Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

•May 17, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Lara Croft is the main character in the Tomb Raider series. She is an adventurous and bold explorer who follows in the footsteps of her father as an archaeologist. She has a strong interest in supernatural artifacts and can usually be found in some exotic location treasure hunting. Her story and appearance have changed over the course of the game series (as well as her reasons for seeking out the artifacts). At the moment the Tomb Raider series is going through a Tomb Raider origin story trilogy which is why she seems very different from her Tomb Raider 1, 2, or Legend/Underworld form.

Lara was one of the first 3D female heroines in games, and she has a long legacy. She is kind of like a female version of Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, or perhaps a female Indiana Jones but she predates Drake by decades, first appearing on Playstation 1, PC, and Sega Saturn. Lara is often intrigued by unsolved supernatural mysteries. Although Lara is skilled with most weapons she can get her hands on, she has a pair of signature pistols which haven’t made an appearance yet in the origin trilogy. She has a set of close friends who help her in her adventures but usually Lara ventures off alone. When Lara isn’t busy scaling temples and fighting off dinosaurs she can be found at the Croft Manor training or doing research in preparation for her next adventure.

Advertisements

Star Wars Clone Wars Republic Heroes Overview (PSP)

•April 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This is a Star Wars Clone Wars game that takes place during the events of the Clone Wars show but it is a brand new story that isn’t in any of the show but features many of the characters and locations as well as many of the vehicles. Fans of the Clone Wars animated show should definitely take a look at this, however I have a tough time recommending the PSP version.

There are a couple of planets in the game, and the story of the game is split into multiple sections of characters that play through different parts of each of the planets. Once you have beaten the game you will be able to see all of the storylines for a particular planet. There are 3 or 4 main planet locations. They all tie into each other eventually.

You control a jedi character or a clone trooper character and you have to fight your way through each of the levels. When you defeat enemies they will drop XP that your character will pick up automatically. This XP can then be used to purchase skill upgrades that apply to all of the characters. Some of the skill upgrades are jedi only (like a stronger force push skill or a wider throw lightsaber arc) while others are clone trooper exclusive (like unlimited grenades) and some apply to both (like automatic full combo and enhanced damage). They are split into 3 groups. One group is the skills, another group is upgrades for the droids that you can control (as a jedi), and the final group is basically cheats, but as there aren’t any trophies in this version there is no penalty for using the cheats. Some of the skills that you can purchase are available in the normal game as temporary power ups. You will learn to recognize them but often you might not be sure which one does what until you purchase the unlimited versions of them from the skills page.

As I mentioned in the last section, there is a special skills section that applies to controlling droids. When you are playing as a jedi you can jump on top of and control most of the droid enemies in the game (aside from the standard battle droid and the droidekas). Once you have successfully jumped onto the droid you can use them to attack other enemies and sometimes you have to use them in order to proceed in the level as some of their abilities are necessary in order to destroy obstacles in the levels. Getting onto the droid can be a rather tricky business, and often they will place the droid in a location that makes it very easy to miss and you will lose many thousands of XP points trying to control it. Unless you absolutely have to use the droid in order to proceed in the level I recommend avoiding the droid control since it is so difficult to master but if you do manage to successfully control a droid then it can be a fun experience.

The skills start off quite cheap, between 5-10K experience, but at the higher end they can go all the way up to 200K xp which is a real hassle to get if you haven’t unlocked the maximum skill combo multiplier. Because of the way the game presents the perspective of the map I was almost constantly falling off edges and misjudging jumps because the angle you see it at is really inconvenient, it’s laggy so your character tends to respond a bit too slowly and everytime you die you would lose a lot of XP. It wasn’t until I unlocked the multiplier combo that I started to get more XP from enemies than I lost when I died. You can replay levels afterwards to farm XP points but you will be able to get a vast majority of the base skills and some of the cheat ones as well if you try to be careful. I died a hell of a lot in most of the levels but I still managed to unlock all of the basic skills and some of the cheats (not the 1 hit lightsaber or invincibility though).

The levels look pretty nice. The game overall looks almost as if it might have fit in with the Clone Wars animated tv show. The PSP one looks a bit worse than the PC/PS3 versions of the game but it still looks pretty good if you start comparing it to other PSP games. The graphics however are offset by the amount of lag that is pretty much unavoidable. The lag strongly disturbs the flow of the game and it is present almost everywhere, but there is no apparent reason for it.

The co-op feature was actually really cool, and having it on same screen was pretty cool too. There are challenges scattered around the levels which allow players to compete with each other for the highest score, and at the end of the level there is also a comparison of high scores but the winner doesn’t really get any special bonuses.

You get to control a lot of characters. Most of the characters that appear on the Clone Wars tv animated show appear in the game as well and for the most part the light side characters are playable and there are iconic duos. Some of the characters are familiar to fans, like Obi-Wan, Anakin, Rex, or Ahsoka, but there are quite a few new additions on both the clone trooper front and the jedi front. You will fight iconic enemies from the show too.

It’s a shame the game is so difficult to handle and is laggy because this had a lot of potential to be fun and with the animated graphics it shouldn’t have been as demanding on the hardware as TFU or Battlefronts Elite Squadron. Perhaps the bigger console versions perform better. From what I have seen in videos of the ps3/pc versions the levels themselves are different, in much the same way The Force Unleashed on PSP was different from the PS3/PC versions. I might update this when I have played through the PC version which I also own.

If you are looking for a great fun Star Wars game to take with you on your portable, sadly this isn’t what I’d recommend. Star Wars Battlefronts 2 and Elite Squadron are both better suggestions, or The Force Unleashed and Lethal Alliance. Republic Heroes had a lot of fun ideas but unfortunately the design they went with turned out to be frustrating and difficult to manage. The PSP runs it with a significant of lag (even when running at the PSP 3000 333 Mhz speed). I wouldn’t recommend getting this unless you have watched videos of it or you have actually played it beforehand on ps3 or on psp. There are other better Star Wars games for the PSP and unless you are particularly attached to the Clone Wars animated era it’s perhaps best to skip over this one and just go watch the show.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate HD Overview

•April 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Mirror of Fate HD is the console port of the portable Castlevania game (of the same name). Much like Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate it is a 2D game which shares a lot of elements with the bigger 3D ports. Mirror of Fate HD is a game that is split up across 3 different storylines which all tie into each other and they help add to the bigger picture in the Lords of Shadow trilogy storyline. You explore Dracula’s Castle as it returns to haunt humanity yet again.

You play 3 different characters (ok 4 technically if you count the extremely short prologue) across different eras of the Belmont lineage. You play as the son of the Gabriel (from Lords of Shadow 1) and you also play as his grandson Trevor Belmont, in addition to Alucard who was originally a Belmont. Each of these characters shares whip chain attacks, but they have different special abilities that are particular to each of their skill sets. XP that you earn and level ups for each character will cross into other characters but their abilities are locked until you have beaten their storyline.

There hasn’t really been that much background on Alucard in the Castlevania series (the most you get is from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night) however Mirror of Fate explains the origin of Alucard. If you are a strong Alucard fan then you should take a look at this because a large part of the story focuses on Alucard both in his pre-vampire form and his vampiric one which is pretty neat. I think they should have put storyline in a different order and explained the humans before Alucard but once you have beaten the game then you will figure it out quickly enough.

A lot of the combo attacks that you use in Mirror of Fate are direct copies or often clones of moves that you use in the Lords of Shadow games. Thankfully unlike the LoS games you don’t have to buy the skills they unlock by themselves once you level-up. Once you have leveled up you can revisit older areas with the more powerful attacks and better health/abilities as well.

Dracula’s Castle definitely has a lot of Metroidvania elements to it.

People who enjoyed and preferred the Symphony of the Night design or any of the DS Castlevania games will probably like this more than the people who preferred the Lords of Shadow or PS2 Castlevania game design. You can backtrack whenever you want to as long as you haven’t beaten the storyline for that character (although you can access all storylines after you have beaten the game) however you will find there are a lot of things that are locked behind abilities that you usually haven’t acquired yet. If you reach the area before the final boss and have acquired all of the abilities for that character than you will be able to unlock and find all of the secrets scattered around that part of the castle. Sometimes getting to the bonus areas can be a bit frustrating and you have to get creative. I’ve reached quite a few of the areas in ways that you were probably not supposed to use to get to them.

The secret areas in the game contain upgrades for either the Health or for the Mana. There is also an upgrade to the amount of a certain item you can carry. Sometimes the secret areas have lore to collect in the form of scrolls (similar to the Lords of Shadow system). These scrolls will give you more background on the story and they will also give you XP which counts towards your level ups. There is a maximum level you can reach and you probably will reach it by the end of the game if you are going back to fully explore all of the areas as the enemies all respawn. Once you have successfully collected all the bonuses and got 100% of the story completion you will unlock the bonus secret ending (Separate Ways) which takes place after the normal ending. It is a neat reward but honestly I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of unlocking it if I wasn’t also heading for the 100% completion trophy. It was a cool addition but it didn’t add much to the story. There is also a bestiary which contains background on all of the enemies you encounter in the game (although you will have to find the scrolls that are hovering in the air to learn about them not just by killing them) and this bestiary will tell you what weapons that particular enemy is vulnerable to.

Mirror of Fate was originally a portable game, but in spite of this the game is actually pretty short. You can beat the whole game in a couple of hours if you just go straight through it and don’t do any backtracking or spend time trying to collect any of the secrets and power ups. You will probably be able to beat this game on normal in about 4 or 5 hours. As I went for 100% completion my final time ended up being around 20 hours, which is still pretty short considering the amount of time the other 2D castlevanias (SoTN, Dawn of sorrow, etc) will take you. It is kind of a blend of Metroidvania and action RPG. You can clearly see from the graphics and the textures it wasn’t designed for a big screen. The performance boost makes up for the difference however as it is extremely smooth on bigger screens even if the graphics haven’t been changed very much. There are black bars on the edges of my screen @ 4k.

Once you have completed the game you can return to any of the sections to look for missing items and there are additional difficulties in case you desire more of a challenge. For an even bigger challenge you can check out the Boss Rush mode that is unlocked when you have beaten the main game.

Honestly this game feels sort of like Castlevania 1,2, or 3 but based on the gameplay elements it has a blend of metroidvania style Castlevania games as well, even though it is almost as short as one of the action ones. The game is not demanding at all and should run fine on most systems, it barely used my Ryzen 1700 (5-10%) and didn’t strain my 970 GTX much either. Same as Blackgate HD it has been upscaled for bigger screens but there haven’t been any serious changes in the core design. I definitely recommend playing with a controller though. It likes the Xbox One controller perfectly well.

For fans of Lords of Shadow who are extremely curious and want to know a little bit more about the Belmont legacy and find out more about some of the events that took place between Lords of Shadow and Lords of Shadow 2 then this game might be of interest to you. It is a neat addon to the series that largely resembles a portable Lords of Shadow game which is what I guess they were aiming for. Honestly since it only gives you 4 or 5 hours at normal playtime I can’t recommend it at full price but if you can get it on sale then this might well be worth it to you. It reminds me quite a bit of Castlevania Dracula X in a lot of ways, but less fast paced and a lot more forgiving. It’s a short but cool addition to the Lords of Shadow storyline.

 

Gabriel Belmont (Castlevania)

•April 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

https://i.imgur.com/40RNF52.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/Gs1LhPK.jpg

(Bonus) Gabriel in Mirror of Fate HD:

https://i.imgur.com/1v0I692.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/D7IlHbd.jpg

Gabriel Belmont is the main character in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. He is currently the oldest canonical Belmont in the game series although he’s probably not the first Belmont. He has an almost Kratos level quest for vengeance for the murder of his wife. Gabriel ventures into legendary lands untold and faces truly unholy monsters in his ventures.

As he is a member of the Brotherhood Gabriel wields the Vampire Killer cross and is kind of obligated to seek out evil and banish it but his reasons are personal and he just happens to destroying evil along the way. He is the melancholic hero who seems somewhat suicidal in his quest for revenge and the truth. Honestly you just feel sorry for him, and as Hideo Kojima had a hand in this game perhaps he influenced Gabriel as a character.

 

Dracula (Castlevania)

•April 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Mirror of Fate HD:

https://i.imgur.com/otwyktq.jpg

Castlevania anime:

https://mythoszephon.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/62e2f-castlevania-tv-series-dracula-meets-his-wife-lisa-alucard-mother.jpg?w=501&h=366

Dracula (Castlevania)

•April 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

https://i.imgur.com/otwyktq.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/ol11WNc.jpg

Over the years Dracula has appeared about every century or so to wreak vengeance and destruction on humanity for their sins. Not coincidentally every century a Belmont descendant is called upon to venture into Dracula’s castle and defeat him. His castle is the stuff of wonders and there are scientific feats hidden in the castle which surpass anything mankind has seen before. Dracula has enlisted the help of the legendary Toymaker to create horrific abominations to serve his bidding. There are plenty of demons wandering around his halls on top of the abominations to ward off any unsolicited intruders.

I don’t actually know what the real origin story of Dracula is in Castlevania. He has always been the designated nemesis of the Belmont clan in the series. From the way that he talks and is portrayed in the classic Castlevania games he is portrayed to have a deep distrust and disdain for humanity as a whole…for things that happened to Dracula in the past because of humans. In the Castlevania anime humans hated him and killed his human wife in a not so fun manner.

The closest thing we have to his origin story in the games is Lords of Shadow 1, Lords of Shadow 2, and Mirror of Fate HD. There is a very significant event that takes place in Lords of Shadow 1 that perhaps sets the whole ball rolling but it’s not entirely confirmed. The event takes place during the Reverie DLC. If you have played the DLC for Lords of Shadow 1 or have the Ultimate edition you will probably be familiar with it. I suspect the events in this DLC lead to the creation of what will later become Dracula. Mirror of Fate HD shows the descendants of Gabriel and time-line wise probably the first appearance of Dracula. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about his origins though.

Dracula reminds me just a bit of Vorador from the Legacy of Kain series, they have somewhat relate-able pasts (in that they are both very ancient vampires and have suffered a lot at the hands of humans). In Lords of Shadow 2 he also reminds me of Kain from Blood Omen 2, as their stories are also kind of similar (like how they both awoke after an extremely long time to find the world completely changed around them).

He seems to be one of the only vampires that has proven impossible to completely kill (although I’ve got some theories on exactly why it is Belmont’s are unable to completely destroy him) . Sooner or later he is resurrected. From what I can tell he doesn’t exactly care he is rather melancholic in nature and he seems to be pretty unhappy with his curse, like he doesn’t really want to be resurrected. His armor looks remarkably familiar…

Trevor Belmont (Mirror of Fate HD)

•April 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

 

Trevor Belmont is the son of Gabriel (Lords of Shadow) who was conceived and born unbeknownst to Gabriel. As a baby he was taken away by the Brotherhood (of steel jk) and trained to become the vampire hunter that his bloodline needed him to be. When Dracula appeared Trevor went off to face him but was never heard from again, eventually Simon would venture off on the same journey and in doing so discover his fate.

Many of the powers that Trevor has in this are reminiscent of some of the powers that Gabriel had in Lords of Shadow (in particular the light and shadow gem powers). Before Trevor left to face Dracula he gave Simon the Mirror of Fate shard, and he was a bit stubborn ignoring warnings from what seems to be fate itself.