Game Opinion Summaries: Gamecube

This is a new list. It’s my longest game opinion summaries/short reviews article yet, and yeah, it’s pretty long. I guess I’ve gotten more verbose than I was five years ago when I started on the PS1 and 32X lists… well, whether good or bad, that’s how it is. I love the Gamecube, and going back to it to play the several dozen games I owned but hadn’t tried yet was great fun! It’d been a while since I’d played a lot of Gamecube, but hopefully I don’t let it go for so long again. And yes, that I wanted to finally finish this, after four-plus months of on and off work, is why I haven’t updated the site much for the past week. Regular updates of improved old reviews and lists should resume shortly.

Gamecube System Overview

The Gamecube is the only TV console that I bought within the first weeks of its release, and it was the only 6th gen console I owned between when I got it in November 2001 and mid 2007. I liked the Gamecube a lot, and it’s definitely my favorite 6th gen console. It’s also kind of the end of an era that for me started in about ’99 — after the GC I started playing a lot more classic games than modern ones, and I didn’t end up getting a Wii until 2010. And even then, I haven’t played the Wii anywhere remotely near as much as I did the Gamecube. The Wii really is just as good or better, but… I don’t know, I like older games a lot, and there were so many I missed! Now I have a 360 too, but I play that infrequently as well. I did play plenty of DS games though, but that’s a handheld. But during the late N64 and GC eras I did have a current TV console. (The late ’90s to late’ 00s were also the time when I played the most internet multiplayer games on my PC; by the late ’00s that had gone down a lot, and that has not changed much. Of course the GC didn’t have that, though.)

But anyway, the Gamecube was a really great console, and I loved it then and still like it a lot now. I got my Gamecube the day after Thanksgiving in 2001, and only had the money for the system, a memory card, and one game, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2 – Rogue Leader. It was well worth it, because that’s an amazing, and incredibly good looking, game. Oh, and I also got a new copy of Perfect Dark for the N64 that day at the same store for $10, so that was nice too. At Christmas I got a second controller and a few more games (SSBM and XG3). I was in college through the GC era, and so naturally I ended up playing lots of SSBM multiplayer; I was a Nintendo fan, not a shooter fan, so it was SSBM and not Halo for me. I’m not the biggest SSBM fan, but it is a good multiplayer game at least. Fortunately there were also plenty of other mulltiplayer GC (and N64) games to play as well; the GC doesn’t have quite the variety of exceptional single-system 3+ player games that the N64 does, but it does have a good number of them, many of them great. The system has plenty of great single-player games as well.

As for design, the Gamecube is a sleek, modern looking system. Both of my Gamecubes are black; it comes in other colors, but the black one looks great. It doesn’t have the style and sheer beauty of an N64, and at the time I thought it was as step down from the N64’s design for sure, but it looks nice. The controller is similar — it’s a clear step down from the amazing N64 controller, in both design and function, but it’s a good, solid controller which has served well for many games for a long time. I prefer the larger size, 3-prong design, better d-pad, and 6-face-button layout of the N64 controller, and the feel of (non-broken) N64 analog sticks, but the GC controller is a very good one for sure, even if it doesn’t quite match its predecessor. They REALLY needed to do something better than that Z button, but otherwise it’s a good pad. It is kind of unfortunate that it has only 8 buttons though, because many ports had to have something compromised to fit onto a controller with four fewer buttons than the PS2 and Xbox controllers have. Six face buttons would have helped with half of that problem, you know, Nintendo… but anyway, I do like the GC, and apart from those issues, it does have a great controller. The GC controller isn’t quite as good as the N64 one, but it is extremely comfortable, and once you get used to it the GC’s unique face button layout actually works very well. I don’t know why Nintendo abandoned analog shoulder buttons after the GC, but the GC L and R buttons are great. I like the analog-with-click design, they should have stuck with it. The GC controller is my favorite 6th-gen controller. The Gamecube has many accessories as well. I’ve never owned or used a GC modem, but broadband and 56k modems exist. A few games had online play, but several do support system link multiplayer, which still works fine of course. I do have a Game Boy Player, a GC microphone with controller-hookup adapter, three sets of GC bongos, and something like three GC-GBA connection cables.

Probably the biggest problem with the Gamecube was Nintendo’s strategy with the system. After the relative disappointment that was the N64 worldwide, and the horrible disaster that was the N64 in Japan, Nintendo wanted to do better this time, particularly at home in Japan. They failed to do that, but in the process took out their most important region in terms of sales, the US market. Thanks to Satoru Iwata of NCL (Nintendo Japan), now in charge under Yamauchi, Nintendo focused their Gamecube strategy on building their relationships with Japanese third parties, and mostly abandoned the Western partnerships that they had built up to such great success during the N64 generation. This may seem reasonable — build relationships with the Japanese companies who have spurned us in favor of Sony, and get back more of our home market — but it did more harm than good. This disastrously bad decision would set Nintendo’s course for the future which they are still on, and now suffer for after the casual boom of the DS and Wii has faded. It also failed in its main goal, of getting the Gamecube to sell better in Japan than the N64 had. Instead, the GC actually sold worse than the N64 did in Japan; it was only a small drop, but it was a drop. Meanwhile, thanks to Microsoft’s entry and Nintendo’s surrender of the hardcore market to them, the GC crashed hard in the US and sold eight million fewer systems than the N64 had, only ~12 million versus ~20. So, with the N64 Nintendo lost the Japanese market, and then with the GC they lost the US market. Abandoning first and close third party partners like Rare, Left Field, Silicon Knights, and Factor 5, most importantly (there are also more), may have seemed to make financial sense at the time, but Nintendo replaced them with only Retro and nothing else. Retro is amazing, but they’re just one team and can only make a game every couple of years. They can’t do everything all on their own. The Gamecube, and Nintendo consoles since it as well, suffered badly compared to the N64 because of the loss of Rare particularly, but all of the losses hurt.

The loss of Rare particularly is tragic stuff, and as a result, the GC badly lacks in platformers compared to the N64. As I love the genre, this is a problem. The GC has a great library as it is, but its platformer selection is one of the weakest of any Nintendo console. Rare’s founders, the Stampers, wanted to leave, and told Nintendo that either Nintendo had to buy the 49% of Rare they owned, or they’d sell it to someone else. Nintendo, unhappy that Rare was having a tough time with the 5th-6th generation transition, refused to do this, and the Stampers sold their share to Microsoft. MS then bought up Nintendo’s majority share of Rare as well. In my opinion at least, the whole situation was a disastrous mistake. Nintendo of Japan had had a very hard time with the 4th-5th generation transition, and then Rare stepped in and helped save the N64 with their consistent, and amazingly great, games. But when Rare struggled for a while during the next generation transition, Nintendo had no patience, and sold off Rare instead of giving them the time they needed. Losing Rare was a major blow to Nintendo, and I would say that Nintendo has still never recovered from losing Rare. Nintendo needed Rare. Sure, they got a lot of money from Microsoft for the sale, but the loss of key games was a major problem, and the loss has not been replaced. During the Gamecube generation, Nintendo handed Microsoft the Western hardcore console game audience which they had held on the N64 thanks to Rare’s Goldeneye and others, and didn’t even put up much of a fight. While they managed to find a replacement with the casual-focused Wii, the Wii U shows how losing the Western hardcore base was a big problem. With hindsight, the Western-centric N64 was the better concept, compared to the more Japan-focused Gamecube. Too bad. Had Nintendo kept Rare, Star Fox Adventures would probably have been better, Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero would have released on the Gamecube, and several other games would surely have released as well; perhaps a better 3d platformer instead of the disappointing beat ’em up Grabbed by the Ghoulies, because the action-styled design was partially inspired by the shift of platforms, and either the Conker remake, or some other new game instead; perhaps Conker 2?

Instead, Rare released games to commercial failure on a platform with an audience much less interested in their games. Rare’s natural audience is on Nintendo consoles, not Microsoft ones, and they were not able to draw enough Nintendo fans over to Microsoft. Also, losing Donkey Kong, their best-selling platformer franchise, hurt as well. Rare would never be the same, and nor would the Gamecube. All of those games would have helped the Gamecube, and while Rare wasn’t quite as great in the 6th gen as they had been in the 5th, staying on one platform through the generation would have helped. Also, I at least think that Kameo (and also Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts) are great games, and show that Microsoft Rare still could make great games. With Nintendo, the games would have been even better, surely. This has to be one of the great “what ifs” in gaming, particularly if combined with a more Western-focused Gamecube strategy, as they had done with the N64! Try to fight back against Microsoft, as hopeless as the effort at slowing Halo’s seizure of the hardcore market may seem. In the long run it was Microsoft taking the hardcore that really doomed Nintendo in the west, more so that Sony’s unmatched success with the PS2. I know, as someone with a master’s in history I perhaps shouldn’t put as much focus on hypotheticals as I do, but I can’t help but wonder what could have happened.

As far as the GC’s game library goes, the GC has a reasonably-sized, and fairly broad, library. Its main weaknesses are that this system is from during the time when 2d games on consoles were dead, so it has very few of those, and that third parties largely stopped supporting the GC after its first few years. Many third-party games from 2002 are on the GC, but by 2004 few third-party games not aimed at kids came to the system, because the GC was Nintendo’s least successful home console up to that point and sales were sadly not good enough. Also, Nintendo’s first-party games are … weird sometimes. The Mario, Zelda, Mario Kart, etc. games… there are some odd ones. The system definitely has a quirky, unique library. This is both good and bad, depending on opinion.

All of my GC games are US region. There are a few Japanese GC games I want to play, most importantly Kururin Squash, but sadly I don’t have that game yet. I’ll definitely get it eventually, because it looks fantastic. I only have 135 GC games; it’s not one of my larger collections in numbers, anymore, but it’s still in the top 10 anyway, and it ranks very high for nostalgia value for sure! Sadly Gamecube games aren’t cheap; there never was a major price crash like there was with the PS2 or Xbox, so while with those systems I was able to buy up large collections for cheap in the last 4-6 years, that’s not the case for the Gamecube. GC games are less common than PS2 or Xbox games, and when you see them they cost more. Unfortunate. It’s worth it, though! The GC is a great, great system, and even though now I do have a DC, Xbox, and PS2, yes, the GC is still my favorite of the generation.

Here’s my favorite games list. The top two are for sure, but the next two could be in either order, and numbers 5-10 could go plenty of ways… it’s hard to choose, with so many good games!

Top 10 Favorite Gamecube Games

  1. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
  2. Metroid Prime
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  4. Skies of Arcadia Legends
  5. XGRA: Extreme-G Racing Association
  6. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
  7. F-Zero GX
  8. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
  9. Capcom vs SNK 2: EO
  10. Gauntlet: Dark Legacy

Honorable Mentions

Custom Robo: Battle Revolution, Defender, Super Mario Sunshine, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, Geist, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, Lost Kingdoms, Mario Kart Double Dash, Mega Man Anniversary Collection, P.N.03, Ikaruga, Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, Midway Arcade Treasures, Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2, Mystic Heroes, Beach Spikers, Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, SpyHunter, Tales of Symphonia, SSX 3, Star Fox Assault, Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Party Games, Super Monkey Ball, Wave Race: Blue Storm, XG3: Extreme-G Racing, Phantasy Star Online Episodes III: C.A.R.D. Revolution, Turok: Evolution, Super Smash Bros. Melee

Table of Contents

1080 Degrees Avalanche
Alien Hominid
Army Men Air Combat: The Elite Missions
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean
Battalion Wars
Beach Spikers: Virtua Beach Volleyball
Big Air Freestyle
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
Bomberman Generation
Bomberman Jetters
Burnout 2: Point of Impact
Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO
Cel Damage
Chaos Field
Custom Robo Battle Revolution
Dakar 2: The World’s Ultimate Rally
Darkened Skye
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Donkey Konga (with DK Bongos)
Donkey Konga 2
Drome Racers
Egg Mania: Eggstreme Madness
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Frogger Beyond
Future Tactics: The Uprising
F-Zero GX
Game Boy Player Start-Up Disc
Gauntlet: Dark Legacy
Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee
Hot Wheels: Velocity X
Italian Job, The
King Arthur
Kirby Air Ride
Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, The
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time / Master Quest, The
Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, The
LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The
Lost Kingdoms
Luigi’s Mansion
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
Mario Party 6
Mario Power Tennis: New Play Control (Wii)
Mega Man Anniversary Collection
Mega Man Network Transmission
Mega Man X Collection
Mega Man X: Command Mission
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System
Metroid Prime
Metroid Prime 2 Echoes — Bonus Disc (& mention of Metroid Prime 2 in Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii))
Midway Arcade Treasures
Midway Arcade Treasures 3
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
Mortal Kombat: Deception
Mystic Heroes
Naruto: Clash of Ninja
Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2
Need for Speed Underground
Nintendo GameCube Preview Disc
Pac-Man Vs.
Pac-Man World 2
Pac-Man World 3
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution
Phantasy Star Online Episodes I & II Plus
Pikmin: New Play Control (Wii)
Pikmin 2: New Play Control (Wii)
PK: Out of the Shadows
Pool Paradise
Pro Rally 2002
R: Racing Evolution
Rampage: Total Destruction
Rave Master
Rayman Arena
Resident Evil
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil Zero
Serious Sam: Next Encounter
Skies of Arcadia Legends
Smashing Drive
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
Sonic Heroes
Soulcalibur II
Space Raiders
Spirits & Spells
Star Fox Adventures
Star Fox Assault
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike
Summoner: A Goddess Reborn
Super Bubble Pop
Super Mario Sunshine
Super Monkey Ball
Super Monkey Ball 2
Super Monkey Ball Adventure
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Tales of Symphonia
Tarzan Untamed
Teen Titans
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus
Top Gun: Combat Zones
Tube Slider
Turok Evolution
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue
Viewtiful Joe
Viewtiful Joe 2
Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble
Wario Ware Inc. Mega Party Game$
Wario World
Wave Race: Blue Storm
Whirl Tour
Worms Blast
Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions
XGIII: Extreme-G Racing
XGRA: Extreme-G Racing Association
X-Men Legends
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
Zapper: One Wicked Cricket

The Summaries

Summary Notes

There are 139 summaries total. Three of these are for Wii “New Play Control” titles that I actually only own on Wii, but apart from controls the games are the same, so close enough. Well, four, actually, counting Metroid Prime 2 from the Trilogy collection. Players listed is the maximum number the game allows — games support 1-x players unless noted. All games require Gamecube memory cards to save, so I won’t bother listing that — everything requires one. GC games also pretty much all support rumble, since it’s built in to the controllers. I will list other accesories games support — Bongos, GC-GBA link cables, the modem, or the microphone, most importantly. Other platforms the game has been released on are listed at the end of the review. If there are no other platforms listed at the end of a review, the game is Gamecube exclusive.

1080 Degrees Avalanche4 players, broadband modem supported (system link only), 480p progressive scan support. 1080 Avalanche is the second and, unfortunately, final game in the 1080 snowboarding series that began on the N64. Developed by NST, the same team who made Wave Race Blue Storm, 1080 Avalanche is a short but very fun game that really surprised me — I got this game several years after its release, and went into the game with only moderate expectations based both on reviews and my opinion on the first game on the N64 (it’s good, but I don’t love it). However, 1080 Avalanche is a great game! More fun and more approachable than the N64 game, 1080 Avalanche is a fantastic, good-looking, and extremely fun arcade-style racing/stunt game. The game won’t take long to finish if all you want to do is just see all the content, but as with the N64 original, it has enough replay value to keep people coming back. This is a snowboarding game of course, and it’s fast and well-designed. There are a good variety of characters to choose from, including the Wave Race and 1080 casts. The art style is similar to Wave Race Blue Storm, unsurprisingly. As the word ‘Avalanche’ in the title suggests, the game has avalanches at certain points in many tracks. These can be exciting, as you try to outrun the onrushing wall of snow. Tracks are all well-designed for both fun and challenge. If I have any issues with tihs game, it’s the same thing as every snowboarding game — I don’t enjoy snowboard game stunt systems very much at all, and as with most snowboarding games, stunts are a huge part of this game. People who like snowboard or skateboard stunt systems should like the stunt system, though, as it’s very similar to other arcadey snowboarding games from the time. As I’ve always quite disliked stunt modes in these games, though, I’ve barely ever touched this in halfpipe or stunt mode. And the short length is a factor; there aren’t all that many circuits to complete, and once you’re done replay value is all you have. At least it does support the broadband adapter, for internet tunneling play! Still, 1080 Avalanche is a very good, under-rated game that many people seem to have forgotten about. It’s kind of tragic that Nintendo let such a great team as this one die off, as this game ended up being NST’s last polygonal 3d game — all they’ve done since is Virtual Console and Mario vs. Donkey Kong work. Project H.A.M.M.E.R. (Wii), it probably would have been good… ah well.

Alien Hominid2 player simultaneous in the main game or 4 player alternating in a minigame, 480p progressive scan support. Alien Hominid is a sidescrolling 2d run & gun game based on a flash game on Newgrounds (on that note, I find it impressive that Newgrounds still finds an audience, but I guess it does!). This is a run & run shooter, much like Metal Slug or Contra, about a cute little alien who got shot down on Earth, and now has to slaughter his way through threatening FBI agents, Russians, and more as he tries to get away from this place. As with artist Dan Paladin’s other games, it’s violent and somewhat mysanthropic. The game has good cartoon-style art, but it still looks like a flash game; it’s got that classic Flash look, which isn’t one I’ve ever liked much. I was disappointed that this console game didn’t improve the graphics more. It still looks good, thanks to the art design, but they could have done more. As for the gameplay, this console game is fortunately much better than the usual bad controls of a Flash game. The difficulty is VERY steep, however. This was no surprise, as I’d played Dan Paladin’s flash games before buying this and they were also very difficult, but sometimes this game really is too hard. Worst of all is that you have limited continues. You can save, but once you run out of continues you’ll have to get through some very hard part of teh game without dying. I got this game back after it came out, and eventually had to give up somewhere in Russia, because the game just got too hard and unfair. I was hoping that this game would be like a Metal Slug game on the Gamecube, since SNK sadly did not support the GC itself and I really love Metal Slug, but Alien Hominid just isn’t quite on that level; this is more of a B or C-tier Metal Slug/Contra knockoff with okay but very Flash-style graphics and nice art design. There’s not really all that much to say about the gameplay here — you walk to the right, shoot everything that moves, and try not to get hit because of course you die in one hit. Various weapon powerups give you better offensive capabilities, but you’ll get hit sometime for sure and lose it. Argh. Wanting to see what crazy situation I’d be in next kept me playing for a while, but once the game got just too unfair, I quit. In addition to the main game, Alien Hominid also has a minigame with basic two-color graphics, where you get through small, single-screen side-view levels. There are many levels to play through, and actually it’s pretty fun! I liked this almost as much as the main game, actually. Overall though, Alien Hominid is a decent to good game, but I found it somewhat disappointing compared to my expectations. After this game Dan Paladin went on to make two more retail games, the okay beat ’em up Castle Crashers and the fun platformer Battleblock Theater. Battleblock Theater is probably my favorite one of the three. Still, if you find Alien Hominid cheap, maybe check it out. Also on PS2, and Xbox as well in Europe only (though Europe did not get this GC version).

Army Men Air Combat: The Elite Missions 2 player co-op or versus. This game by 3DO is actually a port of the PS2 port of Army Men Air Attack 2, a 2.5d helicopter action game game originally released on the PS1. While the Army Men franchise may have a bad name, the AMAC/AMAA portion of it was one of its highest-quality series. This GC version released several years after the PS1 and PS2 versions, though, and is pretty much a straight port of a dated game, so it got understandably poor reviews. I liked the first Army Men Air Combat for the N64 (aka Air Attack on PS1), though, and this game is more of the same. This is the best version of the second game in the series for sure; the PS1 version looks much worse, and the GC version does edge the PS2 one. Yes, this is ultimately a port of a last-gen up-port, and it does look quite dated visually, but the reviews that claim that it looks like an N64 game are inaccurate; this looks more like the early PS2 game that it’s a port of. The games’ music is okay, but it’s nothing special. There are FMV cutscenes, just like in the PS1 version (which I cover in my PS1 thread), and they’re the same just with higher-quality video, as expected. The main changes versus the PS1 original are in graphics and controls. AMAC: TEM has dated early-PS2 graphics, but they ARE better than the PS1 version’s visuals. And in controls, the handling of your helicopter is simply much, much improved on the GC; I played both games one after the other, and there was a surprising improvement in controls and handling on the GC. The PS1 version controls okay, but this is better. I haven’t played the PS2 version myself, though, so I don’t know if this is the same as that one; my guess would be that it likely is, since in features the two are identical.

Whichever version you play, Army Men Air Attack 2/Air Combat: The Elite Missions is another EA (Desert, etc.) Strike-series-inspired flight action helicopter game. As with the first game though, this game isn’t very difficult, quite unlike the real Strike series games. The game has 3d graphics and an angled semi-overhead camera, but like the Strike games, you play on a flat 2d plane — you have no height control over your helicopter. This works fine, as your focus is on the enemies and your mission, not any kind of complexity in the flight model. As in Strike games, your goal in each mission in the Army Men helicopter games is to complete all of your mission objectives, which generally require destroying certain enemy emplacements, taking cargos back to your base, and such. Objectives and gameplay are not as complex here as in Strike games, of course, but there is more to it than just ‘kill everything’. There are 20 levels in the game, in 10 environments, slightly more than the original PS1 release but the same as on PS2. One thing I very much like about the Air Combat/Attack games is that you don’t have limited fuel; the limited fuel in Strike games can be frustrating sometimes. Here you can just fly around, shoot stuff, and pick up powerups, without worrying about the details that are key to Strike games. The AMAC games are not as good as the 5th gen Strike titles (Soviet, Nuclear), but they are fun, simple arcadey shooting games, and that’s more than enough for me to enjoy them. They really are fun games, and this one is no exception! Unfortunately, unlike Army Men: Air Combat for the N64, this GC game is two player only, not four, so the multiplayer isn’t improved. That’s too bad, because the 3/4 player multiplayer mode in Air Combat was quite fun! The various two-player modes in this game are good fun as well, but it’d be better with more players. Oddly one of the multiplayer modes in the PS1 version isn’t present on the GC and PS2, and they added nothing to make up for that, but still, what’s here is good — there are still five multiplayer modes in this version, including two player co-op and versus types. Overall, MAC: TES is a decent game, but not a great one. The simple but fun basic gameplay is good enough to keep me going in this game, though it is unoriginal and very similar to the first one, so it’s much less unique, and it feels more dated too since it didn’t start out as a 6th gen game. Even so, I kind of like this game. It’s okay. Also on PS1 and PS2 as Army Men Air Attack 2.

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance2 player co-op. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is an overhead-style 3d hack and slash action-RPG from Snowblind, somewhat inspired by Gauntlet but somewhat more complex by that game. The game was a great success, and spawned a genre that was quite popular on 6th gen platforms — from Hunter: The Reckoning to X-Men Legends to D&D Heroes and Everquest: Chronicles of Norrath and more, there are quite a few of this style of game on these systems. The GC has fewer games of this style than the PS2 or Xbox do, but it does have some, including this one that started it all. As a fan of both D&D and Gauntlet, I had to get this game back in the early ’00s, and I bought it in ’02 or so. I liked the game, but it’s not perfect; the simplistic design and some porting issues hold it back a bit. Even so, I can see why the game was popular, and did have fun with it for sure. In BGDA, you play as one of several heroes who are off on an adventure to save the city of Neverwinter from evil forces. The game is broken up into three acts, each in a new area, so it’s not all that long. First you’re in the city, later a snow area, and there is one more beyond that. There is some replay value though, and unlockables, so there are some things to keep you coming back for a while at least. Gameplay, as in all of these games, is simple: Kill everything, collect the loot, and upgrade your character’s equipment along the way. The monsters are all classic D&D foes, and there’s a good variety of them in the game. Of course you start out fighting rats, but move up to gelatinous cubes and much more dangerous enemies later on. The controls are simple, with an attack button, potion buttons for your crucial magic and healing potions, and a block button that might be useful if you get used to how to use it well. I mostly played as a ranged character, though, but sometimes you will have to fight up close of course, since in single player this is a solo adventure. The game has some pretty nice graphics at times; I particularly liked the water effects. Thanks to the overhead view everything is small, of course, but the monsters and environments all look good. Music is fitting for the genre.

I did have a few issues with BGDA, though. First, it takes far too long to save your game! That progress bar really creeps along; it’s like this is a PS1 game or something. Load times are sometimes too long as well. I imagine that the game was not too well optimized when they ported it over to GC. And yes, BGDA defnitely feels like a quick port. Few third party GC games were actually designed with the GC in mind, and that is one of the things I dislike most about the Gamecube when compared to the N64, since that system has a much higher proportion of third-party titles actually desined for the N64. Ah well, at least this game released on the GC! Its sequel did not, sadly, and it’s expensive too, so I have yet to play it. Also, while there is a challenging ‘gauntlet’ dungeon that you unlock after beating the main game where you play as Drizzt, famous Forgotten Realms hero, and higher difficulty levels to try, the short length of the main game was kind of disappointing. I’d rather see more new things, rather than playing through the same short-ish game repeatedly! Also, the simple hack-and-slash gameplay gets repetitive after a while. Whehter it’s in caves, town, or a snowfield, all you do is kill monsters and, occasionally, buy new items to kill monsters with. Don’t expect much depth here, you won’t find it. D&D stats may exist in this game, but they don’t do much beyond the basics. Still, BGDA is a good game, and it’s well worth playing for anyone who likes this kind of game. As a huge Gauntlet series fan I like real Gauntlet games more, but this style is good too. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Baten Kaitos was one of the relatively few Gamecube-exclusive third-party titles on the system. Nintendo apparently liked the game so much that they paid for a sequel to be made and bought the developer, Monolith Soft, but while Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade is pretty good, I’ve never liked this game at all. Baten Kaitos is a JRPG, and, like many JRPGs from the time, it has a card theme. All of your items and skills are on cards too, and the game has a card-battle element to its combat. All of your items are also on cards, which is an interesting visual touch but doesn’t affect gameplay all that much. You can combine items and the like. In battle, each character draws a hand of cards that you can use, so what you can do at any point — attacks, defense, what have you — depends a lot on luck. the card element adds some complexity to the game, but I didn’t like the battle system all that much either; the card system has too high of a learning curve, and I wasn’t having much fun even once I did get it. I like Lost Kingdoms and Phantasy Star Online III, two other GC RPGs with card systems, but definitely not this one. JRPG battle systems are usually too simplistic, but this isn’t really better, it’s just as bad but in a different way. The story and characters are worse. The main character, Kalas, is an unpleasant person I really do not like, and the rest of the cast aren’t that great either. The game has some depth and plot twists, but this only makes the characters, Kalas particularly, look worse. This isn’t my kind of story at all; it’s dark at times, kind of serious, and the main character is kind of a jerk. Give me Skies of Arcadia over this any day! Baten Kaitos definitely does have great production values, though. The first thing most anyone who plays this game will notice is how great it looks! Baten Kaitos has polygonal characters on very nice looking prerendered backdrops, and the look works. The games’ art design, particularly character design, isn’t my favorite style of anime-style artwork, though. This is of course entirely a matter of opinion, but even though the graphics are good the art in this game isn’t something I like as much as, say, Tales of Symphonia’s or Skies of Arcadia’s. The soundtrack is good for sure, though. Unfortunately the voice acting is quite bad, in English at least, and this is distracting at times. As far as the gameplay goes, honestly I never got all that far into Baten Kaitos; at first it seemed interesting, but the battle system didn’t get me nearly as interested as I was hoping, and I really disliked the characters and story, which was a major negative. After playing the game a little, I was very glad that Tales of Symphonia was the GC Namco RPG I paid full price for, and Baten Kaitos the one I got cheap. Baten Kaitos Origins, the sequel, is supposedly a good game, but with how much I disliked the first game, I never bought it. Maybe I will someday, I’m not sure. What I do know, though, is that Baten Kaitos has a somewhat annoying battle system which relies too much on those cards, a very unlikeable main character, a somewhat disturbing at times story, and more. Other than the graphics, there’s not much else I like about this disappointing game.

Battalion Wars 1 player, 480p progressive scan and 16:9 widescreen support. Battalion Wars is a third-person shooter with some strategy elements, and as the name suggests, it’s a more action-oriented spinoff of the Advance Wars series of turnbased strategy/wargames. I like strategy games more than third-person shooters myself, so I didn’t get this game at release, and haven’t played it anywhere remotely near as much as I did the GBA and DS Advance Wars games. Those games are amazing, but this one is just decent. Still, for a third-person shooter, this is an okay one.; this just isn’t one of my favorite kinds of game. It is kind of nice to see all of the unit types from the GBA games in 3d, though, and the game has a nice cartoony graphical style that fits in well with the style of the GBA games and the first DS game. Battalion Wars has pretty good graphics and art design. This may be from Kuju and not Nintendo, but it got some Nintendo polish for sure. The game also has a story of course, and much like the GBA and first DS games, it’s kind of ridiculous. The game tries to be funny, and often succeeds. It’s funny enough, for sure. The characters are amusing caricatures, much like the ones in the GBA/first DS game. The main three are the “cheerleader” guy, the “drill sergeant” older guy, and the black airforce guy. This games’ developers were a Western team, and you can tell, but they did a good job giving it an Advance Wars theme and style. These people are all crazy warmongers… but that’s the joke. At least this time it’s more obviously crazy than the GBA games, which sometimes had some serious tonal dissonance between the story and gameplay. This silly style fits the series well.

Battalion Wars is a third-person shooter where you control a squad of units, and have to get them through the many levels that form the campaign. The basic unit type is an infantry unit, but you’ll also be able to control tanks, jeeps, and more. Each handles differently, and the basic shooting/driving action works well enough for a console third-person shooter — that is, thanks to auto-aim help it’s playable. The strategy-game element in the game is that you can give some basic orders to the other units in your team, and also can switch between your units at any time. There’s no overhead view though; you can just tell units to stay in place, or go to a point you can see. I’ve seen shooter/wargame hybrid titles before, but this game is not as complex as those; you’re not managing a whole battlefield here from both first person and a zoomed-out strategic view, or building a base and commanding a large force, as in strategy/shooter hybrids like Uprising or Battlezone (PC&N64), but instead are just getting through some fairly linear levels with your squad of units. This is a simpler game. Even so, since you do have multiple troops to command, some strategic thinking will be required, and that’s great. There is a bit more to this than your average third-person shooter, though, and the added strategy is welcome. I only wish the game required more of it, but it doesn’t; you won’t need too much in the way of complex tactics here, for sure. Overall, while this game is good for its genre, I’d rather play Advance Wars. I like that kind of game more. Still, Battalion Wars is a good game. The game has a sequel for the Wii, which is largely similar but added a now-gone online multiplayer mode. Sadly neither game has a splitscreen mode. Ah well.

Beach Spikers: Virtua Beach Volleyball4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Beach Spikers: Virtua Beach Volleyball is the only console port of Sega’s arcade women’s beach volleyball game of the same name. Women’s beach volleyball games got popular in the early ’00s, probably thanks in part to the bikinis and in part to the sport reaching the Olympics, and Sega decided to make a volleyball game too. The basics of this game were taken from Virtua Tennis, except modified a bit to fit with a volleyball game. The result is that this game is really good! Beach volleyball games like Tecmo’s DOA Xtreme aren’t very good at all as actual volleyball games but instead are all about the scantily clad girl fanservice, but Sega’s game ‘s core is its fantastic gameplay. Just like Virtua Tennis, Beach Spikers is a very good arcade-style sports game. Just like Virtua Tennis the controls are simple, but the game has depth. Each team has two players, and a symbol will mark where the ball is headed. One of the two team members has to get there and hit it up to the other player, who will then either hit it back for a return, or will return it herself. You can return the ball immediately, but that will be a much weaker hit sure to be returned. You can aim shots easily, and there are weak or strong hits as well. When serving to begin each volley, a standard power meter determines shot power. The games’ controls and gameplay are fantastic, and are every bit as good as the best Virtua Tennis games. The games graphics are good, but it’s easy to tell that this game was originally a Sega Naomi game — this looks like the enhanced Dreamcast game that is essentially is. The Gamecube can do better than this, but still, it is a fairly good-looking game with that great classic Sega style.

You can either play a championship with a pre-created team, or create your own characters and go through a new more ‘RPG-like’ mode. In this mode you can only play as your character, and have to work with an AI ally, instead of switching between them based on context as you can do in the other modes, unless it’s a 4-player multiplayer game, of course. You choose a country for your team, and can customize their looks in a character creator. You’ll unlock many different bathing suit uniforms to choose between as you play. Both characters in this mode have RPG-like stats as well, and you’ll slowly get better as you play more. This is both a good and bad thing, though, because your AI partner is TERRIBLE at the beginning of the game! Seriously, no matter where you put her stats at the beginning, she’ll be near-useless until you manage to win some matches mostly on your own and increase her stats. And even when you do that, this mode is tough! Yes, Beach Spikers is not an easy game. Once you get farther into it the opposition gets strong, and managing to lay down some shots that land for points can be difficult and frustrating. In the ‘RPG’ mode, you also have to deal with managing your partner’s mood too — several times a game you can say something to your AI partner about how she’s doing, and that can affect your team togetherness and thus how well she’ll play. Guessing what’s the best thing to say is hard and I’m no good at it, though, so this element isn’t something I like that much. It’s also kind of weird; how many other sports games have anything like it? Would they ever have had something like it in a sports game with guys, or is it an example of Japanese sexism at work? Probably the latter. Unfortunate. Apart from that, though, Beach Spikers is a great game I highly recommend to anyone who likes simple but fun arcade-style sports games. Enhanced Arcade port.

Big Air Freestyle2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Big Air Freestyle is a dirtbike motorcycle racing game from Paradigm and published by Infogrames. It’s decent fun, and looks alright as well. I didn’t play this game before just before writing this, but I like it, and will return to this game for sure. Paradigm was an N64-exclusive developer the previous generation, and made their name based on somewhat simmish games like Pilotwings 64 and F1 World Grand Prix, but this game is quite arcadey and simplistic. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, though! Sort of like another Paradigm game, Indy Racing 2000 on the N64, Big Air Freestyle is a fast and fun arcade-style racing game based on a real-world racing circuit, except it’s a supercross and motocross (dirtbike) motorcycle racing game this time. This game is an altered version of MX Rider for the PS2, with supposedly simpler gameplay and no official license this time. I haven’t played the PS2 version, but I the way this version plays. Big Air Freestyle has simple controls and fun, challenging gameplay. There are three modes, Freestyle, a stunt arena mode; racing championship mode, the main mode; or Challenge mode, where you have to do specific tasks in order to win a variety of missions. Freestyle mode is in the title, but it’s not too complex. Once you get used to pulling off stunts — hold L, and then press the required buttons (or in one or two cases stick movements) in order and you’ll do the stunt. So, it’s not as complex as some games. I rarely find these stunt arena modes compelling, though; I’ve never liked these “hit specific buttons in the air in order to do stunts” games. Give me Rush 2049 car-spinning any day! As for Challenge mode, it’s fun, but surprisingly isn’t all that hard.

Race mode is the main challenge in the game. It takes the form of a traditional points championship, which is nice. Have the most points at the end of the fairly long season (~20 races) and you win. In races, the main challenge is simply staying on the track — many jumps try to throw you off the track, and some memorization will be required to succeed. When you go off course you get reset on the track, but the pack stays unrealistically close together in this game, so even one crash will put you in 9th or 10th out of the ten-car field. Because of this I found the game soemwhat frustrating, but otherwise the game would be far too easy because of the extremely simple driving model, so it’s probably more good than bad — at least this way, you have to work to win. You certainly won’t be crashing much otherwise! Excitebike 64’s driving model is many times more challenging than this one; Big Air is extremely forgiving. Actually crashing on the course is quite rare. If not for the jumps, it would be far too forgiving. Race mode has two different game modes, which you have to select between before starting, easy or realistic. There are multiple differences between them, but the most important ones are that in easy mode you only do a few laps per race and can reset races as often as you want, but in realistic, each race is a long 8 laps and you can’t reset, so your only reset would be to reset the game and load your last save. You can at least save between races, though.

Graphically, the game betrays its PS2 origins; it looks only okay. However, the game does have fluid 60fps gameplay and progressive-scan support, which help a lot. You won’t find those in the PS2 game, I’m sure! This game looks very sharp and smooth. The art design is decently good as well. As a result the game is sharp and clear-looking, and looks pretty nice, really. I may not often be able to tell the difference between 30fps and 60fps, but I can definitely see how progressive-scan makes a game look better! As with MX Rider, this game is set in Europe, though as I said earlier, without the official license here. Still, the tracks are all European. This makes little practical difference in the game, though, except for the many European flags flying along the courses, and the track names. As for the music, well, it has the same kind of music as every other motorcycle racing game of the era. Yeah, it’s that same type of rock music they’ve all got. Very generic (and American, I expect) stuff. I don’t like it of course, but you expect this stuff with motorcycle games, unfortunately. Ah well, could be worse. It reminds me a bit of Crazy Taxi’s soundtrack, but not as amusing. Overall, Big Air Freestyle is a good game. I don’t have MX Rider so I can’t directly compare it to its predecessor, but the game has simple controls, a fair amount of challenge thanks to all those turns which throw you off the track if you don’t moderate your speed, decent graphics, and it runs at a fluid 60fps with progressive-scan support too. This is a simple game, and it gets frustrating and does not have depth, but it’s definitely worth a play for arcade racing fans, for sure. Big Air Freestyle is a fun, above-average game. It’s too bad that Paradigm isn’t around anymore. Gamecube exclusive, but it is adapted from MX Rider on the PS2.

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg is a cute and somewhat original 3d platformer from Sonic Team. The game was made in between Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Heroes, and it’s a good, and GC console-exclusive at the time, game. As with most of Sega’s games at the time Billy Hatcher looks more like a Dreamcast game than a Gamecube (or Xbox, for their Xbox games) game, so that means dated graphics. As with all Sonic Team games from the time, this one also has the poor camera you expect. However, Billy Hatcher is a fun and somewhat original game. This is a Sonic Team 3d platformer for sure, and while that means graphical issues, short-ish length, and gameplay that’s not quite on 3d Mario’s level, it also means fun. Billy Hatcher is also an original title, which is a quite rare thing from modern Sonic Team; ever since Sonic Adventure, their platformers have almost exclusively been Sonic games, except for this one. Here, you play as, well, Billy Hatcher, a boy with a rooster hat who rolls around giant eggs. Naturally, you’ve got to save your world, Morning Land, from evil forces; only the boy in the chicken suit has the powers needed to defeat the villains! Yeah, it’s a basic story, but it’s good enough. The key mechanic here is those eggs; otherwise this would be a fairly standard game, but the giant eggs that are all over this game make it a bit different. This game isn’t anywhere near as hard as Glover, another game with a character rolling around a ball, though. You will need to figure out some basic puzzles, but for the most part this is a simple game, and that’s okay. You get eggs, roll them around, run over enemies with them, push them into places to solve puzzles, and with your rooster hat birth the baby chicks in the eggs. The game is mostly linear, with linear stages followed by occasional bossfights. It’s fun, but not amazing. I don’t love Billy Hatcher, but it is a average to good game and it’s great to see a GC-only 3d platformer; the system had very few good exclusive platformers, unfortunately. Also on PC and Mac, both released several years later and only in Europe; elsewhere the game is GC-exclusive.

BlowOut 1 player. BlowOut is a 2.5d side-scrolling platform-action game. Clearly inspired by the likes of Contra and Metroid, and made for a very low budget at a time when there were almost no side-scrolling console games, BlowOut is an interesting, and fun, title. For a game that originally retailed for $10, new, this game is far better than you might expect! In BlowOut, you play as a cigar-chomping space marine who’s in an alien-infested space station, and you’re there to wipe them all out. So, in each level, you’ve got to kill the aliens, find your way through the stage, and ultimately defeat the boss at the end. Standard stuff for sure, but it’s fun. Each level is a large mazelike environment, and you’ll need to hit switches, find keycards, and go up and down elevators as you try to find your way to the boss. You’ve got full aiming control with one stick, so you can shoot in any direction at any time, and you’ll need this power, because the enemies are numerous. There are several different weapons to use though, so you have some choices, and the controls are good enough. I like exploring through the levels and finding my way through. The game has simple, repetitive graphics with little variety, but for the price you couldn’t expect more. What is here is modeled fairly well, though; BlowOut’s graphics are simple, but okay. Just get used to that space station environment, because it’s the only one you get in the game; all levels have the same tileset. Each one has a new layout, though, so that’s okay. There’s also plenty of challenge here, because your health is limited and the enemies are numerous. This is a tough game, but it’s doable; the challenge adds to the fun factor. You won’t just blaze through this game, but will have to think a bit. Overall BlowOut is a fun little game that most people have probably forgotten about, if they ever knew about it to begin with. This is a fun little 2.5d platformer/shooter which is well worth a couple of bucks if you find it sometime. Also on PS2, Xbox, and PC.

Bomberman Generation4 player simultaneous (in battle mode only). Bomberman Generation is the first of two very similar 6th-gen 3d Bomberman action games. These games may be the successors to Bomberman 64, but they pale badly in comparison that that pretty good N64 classic, unfortunately. Bomberman Generation is a game I got in the early ’00s, and it seriously disappointed me. With an overly cutesey style, mediocre, linear gameplay, saccharine visuals and audio in the multiplayer, okay-at-best graphics, and more, Hudson didn’t do a particularly good job in moving Bomberman to the 6th generation, unfortunately. Bomberman’s 5th-gen outings got mixed opinions, but most of them are better than this, I’d say. Apart from Atomic Bomberman and especially Bomberman X360 the series has always been cute, but these GC/PS2 games go overboard in that department, and in a direction I found annoying. Kirby games or classic Bomberman is great, but this… not this. So, I don’t like the character sounds or graphical design very much. As for the gameplay, this game is a much simpler game than the first Bomberman 64, unfortunately. Of course all of its sequels have been — the other N64 Bombermans are all linear games as well, for example — but still, it’s unfortunate that after showing that they could do a solid Mario 64-style 3d platformer in Bomberman 64, Hudson abandoned that in favor of simpler things like this game. Bomberman Generations has plenty of levels to play through, but it’s just not fun. In the main game, explosions are circular, Bomberman 64-style. Hitting enemies with low-power bombs is tricky, but you get used to it with practice, and some bomb powerups. The game is completely linear, and in each level all you need to do is follow the route around the stage, killing enemies and solving way-too-easy ‘puzzles’ along the way. It’s all too bland, to average, and too uninteresting to be worth much time. Level designs are bland, ‘puzzles’ are barely there, and the story’s nothing worth mentioning either. Bomberman stories never are, sure, but it sure doesn’t help when the gameplay is so average too.

In multiplayer, this game goes for a more traditional, 2.5d classic Bomberman style. Bomberman 64’s 3d arenas are gone, never to return. I like both classic and Bomberman 64 style multiplayer, so it’s really too bad that they couldn’t have included both styles. Otherwise though, this is perfectly decent, average 4-player Bomberman. It’s fun, but there’s no real reason to play this over any other classic-styled Bomberman game. Many of them are better than this, and many of them don’t have annoying music and voices and blah graphical design, either. Overall, Bomberman Generations is a disappointing, completely average game that probably isn’t really worth playing. Some people seem to like this game, but I don’t at all.

Bomberman Jetters 4 player simultaneous (in battle mode only). Bomberman Jetters is essentially Bomberman Generations 2. Same graphics engine and graphical style, same gameplay, same battle mode, just with some anime cutscenes in the style of the Bomberman Jetters anime, and new levels. So see that review above and read it again, because there’s really nothing else to say about this game — they didn’t improve things over the first one, it’s just more of the same. In fact, this game might even be WORSE than Generation — Bomberman moves even slower this time (and he wasn’t fast in Generation), load times are worse, and they added a mostly-useless character switching mechanic with Max which is badly handled as Max is mostly useless. Otherwise, it’s the same thing again. And yes, the music and sound effects still aren’t very good and get annoying. It’s worth noting that in Japan this game released late in the same year as Bomberman Generation, which explains a lot — in the US this released several years later, and it was confusing that it’d changed so little. The short turnaround in its original Japanese release explains that. Unfortunately that means that it’s just as uninteresting as Generations is, or worse. Don’t bother with this either. Also on PS2.

Burnout 2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. The first Burnout game began a great racing game franchise, and it’s still a very good game! Criteron’s Burnout introduced some new ideas to the racing game genre when it first released, and while it has some issues, this is still a game well worth playing. It is different from its sequels in important ways both good and bad, but some essentials of the later Burnout games began here. Burnout is not a particularly great-looking or sounding game, but the fantastic gameplay holds up even if the graphics and music definitely do not. Burnout’s graphics are quite bland and average; they’re not bad, but not great either. The music is oddly bland and doesn’t fit the game very well, in my opinion; this game doesn’t have the expected up-tempo soundtrack, but something quieter and blander than that. The gameplay is the reason to play this game. Burnout is an arcade-style car racing game with very long tracks full of traffic as well as the cars in the race. The cars are all fictional, but are based on real vehicles, and many are identifiable. Central to the game is its then-original boost system. Your boost energy charges when you powerslide, drive in the oncoming traffic lane, or pass a car very closely without actually hitting it. If you do hit a traffic car, however, the game punishes you HARSHLY: you’re forced to watch two replays of the crash (which you can save to a memory card!), and then finally you’ll be reset on the track. The saveable crash replays are cool, but the long delay of watching them means that every crash sets you back a lot. Later in the series this would be entirely reversed and you get the ability to just smash traffic cars out of the way, but this game is the polar opposite from that. The long races are thus long minefields, full of constant danger as you try to build your boost meter and finish in as high a position as possible while crashing the least you can. Yes, Burnout is a difficult game, it wore on me after a while — much like Star Wars Episode I Racer on the N64, having to redo nine or ten minute long races because of one or two little mistakes late in the race REALLY gets old. As a result, as much as I liked Burnout, I didn’t manage to finish it. There are many races to win in this game, so Burnout will take a good while to beat, if you do manage to finish it. It’s well worth playing, at least; Burnout 1 has a style all its own, and its sequels aren’t quite the same as the original. As much as the graphics, sound, and action improved in the later Burnout games, the first Burnout still is a really great racing game and certainly one of the best in the series. Also on PS2 and Xbox; the GC version isn’t considered to be the best, but it’s the only one I have.

Burnout 2: Point of Impact 2 player simultaneous (Race mode) or 4 player alternating (Crash mode), 480p progressive scan support. Burnout 2, the last Burnout game on the Gamecube, is similar to Burnout 1, but with better graphics, more modes, a removal of the multiple-replays-of-every-crash system, and many more changes. It’s a very good game, and is another fantastic game from Criterion in this great series. Burnout 2’s races are still very long, but with slightly easier play, more ways to get boost, no repeated crash replays after every crash, and more, it’s not quite as hard this time. I’m not sure if I like Burnout 2 more or less than the first game, but most people probably prefer it. Either way, this is the last of the first style of Burnout game; with Burnout 3 the series changed, for a faster, more action-packed style. Those games are great fun as well, but the first two games are more challenging and require more serious focus to beat. For the most part the main game is similar to the first game, though. The tracks are all-new, but they are long again, and while there aren’t multiple crash replays this time, you still need to pay attention because crashes will set you back for sure. Other than the main game, the biggest addition in Burnout 2 is Crash mode, a mode entirely dedicated to crashing! This mode would become quite popular, and was expanded on in later titles, but in its first form the way it works is that each player tries to do as much damage as possible based on a single crash into one of several predesigned intersections. The challenge of trying to set up the perfect point to hit, angle, and speed, and the fun of watching the chaos that results, are quite fun, and I can see why crash mode was so popular. Crash mode is mostly just a multiplayer mode, though; it’s not something you do in the main campaign. It’d have been nice to have some Crash stages every once in a while in the main single player game, but ah well. I have a few other minor complaints about Burnout 2. First, I wish that there were more shorter tracks — three-minutes-per-lap races really are too long. Also, better music would be nice as it’s still not improved. Also, it’s disappointing that they never attempted a four player splitscreen mode. Better racing games should have that. That’s about it, though. With more content, more cars, a great new mode, better graphics, and more, Burnout 2 is a great game that is absolutely still worth playing. I don’t know if there’s been a racing game quite like the first two Burnout games since. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO 2 player simultaneous. Capcom vs SNK 2: EO is the only Capcom fighting game on the Gamecube, and one of only two on Nintendo home consoles since the N64, the other one being Tatsunoko vs Capcom on the Wii. Yes, ever since the SNES died Capcom has mostly ignored Nintendo consoles as far as fighting games go. Fortunately, however, we Nintendo fans didn’t miss out on this one! CvS2 EO is a great, great game, easily one of Capcom’s best fighting games ever. The large number of playable characters includes equal numbers from Capcom and SNK, and quite unlike the Marvel and Tatsunoko vs. games, the Capcom vs. SNK games are traditional fighting games, more in the Street Fighter Alpha vein than anything. This is fantastic, and it’s easily one of the best things about the game — I love traditional fighting games like SF2, SF3, or SNK’s games, but don’t like the Marvel vs. games at all. In my opinion those games are all kind of awful, and I’m absolutely terrible at them. But this game, this game I love! CvS2: EO for the GC was easily one of my most-played games of the generation. And yes, it’s entirely playable with normal Gamecube controllers, that small d-pad is fine once you get used to it.

CvS2’s game engine clearly looks like something derived from SFA3, except this game has fully polygonal backdrops behind the mostly SFA-style sprite characters. While not all of the characters are in that style, most are. Capcom also chose a unified look for the special moves in this game; instead of using the animations from the games the characters come from, here all have similar white attack-swing animations. This is particularly noticeable when comparing characters like the Last Blade and Samurai Shodown characters to their original games; the white flashes in CvS2 just don’t look quite as nice as SNK’s animations in the Neo-Geo games. And because the game mostly uses SFA-style character sprites, many have less animation than characters in SF3, Last Blade 2, or other such games. Looking at Hibiki’s sprite sheet she may seem to have as many frames of animation here, but there is much less actually changing between frames, and it doesn’t look as good as it does in Last Blade 2. Capcom characters also in SF3 turn out even worse, since these are the Alpha versions. And a few characters, such as Morrigan most obviously, were not redrawn; Morrigan’s old Darkstalkers sprite stands out badly here. But despite these issues, overall CvS2 looks pretty good visually. It could be better looking, but this is a good, solid classic 2d fighter. The music is not so fortunate; like most Capcom fighting game soundtracks from the early ’00s, CvS2’s music is an ear-bleeding assortment of mediocre and awful music. Overall SF3: 3S and MvC2 have even worse soundtracks, but that is not much in the way of praise, not with how bad some of CvS2’s songs are! I’ve always hated the London song so much, for example, that I was always kind of annoyed when I had to fight in that stage because it meant being subjected to that awful song again…

Fortunately though, that fantastic gameplay more than makes up for any visual and aural flaws. I like many of both SNK and Capcom’s fighting games, but in CvS2 I mostly played as SNK characters, most of all Last Blade 2’s Hibiki. The game allow you to select between six different “grooves”, or power-bar systems. Each changes the way you play significantly, so in one you have to charge up supers, while in others you build up supers by attacking or being attacked, for example. I liked the more conventional S and C grooves the most, but the other ones are interesting and are worth a look. This is also a team fighting game. You can choose between 1 and 3 characters in your team, and when selecting multiple characters can choose which one gets the stronger power; the game tries to keep everything balanced by making each character weaker in a 3-person team, and stronger in a 1-person team. CvS1 (Dreamcast, PS1) locked each character to a specific groove and power level, so it’s fantastic that in CvS2 that’s all open, and you can set any character to any groove and power level. The Gamecube and Xbox versions of this game, the “EO” versions, add an ‘Easy Operation’ mode where you can control the character with the analog stick and easily do specials and supers with just a press of the right (C) stick. It’s a moderate amusement, but isn’t for serious players, and I almost never used EO mode. There are few other changes versus the earlier versions, but I do like the change that simplified character selection on the order-select screen — now you just need to press one button for each character, instead of two together as you have to do on PS2 and DC. Otherwise, it’s the same fantastic game. One last thing to note is the way to fight the two real bosses, Ultimate Rugal and Shin Akuma. You must meet some requirements to fight these two very tough bosses, including not losing, getting multiple super special KOs, usually getting the first hit in, and more. It can be tricky with some characters, but I didn’t mind this; it adds some replay value. The extreme challenge of those bosses, Ultimate Rugal particularly, adds challenge as well for sure. He will kill you a LOT unless you’re quite good. Overall, CvS2 is a great, and deep, fighting game with an impressively large cast and fantastic gameplay. Do not expect a fast beam-spam-fest like the Marvel vs. games here, this is a real, traditional fighting game, and that’s fantastic. This game deserves its place in my GC top 10 list. Enhanced Arcade port also on Dreamcast (in Japan only), Xbox, and Playstation 2. Only the GC and Xbox have EO mode.

Cel Damage 4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Cel Damage is a cel shaded-style car combat game. You choose a car, play the campaign or do a single battle, choose an arena to fight in, and go blow up some vehicles. I’m not exactly a big fan of this genre, but this one is fun. Perhaps the most unique thing here is that the cars in Cel Damage don’t have health bars. Instead, one hit kills in this game. Between that, the high speeds the vehicles move at, and the small-ish arenas, this game is faster and more chaotic than many car combat games, and I like that about it. This keeps the game interesting, though the nice, cartoony, sometimes Looney Tunes-esque graphics help as well. You’re constantly picking up weapons, blowing people up, and then getting destroyed. There are a lot of different weapons and abilities here, all comical in some way or another. The characters are all amusing as well, of course. Arenas are small-ish, but just large enough to be interesting. This is a very simple, straightforward game, but it’s an entertaining one. The game has a few different game modes, including a mode where you win by getting enough points (that you score with kills), capture the flag (get all 4 flags and get to the goal), and a mode where you go to checkpoints around the level instead of just winning on points scored. The basic gameplay is the same in all modes, but still they do add varieyt. The graphics are nice and cartoony as you would expect given the title, and some of the cars and settings are amusing. Cel Damage definitely isn’t a great game, as it’s small in scale and doesn’t hugely impress, but it is a fun little game full of plenty of chaos and cars blowing up. One-hit-kills in a car combat game actually does work! Also on PS2. There’s also an HD remake for PS3/PS4.

Chaos Field 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Chaos Field is a somewhat average 2.5d shmup from Milestone, a company which made at least a half dozen such games in the ’00s. Their shmups aren’t awful, but they definitely aren’t great either. Chaos Field, the first one of them, is also probably the weakest. This is a vertical-scrolling shmup which is basically a glorified boss rush — the game is mostly bosses, with just short sections with enemies in between the bosses. The game is a Naomi game, so it looks like the Dreamcast port it is. That’s fine, the game looks okay. This game clearly didn’t have the most budget, or the best team, but it is an alright shooter. Arcade port also on Dreamcast (in Japan only), Playstation 2 (in Japan only), and Wii (as a part of the Milestone Shooting Collection; it’s in both the first US/Japan version, and also the Japan-exclusive second Milestone collection.).

Chibi-Robo1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Chibi-Robo is a 3d action/adventure game, I guess. It’s third-person, but it’s not really a platformer, so I wouldn’t call it that. What I would call it is boring. Chibi-Robo was one of the few games Nintendo released for the GC in 2006, and one weird lineup it was! Chibi-Robo, Odama, Baten Kaitos Origins… kind of odd stuff that year. Unfortunately, odd didn’t mean great in most cases. Chibi-Robo was popular enough in Japan to get two sequels on the DS (only one of which was localized), but it didn’t do too well here, and I don’t like it very much either. This game just isn’t very fun to play! In Chibi-Robo, you play as a small robot who does household chores and cleans up after the human family who lives there. What, that doesn’t sound like fun? But wait, you also have an incredibly short battery life and have to constantly go charge up at a wall socket or you’ll run out of power! How “exciting”! Chibi-Robo does have good graphics, though, and your robot is definitely pretty cute. That’s good. The levels in the game are each set in a different area of the house or yard, but in miniature of course. I usually like this kind of giant-house setting; it’s an interesting concept for sure. But once I started actually playing the game, it just wasn’t any fun at all. Go collect the trash, go charge your power, go clean up, go charge your power, go get something, go charge your power… it’s just not fun, unfortunately, and isn’t rewarding to play either. Too bad. Some people seem to like this game, though.

Custom Robo Battle Revolution4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Custom Robo: Battle Revolution is the fourth Custom Robo game, but it was the first one released in the West. What took you so long, Nintendo? Custom Robo is (was?) a really great franchise, and every one of the Custom Robo games is fantastic! Go see my N64 review of the first game for what I think of that one, but it’s pretty great. But this game is better. This was the first Custom Robo game I played, and it’s one of only two in English, but that’s not why it’s the best; it’s the best because it has the best graphics, the best feature set, the best gameplay, and the best multiplayer. It’s really too bad that Nintendo didn’t continue this series on the Wii and Wii U, because it’d have been great! Custom Robo for GC is a robot fighting game with RPG elements, just like every game in this series. Unlike the others, though, this game has up to four robots in each battle at the same time; all of the other games allow only two per battle at once. 1-on-1 fights are fun, but the 4-player matches of GC Custom Robo are better. The basic gameplay is the same as the N64 Custom Robo games, though. The game has an RPG framework, and you play as a boy who’s just starting on a new job with a detective agency who use fighting mini-robots (Custom Robos) to defeat criminals. Yeah, you’re not quite as young as the characters in the earlier games, which is nice. Too bad none of the games let you choose your player character though. A game like this should have character customization and gender selection. Oh well. The games’ story starts out simply, but gets interesting later on. There’s a twist that I definitely didn’t see coming. Story mode is somewhat short, but you unlock some battle tournaments after finishing, so there’s plenty to do in this game. The single player game is full of 4-player battles, so you won’t only fight in those battles in multiplayer, fortunately.

In battle, as in all 3d Custom Robo games, you fight with a overhead third-person view in a fairly small, square 3d arena. There are a variety of arenas each with different layouts. Custom Robos has three weapons, a gun, a missile, and a bomb, each mapped to a different button. There is also a dash button, for moving quickly and stunning an enemy if you hit them with a dashing charge. As you play through the story and the tournaments after it, you gradually unlock more and more different Robos and weapons, hence the “Custom” part of the series’ name. There’s definitely plenty of customization to be had in Custom Robo, and the options are great. The different weapons really do act differently, so you’ve got a good variety of ways to move around and attack your enemies. The game is fast-paced and a lot of fun. Combat is simple, but has enough depth to stay interesting fairly long-term. It’s really a brilliantly designed battle system, and in multiplayer this game has to be one of the better 4-player versus fighting games around! The robot-fighting concept may have been somewhat inspired by Virtual-On, but as far as I’m concerned this is the far better game. Custom Robo isn’t the deepest and most complex game, admittedly, but it has enough depth to be challenging, and is always fun regardless. And in this game, the story’s not only actually in English, unlike the first three games, but it’s interesting too! So, overall, Custom Robo: Battle Revolution for the Gamecube is a fantastic 1 to 4 player fighting/action game with RPG elements, and I very highly recommend it. This game isn’t quite in my GC top 10, but it’s one of the best GC games of the next tier after that for sure.

Dakar 2: The World’s Ultimate Rally 2 player simultaneous, supports GC-GBA cable (can upload minigames to the GBA). Dakar 2 is a racing game from Acclaim. This isn’t a game I’d played until within the last year or so, and I had no expectations for any quality from the game, but I was surprised — this game’s alright. Dakar 2 is clearly a port, but it’s a simple, fun arcade-style racing game with decently good graphics, 12 tracks, and several types of vehicles. The driving model here is definitely simple and arcadey — don’t expect any depth from Dakar 2. I’m fine with that, though; I much prefer arcade-style racing games to sims for sure. There is some depth in the game, as this is a rally game, so you’ll be doing plenty of powersliding, something the game does well. There’s also car damage to worry about. Try not to take too much damage, since repairs will cost you time if parts of your car break. There are three vehicle types as well, bike, car, or large truck, the three types allowed in the Paris-Dakar Rally, and they feel somewhat different, which is good. The game does have some flaws, though. Maybe most importantly, this game is kind of short. There aren’t all that many races in the campaign, and each one is just a few laps in a circuit. The actual Paris-Dakar Rally is a long France and Trans-Africa race, but here you just do circuits set in various points along the route. I think that a point-to-point racer would make more sense for this theme. The tracks aren’t very long, either, and on the default setting the difficulty starts moderately and does not increase very quickly. The game is good fun while it lasts, but don’t expect to be playing this game for a long time. Still, Dakar 2 is definitely worth a purchase if you find it for cheap, it’s more than fun enough to be worth it. Of the Paris-Dakar games I own I think that Victory Run on the TG16 is my favorite, but this game is good too. Also on PS2 and Xbox. (As for the first Acclaim Dakar game, it’s a PS2 exclusive and going by reviews it’s abysmal. This one is by a different developer.)

Darkened Skye1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Darkened Skye is the only console port of this Skittles-licensed third-person fantasy action-adventure game in the Tomb Raider mold. This Gamecube version is pretty much the same thing as the PC game, just, well, on a console. On the good side, the game is pretty funny. Skye, the games’ heroine, is pretty funny, and the game makes a lot of jokes about stereotypical fantasy themes. It is amusing sometimes for sure. Naturally Skye is a nobody who has to save the world from evil, but at least the game’s story is entertaining along the way! Unfortunately, the main drawback for Darkened Skye, on PC or GC, is the gameplay. This is not a bad game, but it’s definitely not a good game either; Darkened Skye is thoroughly average. With average-at-best graphics, mediocre controls that definitely have some issues, somewhat frustrating level designs with often unclear objectives, and sometimes-iffy combat, really the only thing great about Darkened Skye is the amusing story, and even that’s only good. That doesn’t mean that the game is all bad, though. The game is an okay action-adventure game with plenty of exploration, fighting, basic puzzle-solving, and platforming. Sure, none of those elements are always done as well as I’d like, but they’re not all bad either; I had fun with this game sometimes for sure. People who like Tomb Raider-esque 3d action-adventure beat ’em up games might like this game more than I do, too; it’s not exactly one of my favorite kinds of games. Oh, and as for the Skittles element, basically Skittles are the magic system. Each color of Skittle is a type of magic, and you can mix them for different spells. I found myself doing more physical combat than magic, but you will use magic along the way as well. It’s not blatant adver-gaming or something, and I think it works fine. This game was inspired by the pretty good, and weird, fantasy-themed Skittles ads that aired in the years before this games’ release, and it’s cool that they did well enough to get a game. PC port.

Defender 2 player simultaneous. Defender is another remake of a classic game by Midway, and it’s a good one! This Defender game is the only full-on, entirely original Defender game released after Stargate/Defender 2, amazingly enough! The original Defender (1980) is one of the greatest and most important arcade games ever made, so it’s surprising that it didn’t get more sequels. This game is not one of the best games ever like the original is, but it is a good 3d flight combat game. It’s probably not a great game, but I definitely like it anyway. In Defender you play as Commander Kyoto, a pilot (of somewhat indeterminate gender) in the Earth defense forces. The games’ story is that in the future, Earth has expanded throughout the solar system. Naturally, there’s an alien invasion going on, and Earth forces have been pushed to the edge. You’ve got to save what’s left and push the aliens out. There are small bits of story text between missions. When I first played this game, I thought that the games’ opening cutscene was pretty cool. The giant spaceship in it was impressive at the time. Once the game begins though, it is clear that this is a PS2 port — the GC can do much better graphics than this. The controls are solid, though, once you get used to them. This game is an arcadey flight combat game, so the controls are simple. You just fly around, shoot things, and try to complete your mission objectives. Those objectives can be difficult, though. The other major issue with the game is with those objectives — you see, this game takes its name “Defender” seriously. In the game, you’ll spend many missions either attempting to defend settlements from attack, or defending ships from attacking aliens. There are also people to rescue; if you pick them up before the aliens get to them they’ll grab on to your ship, and then you need to get them to the evacuation point without getting shot down in order to rescue them. If the aliens capture a human, just like in the original Defender, a much tougher enemy will spawn, so try to save them! That works fine, but the problem with all those protection and defense missions is that those are often the hardest and most frustrating missions in any flight combat game… and they’re most of the game here. But on the other hand, the game IS called “Defender”, so I like that they actually took the name seriously. Defender is a very difficult, frustrating game, and I didn’t manage to finish it when I bought it back in the early ’00s. I’m sure I will play this game again sometime, though, and it’s well worth the effort. Defender is a really under-rated game, and that it didn’t get a single sequel while there were multiple releases in most other classic franchises Midway rebooted in the 5th and 6th generations is unfortunate. Defender shouldn’t be down there with the bad NARC reboot, it’s much, much better than that! But I guess it didn’t sell, unfortunately. Well, people can correct that now by playing the game. Any flight combat game fan should play Defender without question if they haven’t. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat1 player, supports DK Bongo drum controller, 480p progressive scan support. Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is a 2.5d platformer where you play as Donkey Kong. The game was EAD Tokyo’s first game, and it’s another one of those somewhat odd, but interesting, Gamecube games that made up so much of Nintendo’s library on the platform. This is one of the ones that works, though! DK Jungle Beat is a very good, fun platformer with a very weird, drum-based control scheme. You can also play this game with a gamepad, but don’t. That completely misses the point of the game; it’s much more generic that way. It’s still a good game, but the bongos make it better, or at least a lot more interesting. With the bongos, this game plays like it was designed to. To play, you repeatedly tap the left drum to move left, or the right drum to move right. Hitting both jumps, and saying something (remember, the Bongos have a microphone) slams. You can also grab on to things which will send you flying. This game really needs to be played to be understood. Before playing the game I thought that the game would be far too simple and not that great, but it actually works well. The drum-based controls are weird, but having to bang those drums to play really gets you into the game. It’s a fun game to play, and it DOES have some depth and challenge too. This is a traditional 2.5d platformer, and there’s plenty of enemies to fight, jumps, things to toss you around, bosses to fight, and more. You get a rating at the end of each level based on how much stuff you collected along the way, so there is some replay value if you want to do better. This is fortunate, since the game’s on the short side. As for graphics and sound, the game looks and sounds good. This isn’t the best-looking game ever, but it looks fairly good. However, as fun as the game is, it really isn’t a replacement for a full, 3d, Donkey Kong game. Nintendo really, really suffered after losing Rare, and it’s not a loss that they have ever really made up for, sadly. While DKJB is a unique and fun game with plays well and is quite entertaining, graphically it’s not as good looking as Star Fox Adventures, and gameplay-wise Rare has done better as well, with the DKC series most obviously since those games are also 2d. DKJB, DK racing for the Wii, DK Jungle Climber for the GBA… in the years between losing Rare and having Retro make DKC Returns, Nintendo did some odd things with Donkey Kong, and none of them match Rare’s DK games. Of those three games though, this game is unquestionably the best one. Beat those drums, punch out enemy Kongs and smaller villains, grab all the bananas, and bongo-tap your way through the jungle! There is also a Wii version, with some additional content that makes the game a little less short. Get this game for GC and not Wii, though; the Wii version removes bongo controls, stupidly, and forces you to use a controller or Wiimote+nunchuck waving instead. That works, but this is much better. I really like the Wiimote and nunchuck, but they’re not the same at all for this game! Hitting actual drums is more involving and more fun. Also on Wii.

Donkey Konga (with DK Bongos) – 4 player simultaneous, supports DK Bongo drum controllers, 480p progressive scan support. Donkey Konga is the game the drum controller above was first released with. The DK Bongos are essentially a Gamecube version of Taito’s Taiko no Tatsujin drum controllers that are available, mostly in Japan, for many platforms. Except here, they are supported only by a handful of Donkey Kong games for the GC, and absolutely nothing else. Fortunately the few games that do support the drums are good enough to make at least one or two sets of drums well worth having. The Donkey Konga series is a music-game series. As the songs play, strings of symbols move from the right, and you have to do the shown move at the moment it reaches the left edge. There are four moves, left tap, right tap, hit both, or clap (for the mic). It’s a standard music game, released during the plastic-instruments boom of the mid ’00s. I generally have absolutely zero interest in music games, but this one was by Nintendo, so that fact overwhelmed my general hate for this genre. It also helps that this isn’t a guitar game; I’ve never tried to play drums except for in these games, but it definitely is more interesting to me than guitars, an instrument I have always disliked, are. I was never in band and have never tried to play a real instrument, and usually pretty much hate this genre… but yeah, I can’t completely hate this game. I’m not any good at it, for sure, with my complete lack of musical ability, but it’s amusing for a few minutes, at least, particularly in multiplayer. And yes, that is why I have multiple sets of bongos. This isn’t the kind of game I would play by myself much at all, but in multiplayer it was fun once in a while for sure. Donkey Konga does have some downsides, though. First, the games’ presentation and graphics are fairly basic. Don’t expect great graphics here, this is mostly just basic 2d stuff. Not quite Nintendo-levels of presentation. And second, the music is all mediocre covers. There are no songs by the real original artists here, and even a musically disinclined person like me can tell that, and that whoever did do this music isn’t as good as the original artists. The selection of songs is kind of odd, too. You’ve got some Nintendo songs, some generic popular songs, and some random camp songs and the like. It’s an odd mix. I know that the Japanese version of this game has a mostly different song list, but I don’t know if it’s any better. Overall though, Donkey Konga is okay. Hitting the drums and clapping is kind of amusing for a while when done with friends. If nothing else it’s an interesting Nintendo-published relic from the era when everyone had to have plastic instruments. Exclusive, but the Japanese version has mostly different songs.

Donkey Konga 2 4 player simultaneous, supports DK Bongo drum controllers, 480p progressive scan support. Donkey Konga 2 is essentially the same as the first one, just with new songs and slightly better presentation and musical artists. So yeah, the above review mostly covers this one. New, more varied songs and better singers are the only major changes. Once again, in Japan the song list was almost entirely different. There’s also a third, Japan-exclusive Donkey Konga game.

Driven 2 player simultaneous. Driven is a mediocre to subpar racing game based on the Stallone movie of the same name about a race car driver. I’ve never seen the movie, but I got this game for cheap because I like racing games. Well, this one really isn’t very good; it’s easy to see why it sold for so little. Driven is an open-wheel racing game. There are bits of story between races, following the plot of the movie I presume, and then it’s off to the generic, bland, and not particularly fun racing. Even if this was a movie though, the story is quite generic. This is an arcadey racing game, I should point out. The controls are simple enough. Driven is a playable game, and it works fine, but it’s just not interesting at all. The graphics are very bland, music is nothing memorable, story isn’t great, and gameplay is too average to be worthwhile. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Drome Racers (Lego) – 2 player simultaneous, 16:9 widescreen support. Drome Racers is a Lego-licensed game based on the Drome Racers line of futuristic Lego cars that existed in the mid ’00s. Despite the Lego-man username and avatar I usually use online I quite rarely actually love Lego games. I don’t know, they just … usually aren’t very good, or at best are mediocre. This one, though, is great! Drome Racers is probably my favorite Lego game, because it’s a good futuristic racing game first, Lego game second. This game was developed by the same studio that made the Rollcage games for Psygnosis, and while Drome Racers clearly didn’t get the budget of the Rollcage games, it got enough to be a pretty good, fun game. Drome Racers has a solid variety of tracks, with various different environments with multiple tracks in each one. You unlock new vehicles and vehicle parts as you progress through the campaign. The game has a basic story, and there are several people in your garage to talk to between missions; one gives you missions, one upgrades the car, etc. The writing and characters’ lines are very generic, and the menu interface isn’t exactly high-end.

Graphically, the game looks better ingame. The car models and environments all look nice enough. In the races, the only thing made of Legos is the cars, which sort of look Technics-style, with lots of pieces with holes in them. You can’t make your own models, but this is similar to the Drome Racers sets, which also have somewhat limited customizability I believe. At least there are various different vehicles to get, with several different control styles — the 4-wheel cars and hovercars control very differently, for example. In races, the game uses a standard 3-lap system, with several opponents in each race. Weapon powerups are all over each course, and there are a variety of missiles, rockets, mines, etc. to use. The game has a decent sense of speed, but getting used to the controls might take a little while, particularly with the hovercrafts. This game is not nearly as hard to learn as Rollcage is, but it’s got some nice depth do it. Overall I like the handling model, but it is a little slippery at times; learning the turns is helpful, because you CAN spin out and lose time. Weapons can help, but you will need to drive decently to win. Drome Racers isn’t nearly as hard as Rollcage, but there’s enough challenge here to last a while. For a clearly low-budget game, Drome Racers is good. The low budget shows, particularly in the interface and design simplicity, but I love futuristic racing games, and Drome Racers is a solid futuristic racing game. Also on PS2 and PC; I got the PC version first. It’s pretty much the same as on GC but with higher resolution support.

Egg Mania: Eggstreme Madness 2 player simultaneous. Egg Mania is a Tetris-inspired puzzle game crossed with a platformer, sort of like Wario’s Woods but completely different. It’s not one of the better-known games in its genre, but it’s okay and can be fun. The game has basic 2d graphics, with ‘cute’-ish egg characters as the players. The graphics look okay, but isn’t too impressive in graphics or gameplay. It’s okay, but not great. As in that game, instead of just controlling falling blocks, there is a small character on each player’s side of the screen that you control instead, and your goal is to get to the top by making a tower of blocks and thus avoiding the ever-rising water that slowly fills the field. Even more uniquely, in this game blocks do not fall from above! Well… they do, but not in whole form. Scrolls containing blocks fall from above, and you hit the button to place the block on the scroll you just grabbed. So, in this game you place the blocks yourself. The challenge is that as the water rises, it will destroy incomplete rows of blocks. If you do not make full rows, you can eventually lose by falling into the rising water. Even if you do make complete rows above incomplete ones, the water will destroy those incomplete rows as it reaches them, but at least the complete rows will protect you from the water. So, you have to gauge the risk of placing incomplete rows that get you up higher, and possibly reaching the top quickly, versus the threat of not getting to the top before the water reaches the first incomplete row and knocks it all down. There are also powerups which drop from above. The game is simple, and isn’t nearly as good as the best block-dropping puzzle games, but it can be fun in small doses. This is mostly a versus game, with the player facing a computer or human opponent, but there’s also a solo endless mode. Egg Mania is alright. Nothing special, but it can be fun and is decently designed. If you like puzzle games, maybe pick it up if you find it cheap enough. Also on GBA and PS2. The GBA version is pretty much the same, but doesn’t support saving, sadly, so the console version is probably better; it does save your scores.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem1 player, 480p progressive scan and 16:9 widescreen support. Eternal Darkness is a horror action-adventure game, and it’s my favorite Gamecube game. I absolutely loved this game when I first played it, and yes, it is still my favorite 6th generation console game. Developed by now-hated Silicon Knights, Eternal Darkness is a spectacularly great, deep, engrossing game. The game does have some flaws, but they didn’t hurt it at all for me. Actually, an Eternal Dark t-shirt is my only gaming shirt, though it’s kind of torn now because I wore it a lot in the ’00s. Yes, I was quite sad that the kickstarters for the spiritual sequel didn’t succeed (yes, I backed both of them); it needs to happen! ED is really incredible.

To get to the actual game, Eternal Darkness is an action-adventure game in a Lovecraft-inspired world. The setting, world, and evil gods all come straight out of Lovecraft; it’s not licensed, but is all-homage, and it’s a very well done one. As in Lovecraft, the story hub is set in a Rhode Island mansion. You play as Alex Roivas, a young woman coming to a creepy old mansion she’s inherited. As you explore, you will play many chapters set in the past, visithing people who had encounters with the evil book. It’s no spoiler to say that many of these chapters do not end well, but I won’t say any more; play the game, it’s a must! There are sections playing as Alex in between each one, and she finally gets a full chapter at the end. The story and writing \are all fantastic top-notch work. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the game is serious, tragic, and often gripping. Of course, ED is also famous for its sanity effects, weird things that happen when your Sanity meter gets low. The sanity effects are all kinds of amusing and weird things, including walking on the ceiling, attempts to fake out into thinking that the save file is corrupt, muting the TV, and much more. Many of them did not fool me, but I was fine with that; they’re fantastic as weird effects that are well worth seeing. While you can heal your sanity, I recommend not doing so very often. This game is more about psychological and weird stuff than shock horror, but there are a few shock scares as well. It’s much better off this way; I don’t usually like horror movies and games, or survival horror games, but I absolutely love this game because it’s something quite different in both writing and gameplay. ED is both a good adventure game and a good action game, both in one, and it has a good story as well.

ED started out as an N64 game, and you can tell sometimes, particularly in the smallish areas the game takes place in. Levels are somewhat small, are all set indoors, and are made up of many smaller rooms. Even so, the games’ attention to detail is incredible. You will see each setting several times at different points in history, and seeing how they change over time is really interesting. The settings are varied, including a French cathedral, Khmer palace, Middle Eastern tomb, and that Rhode Island mansion. Also, as in an adventure game you can get item descriptions for many objects in the world, and it’s all extremely well-researched. The insane attention to detail in the setting and writing really, really impressed me, and adds a lot to the game. The puzzles, often based on inventory items but occasionally on other environmental interactions, aren’t usually too deep or complex, but they are enough to be interesting at times. Exploring the environments is often pretty fun, too. While you explore there will also be a lot of combat. ED is full of monsters of various types, from the undead to creepy giant spider monsters. There are four different gods, one undergod and three others that are constantly at war. You choose one of the three to be your target in each game, and can continue on in multiple loops to fight all three. There’s a different ending at the end of each loop. Monsters aligned with each got have different effects, and the enemies in the game will mostly align with the target god, so each loop will be somewhat different.

In order to fight back, you have weapon attacks and magic. You can always use weapon attacks, but they can be somewhat weak. In each chapter, however, you will eventually find the Book of Eternal Darkness, this games’ version of the Necronomicon, and this book gives your character magic powers. You will get more spells as you progress through the game, and each character will get all spells you know so far when they get the book. Spells are made through arranging runes on magic circles. You will get formulas for spells, but also can try to figure them out for yourself, or cheat and look up on the internet, the magic circle arrangements that get you new spells. I thought this was a pretty nice feature, since it was pretty cool to be able to find spells through experimentation before I was “supposed” to have them. However, the magic system is easily abusable. Your magic power recovers when you run, and while monsters can respawn when you leave a room they won’t while you are in an area, so it’s easy to refill it with enough patience. Once you learn the health and mana heal spells, which probably will be early, once you get the book you immediately get somewhat overpoiwered. As I said earlier, don’t use mana heal too often if you want the game to be more fun. This doesn’t bother me too much, though. Combat is fun; this isn’t the best action game ever, but it’s good enough and has some variety thanks to the varied weapons and magic. Overall, Eternal Darkness is a really exceptional game with good graphics, design, story, and gameplay. I absolutely loved this game and it’s still one of the best games around.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles 1 player (with GC controller); 4 player simultaneous (with Game Boy Advances (or GBA SPs or GB Players; remember, the Game Boy Micro is NOT compatible) connected via GC-GBA connection cables), 480p progressive scan support. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was the first Square game on a Nintendo home console since the SNES, and it is a good game. FFCC is a beautiful but flawed game, overall. FF:CC was one of the major titles designed to make in-game use of the GBA connection cables, along with Nintendo’s Pac-Man Vs. and Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. The game is a top-down-style 3d action-adventure game, sort of like a Gauntlet or Mana game of sorts. It’s designed for multiplayer, never a good idea for something which requires multiple expensive addons to play with multiple people, and you will always have at least two characters even in single player. In Crystal Chronicles’ world, poisonous air has infected most of the world, and only the light of special torches can keep it at bay. However, the fuel for those torches is limited, so caravans are sent out to save your town each year. Naturally, your characters are the caravan guards. Along the way you will have various adventures, and eventually try to defeat the mystery of the poison air once and for all.

The game has fantastic presentation and great graphics for its time — it’s a very nice looking Square game. Much like a Gauntlet or Dark Alliance-style game, in each level you explore, kill monsters, and try to find the exit. You have normal attacks or magic. The magic system is simple — you collect a couple of colored magic orbs, and get the magic tied to that color. It’s simple and works, but isn’t the deepest system. However, you also need to deal with the poison air; if you get too far from the torch you start taking damage. This mechanic keeps everyone close, but just having to stay on one screen would do that too, and wouldn’t have this flawed torch mechanic tied to it either. In single player, an AI-controlled moogle will carry the torch for you, and they do a decent job of keeping up. It’s kind of annoying, but playable. In multioplayer, though, one of the four players will have to carry it, which is not good. People want to actually play the game and fight monsters, not carry the stupid torch around! It’s not fun, and it’s bad design. Of course, teh requirement that in multiplayer all players must have GBAs is even worse; you’ll need a pile of GBA s or GBA SPs and one connector cable per player in order to play this game in multiplayer. This was kind of annoying even back then; I’ve played it three player, but never four because of how many cables the people I knew in college had. And of course, you could only play it if people with GBAs were there, because few people have several. Ugh, what a pain! Seriously, the “each player has their own screen” idea is an interesting one with some real gameplay implications, but the price bar was too high here, and this game really doesn’t absolutely require it; it could have been fine without the GBAs. The various things you can see are helpful, but not essential. Overall, FFCC is an okay game, but it’s far from great. With support for normal controller-based multiplayer, no annoying torch, and somewhat deeper combat this would have been a better game. Even in single player, I got bored by this game eventually and didn’t finish it. On that note, the two Nintendo DS FFCC games might be better than this one. They have somewhat similar concepts, but don’t have poison air, which is great. The last FFCC game, the Wii-only title, is completely different (it’s a single-player-only action-RPG) and has nothing in common with the previous titles other than its name.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. FE: Path of Radiance was the first 3d Fire Emblem game in this long-running anime-style strategy game series from Nintendo and Intelligent Systems, many years after FE6 for the N64 was abandoned and Intelligent Systems made another SNES game and then moved to the GBA instead of dealing with 3d sooner. Now, the two US-released Fire Emblem games are some of my favorite games ever. I was completely addicted to those games and played them for endless hours, and they still hold up as amazingly great strategy games fantastic in both graphics and gameplay. The stories are decent too, particularly in the first US one (FE7). But this game… it’s very good, and I like it a lot, but it’s not quite as great as the GBA games in gameplay or graphics. Visually this game looks good, but it doesn’t quite have the style of the GBA games, either in the somewhat blander map view or in the not as stylish and often overlong battle animations. Thanks to slower animations and load times, battle animations are multiple times longer than they are on the GBA, so I ended up turning them off. The TGBA games have this amazing cartoony visual style which no other games in the franchise quite match, unfortunately. I really liked PoR, and I did finish it, but FE7 and FE8 are even better. As in all Fire Emblem games, FE: PoR is a square grid-based fantasy strategy game with permadeath for your party members and an RPG-style level-up system. Story-critical characters will just ‘retreat’ and not die so they can continue to show up in the plot, but they’ll never be playable ingame again. Yes, Fire Emblem is a harsh game, and its random elements make it harsher; strategy matters a lot in FE, but random luck matters a lot as well. This time the main character is Ike, one of the series’ more popular characters. He starts out as a mercenary, but as in most games gets drawn into much greater events. The games’ world is somewhat interesting, if cliche — there’s an evil empire, a not as bad empire, your small but plucky nation, and some nations of beast-people. The beast-people are one of the major additions this time, along with 3d graphics. They come in several forms, including bird-people, cat-people, crow-people, and more. Humans and beastmen have never trusted each other, but of course in this game you will ultimately ally with the better beast-people and break down some racial prejudice. The story may not be original, but it is solidly written, just as much so as its GBA predecessors. However, support conversations were mostly removed this time, which really is a big loss — a lot of characterization in the GBA games happened in those conversations, and the much shorter, generic conversations that replace them here are less interesting. Still, they do have some amusing moments in them, so do what supports you can! There is funny, and story-intresting, things to be learned. You do these conversations in the base between missions; support conversation requirements from the GBA games are mostly ditched here, though they still exist in limited form. In the base you can also buy items, set your active party, and the like. As in all classic FE games, there are somewhat lengthy cutscenes before and after each mission, and you cannot save during missions, only between them. Be prepared to reset a lot if you want to keep your party members all alive as I always do.

Ingame, FE: PoR plays pretty much like any previous game, but with a few new additions, including jumping between terrain levels and shoving characters a few squares. The basic gameplay is the same, though, and that’s mostly a good thing. I love FE, but I DO wish that it emphasized skill a little more and luck a little less. Every attack, defense, and to-hit statistic is a range, not a single number, so the luck of the (digital) roll determines a huge amount here. You can’t keep all characters safe at all times, so you’ll have to rely on luck a lot. It gets very frustrating sometimes. FE requires a lot of skill as well, of course. There are rock-paper-scissors-style magic and weapon triangles, so always try to attack with the right unit in the right place, and then hope that they can survive whatever enemy counter-attack is coming. I really like characters like mages, which rely a lot on luck to dodge hits, so that doesn’t help either. Yeah, I love the FE games, but the constant resets from losing characters based on luck-based rolls gets old… though it IS quite satisfying when you finally get through a tough mission! I also made things harder on myself by playing the game on Hard, not Normal. The highest difficulty was cut from the Western release of the game, but US Hard was more than enough for me; it was quite tough and took me many, many hours to finish, but I did manage it. FE: PoR is overall a great game. I really like it, and the cast is likeable. Ike is a good lead character, and I also really liked Ilyana, probably my favorite character in the game. The game is well worth getting, and has a sequel on the Wii as well, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. That game stars both Ike and a new female lead character, Micaiah. It’s similar in quality to this game, but I’ve actually played this one more than Radiant Dawn. Still though, the GBA games are the best… but PoR IS great too.

Frogger Beyond 1 player. Frogger Beyond is another one of Konami’s semi-successful attempts to make a new Frogger game inspired by Hasbro Interactive’s popular 3d Frogger and Frogger 2 games for the PC/PS1/Dreamcast in the late ’90s. Of course Konami made the original Frogger, but it was Hasbro that rebooted the series in the ’90s and created the formula which most of Konami’s following Frogger games would replicate. Essentially, Frogger Beyond is a sequel to Hasbro’s great Frogger 2, but not quite as good and with a horribly annoying “cool” redesign for Frogger. Frogger’s not just a frog anymore, now he’s a hip modern kid! It’s about as painful as it sounds. Frogger’s new look looks pretty terrible, and his attitude in the cutscene is no better. The music’s just as bad as well, of course. Fortunately though, the gameplay is still solid. This game only got a visual and aural collapse; the gameplay is still good. As I said I do like Frogger 2 more, but this is a fine avoidance-based arcade action game. As in most of the 3d Frogger games or the Frogger-alike game Zapper, Frogger Beyond is a tile-based arcade action game. These games are not 3d platformers; instead, you move on a grid, trying to avoid enemies and obstacles and make your way through each level. As in all 3d Frogger games, you can jump one space in any direction with the pad, or jump two spaces with a button. You always have to tap the button for every move, but you get used to it. There are often no walls, so pay attention to where you jump! It’s easy to die. You can occasionally attack, with a powerup, but this is mostly an avoidance game, and that’s what makes these games both fun and challenging. And this is indeed a fun game once you get into it, as you make your way past the obstacles, over jumps, . It’s a simple, straightforward game, certainly not above average, but it’s fun enough and that’s enough. I like Frogger 2 and Zapper more than this game, in part because of the horrible Frogger redesign and the annoying music, but the gameplay is solid. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Future Tactics: The Uprising2 player alternating, 480p progressive scan and 16:9 widescreen support. This is a turn-based strategy game in a near-future setting, with an action element in how you aim your shots. The game is interesting, but flawed. Future Tactics has both interesting ideas and annoying design decisions. On the good side, the game looks reasonably good, and 480p 16:9 support is great. The art design looks somewhat comic book-inspired. The alien enemies are weird looking, and could be scarier, but it looks fine. The backstory, which doesn’t seem to be explained in the game (low budget!), is that an alien army was summoned when some archaeologists inadvertently activated some mysterious artifact. These aliens have destroyed most civilized life on Earth, and your generic main character boy is going to have to save the world and end the alien menace. The main character guy, Low, and his sister Pepper get dragged in to this quest early in the game, which consists of 19 battles. The story is somewhat over-dramatic, and takes itself a bit too seriously for a game with such a cartoony style. I’d have rather seen this try to be amusing than serious. The story also isn’t always well-told, and some things are confusing. Mission objectives are not always spelled out clearly enough either, and the manual is no help for that. More bad than good here.

Gameplay in Future Tactics has many more problems, but also some unique elements. This is a turn-based strategy game, and the players and enemies trade turns. Options are basic: Attack, Move, End Turn. In end turn, you can just wait, heal (but if you then get hit you lose more health than usual), or use your shield to reduce damage (but then you can’t use it for two turns). There is no inventory in this game; it’s a simple, stripped-down strategy game. There is no depth and no numbers to be found in this game, unfortunately. It’s not all bad; one of the coolest things about the game is that Future Tactics has terrain deformation. You need to learn to use this well in order to beat even the earliest missions; blowing up terrain to make paths is important. Projectile weapons all seem to be explosive, so most any hit will destroy some of the ground. This applies to the enemies too; the most common kind of enemy is a suicide guy with a powerful bomb on him, who leaves a big hole when killed, or when he attacks you. Attacks are either projectiles, melee attacks, or missile attacks. Missiles autotarget and melee is simple enough (just get close), but projectiles require action-style targeting. When you choose the ‘Attack’ command, you go into a first-person aiming view. Aiming is unique. When you touch the stick, the aiming cursor just keeps moving. Hit A to lock the screen. Getting used to this very floaty aiming takes a while. Next, you have to line up the shot. First a line moves for the horizontal point, and then the vertical. The closer you get to the targeting sight, the higher the hit-percent chance. It’s an interesting system, and it does mostly work. Sometimes it seems like I should hit an enemy but I miss for no reason, though; it has questionable hitboxes. Also, this game can be challenging, and losing a battle because you messed up aiming one shot, which could happen, is quite annoying.

Moving characters is much simpler: you can move infinitely within the green-outlined movement-range circle. Usually characters have limited movement, but for no good reason sometimes everyone has infinite movement, most notably in mission two. This is TERRIBLE strategy game design! Once you’ve made your rules stick with them, don’t randomly break them just to make a mission harder, which that very much does. One of the most annoying things about the game, though, is that the game relies heavily on infinitely-respwaning enemies. You’ve got objectives to do, and well, they’ll just keep appearing until you either win or lose. And if you miss one and one of those stupid suicide-bomber guys blows up, you lose a lot of health. A few bomb blasts like that and your characters can die. The games’ AI is also awful, though this is both good and bad. On the good side, if you go to a high point, you can sometimes get the suicide bomber guys to just mill around uselessly or blow themselves up, while you attack your real target. However, if one gets smart and does explode, the others after him will know where to go, and you’re doomed. Of course, dead normal enemies will just be replaced in the infinite spawn, so you can’t just kill them all, annoyingly. Also, if any of your characters die, it’s an instant You Lose screen. Argh! This game is very frustrating. Of course, you can’t see enemy movement ranges. The game also has a mostly broken enemy vision system. At the start enemies don’t know where you are, but if you attack ANY enemy, or get sighted by ANY enemy, ALL enemies immediately know where your whole team is. What in the world was the point with such an awful sighting system? So far, the game mostly seems to be trial and error, as you try to figure out the trick to each stage that will keep your characters alive. Dealing with mission objective targets which take far too many hits to take down while trying to figure out how in the world to stay alive against the swarms of spawning suicide bombers is not much fun. It’s kind of addictive, but not the fun kind of addictive. The game also has multiplayer, but most of its content has to be unlocked in single player. I haven’t played it. Overall, Future Tactics is a quite annoying and bad game, but it is kind of addictive, and I’ll probably play it again despite myself. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

F-Zero GX4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan and 16:9 widescreen support. F-Zero GX, developed by Sega, is the third and final full major-console F-Zero title, and it is one of the greatest racing games ever made, no question. It was unique at the time to see Sega making a first-party Nintendo IP, but they did a fantastic, fantastic job with it! As my GC top 10 shows this game is not my favorite racing game on the system, probably mostly thanks to how frustrating its excessive difficulty level is, but it is easily second-best, and it is second-best for the generation as well; I think of Rush 2049, my favorite racing game, as an N64 game since that’s the version I’ve played the most, even though it is also on all four 6th gen consoles. Unfortunately Sega has not made many futuristic racing games, but based on how amazing this game is, you wouldn’t know it. The games’ graphics and sound are just as incredible as the gameplay is. F-Zero GX is a really fantastic-looking game for the GC, and the techno music is really great as well. Each track looks quite different, and they all look pretty great. The game also controls just about perfectly. The extremely precise Gamecube controller analog stick is absolutely essential for this game; I wouldn’t recommend something like the not nearly as good stick on my Mad Catz controller for this game, it won’t work well at all. The game is shiny, fast, and very smooth. I was quite excited for this game when it came out, and it mostly lived up to the hype.

F-Zero GX is a huge, rock-hard game. The game has a story mode, which goes through the games’ not-that-great story with a sequence of overly difficult missions on special courses, a first for the series; championship mode, where you play one of the series of 5 races; single race; or multiplayer. As in previous F-Zero games, in Championship mode you have to get through all of the races in the championship with a limited number of lives, so you can’t mess up much without starting the championship over, and cannot save during a championship. All of the racers from F-Zero X return. Unfortunately you have to buy most of them, and only have the basics at the beginning. The game will save between races in Story mode, thankfully, but they make up for that by making the mode even HARDER than most of the rest of the game. You get points for winning races and championships that you can spend on unlocking racers. I never did unlock most of the racers, it takes a long time to earn enough points to do so and I didn’t have the patience in such a hard game. I just got the racers I wanted and had to leave the rest locked. I didn’t finish all of the championships, either; I tried, but this game is just too hard. I did manage to finish Story mode on normal, and several of the championships, though, and those are some of the hardest gaming memories I have of the GC era. And really, that’s both a bad thing and a good thing. On the good side, this game requires a great deal of skill, and there is a lot for anyone who wants to learn it to do. It will take a lot of practice to master, that’s for sure! Some of the tracks are really awesome too, such as the intimidating Space Terminal, a long and mostly-wallless track. One slip-up and you’re done, lose a life and try again! But you probably will try again, because GX is just as great as it is hard. This game is an amazing accomplishment, one of the best racing games ever, and it’s beyond horrible that the series has not continued since apart for some mediocre, and now also long-gone, GBA games.

Game Boy Player Start-Up Disc1 player (multiplayer requires GBA link cables; a link cable port is on the GB Player), 480p progressive scan support. This lets you play GBA games on your Gamecube if you have a Game Boy Player attached to the system. Yes, you need the startup disc to make the GB Player work. Naturally this is useless on a Wii, since you couldn’t connect the GB Player to that. :p Still, the GB Player is great, and anyone with a GC absolutely should get one! With it you can play GB, GBC, and GBA games all on your TV. For the original GB the Super Game Boy for the SNES is better, since just like any other GBC or GBA the GBP cannot emulate SGB-exclusive added colors and features, but the GBP is absolutely essential for playing GBC and GBA games on your TV. It really SHOULD have had SGB support, though! That would have made it better. You do have a few control and screen-size options, though, which is nice. I like the option which puts L and R on X and Y — with this, GBA fighting games like KOF EX2 play much better than they do on an actual GBA! One other interesting thing about this is that it comes in a Japanese-style smallish plastic case, instead of a Western DVD case like all other Western GC releases are in.

Gauntlet: Dark Legacy 4 player simultaneous. Gauntlet: Dark Legacy is one of my favorite Gamecube games for sure! The game is an enhanced (but slightly buggy) port of the arcade game of the same name. This is also, of course, a sequel to Gauntlet Legends, the first 3d Gauntlet game and one of my all-time favorite arcade games. Gauntlet Legends is an amazing classic I will always absolutely love, and this game is that, but with more stuff. So yes, it’s incredible! However, it’s just more of the same, and the graphics haven’t improved much either unfortunately. Also, this game has some bugs. As a result, I’m not sure if I like this more than N64 Gauntlet Legends, or not; that game is really, really incredible. But almost everything from that game is here, plus more, so I probably do like this game more even if the bugs are annoying and the nostalgia and originality factors aren’t as high. See my review of N64 Gauntlet Legends for more on that game, or my Gauntlet series comparison thread/list for the interesting specifics of exactly what content as in each version of Gauntlet Legends and Dark Legacy. Almost every console port is slightly different from the last, except for only only GC/Xbox Dark Legacy: these two are pretty much the same. I won’t repeat myself by listing all of the details, but this version has every level except for the one Legends level not included in Dark Legacy, does have item saving (you can disable them for future use), and does let you buy health. Those are the most important things and except for that missing level they’re good. Gauntlet Legends/Dark Legacy versions (such as the Dreamcast one) which don’t let you buy health instead require lots of very annoying grind in order to heal, and it’s a complete pain. And oens that don’t let you save items (like the PS2 one) make bossfights much harder, as you can’t save items found in levels and use them when they’re really needed: the always-hard boss fights. The main feature issues in this version are the crash bugs, the lack of any way to view your stats and experience ingame, and the lack of visible timers showing how long exactly items will last. That last decision might have been done because items use up faster in bossfights than they do in normal levels, annoyingly; Legends did not work like this. Legends didn’t have crash bugs either, and N64 and PS1 Legends let you save items too. Still, all of the additional content is great, and does make up for the flaws. Gauntlet: Dark Legacy has a lot of levels, and will take several tens of hours to beat. It’s also got plenty of replay value, thanks to many characters to play as and secrets to find in the levels.

As for the gameplay, it’s essentially the same as Gauntlet Legends. It’s an isometric top-view action-RPG heavy on the action and multiplayer focus. The game is designed to be played with others, and is the most fun that way, but I, at least, have also always liked it in single player as well. You explore the 3d levels, fighting monsters that spawn from various kinds of monster-spawners, finding keys and items, and looking for secrets. Levels are large and fairly complex, which is great. They are mostly straightforward, but sometimes there are secrets to find, switch puzzles, and more. After each level you see how much gold and experience you got, save, and then return to the hub world. The hub world in Dark Legacy is new, and larger than Legends’. It’s also got more gates, so you have more things to collect in the levels, including crystals and various miniboss parts. These will unlock the worlds and wings of the hub. The obelisks are gone, replaced by all the new collectibles, but that’s okay; it keeps each game somewhat different. It’s easy to collect enough crystals, so you won’t have to grind for them thankfully. I have always loved Legends’s level design styles, and the new levels in Dark Legacy are just as great! All characters have projectile attacks, of course. You also have a strong attack and can melee-attack enemies, but you want to keep your distance if possible, and strong attacks are only for tougher enemies. This game has eight full worlds, with almost twice as many levels as any one version of Legends has. However, this game probably isn’t twice as long as Legends, because you can beat the game with less replay required. Actually, replaying old levels is discouraged — in Dark Legacy they changed the experience system, so you won’t get experience from enemies if you’re too many levels above them. This is kind of annoying, even with more levels to play. The game also might be easier overall than Legends is, though, or maybe it’s just that I’d played Legends a lot before playing this so I was much more used to it. Overall though, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy is an amazing, amazing game. Yes, it has crash bugs and dated, somewhat last-gen graphics, and only half of the game is actually new, but the fun factor couldn’t be much higher, and the constant succession of brilliant level designs, varied enemies, secrets to find, minor maze/puzzle elements to figure out, tough bosses to beat, and more! Gauntlet Legends and Dark Legacy remain probably my favorite games ever in their genre. Also on Xbox, and (missing some features) on PS2.

Geist 4 player simultaneous (in battle mode), 480p progressive scan support. Geist was Nintendo’s ‘big’ FPS for the later life of the Gamecube. Nintendo hoped that this Western-developed game would do well and convince some of the shooter fans who had abandoned Nintendo for Microsoft to come back. Unfortunately for them, Geist’s later-gen release was far, far too late to have any impact on such things. Nintendo’s path had been set years earlier. Even if Geist didn’t change Nintendo’s audience, however, it is a pretty good, and somewhat original, first-person shooter. Sort of like some other games from the perior and earlier like Messiah or Sight, Geist has a ghost/possession theme. Thanks to plot reasons, in the beginning of the game your generic military guy protagonist is turned into a spirit/person hybrid and can take over other people and also objects as well. You can also shoot people like normal, of course, and there are several different guns in the game. The game has some definite, and welcome, puzzle elements in the single player, as you try to figure out what to do to progress. This isn’t just a shooter, but you will need to think some too, and that’s great. I like the possession mechanic, and taking over or scaring or blowing up the enemies with objects in the environment is fun. The story is average action-movie stuff, but it’s serviceable enough to do. Graphics are similar — this isn’t a great looking game, but it does look decent to good, at least. There is a fair-length campaign to play through, and there’s also some pretty good, though local-only, multiplayer. It’s too bad that Geist doesn’t support LAN play, but ah well, at least the splitscreen is good. The game has several game modes in multiplayer, and you can play with bots as well, which is great. This is definitely a fun multiplayer game. Geist is a good FPS which genre fans should definitely check out, particularly if you like FPSes from before the current generation. It’s also worth a look as one of Nintendo’s few Western-developed first-party-published Gamecube games. Geist has always been overlooked, and I kind of overlooked it when it first released as well, but when I finally got the game a few years ago, I did enjoy it. Geist is not a great game, but it is a good one.

Gladius 4 player alternating, 480p progressive scan support. Gladius, a fantasy classical Roman strategy game from Lucasarts, isone of their few original titles released in the last few generations. After the success of the movie Gladiator games set in ancient Rome became more popular, and this is probably one of the games inspired by that. This isn’t a real-world setting, though, but is a fantasy world. Still, the influence is clear. This is a gladiator-themed game, and your characters and battle arenas are mostly based on gladiator arenas and combat. However, as this is a strategy game, you don’t just hack and slash your enemies, but instead control your team of characters on a square grid as you fight off the enemies. You can equip your team between missions. The game has co-op or versus multiplayer, which is cool; in co-op, other players can control other gladiators in battles, while player one controls movement when not in battles, much like how the co-op works in Tales of Symphonia. This was one of Lucasart’s last Gamecube releases before they unfortunately abandoned the system early, but as much as I like Lucasarts, somehow this game has never entirely grabbed me. It’s a good game, and I like strategy games a lot, so I should have played this game a lot more than I have; I didn’t have it during the system’s life, but I have owned this game for several years now, barely played. Also on PS2 and Xbox. The PS2 version is two player only.

Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee 4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Godzilla: DAMM is a 3d fighting action game, clearly inspired by classics like King of the Monsters and Smash Bros., but with Godzilla characters and in 3d. This game was popular when it released, and playing it I can sort of see why — this game can be good fun in multiplayer! The controls are simple, and this game doesn’t have much depth, though it can be pretty hard anyway. You walk around a 3d environment from an overhead/isometric perspective. Each level in the game is a square arena, mostly of cityscapes. You can pick up or crush buildings and use them as weapons, stomp around, and beat on the other monsters. Throwing buildings at giant monsters is great fun for sure! Maps aren’t too large, so that they can fit all four characters on them on a single screen without problems. You can pick up buildings (or your opponent!) and throw them, use normal attacks and special moves, and also use beam attacks that require power from your charge meter. You also have a guard button, which is important to learn well if you want to beat the AI. The game is fairly easy to learn, but will require some skill to master. Moves take a bit of time to execute, which makes sense for giant monsters. When you get knocked down, you stay down for a bit. Still, I probably prefer a bit faster game than this, and more technical too; this game is pretty simple. Also, unfortunately, as with most games like this it’s not nearly as fun in single player, and that is a problem. The single player AI is actually quite hard and frustrating, and in Normal or above it stops being fun just a few matches in, I thought. The AI opponents are tough, and make good use of their special abilities. The second opponent’s ability to dig under the ground is particularly annoying. You have limited continues in the single player mode, too, which doesn’t help at all. Unfortunately, you have to unlock most of the monsters in single player before you can use them in multiplayer; if you want to just pick this up and play it with friends, you’ll be stuck with only a couple of monsters and maps. Frustrating! You’ll have to put in the time to unlock stuff first, then play it in multiplayer after that… and I haven’t had enough fun in single player to want to do that, though it is amusing with a group. Also on Xbox, with some enhancements.

Hot Wheels: Velocity X 2 player simultaneous. Velocity X is one of the many mediocre Hot Wheels games out there. This one is a futuristic racing game, so I had some hope for it, but I don’t like this game much at all, unfortunately. Velocity X is mediocre, bland, and not very fun. Instead of being another circuit racing game, in the main story mode you follow a linear path through a story. Along the way you have to accomplish objectives, such as getting to a point, defeating enemies, doing stunts to score a certain number of points in a time limit, find all the collectibles in an area, etc. The game has a mediocre sci-fi plot which it tells with too-long cutscenes, but it certainly isn’t a reason to play the game. I know that Hot Wheels are mostly aimed at young boys, so it makes sense that the game has such a simple design and plot, but the few better Hot Wheels games, like Stunt Track Challenge (PC), show that a good Hot Wheels game can be made. This isn’t one, unfortunately. With bland PS2-port graphics, bland racing through bland futuristic environments, not much about this game is actually fun. Car controls are okay, but very average; this is a very generic and forgettable arcade-style racing game. The stunt system is extremely simplistic and isn’t very fun — just hit a button/stick in the air, pretty much. You can do a great car stunt system, as seen in San Francisco Rush 2 and 2049, but you can also do a bad one, as seen in this game. In some Hot Wheels games the always-overly-simplistic ‘just hit a button/stick’ stunt systems aren’t so bad, but this game actually requires you to do stunts as main objectives. It gets boring. The weapons aren’t much better; sure, they’re fun at times, but there aren’t any here you won’t also find in a better game. Another thing that gets boring are the levels. The game may have a linear story, but it’s set in a large open world, and you can go the wrong way and have to figure out where you’re meant to be going, or have trouble finding all of the objects you need to find for some mission. In a game with fun game mechanics, challenge, great track or environment games, and such, that might be fun, but this game has none of those things. Hot Wheels Velocity X isn’t an AWFUL game, but there’s really no reason to play a game as bland, average to poor, and not particularly fun as this game is unless you’re a huge Hot Wheels fan, or really want to play all of the GC’s arcadey racing games. Hot Wheels Velocity X is kind of bad. Play the other GC Hot Wheels game, Hot Wheels World Race, instead; that’s a solid, decently fun game, and I wish I had the GC version. Also on PS2, Xbox, and PC.

Ikaruga 2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Ikaruga is one of the best-known shmups ever, and the Gamecube version was the first Western release of this great classic from Treasure. The GC version of this game is the first version of the game I played. It’s pretty much the same thing as the Dreamcast version, fortunately. On DC or GC Ikaruga has never been cheap, but the high price is well-earned: Ikaruga is one of the best shmups ever made, hands-down. With great controls, graphics, music, and gameplay, Ikaruga is as good as it possibly could be. It’s amazing that this game is so small in terms of megabytes, because you’d never notice based on the quality of the graphics and sound! The game is a vertical-scrolling shmup with a typically depressing story. The gameplay is what matters the most, though. Ikaruga’s signature gameplay system is the two-color system, where all enemies, and your ship and bullets, are either black/red or blue/white. You absorb bullets the same color as your ship, and these bullets fill your super-attack (missile barrage) gauge. Naturally opposite-color bullets destroy you. Enemies take double damage when shot with opposite-color bullets, as well. You can swap with a button, and learning and getting good at the color-swap system is key to Ikaruga. It does add complexity, but it’s a fun challenge. I am pretty awful at bullet-hell games, and Ikaruga has more than a little bullet-hell in its design, including a typically bullet-hell single pixel target in your ship (only that one point will destroy you), but at least the two-color system makes it so you don’t always need to dodge every single bullet. Ikaruga also has a combo system — destroy three enemies of the same color and you add one to the combo meter. If you don’t kill three of the same color in a row though, the meter resets. People good at this genre can keep the chains going for a long time, but I can’t of course. Still, trying to make it longer is fun… even if focusing on chains does often lead to more deaths than it would otherwise, because of paying more attention to that than to the enemies. Ah well, it’s great fun anyway.

Ikaruga’s levels are one of the major draws to the game. Every level outdoes the last in how cool it looks and the great variety of great scenarios you’re placed in. Ikaruga’s levels are a mixture of open sections and narrower areas that must be carefully navigated, often full of enemy shots or beams of one color or the other. Yes, this game has some puzzle-like elements at times, and I love that about the game. The rotating boss of the next to last level is really hard, but is quite clever and is a great design. I love a lot of things in this game, though, from the beginning to the end, thanks to both style and substance. As with most modern shmups each run through the game is short, and once you unlock infinite continues (this takes a couple of hours of play) you will beat it every time, but as with the best shmups, it’s got the replay value to make up for that many times over. Ikaruga is one of my favorite shmups ever, and is easily my favorite ‘bullet-hell’ shmup, though it’s definitely a non-traditional one. Exceptional game across the board, this is my favorite Treasure game ever. I do not always love Treasure games, but this one deserves every bit of hype it’s gotten over the years. Arcade port also on Dreamcast (Japan only) and Xbox 360 Digital Download.

Italian Job, The2 player simultaneous. The Italian Job is a mission-based driving game based on the heist movie of the same name. In the game, you drive Mini Cooper cars around as you go through the games’ story about a group of criminals who plan a typically audacious heist. I haven’t gotten around to watching the movie yet, but I got this because I like driving games. The story here is definitely nothing special; the strength of a movie like The Italian Job definitely isn’t a great, original plot, and it’s the same in the game. So, it’s a bit like something like Driver, except not nearly as good. There were a few games based on this movie, and the PS1 game actually got the best review scores. I have both the GC and PS1 games, and maybe that one is better; neither is great, but this one certainly is very average game. The Italian Job for GC has mediocre, somewhat slippy controls, among other things. As in most games of this kind, you follow an on-screen arrow that tells you where to go. It’s not too hard to follow, but I’ve ususually preferred racing games which have set circuits to ones like this which have a full city you have to learn. Even for one of this kind of game though, I can certainly tell that this game is no Driver. Controls, mission objectives, story, gameplay, nothing here stands out, or holds my interest for long. Just drive /around, follow the arrow, and move on. There isn’t much to this beyond that; don’t expect intresting missions, just objective points to get to and maybe a timer. World design isn’t the best or most interesting either; this game feels cheaply made and thrown together. There is also a free-roam modes for each of the several cities in the game and some circuit and stunt races, but those modes aren’t any more interesting. However, the game isn’t awful, it’s just bland. Maybe try this if you find it cheap and like open-city, point-to-point driving games. Or pass and play a better one. Also on PS2 and Xbox (the PS1 and PC game of the same name is a different, and slightly better, game. And yes, the PC game is a PS1 up-port.).

King Arthur 2 player simultaneous. King Arthur is a generic beat ’em up game based on the movie of the same name. You know, the one with Keira Knightley in it as Guenivere. The movie was an attempt at a slightly more realistic version of the King Arthur story, though considering that it includes things such as crossbows in a “5th century AD” setting, it’s far from realistic. Still, that the movie and game are set at that time at all makes it much more ‘realistic’ than your average Mallory-style high or late medieval Camelot setting. Here, Arthur is a Roman British soldier, who stays behind after the legions abandon Britain. Then he leads the defense against an invading Saxon army, with the help of Guenivere, here a Pictish warrior princess, once they join forces. It was a decent movie, but not great, but the game probably isn’t even on that level. King Arthur the game is a somewhat ugly and incredibly repetitive hack and slash action game. In each stage, you fight a near-endless wave of barbarian enemies. Mash buttons, kill enemies, rinse and repeat over and over and over; this game has absolutely zero variety, and is unlikely to hold most peoples’ interest. The fighting system is basic and lacks depth — just attack, block, attack again, and use a bow at range. The game does have two player co-op, which is nice, and there are five playable characters in Arthur, Lancelot, Guenivere, and two more, but there are better beat ’em ups out there than this game, and they often look a lot better than this game too. Beat ’em ups and hack and slash games are always repetitive, but they don’t have to be quite AS repetitive as King Arthur is! The game gets off to a bad start with a somewhat long and tedious defend-the-carriages mission against endless hordes, and doesn’t improve. The level looks ugly, too — King Arthur is very obviously a PS2 port, and they didn’t put much work into making it look any better here on the Gamecube. Still, you can certainly do a lot worse than this game. You can do a lot better, but also a lot worse. Overall, play something like the GC/Xbox/PS2 Lord of the Rings games instead; they’re much more fun. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Kirby Air Ride4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Kirby Air Ride is Kirby’s only Gamecube game, and it’s kind of a love-or-hate game. While I like Kirby a lot, I’ve never liked this game all that much, honestly. The game is a racing game where Kirby and friends fly around on various flying objects. It is multiplayer-focused and uses a unique one-button control scheme. The game has some things going for it, and definitely is worth a play, but the essentially nonexistent single-player mode is a MAJOR drawback. If you don’t have other people to play Kirby Air Ride with, you probably will not have much fun. Air Ride was the final product of many years of work; the concept of a Kirby racing game in 3d dates back to 1995. I was really looking forward to this game after being in development on and off for so long, since I really like Kirby and racing games, but the game disappointed me because of the absence of real single player content, mostly, but also a bit because of the odd controls. Air Ride has three modes: single races around standard 3d circuits, single races in a top-down single-screen racing game, and a mode where you go around this one large city area for a specific amount of time, gathering abilities, before seeing at the end who wins in classic, somewhat unfair Nintendo party game style. There is no circuit mode in this game, no championship, no story mode, nothing, only single races against 1-3 opponents. All difficulty levels and tracks are unlocked from the start, so the only thing to make you actually want to play this outside of multiplayer is unlocking some alternate ships to use and trying to fill out the Achievement-style grid of objectives, which there is one of for each mode. Filling out the achievement grid is the only progression of any form in this game, and for me at least it’s not enough, it’s not nearly enough; I’m not the type who feels the need to fill out that hex-grid of tasks to complete. I want to play racing championships and try to win the game, not do whatever random tasks that stupid grid requires to fill in the hexes! QAnd you can’t even see most of them at the start, either; you can only view the ones around tasks you have completed. And you can’t view this during a race, either, so you’ll just have to try to remember what it is you need to do; there’s no way to check ingame. Very annoying, poor design there! Of course, these tasks will get completed more quickly in multiplayer, since there will be more of you playing. And yes, of course any tasks any human player completes all count on the same grid. There really is absolutely no reason to play Air Ride in single player unless you really love the game, which I didn’t enough to stick with it for all that long. It’s sad.

The worst thing about it is, the core racing in Kirby Air Ride is actually good! It isn’t great, but it is good. The controls hold the game back a bit, though, as of course, you only have one button and the analog stick to use. Having the same button both brake and fire weapons is an issue — you WILL slow down when you attack. There’s no way to slow down other than hitting that button. Despite this, once you get used to the simplicity of the controls, Air Ride definitely can be fun, particularly against other people. The tracks are quite well designed, the game looks nice, and the game is reasonably fun to play. The good track designs are certainly the best thing about this game. With an actual reason to play it outside of multiplayer and less simplified controls, Air Ride could have been a pretty good game. The main mode is good fun, but I particularly like the top-down mode. I’ve always liked games like Super Sprint and Super Off-Road, and this is a solid game of that style. The races here are short, but I liked this quite a bit and played it almost as much as the main mode. The third mode has issues, though. The large environment you drive around, fight with the other players in, and try to build your abilities in is fun to explore and, again, is well-designed, with several different environments to explore, plenty of weapons, a transit system to get you around the area, and more. However, the end is frustrating; it’s too much like the end of a game of Mario Party or the space mode in Wario Ware: Mega Party Games for the GC — you’ll need luck just as much as skill, to win this game. It kind of makes the whole thing feel pointless sometimes, and this was probably my least favorite mode of the three. Overall, Kirby Air Ride is an okay, but disappointing, game. I think that HAL was too focused on the minigame and multiplayher elements of games like Smash Bros. and Kirby 64 when they designed this game, and not enough on that as a racing game it needs more to do than just single races against a couple of AIs that you choose the difficulty levels of! Yes, I love single-races-only games like Daytona for the Saturn, but this game is much newer than that one. There is no excuse for a game from the mid ’00s to be so feature-light, particularly one from HAL and Nintendo. They usually do better. The one-button design was flawed from the start as well; this game would be better and more fun with conventional controls, which don’t try, and fail, to make it work with everything mashed together on one button. One-button games only work wehn you’ve only got one thing to do, but this button has to do too much and it doesn’t quite work. Overall Kirby Air Ride IS worth playing, for arcade racing fans, because of the high quality of the tracks and decently fun gameplay, but find some friends before you play.

Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, The 1 player (with GC controller); 4 player simultaneous (with Game Boy Advances (or GBA SPs or GB Players; remember, the Game Boy Micro is NOT compatible) connected via GC-GBA connection cables), 480p progressive scan support. Zelda: Four Swords Adventures is perhaps one of the more forgotten Zelda games, but it’s actually quite good! This 2d game released at a time when 2d games were still decidedly out, as far as console games go; 2d stuff might stil lget by on handhelds and in a few PC games, but console games were still expected to be 3d. This game, with its graphics based on a modern update of Link to the Past, isn’t that. The game is also held back by its crippling multiplayer limitation, of course — requiring all players to have a GC-GBA cable and GBA/SP/GC+GB Player+TV is ridiculous! Sure, there are some minor uses of the second screen, such as only being visible on the small screen when inside buildings, but it was absolutely not worth the costs using it requires. Four Swords Adventures can be played with a GC controller in single player, and it’s a reasonably fun game this way, but it clearly was designed for multiplayer first, and the bar to entry there is frustratingly high. I know I said this already in the FFCC review, but Nintendo’s connectivity push between the GC and GBA was misguided. At minimum, they needed to come up with a way to make this game work in multiplayer with controllers, there is no excuse for REQUIRING GBAs + connection cables for multiplayer. This restriction is unfortunate because of how good the game is. This is a game people should play! I did not buy FSA for some time after its release, in part because I didn’t like the connectivity requirements and in part because I’ve never loved LttP’s visual style, but I did play it some anyway, and it was fun. I bought it eventually and definitely like the game, even if LttP’s art design still is over-rated in my opinion; I’ve always much preferred the look, and play, of Link’s Awakening and the GBC games. But anyway.

Yes, Four Swords Adventures really is a quite good game. A massive improvement over the multiplayer-only original Four Swords game for the GBA (it’s on the GBA LttP cartridge), FSA has better graphics, better gameplay, and single player support in place this time. There are also three game modes… well, there are in the Japanese version; we only got two. Stupid Nintendo. First, there’s the main game, and second, there’e a multiplayer versus battle mode. Graphically, the game looks like a 6th gen version of LttP, with sprite art clearly taken from the SNES original, but running at a higher resolution and often pushing much, much more on screen than the SNES could ever have done. The game sometimes loads the screen with enemies, which is fun to see. Fitting the multiplayer focus, the main game in FSA is level-based. Yes, instead of following one big long quest as in normal Zelda games, in this one the game is broken up into levels and worlds. At the end of each level you have a score screen showing which player did best in several categories, so you and your friends can compete while supposedly working together. In single player this is kind of pointless, but the level-based design actually does work. I didn’t really mind the level breaks, and it gives you some good stopping points too. IT’s fun to see how well (2d) Zelda gameplay works in a more arcadey level-based design. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, and partialy because of it this game does not feel like the equal of full, main-series Zelda games, but it’s a reasonably long, fun game with great gameplay and good design. The game is more fun with multiple people of course, but even alone this is a good game. In single player you control all four Links at once, interestingly, so you can change their formation and the like; it’s necessary, because many puzzles require your four Links to be lined up in one or another of the formations. Each character can also carry one item at a time, so you’ll need to think about which one you want, or need, the most at any given time. FSA’s puzzles are not the hardest, but the game does require you to think some, and that’s a good thing. Of course, they get trickier the farther you get in the game. Dealing with four Links, fighting the monsters, and working your way through the levels is great. Classic Zelda gameplay really does work very well in this kind of game! NIntendo should make another game like this, with online play support and better single-system multiplayer. I think it’d work very well. FSA may have some issues, but gameplay is definitely not one of them! Zelda is my favorite videogame series for a reason, and the gameplay is at the core of it. The series’ usually-awful stories sure aren’t part of that, and no, this one is no better; it’s generically terrible “rescue the princess” LttP/FS rehash stuff. Pretty bad. Fortunately, as always in the Zelda series, the fantastic gameplay makes up for that. The game may be linear and multiplayer-focused, but FSA plays just as well as any other Zelda game, and the linear structure works. It isn’t quite as great a game as Wind Waker or Twilight Princess, but FSA should not be overlooked and often forgotten, Zelda: Four Swords Adventures should be remembered as the great game it is. Oh, as for the Japan-exclusive mode, the third mode is called “Tetra Trackers”, and uses voice commands to tell the players to go to places, where they look for items. Nintendo cut it out instead of bothering to dub over the voice samples. Idiots.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time / Master Quest, The 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Ocarina of Time is, of course, the greatest video game ever made. This release, Zelda: OoT / Master Quest is a bonus disc, not sold at retail but instead included with various bundles and such. This was also the first ever release of OoT: Master Quest, a second-quest version of Ocarina of Time with harder, remixed dungeons. As a result of that, the discs’ price has always been high, but it was worth it to get Master Quest! Now the Master Quest is also available in OoT 3D on the 3DS, but this was its first release as it was never released for N64 or 64DD (which it was originally being designed for). The original plans for 64DD Zelda were much more ambitious than this, but Master Quest really is just OoT with remixed dungeons; there are absolutely no changes in the overworld — only the dungeons are new. Either this was made for this release (putting in the parts of the 64DD gmae that had been done, namely the remixed dungeons, or something like that), or the scale of what was intended in Master Quest got scaled down at some point. Either way, it’s too bad that the rest of the 64DD games’ promised features are not here, but Majora’s Mask did some of those things anyway, and what is here, remixed dungeons, is really cool. The new versions of the dungeons are interesting, and any OoT fan absolutely must play through Master Quest! It’s really weird and interesting to see these new dungeon remixes, since everything looks the same as usual at first glance, but the puzzles, encounters, and the way you go through the dungeons is entirely different. It definitely takes some getting used to, and that’s the point. The emulation here is good, as well; no real issues. Of course it’s not quite as fun to paly this on a GC controller as it would be on an N64 controller, but otherwise, Zelda: OoT/MQ is great, and still probably worth getting for series fans. The other GC Zelda collection, a pack with the two NES and the two N64 games on the disc, isn’t as interesting, though; it’s missing LttP (“buy it on GBA instead!”) and the GB and GBC games, sadly, and doesn’t have Master Quest either. Majora’s Mask particularly is also buggy, apparently. I skipped that collection, and now it’s probably really not worth it unless you must have all GC Zelda releases. Because it has Master Quest, though, and was the games’ first release, this collection is. Ocarina of Time is still the best video game ever made, after all, and this is a great port of the game with a full new second quest! N64 port collection (one released game and one unreleased) also remade on 3DS in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The1 player, 480p progressive scan support. The Wind Waker was the first Gamecube Zelda game, and it’s been controversial from the start. The game is a 3d action-adventure game, and it’s a good one. Zelda is my favorite game series, and I like this game, but I have some issues with it; I like Twilight Princess quite a bit more, overall. The Wind Waker does have some strengths, though, including mostly good art design, the original setting on a large ocean, and one of the better stories in a Zelda game. When announced at E3 Wind Waker’s announcement was something of a debacle for Nintendo, though, as everyone was expecting the ‘realistic’ Zelda game of the previous E3 techdemo, but instead we got a cel-shaded game with a young kid Link. I was one of the many who was disappointed by Wind Waker’s announcement, and did not buy the game at first; I got it a year or more later, used. Once I finally did play the game I liked it more than I expected. Sailing is fun, and the game has a solid structure with the large ocean and islands to explore and occasional Zelda dungeons to work through as well. However, the game has some real issues, most notably an almost complete lack of any challenge whatsoever. I’m not the greatest at games, often, but beat The Wind Waker without dying more than once up until I got to the final boss. That’s really, really pathetic; thanks to reducing down how much damage you take per hit, taking away some things that used to hurt you and replacing them with single quarter-heart hits (pits, for example), and more, enemies are less able to damage you and unless you really mess up, any semi-competent game player should not die almost ever in this game, at least up until you fight Ganon. There’s no harder mode, either. The Wii U HD remake apparently does have a harder mode, which would be welcome, but I haven’t played that myself yet. One other thing this game introduced is timed button-presses in combat — hit A when the icon appears on the screen to knock off armored enemies’ armor, and the like. In this first game this can mostly be ignored; the only enemy in the entire game that requires you to pay attention to those popup A indicators is the final boss, Ganon. You can, and I did, get up to that point without ever using the A attacks; those armored knights also lose armor if you circle around them and hit them from behind. This also adds a bit of challenge to the game, in having to circle around the numerous armored enemies instead of just hitting A to knock off their helmet and then killing them, but not nearly enough of it given that I still never died apart from one boss where I accidentally wasted my healing bottle and Ganon, where I had trouble learning the timing for A presses since I’d been ignoring them all game. I love the Zelda combat system, but this slightly QTE-ish ‘hit the button when the prompt appears on screen’ thing was not a good idea. Fortunately, though, the normal weapon and item combat is as great as ever. The challenge is one of the things I like about Zelda games, so that this game, and also The Minish Cap for GBA, almost entirely excise challenge from the games really is a huge problem. The Wind Waker is disappointing in other ways as well. With only six dungeons, WW has the least dungeons of any Zelda game apart from Majora’s Mask, and that game had other things to make it a longer experience; The Wind Waker does not. The Wind Waker is too short and tries to make up for this by adding in a long, not very fun make-work map collection quest late in the game. Give me the other two dungeons instead, Nintendo!

The Wind Waker is set on the seas over a sunken Hyrule. The game is set long after Ocarina of Time, in the timeline adult Link abandoned by going back to the past at the end to avoid the disaster Ganon’s rule over Hyrule had been. While Link defeated Ganon at the end of the game, Ganon comes back later and there is no hero to stop him. The backstory is told by a nice old-looking set of paintings at the beginning, and it’s a pretty interesting one. Ingame, the game has a mostly good story, marred only by the usual Nintendo sexism; your major goal in the beginning of the game is to rescue a girl (your sister) and at the end it’s to rescue another girl (Zelda). The writing and backstory at the end about what happened to the old Hyrule is great, though, and the story is good, stupid sexism aside. Tetra, a pirate girl who (shock! Or not) turns out to be Zelda, is a pretty good character while she is Tetra. As Zelda she gets kidnapped of course, but Tetra is otherwise one of the stronger female Zelda characters, though that’s not saying all that much sadly. During the game, you explore the seas on your small boat, a talking boat which calls itself the the King of Red Dragons, and he is a character in the story as well. As for the game, the world is a large square grid, and there is one island in each square, conveniently enough. Some people found the sailing boring, but I didn’t mind it; really, sailing around the world was fun! I don’t like the boring, plain-looking flat blue water texture, but otherwise I like the sailing. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating that you can’t go underwater in this game, though! Every other 3d Zelda game allows you to not just swim on the surface, but also dive under the water. Bizarrely, this ocean-based game does not allow that; you can only swim on the surface or dive straight down to collect an item, nothing more. Horrible, horrible design failure there. I know the ocean would be huge, but it’s incredibly frustrating and annoying as it is! That there is one island per grid square is also a bit too convenient, though at least they are not all in the same place on their square. Some islands are plot-critical locations, while others hold the usual Zelda adventure areas, with small puzzles to solve that give you some item when you figure out how to get to the chest in question, perhaps with a required item. There are occasional enemies to avoid or attack on the seas, so there is something to do there beyond just sailing. Once you do get into one of the dungeons, they’re classic 3d Zelda dungeons, just without any of the usual challenge. The layouts and puzzles are as fun and well-designed as usual, though. The game has some sidequests to do as well, including a photo-collection thing, but I never cared enough to bother with it so I’m not sure how it works. There is also something about taking plants from a starting point to various destinations, but again, I did very little of this. Overall though, despite the issues I have with it, I like The Wind Waker. I don’t like the game nearly as much as some people do, but it is a pretty good game with some definite strengths. It’d be fun to see another major 3d Zelda game set on the seas again sometime. Remade on Wii U as TLOZ: WW HD.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, The 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Twilight Princess was Nintendo’s last Gamecube game, and what a sendoff it is! Easily one of the best games of the generation, Twilight Princess is a spectacular epic that is one of Nintendo’s greatest accomplishments. I still do slightly prefer Ocarina of Time, but Twilight Princess is easily the next-best 3d Zelda game, and one of the best games around as well. TP took years to develop, and its original announcement at E3 2004 was really, really incredible. Watching that E3 announcement video now, of the cheering and long ovation that accompanied the games’ announcement trailer and Miyamoto appearance, still is pretty amazing, and is my favorite E3 moment ever for sure. Finally, the “realistic Zelda” that we had been waiting for! By the time TP released, I was hugely hyped for it, and I got TP for Christmas in ’06 just after its release. The game almost lived up to the hype, but did have a few issues, particularly in the story (again!) but also in the games’ very slow opening hours that caused me to not play the game for many months after reacing the second dungeon, but when I finally got back to the game in later ’07, the game finally opened up and became the incredibly great game that it is, story aside. Twilight Princess has the best art design ever in the Zelda franchise, and its gameplay, inspired by Ocarina of Time, is some of the best the series has ever seen as well, if you can get past the slow, railed early hours of the game. I know that some people prefer WW to TP, and at first I wasn’t sure which I preferred, but over time, as I got farther into the game, it became more and more clear — TP is the far better game, no question.

Link this time starts out as a farmboy, before getting dragged in to greater events and, as with all Links, eventually saving the kingdom from evil, of course, with the help of Midna, a mysterious female twilight imp who travels with you. The game is set in a large open world, much larger than OoT’s, and once the game finally lets you explore it, after the second dungeon, it’s one of the best in the franchise. There are some people who find TP’s world empty or boring to explore, but I couldn’t disagree more! Every area is loaded with interesting things to see or do, and the central city is pretty cool as well. The games’ art design is spectacular and always beautiful, and both the concept art and ingame art is easily my favorite ever in the franchise. Midna is a great character as well; she is easily one of, or the, best female Zelda characters ever. Link has is usual human form and can ride his horse Epona again, but also can transform into a wolf in this game. While in wolf form, Midna rides around on wolf-Link’s back, and you attack with her twilight powers, but in human form she just hides in Link’s shadow and is a standard helper character who tells you where to go and such. It’s a nice mechanic, and wolf Link is pretty cool. The Twilight creatures and world are great as well. The place as this weird art style which really stands out from Hyrule’s traditional fantasy design. The game plays great of course. All of the 3d Zelda games have essential similarities in design and gameplay, despite their differences, and they are all really great games with great graphics, just about perfect controls, fun worlds to explore, great, simple combat, and traditional Zelda item systems where you get an item in each dungeon which you will then use there and at some other points in the future afterwards. Twilight Princess isn’t as hard as the N64 games, but it is much more challenging than Wind Waker, and dying IS possible — I died plenty of times in this game. When you die, as in WW, you only go back to the door of the room you died in, though, so the death penalty is very light; in the N64 games you are sent back to the entrance of the dungeon. They should have done that here too, but just boosting damage levels back up was a great move. The game has more moves as well, and you learn more as the game progresses, which is nice. The game really improves hugely on the ‘A prompt’ thing from the previous game; where in WW the A moves were not all that well integrated into the combat system, I thought, this time they’re a natural part of the game. As much as I disliked the A moves in WW, in TP they’re great and work well. The additional moves you learn during the game add some more variety to the combat as well, and of course in wolf mode attacking with Midna’s twilight attack is completely different. TP has lots of variety in its combat. Item combinations even make a return, for the first time since the Game Boy/GB Color games! Yeah, it’s pretty great. This game has a full lineup of dungeons, too; no missing dungeons this time! Dungeons are full of enemies and puzzles, and the later dungeons are among the best 3d Zelda dungeons ever. Diving is fortunately back, after being absent in WW, too. The standard Zelda items return, but new ones like the magnetic shoes are cool. As in all the 3d Zelda games, there are various side-quests to do as well, including collecting bugs, doing minigames, and more. I haven’t done most of the collection stuff, of course, but I found the minigames and sidequests more interesting and fun than those in Wind Waker.

As for the story, I know that this is a relatively minor part of the game and I should instead be talking about the incredible gameplay, great dungeons, fantastic world, and more, but my issues with the story had a big impact on my initial opinion of the game as a whole, so I have to get into this. TP’s story it is okay to good, but has some frustrating issues, as always in the series. First, Link. When Link is in human form, basically Midna tells you what to do, and Link obeys; he doesn’t really do much of anything on his own in this game, I thought. He’s not one of the more interesting Links. Ganon’s role here is very generic as well; there are no interesting elements to his story here like there are in Wind Waker. Zelda is in the game as well, but her role is one of the biggest disappointments of the game — while Zelda technically rules Hyrule here, she’s locked away in a tower and appears only a few times in the game. Zelda is unhappy about a difficult decision she had to make, and takes almost no part in rescuing her kingdom, even though I think she should have; at the end of the game, as in WW and some other Zelda works, she helps in the final battle, and shows that she is indeed competent, if she’d decided to move past her mourning. That they instead keep her as a princess in a tower when that didn’t need to be is very, very frustrating. This Zelda has both combat magic and archery powers! I was hoping that TP would be the Zelda game to finally start breaking the series from its usual sexist writing, but it isn’t. As with OoT, TP, and SS, the female characters are sometimes strong, but all four games ultimately devolve into rescue-the-princess, essentially. Maybe someday Nintendo will move beyond Miyamoto’s “a good plot is a guy rescues a girl” idea of plot design. My main criticism about TP is that Link, Zelda, and Ganon are all somewhat weak characters in this game. The two original chracters, Midna and Zant, are more interesting and better-written, but ultimately, unfortunately, their story gets subsumed by the traditional Zelda character trinity. It’s too bad. Still, TP’s story does have some good moments and twists, and the incredible graphical design of the game helps as well. WW’s story is slightly better overall, but TP’s is good, much better than I thought it was at first. I may be critical here, but of all Zelda games, only WW, LA, and maybe MM definitely have better stories; OoT is about even with TP plotwise, and the rest are worse, mostly MUCH worse. Midna is a great character, and might be the only major female character in a Zelda game who never gets kidnapped and turned into an object for Link to rescue! Also, Zant is a good villain. The way the game ties to OoT is quite interesting as well; essentially this game happens at around the same time as WW, but in a different timeline branch, in the world which Child Link returned to to warn everyone about Ganon. It’s surprising, and pretty intresting, that the cute-styled WW is actually the ‘bad future’ version, while this bleaker-themed game is the ‘good future’. Nice twisting of expectations there.

Overall, Twilight Princess is one of the best Gamecube games, and one of Nintendo’s best games as well. It looks fantastic, plays even better, and builds on Ocarina of Time’s gameplay formula in great ways. The game is not nearly as original as OoT is, which is part of why I do like OoT more, but otherwise, TP really is just as incredible a game. I love the world, the gameplay, the dungeons, the art design, Wolf Link and Midna, and more! TP is better than WW in every way apart from the story. Twilight Princess is absolutely incredible. There is also a Wii version of the game. The GC version has camera controls and left-handed Link, while the Wii version has widescreen support, not-the-greatest motion controls (swing Wiimote to attack), and a mirrored world for its right-handed Link. Play it on GC, where it was originally intended. Also on Wii.

LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game2 player simultaneous. Lego Star Wars was the first of the Lego games by Travellers Tales (aka TT Games), and it started a series which continues today. The TT Lego series has become a yearly one at minimum, with some years seeing multiple releases. All of the games play very similarly — they are beat ’em ups, essentially, with some platforming, puzzle, and action elements. The core of the game, though, is wandering around and hitting things. It’s a simple game, clearly aimed at a young audience, and it’s okay, but not great. I may have loved real Legos as a kid, but the video games have rarely interested me, for various reasons, and this, ultimately, isn’t much of an exception; Lego Star Wars is an okay game, but it’s definitely not good, it’s just average at best. The level designs are simplistic, bland, and too-often disappointing, and the gameplay has no depth at all. Just wander around, follow the path, and beat up or shoot the enemies. There’s nothing more to it than that. However, the game is a Star Wars game, and it is a pretty amusing one. This game goes through all three films of the prequel trilogy, with ~7-8 levels per film. I know most Star Wars fans hate the prequels, but as a big Star Wars fan, I’ve always thought that they are good. Sure, the classic trilogy is better overall, but I like the prequels a lot too, and each of the three is better than the one before it. No words are used in the cutscenes, and instead the cutscenes are full of amusing pantomime comedy. I think the wordless style worked great, but later they would add speech to TT Lego game cutscenes. The game looks good as well — this is a nice looking Gamecube game, and it plays as well as it looks within its limited aims. Occasionally you have to ‘build’ a Lego object to get past an obstacle, but this is pretty pointless. You just select the next part, and the next part is shown on the model so there is no room for error or actual choice here. I can’t call this a “puzzle”, just a stupid minigame. Many people seem to like these set-building interlude bits, but I don’t much. This is nothing like building an actual Lego set! The biggest issue with the game is the overly simplistic gameplay and level design, though. I know it’s aimed at kids, but the levels are sometimes not too fun to play through. The game would be better with more depth and variety to the combat, level designs, and puzzles. Still, I do like Lego Star Wars. It’s a decent game, and I had some fun with it if just because it’s Lego and Star Wars, despite the games’ simplistic and lacking design. The main downside with this version of the game is that there is a better version. The Wii version is recommended over this one because it includes the first and second Lego Star Wars games on one disc, and also lets you play as any character from either game in both titles, which is nice. The Gamecube versions are good as well, though, so if you find this cheap, consider it. Also on PS2, Xbox, PC, and Wii.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The 2 player simultaneous. The second of EA’s two Lord of the Rings hack and slash beat ’em up action games made for the great early ’00s movies, The Return of the King is a quite fun game, much like its predecessor (The Two Towers) is. Both games look great and play well. These aren’t the most complex games, but they’re good fun in single or multi player, and they do have more depth than some beat ’em ups, since the game has a blocking system. You choose which character you want to play as, depending on which are available in that level, then go out there and chop up some orcs! Do learn to block, though. Holding a button blocks attacks, but more importantly, one of your attacks is just for enemies which have their shields up. I often find blocking-based battle systems kind of bad — see Star Fox Adventures or Beyond Good & Evil — but this one works; it’s simple enough to be fun, and adds some depth to a genre which usually has little of it. I like that you do need to pay attention to what the enemy is doing, and you have a block-breaking attack, so use that on enemies which are guarding, and normal attacks on other enemies. Of course, different characters have different attacks, so Gandalf has some magic, while the others don’t. This adds some variety to the game as well. All of this is very much like its predecessor. EA’s The Two Towers game was successful, and this game follows its formula, and it works just as well the second time. These games really have great presentation! I like the live-action video clips from the movies, and all the music and voice acting sounds like it’s right out of the films too. The game starts by seamlessly transitioning from movie clip to gameplay, which is cool, and there are plenty more movie clips later, as the game goes through the story. This is a fun hack-and-slash beat ’em up based on a fun formula which works well. With good graphics, solid gameplay, video clips, music, and audio from the films, and solid, if entirely linear, level designs, EA’s two LOTR beat ’em ups are some of the better licensed games of their generation. It’s really too bad that I didn’t buy either one during the GC’s life, because I’d have liked them a lot! At least I do have both of them now. Multiplayer hack and slash action-RPGs in the Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance vein were a popular subgenre in the 6th generation, but this game is simpler than those. The game has some basic RPG-ish elements, but this is pretty much a beat ’em up. That’s fine, this game is pretty good just as it is. The Two Towers game seemed to get more attention than this one, for some reason, but Return of the King is just as good of a game. Definitely pick this one up if you like this kind of game at all. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Lost Kingdoms2 player simultaneous (in battle mode). Lost Kingdoms is a card-battle action-RPG from From Software. RPGs with card systems in them were fairly popular on the Gamecube, and this is one of the better ones. Lost Kingdoms is a short game, but it’s a lot of fun and I’ve always liked it. In the game, you play as princess Katia, and you have to save your kingdom from evil using magical cards which can summon monsters or attack your foes. You have a limited deck, so make sure to use the card-recharge stations, and be careful when using cards — once you run out, you’re basically dead! Katia cannot attack herself, so you have to rely entirely on the cards. Lost Kingdoms has random battles, so when running through the world sometimes you will be dragged into a fight. Fights wall off one section of the level, and that walled-off section is where you fight, so it doesn’t go to an entirely separate battle screen. I like this way better than the usual one. Strategy and action both are important, as you have to avoid enemy attacks, but also play your cards in the right places for their types, and collect the mana-recharge items enemies drop as well. Standalone helper cards play a monster which wanders the area itself, fighting your enemies. Weapon cards do a direct attack, so you must be in the right position to use these. Other types have other effects. You’ll need to learn what the cards do to do well in this game, both during fights and for when you choose which cards to put in your active deck. I’ve never really played collectable card games, but I liked the challenge of learning the cards and figuring out how to use them well. The combat and battle system are great, too. Lost Kingdoms is pretty fun, and is challenging at times for sure. The game does have a few issues, though. First, the graphics are mediocre at best; the Gamecube can do much better than this. Second, the game IS short. There are some challenging optional levels late in the game, but otherwise this game won’t last over 10-12 hours probably, for a single completion. The game does have some replay value, and the multiplayer battle mode is great fun if you know someone else who knows how to play the game (there is a learning curve!), but this is a short game. Lost Kingdoms is a very good game overall, though. Katia is a good character, the battle system is fun and interesting, and the card system adds some nice strategy. Recommended. Lost Kingdoms also has a sequel, also for the Gamecube. It’s somewhat uncommon, sadly, and I never got it. It has a new main character girl who I don’t like the design of quite as much as Katia, but does get rid of the random battles in favor of visible enemies, which would be nice, and keeps the same basic game design.

Luigi’s Mansion 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Luigi’s Mansion was one of the Gamecube’s launch titles, and it was a disappointment. My favorite color is green so I’d always liked Luigi, but when he finally got a game… sorry, I know this game has fans, but this is another one that I don’t like much at all. I skipped Luigi’s Mansion back when it came out, and got other games early on in the GC’s life instead. I finally picked the game up within the last year or two, and my caution earlier on was entirely justified; this game isn’t that fun. What IS Luigi’s Mansion, though? Well, it’s a ghost-hunting haunted house game. The game makes heavy use of the GC’s second analog stick, and with its short length and limited design, definitely feels like the launch title it is. The games’ graphics are fantastic, though; the visuals are probably the best thing about this game. It’s too bad that the gameplay isn’t anywhere near as interesting. There are two elements to this game, exploring the mansion and fighting ghosts. The exploration elements of the game are okay, but simple and limited. You can interact with various things in each room, which is nice, as I like adventure games. There’s not too much to do here, though; the focus is on trying to find those ghosts, so you can find Mario since he went missing in the mansion. When you do find the ghosts, you use your ghost vacuum with the right analog stick to keep focused on the ghost. This isn’t particularly hard and I don’t find it much fun either. You can’t jump in this game either, which is quite annoying. No jumping, in a Mario game? Really? And that’s really all there is; explore the mansion, fight ghosts, and try to find what items you need to progress through the mansion. Rinse and repeat until it ends after just a few hours, if you manage to stay interested that long. There are some people to talk to, but the story’s not all that interesting. I know some people like Luigi’s Mansion, but I don’t get the attraction much. This is a subpar adventure game with nice graphics and not very good fights. Skip it.

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! 2 player simultaneous (in circuit mode) or 4 player simultaneous (in battle and race modes), 480p progressive scan support. Mario Kart: Double Dash, like some other GC games from Nintendo, had a lot to live up to — this simple but fun arcadey kart racing game is a sequel to Mario Kart 64, one of the best and most important racing games ever. Much like Wind Waker and Mario Sunshine the game does not quite live up to the quality of its N64 predecessor, but it is a pretty good game despite that. Double Dash’s main unique element is that it has two people in each kart. The main use of this is that each one can have a different item, so you can hold two items, a nice addition to the series that they unfortunately have not brought back since. The two-person karts look kind of odd compared to the way you expect Mario Kart karts to look, but you get used to it and the game has good, though not amazing, graphics. The game has a ‘snaking’ technique for going faster for the best lap times, but I’ve never tried to learn it myself. I do like the expanded character roster, though — there are many more choices here than MK64! Even so, though I really liked Mario Kart 64, when Double Dash released I wasn’t too interested; it seemed too similar to Mario Kart 64, and the ways it was different, like the two-person karts, weren’t enough. I did play it a few times then though, and the track designs didn’t interest me as much as Mario Kart 64’s either. When I finally got the game some years later, I realized that MKDD was better than I’d previously given it credit for — Double Dash really is a very good Mario Kart game. It isn’t one of the best in the series, certainly, but it’s a very good game that any kart racing fan absolutely should play. The game has the usual number of tracks, so there are plenty here, and they’re designed well. I do like the tracks in other Mario Kart games better, but these are good. The multiple-items thing is a nice addition, and seeing the two people swapping in the kart is amusing too. And the core gameplay is standard Mario Kart 64 stuff — the controls, handling, and game design are taken straight from MK64, and that’s a good thing given how great that game is. As in all Mario Kart games, the real durability of the game is multiplayer, but there are circuits to win and best lap times to try to match. In multiplayer, there’s a nice co-op mode in the campaign (seen again in MKWii and MK8), 4-player splitscreen races, and 2-4 player battle mode, with battle levels much like in MK64. Unfortunately once again there are no bots in battle mode, but otherwise the multiplayer is good. It’s similar to other 3d Mario Kart games, but good. Overall MKDD may have been a bit too safe, other than the two-person-karts thing, but still, what’s here is good even if it is very much like MK64, just not quite as amazing. Karts handle well, and the game is easy to play. Of course you will often get hit by something right before you were going to win, but that’s Mario Kart, so you expect it. If Mario Kart wasn’t kind of random it probably wouldn’t be quite as fun as it is, as odd as that may sound sometimes! Overall MKDD is a very good game and I like it, but I still think that it’s my least favorite polygonal 3d Mario Kart game. But all of the 3d Mario Kart games are amazing, so the game is still great despite that.

Mario Party 6 4 player simultaneous, supports the Gamecube Microphone (optional), 480p progressive scan support. There are four Mario Party games on the Gamecube, numbers four through seven, but this is the only one I have; Mario Party games are surprisingly expensive, and they’re fun once in a while, but not enough so for me to pay what most of them cost. Fortunately, I found this one cheap, and I’m glad to at least have one of the GC Mario Party games. It’s nice that it’s one with microphone support, too; it’s definitely an amusing option. The Mario Party series is a minigame collection boardgame series. There are several game modes, but the main game on the main boards is the best one. You move around a board, competing in many minigames, as you try to go through certain spaces that have stars on them. Tt the end of a set turn limit one player is declared the winner based on how many stars they have and various other semi-random metrics — Mario Party games have always been quite unfair. You can be in the lead entering the final tally, and lose after someone else is given the special stars for winning the most minigames, getting the most money, etc. And of course, you move by die rolls and many of the minigames have random elements to them as well. Mario Party is fun, but never fair or predictable, but that heavily luck-based nature is just how the series is. Mario Party 6 has okay graphics. None of the Mario Party games look all that great, but it’s clearly better looking than the N64 games, anyway. There are some characters to choose from, again more than the N64 games, and plenty of minigames to play on several different boards. The basic gameplay is the same as ever, so you go around a large board, trying to get on the paths that lead to the next star, while hoping that the other players don’t mess with you… but they will. If you pass over a key space, like a bank, star, event, etc, you will stop, so you don’t need to land precisely on those spaces, thankfully. Some spaces have minigames on them, and there’s also a minigame for all players at the end of every turn. Mario Party is always a minigame-heavy game, more so than some supposed minigame-collection-boardgame titles, and that’s a good thing because it keeps the game varied and fun. As for the microphone, some special minigames support it, only in multiplayer mode of course. It adds to the amusement. On that note though, as always in the franchise, this game is very heavily geared for multiplayer play. You can play by yourself against computer AIs, but it won’t be anywhere near as fun as the game is against other humans. This is a real issue, for sure — good single player matters, particularly in games which do not have online play, as Nintendo of course did not in the 6th gen even though Sony and Microsoft both eventually did. Nintendo’s failure to adapt to the internet quickly enough was a big problem. Even so though, Mario Party 6 is a good game. I rarely play it, because it’s not much fun in single player and I have only sporadic chances to play multiplayer against people locally, but it’s well worth having a GC Mario Party game for sure, and this is a fun one. I don’t know how the other three GC Mario Party titles compare, though.

Mario Power Tennis: New Play Control (Wii)4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. This is another game that I only own the Wii “New Play Control” version of, and don’t have for Gamecube. I have played the Gamecube version, though, and it’s the same game apart from the controls, which probably are better on Gamecube anyway; this game was not designed for motion controls. They work, but not as well as in tennis games designed for the Wii. But as for this game, Mario Power Tennis was the first Mario Tennis game that I ever actually played, since a friend at college owned it, while I’d never cared to look up the Mario sports games up to that point. Playing this didn’t make me want to do that, because I was not impressed. Mario’s Power Tennis, from Camelot, may look nice enough, with those classic Mario graphics, but I don’t like the gameplay very much, and only played it the few times I did because that friend wanted to. This is why I was so surprised when I played the N64 Mario’s Tennis game years later and actually liked it; I was expecting to kind of dislike it, like its sequel here, but I like it a lot more than this one. So, how did they mess it up? The thing I probably dislike the most about this game are the super moves. The N64 game didn’t have those, so it plays more like tennis, but in this game, with the addition of super moves, it’s something entirely different. Once you charge a super move, you can use an unblockable strike that’s essentially guaranteed to win you a point. This is a tennis game of course, so you have to hit the ball back and forth and try to get it past your opponent in order to win a point, and the whole super-move thing completely changes the way the game plays, for the worse in my opinion. And even outside of the super moves, I don’t think the game plays quite as well as its N64 predecessor either. The game pace is different, and I don’t like it as much. There are more characters, and more tournaments to play, and also some special ‘gimmick courts’ with even weirder rules, but that doesn’t matter much when I don’t enjoy the gameplay very much. I bought the Wii version for cheap, meaning to give Mario’s Power Tennis another chance because I had by that point bought, and quite liked, the Mario Tennis games for N64 and Virtual Boy, but no, I still dislike this game. It’s not that great. Also on Wii, which is the version I actually own. On Gamecube and Wii.

Medal of Honor: Frontline 1 to 4 player simultaneous (in battle mode). Medal of Honor Frontline is the first 6th-gen console Medal of Honor game, and the next MoH game after the very popular and successful Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for PC. Unfortunately, this game is nowhere near as good as Allied Assault. It wasn’t going to be, because of the limitations of dual-analog console gamepads for FPSes, but just as bad is that after Allied Assault, that games’ developer, Infinity Ward, left EA to go work on the first Call of Duty. This game was, instead, made by the other MoH team, who made most of the Medal of Honor games apart from Allied Assault, and they just aren’t on Infinity Ward’s level. So, expect a linear shooter with relatively small areas, closer to the PS1 MoH games than it probably should be. The graphics are decent, though; this game looks alright. No complaints there for an early-ish game that is surely a PS2 port. Of course, I also completely hate the controls, as I expected. I have always greatly disliked dual-analog FPS controls, and this game is no exception! I found myself struggling with the controls the whole time I was playing this game. I’m sure console FPS fans wouldn’t have this problem, but the sticks are so imprecise and it’s hard for me to hit much of anything, and moving while shooting with two analog sticks just is not intuitive for me at all. Yeah, I’m awful at this game, and in Normal it took quite a few tries for me to beat the first level, sadly enough. If you die in a level you restart the level, so there’s a definite frustration factor here. Yeah, no infinite respawns here, this isn’t a current-gen game in that way at least! That’s kind of good, in that challenge is a good thing, but also frustrating. Of course, it’d be less annoying if I was having more fun playing the game. The game does try some interesting things, as it has missions for you to complete, instead of just ‘get to the end of the level and kill everything’. However, sometimes the missions aren’t obvious. The game has ingame help, if you press down on the d-pad, but you shouldn’t have to press the ingame help button just to figure out what you should be doing! The voice instructions from other soldiers are not always helpful enough; for instance, in the first level, you first talk to the guy, and that’s easy, but next you have to help four guys by firing at bunkers. It took a while to figure out that they are marked by small columns of smoke. The second level changes things up and instead is a series of linear cooridors, but that just made the game feel even more dated. So yeah, I don’t like this game very much, but I wasn’t really expecting to. It’s not awful, but I can’t help but compare it to the vastly superior PC FPSes of the late ’90s and early ’00s, and if I want a good shooter on the Gamecube, this is my least favorite of the few I have. If you find it for $2 like I did and really like FPSes, though, maybe consider it. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Mega Man Anniversary Collection 1 or 2 player simultaneous (depending on game). The Mega Man Anniversary Collection is a collection of the six NES Mega Man games, Mega Man 7 for the SNES, Mega Man 8 for the Playstation, and also the two Mega Man aracde games as well. Unfortunately the Game Boy games and Mega Man & Bass were left out, but what’s here is fantastic! The MMAC collection does have some issues, and now most of these games have been re-released for various download services, but at the time of its release this was a really great collection that I bought and loved. I have a NES now, but because of their high prices I’ve only bought one of the NES Mega Man games, a copy of MM2 I found cheap sometime, so this collection is still my only version of the other eight games on this disc. Mega Man is one of my favorite platformer franchises, so it was fantastic to get so many of the games all on one disc. The emulation of the games on the disc is good, but it’s not perfect — there are weird borders around the edges of the screen that slightly reduce the amount of screen area when compared to playing the games on actual hardware, and there are some minor emulation issues here and there. Games don’t look quite as good as they would on the actual systems; I think they may have used unhelpful filtering you can’t turn off. Having saving in Mega Man 1 is fantastic, though! On the NES, you’d have to play through the whole game in one sitting, but here it saves after each level. This makes the game much more fun. With the other games it saves as well, but there it’s just saving your passwords. Helpfully you can view your passwords too, if you want to write one down to access more than one point in the game (since you can only have one save file per game at a time) or to back up the password in case the memory card fails or something. The controls are just as they are in the original games, except that A and B’s functions are reversed. Many people hated this, but I quickly got used to it and don’t mind it at all overall. In addition to the games, the collection also has a pretty cool menu system — instead of just a standard menu, you actually control Mega Man in the ‘menu’ interface and go through doors cooresponding to each game or option you want. The menu music is great as well, which is pretty cool. This has to be one of the better menu interfaces in a game! Of course though, the incredible games are the biggest draw. The NES Mega Man games are all incredible. Mega Man 4 has always been my favorite, but the rest of them are great as well. The Mega Man games are often challenging, but they'[re not impossible; some people over-rate NES Mega Man difficulty, I think. The games are often hard, but some other, newer Mega Man games, like MM&B, the MM Zero series, and others are much harder. The fifth and sixth NES games are kind of easy, too, which is kind of disappointing. Otherwise they’re just as good as the first four, but the challenge level goes quite a bit down. Mega Mans 7 and 8 aren’t as good as the NES games, unfortunately, and the ports aren’t as good either — this version of MM7 is missing some minor graphical elements, and they chose to port the PS1 version of MM8 instead of the slightly better Saturn version, and 8 isn’t as good as the games before it on any platform anyway. Even so, it’s great to have those two games here. The two arcade games are great inclusions too, and they aren’t so easy to find legally elsewhere. Both games are essentially 1-on-1 Mega Man fighting games. You play as Mega Man or Proto Man, and fight a sequence of bosses from various NES games, with much better graphics here than in the originals of course. The music is all remixed as well. There are no levels here, only bosses, and it’s not as challenging a game as the main platformer series is, but they are two fun arcade games, particularly in multiplayer. Definitely unlock them and check them out, they’re good. Overall, the MMAC is great and I really like it. This game wouldn’t happen now, because they’d rather sell you each of the games for a much higher total cost, but it’s a very good collection worth considering. There are also PS2 and Xbox versions of the game. Each platform has slightly different bonus material (not games, but extra stuff on the disc), and the PS2 and XBox versions also put remix music, like that in the arcade games, into the levels in the original games in the remixed mode. The GC has this mode, which also adds some conversation bits and makes some things easier I think, but it doesn’t have the remixed music, probably for disc space reasons. I don’t mind too much about this because I’d never use that dumbed down mode much anyway, but it is too bad it’s missing. Also on PS2 and Xbox the buttons aren’t swapped, for people who have a problem with that. Still, this is a great Gamecube game, and I love having this mostly-complete console Mega Man series collection for the Nintendo system. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Mega Man Network Transmission1 player. Mega Man Network Transmission is a side-scrolling 2.5d platform-action game. This game is one of Capcom’s only Gamecube-exclusive releases, but unfortunately it’s not very good. There are many RPGs based on the Mega Man Battle Network franchise based on the anime of the same name, but only two platformers, this game and one from Bandai on the Wonderswan Color. Neither one is good, sadly. MMNT is part-platform/action game, and part story title. You play as Lan, a boy in a modern-ish (Japanese anime) world, and Mega Man, his digital robot helper guy. The game levels take place in the net, where you play as Mega Man, but there are some interlude bits in the ‘real world’ where you tell Lan where to go. Lan’s friends and their digital robots are in the game as well, and the game has quite a bit of story, as should be expected for a game based off of an anime. The writing isn’t particuluarly interesting and I don’t care all that much about the characters, but it’s average for the genre and audience I’m sure. If the gameplay was great, the story parts would be fine. Unfortunately, MMNT’s gameplay is badly flawed. The biggest problem with the game is that you start out VERY weak. If you’re patient, grind, and manage to get past the early parts of the game you will eventually get powered up and become much stronger, but at the start this is a painfully unfun amd obnoxiously designed and frustrating game. Of course, a game which is harder at the beginning than in the middle or at the end is pretty poorly thought through, but that’s what this game is. The worst thing about this game is that with the basic Mega Buster, normal enemies take ten or twenty shots to kill! It’s absolutely ludicrously stupid. Instead, to actually hurt enemies, you need to use special weapons, in the form of chips… but chips are limited, and at the start you have almost none. So, be prepared to spend a lot of time shooting enemies over… and over… and over. It’s bad. And it’s hard early on, too — the fire level and Guts Man boss is quite tough and had me stuck for a long time. Getting the will to actually keep going in such a frustrating and unfun game wasn’t easy, and I eventually quit. Past that the game does start to get easier as you get more and more chips, but the basic design flaws are still there. A well-designed ‘card’ (chip, but it’s the same thing effectively) system, as in Lost Kingdoms, adds to a game and makes it better and more interesting. But a poorly designed one, like in MMNT, ruins it. Beyond the flawed gameplay, MMNT has average at best graphics. This game is 2.5d, but it’s a completely flat world — don’t expect any twisting levels or anything, you won’t find them. Level graphics and enemy design are fairly bland, and level designs aren’t much better. There really isn’t any element of this game that stands out as great, while the initial hours stand out badly the opposite direction. MMNT is not all bad, as there is an okay platformer here buried under all the flaws, but I’m not sure if it’s worth trying to find it or not. Maybe, or maybe not, it’s close. On the one hand it is a Mega man game and I do like Mega Man a lot, but on the other hand this is one of the least fun Mega Man games I own… ah well. Mega Man was clearly on the decline in the 6th gen, as his two PS2 action games (MMX7 and MMX8) weren’t that great either. It was sad to see the fall of one of gaming’s great characters. Overall you can do worse than MMNT, but it’s too flawed for me to enjoy much. This is a poor game.

Mega Man X Collection 1 player (in most games) or 2 players (in the racing game). Mega Man X Collection is the second Mega Man classic collection. This time, it includes Mega Mans X1-X3 (SNES), X4-X6 (Playstation), and Mega Man: Battle & Chase, a previously Japan-only PS1 racing game that actually is an original-series Mega Man title and not X, but they didn’t put it in the previous collection so here it is. It was nice to see, even though it’s not the greatest game. Really this collection also should have had Mega Man Soccer (SNES) in it! It’s too bad they left it out. The main draw here, though, are the six MMX titles in the collection. Mega Man X was the first major new Mega Man series after the original one, and it started on the SNES. The first Mega Man X was a pretty great game that I’ve always liked a lot, both on SNES and where I first owned it, in its later PC release. All three SNES X games are pretty great. The first is the most original, of course, though. It’s similar for the PS1 games, except there X4 is the only great one; X5 is flawed, and X6… is kind of a disaster. I love Mega Man X4, though! I first got the game on the PC in the late ’90s, and it is a great game with very good 2d graphics, good level designs, and lots of fun. It was very cool to see a much better-looking version of a Mega Man X game. MMX4 is great. The voice acting is comically terrible, of course, but the gameplay holds up, just as it does in the SNES games. Mega Man X is basically like Mega Man, but with much more of an emphasis on storytelling and the addition of Zero, a second character who has a sword instead of a gun, a new villain in Sigma instead of Wily, and a wall-grab move whch lets you slide down, and jump off of, walls. Sometimes you also have an air dash. These additions really open up the levels a lot, and X feels more maneuverable than the original Mega Man. There are still eight levels in each game, which you can play in any order, and you still have to figure out the best order to play the levels in, as each boss is vulnerable more to one specific weapon. The X games are difficult, much harder than the original series — even the easiest X game is harder than probably any of the NES Mega Man titles. As a result, I’ve beaten all six of the NES games, but actually the only X game I’ve beaten is X4… I’ve gotten to the final boss of X1, but didn’t beat him, and haven’t tried again in many years now. X2 and X3 are great, but I haven’t played them nearly as much as the original. X5 I gave up at at the near-impossible (unless you cheese him) Black Demon boss in one of the Sigma levels, and X6 is near-impossible all around and isn’t worth the pain of its incredibly frustrating levels and hard bosses. As for negatives, apart from the disappointment that is X6, the porting job is similar to the first Mega Man collection above — it’s okay, but not perfect. If you can afford it, buying the original titles will look better as these have small borders and some slight emulation degradition to the image quality, but this collection is much, MUCH cheaper than the SNES carts particularly! There are no control changes or missing features versus the PS2 version this time, thankfully. Of course, those games are also re-released for digital services, but those won’t get you Battle & Chase. The game is a somewhat average 3d kart racing game, sure, and isn’t anything special, but it’s amusing enough to be worth having for sure, at least for series fans. Also on PS2; the two versions are about the same as far as I know.

Mega Man X: Command Mission1 player, 480p progressive scan support. This game is the Mega Man X RPG. I was annoyed at hte time that we got this spinoff RPG, but not Mega Man X7 and particularly X8. I wanted to play those games, but didn’t have a PS2 and the PC versions weren’t released in the US, unlike X1, 3, 4, and 5. Annoying! You STILL can’t easily get the PC versions of X7 and X8. We should have gotten X8 at least, either instead of this, or also. Ah well. As for Command Mission, though, it’s an okay RPG. The game has sharp graphics thanks to the 480p support, but environments seem to all be tiny cooridors. Sure, they look nice, but there’s little graphcial variety, and extremely small areas. The very limited scope there betrays this games’ likely low budget, for a JRPG. The story is about X and co. going to stop some rebels called the Rebellion which are trying to take over. You need to stop them, with the assistance of the Resistance, who oppose the Rebellion but are kind of hopeless without you. Why is it two “Re” groups? Use naming variety! Did this have a translation budget? And on that note, the English voice acting is appropriately terrible. Perhaps that should be expected, because all of the other Mega Man games with voice acting have horrendous VA, but in this RPG I was hoping for better. Don’t. I don’t know if the Japanese voice acting is any good, you can’t listen to it in the US version, but this is some of the worst voice acting I’ve heard in a Gamecube game.

The game is also extremely linear and mostly straightforward. This game is not hard or complex, but it does play okay. It’s easy to play, even if there isn’t much to it. MMX Command Mission has traditional turn-based JRPG gameplay, complete with random battles and everything. The encounter rate is annoyingly high, unfortunately. It can be quite a pain. You control X, but have eight other characters who join your party as well, including Zero, Axl (from X7/8), and some original characters. A few are even female, unlike any of the regular MMX games. That’s good. In battle, turn order is shown on a bar on the bottom of the screen; this game uses a speed system for determining turn order. You have normal attacks, and special moves which use power from a meter which recharges 25% on each players’ turn. You can use one special attack and one normal one each turn, if you remember to hit the special attack button first; it can’t be pressed after normal attack. You can also do a charge shot which uses up as much of your meter as you want, and hits all enemies for more damage. E-tanks exist i nthe game as a health storage device; winning fights and getting pickups charges the tanks, which you can pull from at will in or out of battle as needed. You also equip weapons and armor, and there are items as well, though the E-tanks at least keep you from having to constantly buy health items. Once you learn the mechanics combat is simple and kind of fun, but the game doesn’t have much depth. This is a simple game and doesn’t aim high. It’s apparently not all that long either. Still, this isn’t a bad game. It does look alright, and the voice acting is sometimes entertainingly bad. Overall this is a simple game, but it’s playably decent, I guess. It is nice to have at least one of the non-collection PS2 Mega Man games also on Gamecube, and this is definitely a lot better than X7 is. Also on PS2.

Metal Arms: Glitch in the System4 player simultaneous (in battle mode), 480p progressive scan support. Metal Arms is a really good third-person shooter from Swinging Ape Studios, a team that was bought by Blizzard after making this game. And with a game this good, I can see why they were interested. Metal Arms is a funny and very well-made game set on a planet entirely inhabited by robots. There is a war going on, and your side isn’t doing very well, so the army is scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for ‘volunteers’… and your robot is in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets dragged in. Of course, you quickly grow in ability and surely will save the day in the end. Levels are linear, but the areas are large enough that you can explore a bit and sometimes get through areas multiple ways. The shooting action works about as well as it could on a console, but that’s not much praise. I wish that there was a PC version of this game, for sure, as dual-analog controls are not very good for shooters, and I frequently struggled with the annoying twinstick controls. Perhaps worst of all are the driving controls, which bizarrely require you to use both analog sticks which driving! It’s not good. But apart from that, the controls work about as well as anything in the genre on consoles; the problem is playing games like this on gamepads. Otherwise, though, this game has no significant flaws. The graphics are quite good. The robots all have great personality, and environments are good-sized and detailed. Audio is just as good, and those cutscenes are often quite amusing. And the level designs are good as well. This game isn’t short, and working my way through the levels and getting past all of the encounters and challenges in each one is a lot of fun. This is a third-person shooter, but it has light puzzle and platforming elements as well, which helps keep it more varied. The game has a pretty good four player versus mode, too. So, overall, definitely get Metal Arms! It’s a great game. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Metroid Prime 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Metroid Prime is surely one of the best console games ever. A spectacular epic from Retro (assisted by EAD), Metroid Prime is one of the generation’s defining games and is one of the best 2d to 3d transitions ever in a series. The game is a first-person action/adventure game, essentially, based on Nintendo’s classic Metroid series, and once again you play as female space bounty hunter Samus Aran, who is alone on a planet once again with a difficult mission to accomplish. It is sometimes a shooter, but also requires exploration and puzzle-solving, and there is also a substantial amount of optional story/background text to read. The game is stunningly beautiful and has some of the best graphics of its time. The art design and direction are second to none, and the music is perfectly fitting and is just as great. It’s a hard game that I have always struggled with, but even though I’m kind of bad at it, I really love the game anyway. The difficulty really is the only bad thing about Metroid Prime, though; other than the frustration factor when I died over and over sometimes, this game is utterly incredible. Metroid Prime’s controls are somewhat unique, but they work. Instead of standard twinstick controls, you move with the left stick, aim up if you hold a shoulder button and use the left stick, and lock on to enemies (and strafe) with the other shoulder button. The right stick is used for switching weapons, and you fire with A and use missiles with B. I think it actually works pretty well, but of course I don’t like twinstick FPS controls. The game plays even better on the Wii with motion controls, but it’s a great game on Gamecube as well and has a few visual effects they had to remove from the Wii port for some reason.

As in all good Metroid games, Metroid Prime has a large gameworld with many branches, hidden areas, and areas only accessible with a specific item. It is also broken up into various themed areas, from the landing area to the fire area and such. Every so often you fight a boss, and they are tough. Of course, as you progress you get items, including the morph ball (a ball form), various suits and beams (weapons), more missiles, and such. I had some trouble dodging things with morph-ball boosts, but otherwise it all works great. One beam will attract in any powerups dead enemies dropped when you charge it, which is quite helpful. Initially you have many powerups, but the game conveniently strips them away early on, to explain why once again you have to start with nothing. Ah well, in a game that’s inevitable. The game has a wide variety of enemies, many with specific weaknesses. You can also use a scanner to investigate enemies, objects, or various terminals lying around. These scans give you information about the object being scanned or tell you some world backstory. I loved the scanning system, and always tried to scan everything I could. The game also has a good mapping system, with a nice map of the world showing images of all the rooms. It will also tell you your current objective room, but won’t tell you how to get there. I thought that this was the perfect balance of direction and openness — I always knew where I should be heading, but not how to get there. The game nails the perfect balance between directionless and too railed. People who really hate even this minimal direction can turn off the indicators and figure it all out on their own, but I wouldn’t have any fun that way myself. But fortunately, you don’t have to. Some memorization is required, though — some areas require specific items to progress past, and these usually won’t be in target rooms. So, try to remember obvious things, and after you get major new items explore around again. Traversing the game will take a lot longer here than in a 2d Metroid game, and it’s much harder (for me at least) as well, but I like this game more than the 2d Metroids overall. I like 2d Metroid a lot, but I don’t love it as much as some, while I do love this game. The game world is so incredibly well-designed, with lush environments, interesting writing in the scan data, jumping puzzles that actually work in first-person, amazingly enough, lots of exploration and combat, fun morph-ball play in the ball form, many enemies to fight all incredibly well-designed, and more. Near-perfect game. Also on Wii, with slight graphical downgrades but improved motion-aiming controls, in the Metroid Prime Trilogy collection.

Metroid Prime 2 Echoes — Bonus Disc (& mention of Metroid Prime 2 in Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii))Bonus Disc – 1 player. MP2 Wii – 4 player simultaneous (in battle mode), 480p progressive scan support). Because of how hard I found the first Metroid Prime I never got the second game for Gamecube because I heard far too much about how hard it was, but later I did get the Wii collection, Metroid Prime Trilogy… and yes, it’s a very hard game. Probably too hard. It looks and plays spectacularly, but the difficulty is too high. The game looks absolutely beautiful, but I’ve been too intimidated by its difficulty to get far into the game. The multiplayer mode is okay, and it’s nice that they added it. Having more maps available without having to unlock them in the game would ahve been great, but it’s alright. Metroid Prime is a better single player than multiplayer game, but it does work, even if it’s not one of the best multiplayer FPSes like the series is in single player. This isn’t the game, though, just a preview bonus disc I got somewhere. It has a few amusing promo materials on it, but no actual game to play, and is certainly not essential. I do have the full Metroid Prime 2 on Wii in the Metroid Prime Trilogy collection. Bonus Disc is GC only; I own this. MP2 is on GC and Wii. I have it for Wii.

Midway Arcade Treasures1-4 players (depending on game). Midway Arcade Treasures is a large collection of classic Midway and Atari Games arcade games. This includes all of the Midway and Atari Games games from the PS1/Saturn Midway collections (not the Atari collections, the Midway ones), plus more, all in one! So, you get a lot of early ’80s games, and a few mid to late ’80s ones as well. Yes, this is a compilation of previous compilations with more stuff added to it on top of that. That means it’s the kind of collection Namco has still never made, for some stupid reason. This collection even has all of the video interview extras from the 5th gen games! Unfortunately there are no new videos on this disc, and that’s really too bad because this means that only the games from those collections, and not the new ones, have videos, but still, they’re great to have. The game has some other extras as well, pictures and the like. There are also some options, such as difficulty levels in games and the like. You can also change the controls. There’s no savestate function here, but the game does save your high scores thankfully. As usual for compilations, the emulation isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough for the most part. Digital Extremes, who made this and many other classic compilations, never did great work, but it is competent here. The main issue here is controls; some of these games were not meant for a gamepad, and there’s not much that could be done about it. Super Sprint, for instance, isn’t nearly as good as the arcade game thanks to the controls; a console analog stick is nothing like a free-spinning wheel, and the game is hard to control. Other games play better. My favorite games on this collection were Super Smash T.V., Robotron 2084, Sinistar, Satan’s Hollow (good static-screen shmup in one of its only home console appearances), Blaster (very cool rail shooter for its time!), Gauntlet, Defender, and Defender II (Stargate). Defender is one of the best games ever made, it really is. Gauntlet is another of my favorite games of the ’80s as well. Incredible, incredible classic. Other games on this collection include Bubbles, Tapper, Super Sprint, Toobin’, Joust, Joust II, and some more. I’ve never loved Joust, myself… it’s okay, but not great. Bubbles is fun, but simple. Unique concept though. Toobin is okay but I’ve never found it too interesting. Overall I was pretty happy with MAT1, but did wish there was a bit more to it — perfect emulation, better controls in games ilke Super Sprint, savestates, and videos for all of the games and not just some would have been great. Still, though, this collection is absolutely worth getting! It’s got lots of games in it, and the porting quality is solid. The videos that are here are interesting, too. MAT1 is pretty good. I did get this game after it released, and it was well worth it. I didn’t get MAT2 because I didn’t think the games in that collection looked as interesting (I do have it now, but on Xbox), but I did get MAT3. It… didn’t turn out as well as the first one. Collection of arcade ports also on PC, Xbox, and PS2; most of the games are also available in other collections for other platforms.

Midway Arcade Treasures 3 1-4 players (depending on game). MAT3 was the last of the Midway collections that generation, and it’s a collection of eight racing games. The number of games in the collection is far less than the previous two, but the games in the collection once again include some of the all-time classics. Sadly, the emulation quality in this collection is terrible, and the controls are not great and cannot be changed — accelerate and brake are permanantely mapped to L and R, and the GC’s L and R buttons have a lot of resistance and aren’t great for long play sessions. MAT3 is, overall, a major disappointment! I really can’t recommend this collection for any reason other than getting a pretty good version of Super Off-Road. Super Off-Road is a three player max single-screen topdown racer, and it’s one of my favorite arcade racing games ever, no question. In the arcades the game is one of the best. Here, the game suffers because of controls — the game really needs its free-spinning wheel — but it handles better than Super Sprint, which is good. This collection has both the original Super Off-Road and the followup Track Pack whcih has new tracks and a second vehicle type, dune buggies. Sadly they didn’t get the “Ironman” Ivan Stewart license, so his name has been removed from the game and his car has been renamed as well, but he’s still on the title screen, albeit with mustache and sunglasses added. It’s kind of amusing. As for the rest of this collection, there’s Badlands, a two player bland topdown racing game. The Dreamcast version of Hydro Thunder is here (see my N64 review). It’s one of my favorite racing games ever but not quite as great here as it was on the Dreamcast (more loading, performance issues, controls). Still, it’s one of the better games here, though I would rather play it on Dreamcast. It has two player splitscreen, just like on DC, so no four player sadly. The Dreamcast version of San Francsico Rush 2049, my favorite racing game ever made (see my review in my N64 list), is here as well, and with four player splitscreen, but again, it’s not quite right in this port. The game has some framerate problems, first; it’s not nearly as smooth as it is on DC or N64, probably, particularly in multiplayer. Load times are longer, also, as usual in this collection, and those controls are NOT good as always in MAT3. Also, while N64/DC Rush 2049 is better than the arcade original, it would have been really fantastic to see arcade Rush 2049 S.E. on this disc; really, that should have happened! It has different gameplay from the console game, different shortcuts, no wings, and more. The gmae has no console ports, so it’s really unfortunate it wasn’t included here.

Next is S.T.U.N. Runner, a pretty good ’80s racing/shooting game with early 3d graphics. I quite like this game, it’s fun. Of course I love futuristic racing games, but this is a good one. You’re mostly driving down tubes, shooting enemies and trying to beat the clock. Simple and good. Next is Race Drivin’, the sequel to Hard Drivin’ (which is in MAT2). This is an improved version of Hard Drivin’, which was one of the first polygonal racing games ever. This game is pretty much the same as the first one, but with more tracks, which is nice. However, this is a game which really is better in the arcades; pressing a “turn key” button just isn’t the same as turning the key i nthe arcade cabinet, and a gamepad isn’t an arcade wheel. The port is okay, though. Not perfect, but good enough. I like this, but I don’t have the nostalgia for it that I do for Hard Drivin’ (though it’s got the original track in it, so it’s basically the same but better), and again, better in the arcades. The last two games on the disc are straight arcade ports, and the developers were too lazy to bother figuring out how to get splitscreen working, so they are tragically single player only. These two games are San Francisco Rush The Rock: Alcatraz Edition and Off-Road Thunder. Rush the Rock is my favorite arcade racing game, only barely beating out Super Off-Road, but somehow here it just isn’t as fun. Sure, the graphics are arcade-perfect, but with annoying load times, no multiplayer, and none of the N64 version’s great extras such as the points championship mode or collectables to find in the levels (soda cans, etc.). Just like in the arcades, it’s a single race only game here. Of course, you also have to use a gamepad instead of an arcade wheel, which is not quite the same. So, this is a great game, but I’d rather play the N64 version despite is comparatively dated graphics — I much prefer a version of this game with more features and multiplayer. Still, this is fun once in a while. Last and least is Off-Road Thunder. While this game is sort of Hydro Thunder’s “sequel”, it’s nowhere near as good as the first game, sadly. In the arcades, about the only thing I really liked about this game was the multiplayer, but of course that’s gone now, which kind of ruins this game. It’s an arena car racing game, so it’s lap-based instead of mostly point-to-point like Hydro Thunder is. It works, but this game isn’t by the Hydro Thunder team, and it shows. It’s got weapons, and the game is more about luck and competing with friends than anything great. And with no multiplayer, championship mode, or anything else other than bland single races, the game doesn’t hold up well. Also the port is awful and has performance issues and the longest load times of any game on this disc, disappointingly. This collection is the only ever home console release of Off-Road Thunder, but it should have been a lot better. I’d recommend playing Arctic Thunder (Xbox version) instead; it’s kind of like this, but a lot more fun. Overall, MAT3 is okay, but very badly disappointing because of how awful the performance and control problems are. This should have been one of the best collections ever, because it includes four of my favorite racing games of all time all on one disc (Hydro Thunder, Rush 2049, Rush the Rock, Super Off-Road), but every game has issues, and some have serious ones. Don’t get this for Gamecube. Supposedly the PS2 or Xbox versions might be slightly better, but I haven’t played them myself so I can’t say. Arcade and Dreamcast port collection also on PS2 and Xbox.

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance 2 player. MK: Deadly Alliance is the fifth Mortal Kombat game, and brought the series back after a several-year absence. I’ve never been a Mortal Kombat fan, and aren’t any good at any MK games. I found the concept of the original MK interesting, but didn’t really want to play it much; I’ve always preferred Street Fighter. Even now, I’m still completely terrible at 2d MK. This game started a new MK series of 3d fighting games, though, and they play very differently from the early ones. This is a fun but not overly complex 3d weapon-based fighting game. It’s okay, but not as good as Soul Calibur based on what little I’ve played of it. I still haven’t spent a lot of time with this game, though. Each character has several modes with different attacks, and it plays fine, but doesn’t keep me coming back. MK games have never done that, though; MK2 is my favorite one, but I’m not much better at that one than any other MK game. These 3d ones are probably actually easier than the old 2d ones, with straightforward 3d fighting action. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Mortal Kombat: Deception2 player, 480p progressive scan support. MK: Deception is the second of the 3d MK games. The third one, Armageddon, isn’t on Gamecube (though it is on Wii), but the GC did get the second game. MK: Deception is a decent 3d fighting game and is better than the MKDA, so it’s good to see on GC. There are more characters and better graphics in this game compared to Deadly Alliance, and better overall gameplay as well. There are also more modes. While MKDA was just a fighting game, with no additional features of note, this game has a full RPG-style quest mode (with MK battles of course), and also a Puzzle Fighter-ripoff puzzle game as well. Also, the GC version of this game has a couple of exclusive characters, including Goro. The game had no online play on GC, unlike the PS2 or Xbox, but got playable Goro instead. Well, the online modes in the other releases are now long-dead, so today the GC is definitely the best version to have, features-wise! The gameplay is very similar to the first game, just with more characters and some improvements. These are not great games, and don’t have as nearly as much depth as a Soul Calibur, but they are fun and straightforward weapon-based 3d fighting games, with some definite challenge to them if you want to get good. I like the quest mode as well, and puzzle fighter is great of course. The game is also on PS2 and Xbox. Those versions have an alternate special edition release with a second disc that has the full arcade version of the original Mortal Kombat, and some bonus character-info materials. I don’t think this released on Gamecube. Still, I’ll take the added playable characters over that. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Mystic Heroes 4 player simultaneous (in battle mode), 480p progressive scan support. Mystic Heroes is sort of a cartoon fantasy China Dynasty Warriors-style 3d action beat ’em up game from Koei, the same publisher as Dynasty Warriors, but this game is somewhat different from its inspiration. Instead of being on a huge battlefield, battlefields in Mystic Heroes are a little smaller and a bit more tightly designed; here they feel as much like game levels as they do true battlefields. Fewer soldiers are on screen as well, but each one is tougher. As in Dynasty Warriors though, you do lead troops of soldiers, and there are allied forces on the battlefield as well — just less of both. There are also gates, bosses, turret emplacements attacking you, and more. Just as importantly though, this isn’t a one-button-plus super game like the Dynasty Warriors games are! This game has more depth in its combat system than those games do, and is, as a result, more fun. Instead, it’s got attack, strong attack, jump, and magic. You have several different spell categories, including a ranged one, melee, and jumping attack one, and can customize which spells you want to take with you in each mission. You unlock more spell runes as you play through the game. Combat in Mystic Heroes is repetitive, but the magic really helps keep things varied. I like the spells a lot, and the fun cartoony fantasy China setting is great. It’s also important to explore the levels looking for items and runes you can use. The gmae has two different campaigns, each following two of the four main characters. You choose one to play as, and the other is AI-controlled. It’s an anime-esque adaptation of a classic Chinese story, I believe. This is a pretty good game I had a lot of fun with. The graphics are okay to good, art design is good, story is decent, and gameplay is fun. The game does get tough, though — it may seem easy at first, but Mystic Heroes is a challenging game for sure! The games’ occasional bosses can be particularly tough. It’s worth the effort though. This game is a good, fun game. I do wish that the game had a two player co-op campaign, though; you always have an AI ally, but oddly another player cannot control them. The only multiplayer mode is a separate battle mode where all four players compete on a limited number of single battle missions. After really enjoying this game I went to try some Dynasty Warriors games, but with their much simpler and less interesting battle system and huge open battlefields, they really aren’t the same kind of experience at all. I like this game a lot more, which is why it’s unfortunate that it never got a sequel. It should! It’s good. Also on PS2, where the graphics aren’t as good but there are a couple of little extras added (it was a later port of this GC original).

Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. The first of the pretty good Clash of Ninja series of 3d fighting games from Eighting, the first Naruto: Clash of Ninja game is good, but is the worst of the series. Sort of like Power Stone, the first game is two player only, while its sequels are all four player games — and the four-player matches are great and really add a lot to the game versus this games’ two-player-only matches. The character selection is small, too — there are only a handful of characters to play as in this game. The gameplay, though, set the good standard that the rest of this series on Gamecube and Wii would follow. The CoN series, known as Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen in Japan, are easily the best Naruto games, and this was true from the start. I’m not really a Naruto fan, as endless shonen battle mangas or animes almost never hold my interest, but it’s amusing at times and I did watch some of the anime back in the mid/late ’00s, so I do know the characters. Naruto: Clash of Ninja is a 3d fighting game, but it has 2d elements — instead of just freely moving around in 3d, as you do in some 3d fighting games, in this one you move on a line with your enemy. You can dodge into or out of the screen, though, and some moves affect things in 3d, so it’s not a 2d game, but basic movement is towards and away from the enemy, and up is jump. This design simplifies the game and makes it easy to play, and it works well. The game has some special moves, all with simple activations, somewhat in the style of Smash Brothers. You have a super-move charge meter, and once charged up you can use a super move which does more damage, if it hits. As with all moves, these are easy to activate, either a single button or a button plus direction. Some later titles add slightly more compexity to the moves, but it always stays very, very simple and easy to understand, and that is a strength of the series — it does not have that “you must learn the hard-to-learn moves” bar that most fighting games do, but it does have solid gameplay despite that. The super-moves have canned animations can get old after a while, since they’re the same every time, but they are fun to see a few times at least, or more if you like the character I’m sure. CoN is designed to be accessible, which makes sense for an anime license game, but somewhat uniquely for its field, it’s actually good! Anime games are rarely good, but this series is one of the exceptions. Naruto CoN is simple and straightforward, but it’s a good, fun little game. The game has several modes, including a story mode which goes through the beginning of the anime complete with full voice acting from the English-dub anime voice actors, arcade mode where you just fight a sequence of battles, 2 player multiplayer, and a few more. There’s nothing too original here, but it works. Story mode is short, so it won’t take much time to get through (a couple of hours, maybe, at most), but if you like the game, there is replay value in getting the extras and, much more substantially, playing the sequels — there are eight, and sort of eleven, Naruto:CoN/GNT games. The US got this game late, because the anime started here long after Japan, so we only got the first two Gamecube games. If you’re only going to get one get the second, but this one is super cheap and is a decent game as well.

Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. The second Naruto: CoN game is very much like the first game, except with three and four player support, more characters to play as, and a story that continues the anime’s plot after the end of the first game. There are four Gamecube CoN games, but because we didn’t get US releases of them until 2006 because of when the anime started, this was the last GC release in the series. At least we got one of the four player ones, though! This is a pretty good game with a decent selection of characters available and great four player fun. The later Japan-only Gamecube games and the Wii games have even more characters, but this one is definitely good. The basic gameplay is the same as the first game, except with a button added to switch between which opponent you are in line with; yes, the 2d-line-based movement system returns, as it does in every game in the series, and the solution to multiple opponents is to let you switch between them. It works. The rest of the controls are as simple as ever, with a couple of attack buttons and easy-to-do special and super moves available. No quarter-circle moves here, much less anything more complex than that! Yes, the CoN games are not deep, complex fighting games which will keep serious genre fans interested for a long time, but they are fun games, great for party play and okay in single player as well. The four player mode really puts this above the first one, though all of the Wii games have four player support as well, and the same controls too; they even support a Gamecube controller, if you’d rather play with that. As far as the story goes though, the five US releases tell a continuing story, so there is value in playing the games in order. Interestingly, the first two US Wii games are sort of GC/Wii hybrids — they take the gameplay of the first two Japanese Wii games, but the story and characters (mostly; some are missing or switched out here and there) from the third and fourth Japanese Gamecube games, for plot reasons. In Japan all four Wii games are in the second post-timeskip Naruto series, Naruto Shippuuden, but here only the last of the three we got is. The last US one isn’t exactly a port either; it’s not just the first Japanese Wii game, it’s sort of a hybrid of the first (story) and third (gameplay) ones. Yeah, it’s weird. As a result though, all four of the Japanese Wii games are worth a thought for those who import games and like this series’ style. On the other hand, having just one or two of them, either this one or some of the US Wii titles, will do just fine from a gameplay standpoint — unless there’s a specific character available only in one game that you really want to play, the basic gameplay does not change all that much from game to game, unless you use the Wiimote motion controls in the Wii titles of course instead of a Gamecube controller. I usually use the GC controller, myself. This game has 23 playable characters, which is quite a few. CoNR1 on the Wii has only 20, while the original CoN for GC has only eight. It is too bad that Tenten isn’t playable until the first Wii game (or third Japanese GC game), though. I really like how she plays in these games. Ah well. Anyway, Naruto: CoN2 is a pretty good game. There isn’t too much to say about the gameplay because apart from the addition of four characters it’s the same as the first game, pretty much, but it’s a good same. All games in the series after this game play very much like this one, so they knew that the formula worked. It’s too bad that we didn’t get the rest of the GC Naruto GNT games, but at least the somewhat oddly remixed Wii games were made, and this game is good too of course. Naruto CoN2 is a cheap game and is surprisingly fun. Don’t expect a really deep and complex experience, certainly, but the game does require some strategy and thought. The Clash of Ninja/GNT series is one of the better anime videogame serieses, and all of the games are fairly high-quality, well-designed titles. This series is best in multiplayer, so if you have some friends over, play it!

Need for Speed Underground 2 player simultaneous (in single races), 480p progressive scan support. Need for Speed: Underground rebooted the NfS series into a “tuner”-themed franchise. This is a racing game set in a city, and it’s always night here — no daytime racing in this game! This game has some live-action-video cutscenes, as the tuner NFS games all have, and they tell the basic story. You’re some (unseen) guy, and are here to be the best racer around, of course. There’s a girl, rivals, etc. Nothing all that interesting, though it is kind of … either amusing or annoying, it’s really some of both… that EA used live actors. At least the graphics are quite nice. It was a popular and successful game, and the NfS series stayed tuner-themed through the ’00s. I always greatly disliked the “tuner” concept and turned against the series because of this game, though. I do have this, but didn’t get any more of the tuner NFS games until very recently, and I still don’t have the other Gamecube ones. Despite my dislike for the concept, though, NfSU is a solid racing game in many respects. The graphics are great, first. This is definitely one of the better-looking Gamecube racing games around, and the lighting and visual effects look very nice. The controls are solid too; this is a very arcadey, drift-heavy game, and the controls are right in that style. I don’t love the controls, as a little bit tighter controls would be better, but they’re okay. The game has some variety as well. You aren’t just racing around circuits, but also competing in point-to-point races and various race types with different rules as well. The game is entirely city racing, not circuit racing, but it’s not open-world, not yet (later games would get there) — this one has courses which are walled off with arrow barriers, sort of like in Burnout but with much better graphics. Burnout has better gameplay and design, but Underground certainly does look better. In the game, you can choose from several races at any time, and progress by completing enough races to unlock more. It is nice to have some choices about what to do most of the time. The constant annoying rap music and tuner-culture junk ruins the game, though. Even without that I’d wish for slightly different car handling, more than four cars in each race (yes, it’s limited to that small a number, sadly), and daytime racing, so the game does have other flaws, but its style is the worst part of it — the earlier NFS games were fantastic, but this one changed the series, and I greatly disliked most of those changes. Now, I’d say that based on the gameplay this is an okay game. I really dislike its style and most of the music, but based on its gameplay and graphics it is an okay game anyway. But still, even though they look much worse, I’d far rather play either GC Burnout. They have better style, handling, and game design. No annoying live-action segments, either! Also on PS2, Xbox, and PC.

Nintendo GameCube Preview Disc1 player, supports GC-GBA connection cable. Does not support saving. This is a demo disc, and the only one for the GC available to the general public; other GC demo discs were for demo-stations only. Nintendo’s inability to understand that demos were important was a big problem on the Gamecube, and fortunately they did start realizing that some games, at least, needed demos on the Wii and DS. On the GC though, this is it. What’s on it? Well, several demos, and some demos you can download to a GBA as well. For GC, there are Billy Hatcher, Splinter Cell, Soul Calibur II, and Sonic Adventure DX. There are also some video trailers of other games. For GBA, there’s Dr. Mario and Wario Ware. The GBA games are fully playable, but only as long as you keep the system’s power on of course; they’re just stored in memory. You get the whole basic game of Dr. Mario, but not the Puzzle League half of the full GBA release, saving, or the other modes. Wario Ware gets you just some puzzles of this amazing title (I got the GC version below instead of the GBA version, ultimately). Billy Hatcher’s demo was fun, I like 3d platformers. I review it above, as I bought it later on, some time after getting this disc. Splinter Cell is a stealth action game, and it didn’t make me want to buy the game, and I haven’t — I still own exactly zero Splinter Cell games. Sonic Adventure DX, it was fun to finally own a Sonic Adventure version, but after hearing about how the GC version was a downgrade from the DC original, and remembering how short Sonic Adventure 2 for GC was, I passed on SADX for GC; I did make the original DC version one of my first purchases after buying a Dreamcast in August ’07, though. Soul Calibur II is the top reason I got this, of course. It has a couple of playable characters and several matches to fight. I was really interested in Soul Calibur II, and indeed, after playing this demo I loved the game! I bought Soul Calibur II later, and really loved it. It’s still the best game in its pretty good franchise. Overall this is a solid demo disc, but it should have been one of many demo discs that I don’t review in detail because there are so many of them, as with PS1 or Xbox demo discs. It’s absolutely crazy that Nintendo didn’t figure out that making demo discs was a good idea, but somehow they did not. Ah well.

Odama 1 player, microphone + microphone clip required (both are included with game), 480p progressive scan support. Odama is a weird 2006 release published by Nintendo. Essentially, it’s a strategy / pinball game with a traditional Japanese military theme. The games graphics are good, and fit the traditional Japanese theme perfectly. The game has traditional Japanese art design and music, and the ingame graphics look like they should. In the game, you play pinball with the controller with a giant ball called the “Ninten” (wonder what that’s a reference to! :p ), while giving your troops on the pinball field orders with the microphone. Yes, it’s a weird, weird game! When it released I thought the game sounded interesting, but didn’t actually buy it until I found it cheap several years later. When I did I was glad that I’d waited so long, because while unique, Odama is a very frustratingly difficult game which is hard to get used to and isn’t quite predictable enough to be fun. This game requires very good play to progress through, but playing that well is too hard, and you’ll need luck too. The pinball table battlefields are never larger than one screen, either, which makes them feel small with such a large ball. Yeah, I was somewhat disappointed by this game. Despite its problems Odama is a good game, though, just not as good as it should be. Odama is a short game which compensates for that with extreme challenge. Each mission connects to the last, so the number of troops that survive each level is the number you get in the next one. This means that going back to earlier missions to try to do them better is sometimes essentially required, and doing better at some of these missions is frustratingly hard! I’d much rather be able to just move on to the next level after beating a level, instead of having all the missions connected in ways that make backtracking to improve performance on earlier levels important; I had issues with this in Homeworld (PC) as well. It is easy to kill your own troops with the Ninten, because you’ll only pass through them when glowing green, not the rest of the time. You’ve got to be careful, but can’t control the ball while it’s rolling around of course, so bad things WILL happen. Argh.

On the good side though, while the levels are small, Odama’s levels (tables) quickly get complex. YOu aren’t just shooting at targets, you’re trying to hit water-wheels to drain or fill sections of river, allowing your troops to progress or blocking off the enemy. You’re hitting buildings to hurt the enemy or get boosts. You’re destroying enemy fortifications or running over their troops when they’re exposed. There is always plenty to do, and learning each table will take time and effort; the game gives you some tips at the start, but figuring each one out will take practice. Anyone who is pretty good at pinball would probably have a great time with this game, but I’m only average at best at pinball, and don’t play it regularly enough to improve. Of course though, in addition to the pinball, you also have to give your troops good voice commands. You have several commands you can give, including advance, retreat, move in different directions, and such. It’s not too complex, but successfully multitasking — playing pinball and voice-strategy at the same time — is a unique challenge you won’t find in many other games, so it takes some getting used to for sure and I’m not sure if it ever becomes entirely natural. So, overall, Odama isn’t the great, interesting game I was hoping it would be when it was first announced. The game has worth, and is very unique, but unique doesn’t always mean great, and this is one of those cases. If the game was a bit more forgiving and predictable I’d probably like it more, but I got too frustrated by the losing and by running low on troops and having to redo levels repeatedly to enjoy the game or want to keep trying. There may be only a handful of levels in this game, but it’s a steep, steep challenge to clear. If you’re up for trying, though, absolutely give Odama a shot! It’s definitely interesting at least, and the graphics and visual style are great. Make sure to get it with the microphone and clip, or just the clip if you already have a microphone from Mario Party or such. You could tape the microphone to your controller, but the clip looks much nicer.

P.N.03 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. P.N. 03 is technically a third-person action game, but really in gameplay terms it’s much more like a third-person shmup. Yes, this is another unique and original Gamecube game, this time from Capcom. I think P.N.03 is pretty great — this is a very good game! Sadly the game wasn’t nearly as successful as it should have been, and is thus Gamecube-exclusive, a sure sign of market failure coming from Capcom, a company that ported all of its successful GC games somewhere, PS2 or Wii at minimum. So, many people may not have played this before, but they can correct their mistake now! I’m generally not especially nterested in third-person 3d action games, either of the ’90s or modern “Character Action” styles, but this game, with its much more shmup-inspired gameplay, I like a lot. P.N.03 is a hard game, but it’s the kind of hard game that keeps me coming back again and again as I try to do better every time. It’s a great, addictive game with fantastic replay value. In the game, you play as Vanessa Schneider, a woman with a mysterious past who has a mission to do. The story is very weird and is badly translated; the English in this game is often comically bad, and sometimes just bad. This is a game to play for its gameplay, not its plot! That gameplay is more than great enough to carry the game, fortunately. Vanessa can only shoot when standing still, so in this game you shoot, dodge with the dodge button, and shoot from a new position. Aiming and lockon is easy; it’s avoiding enemy fire while hitting back that is the challenge. It’s very much like shooting and dodging in a shmup; it may seem odd for a third-person shooter to be called shmuplike, but it is. That you can’t move while shooting may sound limiting, but it works great, and the firing system is perfectly balanced for the challenges at hand. You’ve also got a limited super attack, and different suits to choose from with different specialties.

In terms of presentation, P.N.03 looks good, but it has limited graphical variety — most levels take place in similar-looking white rooms. Vanessa looks pretty cool and moves with the beat of the games’ music, and the enemy robots all fit the games’ very white visual theme. Some rooms are outdoors outside of the facility Vanessa is in; it’s a desert, and there is often sand in the air. But you’re usually back inside soon. The game has a room-based design, and you get a score after each room for how well you did in the room. Cleared rooms stay cleared during a mission, if you kill all the enemies before reaching a door. There are two basic types of missions in this game, story missions and side challenge levels. You can do five challenge levels after each story mission, but after clearing the next story mission they are reset, so if you do a story mission without doing all of the challenge levels before it you won’t be able to do those that playthrough, and more missions means more points to spend in the shop, which can be accessed from teh mission-select screen. Here you can upgrade Vanessa’s various suits, each of which has different stats for autofire (do you have to mash the button or not), defense (how many hits you can take), and agility (dodging). At least one unlock requires completing all of the side missions along the way, too. The side missions are always in the white rooms, so they can get pretty repetitive. The rooms are always the same, but their order varies, and as you progress through the game more and more get added to the rotation, which is interesting. There are no bosses in these missions, unlike the story missions. Story mode has more variety, and each story mission has new rooms and, sometimes, settings. You do not always see every area from story missions in the optional missions. Each story mission ends with a boss, and if you run out of tries, it’s back to your last save at the beginning of the level. Yes, P.N. 03 is hard and unforgiving, as expected in this genre. Keep trying, it’s worth it! Of course, beating the side missions will get you more points to upgrade with, but will take more time. I do many side missions, but not always all of them. Overall, P.N. 03 is a weird game, but it’s a successful weird game. I’d call the game a definite must-play. Not everyone is going to like this game for sure — due to its unique design it’s very much love or hate — but give it a try! You might love it like I do.

Pac-Man Vs. 2-4 players, 1 GBA with GBA Connection Cable required, 480p progressive scan support. No single player support. Pac-Man Vs., from Nintendo, was one of the primary games offered as attempts at proving the usefulness of the GBA connectivity cable, along with Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Unlike those games, though, Pac-Man Vs. is a multiplayer-only game and is on its own disc, and was not sold on its own. Instead, it is available several ways, most commonly in a two-pack with the Pac-Man World 2 re-release. It’s also available as a bonus included in the case in certain (perhaps launch or pre-order?) copies of R Racing Evolution, which is where I got it from. Yes, even though Nintendo made this game, it was only released in a couple of packs from Namco, since Namco owns the license. In college this is a game I played a few times, but it never held our attention for long, and even though it only requires one GBA, it’s still more of a hassle than just using normal controllers. As a result, I haven’t played this game all that much, and it’s been some time since I played the game at all, but that’s inevitable with such a limiting design. In the game, one player plays as Pac-Man, on the GBA, while the other three play as ghosts, each with their own window on the TV. Pac-Man can see the whole maze at once on the GBA screen, while the ghosts can only each see the area around where they are. Since this game is multiplayer only, there is no AI opponent. Lazy! The basic rules are fairly standard Pac-Man — the player who is Pac-Man tries to eat all the dots without being caught. The game has decent 2.5d graphics, and there are several different mazes and options to choose from. Still, this game has very limited content. All that’s here are the single levels in this 3-v-1 versus Pac-Man battle mode, and that’s it. The game is a solid concept for an asynchronous multiplayer game, of the type more common on the Wii U, though; the GBA connection cable probably helped to inspire the Wii U gamepad. I much prefer the Wiimote + Nunchuck to the GBA+connection cable or Wii U pad, though, myself. Still, Pac-Man Versus is an okay game, if you’ve got a few people to play it with and the right hardware. It’s worth playing a match or two of before you move on to other stuff. A remake of the game is included in Namco Museum DS for the Nintendo DS; it’s still multiplayer-only, but at least there all you need are several DSes, not a special cable and such. There is also apparently a Japan-only cellphone remake from Namco for mid ’00s Japanese cellphones, presumably also multiplayer-only. Also on DS and Japanese cellphones.

Pac-Man World 21 player. Pac-Man World 2 is a 3d platformer, and unlike the original side-view isometric Pac-Man World (for PS1), this time the game has a more conventional behind-the-character viewpoint. That’s a very good thing, the side-view perspective in the first game made judging depth quite difficult. This game, though, is a fairly decent 3d platformer. Playing as Pac-Man, you run, jump, fight enemies, and collect pellets. The controls are good. Pac-Man handles well, and precise jumping is easy. The level designs are reasonably good too, and have a fair amount of variety. Sort of like Sonic in the 3d Sonic games, you can follow trails of dots over pits, among other things. It’s a well-designed game with good level designs, decent graphics, and solid gameplay. Pac-Man has never managed to recapture his early smash-hit success from the early ’80s, but this is one of the better Pac-Man games of modern times, I think. This is a fairly straightforward game, and you’re usually moving forward along a fairly narrow level. This is not a large open-world game like Mario 64; this is more Rayman 2 than Mario 64, though it’s not at Rayman 2’s level of greatness. The game has hidden areas in the levels and plenty of stuff to collect, including basic dots, special items, etc. This adds some replay value, if you want to more completely get everything from each stage. Pac-Man World 2 is a fun game, but it’s nothing amazing. There are no great original game design elements here, just standard 3d platforming and dot-eating. The story is stupid, too. It’s a very forgettable and generic ‘rescue the girl, beat the badguys trying to take over Pac-Land’ plot. Ms. Pac-Man shouldn’t just be a girl you need to rescue! Sexism… ugh. Still, Pac-Man World 2 is definitely one of Pac-Man’s better modern games. It looks nice for the time, plays well, and is okay to good all around. It’s surprisingly solid for a Pac-Man game! 3d platformer fans should probably pick Pac-Man WOrld 2 up. Also of note is the version that comes with Pac-Man Vs; I don’t have that release, but it’s fairly common, and a good way of getting that disc. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Pac-Man World 3 1 player, 16:9 widescreen support. Considered to be not quite as good as its predecessor, Pac-Man World 3 is still a 3d platformer, but it’s from a different developer this time, and has a lot more beat ’em up in the game than the second one did. Despite its mediocre reputation, I like this game. It’s quite fun! The story this time is that Pac-Man was teleported into the Spectral Realm by Orson, a scientist ghost who is now Pac-Man’s friend, and he has to save the realms from an evil mad scientist type alien guy, Erwin. Basic stuff. The cutscenes aren’t great, but the gameplay is better. Pac-Man World 3 is Western-developed, and the team, Blitz Games (a maker of mostly licensed games, though some of their games, such as Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge and Zapper, are good), decided to put a lot more fighting in the game than Pac-Man World 2 has. The second game does have enemies to fight as well, but this time there are many areas where lots of enemies spawn and you have to either punch them all, or get them all with power pellets. There’s also plenty of platform jumping, though, and the controls in both platformer and combat are good. Jumping is easy; the only reason to ever miss a jump are the sometimes-bad camera angles. Bad cameras are common in 3d platformers, though, so I’m used to it. Combat controls are simple, you just hit the punch button and beat them up. No depth there. I do like the powerups, though. The one that lets you draw lines around your enemies which then explode and crush them is pretty cool. Each level is a mixture of beating up enemies, platform jumping, and exploration. Levels are fairly large and are well-designed. I like the graphical design of the game, and the expansive stages full of dots and powerups make me want to explore them and grab all the dots! The game makes good use of the various powers, including platforms that send you flying along trails of dots (sometimes you need gems to unlock these), switches, areas you can get up with your ability to bounce off of walls to get up narrow vertical passages, pads that activate with the butt-bounce or charged-run moves (Mario 64 and Sonic Adventure inspired, respectively), and such. There are no new ideas here, and all the powers and design elements are fairly standard, but it’s done fairly well. Pac-Man World 3 is still a linear game, as the previous game is, but there are plenty of things to find. Each level has various fruits and some other items hidden around the stages for you to try to collect. The game tells you how many of each item set you’ve found so far. Basic dots abound, but only count for points towards your score. It’s not hard to find most of the stuff in each stage, but finding everything and maximizing your score would definitely add some replay value. I don’t know if I like this game enough to want to replay it, but it is fun enough to be worth playing through a first time. In games like this I always try to find everything I can see the first time through, but only the very best games actually get me to come back and try to get everything. This game isn’t that, but it is fun. The second game might indeed be better, but considering the reviews, Pac-Man World 3 is a lot better than I was expecting it to be. Pac-Man World 3 is not a great game, but it is an above-average platform-action game with solid gameplay, full of worlds that are fun to explore. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is the second Paper Mario game, and it’s a JRPG very much like the great first Paper Mario (N64) was. Paper Mario 1 is one of the best JRPGs ever, hands down. I liked this sequel as well, and bought the game during the GC’s life, but found it somewhat disappointing compared to the first game. Paper Mario is a really, really great game, so this game had a very high standard to live up to. It comes close, but I just didn’t find it quite as fun, engaging, or compelling as the first game, and never finished it; I lost interest midway through and stopped playing sometime during or just after an overlong wrestling-themed chapter. The basic gameplay in Paper Mario TTYD is the same as the first game. As in that game, the game has a very clever concept with paper people in a 3d world. The game makes even more use of that this time, as there are more paper powers and effects showing how the characters really are all on flat sheets of paper. It’s a great effect that the game makes good use of. You’re in a new place this time, as Mario and co. are travelling. Naturally, Peach gets kidnapped (more on this later), and Mario has to rescue her. Luigi is here too, but only as an NPC who tells a long story about his own never-shown adventures. In design and gameplay, TTYD really is more Paper Mario. The graphics use the same style, and the overworld, chapters, interludes, helpers, and battles all work just like they did the first game, except with some changes here and there, some better and some worse. As a result of this this is a much less original game than the first Paper Mario, which is a part of the problem; yes, making more of the same when the first was such a great same is a fine idea, but I like the original better! It’s more unique for its time, certainly.

In the game you play as Mario of course, with a selection of new helpers assisting you. As in the first game, you can only ever have one of them out at at time, so choose by whose ability you like, or need, the most. You start out with only one ally, but get one more in each book (chapter) of the game, each with its own power and ability. The game has plenty of puzzles which require using your various abilities in the world and the chapters in it. In battle, it works just like the first game, except in front of an audience this time. The audience can react to your play and positively or negatively affect the fight, which is kind of interesting. Otherwise though, it’s a similar Mario-and-helpver-vs.-enemies format. Mario has health, magic (flower) points, and XP, and that’s about it. You gain more abilities as you go, and can buy items and the like. All Mario RPGs have timed elements in battle, to strenghten your attacks or weaken enemy attacks, and this is no exception. These can boost crowd response as well. The battle system is good; unoriginal, but good. As in the first game, there’s a good-sized overworld to explore, and also books (dungeons/chapters of the game, essentially) that you must find and work your way through. Finding your way to the next place can be frustrating sometimes, as it’s not always clear where you should be going to find the next one. Sometimes it’s clear, other times not. A lot of backtracking will be required to go over the same areas again and again, looking for things you can interact wiht your new powers. I got stuck sometimes in the first game, but it’s worse here. If I ever play the game again I should just use a guide, it’s not quite fun enough to make me want to figure it all out on my own. In each book things are usually more straightforward and fun, thankfully, but even here I did find myself losing interest after a while, particularly in that far too long Rawk Hawk chapter. Sure, the basic concept was funny, but it dragged on and on for too long.

Length, tedium, and repetition from the first game are the main problems in TTYD, in fact. Gameplay-wise, TTYD is the same as the first game, but with some enhancements to the battle system and a new setting. I’m fine with games having lots of text, but I just didn’t find it as fun or fresh as in the first game. I think that the developers wanted to make this game longer than the somewhat short original Paper Mario, and they did, but the padding made the game worse. There’s a lot more text in this game than the first one, too. Some of it’s funny, but other times it just drags on. The story isn’t particularly interesting either, which does not help at all. Princess Peach has been kidnapped AGAIN. Ugh, [i]Come up with a new story already![/i] As in the first game you do play as Peach in some short segments between chapters, but it’s disappointing that thye used this plot again. It was amusing the first time, but not the second. This time the kidnapper is an evil group and she is usually interacting with a computer, so it’s a little different from the first game, but the basic concept is similar. Sometimes you play as Bowser instead in these interludes, breaking things as you look around for where Peach went. These bits are amusing, but short. Overall Paper Mario: TTYD is a quite good game, but it’s also a game that I was hoping would be better than it is. With a better story, maybe a bit more gameplay variation versus the first game, tighter writing, and more, this game could have been great, but as it is, the first Paper Mario game remains the best Mario RPG ever. This probably is still second, though. After this game Intelligent Systems mde the Wii game Super Paper Mario, which is a platformer/RPG with a 2d/3d flip mechanic. I actually really liked the game despite qualms going in, and had more fun with it than I did with this one, but it’s a completely different kind of game. Still, despite some qualifications, Paper Mario: TTYD is a must-have game for any JRPG fan for sure. This is one of only two ‘true’ Paper Mario games, and while it is not as good as the first game, it’s close enough to still be a game every fan of the first game or RPGs should try.

Phantasy Star Online Episodes I & II Plus 1-4 player (online or splitscreen), supports 56K Modem and Broadband Adapter (Broadband can still be used via tunneling software), 480p progressive scan support. Phantasy Star Online is a third-person action-RPG. As the name suggests the series has always had a heavy multiplayer focus, but it can be played in single player as well. The original version was one of the more important Dreamcast releases, and it started a rebirth of the Phantasy Star franchise which continues to this day. In the game, after choosing a race and class you explore around, killing monsters and collecting lots of loot. You gain many powers and abilities, and can equip six powers or items to active-use slots on the face buttons. Choosing a build loadout will require some thought sometimes, particularly for casters; PSO doesn’t have a huge variety of spells and abilities, but there are far more than you can equip at any one time. Later on some PS games make the very odd choice to tie your skills to the weapon you have equipped, but thankfully that is not present in this game; skills and weapons or items are separate, and it’s much better this way. PSO is a grindey loot-heavy game, and constantly having my skills change with my weapons is annoying. PSO’s model is good, though.

Traditional-RPG Phantasy Star fans of the first four games never embraced PSO, but I and many others really liked the game. PSO episode 1 is my favorite Phantasy Star game for sure, and it’s the only game in the franchise that I have finished. This game is a port of the Dreamcast original, except with a new second episode added, not available on Dreamcast. Episode II is another game with the same gameplay as Episode I, but with all-new, larger environments to explore and fight through. It’s pretty good; not as iconic as Episode I is, but still great. I like the larger levels as well, I don’t know if Ep. II could have been done on Dreamcast. Perhaps not. Even in ep. 1, this Gamecube version is all-around improved over the Dreamcast original. The graphics are better, and the game now supports four player splitscreen co-op (on DC the multiplayer was online only) too. Pretty nice. That it has a whole second game with just as much content as the first one is even better! PSO I & II is an addicitive game which keeps you coming back again and again, trying to complete that tough level or level up enough to challenge that boss. The game will be much easier with a group, but if you want to beat PSO solo, expect to have to grind a LOT; the bosses are hard! This is the only flaw with the game, but it’s still a great game despite that. PSO’s other main flaw is that even with two episodes, each one still requires a lot of repetition. This is not a game with a huge world to explore; instead, you fight through the same few levels again and again and again, trying to level up enough to challenge the bosses or harder quests. The game mixes things up a bit sometimes, but the basic layouts are always the same — no randomized level designs here.

Despite the constant repetition, though, somehow PSO stays fun. This is a testament to how great the game design and gameplay is. As for the “Plus” in the title, this version has a few more quests and some bug fixes included on the disc, instead of being downloads as they were for the original release of PSO. It’s not anywhere near enough of an improvement to really be worth buying if you have the original Gamecube release, because it really is only a couple of quests and some other minor fixes added, but if you’re looking to get a version and have the extra cash for this now-pricey title, get the Plus version. The additions may be minor and the justification for releasing this as a full retail product very sketchy, but it IS the better release. PSO I & II is also on Xbox, but there the game is online-only and thus cannot be played anymore (since original Xbox Live was taken down in 2010) unless you hack the game to allow offline play. In comparison, through schthack servers you can still play this GC version online, though few people play these days, and the single player game is offline. Both episodes are also included in the PC game PSO: Blue Burst, plus a fourth Blue Burst-exclusive Episode IV. This can also be played on schthack only, as the official servers were taken down after only a few years. Blue Burst is the best version of PSO, but this is the next-best version, and is well worth having for some four player splitscreen console PSO. Also on PC and Xbox. Episode I is originally on Dreamcast; II debuted in this release.

Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution 1-4 player (online or splitscreen), supports 56K Modem and Broadband Adapter (Broadband can still be used via tunneling software), 480p progressive scan support. PSO Episode III is a Gamecube-exclusive PSO game, but it doesn’t play like any other Phantasy Star game. Instead of being an RPG or action-RPG, instead this game is a card battle strategy game. Yes, really. YOu start PSO Ep. III by creating a character in standard PSO fashion, but you only see your character in the overworld hub between missions; the rest of the time, in missions, you just see the field and the card-monsters on it. PSO EP. III has a story mode with a decent story to play through, and also single battles and single-system or online multiplayer. Don’t expect to find people to play against online on schthack, if the game even runs correctly there (I don’t have a GC modem so I can’t test it myself), but fortunately the single player game is substantial enough to still make this game well worth it for that alone. There are even two story paths, Hero or Arkz, to add replay value. In missions, C.A.R.D Revolution is a strategy game of sorts. Missions are played on a square grid which the monsters and characters summoned from your deck will move around and fight on. You have limited action points, and on each turn you choose between summoning new weapons, items, or creatures, and also moving around your units and attacking the enemy. Equipped weapons do more damage, and also have their own health bars. When attacked, they take damage before the person who equipped them. This means that they protect you, but losing good weapons to damage from enemies can be a problem sometimes, so you need to balance protecting your characters from protecting your weapons. It’s a good system. Learning the cards is key, and the game has a fair learning curve as the player slowly learns the card types and abilities. I have not played collectable card games, but I do love strategy games, and that is strong here as you do move around and fight on the battlefield as in a strategy game. Luck matters too, of course, the luck of the draw in specific, but skill will get you far. This is one of several card-themed RPGs on the Gamecube, and it might be the best one; it’s either this or Lost Kingdoms, and PSO III is a longer and more substantial title than that somewhat short game is. Also while Lost Kingdoms is a fun action-RPG, ultimately I like strategy games more than action-RPGs, overall. Learning the cards and what they do, making a good deck, playing cards well, equipping weapons or items to do more damage and and absorb more punishment, and positioning your characters and monsters on the grid are all great fun challenges. It’s also fun to see the monsters and character models from PSO I and II repurposed in to this very different game. Episode III has some new content, but a lot of models are reused from the previous episodes. I’m fine with that, it’s nice to see them again. The story isn’t amazing, but it has some surprises and is decently interesting enough to hold my attention, and the multiple routes give the game replay value. Overall, PSO III is a good game, and it’s too bad that its concept died with this game — such a good, well-executed concept as this deserved to be seen in more than one game.

Pikmin: New Play Control (Wii) 1 player, 480p progressive scan support (on GC too). I don’t actually own Pikmin for Gamecube, but I did rent it once, and I have the Wii port. I wasn’t overly impressed by Pikmin, which is why I didn’t buy the game after renting it. I was a huge PC RTS fan, and this overly simplistic console game did not seem too interesting compared to Starcraft or Warcraft III. I also greatly dislike the time limit; you only have a limited number of days to win the game, and if you fail, you can have to start the whole game over! The Wii port fixes that flaw, which is one reason why I bought it after never picking the game up for GC. Pikmin has good graphics, and shows what the Gamecube can do. You play as a little spaceman stranded on a foreign planet. You use these sort of living plant-buds to solve puzzles and get past obstacles. They are the Pikmin and follow you around, and you can throw them at things. They come in several kinds, each better for different tasks; so, the blue ones can survive in water, while the others will die, etc. It’s simple stuff. Your main goals are usually to either gather together enough of them to move obstacles out of the way that have to be moved — these have a number on them showing how many you need for them to move it — or enemies you need to defeat, which also will need to be overwhelmed with numbers. Your character, Captain Olimar, can’t do much of anything on his own, but that’s why the Pikmin are here to help. I just didn’t find the game very fun, though, and even now, it’s just too simplistic. I’d rather play a better strategy game on the PC than this dumbed-down one. Also on Wii, which is the only version I actually own.

Pikmin 2: New Play Control (Wii) 2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support (on GC too). Again, I only own the Wii version of this and not Gamecube, but it’s the same basic game except for the addition of motion controls, so I think I can mention it… and that’s about it. I still haven’t actually played this game yet. It’s Pikmin again, except with some two-player modes this time and no time limit. Those are great additions, but the gameplay is still the same. It does look nice, though. Also on Wii, which again, is the version I actually have.

PK: Out of the Shadows 1 player. 3d third person shooter/platformer starring Donald Duck, or rather, his superhero alter-ego PK. Apparently PK comes from an Italian comic strip, and you can tell because the game is in English, French, or Italian (yes, Italian and not Spanish, thanks to the characters’ main market), and this game is one of his few American appearances. Well, I may love classic Disney cartoons, but honestly, I don’t think we were missing out on much; the beginning of the intro, with normal Donald, is decent, but once Donald becomes PK shortly after, he becomes a much less interesting superhero-duck character. PK even speaks normally, instead of with Donald’s trademark near-incomprehensible yelling! Bah. The mad scientist computer who turned Donald in to a superhero claims that the new voice is “cool”, but sorry, no, it’s not. Well, at least the transformation was perfectly timed, because aliens are invading Earth and you’re the Earth’s only hope! And there this game begins. I went in to this with low expectations, because the game got poor reviews. It’s supposed to be short, easy, and not too great. Well, those things are probably all true, but I had some fun with this game anyway. PK is a nice-looking game. I love the cartoon-shaded graphics, it really makes it look more like a comic-book world. If not for the great graphical style, honestly, I’d probably like this game quite a bit less, but the nice visuals drew me in a bit. As for the gameplay, this is a fairly standard third-person shooter with some platforming. Think an entirely linear and even less good Ratchet & Clank (sorry, not a fan of that series), I guess. Yeah, a Disney cartoon shooter… I’m a little surprised such a thing exists, but it does. In the game, each level is a totally linear straight path, so there is no exploration here. I don’t really mind that as long as the game along the way is decent, though; I have never been one of those people who hates linearity in games. It’s fun to run through the levels.

However, some flaws to drag this game down, most importantly the camera and controls. The camera is usually behind PK, which is usually fine, but moving the camera around, when it’s not positioned well as it sometimes is not, is harder than it should be; there isn’t a simple “center behind PK” button that always works. There is a first-person view, but you can’t move in that view, of course. I know cameras are frequent problems in 3d games, but still, you could do better than this. As for the controls, they work, but just serviceably. Jumping and grabbing on to platform ledges doesn’t always work, and even when you do grab on, the animation does NOT look good. Shooting is similarly unsatisfying; it’s not as fluid as it should be, and judging distances tricky — I got hit quite a few times because I couldn’t tell when enemy shots, or must-avoid-this security beams, were exactly in relation to PK. Enemies do not really move around in this game, so all you need to do is dodge a bit and shoot while locked on, but despite that I took more hits than I should have. Again, this is a common issue in 3d games, but these problems make the game feel dated even for a 2002 release. Still, the controls aren’t BAD, they’re just blandly average. And despite those issues, and despite the low difficulty of the game, I definitely had fun running through the levels and figuring out what to do; it’s linear, but there are obstacles along the way. There are collectables as well. Interestingly, you need to unlock checkpoints — each one costs 15 points, so the game encourages looking around, which is nice. Finding enough points is easy, but still, it’s a nice touch. The other thing to collect are scientists, and getting all of these is a bit harder. When you get near a scientist, a timer starts, and if it runs out before you get all of the scientists in that area, they are lost. Many of my worst issues with the camera came in these areas, as I tried to look around for the scientists while worrying about the clock. And no, I did not get all the scientists, so the game does have at least some replay value. Overall though, PK: Out of the Shadows is an average game with a nice visual style. Is it worth it? If you find it cheap enough, sure, if you like Disney or this kind of game. Also on PS2.

Pool Paradise 1-4 player alternating. This is a pool (billiards) game, as the name suggests. It’s also got a fully playable version of Archer MacLean’s Dropzone on the disc, which is pretty cool and is a reason to pick this up, if you also like pool. Dropzone is a classic Defender clone, and it’s a good game for sure. The original Defender is the best, but this is a good clone that’s quite fun to play. Unfortunately you need to unlock it, and this game is hard and Dropzone requires a lot of money to unlock. Good luck. On that note, the main game in Pool Paradise is fun, but very difficult. It’s pool. Pool is best with a PC, because a gamepad cannot match the precision of mouse controls, but for a gamepad pool game, this game does fairly well. Interplay’s Virtual Pool is probably the best classic pool game series, but this game is also quite decent. The game has some decently nice graphics, and there are quite a few interesting tables you can unlock as you get better at the game. There are many ruleset variations as well. In the main game, you play a sequence of AI opponents, and each challenges you at several different rule options. There is nice variety here, and you’re constantly switching between variations of pool. You can choose which game to take on. If you lose though, you lose money, and you need money to challenge opponents, so be careful! If you run out you will get bailed out by a literal shark — yes, this game has a bit of a sense of humor, though it’s mostly serious pool — but you need to win, and win frequently, to unlock much of anything. I wish that more stuff came unlocked, because those alternate tables and Dropzone look cool, but it’d take a lot of practice to get them! This game usually doesn’t have a targeting line, either. You need to gauge where your shots are going to go by eyesight, which is not always easy. There are several camera angles, but this game is meant to be challenging, and it is. Once you get used to the controls they work well, though. The game does use a lot of buttons, so reading the manual is advised. The manual is also the only place that fully explains the details of the game types and what you need to do in each one, so I highly recommend getting a complete copy of this game. Overall, Pool Paradise is good, but hard. Lining up your shots can be tricky, and the AI gets hard quickly. The graphics are good, though, and if you stick with it there are some fun table variants and a good classic game to unlock. This is a good game overall, I think. There is a PC version of this game, and I imagine that it is the best version, but this is actually the only pool game released in the US for the Gamecube and it’s very cheap, so if you like pool games and the GC, get it! Also on PS2 and PC.

Pro Rally 20021-2 player simultaneous. Pro Rally 2002 is a game I got with low expectations. This is an average rally racing game, with somewhat arcadey controls and okay but not amazing gameplay. Even so, however, this game can be some fun, and overall it is better than I was expecting. Pro Rally 2002 has a lot of tracks to race on, decent graphics, and okay controls. I like the more arcadey Dakar 2 (above) more, but this game has more tracks and a more realistic setup. It’s not a hardcore sim, but it also isn’t a pure arcade game like Dakar 2 either. It’s in between, usually not a great place to be, but this game holds up okay compared to other games of this kind like V-Rally 2 (DC/PS1). The game controls decently, the graphics are okay if average, and there’s plenty of tracks to see in different environments. It’s a fairly simple game, but it’s fun enough. Just try to get to the end as fast as you can. As usual in rally games, you compete against the other racers’ times, not their cars directly. I like racing against cars better, but that’s how this genre works; this is one reason I don’t like rally games as much as some other kinds of racing games, though. Still, this game is alrigt, and isn’t bad like I was thinking it might be. In the game, you can go a little bit off course, but you don’t want to — going off road will cost you a lot of time. If you go a little bit too far from the path, you’ll be reset to the road as if you crashed, so the game does have invisible walls of sorts. Rally games always claim to be off-road racing, but then they force you to stick to this one narrow track or else! It’s kind of annoying, I want to be able to explore around. It’d be more fun that way. I know, this is how the sport works, but games don’t have to be realistic, right? Ah well. Anyway, I’m not a fan of rally games so I can’t really judge this one in too much detail, but in its category it probably isn’t quite as good as the RallySport Challenge games on Xbox. It can be fun though, and there are very, very few rally games on the Gamecube, so anyone who does like rally racing should pick this up for sure. Even someone like me who often finds rally games kind of boring had some fun with it. Pro Rally 2002 is an average, or perhaps decently good, game that’s worth getting for a few bucks if you like racing games. Also on PS2.

R: Racing Evolution 1-2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan and 16:9 widescreen support. R: Racing Evolution is a sim/arcade hybrid racing game from Namco. It’s a spinoff of sorts of the Ridge Racer series, and it was considered something of a failure at the time. The game isn’t bad, but it’s not great either, and people had higher hopes back then for something connected to the Ridge Racer franchise. Since then the series has faded in popularity, but this games’ reputation was set from the start. I got the game because I had never been able to get into simmish racers and wanted to try something that was a little simmish, but not too much; I’d played demos of serious racing sims on the PC, and knew that those games were not for me. I’m not really sure why I got this, because I was far from being a Ridge Racer fan, for sure, but I did get it used. It did help that it also came with Pac-Man Vs., which I wanted to play. R: Racing Evolution is indeed in that middle ground I was looking to try out, but it is indeed not all that great of a game. However, I think that its badness might be overrated, as I did have some fun with it at times and think that it might be average overall. R: Racing Evolution has a story mode, two player splitscreen, and single races. In the story mode you play as a woman who starts off as an ambulance driver, but then gets recruited for a high-power racing team after the teams’ coach sees how fast she is at driving. It’s a little bit unconventional, really, in that you’re not an underdog aiming for the top — instead, when the game begins, you start out as a rookie driver for that hated top corporate team. Your main rival is another woman who wants to beat your team (She’s the one on the cover of Ridge Racer DS, even though she’s got nothing to do with that game…). The story goes from there, but I didn’t finish the game or look up the ending, so I’m not sure exactly how it ends. Still, the story was okay, and is unexpected in a racing game; none of the other Ridge Racer games have stories, certainly.

Beyond the story, the gameplay is also different. As was mentioned earlier, R is a somewhat simmish game. The handling is somewhat realistic, and you have a great deal of car tuning options to try to figure out. This isn’t one of those games with just a couple of choices; it has many. And for me, this is where the game started to fall apart. The game does not do a good job at all of explaining what in the world all of those numerous car tuning adjustments are or what they do or what combinations make for a better car, and there are no presets beyond just ‘everything straight average down the middle’. I don’t know much of anything about real cars and aren’t interested in learning, so I’m clueless about this sort of thing, and it’s a real problem with th game. If you want to win you really want a better-tuned car, but I never managed, and never will manage, to figure out how to deal with all that stuff on my own. In a better game like Motocross Madness 2 (PC) you have this stuff there as an option, but it’s purely optional. Here the game seems to really want you to learn it. So yeah, I think that this is a definite flaw in the game. Beyond that, the game has the usual problem that hybrid games like this often do, in that it’s not simmish enough to satisfy sim-racing fans, but it’s also not arcadey enough to keep someone like me interested in the long run. Having to learn braking? That’s no fun, I want to go fast! I found the handling in R frustrating too often, in part probably because of the car-settings issue, and in part just because of the games’ generally mediocre design. R is in between, and suffers for it. It’s got real-world-style racing circuits too, which is another plus and minus thing — on the plus side this makes it more realistic, but on the minus side I find such courses fairly boring, visually, compared to the more videogamey tracks of other racing games. The game tries to have some variety with things like rally-racing tracks too, but still, the designs feel bland more oftne than not. I’m sorry, but real-world racing courses just aren’t something I find interesting, but nor is realistic racing. Still, R isn’t all bad. The game is average at best, has decent but not amazing graphics, alright-at-best controls and handling, somewhat bland courses, and a slightly interesting story. Is it worth playing? Probably not, really. But for racing fans it might not be a complete waste of time either. I guess it’s nice that Namco made this game multiplatform, but I wish it was a lot better. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Rampage: Total Destruction 1 to 4 players. Rampage: Total Destruction is, I believe, the fifth Rampage game, and it’s the only new one in the 6th generation of consoles. The series is a classic beat ’em up series where you destroy cities as people who have been transformed into giant monsters. Total Destruction takes a somewhat new take on the series’ standard gameplay design, which is a good thing, but unfortunately, while different, it’s still just as repetitive, simplistic, and ultimately boring, though maybe slightly less than before. While in the past Rampage games have been 2d side-view games, this time the game does isometric, and you can move around in three dimensions. The game has 3d graphics this time, too, for the first time. It looks okay, but not great for a 2006 release. There are lots of new monsters as well, with more to unlock; there are 30 in total in this version. Of course, the goal is, as ever, destruction. In order to beat each level you must destroy all the buildings, or at least, as many as you can within the timer. The police and army will try to stop you, but as always in the series, they can only do minimal damage; they’re only really a threat over time, and once this series got saving, that made the games not too hard to finish as long as you have a lot of patience. Destroying buildings is lots of fun, but this series just gets so excessively repeititve! The animations and screams are fun for a while, but you eventually will see them too many times. Sure, there’s a lot more graphical variety here than there was in the original game, there are a lot of diffrent monsters to unlock, and the isometric levels and new stuff help a bit, but still, the core gameplay is about punching buildings again and again and again, until they fall down. It’s fun at first, as Rampage games always are, but even back in the ’80s, I never could stick with Rampage enough to get anywhere near the end of that overlong game. The isometric view, 3d movement, additional new moves you get, and greater variety of monsters do add to this game, but still… I didn’t play it for long before putting it down, and haven’t picked it up again often. Still, the game is probably worth getting if you find it for pretty cheap. Sure, it’s simplistic, repetitive, and might not hold your attention for anywhere near as long as it’ll take to beat, but still, wrecking buildings is far too fun for a while to ignore! This game is above average, and probably is the best Rampage game, but for better and worse it is still Rampage. Isometric Rampage, but Rampage. Also on PS2 and Wii. The game has 30 monsters on PS2 and Wii, but 40 in the slightly newer Wii version, so that version probably is the best one. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same on Gamecube.

Rave Master 1 to 4 players. Rave Master is an okay but fairly average 3d fighting game based on the Rave Master manga and anime. I got it because I’ve watched a bit of Rave Master and thought it was okay, and do like the authors’ current series Fairy Tail. Also, this is Gamecube-exclusive, which made it more interesting, and heard that the game was decent. And indeed, it is. The game plays somewhat like Power Stone, but not quite as good. Even if it’s not Power Stone, though, it’s still somewhat entertaining. Battle arenas are large open 3d spaces, and in them you move around and attack the other players, or go collect items. The game has a Story mode, where you choose one of only five characters who have full stories, and 13 playable characters in total playable in the other single player mode, Free mode, once you unlock them all of course. Free mode is your standard arcade mode, where you just fight through the fights without a story. In Story mode, there are cutscenes between matches, fully voiced by the anime (dub) voice actors. As usual in games like this, it retells the story of part of the series. Gameplay is simple, but fun for a while. You run around in the 3d arenas, hit the others with your weapon, and use easy-to-pull-off special moves. There are also items that drop in the environment to pick up. As in the GC Naruto games the story modes are short and fairly easy, so longevity in this game will rely on either really getting into the game, or finding people who want to play it in multiplayer with you. The game is definitely fun in multiplayer, as having four people running around whacking on eachother is quite entertaining in that Power Stone style. In single player, though? Well, it’s a fighting game, and not a deep and complex one. This game was designed to be played with others.

Rayman Arena 4 player simultaneous. Rayman Arena is a multiplayer-focused game with two very different modes, racing and third-person shooting. This is a decent but overlooked game, but I can sere why it was forgotten. Unlike the great Rayman platformers, gameplay here is decent but not original or anything really special. The games’ graphics are also only okay; Rayman Arenaisn’t exactly one of the better-looking Gamecube games, and clearly is a port. The game is from 2002, but still, the system can do better. In the game, you choose either race or battle modes, and your difficulty level (easy-medium-hard as usual). There are four cups to try to complete in each mode, and several different variants and options, so the game will last a little while, but it’s the multiplayer that is the main draw for sure. Still, the game structure is solid, I like having championships to win in racing games. The game has nine playable characters. Many of the characters in this game come from Rayamn 2, understandably, since this game released between Raymans 2 and 3. You start with only a few and have to unlock the rest.
In the racing mode, Rayman and friends race on foot, as Sonic did in Sonic R for example. I always find these on-foot cartoony racing games a little odd, somehow, but here it does make some sense: it’s very much like the railed levels in Rayman 2, except in a lap race against opponent(s). Your character runs along, and you jump or move left and right to avoid obstacles, hit speed-up pads, and grab powerups. I like that the tracks are full of jumps and obstacles, so there is something to them. Levels also have alternate routes to find which can save you time. You can attack the other player along the way, of course. There are a decent number of tracks to race on, and enough content to last a decent while. This all sounds good, and the game is decent fun, but somehow it’s not quite as great as the sum of its parts suggets. Maybe if the game had been only a racing game or only a shooter they could have given the game the focus it could have benefitted from. Even so, Rayman or arcade racing game fans should check this out. It’s an interesting mix of platformer and racing game, and the concept is more than interesting enough to be worth a play. Some of the tracks are fun to navigate.

Battle mode is an arena third-person shooter, where your character and the others run around and try to take eachother out. It’s alright, but I like the racing game better I think. Again, the basic concept comes from Rayman 2, because as in that game you can lock on to an opponent and strafe around shooting at them. Yeah, it’s a multiplayer shooter with lockon, which is kind of odd. There are a decent number of arenas, which are reasonably well-designed, but the basic gameplay doesn’t hold my interest much at all. I don’t particularly like the battle mode in Donkey Kong 64 either, despite how much I love that game, and this is something like that. Rayman 2 and DK64 are great because of the platforming and the adventure, not the shooting. In multiplayer, with some friends, this can be fun, though. You could play something better instead, of course, but it’s okay. Against the CPU, it’s of limited interest; there is no story here of course, just some championships to win and characters to unlock. I at least find racing games much more fun with that kind of setup than shooters, most of the time. Unreal Tournament is an exception to that, but this game is no UT.

Overall Rayman Arena is an often-forgotten game, but the racing game is fun, and the battle game is okay. The game goes for very low prices, so I’d say that it’s well worth checking out, particularly for Rayman and arcade or character racing game fans. The game has its flaws, but it has its good points too. Also on Xbox, PS2, and PC. The GC and Xbox versions are slightly different from the earlier-released (in Europe, anyway) PS2 and PC versions, but I’ve only played this one so I don’t know which I like more. Looking at the list of changes it looks like some changes are for the better, and others for the worse.

Resident Evil 1 player. Capcom’s Resident Evil for Gamecube, also known as REmake, is a remake of the original Resident Evil game, but with much better graphics and voice acting this time. This is one of the most popular classic-style Resident Evil games, but I’ve only played it for something like an hour at most, so I can’t say much about it other than that the graphics are indeed quite good. I sort of like the classic RE series conceptually, but only actually put much time into RE2 (N64) and RE0 (GC), and didn’t finish either of those either. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t like classic RE’s formula as much in practice as perhaps I should. I like adventure games, so why not RE? Part of it might be the horror theme; I’ve never liked horror, certainly. But it’s not just that, it’s also the gameplay. I don’t like how you can’t kill the enemies and have to avoid them because of limited ammo; that’s very frustrating. The camera angles are a pain too, and the games just aren’t the greatest adventure games — there’s far too much hunting for keys and the like around the annoyingly mazelike buildings in the games. Overall I’d probably rather play a better dedicated graphic adventure, or a better action game, than RE’s in-between mixture formula. However, I like the RE games after they did become third-person shooters — that is, RE4 and beyond — perhaps even less, so I guess I just don’t find this franchise nearly as compelling as many do. Ah well. If I ever do put some time into this game though, I’m sure I’d like it reasonably well, though. And yes, it does look really nice for a GC game. Also on Wii.

Resident Evil Zero – 1 player. RE Zero is the second Gamecube RE game, and it was the last classic-style Resident Evil title. The graphics are just as good as REmake, but this game is new. You play as Rebecca and Billy, and switch between the two as you go to solve puzzles. You can switch at will, which is nice. The game started out as an N64 game, but moved to the GC during development. I remember screenshots of the N64 version of the train you start out this game on. Even though I never did play the series much, as described above, I wasn’t happy to see RE4 turn it into something more generic; there are more than enough third person shooters out there. Perhaps because it’d started out as an N64 game I was interested in RE Zero, though, so I got it after a little while. This was the only GC RE game I owned during the system’s active life, and I did play it enough to get past the section on the train, though I did not finish the game. I liked the game for a while, but eventually, as the level designs got more complex after you leave the train, I gradually lost interest until I stopped playing. Still, I do think this is a decently good game. I like that you can drop items anywhere, instead of having to go back to an item box as you had to do before, and the game remembers where you left them; that’s handy. The two characters and character-switch mechanic is nice as well. Also, I don’t really mind RE’s tank controls. They work well enough for what kind of game this is; the camera, with its static overhead positions that the game switches between depending on your location, is a bigger hinderance than the controls. I’ve never liked RE’s camera style much at all from a gameplay perspective; I know it was copied from Alone in the Dark, but I don’t care too much for that game either. Also, of course, classic RE gameplay includes a lot of avoiding enemies because of limited ammo (or playing on easy and just wiping them out, but that’s not much better because of lacking challenge), finding items that you’ll use as keys to progress, and going through the story. It’s an okay formula, but while I do like the two IRE games I played the most, this an N64 RE2, as action games they are not that good, and as adventure games they are average at best and worse than many due to their simplicity. So, RE0 is okay, maybe even good, but I just don’t “get” why people loved the RE series so much. Rebecca’s cool though, one of my favorite RE protagonists. Also on Wii.

Resident Evil 4 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Resident Evil 4 was a big deal back when it released, but as the two summaries above should suggest, I didn’t care much about it at the time. I had little interest in RE4; I was not a fan of third-person shooters, and did like adventure games, so even if as described above I never played the RE games a huge amount, I liked that concept more than RE4’s shooter concept. Also, there was a big controversy over that Capcom announced a Playstation 2 port of RE4 just before the release of the Gamecube version. That didn’t help make me want to care about the game. So, I passed on RE4, and many years passed before I finally bought a cheap copy when I found one for a few bucks. And is it good? Well, I ‘ve only played it for a little while, so I can’t say for sure. I got past the first area, saved, and never have gone back. RE4 does have great graphics, though. The visuals are very impressive, and are surely among some of the best on the Gamecube, right up there with the Rogue Squadron games. I’d always heard that GC RE4 looked great, but even so, the visuals were better than I was expecting. As for the gameplay, though, you walk around, shoot monsters, solve some basic puzzles, and such. It seems like a good game, sure. What you should be doing isn’t always clear, though, and sending unending swarms of monsters at me just because I haven’t found the place I needed to go is annoying. The game has QTEs too, which I almost always hate. The game does have some puzzle elements, but clearly less than the previous games, as the perspective change suggests. Still, RE4 is a good game, I guess, and I should play it more, but I don’t think I’ll lever be one of those people who really loves this game, as many people did after its release. Also on PC, PS2, and Wii; the Wii version is probably the best, based on features, but this is the only one I have. That one would have cost more, and I was very unsure as to whether I’d like this game so I didn’t want to spend much for it.

Serious Sam: Next Encounter1-4 player co-op or versus, 16:9 widescreen support. Serious Sam: Next Encounter is a PS2/GC-exclusive Serious Sam game. It got mediocre reviews, and given my general thoughts on dual-analog FPSes my hopes here were quite low, but I actually find this one a little fun! Sure, the PC Serious Sam games are far better, and look nicer as well, but Next Encounter for the GC isn’t bad. As in all the Serious Sam games, this is a simple first-person shooter where you kill waves of enemies as a wisecracking protagonist. Yeah, it gets no points for originality, but it wasn’t trying to be original, just fun. Well, it does succeed at that, particularly in multiplayer. The one big thing you can do here but can’t on the PC is play splitscreen co-op, and yes, it’s fun. Of course I’m not very good at this game, as usual for console FPSes, and dislike dual-analog FPS controls as much as ever, but with a friend who’s better at the genre, it gets quite a bit easier, and more fun as well! Still though, I can see why this game got mediocre reviews. The graphics are okay, but the system can do better. This game isn’t a visual showcase, and you can tell that it’s a PS2 port and not a GC-exclusive title. The game is also entirely repetitious — run around, shoot enemies, and repeat. There’s no variety at all. And the level designs aren’t quite on the scale of the PC game either, I think, though they do have some solid size to them — this game doesn’t feel nearly as constrained as Medal of Honor Frontline, for example. There are areas to run around in and explore. Yeah, Serious Sam is fun, and this game is fun as well. I like this better as a single player or co-op game than versus — this game is no match for something like Perfect Dark (N64) as a versus game — but it is a lot of fun to run around and kill the various types of badguys, while exploring through the sizable and fun to explore worlds. Serious Sam: Next Encounter is okay to good. The Xbox got a port of the PC game, and not this console exclusive. That game is probably better than this, but Next Encounter is a solid and entertaining game as well. Also on PS2.

Skies of Arcadia Legends1 player. I first played Skies of Arcadia on my cousins’ Dreamcast, and while I had never played many console-style RPGs before up to that point, and hadn’t really liked the few that I had tried, and also had not watched anime yet at that time (relevant, considering that like many Japanese games this game has anime stylings), I fell in love with Skies of Arcadia on the Dreamcast, and got the Gamecube port a while after it came out. Skies of Arcadia is my favorite JRPG ever. It was then, and still is. Skies of Arcadia is a mostly optimistic, uplifting game with great, incredibly likeable characters; a decently fun battle system which has a little strategy to it; a story that is one of the best cliche-heavy game stories I’ve seen; a spectacular soundtrack; and more. Yes, Skies of Arcadia is incredible across the board, and is one of the all-time best console games. The only real downside is that the game is easy, but this Gamecube port tries to alleviate that somewhat by adding some harder optional bosses and sidequest. It’s a welcome addition, because otherwise, actually losing in this game isn’t too common. Other than that it does have random battles, that’s just about the only issue in this exceptional game. And as for the random battles, for me at least, the ingame, onscreen minimap helps a lot — a lot of the frustration of random battles for me is in fighting unnecessary battles while not sure of where I should be going, but that will almost never happen in this game thanks to the automap. It also reveals as you explore, which is fantastic, and made me want to explore out all the maps! I love exploring out maps in games; “collect all the whatevers” (Pokemons, weapons in Diablo, what have you) doesn’t interest me too much, but fully exploring out maps which reveal as you explore? Now that gets my attention. Skies of Arcadia is mostly a fairly linear game, in that it tells a story you follow through as most JRPGs do, but there is plenty of exploration along the way. The GC-exclusive sidequest and optional bosses add a bit to the variety as well. The new bounty bosses are more challenging than other fights, and some even are best left for later, as they’re too hard for you when you first reach them! A welcome surprise, in this game. So, remember to save regularly at save points (yes, it uses them; no Lunar-style save anywhere here, sadly), even if you don’t think you need to; if you die, you go back to your last save, there are no autosaves.

Skies of Arcadia is a game about exploration. It is the age of exploration in a world where islands float in the sky and ships can fly. The heroes of the game are air pirates, but naturally they are good pirates and only go after the evil Valuan Empire’s military ships. Yeah, this kind of pirate would never exist in reality, but it sure gives them better moral high ground in a game. There is a story to go through, but along the way also be on the lookout for exploration points! If you find these quickly enough you can get paid for it at guilds in the towns. The sense of adventure in this game is one of the best things about the game, and the great cast helps set that tone as well. In Skies of Arcadia you play as Vyse, a teenage air pirate boy. He may be somewhat generic, but for generic main character guy protagonists, Vyse has to be one of the best, most likeable ones ever. His special attacks are more focused on hitting a single enemy. Aika, his female childhood friend, is always in the party as well. She’s the more tomboyish girl, and has more area-affect special attacks. In the early hours of the game you play as these two, as they explore a mysterious ruin, and get dragged into greater affairs when a mysterious girl being chased by the evil Valuan empire leads trouble their way. That mysteirous girl is Fina, and she joins your party a little while into the game, after you get through the opening story arc. Before that she gets kidnapped several times because of how important she is, and indeed rescuing her is one of your earlier goals in the game. However, after she joins your party after you rescue her the second time (the first is right at the beginning of the game and does not last long), except for one time where the whole party is captured, she drops the “girl you need to rescue” label at that point, which was welcome; I, of course, hate the “rescue the girl” plotline, and while this game does have it, it abandons it after the opening hours of the game, thankfully, and after that Fina permanently joins the party and is a pretty great character, so I think I can forgive it the earlier “rescue the kidnapped girl” moments. It also helps a lot that Fina, while often quiet and feminine, will strongly stand up for herself when it is about something she deeply believes in. She has a particularly strong moment when she stands up to the Valuan Empress. Fina fights with an inorganic life form, Cupil, which defends her. As you find and collect some items hidden around the game, Cupil will change to different, more powerful forms; this is Fina’s form of upgrading her weapon, and it encourages exploration as well. The idea works great. Sort of like Lucia in Lunar 2, Fina knows nothing about the world and has to learn about it (this is another reason she’s often quiet), but unlike that game, this isn’t a romance; instead, Skies focuses on the adventure, as Vyse and Aika explore the skies and Fina learns to like being a pirate too. There are very few moments in the game with any kind of romantic hints about the three main characters, and it’s perfect this way! Skies has one of the best main casts ever in a JRPG. I like the character designs a lot, but their attitudes are even better. Fina is probably my favorite character, but all three of them are really great. There are also three other characters who can join your party, but you can only have one of those three guys in your party at any time, since the main three are permanent. Guilder, Drachma, and Enrico are all useful in different ways, so try all three and choose which you like most. I mostly kept Prince Enrico in my party.

As you explore, you will run into many random battles. This Gamecube version slightly reduces the encounter rate versus the Dreamcast original, but there are still many of them for sure. I wish that the game had onscreen enemies you could see, that’s the better way to do things, but sadly it does not. Once you enter battle, you go to a fairly standard menu-based JRPG battle system. Skies does have a few unique touches, however. First, the characters are not just in two lines. Instead, they are scattered around the battlefield, and special attacks have ranges and attack cones and such, so positioning does matter. I really like this small bit of strategy. Unfortuantely the strategy is limited, though, as you can’t tell characters to move to a specific point, and can attack any enemy with a regular attack no matter where you are — you don’t really have a movement range. Still, you do need to consider movement, where the enemies are, and what you’re doing, and it adds to the game. And second, the game has a power meter. Skies of Arcadia has normal attacks, spells, and special moves. Spells or special moves require certain amounts of power to use, and this power then regenerates set amounts at the end of each turn. Now, all characters can use all spells, as long as they unlock them through points you get when you win battles, but special abilies are locked to each character. I love the touch that enemies also use the same spells you do, so there’s no stupid “the whole combat/magic system only applies to the heroes and not to any enemies” dichotomy here, unlike far too many JRPGs. Later in the game you will also unlock special super-powerful attacks if you fill up the meter. As in the great handheld RPG Riviera: The Promised Land, I really love this power-meter element in an RPG, and it adds a lot to the game. Spells do also have conventional magic points, with limited numbers of uses for each of the spell schools before you need to rest or use an item, but special moves do not, they only have a power-meter cost. So, you’ll use those moves a lot (Lambda Wave!). They do have attack animations, but I didn’t mind watching them again and again. For a JRPG, Skies of Arcadia has a good, fun battle system, that both moves quickly and has at least a bit of strategy.

I have already mentioned how outstanding the games’ soundtrack is, but this really is one of the great game soundtracks. RPGs often seem to get some of the best music, and this game is no exception. Right from the main theme on, Skies’ music is absolutely top notch. The graphics have aged a lot more than the music, though. The GC version of Skies does improve somewhat versus the DC original, adding things such as separate fingers on hands, but it still does look like a Dreamcast port. Polygon counts in this game are not high compared to what you might expect from a Gamecube exclusive, and the visual look is somewhat dated. However, I like that Dreamcast / late ’90s PC 3d look a lot when done well, so this doesn’t bother me too much here because the outstanding art design shines through! Skies may have looked dated even by the time this Gamecube port released, never mind looking at the game today, but the always consistent and extremely high quality art design always stands out. The game has a great deal of variety, too; every area is different, and the different regions of the world are all interesting. Now, in terms of plausibility, as is far too common for Japanese anime or games, this game fails. Yes, it makes for fun watching, but the idea that fleets of wooden ships can stand up to the Valuan Empire’s overly-modern 20th century style steel warships is … unrealistic, even with magic. Of course, that World War II-esque steel battleships could be in a world that otherwise feels several centuries older than that is also completely implausible. Sure, the results look cool, and your second ship, the Delphinous, is a really awesome looking air battleship, but in terms of world design, it doesn’t make sense, and I care about this kind of thing. Anyway though, Skies of Arcadia is absolutely amazing. Make certain to play it. This is a Dreamcast port, though the GC version has some added content and a lower encounter rate, but loses the Pinta Quest VMU minigame. The Dreamcast version also has better audio quality — to fit the game on one 1.5GB Gamecube disc, as opposed to two 1.2GB Dreamcast discs, they cut down the audio quality, and even I can tell. Also on Dreamcast.

Smashing Drive 2 player simultaneous. Smashing Drive is a decent port of an average arcade racing game. In the game you play as a variety of taxis, taking passengers from one place to another. The basic concept there may have been inspired by Crazy Taxi, but this game is no Crazy Taxi; it’s a traditional racing game through standard point-to-point courses, more like a Cruis’n game than anything else, but with elements of other games as well. That simplicity is surely part of the problem, of course; Smashing Drive is fun in short bursts, but doesn’t last like a Crazy Taxi or San Francisco Rush does, it’s more focused on a short, simple, and chaotic Cruis’n-esque, but with explosions and shortcuts, racing experience. The console ports of this game got pretty bad reviews, but the arcade game was fun, and I like this Gamecube version as well. Smashing Drive is not a great game, but it is entertaining enough to be worth playing if you like simple arcade-style racing games, I think. The game is set in New York City and feels slightly futuristic, which is cool; I do love futuristic racing games. The gameplay is very simplistic. There are plenty of shortcuts and alternate routes to find, the game has weapon powerups that allow you to cut through traffic with ease, and your horn will, amusingly enough, push away or destroy nearby traffic. I also like how when you make a sharp turn the car goes up onto two wheels; nice touch. The tracks are loaded with jumps as well, reminding me of the Rush games, which of course are my favorite racing games. This game is much simpler than Rush, though, certainly. Smashing Drive, as the name suggests, is about destruction as much as it is anything else; you’ll constantly be destroying stuff. However, there isn’t much depth to be found here, and Smashing Drive isn’t a particularly long game to complete.

Graphically the game looks dated. It’s easy to see why people were so unimpressed by this game visually when it released; Smashing Drive, on either GC or Xbox, looks a lot like the arcade game, which was two years old when the console ports released in 2002. However, the graphics are colorful and the game is nicely interactive, with plenty of traffic to avoid or destroy, Yes, the graphics look dated, but they are colorful and the screen is often full of explosions. I think that the art design is decent, but technically it’s definitely dated. But the fun factor is here despite that; yes, sometimes the game looks like it could run on 5th gen systems, but it’s fast and I like the interactive environments and weapons. However, the game has only four courses to go through. Each one of the four is decent-length, and has three sections each, but there are still only four; they didn’t add much to the arcade game here. The game was fun, but didn’t last that many hours before I finished it and moved on. There is a bit of replay value, and there is some challenge, but this is a simple and somewhat insubstantial arcade racer. But it’s fun! Blasting through the levels, crashing through stuff, blowing up traffic, going through the shortcuts, and trying to get to the end as fast as possible is all fun to do. Maybe no one else likes this game, but I do, to an extent at least. Arcade port also on Xbox and Game Boy Advance (yes, that’s a port of this, not a different game).

Sonic Adventure 2: Battle 2 player simultaneous (in battle and race modes), 480p progressive scan support. I bought Sonic Adventure 2 Battle shortly after its release in early 2002, because I wanted a platformer for the Gamecube, Nintendo hadn’t released one yet, and I had always liked Sonic games. 3d Sonic games are all controversial and sometimes unliked, but I think they’re decent to good, really. Not great, but good. Sonic Adventure 2 is not as great as the Genesis classics, but it is a good game. However, it is also a short game; I beat SA2 in barely over a week, and the post-completion content, such as trying to get better ratings in the levels, didn’t really keep me coming back. So, I liked the game, but wasn’t really sure if it had been worth full price. Sometimes how much you pay for a game can affect your opinion of it. Even so, Sonic Adventure 2 is better than almost every Sonic game since it, and is one of the best 3d Sonic games for sure. Getting to the gameplay, In the first Sonic Adventure, you explored around a small hub world between levels. This game, though, just has a level-select map screen and that’s it; simpler presentation in that respect. There are also fweer game types this time — instead of six different playable characters each with different gameplay as in SA1, in SA2 the six playable characters are grouped into two pairs of characters who play the same, one on the good team and one of the bad team. The game does have special abilities to find which add new powers to your repitoire, though, which is nice; finding everything will be a challenge, even if beating the game definitely isn’t. Of course, as always in 3d Sonic games, the game has a somewhat overdone story. The story is overdramatic, explaining the then-new character Shadow the Hedgehog’s tragic past, though of course it ends with Robotnik trying to take over again (even though he’s playable in his own story). It’s okay, but this whole idea of putting Sonic on Earth, instead of the weird and interesting world of the Genesis games, was a mistake from the start, I think. Why are Sonic here on Earth talking to humans in the cutscenes? It makes no sense! Bring back Mobius. Ah well.

First are Sonic and Shadow, and their levels play like classic Sonic Adventure Sonic levels. These are the most popular levels in the game, and it’s easy to see why; Sonic or Sonic/Shadow’s levels are easily the best in both Sonic Adventure games. They’re fast and fun in that Sonic Adventure way, with a fast pace and a constant string of obstacles. The game usually uses a behind-the-character third-person view. Occasionally control is taken away in a semi-autocontrolled segment. Sometimes you just watch these, but other times you have to press buttons, so as to jump at the right time to not fall in the water for example. There are also many segments sliding on rails, much like in the previous game. These are pretty fun. 3d Sonic levels have a style to them, and this game sticks to it. Among 3d Sonic games though, I do think that the Sonic Adventure games are better and better designed than most of their successors are. Particularly large is thequality gap between this game and its successor below, Sonic Heroes. As much as I did have some problems with Sonic Adventure 2, in how easy it is and how the game is perhaps too straightforward and simplistic as you just run forwards almost all of the time, Sonic Heroes is far worse all around. And if you get in to the game, there is plenty of challenge in trying to get all of the powerups and then go back and get better ratings on the levels; you need good times and point totals to do this.

However, of course, Sonic/Shadow’s levels are only a third of the game. 3d Sonic levels are reasonably popular. As in Sonic Adventure 1, it’s the rest of the game that’s much less liked. However, unlike Sonic Adventure 1, I actually really enjoyed both of the other gameplay styles! In SA1 I really don’t like any of the five other characters’ gameplay styles much, but this time Tails/Robotnik and Knuckles/Rouge levels are both actually quite fun, in my opinion at least. Tails/Robotnik (sorry, “Eggman”, but this game does call him Dr. Robotnik, aka “Eggman”, so he really is both!) levels are third-person mech action stages. You go through a level, destroying stuff with your mech armed with missiles. It’s different, for a Sonic game, and was plenty fun. The last style are Knuckles/Rouge levels, and these levels are collectathon-style 3d platformer stages. In each levle you have to collect the required amount of stuff within the time limit. These were the most frustrating and probably least fun levels in the game, but I do like 3d platformers like Mario 64 or Donkey Kong 64, so I liked this too, despite the frustration sfactor sometimes. I’m sure many people disagree, but though I did think Knuckles/Rouge’s levels were the least good of the three, they still were reasonably fun. So, I finished the game with all six characters, something I still have never done with Sonic Adventure 1 — I actually only ever beat that game with Sonic, and not the rest of them. The final level in SA2 is pretty cool, a somewhat S3&K-style space stage.

In addition to the main game, the game also has a multiplayer mode where you battle it out trying to fight or get through stages as quickly as you can. This has some added stuff here on the GC, as the games’ title suggests. The multiplayer mode is okay, but I wish it had four player support; that would have been great. There is also a raising-sim Chao garden. Some people really got in to raising their Chaos and having them compete with other Chaos in the several Chao minigames, but I didn’t really; I tried for a little, but this kind of thing just isn’t something which interest me for long. The kart racing mini-mode is better. I played this more than many people probably did. Unfortunately the downloadable addon tracks for the Dreamcast version are not available here, only the base tracks, but the racing game is definitely fun for the short time it lasts. It really made me wonder why it took Sega so crazily long to make a standalone standard kart racer with Sonic in it. Why didn’t it happen until Sonic & Sewga All-Stars Racing? Why couldn’t we have had those from the Sega CD on? Sure, SA2’s kart racing isn’t Mario Kart’s equal, but for a simple little bonus mode, I thought it was solid and fun, and worth building on. Ah well. Overall, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle was an important release. It moved the Sonic series over to Nintendo after the death of the Dreamcast, it was a bit success, and apart from its sadly quite short length, is a good game too. It’s not a great game — 3d Sonic never reaches the heights of 3d Mario — but it is a good game, and it might still be my favorite 3d Sonic game. Also on Dreamcast, without the “Battle” enhancements but with some Dreamcast-exclusive downloadable kart racing tracks and other little VMU things (the VMU also is good for Chao-raising fans, for example). There is an HD remix of this game on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 as well. It sells the “Battle” enhancements as a cheap DLC, annoyingly enough. Why couldn’t you just include it? Also, why are the added downloadable tracks for the Dreamcast version not available anywhere else? Too bad.

Sonic Heroes 1 to 4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Sonic Heroes was Sonic Team’s third platformer on the Gamecube, after SA2B and Billy Hatcher, and it was their first new Sonic game in several years. Well, the magic, such as it was considering how controversial the Sonic Adventure games are today, had worn off. Right from when I first played this on a friends’ copy at college, I knew that this game wasn’t that good, and didn’t actually buy it until many years later. Unfortunately, time and playing more of the game didn’t make it any better; Sonic Heroes is not very good. This is not the worst 3d Sonic game, certainly, but it’s also not one of the best ones, and is a big downgrade from either Sonic Adventure game. This time, though there are six teams of three playable characters here, there is only one gameplay style: Sonic’s style of fast running while avoiding obstacles and going through occasional semi-autocontrolled segments. The game tries to mix in some slight puzzle elements into the levels, but this just makes the game worse, not better; these parts are often not very good. There is some fun to be found in this game here and there, but Sonic Heroes is a disappointment, and is the point where 3d Sonic games clearly began to decline. It could be argued that 3d Sonic itself is a decline from the begining, and this is probably true since no Sonic game since match the Genesis originals, but Heroes is a big step down from either of the Adventure games, and that is unfortunate. Run, stop and figure out how to proceed, kill enemies, run, hit buttons at correct time, rince and repeat. The game actually does provide some challenge, but it’s not the good kind of challenge, it’s the frustratingly hard kind, and just made me want to play this game even less. Avoid. Also on PC, PS2, and Xbox. Yes, the PS2 and Xbox got this thing and the even worse Shadow the Hedgehog, but not Sonic Adventures 1 or 2. Poor them!

Soulcalibur II 1 or 2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan and 16:9 widescreen support. Soul Calibur is one of the preeminent 3d fighting game series, and this game, Soul Calibur II, is the best, and most popular, Soul Calibur game. The game is set in a fictional version of real-world 16th century Earth, and the characters unrealistically travel all around the world repeatedly in comically short periods of time over the course of this series. Serioiusly, to get aroudn the globe as often as they do, wehn this game is set, they’d need magic airplanes! Yes, Soul Calibur is not exactly historically accurate, something which bothers me as a history major; the games set themselves in the “real world” but then totally ignore history in so many ways. One obvious example of that is the series’ infamously overdone fanservice; the female characters in this series are not exactly wearing much, a lot of the time. The costumes got even more skimpy after this game, but this one is very far from historically accurate, to say the least. But while I have many problems with Soul Calibur’s design, I absolutely love the games themselves. The first game, Soul Blade, isn’t very good, but Soul Caliburs I to IV are all fantastic And on top of that, thanks to Link being included as a player, the Gamecube has the best version of this great game! Sadly after this game Namco’s usual Sony-bias reasserted itself and Soul Calibur III, for some insane reason, was made Playstation 2-exclusive, but at least we got this great game before they did that. Yes, Soul Calibur II deserves every bit of its great reputation, and ever since the series has been continuing to not quite live up to its level of greatness.

Soul Calibur II is a weapon-based 3d fighting game. The controls are great, and allow for good, fluid control of your characters. The game uses a fairly standard four-button system with three attack types (fists, weak weapon, strong weapon) and a block button. Moves are standard for 3d fighting games; Virtua Fighter is the standard this genre was inspired by. I like 2d fighters more than 3d ones overall, but 3d fighters are fun too, and this game does have a lower barrier to entry than a classic 2d fighter like Capcom vs SNK 2 does, and it’s almost as fun to play as well. There are a huge number of moves, but you don’t need to memorize all of them or know how to do them all unless you’re very serious about the game. Most moves in games such as this will come naturally as you fight, though you do need to learn the specifics of how each character controls in order to get good with them. The game plays very much like the first Soul Calibur, but with better graphics and more characters and moves. It has progressive scan support, which is nice. It’s tragic that the third game was stuck only on the PS2, this game definitely looks better than that one. The new characters are great, and some are among the series’ best, including Link (sadly only present in this one game), Talim, and Cassandra. In addition to the tournament-style arcade mode, there is always, as in all Soul Calibur console games, a story mode. Here, you travel around a map, doing many missions along your quest that ultimately ends with defeating the final boss. The text descriptions of each mission are consistently interesting, and helped keep me going all the way to the end. You can play as any character and swap characters anytime, which is great. I also like that after you finish it the first time it unlocks a harder version of each mission, which adds quite a bit to the playtime, and lets you make more money as well. You see, each time you complete a story mode mission, arcade tournament, or what have you, you make money you can spend in the ingame shop on new weapons for the characters and art in the games’ art gallery. I kept playing this game until I unlocked every single weapon and all of the art. Yeah, it’s that great. Soul Calibur II is well-balanced difficulty-wise; this is not a really hard game, but it’s not too easy either, and it is approachable to new players, but rewards experience. It’s a fantastic game, and one of the all-time great 3d fighting games. This is an absolute must-play! Also on PS2 (with Heihatchi as the exclusive character) and Xbox (with Spawn as the exclusive character). Get it for Gamecube, Link is great and fits in the game perfectly.

Space Raiders2 player simultaneous. Space Raiders is essentially a modern remake of Space Invaders, and it comes from Taito, the developer of the original game. Space Invaders is one of the all-time arcade classics, so I was hoping that this game would be fun. Unfortuantely, it isn’t. The game is a static screen shooter, but instead of controlling a spaceship, here you control a human character, on the ground. This actually fits, because with this the games’ static-screen design, in the style of the original Space Invaders, works well — you move left and right at the bottom, shooting up at enemies that come at you in waves, or moving-left-and-right patterns, in the environment in front of you. As in Space Invaders, most screens have obstacles in front of you that will block incoming fire. Unlike the original game though, here they just protect against a certain number of hits; no cool barriers that slowly get chopped away as they get shot at here, sadly. Too bad, they are missed; this way looks much more generic. Yes, unfortunately, the game is extremely simplistic, repetitive, and gets boring far too quickly. This is a very simple game, and I’ve already described most of the gameplay — just move left and right, and shoot. There is no autofire, so get used to testing your fingers’ repetitive-stress tolerance. But even if you do stick with it, the game is over in short order; this is a short and easy game, if you use the continues the game offers. Oh, the game does have a story, told by cutscenes between levels, telling the story about how the three playable characters get pulled in to this mission to save the earth from the attacking aliens. It’s very generic as well. I did actually finish this game, but only because I wanted to get my few bucks’ worth, and because it was just decent enough to keep going with, even if it’s not really any good. In addition to story mode, there is also an endless score-attack mode, but the game is not nearly fun enough to make it worth playing much at all. Overall this game is sadly not recommended; Space Raiders is probably one of the weakest Space Invaders games. It could have been more, but didn’t live up to its potential as a followup to a classic. Also on Playstation 2, though that version was only released in Japan and Europe, while this GC version as only released in Japan and the US. So in the US this is GC-exclusive. Lucky us.

Spirits & Spells 1 player. Spirits & Spells is a simple and straightforward linear-path 3d platformer. The game is a bit like Crash Bandicoot in design, as you go play this narrow-path 3d platformer. The path moves around as you go, so sometimes you’re moving right, while other times you play from a behind-the-character perspective. I’d never heard of this game when I found it used, but I like platformers and it was quite cheap, so I picked it up, and didn’t regret it! Sprits & Spells seems to mostly get mediocre reviews, but I think that this is a fun game. Spirits & Spells is a Halloween-themed game, and you play as two young children, a boy in a devil costume and a girl in a witch costume, who have been pulled in to a world where the monsters are real, and the bogeyman is trying to collect their souls! He turned their friends to stone, too, and you need to rescue them. You’ve got to save your friends and find your way back home, and defeat the villains along the way of course. You can switch between both characters with the touch of a button, which is cool. Each has different powers, useful for some obstacles: the boy can jump higher and has fire powers, while the girl has a ranged attack and ice powers. Your quest won’t be too easy, though, as you die and get sent back to the last checkpoint with a single hit. If you find the hidden fairies in each stage they can each protect from a single hit, but most of the time this is a one-hit-kills game. Yes, the hardcore nature of this game surprised me, for something which seems designed for kids. This is one hard “kids'” game! Spirits & Spells is doable, and saves your progress after each level you complete, important in a game where completing each level is an accomplishment. The one hit deaths keep the tension high. Fortunately levels do have checkpoints, but you also have limited lives, and get sent back to the start of the level if you run out. There are crystals to collect along the way, and some hidden fairies, ghosts, and such to find in each level. The controls are good; you move and attack just as you should. Graphically the game is fairly average, but it does have some good art design, even if technically the game is nothing special; this game looks like a port, and is, even though this was its only US release. The good art and character designs really do make up for that, though, and made me want to see each new environment. The music, like the graphics, isn’t great, but fits the games’ Halloween theme well. Overall, I like this game. The game is a classic platformer, and it’s a fun one. It’s challenging enough to keep you coming back, but isn’t too hard. The game may have been designed for kids, but I at least think that there’s plenty to like here for platformer fans of any age. Just be ready for a challenge! Spirits & Spells isn’t amazing, but it is a fun, if frustrating, above-average platformer. Also on PS2, albeit in Japan and Europe only (under different titles; this game is called Castleween in Europe). In the US the game is a Gamecube exclusive.

SpyHunter 2 player simultaneous. SpyHunter was Midway’s first new Spy Hunter game since the mid ’80s, and was probably Midway’s most successful of their new classic-series resurrections of the era. Gauntlet and Rampage had been brought back the previous generation, but between SpyHunter, Defender, Area 51, and NARC, SpyHunter was the most successful, and maybe the best game as well. The original PS2 version of this game was actually by Paradigm, but this port was outsourced. I like Defender, and the modern Area 51 games look solid, but I love driving games, and this mission-based driving shooter is exactly the kind of thing I love, when done well! And done well SpyHunter is. With only 16+ missions SpyHunter isn’t the longest game, but it’s a lot of fun along the way, and has some replay value if you wish to complete all of the objectives and unlock everything. In SpyHunter, as always you control your heavily armed, transforming Interceptor car/boat, and have to destroy your enemies. Each level is a linear path from beginning to end, but there are often some branches and alternate routes along the way. This is a modern game, so you actually have goals beyond just a high score this time. You have those mission objectives to complete, several on each level. You unlock levels by having completed enough mission objectives, so they act like Mario 64 stars or such, in a way. The game keeps track of your time as well. It’s a great design, and encourages replay as you try to complete all of the objectives in as fast a time as possible. Objectives are varied, but mostly involve destroying or collecting things, of course; this is a combat driving game, after all. Your Interceptor has a variety of weapons, including guns, missiles, and more. The arsenal is large, and there are plenty of weapon pickups all over the levels too. Try to avoid taking too much damage, though, because at low health you lose the car/boat, and are reduced to a motorcycle/jetski. Just a few more hits and you’re dead, try the level again, and you can only ge tthe car back by finding a trailer, just a health pickup won’t do it. Yes, just like the original, health and ammo refills in the stage come in the form of trailers to drive into. I love how they integrated the key elements of the great original game into this modern title. The game looks decently nice, too; it’s clearly a port of a PS2 game, but the art design is good. I like the futuristic design of the Interceptor, and it’s great that it can turn into a boat too. Missions take place on both land and water! Oh, and yes, a remix of the classic Peter Gunn theme is in the game. I think of it as the SpyHunter theme myself, though. :p I first played SpyHunter when I rented it in the early ’00s, and I liked it a lot. I completed all of the objectives and beat the real final level, in fact! The game has aged fairly well, and still is quite fun to play. Unfortunately, while the game had two sequels (the first good, the second… eh), neither one released on Gamecube. After the first few years Midway cut back on support for the GC because of poor sales, sadly, and it’s really too bad that we missed out on SpyHunter 2. It wasn’t by Paradigm and got worse reviews than the first game, but it’s decent enough and the GC should have gotten it. Ah well. At least we did get the first game, though, and it’s a game well worth picking up. Highly recommended for anyone who likes driving or shooting games at all! This is a solidly good game, and there isn’t enough out there quite like it. I like the SpyHunter remake a lot. Also on PS2 and Xbox. The other versions include the original arcade SpyHunter on the disc, but for some odd reason they left it off of this one. Ah well; SpyHunter is playable plenty of other places, including on the Gamecube in the Midway Arcade Treasures collection.

SSX 3 2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan and 16:9 widescreen support. SSX 3 is a pretty good snowboard racing game. With good graphics, good design, and lots of variety, SSX 3 is probably one of the best arcade-style snowboarding games ever. On the Gamecube, it’s in the top two for sure, along with 1080 Avalanche. The first SSX as a PS2 exclusive and was one of its more popular early releases, but I played this game first, and that one looks quite rough compared to the third game. The second SSX, SSX Tricky, was actually the first multiplatform one, but I’ve never played that game. SSX 3 brings back the same cast from the previous game, except with more added, and a new design centered around one giant mountain that the whole game takes place on. Instead of being separated out into different courses, the game is one unrealistically huge mountain, with various branching routes along the way down. Most races only take place on one of the ‘tracks’, but you can also free-ride around the mountain, which is pretty cool. I like the open design of the game, and it’s too bad that I don’t think other games in the series used it. It takes quite a while to get from the top of the mountain to the bottom, so there are plenty of tracks in this game. The game has several modes, but my favorite by far is race mode. Racing in SSX 3 is a lot of fun! SSX is an arcadey series and isn’t realistic at all, but winning will take skill; this isn’t a simple game, and learning the controls and moves requires practice and memorization. As with most games, stunts require specific button presses while in the air. I dislike that design as much here as anywhere, and aren’t very good at it either; this is one reason why I liked race most the most by far. You will need to know at least some stunts even in race mode, though, and mastering jumps and rail-grinds is essential. So, SSX 3 isn’t a pick-up-and-play game, but once you learn it it’s a lot of fun. The tracks are huge, and there are a lot of things to grind on. Multiple routes abound, and learning the fastest shortcuts is important. SSX 3 isn’t easy, but the races are a lot of fun. Other people will surely also like the stunt mode, with the usual half-pipe and superpipe options, and the combined mode with both racing and stunts, but my struggles to memorize stunts and general dislike of that ‘hit specific buttons in the air’ stunt style made me not like those. I beat race mode in this game, but not the other two. But why force myself to play something I quite dislike? Race mode is great, and that’s all I really need to say that this is a very good game. The game looks as good as it plays, too. SSX 3 is a slick game with high production values, as expected from a modern EA production. It’s got a licensed soundtrack too, as usual from EA at the time. Overall, SSX 3 is a very good game. There’s more content here than there is in 1080 Avalanche, and more people will probably like this game, but I’m not sure if I can decide between the two. Just get both! They’re quite different, and SSX 3 is the SSX series at its peak — it was all downhill after this game. This one is the best game in the franchise. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Star Fox Adventures1 player, 480p progressive scan and 16:9 widescreen support. Star Fox Adventures is an action-adventure game, vaguely like Zelda but much less complex. The game is the last game that Rare made while a part of Nintendo, before they foolishly went off to Microsoft. For more on this read the beginning section of this article again, when I explain the debacle that was Nintendo selling off Rare, and how badly it hurt both Nintendo, and Rare. Star Fox Adventures was developed while that process was ongoing, and the game’s development was, unfortunately, impacted. While the game had been delayed, Rare rushed the game to get it done so they could leave Nintendo for the greener (or so they sadly thought) pastures of Microsoft. It shows, badly. The game should have been great! The original N64 design, the original title Dinosaur Planet, was looking very promising. I’m sure that that game would have been very fun, and I’d have rather seen Nintendo leave the game on N64, as one last great title for the system, which probably could have been finished by late 2001. The N64 didn’t have to be abandoned as quickly as it was, and moving the game to Gamecube made it worse. The switchover to Star Fox caused problems as well. Rare was forced to turn Dinosaur Planet into a Star Fox game by the misguided demand of usually-great Shigeru Miyamoto. This has to be one of his worst mistakes, because it helped alienate Rare, and ruined what could have been an amazing sendoff to the N64 as well. It also delayed the game for more than a year, to late 2002, as they redesigned it for the Gamecube. The Star Fox license doesn’t fit the game well. Instead of playing as Sabre and Krystal, in Star Fox Adventures you play as shoehorned-in Fox McCloud, with a magical staff in this game instead of his usual Arwing and gun. It is true that Sabre and Krystal, like the Star Fox cast, are humanoid furry animals, but they fit this game much better than Fox does. Apart from Fox, Andross, and some very short and pitifully easy rail-shooter stages between planet segments, there’s nothing Star Fox about this game. The changeover also had the extremely unfortunate effect of turning the lead female character from a playable character throughout the game, to someone who gets kidnapped five minutes into the game and spends the entire remainder of the game in captivity, as an object Fox needs to rescue. This is really disappointing; with her playable this would have been a better game, even as flawed as it is! They also significantly sexed-up Krystal’s design and outfit, of course, in order to maximize the resulting sexism or something. Unfortunate. They did at least keep the little triceratops companion Prince Tricky in the game, but unfortunately, he is kind of annoying, and you frequently have to escort him places; not fun!

But getting to the game itself, yes, Star Fox Adventures is an extremely disappointing game, and is perhaps Rare’s worst TV console game as a part of Nintendo. If this game is supposed to be like Zelda, it’s one bad Zelda game! Zelda is one of my favorite franchises, so I had high hopes for this game, but this really isn’t Zelda. It’s too simple for that. The game is more of a Zelda/action-platformer hybrid, but not as good as either. The game has great graphics, and gets more out of the Gamecube than most developers who aren’t Factor 5 did, but the simplistic gameplay is badly lacking. I have previously described Star Fox Adventures as one of the most boringly average games ever made, in terms of its gameplay, and I’m sticking with that. This game is sort of one part Zelda, one part boring beat ’em up, and one part Rare collectathon. I may love Donkey Kong 64, but the multiple sets of overlapping objects you have to collect in this game bored even me. I think part of the problem is that this game is entirely linear, unlike Rare 3d platformers like DK64. Making a collectathon game so linear makes it more boring; you can’t go to some other area and do something else, if you want to. Perhaps the thing I like least about Star Fox Adventures’ gameplay, though, is the combat. Rare tried to do something interesting here, but it doesn’t work well. Combat in the game tries to be sort of strategic, but is just incredibly dull. Enemies mostly have shields, so you need to wait for them to lower their guard for an instant, usually for an attack, before you can strike. The rest of the time, hold down block. Hold block, hold block, hold block, then mash attack when you have a chance! Then block again, rinse, and repeat endlessly. It’s not fun, and fights like this take up a lot of the game. Even the not-too-thrilling combat in Beyond Good & Evil looks good compared to this stuff. The rest of the time, you’re traveling through the world heading towards your next objective of course because, as I said, this game is linear. The game has no loading screens, but instead has these annoying angled areas between zones that give the game time to load. Honestly, I’d rather have just had a short loading screen, going around those things every time gets annoying. You can explore each area along the way, but this game is not nearly as open as most Zelda games; it’s much more directed. The puzzles are simple and nowhere near Zelda-caliber work either, unsurprisingly. I don’t mind linearity, as long as a game is good, but this game just isn’t. The story is bad, the combat is boring, the voice acting isn’t great (that snake guy in the shop was so annoying to listen to…), the puzzles are too simple, and the world is one of Rare’e least interesting to explore and has much less to it than the worlds of games like Donkey Kong 64 or Jet Force Gemini. It’s not worth it; I cannot really recommend playing Star Fox Adventures, I really can’t. It isn’t a terrible game, but it is just so tediously dull and average that it isn’t worth the time.

Star Fox Assault 1-4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Star Fox Assault is part rail shooter and part third-person action game. The game was the second attempt at a Star Fox game on the Gamecube, and this time it came from Namco. Nintendo has not released an internally-developed Star Fox game since Star Fox 64; instead, the few games in the franchise since are all external. Couldn’t they have given it a different name, though? It’s annoying that both GC Star Fox games’ initials are “SFA”! Makes using the acronym impossible here. Anyway, Star Fox Assault was one of the products of Nintendo’s efforts to increase their relationships with other Japanese developers on the GC, after the lost years of the N64, as far as Japanese third parties were concerned. Sega made an F-Zero game; Namco, the makers of the Ace Combat series, made Star Fox; and more. Star Fox Assault released to somewhat average reviews, and after the major disappointment of Star Fox Adventures, I was cautious, and did not buy the game until within the past couple of years. I remember playing it in multiplayer a few times after its release, but it didn’t make much of an impression then. When I finally got the game, though, I found that I actually think this game is pretty fun! And I don’t only mean the rail shooter levels, which I was hoping ot like, but actually the arena-esque third-person on-foot and vehicle shooter levels as well. I was definitely not expecting to have fun with that side of Star Fox Assault, something which makes up the majority of the game, but what can I say, it’s a good fun game. The game is short, but fun while it lasts.

The story in Star Fox Assualt is more of the same — Andross is back, defeat him again. There are cutscenes, and Namco tried to put a real story in this game, but the story isn’t great. That’s okay though, games are about gameplay, not story. You play as Fox only in single player, which is kind of annoyinig, because you can play as any team member in multiplayer. The other team members are Krystal, Slippy, and Falco; Peppy retired. Your old rival Wolf is the fourth character. As I said, Star Fox Assault has two game types. First are the rail shooter levels. These are fun, with nice graphics and good gameplay. These levels really look nice, and the settings are varied as well. However, there aren’t as many of them as there should be. What’s here is great, but there should be more of these levels; why did they not just make a GC Star Fox rail shooter, or rail/open-flight shooter? I don’t get it. The rail shooter levels in Assault look nice and play fine. They definitely do not reach Star Fox 64 levels of greatness, but it’s decent fun. They only take up at most half of the game, and don’t match SF64, but they’re good.

The meat of the game are the third person action levels, though. First, the graphics in on-foot segments does not match Star Fox Adventures’. There is no amazing fur shading in this game, sadly enough; Namco is no replacement for Rare as far as graphics go. This game is a lot more fun to play than Adventures is, however. Each third-person action level is an arena of sorts, so this game reminds me a bit of arena FPSes, except with Star Fox, and simpler controls and gameplay. I know most people seem to hate the ground missions, but I don’t know, the controls seem fine to me. It’s a simple game, just strafe around and shoot. The levels are medium in size, large enough to have plenty of areas each, but small enough to be not too hard to navigate. They are also fairly well designed. Because of the design of the levels, generally your tasks take you to various points on the stage, where you have objectives to complete, usually about controlling points or defeating enemies; this game isn’t a cooridor shooter, certainly. I usually dislike console shooter controls, of course, but they work okay in Star Fox Assault. The game has simple controls, and it’s okay. Of course mouse and keyboard would be better, but for the genre on consoles, this is fine. There are vehicles to control as well, and that’s one of the more fun things about the game; I like the Landmaster tank, and sometimes there’s even an Arwing. Vehicles can only take so much damage before they get destroyed, but there are usually replacements available. So, you run or drive around, shoot the enemies as they spawn, and try to accomplish your objectives. Simple fun. The four player multiplayer’s entertaining as well, of course, and you can actually play as people who aren’t Fox. Overall, Star Fox Assault is worth getting if you find it for a reasonable price. It’s no Star Fox 64, but it’s decent fun.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. This one is a special game for me. When I bought my Gamecube the day after Thanksgiving in 2001, this was the gaem I bought with the system. Well, I also got Perfect Dark for the N64 at the same time, but this was the Gamecube game I got. I couldn’t afford to get more than one game at launch, and had just entered college so I couldn’t easily rent games anymore, so this was the only GC game I had between when I got the system and Christmas a month later. I (knowingly) overpaid, too — Kay-Bee was charging $225 for GC and $5 above regular price for the required Memory Card 59s, too. But it was the only place to go in town (other than Wal-Mart, but I do not support that store and never shop there), so I bought it anyway. And it was absolutely 100% worth it! Rogue Leader is an outstanding flight combat game, outstanding in both graphics and gameplay. I’d gotten the first Rogue Squadron 3D for the PC back in ’99, and Battle for Naboo on N64 the next year, and both were great. Also I was a huge Star Wars fan, so I was really excited for this game, and it lived up to my expectations. This is a classic-universe Star Wars game, not prequel trilogy, and as the name suggests you play as the Rogue Leader, Wedge Antilles (sadly the actor refused to appear in the new upcoming Star Wars film. Too bad!). The game is set during the original trilogy, and jumps around a bit; there is a Hoth level, among others, but it ends with the first Death Star. I do like the prequel trilogy movies, unlike most Star Wars fans, but the original trilogy is the better of the two. Rogue Leader was developed in just a year, which is an amazing accomplishment by Factor 5 considering how incredible this game looks. This game may be a launch title, but it is one of the best-looking games of the generation! The sound design is just as incredible, as always from Factor 5. Factor 5 was a great team, and it’s awful that they closed down.

Of course, a game isn’t just graphics and sound, and that, later on, became Factor 5’s downfall; people did not like the gameplay in Lair or the on-foot parts of Rebel Strike. And even here, while Rogue Leader is a great game, it is a simple game. Unlike some of F5’s Star Wars games, all of the the craft in this game are airborne, so this game entirely takes place in the skies and in space. You fly around, shoot the enemies, and try to defeat the Empire with your lasers and missiles. The only real element of complexity in the controls is the targeting computer, which turns the screen yellow and orange and highlights enemy ships to make them much easier to see. It’s a cool and very helpful addition, but it comes with a cost: if you want a good rating in each level, you need to minimize, or not use, the targeting computer. Of course. Factor 5 flight combat games are probably too simplistic, but they are always very difficult! The enemies might not be smart, but they come in impressively large numbers and it’s easy to die. But yes, as much as I loved this game, it did make me wish that we could get a Star Wars space sim game with graphics like this. The X-Wing and TIE Fighter series was incredible, but never had graphics even remotely like this! Something with these graphics, and that gameplay, would be amazing. But it never happened… too bad. In Rogue Leader missions you have varied objectives, but it always involves plenty of Star Wars fighter combat. The settings are great, and everything looks amazingly close to how it does in the films! From Bespin to Hoth to deep space, this game covers some of the major scenes from the original trilogy and beyond. Rogue Leader is a somewhat short game, though. The game is hard, and trying to get good ratings on all of the levels and unlock the hidden stages will be a serious challenge, but just getting through to the last level, the Death Star of course, won’t take all that long. The game did manage to keep me entertained for over a month, though, so there is replay value for sure if you want to get those bonus missions. Overall, EStar Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader is a definite must-own for any Gamecube owner or Star Wars fan. It’s easily the best game in the GC’s launch lineup, and I got the right game with the system.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike 1-2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Rebel Strike released a few years after the second game, and got a lot of criticism. While the flight missions are the same as ever, and are still good fun and plenty of challenge, Rebel Strike branches out and has ground vehicles and on-foot sections, as well as flying missions. Instead of telling one continuing story, as in the previous Rogue Squadron and Battle for Naboo games, in Rebel Strike the game is broken into several plotlines, each with a different player character. The game is again set in the classic trilogy era, and this time it ends with Endor and the second Death Star. As usual, there are multiple hidden missions to unlock, if you’re good enough. Being good enough is still hard, though. Only one of the story lines consists of mostly air missions; in the rest you do mostly ground vehicle and on-foot gameplay. That’s okay, mostly, but it would have been nice to see more flying missions in this game; there are too few. I remembenr some complaints that some people thought that the flight missions weren’t as good as RS2’s, but I thought they were just as good. There just weren’t as many of them. Still, the ground vehicles, such as speeder bikes and AT-STs, control well. I liked the vehicles in Battle for Naboo, and it was nice to see them back. Ground vehicle sections are simple than air ones because you’re moving on a flat plane (hills aside), but it is still fun. The real problems are in the on-foot missions. I don’t hate the on-foot parts like some people do, but it is true that they are too simplistic even for a Rogue Squadron game, and they look worse visually as well, compared to the rest of the game. You just run and shoot; targeting is automatic. It’s not much fun, and the camera is not great either. On-foot sections make up about 20% of the game. But seriously, saying that the entire game is bad just because 20% of it is bland and mediocre is just wrong! The other 80% of the game is every bit as good as ever, and that 20% isn’t quite as bad as some people say. Also, of course, Rebel Strike looks absolutely incredible. Factor 5 outdid themselves this time! Factor 5 somehow managed to DOUBLE Rogue Leader’s polygon count in this game. The previous game already was one of the best-looking console games ever, and then this one puts twice as many polygons on screen. Absolutely amazing. You can see this in the even larger swarms of TIE fighters, the larger fleets, the impressive trees and foliage on Endor, and more. The graphics in Rebel Strike are some of the best of the generation. Well, the 80% involving vehicles is; this is definitely not one of the best-looking on-foot games of the time.

In addition to the single player game, this game finally has multiplayer, for the first and only time in a Factor 5 game. The multiplayer consists of a two player co-op version of the original Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader campaign, and some versus modes. The co-op RSII campaign was one of Rebel Strike’s major selling-points, and it is an impressive one for sure. This mode is co-op only, so if you want to play RSII in single player you need to buy that game, but everyone should have that game anyway, so that’s okay. It’s impressive that they got RSII running in co-op with no cuts at all, and it shows how much more they got out of the GC in RS3. The versus modes aren’t quite as great, though. The modes are interesting, including several arenas for AT-ST combat and a mode where you fly around and sort of defend a base, vaguely reminiscent of the versus mode in Future Cop LAPD but with Star Wars fighters. It’s fun. However, it is very unfortunate that the versus modes are two player only! A two player in co-op I can understand, but in versus, I’d expect a game like this to have a four player mode. It should have been here, but it isn’t, and that is disappointing. For your four player flight combat fun, stick with the pretty great Crimson Skies on the Xbox. Overall, Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike is a good game, and it got criticized too much; for the most part this is the same great Factor 5 Star Wars vehicular combat as ever. I do wish that there were more flight missions, and that the on-foot gameplay was better — this is the studio that made Super and Mega Turrican, they must have been able to do better than this — and that it had four player support, but otherwise this is a very good game. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this game, when I got it a few years after its release, but it is indeed a good game. The fighter plane and AT-ST parts are great, speeder bikes are okay, and that little AT-AT cockpit segment is definitely amusing. Rebel Strike is not the best Rogue Squadron game, but it IS still a good game. There was supposed to be a Wii remake collection of these two GC Rogue Squadron games, but it was cancelled when Factor 5 was collapsing, and Nintendo and Lucasarts refused to give them the money that could have saved them, because they thought F5 would spend the money on paying their bills and not game development. This shortsighted move cost Nintendo one of the best graphics and audio studios who knew their hardware well.

Summoner: A Goddess Reborn 1 player. Summoner: A Goddess Reborn is a port of the PS2/PC action-RPG game Summoner 2. The first game was not on Gamecube, but this improved second game is. All I knew of Summoner when I got this was the demo of the first game for PC, which I remember being not especially interesting, but this second game is much better. In Summoner 2 you play as Maia, a young queen of a somewhat Arabic or Southeast Asian nation — yes, this game isn’t set in Fantasy Europe, which is pretty cool — who is the titular goddess reborn. Even though you are powerful, though, trouble is brewing, and you get pulled in to greater events. Maia is not one to sit back and let others do things for her, and she finds she has special summoning powers, so it’s up to you to save the day. This is a third-person hack and slash action-RPG, and Maia and your two (set or selectable) party members explore the world, finding stuff, fighting enemies, and solving fetch-quest puzzles. This is an okay but not great game across the board. Okay graphics, okay design, alright gameplay. It’s good, but not as polished as the best RPGs. Though it’s lacking a lot of polish the game does have an automap and questlog, which are fantastic to have in this kind of game. The map even marks key points, and the game lets you save anywhere! Fantastic. In combat you have regular attack, special ability/spell/item, and block buttons. There are also button combinations for various character-specific abilities, so try to learn them. You can only equip one spell at once, which is annoying; it’d be nice to use healing and summoning transformations without switching on the item screen (Up on the dpad). But there are no more buttons. Ah well. Combat feels a bit imprecise and unpolished, but works okay; use block, it is absolutely vital! Hits can do a lot of damage if unblocked. The game can be challenging sometimes, so save often. Summoner: A Goddess Reborn is a fun third person action-RPG, and it’s a kind of game the Gamecube has very few of, so it’s great that the game was ported to GC. I don’t know if I’d have played this game otherwise, but this port got me to play it, and despite issues this is a good game that I like. Gameplay is moderately good, there’s a decent amount of content and an okay story, and I like the somewhat unique setting a lot. More fantasy games should be set outside of Europe, China, and Japan! Also on PS2 and PC.

Super Bubble Pop 1-2 player. Super Bubble Pop is a block-breaking puzzle game. I covered the PS1 version of this game in my PS1 thread, and this is that game, but with a two player splitscreen mode, instead of being one player only like on the PS1, and with better graphics. The game is 2d, and has basic visuals, but it does look better than the PS1 release at least. Super Bubble Pop is an unpopular but fun puzzle game; it did not deserve the bad scores it got on all platforms. The visual look is obviously inspired by Bust-A-Move, but the gameplay is somewhat different. In Super Bubble Pop, you move left and right at the bottom of the screen, and shoot bubbles up the field. If three of the same color touch, they pop. However, in this game bubbles stack! So, if you shoot a bubble at a bubble, the one you shot at is pushed up a level, and the new one mvoes in below it, up to a maximum height of five. After hitting that level, new bubbles that don’t pop a set of three will stop in front of the max-height stack. So, setting up big combos in this game is difficult; I always have trouble doing anything more than basic match-3 sets. The issue is that you can’t just get bubbles to stop where you want in the field because of the stacking, so the only good way to get rid of lots of bubbles is figure out patterns in the block formations that you can exploit to set off chain combos, or slowly match 3 at a time to break down the blocks. Still, it is a fun little puzzle game, and I like it. Super Bubble Pop isn’t great, but it is addictive and can be fun. This is an amusing little game that’s fun to play once in a while and does play a bit differently from other block-dropping puzzle games. Also on PS1, Xbox, and GBA. The PS1 version has no multiplayer.

Super Mario Sunshine 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Super Mario Sunshine… this is a tough one to review. This game had an impossible task: it was the sequel to one of the greatest and most influential games of all time, Super Mario 64. The game would have had to be truly incredible to live up to the expectations that people had for it. While Sunshine is a good game, it is not that game. It is not one of the greatest games of all time, so compared to Mario 64 before it or Mario Galaxy after it, Sunshine is disappointing. I didn’t get it new, but did get it within a few years of its release, and I considered it one of the more disappointing Gamecube games up to that point. That is just because of how stratospheric expectations were, though. Just looking at 6th-generation 3d platformers, Mario 64 is definitely one of the better ones. The 6th generation had a lot of 3d platformers, and in terms of volume it probably was the genre at its peak, but in quality, I think that the 5th generation was a bit better. Still, top 6th gen 3d platformers like Mario Sunshine are still pretty good games. The gameplay is similar at its core to Mario 64, but with better graphics and some new features.

Mario Sunshine has a hub town and various levels you access from that, and when you go into a level, it is to accomplish one specific objective, just like in Mario 64. However, this time the game is entirely set on the resort island of Isle Delfino. This gives the game a consistent theme, but also means that the game has much less visual variety than Mario 64 did, and that is really unfortunate; I missed all the levels set in different places. The most you’ll find this time is the beach resort versus the amusement park, and such. Not as good. The biggest change from Mario 64, however, of course, is the water pack FLUDD on Mario’s back. This talking backpack with nozzle can act as a jetpack, a spraygun, and more. Jetpacks in games are always great, so that element of this game I like a lot. The spray gun isn’t as great, though. Spraying water in order to clean up paint is something you do a lot of in this game, and it’s only okay; I’d rather do more Mario-style platforming, really. There were lots of jokes about cleaning up paint after this released, understandably enough. It is one of the most common gameplay elements in the game. Many enemies spread paint behind them or shoot paint at you, and you have to clean it up, and also shoot water back at them to clean them up — ie, defeat them. These fights are okay, but not great. This game can be challenging, too; it’s not really hard, but it is probably harder than Mario 64 or Mario Galaxy. Mario Sunshine has large levels, decent variety in mission types, and the different levels are each unique, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this isn’t quite as great as I was hoping Mario 64’s sequel would be. One of the more interesting things in the game, though, are the mini-levels where FLUDD is not on your back. These surprisingly hard challenge missions were surely inspired by the Bowser levels in Mario 64, and they’re probably even better than those, and tehre are more of them too! These levels get pretty hard, and are a lot of fun to try to complete. Overall though, Mario 64 is just a good game. I got bored before the end, so I never actually finished the game. Maybe I will play it again someday, but not now. I do remember liking some missions, and having fun with the jetpack, though. But… Mario 64 and Mario galaxy are so, SO incredible! This is the game in between those all-time classics, and it’s not quite as good as either one. Being not as good as some of the best platformers ever still leaves a very good game, though, and that’s important to understand. Any platformer fan should of course play Super Mario Sunshine. It can be fun, and is challenging at times. Just don’t expect it to match the quality of Mario’s best adventures.

Super Monkey Ball 1-4 player alternating (or simultaneous, in certain minigames). Super Monkey Ball, from Sega, is a port of the arcade game of the same name. It was an early release on the Gamecube, and was Sega’s first major title on Nintendo’s console after being forced to abandon the Dreamcast. Super Monkey Ball visually looks like the Naomi (Dreamcast arcade) port that it is, so it doesn’t push the Gamecube, but this game is about gameplay, not graphics. Still, the monkeys are kind of weirdly cute, and environments look nice in that Dreamcast way. But the great gameplay is what’s best about Super Monkey Ball! The great gameplay and the challenge. This game is an extremely difficult arcade maze game. Using extremely precise movements, you have to maneuver your monkey-in-a-ball through maze-like levels and manage to get them to the exit. It’s essentially a modern update of Marble Madness or perhaps even more appropriately the Labyrinth board game, the wooden one where you roll a ball around a maze. Just like Labyrinth, you play by tilting the ground around, which rolls the monkey ball based on the direction you are tilting it. It’s a fantastic game, and just as hard as those classics as well! I had a Labyrinth board game as a kid and liked it, but this has multiple levels of course, which makes it even better. Levels in Super Monkey ball are very short but very hard. You really will need to master table movement in order to get through the levels. The level designs are clever, and there are bananas to collect along the way. Bananas give you extra lives when you collect enough, and you will need these. Super Monkey Ball is an arcade game, and it’s arcade-hard and arcade-unfair. This game wants to eat your quarters, but instead of putting in more money when you get game over, you have to use up one of your LIMITED continues! There are three difficulty levels, but this just determines how many of the levels you play. In Beginner you play ten, in Advanced you play 30, and in Expert you play 50 stages. The box claims the game has “90 stages”, but many stages are reused with only minor changes between difficulty levels, so that claim is a bit deceptive. I’ve managed to beat Medium, but not Hard; I can never make it without running out of lives first. Ah well, it’s fun to try anyway. After you finish, if you did well enough to get on to the high score table, you get to roll around a letter circle, spelling your name by bumping into the letters. Fun stuff. None of the sequels to this game, as far as I know, use this same arcade-styled design; all of them let you save between levels and are, as a result, much, much easier. In the first game you can’t save a game in progress and have many levels to complete with few lives. It’s a very different experience from the sequels, and while it’s crazy hard, I love it. This is my favorite Super Monkey Ball game, hands-down. The controls are just perfect! The Gamecube controller’s good analog stick is perfect for this game; don’t even think of doing well in this game with some third-party controller, you’d never make it.

In addition to the main game, Super Monkey Ball also has five minigames. The minigames were extremely popular, and later Monkey Ball titles often focus more on minigames than they do on puzzle levels. Somehow my Gamecube-owning friends in college weren’t big Monkey Ball fans, though, or at least we didn’t play the game very often, so I actually have only infrequently played the minigames in multiplayer. There’s a racing mode, which is fun; a target mode, where you jump through the air, open your ball like a glider, and try to collect as many banannas as you can and land on a target circle; bowling; Fight; and golf. They’re fun amusements, but I mostly played the main game. I’m actually not sure if I unlocked all of the minigames or not… have I ever played Monkey Fight? Not sure. Overall though, Super Monkey Ball is a great game, and is certainly one of the best Gamecube games of 2001, right up there behind Rogue Leader and SSBM. It’s a rock-hard arcade game, and it’s great. Arcade port. Also on PS2 and Xbox in the Super Monkey Ball Deluxe collection, with the below game.

Super Monkey Ball 2 1-4 player, alternating (main game) or simultaneous (some minigames), 480p progressive scan support. Super Monkey Ball 2 is a console-only followup to the very popular original. It controls just as great as the first game did, and the graphics have improved. The basic gameplay is the same as the first Super Monkey Ball, only this time there are a lot more minigames, and that element of the game got more attention than the main single player did. I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually played this game in multiplayer, though, so I mostly just have played the single player puzzle mode. It’s fun, but not quite as good as the original game. You can save between levels now, which removes all that tension about wondering how far you will get. Of course this means you won’t have to repeat lots of levels when you get a game over, but overall, I think I like that way more, for a game like this. There are 150 levels now, though, so there is more content than there was in the first game. That’s nice. However, the game is pretty similar thematically to the first game; in the main puzzle game this is mostly just more Monkey Ball, just easier this time. It’s still plenty of fun, but the original is a true classic, while this is just more of the same but not quite as good. As for those minigames, there are a lot of them, but I can’t say much about them. There are 12 minigames this time, triple the number from the first game. Most of the minigames return from the first game, but they added many new ones, including some more racing modes, tennis, baseball, soccer, billiards, and an air combat one. I don’t know if they’re good, haven’t really played them. Super Monkey Ball 2 is a decent game, an it’s worth getting if you like Monkey Ball, but it isn’t essential like the first game is. Still, fans of the genre should get this; this is better than plenty of roll-the-ball games, certainly. Also on PS2 and Xbox in the Super Monkey Ball Deluxe collection, with the below game.

Super Monkey Ball Adventure 1 player (single player) or 4 player alteranting/simultaneous (depending on mode, multiplayer), 480p progressive scan support. Super Monkey Ball Adventure is a widely disliked attempt to make the Monkey Ball series into a 3d platformer. The game has 50 classic-style puzzle stages, ans six minigames, but the main focus of the game is a large 3d platformer world that you roll around in. The idea sounds good. I mean, why not make a 3d platformer out of one of these roll-the-marble games? It could work! And it kind of does… but not quite. This game isn’t great, unfortunately. It’s not awful, but it’s not great, and it barely feels like a Monkey Ball game for the most part. Sure, you’re still rolling around, but rolling around exploring worlds, defeating badguys, and jumping over pits is not what I expect in a Monkey Ball game! The game is from Traveler’s Tales, a decent developer, but this isn’t one of their best games. It’s not their worst, but it is definitely disappointing. I like 3d platformers a lot, so I was hoping I’d like this game, but … no, it’s just not that great. The game looks pretty good; environments are good-sized and look nice, and everything has plenty of detail. It’s just too bad that it doesn’t play as well as it looks. For one thing, you are in a ball, so precise controls can be difficult. That’s fine in classic Labyrinths where you have to avoid the pits in a small level and reach the goal, but in a larger world, it can get frustrating. Jumping is an issue as well. There isn’t a jump button in this game, for some stupid reason. Instead, you have to touch flowers or roll over bounce pads in order to jump, which restricts things a lot. Attacking enemies requires too many steps as well. Combine those issues with the slippery controls that make navigating these worlds quite frustrating, and the result is that Super Monkey Ball Adventure is an overly difficult game, more frustrating than fun far too often. The 50 classic puzzles are not as well-balanced difficulty-wise either, and are also often too hard; Traveller’s Tales is no match for Sega in making great Labyrinths. The game also has too-long load times, unfortunately. Oh, this game does have a story. You’re on a quest to save the realm, and such. There are also many characters to talk to along the way who give you missions to complete. Yeah, because that’s just what a Monkey Ball game needed… or not. But even though using Monkey Ball in a platformer was a questionable idea, I’m sure that this could have been good. Monkey Ball is good, and platformers are good, and it plays a little bit like one, so it was worth the try. It just didn’t work out. Super Monkey Ball Adventure is average or below average. It’s not terrible, but it is frustrating to play and not nearly as fun as the other Gamecube Monkey Ball games are. As for the multiplayer minigames, I’ve never played them. Also on PS2 and PSP.

Super Smash Bros. Melee4 player simultaneous (in versus mode), 480p progressive scan support. Super Smash Bros. Melee is the Gamecube’s best-selling game, and it’s one of the system’s best-known and most highly-regarded titles. As with all of the SSB games, this isa 2.5d fighting/action game, and it is a great one. Indeed, this is an exceptional multiplayer game, one of the greatest multiplayer console games ever! However, as good a multiplayer game SSBM is, I never have found it much fun in single player. I never did unlock Mr. Game & Watch or all of the classic levels in SSBM, because having to beat the game with all of the characters just was not fun… and even in multiplayer, as great as SSBM is, I’d always get tired of it after a few matches and want to move on to something else, while everyone else wanted to just play it forever. Heh. But even if I don’t like SSBM quite as much as some Nintendo fans do, it is still a great game and a great series. As for the gameplay, is there anyone reading this who really doesn’t know SSBM? I doubt it. The game is a side-scrolling fighting game, the most popular one Nintendo has ever made. This is a four player battle game, and you defeat your opponents by getting their damage meter high and then hitting them off of the stage. Characters also have easy-to-perform special moves, mapped to B, B+Up, B+Down, and B+Left/Right. There is also a shield button which can temporarily protect you. So, the controls are simple to learn, but the game has a lot of depth to master as well. It’s the perfect design, and has not been replicated yet. All of the characters from the first SSB on N64 return in Melee, and quite a few new ones have been added as well. Unfortunately, my favorite character in the original SSB, Kirby, was badly nerfed in this game. That’s probably the worst thing about Melee. So, in Melee my favorite character is Zelda/Sheik, Sheik form in particular. That’s who I mostly played, or Kirby sometimes despite the nerf. The character selection could be even larger, but it’s good. The game has great gameplay, and is much, much faster than the comparatively slow N64 game. That’s a good game, but Melee is definitely better, and the faster play is one of the reasons why. The main versus modes are timed or lives, but I always really disliked timed mode; it’s not much fun. Lives mode is better every time! In single player the game has a basic arcade mode with various 1-on-1 fights and some platformey bits and stuff, like the N64 games’ single player mode but a bit longer. It’s fun the first time or two, but gets boring quite quickly. Overall, Super Smash Bros. Melee is a very good game, and one of the better multiplayer games around. It deserves its popularity. I don’t like the game as much as some do, but it is a great game despite that.

Tales of Symphonia 4 player simultaneous. Tales of Symphonia was the first Tales game on a Nintendo home console since the original Tales of Phantasia, and this time the game released outside of Japan as well, unlike that game, before its later GBA port. The Tales series is a long-running, near-yearly series of anime-style action-RPGs. Relateively few Tales games are on Nintendo systems, but Symphonia is, and it is also the most successful Tales game in the US by a wide margin. Because Namco apparently doesn’t care about that and only cared about Japanese sales, though, we didn’t get another GC Tales game. unfortunately. Abyss should have been on GC too… ah well. I didn’t get ToS right away, but did get it new, not too long after its release. I had to decide between ToS and Baten Kaitos, and this is the one I chose to buy for full price, while that one I got for cheaper later on. And wow did I make the right decision! I did not like Baten Kaitos much, but Symphonia is a pretty good game. This was the first Tales game that I owned, and it is the only game in the franchise that I’ve actually beaten. Apart from the pre-rendered backgrounds in towns this game is entirely 3d, unlike previous Tales games, and has decently good anime-style graphics and plenty of voice acting.

As for the game itself, as in all Tales games, the game has a traditional JRPG framework, story, and world explanation, with action-style combat. Earlier Tales games have side-scrolling battles, but in Symphonia battles go 3d, sort of. Battles are in 3d space, but you still move on a 2d line with your current target; conceptually, it works sort of like the Naruto: CoN games, actually. You can move back and forth and jump, and use a normal attack, different for each character, or some special moves. Special moves are unlocked as you play; this is an RPG of course. You can map several to button+direction combos, so once you get farther into the game and have more moves, you have to choose which ones you want to have equipped. It’s not too complex and is plenty fun. I like the combat in this game, it’s simple but has some depth, and the variety of moves is nice. The multiplayer is only in battles — other players can control the other three party members when in combat. In the overworld, though, only player one has control. Still, it’s fun for sure. Combat gets repetitive, but it is mostly fun. The battle system is very important in a JRPG, because you’ll be fighting a lot. Battles are not random in this game, which is fantastic! Instead, you see enemy shapes moving around on the overworld. Touch one and you get drawn into a battle; the overworld enemy shapes suggest at how hard each fight is, but don’t necesarially show what the actual enemies you will be fighting are, unfortunately. Still, it’s a lot better than random battles. The game also has plenty of towns, done in the standard JRPG fashion. Walk around, talk to the people who have a few lines each, and go to the weapon and item stores to buy some upgrades! Also, of course, you progress the story by going to specific places in towns or the overworld.

Tales of Symphonia is a two-disc game and has a lot of story to get through. The game has a few anime-style cutscenes, but it’s mostly done in-engine, often with voice acting. The story is decent. The main character of the game is Lloyd, a swordsman boy who goes from cliche small village roots to eventually saving the world, but you can play as any of the characters, which is great; in the first few Tales games you couldn’t do that. The next most important character is Colette, Lloyd’s childhood friend and a girl with a mysterious destiny, of course. Sheena was probably my favorite character, but Lloyd is an okay protagonist, not nearly as annoying as some. The game has optional conversation scenes between characters if you go outside towns, something also seen in the Star Ocean series. It’s nice because it adds more to the characterizations. The game also has variations on the ending depending on who Lloyd has the closest friendship rating with, so your choices in conversations do matter for that, if not for much else. Of course, the cast and story are extremely cliche anime stuff, as always in the Tales series; Tales games are popular in Japan in part because they deal so heavily in anime stereotypes, I think. I do somewhat like anime so I don’t mind this, but the game is definitely predictable sometimes. The game is loaded with moments where the writers try to surprise you with regular major plot twists, though. Some will see them coming, others won’t. As usual in the Tales series, from what I understand, racism is central to the plot. I didn’t initially expect the direction the game eventually took; there is one major change partway through, in addition to all the other plot twists. Still though, anyone who knows anime well, or has played Tales games, probably will not be too surprised. There are a lot of Tales games, and they definitely blend together to a degree.

Still though, overall, because this was my first Tales game, as with a lot of other people in the US, I liked the game; the Tales formula is interesting for a while, at least. By the time I got to the end of the game, at about 50 hours in, I had had enough, and I never did all of the postgame content, but I had enough fun to definitely make beating the game once well worth it. Tales of Symphonia is a fun game with decent graphics, mostly fun gameplay, and an okay story. I liked it. Also on PS2 in Japan only, and on PS3, packed in with its Wii sequel Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, redone in HD, and available in all regions.

Tarzan Untamed1 player. Tarzan Untamed is a licensed platformer based on the Disney’s Tarzan movie and TV cartoon, but it’s okay. The game is polygonal, but changes perspectives repeatedly during play. Sometimes the game is a Crash-styled narrow-path forward-running game; sometimes it is a 2d sidescroller; and sometimes it is a cross between the two. The game mostly follows a railed path, so do not expect large areas to run around in, but there is a bit of exploration here and there, if you want to find the hidden items in each level. Levels do have branching paths sometimes, which is nice. These seem to mostly lead to collectables, and finding enough of those will unlock some secret levels and other extras. While it is from a different developer, Ubisoft Montreal here instead of Eurocom before, in style the game definitely feels reminiscent of the N64/PS1 Tarzan sidescroller that preceeded it. The main difference is that while that game is entirely 2.5d sidescrolling, this game does have some areas where you move around in 3d. Often it’s a narrow path, but it is some 3d movement. The changes in perspective give the game a more varied feel, but don’t really improve the gameplay. The N64 game might actually be more fun to play, and reviews at the time agreed — this game scored a bit lower than the N64/PS1 game. While this is an okay game, I can see why. That one is actually a pretty solid platformer. It’s nothing amazing, but it’s a fun little game. This one has some furstrating elements, though. Some jumps can be tricky, and you often need good timing to get through things. This is not a hard game, but it can be annoying sometimes. Also, the perspective shifts are occasionally confusing; there were times where I wasn’t sure where I’d be going once I jumped. Naturally, since this is a Tarzan game, a lot of rope-swinging and vine-riding is involved, so the game has a little variety. Riding on vines is fun, but the jumping puzzles on these can be a little tricky. This game is a little harder than I’d have expected, for a Disney license kids’ game on the Gamecube, and the level designs aren’t great. They’re not bad, but the genre can do a lot better than this. The game does try to keep mixing things up, which is nice; in addition to the various sliding or running bits in main levels, the game also has bungie-jumping minigames, where you must try to get all of the items out of a lake by avoiding obstacles as you fall. And that really is about all there is to the game. Tarzan Untamed is a simplistic game clearly aimed at a younger audience. I’m sure that audience would like the game, and it’s an okay game, but for anyone older than a child, the game is a bit too simplistic and too often a bit annoying to play for me to really recommend it. Still, it should be cheap, and the GC has very few even partially 2d platformers, so it is worth a thought on those grounds. Also on PS2.

Teen Titans 4 player simultaneous. Teen Titans is a licensed beat ’em up. The game is a later Gamecube game, from 2006, and because I watched the show and it released at only $20, I bought it shortly after release. The game isn’t great, but it was more than fun enough to be worth the purchase. This is a decent beat ’em up with okay to good gameplay, plenty of moves to learn, and a somewhat amusing videogame story. The Teen Titans was a cartoon on Cartoon Network, and while usually I don’t care too much for superheroes, I actually liked this show. It’s entertaining and mixes some anime stylings into its cartoon world. The team consists of five heroes, all playable in the game, and all present on screen at all times. You can switch between them at will, or at least between you and any character not being controlled by a human, and that’s great! The team is Robin (yes, Batman’s sidekick, here on his own), Starfire, Raven, Beastboy, and Cyborg. Raven was my favorite character in the show, but in the game they are all fun to play as. The five are essentially similar, with the graphics being the biggest difference between them, but there are differences between each one that make them all useful. Sometimes the game requires using multiple characters to accomplish something, too, like leaving characters on marked pads one by one. The game has weak, strong, and ranged attack buttons. You start out with only basic attacks, but as you progress through the game you unlock more and more combos to give the game more variety. There are also collectables to find in the levels. With these you can unlock some other extras, most importantly characters and stages for the pretty fun multiplayer-centric battle mode. In battle mode you can play as a lot of characters from the show, not only the five Teen Titans. The game does have a story as well, and as usual in games, it serves as a long sequence of excuses to drag out almost every major villain from the show and have you fight them in the game. The characters eventually recognize this, which is amusing. The ending is definitely somewhat unique as well. Graphically the game looks okay; it’s an average-to-good looking game for the time. The game has aged somewhat since its release, though, and didn’t look quite as good when I last played it than I remembered it looking in ’06. Still, the game looks okay, and it does have plenty of different environments to travel through and enemies to fight. Teen Titans is a simple but fun beat ’em up, and I like it. I’m sure it helps that I like the series, but the fighting action is decently well designed and the game does play fairly well. It’s above average at least, maybe good (particularly if you like the franchise or characters). Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus4 player simultaneous. TMNT 2: Battle Nexus is the second of four Konami Turtles games that generation, all based off of the early/mid ’00s Turtles TV cartoon. I’m mostly familiar with the original Turtles cartoon from the ’80s, of course, but I did watch a few episodes of the ’00s one, and it seemed okay. The early ’90s Konami Turtles beat ’em ups were all good to great games, so when I heard that Konami had gotten the rights again I was initially interested. My interest quickly faded, however, as the games released to mediocre-at-best reviews, so I passed. Now I have only the first two, including the Xbox version of the first one, and this one for GC. Konami’s three TMNT 6th gen beat ’em ups are all quite similar games; the other one is a 3d fighting game of sorts. (I should also mention that there was one last 6th gen Turtles game, from Ubisoft, based on the mid ’00s CG movie. I have that one for PC. It’s terrible. Even worse than these, somehow. It’s such a boring game!) Getting to TMNT 2: Battle Nexus, though, this is a two-disc game, but that’s not because it’s a huge epic; it’s because of all the cutscenes between levels with animation from the cartoon, and also the voice acting, probably. The graphics are strictly average at best, and the 3d cgaracter models look kind of ugly, so it certainly isn’t being used for more or better graphics. Maybe also poor compression, who knows.

If the game was good, that would be fine, but it isn’t; it is instead average to poor. This game really shows how far Konami had fallen since its early ’90s peak! And it’s only gotten worse since this games’ release, sadly. Battle Nexus is a bland beat ’em up. You walk forward, hit the enemies, and then rinse and repeat. You get various moves, but it’s not as dynamic and exciting as it should be. The Teen Titans game, above, is far better than any ’00s Turtles game I’ve played, and it’s not close! The fighting action is more fun there. Better gameplay, moves, graphics, and options. At least TMNT 2: Battle Nexus has four player support this time; the first game only supports two players. Another nice addition versus the first game is that while there you only saw the turtle you’re playing as ingame, this time all four are onscreen during missions, and you can switch between them, as also seen in the Teen Titans game above. It’s a nice mechanic, and defintiely helps this game; it is better than the first one for sure. However, the basic gameplay is still extremely dull and repetitive. Enemy AI barely exists, for one. Fighting enemies is boring, not fun. Most of what you do is walking around, hitting the same enemies again and again and once in a while solving a simple puzzle — use correct turtle on obvious barrier that their ability can get past — to progress. I like beat ’em ups when they are good, but this game is too simplistic and repetitive. IT’s just not very fun to play, just like too many modern beat ’em ups. There is limited enemy variety, and everything repeats a lot just like you would expect. Nothing here is terrible, but it’s not very interesting either. Instead it’s repetitive, bland, and kind of ugly as well. This game is a repetitive licensed button masher, nothing more — and Turtles games can be far more! You can do worse than play TMNT 2: Battle Nexus, but you can also do a lot, lot better; this is probably in the lowest tier of Gamecube games I own. Probably don’t bother unless you’re a big genre or series fan. The one saving grace here is that the game includes a copy of the amazing original TMNT arcade game, which is one of the great classics of the beat ’em up genre, a genre I loved back in the ’80s and early ’90s… but the soundtrack is removed, and replaced with ’00s TMNT cartoon music. Disappointing! Still, it is a lot more fun than the main game, for sure. Unfortunately, you have to unlock it. Good luck tolerating the main game long enough to get to it, it won’t be fun. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Top Gun: Combat Zones 1-2 player simultaneous. Top Gun: Combat Zones is a subpar flight combat game which tries to split the difference between being a simple sim flight game, and an arcade flying shooter. You fly a variety of aircraft and have to destroy all of the targets in each mission. Crash and you start the whole thing over; there are no in-mission continues in this game! That is one example of how the game struggles, and fails, to be both a sim and an arcadey game. Combat Zones also has little to do with Top Gun. You won’t see any Top Gun characters in this game, and you’ll never land on an aircraft carrier either. I’m not even sure if you ever see one. Yeah, the game has very little to do with the license. It is interesting that Top Gun is such an enduring videogame franchise, though; there have been many Top Gun games over the decades, even though there was only ever the one film, way back in the late ’80s. It’s kind of odd. I think I’ve seen the movie, but don’t remember it very well. But this game has nothing to do with the film anyway, so that’s fine for this review. This game was published by Titus, so I came in with low, low expectations, and it lived up to them, unfortunately. Top Gun: Combat Zones doesn’t just have little to do with the license apart from being about airplane combat, it also has poor graphics and bad controls. When you are far away from things in this game they look fine, but get in close, as you will often have to do, and the textures are horribly blurry and low-res! This game looks quite dated even for 2002. The games’ environments are not overly complex, either. But the worst thing about the game, probably, are the controls. Getting used to Combat Zones’ controls is not easy, and they never become okay. These planes turn far too slow! It took far more practice than it should to be able to not crash within seconds of the training missions starting. The game has two control options, easy or expert, and handling is even worse in the harder settings. In Expert this F-14 felt as unmaneuverable as the X-Wings in Star Wars Arcade on the 32X! Yeah, it was that bad, particularly for turning up and down. In Easy mode it does seem to be easier to maneuver the plane, which is great, but it still isn’t very good. The plane rolls around crazily, and I didn’t feel like I actually ever had good control over the thing. The third-person camera is kind of painful to use, with how it shows that poor plane waving about… controls in this game are slippery and slow. You blow up if you get anywhere near the ground, too, and the ‘explosion’ is quite boring, and then after that you have to restart the whole mission. Missions that require me to fly near the ground are a real pain! The game is a bit more fun when you’re staying up in the air, because hitting the ground is much less likely, but then you have to deal with finding airborne targets. This is harder than it should be because the radar is terrible! There is a radar circle on screen, but it gives you no height information, so you don’t know where on the vertical plane any enemy plane is. There’s also indicators at the bottom of the screen telling you where the enemy planes are related to yours, but again, this is a flat indicator with no indication of height. So, get used to waving your plane up and down, looking for that enemy in front of you. It’s about as unfun as it sounds. The game has several modes, but they all play the same. There are five planes to unlock, including the F-14, F-16, F-22, and two more. There are three campaigns, each made up of six missions, plus a five-mission tutorial (which I found QUITE frustrating!) at the beginning. Each campaign is set in a different location and time period, so the first is in Southeast Asia in the ’70s, then it moves to the Middle East, etc. There’s also a basic two player mode, but why subject a friend to flight controls and gameplay as frustrating and unfun as this game is? Play something better instead, like Defender or Rogue Squadron III! Don’t play this. It is bad. I only paid $2 for the game, and it’s easy to see why it was so cheap. Titus yet again shows why it earned its bad, bad reputation. Also on PS2 (and yes, this version is a port.).

Tube Slider1-4 player simultaneous. Tube Slider is a futuristic tube-racing game published by NEC, one of only two games NEC published outside of Japan after they gave up on the Turbografx. If this game and Culdcept (PS2) were their test cases for whether they should build up a Western publishing division again, they must have failed. And honestly, I can see why, in this case at least. This game was developed by nD Cube, who also made the disappointing and kind of bad F-Zero: Maximum Velocity for the GBA, and they did maybe an even worse job in this second attempt at the genre. I am, of course, a huge, huge futuristic racing game fan, but this game is just kind of boring. It’s not a terrible game, just mediocre, but it’s nowhere near the level of greats of the genre like F-Zero GX or XGRA. This is a tube racing game, so, as in the early ’00s PC classic Ballistic, all races are in long circular pipes full of obstacles. Think of the inside-a-tube tracks in F-Zero X or GX; it’s like that, but less fun this time. There are ten tracks, an okay number. It’s fine that all tracks are inside of tubes, because Ballistic shows that you can make a great racing game where all tracks are in tubes. It really is unfortunate that this game isn’t the great game that I was hoping it would be. As in many futuristic racing games, Tube Slider starts out with slow vehicles, and you unlock higher speed-classes as you progress. This is good, because at the slow speed the game is somewhat boring. Even once it speeds up, though, the game is still far too slow; the sense of speed in Tube Slider is lacking, and that’s a big problem in a game like this. Ballistic is blisteringly fast (it’s got to be one of the fastest games ever!), and the F-Zero games are much faster-feeling than this as well. In gameplay, as in all of these tube racing games, where you are in the tube does matter. You will need to learn the tracks to figure out where on the tube is the best entry point at each turn. It’s good that it has this at least, because since the tracks are tubes, otherwise there would be no challenge. A more questionable idea is the gravity system; you want to be on the bottom of the tube at all times, because you’ll go slower on top because, unlike any other tube-racing game I’ve played, for some reason they decided to have an overdone slowdown effect when not driving on the side of the tube closest to the ground. This game is slow enough already! Also, this makes the game hard, as you really need to memorize each turn or you will fall to last place quickly when you go off the ‘ground’ after entering a turn wrong. If the game was more fun to play I wouldn’t mind this, because F-Zero X and Ballistic are both challenging games (in very different ways) which require a lot of skill to master, but Tube Slider is neither fun nor rewarding, and I have not gone back to it very often at all after initially trying the game. Tube Slider is a bland game that probably isn’t worth the effort it takes to get good at.

Turok Evolution 1-4 player simultaneous (in battle mode only). Turok Evolution was Acclaim’s last Turok game, and like the series in general after Turok 2, it was highly under-rated at the time. I did not get any of the Turok games at the time, probably because of my general skepticism about first-person shooters, but I should have! I really like the Turok games; they’re some of the best console FPSes for sure. I have no idea why it took me so long to buy and play this game, but I didn’t until just before writing this, foolishly enough. Yes, I like Turok Evolution a lot! I know usually I complain about console FPS controls, but they work better in the Turok games than most others. I had to switch the options a bit, of course — I much prefer to move with the right stick and aim with the left (aiming with controls inverted on), but the game lets you do that. There is an option for autoaim assist, but it’s off by default and I left it that way; the controls work as well as they could on a gamepad without aim-assist being needed. The game does have some flaws, but overall it’s a great game. Turok Evolution sort of feels like a cross between Turok 1’s setting and Turok 3’s level scale and save system. The game also isn’t just a FPS! The game has some flight combat levels as well, and they’re fantastic fun. Great addition there for sure.

Unlike Earthbound Turok 3, of course, this game returns to the dinosaur and alien-laden jungles of the Lost Land. You play as Tal’Set, an American Indian warrior who is pulled into a portal alongside a cruel US army officer he had been fighting. I imagine the guy will be the final boss, or something like that. The game is filled with dinosaurs, so anyone who complained about how few there were in the second and particularly the third game should have nothing to complain about on that account! I love how the levels are full of “NPC” dinos who don’t threaten you, from giant ones just standing around, to midsized Triceratops, to tiny little ones at your feet. A few kinds are dangerous, but it is easy to tell the threatening ones from the harmless wildlife, and all of the creatures make the game feel more alive. Your main enemies are various kinds of aliens, as usual in the series. They look decent enough. One pretty awesome feature is that you can actually sometimes get enemies to surrender! If they put their hands on their head, you can kill them anyway, or wait a few seconds and they will vanish, leaving their powerups behind. This is a pretty great option to include in the game, and I wish many more games had something like it. It’s great to not always have to kill everyone who faces you. Only intelligent enemies can surrender, of course, and not average dinosaurs, but it’s pretty nice that it’s there. The game has some areas where you can destroy environmental obstacles like trees with weaponfire, too, which is very cool. The graphics are a little blurry when you get up close, but look pretty good overall. This is a fairly nice-looking game. I like the sound design too; the background music is nice, and enemy and dinosaur sounds are all around.

In the FPS levels, much like in Turok 3, levels are moderate in length, the game saves at the start of each stage, and you can continue as much as you want… from the beginning of the stage. Any death means you restart the level, which is pretty much the games’ only major flaw; having to go back 20-plus minutes because I failed to make it over some jump near the end of the level for the third time in a row is NOT fun. And yes, jumping puzzles abound, as in all of Acclaim’s Turok games. I like platformers and am okay with that, but I certainly would understand if this is something many people dislike about the series. Levels are linear, in that you have a start point and a goal, but along the way there are many side areas to explore. Level designs in this game are reminiscent of the N64 games, except with better graphics and more going on around you. I like the level designs in Turok Evolution a lot; it’s Turok, brought to the next generation. All those cliffs are a danger of course, considering how you restart the level if you die, but it wouldn’t be Turok without such challenges. You have a large arsenal to defeat your foes with. You start with just an axe and a bow, but get plenty of guns as you progress. Fortunately Acclaim paid no attention to Halo’s stupid two weapon limit, so you can use all your weapons at any time. Nice.

As for the flying levels, I love flight combat games, and the flight levels in this game are done quite well. They’re partially rail-shooter and partially freeroam arena stages, along the lines of Star Fox 64. Most of the game is an FPS, but the flying levels are a lot of fun, and add some nice variety to the game. You either fly forwards, shooting enemies and dodging obstacles, or fly around an area shooting at the enemies. Powerups are suspended from balloons to refill your health and rockets. The machine gun has infinite ammo, but rockets are limited. You control a flying dinosaur here, of course, albeit one loaded with weapons. Enemies include enemies on flying dinos, airships, alien craft, and more. Good stuff; the game has good graphical design. Dinosaurs, aliens, blimps, this game has it all! The game also has a 4-player splitscreen battle mode, but I haven’t tried that. Turok Evolution is a good game. It’s got large levels to explore, lots of weapons, dinosaurs, and more, and is challenging and fun. It’s very much a Turok game, and I like Turok games. It’s really too bad that Acclaim went under, but at least the people behind Turok did go on to make the all-time classic Metroid Prime, so their talents were not lost. Also on PS2, Xbox, and PC (Europe-only on PC). Apparently the PS2 version is by far the worst, so get it for GC or Xbox.

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 1 player. Ty the Tazmanian Tiger is a 3d mascot platformer clearly aimed at children. The game is nice-looking, cute, easy, and fun. The Ty games got solid reviews, and I had fun with this game too. You don’t need to be a kid to like this game; anyone who likes collectathon 3d platformers should like the Ty games, and the series got off to a good start. Ty is a Tasmanian Tiger, a species extinct in real life, but in the cartoon-style world of this game, there are still a few alive, in fully anthropomorphized form, most notably our hero, Ty. The enemies involve random robots and animals, led by an evil cassowary called Boss Cass who is threatening your family. It’s generic, but the gameplay is what matters. Australian animals like Tasmanian tigers, Bandicoots, Echidnas, and the like are popular in mascot platformers, but why not? It works. This game feels more Australian than those other games, though, because it’s actually from an Australian developer, and all the characters have Australian accents and stereotypical character traits. The game has a basic story, with perhaps a bit too much talking, but it’s not too bad. The accents and stereotypes are amusing. This game has an overworld to explore, from where you go to the games’ sequence of worlds. The levels have natural settings, such as jungles, deserts, and seas. There are plenty of things to collect in each world, and missions to complete as well which give you the stuff you need to unlock more worlds. Yes, it’s the Mario 64 formula again, or perhaps Banjo, since you can do all of the missions at once, unlike Mario’s style of having you only do one mission each time you go into a level. No reason to mess with something that works, though! The worlds themselves are not the largest, so exploring each one won’t take too long, but that’s okay; this isn’t supposed to be a Rare-length epic. There is enough to do in each world to last a little while. Finding everything is kind of easy, but that fits with the general theme and (low) difficulty level of the game. Even if it’s rarely challenging, though, the game is fun and nice to look at. The controls are good as well. Ty attacks his enemies with boomerangs, naturally, so there is plenty of ranged combat in this game. You get many kinds of boomerangs during the game. The game plays well underwater too, which is good, because there is a lot of water to swim through in the game. Yes, you can use the boomerangs underwater. The game also looks great. Ty’s graphics are reasonably impressive, for a game that could have been just a throwaway kids’ game. This game actually looks good! They put a lot more effort into this game than you might expect, and it shows. The only graphical issue is occasional camera problems, but you always have that in 3d platformers. The game is simple, though. Ty has little depth, and won’t be much of a challenge. The formula might start to get old before the end, but it’s a good game regardless. I like 3d platformers, and it’s unfortunate that we see so many fewer of them these days than we used to! This game has two sequels, one of which I have, so it was deservedly successful. Kids and 3d platformer fans should try this, it’s entertaining and amusing. Also on Ps2 and Xbox.

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue2 player simultaneous (kart racing only; main game is single player), 16:9 widescreen support. Ty 2 follows the trend of the time by moving this Australian-themed series in a much more shooting and vehicle-centric direction. Yes, this is not another 3d platformer like the first game is. The game has a large open world, as well. So, gameplay-wise, it’s sort of like the Jak 2 of the Ty series; it’s just as light-hearted as Ty 1, unlike Jak 2, but the vehicle and shooting focus is similar. Ty 2 is a very nice-looking game which plays well and is often fun, but I do overall like the more traditional platform adventure style of the first game over the shooting and driving of this one. The game makes its differences from the first game clear from the outset, as the first level is almost entirely about shooting. After that, you go to your home town, an adventure exploration area. You can explore, buy stuff, and get missions to do, but actual platforming is still limited. From here you go to the overworld, where you drive around with a car. Ty rides in the back of the truck and shoots, while an otherwise-uncontrollable female member of the new Bush Rescue team drives the truck. The world map has various places you can get off for missions or for kart races. You have three missions available at the start, and when you complete a mission you’re automatically given a new one, so you always have exactly three options for where you can go at any one time. There are also optional things like the kart races that you can play for money. Story missions generally involve you running around and shooting things. Usually you’re on foot, but sometimes you get a giant robot suit to control and go around beating enemies up with. It can be fun, but it is definitely a lot more about shooting than platforming. The game has a story, but it’s pretty average. At the beginning the villain Boss Cass is broken out of prison, so you’ve got to go around and figure out what his plans are, and stop them, with your new Bush Rescue team. Only Ty is playable outside of the overworld driving, though. He’s an okay character, but apart from the Australian theme and references, this is a generic game. Even if it’s generic, though, the graphics are definitely good! Environments look great. For what is probably a kids’ game, it’s better than most. Ty is again armed with boomerangs, and there are even more kinds this time. You buy them in the shop. He controls okay; controls aren’t the best, but they’re good enough for a shooter. On-foot controls are okay, but driving controls aren’t as good. This is an average or below average driving game, with a too-simple driving model that doesn’t match Mario Kart and such. The cars/karts don’t turn as well as they should, I think. The driving parts of the game are okay, and can be entertaining for a while, but they’re not great. There is also a one or two player kart racing mode available from the main menu; this is the only multiplayer mode, oddly enough. Why not have a third-person shooter mode too? Ah well. Overall, Ty 2 isn’t as good as the first game, but it is still an okay to good game and it’s worth a look if you like this kind of game. There is also a third game, but I haven’t played it yet. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Vexx 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Vexx is a 3d platformer from Acclaim, and it’s another good, and under-rated, 6th gen 3d platformer. Acclaim’s 6th gen games, from their later years before going out of business mid-generation, don’t get nearly enough praise, but they made some pretty good ones, this among them! Vexx isn’t a game I ever heard much about, but it should have been much more popular than it was. This is a good 3d platformer from a time when 3d platformers were still common, but weren’t quite as popular as they had been the previous generation, unfortunately. Too bad, they were still pretty good. Vexx has the usual camera issues of the genre, and it’s definitely a collectathon, but that’s okay with me. Vexx has nice graphics, large worlds to explore, and a lot of combat. Vexx has an angry grimace on the cover, and this game is definitely combat-heavy for the genre. The story is a standard revenge story, but Vexx is a whole lot angrier about it than Ty, that’s for sure. Vexx’s people were enslaved, and you want revenge. This game is aimed at a slightly older audience than that game, and it shows. Vexx is your usual anthropomorphic animal, and he lives in a world with magic. He has magical glaw gloves on his hands to attack with. The combat is mostly melee-based, as you beat up your enemies. Combat works well and can be fun. Vexx controls well, with tight controls that feel good. You can double-jump and grab on platforms, too. The game has a lot of collecting, but there is only a tiny hub world; other than the central tower with the warps to the worlds, you pretty much just go from each world to the next. The worlds are large, and there is plenty to do in each one. This games’ Mario 64 stars are called ‘wraithhearts’, and you get them various ways, as usual in the genre. Collect all the little collectables, do the missions you’re told, and such, to get them. As in Mario 64, the game has clues for each one, and you can select one to focus on each time you go into a world. The game does give you hints towards where you should go for your current objective. Worlds are large and open, so you usually have plenty of different ways you can go to look for wraithhearts. I like how 3d platformers usually give you plenty of things to do, so that if you get stuck somewhere, you can try something else instead and progress. The game has warp portals too, interestingly. Vexx has solid, somewhat beat ’em up style combat, fun platforming, stuff to collect, good (not great, but good) graphics, and good design. Vexx is one of the better lesser-known 3d platformers of the generation! This is a good game that absolutely is well worth playing. Also on PS2 and Xbox. I also have the Xbox version; it looks slightly different (the color palette looks slightly different in places, for some reason), perhaps a little better on Xbox, but it’s close.

Viewtiful Joe 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Viewtiful Joe, from Clover Studios and Capcom, is a very unique and original game when it released. It was a pretty popular game among diehard Gamecube fans. This game was initially a Gamecube exclusive, and the game is a very stylish-looking 2.5d platform/beat ’em up, a kind of game you almost never saw on consoles anymore in the 6th generation. After playing the demo, though, I found the game excessively difficult and did not buy it until I found it cheap, probably years later. And yeah, this game is excessively difficult. Viewtiful Joe is a quite popular game, but I’m not a big fan. You play as Joe, a normal guy who gets sucked in to the movies and given a superhero suit. However, first, I’ve never really thought too much of side-scrolling beat ’em ups. They can be amusing, but I think that 3d isometric views add a lot to the genre. And this game really is much more beat ’em up than it is platformer, so that is an issue. In additon to normal punches and kicks, which control somewhat oddly in this game in a way that isn’t quite natural, the game also has Viewtiful powers. The concept is that the game is a world of the movies, and so Joe, a human sucked into this film, can manipulate time. Pressing one shoulder button speeds up time, and the other slows it down, giving you either super speed or slow-mo powers. However, usage of these powers is limited, and if you drain your meter you will revert to normal old regular sans-superhero suit Joe. It’s a nice concept, but mastering these powers takes a lot of practice. I doubt I quite managed it. With long levels, HARD bosses, and saving only between stages, the frustration factor in this game is very, very high, and that does hurt how much I like the game as well. Graphically, Viewtiful Joe has a very stylized anime/comic book hybrid design style. It’s sort of like Western superheroes meets Power Rangers Japanese hero shows. The game looks good, but I don’t love the art design, honestly. Looking at Joe’s design itself, regular or hero form, doesn’t really make me want to play the game, and the other characters all fit in to that style. I do like how detailed the environments are, though. This is a side-scrolling game, but they packed a lot of detail into everything in your surroundings, and they often look pretty nice. Despite my issues with teh game, Viewtiful Joe IS a good game. The game is far too hard, and requires significant amounts of repeat play and memorization in order to get anywhere in it. I’ve never been quite willing to spend that time, so I’ve only ever gotten a few levels into the game. If you are willing to spend that time, though, I’m sure it’s rewarding. This is the kind of game where it feels great when you finally get past that really hard level and boss after a lot of practice. The game does have some unlockables if you beat it, including the ability to play as Joe’s girlfriend Sylvia. I never got that far, that’s for sure! Really though, this is a game I should play more sometime, and put the time in to try to beat. Also on PS2.

Viewtiful Joe 2 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. While the first Viewtiful Joe was a wildly original game, the second one is more of the same. Viewtiful Joe 1 sold well, so they released a sequel a year later with very similar gameplay. The biggest addition is that now you play as both Joe and Sylvia, and can switch between them while playing. However, co-op play didn’t make it into the game, unfortunately. That would have really added something to the game, but it’s not here. Without it, this really is pretty much more Viewtiful Joe, but with character switching. I haven’t played the game much. Also on PS2.

Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble 4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble ended up being the last game in the series. This game released a while after the third game, which is another 2.5d beat ’em up, for the DS that time. This game returns to the Gamecube, but also is a completely different kind of game. While the graphical design and visual style of the game comes straight out of the past VJ games, this game is a 2.5d fighting/action game. It is an okay game, and I actually find it kind of fun, but it is weird and does have questionable design decisions. It’s a bit like Super Smash Bros., except instead of just beating on eachother, the players, or player and computer, compete to be the first to beat missions, while also beating on their rivals at the same time. This results in a somewhat strange game where you have to both fight off the other players, while also trying to accomplish missions at the same time. Some missions are simple, such as ‘be the one to finish off the boss’. All maps take up only a single screen, so this game was clearly designed with multiplayer in mind. Other times they are harder, such as ‘defeat the most enemies’ or ‘get to the most marked points on screen’ or ‘get X amount of money pickups during the round’. The game starts out easy, but by the third or fourth round it’s quite tough to both fend off the computer AIs bent on destroying you and also win the missions at the same time, because you must accomplish both; just beating them won’t do, and you won’t win the missions if they keep killing you. You do have limited lives; this is a Viewtiful Joe game, so it’s got to be hard of course. In the single player mode, each world has a different movie theme. The idea is that the character Captain Blue is supposedly retiring, so the various characters are starring in these “movies” as his tryouts for who should replace him. You can play as Blue himself, though, so he’s apparently not sure about this plan. There is story and cutscenes during the game, but it makes little sense; the game makes many references to the Viewtiful Joe anime, which I have never seen, and doesn’t entirely explain itself ingame. But also, these “movies” don’t make much sense! You aren’t shown a movie at the end of each level, or something; they just claim that the levels are “scenes” in the film, even though they usually have little to do with what they’re claiming. I know that’s supposed to be part of the joke, but it’s kind of confusing sometimes. This craziness isn’t just about the story, of course, it’s also about the confused gameplay, where you have to do multiple things at once all the time. Despite this, I had fun at first. The action is fast and furious, and this simple beat ’em up gameplay works well in this multiplayer-brawler setting, perhaps better than it did in a platformer. The game plays a bit more simply than the previous ones, as Viewtiful power use is limited. The powers do still exist, but only as powerup pickups that give you a single-use assist. I think it works well this way, for this kind of game. However, the game gets pretty frustrating farther in the single player campaign, once you have to try to fend off the overly-aggressive AI while also winning enough missions to move on. I don’t know if the concept of having to fight while also trying to accomplish goals really works. Still, I do think that this is a good game. It’s flawed, but I was surprised by how much I was enjoying this, given my mixed feelings for the previous games. I can see why this game got by far the lowest scores of the four Viewtiful Joe games, it’s flawed and nothing like the other games, but it’s actually okay. It’s also fun in multiplayer, of course! Also on PSP. I imagine that version is worse. Multiplayer would be harder to do too!

Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Party Game$4 player simultaneous. Wario Ware Inc. Mega Party Games is a microgame party game collection, and it’s one of the very best party games ever made! This game is a multiplayer-centric port of the original Game Boy Advance Wario Ware Inc: Mega Micro Games title, with some new microgames added for four players at once, and new game modes and extras as well. I didn’t get the original GBA version, but I did get this Gamecube version, and it’s amazing! This game is particularly incredible in multiplayer, of course, but it is a fun single player game as well, albeit not one which will last nearly as long as the multiplayer can. Wario Ware stars Wario of course, and it took the Wario series away from its platformer roots in an interesting new direction. I’ve loved the Wario platformer series ever since I got Wario Land 1 for the Game Boy, so I was kind of unhappy that the Wario platformer series stopped. However, Wario Ware is pretty great as well. The game has hundreds of tiny little five-second-long games. The controls are very simple, and only use the directions and a button. But because you only have seconds to figure out what to do, while this is one of the greatest multiplayer games around, it is true that an experienced player will be much more likely to do well than a new player, because learning what to do in each of the games is important. Also, all of the microgames brought over from the GBA are single player only, so one player plays the game while the others watch. Because gaems are only seconds long, this actually works pretty well, and this game is great fun for everyone despite these issues. Also, occasionally you do one of the new 4-player-simultaneous microgames, which are a fun addition. Graphically, the game is 2d. Most of the microgames look like the GBA ports that they are. The menus are straightforward and are also 2d. The game does have some fairly crazy FMV cutscenes you can unlock, though. They’re great stuff, must-watch insanity! The WarioWare cast is pretty amusingly silly. Other than Wario all of the other characters are all new, but many return in later WarioWare titles as well.

The gameplay is broken up into a variety of modes. Each character has a mode with slightly different rules. The basic game has the players just play a sequence of minigames, with the winner being the one who does the best. Other modes make things much more complex. One mode, for multiplayer only, has people do specific silly things (in the real world, not in the game) on a regular basis. My favorite mode is the space mode, which plays sort of like Reversi. Here, each player chooses spaces on the board, and then plays minigames to see if they take the space or not. Once the board is all filled up, it then goes to the conclusion. Unfortunately there’s one final microgame at the end which can pretty much determine the outcome of the whole game, which can be annoying when you’re winning and then lose it, but ah well, that’s Nintendo party games for you. The variety of modes is great, and each character has different sets of microgames which appear more frequently in their modes, at least at first. Overall, WarioWare Inc.: Mega Party Games is amazing! This is easily one of my favorite, or maybe my favorite, minigame/microgame collection ever. Somehow Nintendo has not managed to make a multiplayer Wario game that’s anywhere near as good as this one again, which is truly unfortunate, but at least we have this great game to still play. In single player this game will probably get old after a few hours, but the game is almost endlessly great with some friends! Enhanced remake of Wario Ware: Mega Microgame$ for the Game Boy Advance.

Wario World 1 player, 480p progressive scan support. Wario World is a platformer/beat ’em up from Treasure, starring Wario. Wario’s treasure was all stolen, and you need to beat up everything that stands between you and getting it all back! I like the handheld Wario games, the first two particularly, and Wario is an amusing character, but despite that I didn’t buy this game when it released because I heard about how short it was and wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the game or not, but when I finally got it quite a few years later, I found that it’s really fun! Treasure’s games which aren’t shmups or run & guns are often hit or miss, but this is definitely one of their better ones. Wario World is indeed a short game, as there are only eight worlds to play through and they won’t take too long, but it’s far too fun along the way for that to bother me much. Wario World is 3d, and has decently good, but not great, graphics. It does look different from how a Nintendo game would look, but Wario is amusing looking, and the art design is good. The game plays from a sort of isometric perspective, and you run around as Wario in these side/overhead-view worlds. You can sometimes turn the camera between the stanard side view and an overhead view that’s good for some platform jumping. This is particularly useful in the puzzle rooms, which you get to through warp portals and give you red gem collectables if you get to the chest. Each one has a different design, and there are quite a few of them. Wario can run and jump of course, and it works well. You fight enemies by punching them. Yeah, Wario doesn’t fight with his usual charge, and while you can jump on enemies, it’s inexact in 3d. So, you punch them. You can still also charge around and defeat enmeies that way, though, so it does feel like Wario. There are a nice variety of enemies to fight in each of the worlds, mostly new creatures and not just standard Mario or Wario Land foes. Your goal in the game is to collect as much treasure as possible and defeat the bad guys in order to get the best score you can. This really is a score-attack game at heart, and it does a good job of it. Your real goal is to get as many red jewels and coins as you can in each level. There are also some little guys you have to rescue, though of course what Wario really wants is the money. At the end of each stage you fight a boss, and the boss fights are fun. There really are only about nine levels in the game, though, so if you don’t care for finding all of the hidden bonus rooms and treasures and getting the most stuff, this game will indeed only last a few hours. It’ll be a fun few hours, though, and I do think the game has solid replay value. The levels are large and packed with stuff to find, and those bonus puzzle rooms are all over. Overall, Wario World is a fairly simple game. You run around, punch things, jump through some not-too-hard platforming, and get the money. This isn’t nearly as hard as many Treasure games are, but that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with a somewhat easy but fun game once in a while. Wario World is good, get it if you find it for a reasonable price!

Wave Race: Blue Storm4 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Wave Race Blue Storm is the sequel to the great early N64 classic Wave Race 64, and is the last official game in the Wave Race series. As in Wave Race 64, this game is a jetski racing game. The game was developed by NST, and they did a very good job, but the game does have some issues. I got Blue Storm in early 2002, so it was one of the earlier Gamecube games I bought. I wasn’t disappointed, but I didn’t love the game like I did Wave Race 64, either. On the good side, Blue Storm has great graphics for the time, plenty of courses, and a lot more content than the last game did. Wave Race 64 is absolutely amazing, but it is a short game. Blue Storm is a lot longer and more substantial title. Unfortunately, this is also the games’ downfall — Blue Storm is HARD! This game is one of the hardest water racing games I’ve ever played, really. You need to get very good in order to succeed at this game. I got pretty far, but didn’t quite manage to beat the final championship, so I didn’t beat the game. I did like it, though. This is one of those games you need to put a lot of time in practicing in order to get good at. As in Wave Race 64, this game has great wave physics, better than most other games. The waves look fantastic, and your jetskis react to them just like they should! Yes, the controls are still great, just like they were in Wave Race 64. The water is one of the best things about Wave Race 64, and it’s just as great here or better. Variations on some of the original tracks return from the first game too, with new courses as well. But the excessive difficulty is an ever-present issue, sort of like it is with F-Zero GX. Nintendo seemed to make its 6th gen racing games either too hard or too easy, unfortunately, most of the time. NST did improve that balance in its second and last GC racing game, though, the highly under-rated 1080 Avalanche (covered above).

In Wave Race: Blue Storm, as in its predecessor, you have to drive your jetski around water tracks. The levels are filled with buoys, the number of which is determined by the difficulty level you’re in. If you go around five buoys without missing any, you get maximum speed. If you miss one, you lose the speed boost and have to get it again. Miss five buoys in a race and you lose, try again. All of the characters from both Wave Race 64 and 1080 Snowboarding are playable in this game, so it merges the two casts. The character art design is pretty good, and while the ingame graphics can’t quite match the drawings, they do look a lot better than the character models in the N64 game! I like that it merged the two casts, that was a good move. Again as in the N64 game the game is broken up into cups, and each cup consists of quite a few races. You again have limited continues at each cup, so you’ll need to practice the earlier tracks quite a bit in order to get good enough to reach and get past the later ones. In addition to that you can play single races in any track you’ve unlocked and play multiplayer, four player splitscreen this time. The GC doesn’t have enough racing games with four player splitscreen support, so it’s fantastic that this game has it. The game does look pretty nice, and is surely one of the better-looking and better-playing water racing games of its generation. It might even be the best one, in fact; other top competitors include Jet X2O on the PS2 and the Splashdown games on PS2 and Xbox, but those don’t match up to Wave Race: Blue Storm. This is a great game, and I made a good choice in buying it. The only real flaw is the difficulty level, but that is enough of an issue that many people don’t like it nearly as much as the N64 game often mostly because of that one problem; this game really is hard, technical, and frustrating. I have gone back to it several times in recent years, but aren’t any good at the game anymore at all… I’d need to practice for a while to get back my skills, such as they were! I do think that Wave Race 64 is the better game, but Blue Storm deserves more credit than it gets. NST was a great studio, and Nintendo made a mistake in breaking up their console team.

Whirl Tour 2 player simultaneous. Whirl Tour is a futuristic skateboarding game, very much like the Tony Hawk games ex except with hoverboards and a somewhat dark futuristic plot. I’ve never really played Tony Hawk-style games, though, so I’m hopelessly bad at this game. I tried to play it a few times, but couldn’t get anywhere in the game. You need to accomplish specific objectives in each map in order to beat it and unlock the next one, but you’ve got a tight time limit too, like in Tony Hawk! The game has a standard Tony Hawk-style skateboarding game trick system, where you press button combinations in the air in order to do tricks. I’ve never been very good at that kind of thing, and this game isn’t for genre newbies, that’s for sure. It throws you right in to it. I gave up after several frustrating tries at the first level that got me absolutely nowhere. The graphics are average, and music is standard rock stuff, as per usual in this genre. So, to me this game seems pretty awful, but genre fans might like it, I don’t know. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Worms Blast 2 player simultaneous, 480p progressive scan support. Worms Blast is a 2d Worms puzzle game. The game has an interesting idea, but on consoles at least, it doesn’t play all that well; maybe I would like this more with a mouse. The basic idea is that as one of nine characters on a small boat on the sea, which covers the bottom of the screen, you have to destroy all of the blocks above you with your Worms-style bazooka. You can play as several worms, or a variety of other random characters. I guess the options are nice, but this is a Worms game, why not just have more varieties of worms? Oh well. Because this is a block-dropping puzzle game you need to pay attention to color, though; blocks come in different colors, and they’ll only break if you shoot them with the same color. As in Bust-A-Move, blocks drop when not connected to the indestructible anchor blocks, so you can destroy lots of blocks quickly if you can cut them off from the anchors. Yes, this is basically Bust-A-Move with a bazooka. The game does have some interesting features, like bouncing shots, special blocks, and more, but it’s a simple concept and I don’t think it’s nearly as good as real Bust-A-Move games, unfortunately. This is an average, okay puzzle game with very simple graphics and somewhat generic gameplay. I like puzzle games, but somehow just don’t have much fun with this one. One major issue is the controls. Your worm moves slowly across the screen, precise aiming is kind of tricky with an analog stick, they put aiming and moving on the same analog stick which can cause problems, and the game gets difficult because levels are timed. The graphics are also a bit too simplistic, too. This is the least interesting looking Worms game I know of. Still, it’s an okay game if you get into it. Don’t expect anything more than that, though, and probably get this one on PC if you must get it. Also on PC, Mac, PS2, and Xbox.

Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions 2 player simultaneous. Wreckless on the Gamecube (and PS2) is a port of the Xbox original of the same name. Wreckless is a very fun arcadey driving game set in Hong Kong. You play missions, in two different storylines, that are all set in the city. It’s not entirely an open world though, there are separate maps for each mission. The storylines are both extremely cheesy and overdone, but the comedy is clearly intentional. Some of it’s funny and some is stupid, but at least they tried. The gameplay is the reason to play Wreckless, though, not the story. Wreckless is a mission-based driving combat game. Your cars are armed with homing rockets, and you can also damage cars by bashing in to them. Missions are varied, and include getting to places fast enough, destroying a lot of stuff, wiping out cars that are threatening a vehicle you need to protect, and more. You are rewarded, not penalized, for causing mass chaos with your car by driving down the sidewalks destroying all of the things there, for example. This is true in both the “spy” and the “police” stories; points, not penalties, for destroying stuff! It’s extremely unrealistic, but definitely fun. The controls are similarly arcadey. Car controls are average, and it may take a bit of practice to get used to the controls. Cars do tend to slide a bit in turns. It’s not too bad, though, and it does allow for nice powerslides as you get better at the game.

Wreckless was originally an early Xbox game, and on that system it really shows off the power of the Xbox. This Gamecube version has the same gameplay, and looks nice enough, but doesn’t have graphics that are as impressive as the Xbox version’s are. The port isn’t the best, and the sense of speed was reduced a bit, in addition to the downgraded graphics. This game does look good, but the Gamecube can do better. It’s definitely more impressive on Xbox. Still, this game is great fun on GC too, and has some nice additions. In order to try to get people to buy the ports anyway, they added a nice two player split-screen mode (the Xbox version is one player only), which is great, and “doubled the number of missions” by adding new unlockable harder versions of each mission that you can unlock. While on Xbox there are only two ten-mission stories to play through, on GC and PS2 there are those ten new harder levels to play through in each story after you finish those. There are also optional sub-objectives to try to complete in each mission, usually about finishing missions fast enough or destroying a lot of stuff along the way. These add some fun to the game. This is still a short game with limited content, though. Not only are the “20 new missions” just harder versions of the original missions, making the claim on the back of the box essentially a complete lie, the original 20 missions are very similar between the two stories too! Both stories start with a car chase level, for example. The only difference is that in one you have to protect the target van, while in the other you have to wreck it. It continues on like that. So, the game basically has ten missions, with four variants each. That’s not enough. Wreckless was criticized for being fun but short and shallow, and even with the new hard-mode missions, that is still true. However, Wreckless is a LOT of fun! On either Gamecube or Xbox, this is a great fun game with fast and fun gameplay and lots of chaos and destruction you can cause. I wasn’t sure if I’d like this as much as the Xbox version after reading the reviews, but I do. Sure the graphics aren’t as good, and it might be a little slower-feeling, but the great gameplay is intact, and the new harder missions are a nice addition to a short game. I really like Wreckless, this is an under-rated game that should be better known. Get Wreckless for both the Xbox AND the PS2 or Gamecube, both versions are cheap and well worth owning. The game has a sequel that was released only the Xbox, exclusively in Japan for some reason. Annoying! I’ll have to import it sometime. Also on PS2; slightly enhanced and downgraded port of an Xbox original.

XGIII: Extreme-G Racing 4 player simultaneous (2 player only in co-op). XG3, a futuristic racing game, is an early Gamecube game, and I got the game for Christmas in ’01, shortly after getting the system. I had really loved XG2 on the PC, so I was looking forward to playing XG3. The game wasn’t what I was expecting, but it is a pretty good game. The first two Extreme-G games, on N64 and PC, play nothing like this game. XG was its own thing, different from the other futuristic racing series of the time. However, XG3 ditches that in favor of a design that closely copies Wipeout. This game is a Wipeout clone through and through! I’d have rather this was an XG game than a Wipeout clone, but Wipeout is a really great series too, and Acclaim did a good job with the game, at least. The main game is a campaign mode where you play a series of championships, broken up into Wipeout-style speed classes, using the money you win there to buy weapons and upgrades between races. I like the addition of a shop, the previous games didn’t have that. The game also has four player splitscreen play, a great inclusion. Graphically XG3 looks pretty good. This game is an enhanced PS2 port, and the GC can do a lot better than this for sure, but this is a reasonably nice-looking game for a 2001 release. The game has these cool trails that the bike engines leave behind, and it adds to the stylish and fast look of the game. Still, compared to its sequel, XG3 looks graphically plain. XGRA really ups the environmental detail. XG3 does have a solid framerate and fast gameplay, though. This game has the highest sense of speed of any Extreme-G game, and it definitely feels very fast in the top speed class. The music is all techno again, and it’s good. I like the soundtrack.

XG3 has ten tracks and a variety of teams to choose from, but unlike the other three XG games, in XG3 all of the bikes are identical; the only difference is their looks, disappointingly. Was this game rushed? That’s not the way even Wipeout does things! Unfortunate. The number of tracks is also the least in any Extreme-G game; ten tracks isn’t too bad, but the other games do have more. Unlike XG2 or XGRA, there are no track variants here either. XG3 tracks are all floating roads of a set width. The track surface on all tracks looks the same, as in Wipeout. As a result they end up looking too similar. There are also very few branches in these tracks, and only one shortcut IN THE ENTIRE GAME! Yeah, that’s pretty lame. The track designs are good, but are by far the least interesting in the series, and this is one of my biggest problems with this game. The track designs aren’t as fun to drive through as the other XG game tracks are, and are much less varied. There are warning areas on the sides of the track, and the controller rumbles the whole time you are in the warning zones; yes, it’s annoying. Hitting the side is a bigger problem in this game than in the other XG games, of course, more like it is in Wipeout, so try to stay away from the walls, you’ll lose speed. The shoulder buttons are Wipeout-style airbrakes. This is the only XG game with dual airbrakes, and this is another major factor that makes the game feel like Wipeout and not XG.

Weapons are also a bit less useful in this game than in the other XG games, where the weapons are always central to the game. XG3 has weapons, but using them is clumsy. First, in campaign mode, you buy weapons between races, with the money you won. You have to switch through your weapons with a button, and then use them with another button. Using weapons uses weapon energy, and you recharge that with weapon recharge areas; this is like how the main gun worked in XG1 and 2. The game also has a Wipeout 3 or F-Zero-style boost system, where when you boost you drain your shields. While in XG1 and XG2 games recharging was simple — just drive through the charge area — in this one, more like an F-Zero game, you probably won’t fully charge just from zooming through the charge strips; instead, you might need to slow down, and lose positions, which you’ll then need to use that energy you just recharged to try to retake. The end result of all this is that XGIII is a highly technical game. This game requires skill and memorization to master, so people who love the PS1 Wipeout games probably would like this game better than the rest of the Extreme-G series. You need to memorize when to turn with each airbrake, and get used to the not-great weapon system as well. Overall, I love Wipeout, and I love Extreme-G, and I do think that this is a pretty great game, but it is either my third or fourth favorite of the four XG games; the only question is whether this one or the original game is the least great. I’m not sure there. But regardless, XGIII is absolutely worth getting for anyone who likes Wipeout games, or good racing games in general. The game feels a bit less complete than the other XG games, and its gameplay is quite different, but it’s a good different. XGIII is a great game. Also on PS2; that version has worse graphics and is two player only.

XGRA: Extreme-G Racing Association4 player simultaneous. XGRA is the final Extreme-G game that Acclaim made before going bankrupt and out of business, and it is, as the top 10 list at the top of this shows, one of my favorite Gamecube games. Not only that, though; XGRA is in fact my favorite racing game of the 6th generation. Now, my favorite racing game of all time, San Francisco Rush 2049, is on all four 6th gen TV Consoles, so maybe that game should be, but I think of that as an N64 game, and mostly prefer to play it on the N64, so I don’t count it. And after Rush 2049, XGRA is an easy choice as the best racing game of the generation. F-Zero GX is close behind it, but that games’ overly high difficulty level drags it down; simply, XGRA is more fun to play. XGRA is more like XG2 in many ways than XG3, and every change they made was for the better. Indeed, “fun” is the central mechanic here. XGRA feels like it was designed centered around fun. The concept of the game is that it’s 2080, and you choose one of the racers of that XG season to play as. The game has some commentary during the game, and basic intro and ending cutscenes, to make the game feel like it’s a TV broadcast. It’s a good design idea, and it works. XGRA looks great, plays great, and is great in every way. This game really is one of the best racing games ever made. Easily. About the only complaints I can make is that the game doesn’t take long to beat the first time, the endings are weak, and it’s too bad it doesn’t have progressive scan support. Oh, and even more TV commentary would have been cool, though what’s there is great. That’s it.

So, what’s so great about XGRA? Everything else! The music is great. Fitting with the “fun” theme, there are two soundtracks, Rock or Dance. You can choose to listen to one or both. I always play with only Dance, since I dislike rock. It’s awesome that they let you choose! The music is if anything even better than XG3’s. It’s a fantastic techno soundtrack. Visually, this game looks like an improved variant of XGIII. This isn’t the best looking GC game, and it is multiplatform, but it looks great. The bikes still leave those cool trails behind them, but bike designs are larger this time, and look more like the hulking bikes of the first few times, versus the narrow and sleek XGIII bikes. This game has the best-looking bikes in the series. The characters are different this time, too. Each one has different specs. There are three basic bike models, each with very different handling characteristics, and three different basic weapon types, and each character has a different pairing. Each character has a different feel as a result; try all of the styles and find the one you like the most. The characters talk to you frequently, too; when you attack someone they will likely send you an annoyed transmission. I like this touch, it adds to the feel that you’re really in a race. The game also has one of the coolest first-person views ever in a racing game. In first person the game moves around the interface, reshuffling it to make it look like an onscreen HUD that your racer would be looking up at. It also has an outline of your bike on the screen, to help you tell exactly how you’re tilting. Awesome stuff. The track designs are also outstanding. I’m not sure if I can choose between XG2 and XGRA for best track designs in the series, but XGRA might take it; the tracks are really, really cool! While floating standard track segments are common, as in XGIII, you also drive on the ground this time sometimes as well. The game has seven environments, and two tracks in each environment, and each of the seven settings looks completely unique and original. Settings include Mars, a jungle resort, a space station, underwater tunnels, a nuclear power plant, a decaying city, and two more. An announcer has an amusing intro bit for each track; they’re often funny stuff. This game has several different gameplay modes, and one, Extreme Weather mode, affects the game differently in each setting. Extreme Weather mode has some weather effect going on. Mars has a sandstorm, and it’s almost impossible to see, for the most extreme example. I don’t think you can use Extreme Weather on all tracks, but try it out on all the ones you can! I think it’s pretty fun to play the Mars tracks with the storm, even if I can’t see much. Tracks are loaded with branching paths and shortcuts, and finding all of the routes is a lot of fun. This game plays just as great as it looks, too.

In controls, XGRA simplifies things a bit, and gets back to the original XG1 and XG2 style that first made the series great. The boost button is gone; now the only boosts are from turbo strips, which are scattered all over every track. This simplifies controls, and also adds some strategy learning the tracks because if you maximize your time on the boost strips you will get a better time, of course. You’re also now back to just a single brake button, and you won’t need it nearly as often. The sense of speed has been slightly slowed down versus XG3, in order to make the game more fun to play. It’s still a very, very fast game, but now it’s more fun and you always feel like you’re in control, as long as you’re not on Mars in a storm of course. Heh. The weapon system was vastly improved as well. Now, your weapons are on the shoulder buttons (or at least that’s how I set it up). You’ve got a normal gun and a second weapon. The normal gun energy slowly recharges, as do your shields. In order to use the other weapons, you pick up powerups on the tracks. These activate points on a Gradius-style powerup bar. Each powerup you collect moves the indicator one space to the right on the bar. Hit the special weapon button to select that weapon, and then press it again to use it. The XGIII leech returns, and others will quickly refill weapon or shield energy, or do a variety of attacks. It’s a great system, and it works very well and is easy to use. As in XGIII, in the main campaign mode you start out with only the basic weapons, and have to buy the rest with your race winnings. This is a potential flaw, though I didn’t mention it above; completing all of the optional mission objectives is actually harder early on than it is later, because killing enemy cars before you get the last weapon, the instant-kill Deathstrike, can be difficult. Still, I take this just as an added challenge, not as a flaw; those optional objectives are, well, optional. They’re just there for fun and to add replay value, which they do. I really like their addition. The secondary objectives vary from being told to beat a specific racer, to destroy X number of racers (or one specific one), to destroying the advertising billboards for one specific team (fun stuff!), and more. I recommend trying to do them, at least in a replay if not in your first time through the game. Overall, XGRA is a really, really incredible game. Sure, beating the game once will take only days, but the game has endless replay value. I wish that it had 480p support and longer, character-specific endings with some commentary from the guys who lead you in to each circuit, but pretty much everything else about this game is top-flight incredible stuff. BUY! Also on PS2 and Xbox. The PS2 version has worse graphics and is two player only; the Xbox version has slightly better graphics, and is supposed to be the best overall version. I’ve only ever played the GC version though.

X-Men Legends 4 player simultaneous. X-Men Legends is a multiplayer top-down 3d action-RPG that runs in the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance engine, and plays very much like that game but with superheroes. The game is a good game, did well, and was followed with more similar games. I like D&D a lot more than superheroes, though, so I didn’t buy these games new, but I did eventually get both of the X-Men Legends games for cheap. X-Men Legends is one of many games of this type released that generation, and it’s not quite as good as BGDA or the similar EverQuest games on PS2, but it is a good game. There were also fewer of these kinds of games on GC than PS2 and Xbox, so it’s great that the GC did get these two. The game is mostly linear, as usual in this genre. You start the game playing as the obscure female superhero Blaze. Her parts of the game, oddly, are single player only. Very strange design decision in a multiplayer-centric game. The idea was to start you as Blaze, this new superhero who just arrived at the X-Men’s base. That was a good idea, but it should have had multiplayer. In the actual missions, though, you play with a team of up to four, in both single and multi player. You can switch between players in single player, and the others will be capably controlled by the AI. The game has a fair number of X-Men characters to play as, including most of the most popular ones, such as Wolverine, Storm, Iceman, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and such. The different characters have different types of powers, so one important thing in the game is choosing a good, balanced team. One interesting game design element is that certain areas in levels can be affected by powers. So, there are points where Iceman can make an ice bridge as a nice shortcut. Of course, you’ve got to have a hero in your team with a power that can work in the situation in order to make use of these points, so either trial and error or good team choice will be require to maximize this. Another cool element is that you can attack and destroy some walls! The levels are full of destructible stuff, including pipes and boxes of course, but also even some of the walls. This also can sometimes work as a shortcut. You can only damage certain walls, not anything, but still it’s pretty nice. Combat is a lot like it is in BGDA, but with superheroes, four players on screen at all times (including in single player), and a modern setting. You hack and slash at the enemies with your attacks, and just like in BGDA there is a weak and strong attack for each character. It’s standard stuff, but it works well. Each character also has special moves, which are mapped to R plus a face button. The special moves add some variety; they use mutant power, basically this games’ version of a magic meter for the spells (powers). As this is an action-RPG, you do have stats and levels, and when a character levels up, you distribute new stats and choose which power upgrades to get. Since this is the BGDA engine, the game probably runs on a modified d20 system, though everything has been renamed to fit with the X-Men theme. Basically you’ve got health, magic, strength, and dexterity for stats. There are many more skills, and if you choose to fully manage all the characters it can be a little much; I like managing a 4-6 character party, but I don’t know if I want to fully control 10 or 15 characters’ upgrade trees like that. Fortunately you can automate upgrades if you wish. Graphically, X-Men Legends looks good, but not great. The overhead perspective is somewhat zoomed-out, so things are a little small and aren’t too detailed, but it does look good enough. Characters are all recognizable. Overall, X-Men Legends is a good game. I like Gauntlet-style action-RPGs, and this is exactly that. You walk around, beat up enemies, destroy boxes and walls, level up your characters, and then do it again! Sure, it may be repetitive, but it’s a fun repetitive with good level designs, an okay story, and a nice variety of characters to choose from. It’s fun in both single and multi player. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse 4 player simultaneous. X-Men Legends II is very similar to the first game, but it’s improved a bit over the first one I think. Graphically this game looks a lot like the previous game, but slightly nicer. The story, which is fully voice-acted, is maybe a little more interesting; this time the X-Men and their enemies led by Magneto have to team up against a stronger foe, Apocalypse. I don’t know superhero comics well so I only know the most popular characters, so a lot of the story details are lost on me because storywise this game was clearly made for the X-Men fan first and foremost, but the basic concept of the heroes and villains teaming up against a greater foe is a solid classic story. The gameplay is very familiar. Once again, you use your team of four heroes (and villains) and go beat up enemies, destroy boxes and walls, and explore around for money to buy stuff with and enemies to kill for experience and cash. This game gets off to a fast start, and you control a team of four at all times this time. They listened to that complaint from the first game. Oddly, Blaze is entirely absent this time; in X-Men Legends II it’s all about the more popular characters. There are more to choose from this time, including playable villains like Magneto of course. The character stat and ability systems work the same way as the first game, and so does combat. As in the first game, there are places where character abilities can get you an advantage. I hate it when I don’t have the right character on my team for one, though! Makes me want to go back and get them… and of course, also keeping track of exactly what powers each of the ~18 characters have isn’t easy. That’s a lot of characters to keep track of. Still, this is a pretty fun game. The basic combat system is simple but effective. You’ve got basic attacks, combos, and your special abilities to use. If you like the first X-Men Legends, or Gauntlet or BGDA-style multiplayer action-RPGs in general, X-Men Legends II is definitely worth playing, for the right price. Also on PS2 and Xbox.

Zapper: One Wicked Cricket 4 player simultaneous (versus mode only). Zapper is an arcade action platformer game that plays pretty much exactly like the 3d Frogger games. This is not a cooincidence; Zapper was made by the same developer who made Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge (PC/PS1/DC). I really liked that game, so I was interested in trying this one as well. It’s a good game, and might actually be better than Konami’s own Frogger sequels. I know Konami wanted to bring the Frogger games in-house, but they might have been better off sticking with these guys. The game hasn’t changed much from Frogger 2, but that’s a good thing; that is a pretty high-quality, challenging game. Zapper has decent graphics; it doesn’t look great, but it’s good enough. The main mode is story mode; otherwise there’s just the not-great multiplayer and replaying the levels again with some altered rules. These 3d Frogger games seem to be somewhat unpopular for some reason, but I think they’re pretty good. In the game, you move Zapper around a large 3d level that is essentially a giant grid. Each tap of the button moves one square, and you have one jump button to jump one space, and another to go two spaces. Enemies, pitfalls, and obstacles are all over, and your challenge is avoiding all of them and staying alive. This game can be tough, so that won’t be easy. You can attack enemies this time, though, with electric blasts! Of course you can’t jump on the enemies, as always in these games, but you can use electric attacks now. You can’t attack at all in Frogger 2. Zapper isn’t Frogger, he’s got attitude you see. Yeah. But the game is fun, really! However, this power is limited; you can only attack when you’ve gotten the attack powerup, and even then you have limited ammo, and when you run out you’ll need to go back to just avoiding the enemies. Also, only enemies can be defeated, not obstacles. Still, I like the addition a lot. It’s fun to be able to beat the baddies. Of course, there are also things to collect in the game, so explore the levels as you go. This is still a Frogger-style game, but the game has some nice variety in its level designs. Sometimes it goes side-view, instead of the more standard overhead perspective, for some platforming. You do still have the same movement controls as usual, but it’s a nice addition. There are also some minor puzzle elements in the levels to figure out. Some are required, others get you collectables. The game also has boss fights. They’re decent to good, but I think the levels are the best thing about this game. There are also bonus stages, and they play a bit diffrently, to mix things up. As for the multiplayer, you and the others play on arenas, competing to destroy the others first. It’s okay but not great; it’s sort of like worse Bomberman. Overall, Zapper is still a fairly simple game. This is a basic arcade-style game at heart, and doesn’t stray too far from the Frogger formula. I like that formula, and like the challenge of making my way through large levels, avoiding obstacles and figuring out the correct path through the level with as much of the stuff collected as possible. This is a good game and I definitely recommend it. There is also a GBA Zapper game, which is just as good as this one, and might actually be better. Also on PC, PS2, and Xbox.

ZooCube 2 player simultaneous (in vs. mode). ZooCube is a block-dropping-style puzzle game. It reminds be a bit of the mid ’90s game Zoop, only different. Like in that game, things, in this case animal shapes, move towards the middle of the screen, and you keep from losing by matching identical ones. The “Cube” element is this games’ unique touch, though. Animal shapes move towards you from three directions automatically. In the center of the screen, you rotate a cube. Even though you have a static overhead view, you always need to keep in mind what is on each side of the cube, and what direction you should turn it in next in order to line things up where you want. Once lined up, if you hit a button you can grab the animal heading towards you in a direction and pull it to the cube, this games’ version of the common puzzle game ‘accelerate piece’ button. The 3d cube element makes the game a bit more complex than some puzzle games, as it requires spatial awareness. It can be tricky. It is helpful that you only have to match two to destroy them, and not three (or four!) as in many puzzle games; this makes the game more manageable. Still, things can go wrong quickly. You lose if five animals end up on the same side of the cube, and win if you survive the wave by matching all of the animals. That really is all there is to the game; there are multiple backgrounds, and a very silly story involving aliens that explains why the animals have all turned in to these weird animal-like shaped things — you see, matching them turns them back in to animals or something — but the basic gameplay never changes. Puzzle games are often simple, and this one is no exception. The concept is good, though, and it definitely gets challenging. The graphics are basic, but are are good enough to do. The music is somewhat wild-sounding, appropriately. ZooCube is an average game overall. It should be cheap, so puzzle game fans might want to pick it up. Also on Game Boy Advance.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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