Thursday, November 18, 2010

Star Wars games!

As I mentioned last post, I'm doing anything I can to fuel my Star Wars obsession at the moment. Of course that means that my gaming tastes have also had a Star Wars flavour, and believe it or not I've actually played through three generations of Playstation in order to satisfy my Jedi enthused yearnings... I'll now take you through my Sony console odyssey!

Starting off, we have Episode One:The Phantom Menace representing the PS1. Now this is a rather lovely movie franchise tie-in from way back in the simple 32 bit era... That's right folks, its my favourite decade... the 90s!

The first thought I had, on re-playing this classic title, was that it was graphically great for the time it was made. The developers managed to get a lot out of the system visually, and the cut scenes are pretty impressive. It was through playing this game that I actually discovered a rather pleasing feature of the PS3. There is an option which allows you to "smooth off" some of the pixellation and jagged edges on your PS1 games, thus enhancing the graphics.

Now this is nothing new... the Dreamcast was able to do something similar a generation ago with the Bleemcast software... but it does enhance the playing experience when sampling retro Playstation goodies...

The game plays through each scenario of the movie, but adding a slight 'Tomb Raider style' platforming element to the story. There is also a good amount of Jedi style combat, employing both light sabre skills and force moves.

Voice acting, sound effects and musical score are of top quality, and overall the game carries the prestige, of being the most 'pleasantly surprising' of the trio I'm sharing with you in this post. That's because despite being a product from the last millenium, it's actually a game which is still very enjoyable in 2010. The game is quite addictive and the save system is very forgiving, but the game can still be frustrating when you have to repeat the same jump or battle over an over again... Now on to number two!

Representing the PS2 we have Episode Three: The Revenge Of The Sith. I picked this title up quite some time ago at Blockbuster as part of a "three for £5" deal. Very often I'll pick up a game and then not even think about it for months. Much later I'll think "Now what can I play today?", go and have a root around and discover a hidden gem! That was the case with this particular game. (I think I bought it during my obsession with London based gangster title, The Getaway. At that time I was not interested in the Star Wars universe and therefore the title got shelved.)

The game is pedestrian and straightforward, with no attempts to dazzle or amaze, but it very much satisfies my Lucas based cravings. Graphically not that amazing, but the simple and uncomplicated gameplay more than makes up for it. As you progress (in a very linear way) through the plot of the film, you accrue Jedi powers and combat skills by earning points for stylishly dispatching your foes. Again the whole aural side of things is sublime with great voice acting and an excellent soundtrack. The game is relatively easy to play through, and again the save system is forgiving.

Unfortunatelywhilst playing through and saving this game, I managed to wipe out the entire memory and saves that I had on my PS1 internal memory of my PS3, thus erasing about 6 levels of my progress on the Phantom Menace... DOH! Now onto the next and final game, this time on the PS3...

The best of the featured trio of Playstation offerings, is the rather fabulous PS3 offering, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It's not it's current generation status that makes it the winner
( -you can actually play a version of the game PS2- ) nor the shiny graphics, or enhanced Force abilities.

It's the fact that it expands the Star Wars story and sheds some light on the events between Episode III and Episode IV. It also allows characters from Episode III to appear alongside characters from Episode IV (Bail and Leia Organa) when the actors who played those characters (Jimmy Smits and Carrie Fisher) filmed their respective roles over twenty years apart... I think that's amazing!

Leia Organa (portrayed by Carrie Fisher in 1978) and Bail Organa
(portrayed by Jimmy Smits in 2005) meet up in a videogame in 2008!

The star of the game is Darth Vader's secret apprentice, Galen Marek, also known as Starkiller.
The game charts the path of his relationship with Vader. The plot is almost Shakesperean in it's twists and turns - Vader murders Marek's father then adopts him. He brings him up as a Sith Lord, but Starkiller is redeemed through his love for new character Juno Eclipse, being drawn from the Dark Side of the Force into the Light and eventually becoming a Jedi.

- There is far more to his backstory than that, but suffice to say, this new examination of an interesting and murky period in the Star Wars chronology and plot development is extremely exciting for Star Wars nerds like myself!

,Galen Marek or Starkiller - (Darth Vader's secret apprentice)
expands the Star Wars story in an extremely tantalising way!

The gameplay of Force Unleashed, becomes more enjoyable as you progress through the game and your destructive Force powers increase. I say destructive Force powers, because destruction is the name of the game. Although Starkiller is more than capable of handling a light sabre with skill and dexterity, his modus operandi is to storm through his oponents hitting them with Force 'push','lightning' or 'grab'. This sends foes and parts of the environment flying off into the cosmos.

So there you go! Three generations of games but all with a common feature... 'quality'!

I'll put some video of each one here under the post, so you can see what they look like. May I leave you with the assurance, that I'll leave Star Wars alone as subject matter for my next few posts. I've actually got a backlog of played games to tell you about, due to my year long hiatus... Enjoy the videos (although I really disagree with the Revenge Of The Sith review) and I'll make a pledge to get out and visit some of my favourite blogs over the weekend... See you soon!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Current Obsession

Hope I've spelt that right, I wouldn't want to give you the impression that I'm hooked on dried grapes. Lord no! (Not unless they're covered in milk chocolate and enjoyed after a heavy session on the old bong that is...) but I digress!

Those of you who've known me for a while may be aware that every so often I get into something obsessively. This usually results in me indulging huge wads of cash and hours of my free time at whatever has caught my whim, in terms of persuing and fuelling that moments fad. These have included the music and memoribilia of Michael Jackson, the Resident Evil franchise, the Dreamcast, the Saturn and videogaming in general...

However, my latest obsession, which has been brewing for about a year now, is based long ago in a galaxy far away... Why would a 43 year old man start to get heavily into Star Wars in 2010? There's no reason other than that when I was ill and off for six months, I decided to watch all six films as they were intended to run in the George Lucas chronology. That means starting with Episode One: The Phantom Menace and finishing on Episode Six: The Return Of The Jedi.

Now that might seem logical to everyone, but UK TV channel ITV, recently showed them in the chronological order that they were made, which is Four, Five, Six, One, Two, Three. This IMHO is absurd, but whatever...

When you watch the movies back to back in sequence, the story is quite enthralling. It definitely is a case of the sum being more than its parts, and I found my interest in the Star Wars universe was kick started afresh. I began to watch episodes of the Clone Wars and after first finding it's cartoon stylings unpalatable, I soon became hugely hooked on the programme. I now enjoy it as much as the films and yearn for other eras from the films timeline to be explored in a similar animated fashion.

But of course, when you're obsessed and adicted as I am at this time, you'll find that watching isn't enough... now I need Star Wars comics, Star Wars novels, Star Wars art, Star Wars memoribilia and of course... Star Wars games! Which leads me nicely onto my next subject!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Prodigal Returns

No, not me this time... I'm talking about my Xbox! In what was an amazingly swift turn-around time, my beautiful 360 Elite has arrived back from Germany. It's re-positioning under the biggest television in the house, has resulted in me feeling very much attracted to it's Microsoft loveliness!

I've got a glut of games to play on it, bought at about the same time as my console gave up the ghost. These include Kane and Lynch: Dog Days, Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Mercenaries 2: World In Flames and for the original Xbox, GTA III, Goldeneye Rogue Agent and True Crime: Streets Of LA. I've also got the Dead Rising DLC on my hard drive...

However, getting anywhere near the biggest TV is a difficult process due to the invasion of the new Call Of Duty (Black Ops) into Krishna Towers. My two youngest sons Martin and Ted have both purchased COD (Mart on the PS3, Ted on the 360). This means that Martin has plonked his PS3 (not to be confused with my PS3) right in the main living room and usurped the TV from me!

I've not even seen as much as a glimmer of the gameplay or graphics of this latest release. I am very aware of the effect it has had on my sons, though, having only heard grunts from them since they got on the game. I gather that every kid in their social circle has a copy and is online 24/7 since they all got their grubby little mits on their copies. It's THE essential gaming purchase of the last few years and everyone is "bashing it" as much as possible! We even had to mention it in assembly at the school I work at, as conversations about the game were beginning to distract children from their lessons!

I have been playing a lot of Call Of Duty in recent months, including World At War, World At War: Final Fronts (PS2), Modern Warfare 2 and Finest Hour (PS2). But I feel no compulsion at all to get on the Black Ops bandwagon, and will play it after I get through the expansive backlog of games I've got stacked up... As well as those Xbox offerings mentioned before I've got Shadow The Hedgehog (PS2), Casper (PS1), Tekken 5 (PS3 download) and a couple of games from the franchise which is fuelling my current obsession...