Category Archives: GameCube

#98: Lost Kingdoms

Format: GameCube Genre: RPG Released: 2002 Developer: From Software

It’s been incredibly difficult to decide which games to cover for the final few places on our list, and dozens of equally worthy titles were considered for this particular spot. In the end though, I felt that this almost unknown GameCube title thoroughly deserved a place on the list: not least because I think more people should find out about it.

The utterly dreadful cover art for Lost Kingdoms. There's definitely something not quite right about the proportions of that woman's face...

Lost Kingdoms made my life slightly better because it’s one of the few games I can think of that I enjoyed from start to finish – there were no frustrating difficulty spikes and no tacked-on ‘stealth’ sections, just pure, unadulterated fun from the moment I picked up the controller to the moment I watched the credits roll. Admittedly, the time in between the two wasn’t particularly long, and this is probably the game’s biggest flaw – it’s far too short. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – particularly if you’re an older, time-poor gamer – and considering the game can now be picked up on eBay for an absolute pittance, you’d be mad to miss out on it.

The cards in your hand are on the right, and the rest of the deck is shown on the left.

The key to the game’s success is its innovative combat system, which is based on ‘Magic: The Gathering’-style trading cards. Each card summons a specific creature, which either performs a one-off attack or hangs around for a while and attacks any wrongdoer that ambles by. All of the cards have specific affinities (Fire, Earth, Wood, Water), and part of  the game’s enjoyment comes from carefully preparing your deck before a level to ensure that you have the right balance of cards to fight the upcoming monsters (e.g. if you’re going to be facing a lot of fire-breathing monkeys, it’s probably a good idea to bring along a few water-based cards).

The best thing about the game might just be conjuring up a host of Harryhausen-esque walking skeletons. They're fairly rubbish in battle, but they evoke fond memories of Sunday afternoons spent watching Jason and the Argonauts.

The best thing is that all of the fighting is done in real-time, so the fights can get enjoyably frantic as you sift through your deck, trying desperately to find the right card to deal with the monster that’s just jumped up through the floor in front of you. The creature cards themselves are also impressively designed, and there are some particularly good showstopping animations for the more powerful beasts (á la the Guardian Forces in Final Fantasy). Best of all, there are around a hundred different cards to collect, and you can also upgrade your cards by ‘transforming’ them, so there’s plenty of fun to be had for the compulsive collector.

You can see the main protagonist in the centre - she's certainly up for the worst-dressed-hero award. Are those booty slippers?

Speaking of which, isn’t it weird how obsessive collecting has been such a part of video games since the very beginning? From collecting coins in Super Mario Bros. to finding Riddler Trophies in Batman: Arkham Asylum, it seems gamers like nothing more than to gather pointless tat for hours on end – although to be fair, the cards in Lost Kingdoms are a little bit more interesting than many game collectibles.

I think the worst example of pointless collecting I’ve witnessed in recent history was Assassin’s Creed, which tasked you with collecting several hundred flags of various types. And what did you get for painstakingly collecting these flags? A poxy little Xbox ‘Achievement’ and the knowledge that those five hours spent trawling through every street and alley in Jerusalem are five hours you’ll never get back.

Beware the glowing red dome of scariness! OoooOOOOOooooh!

The thing is though, I get totally suckered in by these collecting quests: once you’ve started collecting these little in-game trinkets, it’s very difficult to stop. Assassin’s Creed was definitely a watershed moment though – receiving the ‘Achievement’ for collecting god knows how many flags was the point at which I seriously asked myself “What the hell am I doing?”

Still, certain games handle item collecting well, and because it kept the number of collectibles down to a reasonable level and made each item unique and interesting, Lost Kingdoms was certainly one of the better ‘collect ’em ups’ (another good example is Ghostbusters: The Video Game – the ‘haunted artefacts’ scattered throughout the levels were genuinely worth finding).

To sum up then, Lost Kingdoms is a cracking little game that’s well worth picking up if you’re in the mood for a spot of RPG-lite collecting and card battling, and its relative shortness means it’s guaranteed not to outstay its welcome – definitely one of the GameCube’s high points.

To whet your appetite, here’s a video of the first level:

And below is a video of the final boss battle – it gives you a good idea of what some of the higher level cards do. (But don’t watch if you don’t want to see the ending. Obviously.)

Lewis

(Cover image fro gamefaqs.com, screenshots from Softpedia)

9 Comments

Filed under 2002, From Software, GameCube, RPG

#80: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Format: GameCube Genre: RPG Released: 2003 Developer: Nintendo

Wind Waker was a brave move on Nintendo’s part. Radically overhauling the graphical style of one of the best-loved game series of all time takes some chutzpah, and I remember it caused outrage at the time.

Fans were up in arms when the first shots of Wind Waker‘s cel-shaded graphics were released, and some quarters were quick to cite the new game as a signal that Nintendo was trying to ‘kiddify’ the Zelda series. As the finished game eventually proved though, this was all complete nonsense and bluster: if anything, it just goes to show that the kind of people who spit and rave on internet forums about these kinds of perceived ‘faults’ are generally the kind of people you can safely ignore.

In my opinion, Wind Waker‘s graphics are an absolute triumph – the game’s cel-shading is utterly charming and distinctive, and whereas most games from 2003 have aged badly in the terms of graphics, Wind Waker still looks as fresh as it did when it was released. In fact, I reckon the Wind Waker version of Link is even more iconic than the ‘traditional’ version – so much so that a friend of mine recently featured cel-shaded Link on her wedding invites.

I’m playing through The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess at the moment, which is what got me thinking about the Zelda canon. And yes, I know you’re probably shocked that I’ve only just got round to playing Twilight Princess despite the fact that it came out four years ago – we try to keep our finger on the pulse here at 101 Video Games, even if the patient died some time ago. And anyway, at least I’ve actually played some games, unlike a certain other blog co-author whose name I won’t mention… But I digress. The point is that unlike Wind WakerTwilight Princess feels like a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time – perhaps the direct sequel that the internet forums were baying for back in the early 2000s. And the real point I’m trying to make here is that Twilight Princess just isn’t as good as Wind Waker was.

Don’t get me wrong, Twilight Princess is an absolutely brilliant game, but whereas Wind Waker was a breath of fresh air that drew me in from the very beginning, Twilight Princess feels a little samey and derivative. The designers have obviously done their best to throw in a few new gameplay elements, but many of them fall flat – the sections where you play as a wolf, for example, just aren’t as much fun as playing in your human form, and of course they pale a little in comparison with the wonderful Okami (perhaps an example of a Zelda-imitator beating the original at its own game).

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Nintendo went out on a limb with Wind Waker, and the gamble payed off brilliantly. I won’t bang on about all of the reasons the game is so wonderful (I’m sure you’ve probably played it yourself and can remember all too well), but I have to mention the sailing; there are only two games I can think of where travelling was just as enjoyable, if not more so, than reaching your destination, and this is one of them*. The fact that just moving around the gameworld was fun in itelf speaks volumes for just what an absolute classic this game is, and although we generally try to avoid including two games from the same series on our list, there was just no way for me to choose between this and Ocarina of Time. I might even put it on my wedding invites.

Lewis

*The other one is Skies of Arcadia, which had a similar treasure-hunting gameplay element (although it lacked a Tingle).

(Screenshots from www.gamefaqs.com and www.tailflip.com)

3 Comments

Filed under 2003, GameCube, Nintendo, RPG

#77: Bloody Roar: Primal Fury

Format: GameCube Genre: Fighting Released: 2002 Developer: Eighting

I have fond memories of this game, partly because of how I came to own it.

I was doing work experience at CVG at the time, where my responsibilities mostly centred around taking the odd screenshot and tidying up the games cupboard. Thankfully though, after I’d been there for a while the editors started letting me handle the more important stuff: like filing the competition entries and recategorising the photo library.

Whoo.

I won’t lie to you, it wasn’t exactly a thrilling job. And to make matters worse, I was actually losing money every month – I didn’t get paid for my time at CVG, and my part-time bar job wasn’t even covering my bills. But the prospect of actually writing for a games magazine kept me hanging around, and eventually my patience paid off. Sort of.

Mole versus elephant - wonder who's going to win this one?

The publisher decided that the magazine was going to be bundled with a free tips book every month, and they decided to give me the job of compiling it. Unfortunately though, this wasn’t a case of me playing through dozens of fantastic games and scribbling down my carefully considered directions on how to complete them. Instead, I was given the unenviable task of trawling through hundreds of pages of html code from a tips website owned by the publishing company, then painstakingly extracting all of the code artefacts and knocking it into something resembling English.

Again, whoo.

But on the plus side, I had my name in the front of a book AND a big ol’ cheque for 150 quid. My months of hard work had (almost) paid off.

The humiliation of being smacked around by a bunny. Fail.

So what to do with my new-found wealth? Did I use it to pay off my mounting debt? Or perhaps spend it on some more exciting and nourishing food than the baked beans and economy pasta I was subsisting off at the time?

Of course not. I spent it on a GameCube.

Several months previously, one of the first GameCubes to arrive in the UK had landed in the CVG office, and ever since then I’d been coveting it. I seethed with jealousy when the writers were each given a GameCube of their own FOR FREE (b*****ds!), and I drooled over news of the games that were in development: Metroid Prime, Zelda: The Wind Waker, the Resident Evil remake… Actually, I remember when the preview code for Resident Evil came in – it was one of the few games that stopped all work in the office (along with Ico).

As you'd expect, most rooftop battles end with one of the protagonists giving the pavement below a close inspection.

However, when the GameCube was finally released in the UK, the launch games weren’t exactly mind-blowing:  the lack of a Mario game was a big disappointment (Luigi’s Mansion didn’t quite cut it for me I’m afraid), Wave Race: Blue Storm was fun but not exactly innovative, and Super Monkey Ball got pretty dull after a while (with the exception of Monkey Golf, of course).

The one game that really stood out for me was Bloody Roar: Primal Fury. Not only did it look fantastic, it gave you the opportunity to turn into a mole and lay the smack down on an elephant. And those kinds of opportunities seldom come up.

The guy on the right turns into a chameleon - an unlikely fighting animal perhaps, but surprisingly effective.

So, once my cheque had cleared, I proudly marched down to Virgin Megastore and bought myself a GameCube with a copy of Bloody Roar, which was the only GC game I had for a loooooong time – mostly because I couldn’t afford to buy any more. But did I get bored of it? Nope. In fact, I still had Bloody Roar right up until the time I passed on my GameCube a couple of years ago, and I was still playing it even then.

I never did get a job at CVG. Eventually a writer position came up but, to my utter dismay, they gave it to the other work experience guy (who, to be fair, had loads more experience than me and actually remembered to bring his portfolio to the interview). But at least I had Bloody Roar.

Obviously, a job would have been better, but Bloody Roar was pretty good anyway.

Lewis

(Screenshots from http://www.mariocube.nl; cover from http://www.mobygames.com )

Leave a comment

Filed under 2002, Eighting, Fighting, GameCube

Podcast 9: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (#74)

Format: GameCube Genre: Survival Horror Released: 2002 Developer: Silicon Knights

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American romantic fantasy film scripted by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry. The film uses elements of science fiction, nonlinear narration and neosurrealism to explore the nature of memory and romantic love. It opened in North America on March 19, 2004 and grossed over US$70 million worldwide. This podcast is not about that film.

Instead Lewis and Ian discuss the well respected but not massively well known or successful GameCube game Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Well, Lewis does. Ian spends most of the podcast calling it Eternal Sunshine.

 

The original hero and villain, Pious.

 

WARNING – We ramble more than usual on this one, including such conversational vignettes as an appraisal of British actors playing Nazis, whether you can ever watch Eddie Izzard in a film without thinking ‘That’s Eddie Izzard’ and what it would be like for Lewis and Ian to share a bath.

Click below to listen directly through this site

Or download and listen on your MP3 player of choice:

Podcast 9 Eternal Darkness

Beware… THE PILLAR OF FLESH!

Ian & Lewis

(Screenshot from http://www.uk.gamespot.com)

4 Comments

Filed under 2002, GameCube, Podcast, Silicon Knights, Survival Horror

#53: Soul Calibur II

Format: GameCube Genre: Fighting Released: 2003 Developer: Namco

The Soul Calibur games are without doubt my favourite 3D fighting games, and I reckon Soul Calibur II – specifically the GameCube version – is the best of the lot. It certainly had the best guest character – Link from the Zelda series, who was perfectly suited to the hack and slash gameplay.

GameCube owners lucked out on the character front – the Xbox version had a rather disappointing Spawn as its special guest character, whereas the PS2 version had Heihachi from Tekken who, although certainly an impressive fighter, seemed to have been out of the office when the memo was sent round about packing a weapon in his overnight bag.

And it’s the weapons that elevate the Soul Calibur games above your average 3D fighter – from Kilik’s great big bludgeoning stick to Nightmare’s mahoosive sword, the various hack ‘n’ slashing tools added some fantastic variety to the fights.

Is that a bomb in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

The Soul Calibur series’ greatest innovation was the introduction of a ‘story mode’ for the single-player campaign. Most fighting games have pretty dull single-player modes that simply require you to fight your way through a set number of opponents in order to ‘beat’ the game [*yawn*]. Thankfully, someone at Namco realised this is a pretty tedious way of going about things, so they introduced a map that your character works his or her way across, with various extra missions and bonuses to unlock, along with an overarching story for each fighter. Some of the fights had special requirements that livened things up from the usual ‘hit your opponent in the face until they fall over’ rigmarole: one of the more interesting ones was a level in which you could only damage your foe by knocking them against a wall. Another one saw you poisoned at the start, causing your health to tick down gradually – the only way to restore it was to successfully hit your opponent (natch).

Good old Astaroth. Nice hat.

The money earned from the story mode let you ‘pimp’ your character with all sorts of improved weaponry – in a way, the whole thing was more like an RPG than a traditional fighting game. Some of the weapons were particularly brilliant – I remember Yoshimitsu’s ‘joke’ weapon was a shepherd’s crook that made bleating noises every time you hit your opponent.

The costumes were fantastic too. The levels of costume absurdity seemed to have risen steadily over the course of the series, culminating in Soul Calibur IV‘s  truly ludicrous range of fashion nightmares, but the more ridiculous the costumes get, the more I like them. Astaroth’s outfit’s in Soul Calibur II deserve a special mention – I was a big fan of his purple jester hat (see above), but he also had an even better one that looked like some sort of rubber mohican.

"Ta da! What do you mean you think the codpiece is too much?"

Generally the characters in Soul Calibur II were wonderfully designed and carefully balanced – and then there was Necrid.

No-one likes Necrid. I bet even Necrid probably doesn’t like Necrid. Not only does he look ridiculous, he’s a real pain to fight with too – his style is basically a very lazy mash-up of several other characters’ moves, none of which is very satisfying or interesting. The character was designed by Todd McFarlane (he of Spawn fame), and you kind of get the impression that the Japanese designers wanted his input in order to appeal more to Western audiences – perhaps they should have had more faith in their own talents. Thankfully, Necrid didn’t make it into the subsequent two games, and he exists now only as an embrassing blip in the series’ otherwise noble history.

Necrid - by far the least likeable character. Although he seems to be giving Yunsung a good old thrashing here.

If you get the chance, I heartily recommend tracking down the GameCube version of Soul Calibur II – not only is it blessed with probably the best single-player mode in the series, it also gives you the opportunity to lay the smack down on various golems and ninjas with a certain green-clad pointy-eared chap harbouring various bombs and boomerangs about his person. And surely that’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Lewis

Screenshots from http://www.firingsquad.com.

1 Comment

Filed under 2003, Fighting, GameCube, Namco

#12: Doshin the Giant

Format: GameCube Genre: God Game Released: 2002 Developer: Nintendo

I’ve got to admit that this game was a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. It’s obviously a kids’ game, and I obviously wasn’t a kid when I was playing it, but let’s face it, kids shouldn’t get to have all the fun.

doshin_the_giant_box_art

Doshin the Giant managed to suck me into its world entirely. At its core the game is incredibly simple, yet somehow utterly compulsive: you play a friendly yellow giant whose aim is to help four tribes scattered across several islands. The villagers’ requests are pretty simple – they generally amount to raising or lowering the ground or moving trees about – and every time you help them out they send a bit of love your way. The more they love you, the bigger you get, so that by the end of each ‘day’ in the game Doshin is usually towering above even the highest mountains. However, come the next day, he always reverts to his original size, although all the changes you made to the islands remain the same.

doshin-the-giant-planting-trees

A lot of the game’s charm comes from its visual appeal – all primary colours and smiling faces. More than anything though, it’s the sound effects that wormed their way into my head: there’s no music as such, but the background noise is a symphony of birdsong, animal noises, the lapping of the sea and the weird, high-pitched mewlings of the villagers. The whole soundscape is strangely hypnotic and relaxing: playing Doshin is almost like undergoing brain massage. Click on the video below and you can hear what I mean for yourself:

It’s not perfect of course – the simple concept, although appealing, ultimately becomes repetitive – but it’s the way this game made me feel that ensures its place on the list. As you make your way from village to village, planting and landscaping, you can’t help but build up an affection for your tiny wards, and there’s a sense of fatherly pride as you watch your little denizens go about expanding their villages and building monuments in your honour.

doshin-lowering-the-ground

But there’s the catch – the ultimate goal of the game is to get the various villages to build all 15 possible monuments, but only half of these are ‘love’ monuments. In order to get the remaining ‘hate’ monuments, you have to terrify your villagers by tapping the shoulder button and turning into Jashin the Hate Giant, allowing you to destroy the villages and murder the inhabitants.

After nurturing my villagers for so long, watching their families grow and listening to them burst into cheerful song at my approach, I was quite reluctant to rain down fiery destruction upon them, yet it was the only way to proceed. As they ran in terror while I systematically destroyed their houses, I couldn’t help but feel terribly guilty – and there are very few games I’ve played since that have managed to provoke such emotion.

jashin_the_hate_giant-fire

Who’d have thought a kids’ game could be so provocative?

Lewis

6 Comments

Filed under 2002, GameCube, God Game, Nintendo