and manga series “Naruto” have been awaiting a PSP version of the “Naruto: Narutimate” line.

With quite a number of releases for the PS2, Gamecube, GBA, DS and Wonderswan, the PS2 Narutimate games featured awesome levels, many characters from the anime series but most of all, a combo system that when successfully pulled off, it would give a beatdown that surpasses anything you may have seen from a “Dragonball Z” or even a “Project Justice” game.

But with the PSP release, there have been a lot of rumors of what kind of game it would be. Especially from eager fans who have played the imports and are expecting a PSP release similar to the awesome third Naruto PS2 game.

How does this game fare? My first impression of the game was a bit so/so.
What is the game about? Something weird is going on in Konoha and out of the clouds comes a dark and evil tower. Naruto and friends (and rivals) go towards the tower to uncover is mystery.

Your main goal is to advance up the tower with each floor featuring 4-8 sections (or squares) which you can earn items, earn level ups and even earn more characters that can be used in versus mode.

To advance from square to square in each floor, you must utilize a variety of scrolls that allows you to play various mini-game and earn points or puts your character(s) in a battle with characters from the series.

Along the way you will face obstacles but fortunately, you start out with four people in your team which will grow as you advance further in the game.

In versus mode (against computer), characters earned in story mode can be utilized as you can practice or battle the computer. You can play against other players via wireless (AdHoc).

In NaruP, this is where the points you earned in story mode can open up a plethora of bonuses which range from art, music and video which can be viewed in the main menu.
As I continued to play this game, I was drawn into the gameplay and the storyline. It’s hard to put down because you want to have all 23 characters and possibly leveling them up..

If there was one draw back, its that the story/RPG mode can be very tedious. You have to replay the mini-games (scrolls) over and over to advance. Some quick and some long but fortunately certain characters have the ability to change types of scrolls.

The game looks beautiful and sounds great and sure, the game is a bit more simplified than the PS2 version and may not have the same (or all of the) move sets of certain characters but there is still enough there to really enjoy this game.

As far as replay value goes, after you beat the first story mode featuring Naruto’s storyline, you access a second story mode featuring Jiraiya’s storyline. After completing a storyline, all characters in the game are at your dispoal and you can level them up or earn more points to obtain more items.

“Naruto: Narutimate Hero – Mugenjo no Maki”overall is a an enjoyable game.

By not even thinking of the PS2 games and comparing it to current fighting games on the PSP, you realize that it’s actually a very cool game, with really cool graphics, quick loading system, sound is done very well and a good fighting system (of course, not close to the PS2, third game but still awesome) and extra bonuses. It really is a very cool game and has more to offer than what many fighter games currently on the PSP have to offer.

I do knock some points down because I don’t see why the combo system and certain parts of the game were simplified for the PSP release. I also wish there was more utilization of full animated video (instead of videos with still pictures with animated leaves floating around) in this game and it does get a bit tedious in story mode of having to replay the same scrolls over and over again.

All in all, this is the best Naruto portable game. If you played the GBA, DS or Wonderswan version of the game…in my opinion, this PSP game surpasses many games out on a portable system and even some games out on the console.

Sure, it comes nowhere near greatness of the third Naruto game on the PS2 but for a portable game, what I played was much better than I expected for a first release. And knowing how each Naruto release on a console has gotten better and better from that first release, I look forward to the potential of future Naruto releases on the PSP.

PROS:
+ Many characters from the anime series are on this game.
+ Cool graphics, cool new music and voice acting
+ Controls are easy to use and the game loads quickly

CONS:
– Some characters and their movesets from console versions may not be in this PSP game.
– Combo special moves have been simplified or not as numerous or lengthy as in console version.
– Story mode can be tedious by playing the same scrolls over and over again.

Reviewer’s Score: 8/10

A PSP Video Game Review: Ultimate Block Party

An enjoyable puzzle game from Cyber Front that puts a unique twist on your typical Japanese puzzle game.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Ultimate Block Party (ころん)

PLATFORM: Sony PSP

DEVELOPER: CYBERFRONT

COMPANY: Conspiracy Entertainment

The addicting Japanese arcade coin-op “Kollon” has reached American shores with a new name:“Ultimate Block Party” featuring characters by Misumi Reiko. A puzzle game that utilizes its own twist on puzzle games similar to “Bejeweled”, “Zooo”/”Zoo Keeper” and even “Tetris” and to make things even more alluring for the PSP puzzle game fan is that it’s a budget title sold for $19.99.

First of all, the modes are as follows:

*SINGLE PLAY MODE – Single play mode allow for practicing, training and a mode where you go for higher points.
*MULTIPLAYER MODE – Where you compete against other characters or compete with a friend via wi-fi.

And the other two modes are the option and ranking modes.

GAMEPLAY:

The object of “Ultimate Block Party” is similar to most puzzle games where you line up a color and you eliminate connecting squares. You can play for points but in multiplayer level, you can go against different characters in the game thus showing a dual screen. Yours and the opponent. The object is by rotating four squares to link up colors. Similar to Tetris, if your blocks rise to high to the top, you will lose.

Now the twist with Ultimate Block Party is that when you link a certain color up, against an opponent, that color of the square can do a variety of attacks. There are seven different colors and as an example, if you link a lot of blue squares, your opponent will then receive squares that are four times the size of a regular square. Red will makes your four square selector turn into a 9 square selector making this a bit difficult. And other squares have different purposes such as creating rectangles to hiding rows of your opponent and more.

Throw in other things such as arrow triggers which can make a whole row change a color and also bombs which can eliminate squares around it.

So, this adds to the complexity of the game. While you focus on eliminating squares and doing combos, you need to pay attention to the colors of the squares because your opponent is very challenging.

CONTROLS:

Controls are simple: X,TRI rotates the 4 blocks to the right, SQUARE to the left. CIRCLE, R and L adds rows of blocks.

GRAPHICS:

Puzzle games are not really judged graphically but having played several puzzle games, the positive is that Misumi Reiko’s characters are interesting. With 8 characters, they have their own style. From Kollon and Marinne being the school girls, Agent Blanc looking like a mafia gunman, Dynamite Ace looking like a super hero and so forth.

The negative…well, the graphics of a game like “Lumines” looks nice and clean. Really cool! “Puyo Pop Fever” has a style and attraction with its characters especially with the vocals that feature the characters reacting to an opponent.

This game doesn’t have that. Basic animation of the characters and even during campaign mode, basic story using Kollon and reusing animation over and over.

AUDIO:

The imusic is not that bad. The disappointment lies in the fact that there are no voices at all for the characters. This is where a game like “Puyo Pop” shines on the PSP and gives the characters its identity due to vocals and an actual story. This one…is just thought bubbles or balloons ala comic/manga.

Overall, this is a very fun game. It’s very addicting. Although other puzzle games may be better than “Ultimate Block Party”when it comes to the overall , music or, bonuses offered and how other games implement a story line or voices to characters, UBP does a great job of what its supposed to be…. a unique solid puzzle game. And with the price at $19.99, if you are a puzzle game fan, for the price and the fun factor, definitely a game worth checking out.

RATING: 78%/100

PROS:
+ Unique puzzle game. Incorporates elements from other puzzle games but adding interesting features with the the squares.
+ Fun and enjoyable gameplay
+ Easy to learn and pick up
+ Budget title and sold for $19.99
+ Popular arcade game from Japan makes its way to the US introducing us to interesting characters
+ Quick load time
+ A game with good replay value

CONS:
– Compared to “Lumines” or “Puyo Pop Fever”…graphics are not as pretty.
– No voices for the characters
– BEING NITPICKY: Putting true single player competitions under multiplayer and single player mode being just playing for points.
– Not much their for secret or bonuses
– BEING NITPICKY AGAIN: You wish for a game that is unique as this, there would be more…more modes.
– You need to save manually, no auto-save

Reviewer’s Score: 7/10