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Granstream Saga – North American Cover

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Japanese Version (the Euro version just has more logos blocking the art)

      Grandstream Saga is an exciting action/adventure game with some RPG elements.

      In the world of Grandstream, there was a war between the Imperial Wizardry (evil) and Allied Spirit Army (good). The Imperial Wizardry used a weapon both sides had agreed not to use, but weapon was miscalculated, and it shifted the axis of the world, causing the ice caps to be on the equator, melt, and flood the world. Before the world was destroyed, 4 Wise Men created 4 gems and created 4 flying continents. Every few decades, these gems must be recharged or the continents slowly sink toward the water below.

      It is now 100 years later, and the wise men’s descendants are missing. Your home continent of Shilf is slowing descending toward the water. Your father is cutting off parts of the flying island to slow its decent. However, Eon (you) spots a bird’s nest on the falling piece of land and risks his life to save it.

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I was busy risking my life to save baby birds so the player knows I’m pure of heart.

      What later starts out as a search for a missing boy leads you to discover your powers to recreate items from scraps with a magic bracelet you’ve had since you were born. It never displayed any magic until now. From there, you learn the Imperial Wizardry never truly died. They have kidnapped the wise man’s descendant, Arcia. You smuggle yourself about a pirate ship that’s going to trade with them to try and rescue her. It is there you meet Laramee and her spirit bird Korby. Laramee helps you board the Imperial ship, as she is inspired by your heroism to save someone you’ve never even met. It is on this mission the stakes are raised, as you learn you must seek out a magic verse for Arcia to sing at each continent to recharge the magic of the continents to keep them afloat before all of humanity is extinguished forever.

      But first, in the middle of that story, something rare happen (for American video games of this time). You are smuggled into a treasure chest placed in Laramee’s room, and you open it up to see this:

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There is no nipple, so it’s not nudity.

      I don’t know how this was approved during translation. But, the game is really G rated, with only some serious themes popping up at the very end, but they made sure you knew this scene was there; it’s even on the back of the game box.

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      The characters have fun interactions together. Kobry the spirit has a fun antagonist relationship with Laramee, and he has many comedic conversations with Eon (especially if you try to search through a bonfire for secret items). The tone is very good at mixing a light-hearted feel between the characters with serious disastrous events going on (the storyline about the religious cult on the 2nd island being my favorite story). The last dungeon quickly gets very serious, and not every character walks away from this game alive.

      You have an overhead map screen. You can rotate the map in any of the 8 compass directions. I usually just keep it pointing straight North. Your character actually walks relatively fast, so I already like that I don’t have to take forever to get anywhere.

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      You can wander around towns and talk to people, and sometimes you need to talk to a particular person to progress the plot. In addition, there are items shops which you can use to buy herbs to heal your Life Points, and Magic to increase your Magic Points (both are always slightly random, but you learn to figure out the average the more you use them). You heal and save games in churches, and healing yourself is free. There are weapon shops, but for some reason, something always prevents you from buying items at them in each town. The reason for this is because you have to find all the weapons in the game yourself, so they pretty much just exist to screw with you and your RPG expectations.

      The is an action game. When you run into an enemy on screen, you quickly go into a battle screen (it is only 1 second by the way—-no long loading times). The screen expands for battle, but it adds some black barriers to prevent you from going too far away (you can never run away from battles; one of you has to die). You hit Circle to block, and you can block attacks and take no damage. However, if an enemy’s weapon starts to glow purple, they can break through your block; you need to dodge or attack them quickly to interrupt them.

      Another fun and helpful ability is that when you block, your character automatically faces the villain no matter where he goes on the screen. If you aren’t blocking, the enemy can move left and you will still be staring at a wall unless you turn around.

      Your movements are slower now in battle compared to when you were walking. Luckily, you can tap the control stick in any direction to make a fast dash out of the way. Sometimes you can dash a few times to get behind an enemy who is blocking to attack them where they are unprotected.

      You hit Square to cast magic and X to attack with your weapon. You can chose between a dagger (low damage, fast speed), a sword (average damage, average speed), and an axe (high damage, slow speed). Along the way, each weapon will obtain 3 different secret buttom move combinations that must be input with 3 button input on the control stick followed by the attack button (but enemies can still block it). It makes your sword glow purple followed by a 2 or 3 prong attack. It is really useful to use these to save time when fighting enemies with really large heath bars, as each enemy (and you) have multiple EP bars, which each represent a full Life Bar. When one life bar is gone, you lose one EP and another full Life Bar appears. Luckily, if you only have 5 hit points left in your life bar, and are dealt 100 hit points of damage, you will only lose 5 Hit Points; the damage doesn’t carry over to the next EP bar. The only exception to this when you attack the enemy with YOUR super move (so, a trade-off for them being able to block your super-moves).

      Some enemies have a shield like you do, preventing all damage with a block (they even block your super moves, which you can’t do). Luckily, after a few swings, you can knock an enemies’ shield off, but you have to be quick to stand between them and the shield. If the enemy is near the border of the screen, the shield will just fall right under them and they will pick it up immediately, so it’s best to lure them near the center of the battlefield.

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You really start to hate all enemies with shields (yes, I know he doesn’t have one).

      You have to learn each enemies’ weakness. For instance, in the first dungeon, the metal guards should be attacked with the dagger, because you can kill them without getting hit because you’re too fast for them. But with later guards in that level, you should never use an axe because they are too fast to ever land in a hit.

      You can also run…at the enemy. If you run directly at the enemy, you can temporarily stun him, even if they have their shields up. However, you have to back up quite a bit, which will prompt them to use their long range attack. You have to study their movements and wait for the right opportunity to use this. This is the most useful skill in the game in my opinion.

      The game is very challenging, too. I was always low on healing herbs and magic replenishment. It felt tense not knowing when the end was, and if you had enough energy or herbs for the enemy battles. Each battle is a risk, especially when you don’t know their movements and weaknesses for the weapons or how big the dungeon is. Money is also scarce, so you can’t go battling creatures for money because money is rare (which makes you struggle with what to buy at the shops)

      However, one thing I hated was a dungeon you teleport to that you can never go back into. I forgot a sword there that I can never get again. I actually reset the game and replayed the first 3 hours to get it because it gave me 3 attacks at once instead of 2, and I didn’t feel like playing through the game on a harder difficulty.

      My most hated enemy (in the first dungeon, by the way) was the turtle-like creatures with blades for hands. Not only are they faster than you and anyone else in the game, they have twice the range, charge at you with spinning blades, and jump over you when you’re about to attack. They take a long time and are very annoying. Luckily, I can shoot them with fire three to kill them (when I actually have some magic power).

      You will get magic throughout the game, but you have to actively seek it out, and some are purchased at a shop by buying a mysterious stone. You have spells for outside battle such as teleporting back to the front of the dungeon, healing, and freezing an enemy so you can move by them. You also have battle magic, which is the normal fire, ice, and lighting type attacks, but you also get spells to temporarily increase your defense and attack power. However, some enemies later in the game block spells as easily as regular attacks, but luckily the early enemies can’t so well.

      Another odd departure from traditional RPGs is that you don’t level up after a certain number of battle victories, but at certain parts of the game. There is no need to fight everything in sight. The game can be much shorter if you do this.

      Interestingly, no one has faces. Their character models have really detailed clothes, but they have no facial features, those are left to the anime portraits that appear when some of them talk. This game was apparently one of the first video game to use fully polygonal backgrounds (instead of 2D backgrounds) Also, anime cutscenes are shown at many parts of the game. I really enjoyed these.

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Notice how no one has a face on their character models.

      The game rewards exploration. You must look everywhere to find better weapons. Usually, you’ll be fighting tough enemies, and finally, 75% of the way through the dungeon, you’ll find a fire sword that makes fighting the ice enemies in that dungeon much easier. Getting to defeat them in less time after taking a long time to defeat them previously feels very satisfying.

      Music: 10 out of 10

The music from the first level stuck in my head after the game. As I played further, I realized I actually wanted the soundtrack to this game. The music changes to match the tone of each level (for the towns and the dungeons).

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

It’s a medium challenging action adventure, and feels that way pretty much from beginning to end. It never really spikes to too easy or hard.

      Fun: 20 out of 20

I was pretty addicted to this game. The battles were fun and challenging, making every single enemies a challenge rather than a ‘Tap A To Attack And Win’ fight.

      Control: 10 out of 10

The controls are simple, and being able to use your dash in any direction really helps in battles. The three weapon types all have their own feel to them, as does each magic spell. I never had any problem with the controls interfere with my enjoyment.

      Graphics: 8 out of 10

The graphics are really bright and everything stands out very well. Everything is

      Extras: 0 out of 10

There are 2 secrets. One is finding the hidden shopkeeper who will only sell you things in Bronze, Silver, or Gold (items you get from treasure chests throughout the game), but he can give you better weapons when you need them. The 2nd secret is one I hated. You see, I forgot one important part of the game that I skipped in the actual game. When you defeat an enemy without getting hit and without using magic, you get a Specter Force. If you open it, it’s a weak item. But, if you chose to copy it, you then can try and defeat the next enemy without getting hit. Hidden this way are 6 Spirit Cards

I gave up on this after an hour or so of frustration. You have to do this 8 times to get the last card. However, getting any of the other 5 cards is random. If you unlock the 5th Scepter Force, for instance, you get one of 5 items, only one of which COULD contain the card for the 5th time. Most enemies are impossible to fight without getting hit at least once or twice, even with better weapons and armor. Luckily, you can skip this, and it does nothing to hinder you in the game.

      Replay Value: 2 out of 10

Unfortunately, this is where the game struggles. After you’ve beaten the game, you’ve played all there is and there are no real side quests. Granted, it’s about 30 – 35 hours, but this is one of those games you play once, and then maybe you’ll play it again in 5 years once you’ve forgotten how cool it was.

      Bonus:

      +10 Anime Cut Scenes

I really liked the anime cutscenes. They brought more life into the characters and showed them with more emotions than the text could. Not to mention adding energy to some high-intensity scenes.

Total Score: 70 out of 90

      One thing I have to mention, though, is it’s focus on story. There is a lot of dialogue in the game. So much so that I felt that I only participated in battles about 50% of the game. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. The characters are interesting, but their interactions with each other are what is actually the fun part of the game. I thought the story was different than most RPG’s I had played before, and in the end, the game even takes a dramatic twist that you didn’t see coming (but it makes sense in retrospect given some of the plot and character backgrounds that have been spliced into the story up to that point). I was satisfied with both endings (but liked one better) once I finally defeated the boss and overall enjoyed the game enough that I would recommend it. It wasn’t very popular over here upon release, so it is very cheap (under $10.00) when you can find it.


Slayzer: The Stupid Brother Of Laramee

      I hate Slayzer. He is an idiot. He destroys 3 of the 4 orbs needed to power the flying islands because he thinks I’m going to use the power for control, even though he OVERHEARD OUR ENTIRE CONVERSATION about the continents falling into the sea and that the orbs are needed to kep them (and all humans everywhere) afloat. You find much later he wanted them destroyed so that the balance of the world could return to normal, but, seriously, there is no normal and it couldn’t be again; all 4 islands would go under the sea, everyone would die, and there would be no humanity or land. This is where I would put curse words if I could.

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*This review tied for 1st place in VideoGameGeek’s monthly video game review contest for June 2013. The theme was Over 18.*

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      Hydrophobia was released on the PC, and later for the Playstation 3 with an enhanced version. This is a review of the Playstation 3 Version (it is digital only, and has no physical edition). Note: This game was not used with a Motion Controller.

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Start Menu

      Hydrophobia takes place in a city where you are an engineer with the night off. The world is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Queen of the World (a giant ship that houses an entire city), with advertisements of NanoTech in the background (a group who wants to make food for everyone). This immediately reminded me of Journeyman Project, where you roam around your room before a big event, only for a huge catastrophe to happen. Of course, said catastrophe does happen.

      You play as Kate Wilson. You start in your apartment and can explore as much as you like, and even find some hidden objects. All are useless for the game, but they all have a story, which lets you learn more about the character before you begin, such as a picture of her graduation, a letter from her dad, as well as a book with a brief summary of this future world. Your character’s electronics suddenly stop working, so you set out to see your co-worker, Scoot, and fix the problem, only for an explosion to happen while you are on an elevator. You find nothing but chaos on the floors below; everything is damaged, and you find terrorists (Malthusians) have invaded. The story of who they are and the world you are in itself is actually really clever, and is more exciting in the game to experience as they unfold (even though, technically, your character knows this already).

      The game starts out with you running around a ship’s deck in 3rd person, and your co-worker Scoot will talk to you to tell you where you need to head to get out alive and where to manually alter some doors (someone on the inside gave the terrorist’s the computer codes and they have all been reset). There is a 3 dimensional map to help you find your way. This map can be flipped in every single direction and zoomed in and out to find the path you need to take. You can also convert it into a ¾ perspective map.

      The explosions around the area have unleashed water around you; the visuals of the water are the best I have seen from any game, and the mechanics of this are very well designed, also. Sometimes, you will open a door, which will only partially flood the room. Then, another door will flood the room entirely. The water even leaves the room if you open a door to a room which held no water in it. The water effects and the reality of it make for a very fun game, but also terrorize you, because you never know when, at any moment, the entire room will flood while you try to find the exit.

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The room is only partial flooded here, enough to leave flammable gas vents to tend with.

      Once the room is flooded, you have 15 seconds to find an exit, or you will drown. What is great about it is, before the water comes, there will be music, and sound effects of creaking pipes and electrical problems; but once the water engulfs you, you hear it all stop, and the only thing you can hear is your arms swimming through water and the ship creaking. This immerses you into the game, immediately tells you something is wrong, and you start to associate the complete removal of all those sound effects and music with “Oh crap; I need to find an exit before I drown. Where is it? Where is it!” It gets creepier; as you drown, it gets harder and harder to see where you are going , and you start to hear voices toward the end which sound like a little kid calling for help. This is made to make you panic and realize you are about to die, and you feel very relieved when you find land just a few seconds before death.

      Because of what I stated above, the game really draws you into the experience and makes you a part of the game. This is all your doing for an hour or two; no enemies in sight. Eventually, you find the terrorists and have to hide.

      Then, you find a gun, and the 2nd part of the game begins. This gun is a force gun, and pushes the enemies away. A few light blasts and the enemy falls over unconscious. If you charge it, however, you can unleash a large blast that can stun an enemy unconscious instantly. Shoot them while they are down and you will kill them (as they can get back up shortly). At times, you will be going from room to room, killing enemies. Also, you will be swimming in the water, killing enemies while under the water and trying not to drown (They will normally have underwater gear; you won’t). Luckily, your gun works the same under water as much as it does above it.

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Quick, hide behind the…glass?

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A better hiding place

      Later, you will find other weapons, but your default weapon is much better. The only things you will want to use are the grenades. The grenades that attach to the enemy and count down from 10 before exploding are really fun to use. You can ONLY use weapons, as Kate has no experience in hand-to-hand combat. To avoid enemy fire, you have a cover system to hide behind a wall, then release a button to appear briefly out in the open to take shots.

      Throughout the game, you will need to pull our your computer table (that is see-through) and use it to find hidden keycodes on the walls to get into other areas. In addition, the philosophical works of the terrorists’ inspiration are also hidden on the walls as well, and are just for world-building and getting 100% completion.

      Finally, you combine with a virus that doesn’t kill you, and it gives you complete control over water. This starts the 3rd and final part for the game. You can cause water to rise very high, and lift boxes with it. Yes, this means puzzles attempts; you must bring a box over electrified water so you don’t die of electrocution, for example. But, it is also useful for pushing back the enemies, and you can also slam boxes and explosives at them.

      There is a downside to your powers; the virus is slowly killing you. Occasionally, you must collect inoculations to keep the virus at bay; you suddenly become very sick and can only walk, the screen covering up with the virus to prevent you from figuring out where to go. You must find the inoculation quickly or die. Luckily, these are in exact scripted locations, and not on a timer, otherwise you’d be trying to speed through the game the whole time.

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Kate Wilson after being infected with the nanotech virus

      Unfortunately, I feel this part of the game is over too quickly, and I wanted to play more with these powers. There is a mini-game you unlock after beating the game where you are in a watery arena below and a metal grate upper level around the corners, and you must complete different challenges with your water-based powers. It’s a fun diversion after the game is over; though it can be frustrating until you learn a trick you can use on the AI. While on the catwalk, simply use your water-based powers to bring a box toward you near the corner and block one direction of the walkway completely off. Then bring another box to block the view below so no one can see and fire at you, leaving a medium sized hole on the other corner. Now, there is only 1 direction most enemies can fire at you, and you have a hidey hole should combat not go your way (as you will still need to go out and find the enemies sometimes due to the time limit).

      Another aspect of the game is hacking. This is done by putting your computer tablet (that doesn’t ever stop working from all the water) near a door and playing a mini-game. Here, you can the control the left axis to increase or shrink a wavelengths size, and the right button to change it’s distance between waves. You must make an exact match of the wavelength already on the screen. It’s not a bad mini-game, actually, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

      Along with the same tablet you carry, you can see the world on a different frequency; the backgrounds look a different color, and there are words and graffiti from the terrorists, as well as arrows you can follow to the key you need. You can even find the entire teachings of the man that the terrorists follow. In addition, there are arrows and hidden key codes written on the wall. This serves two objectives, a way to find keys, and a way to show through the story that this was an inside job to leave clues for the terrorists once they got on board (a pretty good combo, I’d say).

      The game is mostly linear, and has a pick up and play at anytime feel to it, as all you have to do is see where you have to go on the map (if it wasn’t there, you could spend a long time backtracking the entire game for no reason).

      The only problem I had with the game were all the hidden items; and they were mostly memos (I found a bottle of depression pills I couldn’t use for some reason). I like the house items, as it reveals most of the character and is optionality if people want to skip it. However, the problem I have is looking for small hidden objects in a game that is hugely immerse and life-threatening at any moment. These collection items can completely kill the mood and bring you back to reality. When I realized I was running around an entire wall and every single computer to look for memos, I had broken out of the experience and just stopped collecting the items altogether.

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      Story: 10 out of 10

The story is told in pieces as you uncover it, through your characters room, the memos left my other employees and the terrorist themselves, books on the history of your world, the ship, and the terrorists, plus the hidden keys that actually tie into the plot of the game. The world around you is introduced slowly so it feels surprising. It gets more points not just for the original story, but for how it’s told.

      Graphics: 8 out of 10

This is an independent game, with pretty decent graphics. The water is the best part. However, since you are on a ship for most of the game, I was surprised at how different each room was from the other; with only 1 room being a copy of another. Also, the water tosses on your screen as you move, as if your TV was a real video camera in the water.

      Music: 10 out of 10

I don’t remember the music. Do you know what I do remember? The sound of nothing as I scourge a ship looking for survival from explosions, electricity, and fire as they all crackle around me. The sounds of my feet trashing through the water, the slowing down as I try to silently sneak up on someone, hoping they don’t heard my footsteps. The total abrupt silence of nothing but the ship creaking around me while I drown, my breath getting quicker and quicker the more my character thinks they will die, the screen getting brighter and thicker as my mind enters a hazy fog of death. No, it’s not just the music, it’s the combination of music absence, and sound effects, and how they are used, that make this work.

      Challenge: 8 out of 10

This game is really hard in some places on the Hard difficulty. On Normal, it is also fairly difficult. There is one part near the end that I think many people could have a problem with; the 2 symmetrical large rooms (separated by a middle underwater hallway). You have to contend with around 20+ people underwater shooting at you, and people on the balcony (who can hide in cover) shooting at you, twice.

      Fun: 18 out of 20

I enjoyed the hell out of this game.

      Controls: 9 out of 10

You scale pipes to climb to higher places. You pull out a gun to shoot at people. You also have some fun grenades you can throw at people. To switch guns or select grenades, you have to pause the game. Though I found that even in hard mode the Force Gun is still the best weapon.

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Climbing up pipes to get to a room on the floor above you; never has a video game done this before.

      Replay Value: 7 out of 10

Aside from going through the game again for the collectibles and medals/trophies, the game is still fun, but might lose some of the immersion when you know what’s coming and what to do.

      Extras: 3 out of 10

There is mini-game where you use your water control powers in a challenge room. It’s fun and frustrating.

      Bonus Points:

      + 2 / – 2 – Collectibles

I’m torn here, because on one hand, the collectibles really add to the world of the game, but on the other, they ruin the sense of immersion that this game is good at producing.

      +10 Immersion

Seriously, how often do you really feel a part of the game. You always feel like you’re going to drown, you’re on edge from falling and fighting enemies.

Total Points: 83 out of 90

      Hydrophobia: Prophecy, is a very entertaining game, and can be yours for a very cheap price. It’s also not very long and doesn’t need that much of a time commitment. I recommend it for people who want to know what it’s like to feel really immersed in a game.

      I really hope that Episodes 2 & 3 in the planned trilogy actually getting made.

      It’s hard to do the game justice with still pictures, even with a trailer here; you should skip to the 1 minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZceJsTwdcg

*This review won third place in VideoGameGeek.com’s monthly video game review contest (in which I got beat my by other review–Hydrophobia). The theme was any game rated M or above.*

Metal Gear Solid VR Mission

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Metal Gear Solid VR Missions – US Cover (The EU version is just zoomed in 25%)

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Back Cover

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Japanese Cover


      Metal Gear Solid had some VR missions being built around the game, but the designers had more ideas than would fit on the disc and decided to create a separate product for the VR missions. Thus, we have this.

      Inside, there is no instruction manual, just a small art paper that unfolds for TV warnings. Booting up the disc shows you a small movie with Solid Snake (the character you play) doing many of the VR missions you are about to experience (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmzUgBZZAe4).

      VR Missions is set up into 4 categories: Sneaking Mode, Weapon Mode, Advanced Mode, & Special Mode.

Weapon Mode & Advanced Mode

      In Weapon Mode, you are given only one of the weapons (of 8 total) along with a limited amount of ammo. You then must play through 5 levels for each gun and destroy all the targets (most of which move around). After you complete these levels, you can then complete for the fastest time in getting the level completed, where any extra ammo you have on you subtracts from your total time.

      Weapon Mode can be hard on occasion because you actually have to follow targets and watch their patterns. Only knowing where they will be at certain times will make it easier to plan when and where to shoot them so you can get them all destroyed quickly. Also, just because you have that weapon, doesn’t mean you can’t still use your hands.

      The format for Advanced Mode is the same as above, only now you fight against real people. To me, however, these humans made it easier than the targets to get the best time. For instance, on the Stinger level, the Targets come from all angles and you have to turn not only 360 degrees, but also look up and all around as the Targets fly all around the level, but the humans are on the same plane as you. Also, since Advanced Mode is people, you will get 3 seconds removed from your time if you complete the level without being seen. I will now describe each weapon and how they play for both sections since they are so similar.

SOCOM

      One of the more challenging weapons to use. You Hold the Circle button to have the gun auto-aim in front of you, then release it to fire a shot. To get the best times, you have to learn how to use this because every bullet counts, and if you misfire even 1, you can lose out on 1st place. Most targets take 3 shots, but I occasionally kept shooting 4, having to reply the level again. I don’t feel this weapon was made with timed attacks in mind. However, once I got to the human levels, I found it just a little bit easier.

C4

      You have a C4 Explosive that you can lay on the ground, and can then detonate later. Both the Target & Human levels of this are really fun and only slightly challenging.

FAMAS

      My most hated weapon in this game. It’s basically a machine gun that has no aim at all. You tap the Square button to fire, and hold it for rapid fire. You can auto-target automatically, just make sure to use the control stick and not the directional controls. It was the only human mission where I died before I could even get to the time trial.

      I really hate this weapon. It took me the longest to get that best times here. You basically have to cheat to win these levels. When the level starts, keep the X button held. You will now run while holding your weapon, and can fire, also. Just don’t release the X button and hit it again or you will go into a crawl position, immediately ruining your chances of a good time. I don’t understand why run and crawl were not separate buttons.

Grenades

      The Target levels are Medium to Hard and really need you to think and strategize how to plan the grenades and their explosions (as it takes 5 seconds after you throw it before it explodes). Oddly, these levels have the biggest gap between your score and 1st place, as I constantly found ways to improve the 1st place score by nearly a minute.

      Oh, but then you get to the Humans. This is the only level where the Human level is harder than the Target level. You sort of have to cheat, too, by preparing to throw a grenade, allowing yourself to get knocked to the ground. Why? When you are knocked down, you are temporarily invincible, so the grenades explosion won’t hurt you, but it can take out lots of enemies.

Claymore

      Place the Claymore mines on the ground (which are hidden from your view) so Humans and Targets explode when they get in front of it. If you have the mine detector (sometimes hidden in the stage) you can see the mines and what direction they are facing. You can also place them on the ground in front of you to have them explode the enemy instantly, but if a stray bullet moves you even slightly, or you tap the directional pad at all, you will walk in front it and explode, too. Though it is amusing that the AI doesn’t feel the need to move when they see you placing a mine. Both the Modes are really fun for this one, and not all that challenging (expect for the final Target level).

Nikita

      This is a missile that, once fired, you then control with the control pad. If it faces any direction for more than 2 seconds, it goes that direction as super-speed. You can also control it in first person, as well as make it explode whenever you want (useful when the target is just slightly out of reach).

      Next to the FAMAS, these levels are the most frustrating, especially the levels with corridors you have to navigate through. It’s hard to control to avoid the super-speed, so you end of wiggiling the rocket (which looks weird on screen) just to prevent an instant explosion into the wall, and in 1st person, it can be hard to tell if you’re too close to a corner.

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You must guide the missile up ramps to blow up the red box targets.

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      This is a sniper rifle that you must use in 1st person mode. Both modes are challenging, but not to hard. The Targets still require planning ahead to know where they will be.

Stinger

      This is one of the easiest weapons to use in both modes. You have a rocket launcher that is operated in 1st person, and it has an auto-target. Once the target locks, and you fire, you don’t have to watch the rocket hit your target, and you can immediately go to the next target.

Sneaking Mode

      There is also a Sneaking Mode, one I enjoyed a lot. It is split into 15 levels. You must do each level twice, once with No Weapon, and another with the SOCOM (both are timed). When in SOCOM, you must kill every enemy before the exit appears, but being seen instantly ends the mission. With No Weapon, the exit is already there, and you must get to it without being seen or the mission instantly ends (you don’t have to kill anyone, you can just hide and run to the goal).

      It’s a little hard, but not too difficult. Plus, you can cheat a little here too. You can throw a guard onto the ground, and still have 3 seconds before he gets up, and by then you could already be at the exit. Plus, it doesn’t count as being seen. This feels like cheating, but I feel the developers knew people would use this, as the times I got were only slightly near 1st place when doing things like this.

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Level 1 & Level 15 of Sneaking Mode

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Can you sneak past these 5 guards without being seen?;
Also, in Weapon Mode, you have to kill them all silently before the goal will appear.

Special Mode

      You have to unlock this mode by getting a certain number of the game complete. These levels are all really fun and have many different game types to play. Every missions is timed, except Mystery and 1 Minute Battles.

Mystery

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      Through 10 levels, you have to figure out the murderer in each one by looking at 1 of 3 suspects, and choosing the right culprit and dragging him to the exit. For instance, in one, a murderer has lost his glasses at the crime scene. You have to drag each suspect away from their standing position, and whichever one walks into the wall on his way back and knocks himself down is the killer.

Puzzle

      Ten (10) Puzzle based missions. These can be a tad frustrating. Some are hilarious, such as the one where you knock a guard so that he keeps knocking into all the other guards like dominoes, each falling off a ledge in the process. Some require thinking differently than you have been (or finding ways to abuse the game mechanics). The hardest was figuring out you have to plant C4 on the ground, then on a human. You have to explode it so he flies north, and once in the air, you have to explode the other grenade so it takes out the camera.

NG Selection

      Eight (8) completely random and strange missions, all of which are really fun and unusual, such as World’s Smallest Stage where you have to kill 1 soldier in a small 3 x 4 grid without being seen and fighting a UFO with a rocket launcher.

Variety

      Ten (10) completely different missions, such as throwing grenades and people into holes, punch-killing invisible soldiers, and fighting giant sized guards.

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You heard that last sentence right; giant guards. Not pictured: UFO battles.

1 Minute Battles

      You have 1 level for each Weapon I’ve stated before, as well as No Weapon, with each of these having two levels; 1 for Targets, 1 for People. The goal is to kill as many Targets or People within 1 minute to get first place.

Vs 12

      You start with a completely different weapon set and limited ammo for each level (You are only given 3 max of each weapon except for rare instances with the SOCOM), and must kill 12 people within a time limit. This is really hard to figure out as each weapon usually causes an alarm. One of the most frustrating categories.

VR Mission

      You have to complete 10 levels, back to back. You have to incorporate everything you’ve learned into these 10 missions and beat them all in 7 minutes to get first place. Having a few more combination missions like this would have been really fun.

Ninja

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As the Ninja, you can take all 3 of these guys out in 1 second

      These are 3 really fun levels where you control the Ninja and slice and dice your way through guadrs. The only thing that’s missing is that this would have been a lot more fun with just a few more levels.

     

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Final Breakdown

      Story: N/A

There isn’t one.

      Music: 2 out of 10

The music is repetitive, as you will hear the same background music for each individual mission, and the same sound effects at the beginning and start of each mission.

      Graphics: 5 out of 10

The graphics are just grid based for most of the levels. The only exception is a mystery level or two which takes place in a fully decorated room. Most graphics are just used from the main game, with nothing new really added. However, the graphics do look decent for what they are.

      Fun: 18 out of 20

This game is made just to test your reflexes and brain, and it’s really fun to do the main levels, and though occasionally frustrating to get the best times, is still worth the playthrough. I found myself liking the Special & Sneaking levels more than the ones with the weapons.

      Extra: 10 out of 10

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This is seriously a special feature; taking pictures of polygon girls.
The rumor of this game is that it’s only rated “M” because you can take a picture of her panties

Unlockables include, strangely, photography rooms. You have 3 rooms where you can photograph a girl at her desk, a girl standing, & another girl standing. You can get closer to her the more you play the game. I don’t really understand the point of this, especially since a picture takes up an entire block of memory (not to mention just being creepy).

Also, you have 3 trailers that Konami made for Metal Gear Solid shown in 1997 before the game was released. Also, there’s the intro movie at the start, and a demo movie with the programmers beating missions certain ways to give you hints, if you wait at the starting screen long enough.

      Controls: 9 out of 10

The controls are simple, you move with the directional pad, duck with X, run with X if you hold it, hold R2 to access your weapons, and hold R1 to access items. However, once you pick up a weapon, each one has a different control scheme (see Weapons above) with a different button used to fire it (and in some cases, a 1st person perspective). This gives more variety to the game.

The most frustrating thing is trying to choke a guard. You have to be perfectly still, or hardly moving (making it hard to choke moving guards). If you are moving at a walk or run, you instantly flip the guard. The annoying thing to control is crawling, because the controls change depending on what direction you are facing, but luckily, you don’t need to do it often.

      Challenge: 10 out of 10

God yes is this game challenging. If you liked Metal Gear Solid’s weapons and wanted to play them in more bite-sized levels, this game will give you a fix. Just know it will take you many, many hours to master and complete the game 100% with the fastest times possible.

      Replay: 5 out of 10

The replay is built into the game’s structure. You can complete the level (finally, after many tries) only to find you didn’t get the 1st place time score. Guess you’ll want to keep playing until you get it. However, once I was done with the game fully, I don’t really have a reason to play it again for another decade.

      Bonus Points

      Level Design +10

The levels are designed exceptionally well, and require some thinking to proceed. Some even include false areas to make you think that it’s a better place to go and accomplish the objective. It took some thought to plan and program these levels correctly.

Total Points: 69 out of 80

      The entire game is fun if you are just playing to play through each mission (except for any FAMAS and Nikita level) and having no story, is easy to pick and play whenever you want. But, if you are going to try and get the best times, it will get a little frustrating on the Weapons Mode (Targets), and with some levels on Advanced Mode (People). Overall, I enjoyed it, as it caused me to think and experiment with different ways to do things to get a better score.

      For help, I recommend watching this YouTube walkthrough http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=A30E52E32C3ACE16 as someone did a whole walkthrough getting 1st place for everything; useful on occasion when you can’t figure out how to get a faster time.