The Mass Effect universe is epic in its scope, and throughout the three games BioWare produced, it was clear that there were a myriad of side stories that could be told with these characters, organizations and planets. So it was with great excitement that I attended a screening for Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, an original feature-length anime featuring the backstory of one James Vega. Unfortunately, it turns out that the awesomeness of the Mass Effect games is difficult to reproduce in other mediums.
It would seem that LEGO has never met a license it didn't want to turn into a videogame full of adorable little pieces and parts. But how does LEGO Lord of the Rings fare in the pantheon of LEGO games? I'm slightly biased as I love the LEGO games in general, but LotR is their most ambitious title to date, and I'm happy to say that it doesn't fall flat on its face and bodes well for future projects!
Sparkle Snapshots 3D might actually be the gayest thing on the Nintendo 3DS... and that's coming from someone who can't stop playing Style Savvy: Trendsetters! It's not a game, but a photo-editing app that you can download from the eShop that lets you turn your photos into sparkle-infested, rainbow-covered extravaganzas.
You can opt to use one of the photos in your 3DS photo album, or else use Sparkle Snapshots 3D to take a fresh one from within the app. It offers you a few different options for lenses and lighting, but being that the 3DS camera isn't the greatest to begin with, they all kind of look awful. In particular, the soft focus one looks like you're shooting through a Linda Evans-level gauze and Vaseline filter.
Once you've selected a photo, you can choose from any combination of the various backgrounds and frames on offer, then tart it up with all kinds of hearts, sparkles, and the like. There's also 3D props you can paste in, and pens you can use to write whatever you like in a maddening variety of colors and styles. You can also twist and manipulate the photo with some warping tools provided, if you don't think it looks quite crazy enough. Helpfully, you can save your work in progress in case you really screw it up and need to go back farther than the "undo" feature will let you.
There are really only a few real problems. First, importing your 3D photo into Sparkle Snapshots 3D actually turns it 2D. It's understandable, because you need to be able to work within the levels of the background, your photo and the frame, but if someone was sticking their hands into the camera, the 3D effect of that is lost. Also, you have to carefully erase the picture around your subject in order to get the background to show through. I guess it was too much to ask that the app recognize the subject you're shooting and superimpose it onto a background directly. The interface can get a little cluttered, and the sheer amount of pink on display might be a little off-putting to some. At least you can turn off that chipper female voice that keeps yammering on!
Honestly, a review of Sparkle Snapshots 3D isn't going to be particularly helpful, aside from describing exactly what the app does. I did find it surprisingly deep, with the amount of tools available to edit your photo. Additional backgrounds, frames and whatnot are all available as DLC, but there's quite a lot to start with. It's actually kind of fun to play with your photos, but obviously this won't be to everyone's tastes. (But I bet more than a few of you are curious!) It's available in the Nintendo eShop for $5.99.
A code for Sparkle Snapshots 3D was provided by Nintendo for the purposes of this review. Various photos were tweaked and edited, but you're only getting that one! (Although if you'd like to download a 3D version of it viewable on your 3DS, right click here and save the MPO)
The Professor Layton series of games has established itself quite well on the DS, with its charming animation, whimsical storytelling and brain-bending puzzles. But how does it fare when it makes the leap into the third dimension? Does Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask on the Nintendo 3DS maintain the status quo, succeed beyond expectations or fall flat on its face? Turns out a little of each...
Longtime readers of this site might recall my loving review of Style Savvy for the Nintendo DS. So you can well imagine my excitement when they announced a sequel to the fabulous fashion styling game for the 3DS. And I'm happy to say that not only did they not fix what wasn't broken, but they made Style Savvy: Trendsetters exactly what a sequel should be. Bigger, better, and well... more fabulous than the original!
Art Academy was a fascinating app that was released as two downloadable lessons for the Nintendo DSi via DSiWare, and later as one combined package as a DS cartridge. Now, a sequel has been released for the 3DS entitled Art Academy: Lessons For Everyone. But is it for everyone? And more importantly is it for you?
Make the jump for my full review!
Harmonix's Dance Central was pretty much the killer app for the Kinect when it was released (and in fact was the main reason why I wanted Microsoft's Xbox 360 peripheral), and then Dance Central 2 refined the gameplay while adding awesome new songs. So what was left to improve for Dance Central 3?
Somehow Harmonix has made a great game even better, totally justifying the purchase of the sequel beyond the 45 songs included on the disc. Make the jump and find out why!
The general public is more familiar with Milla Jovovich kicking ass while wearing skin-tight leather outfits in the Resident Evil movie franchise, but Sony and Capcom quietly released Resident Evil: Degeneration a few years back, an all-CGI movie that was basically like one of the games with all the gameplay cut out. And now there's another one, called Resident Evil: Damnation, that unfortunately shows off the best and worst aspects of the Resident Evil games.
Resident Evil: Damnation starts off with a whole lot of extraneous exposition to set the scene before setting Leon Kennedy loose in a fictional Eastern European country at civil war with itself... and some BOW's are getting involved to make sure things get extra messy. Las Plagas factors in heavily in the story, transforming everyone into brainless monsters. But there's also Lickers and a couple of Tyrants at the end as bosses. Oh, and Ada Wong shows up for a couple of scenes here and there, but her role in everything is just enigmatic and slightly irritating. See, the plot is like a Resident Evil game it sort of makes sense, in a general way, but with way too much talky speechifying and posturing. Honestly, the plot is okay, but the script is way over-the-top in spots. A few times I actually groaned at some of the dialogue coming out of peoples' mouths.
The animation is really impressive. Everyone looks great, and they're even able to animate subtle facial expressions that allow the characters to act without even speaking. The motion capture ensures that all the action is dead on. But they still can't quite get the lip-syncing right. I don't know if that's because this was a Japanese production and they couldn't re-animate the lips to fit the English words when they translated it, or if they just didn't bother to match the lips that closely to the dialogue in the first place. It's kind of distracting in scenes. Which is a shame, because the actual voice acting isn't that bad. Also, it's clear that this was made for 3D, and seeing it on a 2D DVD left me wishing I could've seen it in a theater in all three dimensions. There are some spectacularly choreographed fight scenes that I bet would've looked amazing in 3D.
Honestly, if you're a big RE fan, you've probably already seen Resident Evil: Damnation. But if you haven't, and you at least enjoy the series, you should give it a rent. The animation and action setpieces more than make up for the overly-complicated plot and hacky script. The live-action Resident Evil movies may be criticized for being mindless action flicks, but these CGI ones go a little too far in the other direction for my taste.
UDON Entertainment's Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends is a prequel to the Wii game Sengoku Basara 3, and features a slew of attractive characters battling it out for your entertainment. Written and illustrated by Yak Haibara, it's non-stop action as various samurai lords and their armies throw themselves into enthusiastic combat as everyone struggles to take control of a power vacuum in the land.
I was made aware that Sengoku Basara has quite a yaoi following, and although I've never played any of the videogames, reading this first volume in the manga series, I can totally see why. Some of these men are extremely pretty. Keiji Maeda is a delight, and Yukimura Sanada runs around in a sexy little outfit. And some of the dialogue gets a little flamboyant, although I'm not sure if it's written purposefully that way or if I'm just reading too much into it.
The book looks gorgeous, and Haibara's artwork is quite lovely. But I had the same problem with Sengoku Basara that I do with a lot of action-packed manga. While individual panels and pages are striking and dynamic, the actual panel-to-panel storytelling leaves a lot to be desired. There are a lot of characters running around in this book, and I found it difficult to keep track of what, exactly, was going on most of the time. Yes, Sengoku Basara is published in the purer back-to-front layout, but that's not what throws me. It's just the way it's drawn, where it's hard to follow panel to panel. Sometimes it's because there's visual shortcuts that may not be immediately recognizable to some Western audiences (like me), but mostly I just felt overwhelmed.
Still, if you're into the games, the manga would be a great backstory to read. And while I didn't get into Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends, the beautiful artwork and non-stop action might just lure in manga fans looking for something new.
Regular readers of this site are well aware of my love for Harmonix's stable of music games. I have all three Rock Bands, Beatles Rock Band, and both Dance Centrals and I still play them all regularly. So it was with great anticipation that I downloaded their newest game, Rock Band Blitz (available for Xbox 360 and PS3 via Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Store, respectively). It's a departure from the usual music game, which has its advantages... and disadvantages.
The Walking Dead is a spectacular comic series that was given a well-deserved (if often frustrating) television adaptation. And when that became a hit, it was only natural that other adaptations would follow. You may recall from my review that I thoroughly enjoyed The Walking Dead Episode 1, and with Episode 2, Telltale Games proved that they were in it to win it by crafting a story that would have been one of the TV series' best. And now with the newly-released Episode 3: Long Road Ahead, the adventure game adaptation of the comic is leaving the TV show in the dust.
In addition to the Street Fighter X Tekken art book out today, UDON Entertainment has also released Persona 4: Official Design Works. It may be an English translation of a book printed in Japan in 2008, but it should be on the shelf of every Persona fan. In the interest of full disclosure, a bad experience with Persona on the PS1 soured me on the series until a friend convinced me to pick up P3P on my PSP. When I do eventually get a Vita, I will definitely be getting Persona 4 Golden, but when I read this book, I have to admit that I was not familiar with any of the characters.
Like the Street Fighter X Tekken book, it begins with a series of illustrations from box art, promo pieces, and whatnot. Unfortunately, in this book, there isn't a little caption where the artist explains how it was developed. While I appreciate seeing the art unobstructed, I found even the small captions in the SFXT book informative and often interesting.
After that comes the very extensive section focusing on the main characters. Each one comes with a text piece from Persona 4 Art Director and Character Designer Shigenori Soejima, followed by a series of sketches illustrating the development process as they refined the look of each character. Not being familiar with Persona 4, I had no idea there was a cross-dressing scene, so seeing those costumes was a bit of a surprise! I also found the essay on Kanji Tatsumi interesting, as it discusses his sexuality. They may not have wanted to explicitly state that Kanji is gay, but looking at his Shadow, it's clear the boy's got some issues! Unfortunately, this section is also the one place where I noticed a minor typo as a caption is repeated twice on two separate pages. It's just a small error, but one that I hope is corrected in the final printed book. (I was reading an early review PDF.)
The next section of the book contains sketches and development notes on all the supporting characters, then a look at the various Shadows and locations in the game. The chapter on the supporting cast could almost double as a strategy guide, as it mentions the Social Links associated with each one. Also, given the outrageous designs of the Shadows, I almost would've preferred more pages devoted to them with more explanation of how their surreal and disturbing looks were decided upon.
The final section is a full interview with Soejima, where he discusses in more depth the design process and how Persona 4 came to be the way it did. It may only be six pages, but I found it illuminating, and even after being spoiled on quite a lot of the game, I'm still intrigued enough to want to play it!
Persona 4: Official Design Works is a terrific showcase for Soejima's designs and artwork, and something no Persona fan should pass up. Honestly, my only complaint with the book is that it's from 2008 (the Soejima interview specifically mentions that Persona 4 had only just come out so they were still waiting to see how it was received by fans), so it doesn't include anything on Persona 4: Golden or Persona 4: Arena. Not that it really matters, as this book is technically supposed to be about Persona 4, not a Vita port or a fighting game follow-up, I just thought it would be interesting to include some information about those as well. (Especially adapting it into a fighting game, which must have been an interesting process!)
And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!
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