Monday, March 29, 2010

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [Review]

I've always been a fan of the survival horror genre of video games, so obviously I've played my share of the famous Silent Hill series. Silent Hill has always been one of the biggest names in the horror gaming scene, sharing its throne with Resident Evil. The original game being the classic that it is, it was only a matter of time before they remade it with today's hardware. And they finally did, with Shattered Memories being the result. It came out for both the PS2 and PSP, and I've played both versions. For some reason, it looks and plays a lot better on the PSP. It's probably because the graphics aren't all that impressive and therefore looks better on the lower resolution PSP. But onto the game itself.

Shattered Memories is not a straight-up remake; it almost entirely changed the plot and the whole idea of Silent Hill, with only a few elements of the story and the characters remaining untouched. Fanboys can rest at ease, however, as the new plot elements are just as good as the original. You still take control of Harry Mason, who gets into a car accident with his daughter Cheryl and wakes up to find her missing. This time, Silent Hill isn't a mysterious town Harry stumbles upon, its his hometown. It is in constant snowy weather simply because it is that time of the season. The nightmare version of Silent Hill you eventually end up in is also changed. Instead of the town turning into blood and rust, it freezes over with ice. This is also where a key game element has changed.

Combat has been taken out of the game entirely. The game is instead separated into two different modes of gameplay. The majority of your time is spent in exploration, as you walk through familiar places such as the streets of Silent Hill or the local school while looking for your missing daughter. Every now and then, you'll hear cellphone interference (its your phone this time instead of a radio) that gets louder as you get near it. When you close enough, a loud flash will go off and you'll receive a txt msg or phone recording that tell you about some controversial things that went on in that specific area. Later, you'll find that these are actually clues to understanding the confusing plot.

When you reach a certain point of exploration, the town will suddenly freeze over like an icy hell, and you'll start being hunted by hellish creatures. As I said before, you can't fight them; instead, you have to run away. The nightmare parts of the game have you running from door to door in an area that looks more or less the same everywhere you go. It is really a guessing game, and you really don't have time to think of your route when you have little monsters trying to kill you. The running is really a heart-pounder; you'll be able to hear the shrieks of the monsters behind you but not know where you're going. It is all a test of endurance. It's not until you find the exit that the icy nightmare fades. You'll probably die every once and awhile, but that's okay, the game brings you right to the beginning of the nightmare so you can try again. How generous of them.

Besides these two modes of gameplay, there are random portions of the game that suddenly bring you to a therapy room. You'll be in first-person view, and a therapist will ask you personal questions about your past and personality. The answers you give to these questions will determine certain elements of the story, from the dialogue spoken, to the appearance of certain characters, to the ending. I think these portions of the game were the best new addition to this remake and were certainly impressive as they added replay value and made it more open-ended.

The plot is certainly confusing, as you learn in the beginning portions of the game that strangers are living in your house and that your daughter has the same name as an alumni of the high school from over a decade ago. It'll all make sense when the game is completed, but the game never fully explains everything in the story. It'll leave you with a lot of thinking to do, but it's definitely worth the time to understand. My only complaint here would be that the game was MUCH too short, you can probably finish it in less than ten hours. At least there's some replay value.

So there you have it. Gameplay is radically different, but I think its for the better. I also love the therapy sessions, and how you can choose your own story. The changes made to the story are completely acceptable, and the only thing that leaves you down is the fact that it is too short. Exploration will also get rather dull at times if you don't know where you're going, and the nightmare sections are more or less blind guessing games, but it all comes together rather nicely. Overall, Shattered Memories is an impressive remake of the original Silent Hill, and is definitely worth a few scares.

Screenshots courtesy of

[C.Jin's Overall Score: 8/10]


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Patapon [Review]

This is something new I'd like to introduce. Every now and then, I'll write up a review and talk about a great game I'm currently playing. I realize I've done reviews for Tekken 6 and Dissidia, but this "Featured Game" thing is really what I wanted to do with them; I don't really like writing solid reviews. Anyway, let's start with one of the cutest and best games on the PSP: Patapon.

Patapon is a rhythm/strategy game on the PSP. I realize that's a strange combination, but let me explain. In the game, you play a deity that is worshipped by a tribe of warriors called Patapon, which are the little eyeball things. In order to control them in battle, you must beat specific patterns on your sacred drums. For example, pata-pata-pata-pon will make the army advance forward, while pon-pon-pata-pon will make them attack. You learn several more songs as you advance through the game, like the songs for defend and retreat. There is a constant beat during battle, so you must keep your timing and plan your songs right so you can deal the most damage.

There are three types of levels: hunting, boss battles, and story battles. Hunting levels involve you hunting animals that drop ka-ching (game's currency) and materials, which are both used to create more patapon. The boss battles are definitely the most impressive levels, as the bosses are nicely designed and present quite a challenge. Both types of levels can be replayed to farm for materials and money. Story levels are only played once, and have you fighting against your enemy, the Zigoton. These levels will often give you weapon drops and are generally the most fun to play. There are also mini-games that act as their own rhythm games, and can be played to create higher level materials.

Let me just say, I absolutely love this game. First of all, I love the graphics. It is a very creatively designed 2D game with a cartoonish feel. The patapon are especially lovable, with their simple eyeball designs. Gameplay is very unique and fun to get into, but the most addictive aspect of the game is definitely building your own army. There are different levels of materials, and the higher level materials are used to create stronger patapon. Your patapon army has different classes like swordsman, archer, spearman, horseman, and each patapon can be made a rarepon, which are stronger forms of regular patapon. The amount of farming you do for materials, whether it is by hunting or fighting bosses over and over again, really takes a lot of time and will have you occupied for hours. The time and effort it took to build my own army is what made me love the game.

If you have a PSP, it would have been very hard to miss this game. There is a sequel out too, which is a vastly improved version of this game. Patapon is easily one of the best games on the PSP, so I recommend you play it as soon as possible.


Saturday, March 06, 2010

I Love Ramyun

I thought I'd dedicate a post to appreciate the god-send that is ramyun noodles. For those of you that have been living under a rock for the last few decades (though even cavemen would have several packets of Ramyun), ramyun noodles are a Korean brand of instant noodles. Many people confuse ramyun with ramen, which is actually a Japanese noodle dish that probably influenced the creation of ramyun. There are many different types of ramyun, from seafood to mild, but my favorite is the definitely the hot and spicy Shin Ramyun.

Shin Ramyun is the most popular brand of ramyun in Korea, and probably amongst the Korean population in America as well. The bowl and cup noodle versions of it have been so useful to me in college, where instant ramyun is incredibly useful in a time-pinch. That's definitely why its so popular amongst students and young, busy workers.

The two best things to put in your shin ramyun are eggs and kimchi. I ALWAYS put eggs in my ramyun, it slightly dulls the spicy taste but makes it sweet and more flavorful, mostly thanks to the delicious egg yolk. My method is to put the egg in on the last minute of cooking, and as soon as the egg drops you have to break the yolk and mix it around to make sure it merges with the soup. Kimchi is not normally put into the ramyun, its actually a side dish. It almost seems like kimchi was destined to go with shin ramyun because its fresh and spicy taste compliments the ramyun REALLY well. You absolutely cannot eat ramyun without kimchi. 

Though of course, as everyone knows, ramyun is amazingly lacking in any nutritional value and contains some crappy ingredients like Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). It's no wonder it tastes so good. So, I recommend that you eat ramyun very rarely (like maybe once every other week), and when you do you can add vegetables and eggs with a side of kimchi to make it a little more nutritional for you.

But these instant noodles are freaking delicious, with its hot and spicy flavor and hot, soothing soup. I might have an addiction to these noodles right now, so I better watch out though. Damn chemicals...


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Gunpla News: MG Wing Gundam!

This is quite possibly the most exciting gunpla news I've heard in years. The original Wing Gundam is getting MASTER GRADE TREATMENT! Finally! The Katoki version was great, but what I really wanted was for the original anime version to get master grade. My wish has finally come true! In other news, the Gundam X is being rebooted with a HG 1/144 model. Hopefully the X gets a MG too.

MG Wing Gundam
April Release
Price: 4200 yen

My god, I don't know if its because I love the Wing Gundam so much, but this model is looking bloody terrific. The proportions are great, the colors are accurate, and everything is just looking so good. This is definitely a must-buy on my wish list.

HG 1/144 Gundam X
April Release
Price: 1890 yen

The GX looks great as well. The 1/144 Gundam X models were the first line of models I ever got in my life, so this is quite nostalgic for me. Those old models were quite brittle, especially compared to today's standards, so this upcoming release should be promising. I hope to see more of these in the future.


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Gundam Unicorn: Episode 1

So I didn't bother writing about the impending release of the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn OVA, but the first episode has recently come out and I got my hands on it. I'm not sure how many episodes there are going to be, but the first episode was nearly a full hour. It's really good to see Gundam going back to the UC era.

For the first few minutes of the episode, I was just in awe of it. The animation is top-notch, more fluid and more heavily detailed than Gundam 00. I guess you have to expect that sort of quality from an OVA. I'm also particularly fond of the music, it really added to the epic action. More impressive than anything else, though, was the action scenes. Most of the action featured an enemy mobile suit, called the Kshatriya, which is a massive newtype mobile suit that uses fin funnels. The parts featuring the Kshatriya were definitely the highlight of this episode.

The plot is very confusing at the moment, with the word Laplace being thrown around and mentions of a man called Full Frontal, who is referred to as the reincarnation of Char Aznable. The main character is very typical of UC protagonists, meaning he is a young boy trying to figure himself out and ends up being thrown into the conflict. There was nothing too surprising about the way he ends up piloting the Gundam Unicorn, but its unique in its own way and acceptable.

We only see the Unicorn at the end of the episode, but at least we see its destroy mode transformation, which is actually in 3D. Quite impressive really. Overall, it was plenty good and well worth taking a look at if you feel that hunger for Gundam after the end of Gundam 00.