Anime expert Fred Patten checks out The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917, Revised and Expanded Edition to see if the authors have maintained its position as the go-to book for any questions on anime.
Sometimes you really enjoy a game that just captivates you, a game that sucks you in and involves you, a game that takes time and mastery to enjoy, like eating a good steak. But, let's be honest, as much as we like a good steak with mashed potatoes, grilled onions and mushrooms, it's great to just pick up a cheesesteak sandwich every once in a while.
No, you didn't take a wrong turn and end up on a cooking site and, yes, you are still reading an AWN article. What I'm saying is that although it's great to get into a game that completely immerses you, it's also good to get into a game that you can just pick up and go; a game that gives you action right from the start.
It doesn't necessarily have to be an action game, as long as there's lots of free control and you can pick up right where you left off. Let's take a look at a few pretty interesting games in this months edition of "Press Start!"
Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Wii; Publisher: Capcom; Developer: Capcom; Release Date: June 19, 2007; ESRB Rating: M for Mature; Genre: action; Players: 1; Support: 16:9 widescreen; Online: N/A
'Cause This is Thriller!
Who doesn't enjoy a good zombie game? Blasting up zombies until their heads explode has got to be one of the most fun things to do in a game. Not to mention that in most zombie games they move pretty slowly so you can take your time blowing off their limbs before you plant a nice happy shotgun shell in their cranium.
The Resident Evil series has always been about zombies and other such scary as hell monsters popping out of nowhere and scaring the shorts off of the player, and Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Wii will pretty much leave you shortless. RE4 is, of course, a remake of RE4 for the Nintendo GameCube, which came out in 2005. When RE4 was first released, it was labeled as the greatest and most entertaining Resident Evil ever and for good reason. The controls were totally recreated for the better and the player now had the ability to control the perspective and freely look in any direction. Now that it's out for the Wii and with the inclusion of the ability to aim more accurately with the Wii-mote the controls are damn near perfect.
Players control Leon Kennedy, a character that first appeared in Resident Evil 2. The president's daughter has been kidnapped and Leon is on the job to save her. Her trail leads Leon to a remote village in Europe where players will realize something and say, "Why aren't there any zombies in this game?" Sure, the villagers are alive and kicking, but that doesn't mean that they're happy.
Immediately, players will realize that the controls are extremely fluid and easy to manipulate. With the analog stick on the Wii nunchuck players control which direction Leon walks and faces. With the Wii-mote, players physically point at their screen to aim and fire their weapons. Aiming is very accurate with the motion sensitive Wii controller. A quick shake of the Wii-mote allows players to reload a weapon or give a quick knife stab to enemies that get too close.
There have really been no graphical improvements from the GameCube version, but that really isn't a bad thing seeing as the GameCube version was gorgeous. So, likewise, the Wii version is also gorgeous. The Wii version, however, now has the ability to display Resident Evil 4 in a full 16:9 aspect ratio for all you widescreen fans out there.
"Hold on a second there Pete. What about the weapons?" I thought you'd never ask. You start off with a pistol and a knife. Along the way you can either find new weapons or buy new weapons from a very odd merchant with an English accent. This guy looks pretty creepy and you might even mistake him for a bad guy at first, but, like any self-respecting street dealer, he carries his entire inventory inside his coat. Weapons like shotguns and rapid-fire machine guns can help you deliver the hurt and, for a small price, the merchant can upgrade any gun to decrease reload-time, increase ammo capacity and amplify damage.
Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but the controls are just something you have to play for yourself to really understand how good it feels. Nailing a headshot on an enemy has never been more satisfying, and slowing enemies down with a shot to the leg feels second nature. Lucky for Wii owners, Resident Evil 4 contains all the little extras that came with RE4 when it was re-released for the PlayStation 2, including the use of Ada Wong.
Although RE4 is scary, it somehow doesn't feel as scary as the GameCube version. It's the same game; it's just that the controls make it so much easier to dictate what's going on around you so you feel less helpless than when using analog sticks to struggle for a good shot. The added widescreen option also allows you to get a broader view of your surroundings making it harder for a baddie to sneak up on you. Considering how challenging the game is, these are all welcome additions and make the game even more worthwhile to pick up.
Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia for the Xbox 360; Publisher: Southpeak Games; Developer: Immersion Software& Graphics / Artificial Studios; Release Date: June 12, 2007; ESRB Rating: T for Teen; Genre: action; Players: 1-4; Support: system link (2-16 players); Online: 2-16 player matches
Zombies Ate My Neigh... Wait a Minute?
Now this game is just pure fun. In the spirit of the 16-bit era where a little game called Zombies Ate My Neighbors was a must have for any Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis owner comes Monster Madness for the Xbox 360. Players take control of one of four playable characters and do some major monster bashing.
The story is simple; four teens team up to fight off the hoard of monsters that have just invaded their neighborhood. All of the social bases are covered here -- you got Zack the nerd, Andy the skater, Carrie the Goth chick and Jennifer the cheerleader chick. The only thing that's missing is the hip-hop, street savvy, urban youth, but I'm actually kinda glad they didn't go there. Each player plays the same, but each also has a set of specialty weapons that they wield better than any other character along with a signature super maneuver.
Just a Hint of Oldschool
The controls feel a little like a first person shooter; movement with the left stick, aiming with the right stick. In addition to the standard primary melee weapon that every character holds, players can also pick up random items like beach balls and lawn furniture to chuck at oncoming enemies to inflict even more damage. Players also have secondary explosive weapons like bombs and Molotov cocktails, which will hurt you if not used properly. The way the controls are laid out makes a lot of sense so the learning curve is very short. Jumping and dodging takes a little getting used to, but they become second nature after a short while.
The back cover of the box describes the levels of Monster Madness as being "gigantic" and they aren't kidding. These levels are huge and there are a lot of them. Players use melee weapons like swords, axes and plungers (yeah, I said plungers) to fight off a variety of different monsters. Also, players can venture around the levels to find a bunch of different useful parts, such as nails, duct tape, springs and pipes. What makes these parts useful you ask? Well by collecting these parts and taking them to your biker friend Larry, he can craft an arsenal of homemade weaponry like rapid-fire nail gun pistols and steel pipe shotguns.
Some of the really good parts like plutonium are hard to get to which forces you to use your wits to find a way to get to them. The great thing about this game is that it doesn't even give you hints on how to get to the parts; you just have to figure it out which adds to the challenge.
I Hate Granny's Cats
You got to love how this game caters to the action/adventure junkie. It's just got that "arcade" feel to it. Also the voice acting is hilarious, every once in a while you will hear Larry say something like, "I don't live around here, I live in a van down by the river," which cracks me up, because Larry looks a lot like Chris Farley.
The most admirable thing about Monster Madness is the art. Now the graphics are good too with a constantly smooth frame-rate and ridiculous enemies, but I'm talking about the art. The whole game has a certain style to it as if the same artist created all the 2D and 3D. Whenever you encounter new monsters you unlock artwork and information about that monster. The artwork in itself is a reason to pick up Monster Madness. Big credit should go to lead game designer Jeremy Stieglitz for making all this happen.
Project Sylpheed for the Xbox 360; Publisher: Square Enix / Microsoft Game Studios; Developer: Seta Corp. / Game Arts; Release Date: July 10, 2007; ESRB Rating: T for Teen; Genre: action / flight shooter; Players: 1; Support: N/A; Online: N/A
Ludicrous Speed, GO!
Wow, we haven't seen one of these in a while. Project Sylpheed is an action flight-sim shooter and from Square Enix no less! If you have ever played any of the Star Fox games then you know what to expect from this. Basically the story is that you play as Katana, a young space pilot in training. Your friend Ellen, who is also a trainee space pilot, joins you on your adventure. Katana and Ellen are testing a new experimental spacecraft when they both suddenly get swept up in a gigantic war.
It's Like Top Gun Meets the Millennium Falcon
When you first see this game you notice the outstanding and beautiful graphics that Square Enix is known for. Even the start and option menus look great. As you begin the game you can go through a training mode that teaches you how to control the game. The controls are pretty complex, but not too complex that they are hard to learn. Players can easily accelerate and decelerate, switch between weapons and lock on to targets with ease. The camera is positioned right behind the spacecraft rather than inside the cockpit like in some other flight sims. Gauges and icons on the screen tell the player various things like how fast they are going, how much ammo they have, who your enemies are and who your allies are.
Because this is a space shooter, it sometimes gets hard to tell which way is up. Technically, if you're in space there is no up or down, but to keep things from getting too confusing there is the ability to automatically level off your ship at anytime. Also, another handy little ability is the padlock view. When you lock on to an enemy that is not directly in front of your ship you can activate padlock mode and the camera will swing around your ship to show you where he is compared to you.
All kinds of ship maneuvers are at your disposal during gameplay, such as barrel rolls to dodge enemy fire, afterburners to help you catch up to far away enemies and a U-turn to help you... uh... turn around.
Each level will provide you with a bunch of different challenges, such as destroy as many enemies as you can or defend an ally ship from enemy attack. To help you complete these objectives is the ability to command a team of pilots. Players can send out commands to attack a specific target by sending pilots to break off and fight on their own or stay in formation to fight together.
Rocket Maaaaaaan Burnin' Out His Fuse Up Here Alone
You can really see the graphical detail in this game from the amazing looking cut-scenes to the just as amazing looking gameplay. The controls are smooth and enjoyable; Project Sylpheed is a dream. On the other hand, Project Sylpheed does have a couple flaws. The game is fun, but there is no online play and man, oh man, there is some terrible voice acting in this one.
The whole idea of the game is that you and your teammates are all in the military, hence why you are testing experimental ships. But, right in the middle of a fight you will be facing what seems like a thousand enemies and you'll hear Ellen say something like "This is just like a real battle." At that point you think to yourself "This is a real battle, what the hell is she talking about?" This one is my favorite; your commanding officer never gives you direct and specific orders, he just says motivational one-liners like, "Do your best." Or, "Don't be afraid." You would think that these characters were trained not to be afraid. Would it be wise to put a jittery cadet in an experimental ship? The voice acting definitely could have used some extra polish; it's a small part of the game, but it is hard to overlook.
Peter Rizkalla is a life long fan of videogames and the videogame industry. He has worked in videogame companies, such as THQ and Namco and has won several awards for his animated short films. Peter doesn't live around here though; he lives in a van down by the river. Peter can be reached at PRizkalla@gmail.com.
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