Spore Creature Creator

SporeI recently took a trip to London for business to discuss social media strategy with members of the Eidos Interactive team as well as our friends at Electronic Arts (Europe) at their new offices in Guildford. Aside from getting a sneak peek at some of the great upcoming titles one in particular was very interesting!

I have mentioned Spore before but as the launch of the game gets closer more is revealed. To recap the games premise, you nurture and guide your creature through five stages of evolution: Cell, Creature, Tribe, Civilization, and Space. One of the most amazing elements of the game is the creature creator which allows for endless customization options that can then be uploaded into the game.

While onsite at EA this was the tool that we were able to spend some time with. You have 228 drag-and-drop components to choose from that allow for a variety of unique creations. You have the ability to customize their look and feel from skeletal structure through eyes, legs, tails, colors etc… Then you can take them to the edit area to control the background, add babies, rotate them 360 degrees, preview animations and movements and take pictures of your creations.You manage a majority of your creations through the Sporepedia and have the option to upload your characters for others to see (My Spore User Name is TheBlackFin).

Now the creature creator has been released I highly recommend either playing with the trial or purchasing the creature creator to get a feel for the game. Also your creations can then be uploaded into the game upon release. From everything that I have seen so far this looks like it is going to be a great game. I am not a big PC gamer but Spore will definitely be on my list to pick up when it is released later this year.

Here is one of my original creations from our visit:

TheBlackFin - Creature onsite copy

Here is one of my first creature creations from the trial:

TheBlackFin_Spore Creatures

Game Review – Ninja Gaiden 2

ninja-gaiden-2-smallOne of my all time favorite games was the original Ninja Gaiden on the NES. I still remember the opening cut scenes… that was all about the story that you needed to know… you knew it was time to start slashing away. I felt the same about Ninja Gaiden II & III on the NES as well.

When I first heard the news about Ninja Gaiden II I was immediately hooked. This is the true sequal to Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox. When the trailers and screenshots and Youtube videos around the gameplay were released my excitement grew. Even my Halo 3 character has the Hyabusa armor. So when the title finally released and I picked up my copy I was ready to be visually stunned and purposefully frustrated at the same time.

What I mean is that this franchise more than any other that I have played has an extremely high difficulty level. To date it has been designed for the hardcore gamers. Case in point Ninja Gaiden/Ninja Gaiden Black on the original Xbox. Enough said. Seriously though with the Xbox 360 exclusive of Ninja Gaiden II there are now 4 difficulty levels to choose from. So those new to the series will get hooked on acolyte and then get frustrated.

Overview: You are still Ryu Hayabusa, the worlds deadliest ninja and you are on a quest to stop the evil spider clan from unleashing otherworldly terror upon the earth. You are armed to the teeth with some of the deadliest weapons this side of the Dark Sector Glaive. While the story is nice the real focus is on the twitch style of gaming.

Twitch gaming is basically a style of gaming that relies on your ability to read and react. Half a second can mean the difference between life and the painfully annoying, blood splattered “Game Over” screen that you will undoubtedly see many times over on your journey. This game easily has the best visuals that I have seen on a 360 title to date and the sheer fluidity of the movement is breathtaking.

Gameplay: This is not your standard hack & slash type of gameplay. On the Acolyte setting you can more than likely lumber through the game mashing buttons galore but as you progress through the other difficulties the game punishes you if are not concise about what you want to do when you want to do it. There are 14 levels in all each with it’s own unique location and enemies. The further you progress the more difficult your opponents become. My first recommendation is to set your saves to manual vs. auto as this will come in very handy if you get to a boss fight and find yourself lacking in health supplies.

The game incorporates a number of different types of techniques to navigate the environment such as the reverse wind, shadowless footsteps and the flying swallow techniques. Each provides their own unique offering that assist you in crossing distant chasms, dodging enemies or reaching an area in search of items or crystal skulls. Yes insert Indiana Jones reference here…

The ability to execute Obliteration and Ultimate techniques is one of my favorite aspects of the game. You can quickly dismember, disembowel, or dispatch an opponent if you can time the moves correctly and charge your Ultimate technique. This leads to a stunning animation of you utterly demolishing your opponent. NOTE: This game does feature a lot of blood and gore as you are wielding blade weapons and it becomes very evident by the amount of body parts that are left at a battle site. This serves two purposes as this can actually assist you in keeping your bearings as you already know where you have been.

The only slight complaints involve the camera and the boss battles. The camera has changed this time around. You are now in full control of the camera. The only issue is you are fighting enemies in a full 360 degree style of combat and the camera can quickly get out of place. The RT becomes quite handy as that is what allows you to recenter the camera.

Regarding the boss battles I feel that some of their attacks are “cheap” meaning you can be doing everything in your power and they can take all of your health in one attack. This to me goes beyond a difficult battle to one that cheapens the experience just a bit. If I am doing everything in my power to better my opponent I expect the Boss Battle to be reflective of this. This is one of the areas that I give the edge to Devil May Cry 4 which is the one game on 360 that will draw the most comparisons to Ninja Gaiden II. On the battle with Alexei I had to continue 20+ times before I took him down on the Warrior setting.

Weapons: The game incorporates a number of different types of weapons along with spells called Ninpo that you will leverage to dispatch hordes of enemies. From a melee standpoint you have the ever present Dragon Sword while introducing some new weapons to the arsenal. Weapons include the Lunar Staff, Falcon’s Talons, Dual Katana, Kusari-Gama, Tonfa, Vigoorian Flail and my personal favorite the Eclipse Scythe. With each weapon you have the ability to level-up which allows you to perform even longer combos. Ancillary weapons include shurikens, incendiary shurikens, bow and arrow and an underwater spear gun.

Selecting the right weapon is definitely the key to success. As each weapon is ideal for different situations. I recommend leveling up at least the dragon sword to level 3 on your first playthrough and then level-up the Eclipse Scythe which you receive after the battle with the second arch fiend Volf.

I also recommend trying to save your health herbs for the boss battles as the worst feeling is finally making it to a boss battle and then realizing that you have no backup plan on how to proceed. Also, try not to use all of your health items on the middle boss fight. Try to set up a save location and get through the battle as quickly as you can.

Online: There is not an online mode available but you can view Leaderboards of friends progress which is always fun. There is also the Ninja Cinema option that allows you to capture footage from your slashing adventures to share with all of your friends.

Achievements: From an achievement standpoint you can collect anywhere from 400-700 points on your first play through which will take roughly 15 hours of gameplay. I netted out at 560 bypassing the tests of valor on Warrior (Currently at 840 of 1250… 53 out of 70 achievements). You will get 100 points just by learning the various game techniques then as you progress through the game you will receive achievements for completing certain levels, finding crystal skulls, defeating certain enemies and for clearing the “test of valor” areas that are available and ultimately 4 difficulty levels.

Based on my second playthrough for the Tests of Valor I recommend building up your health supplies, using them all in the test of valor (This suggestion is for if you are playing on harder difficulty levels) and not save once you complete it if you had to consume a high number of items to get through. Get the achievement and save your health supplies for the next test of valor.

One of my favorite achievements so far has been the indomitable spirit achievement which is given when you continue 100 times. Other achievements are tied to in-game side quests like finding crystal skulls. I have to say though winning achievements in this game are more meaningful to me than other games. The Vanquished Alexei achievement for 15 points meant more to me than finishing (1000 points) other retail titles.

Downloadable Content: So far I have been impressed with the DLC for Ninja Gaiden 2. The first release gave us 3 new skins for Ryu. The Biometal, Shadow Walker and Fiend skins can all be worn by Ryu and there are 5 different color variants available per skin. Also the Mission Modes were recently released which added an additional 250 achievement points to the count. There are 12 missions that take elements of the game such as the boss battles and raise the stakes significantly as you progress through the missions. I cleared the first 8 with ease but the remaining missions have been very difficult. There are also 8 survival missions where you essentially have one life bar and must vanquish as many fiends as you can. In order to medal you need to kill at least 50 with the predefined weapon. I highly recommend picking up the Mission Mode DLC.

Pros:

  • Stunning Gameplay
  • Visually the best 360 game to date
  • The fluid combat sequences
  • Outstanding frame rates and animation sequences
  • The weapon assortment and ability to change in mid attack
  • Reaching a save point pushes you to the furthest of your abilities at times
  • Talisman of Rebirth is literally a lifesaver
  • Option to manually save multiple save files
  • Obliteration and Ultimate Techniques
  • Regeneration of portion of health after battle
  • The Chiburi Move – Ryu shakes the blood off of his weapon after a battle
  • True Dragon sword/Genshin swordcombo
  • Type 20 Camo skin for beating the game on Warrior (New skins for Ryu after beating the game)
  • Giant Crystal Skull (Get a gamerpic as well)
  • DLC – New Ryu Skins (Biometal, Shadow Walker, Fiend) 5 variants per
  • DLC – 20 new mission modes with 250 additional achievement points

Cons:

  • “Cheap” Boss Battles
  • Camera Issues at times

Rating:

This is one of the best games that I have played on the 360 to date. It is challenging, visually stunning and a lot of fun. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take on a challenge of playing it on the higher difficulty setting. I give it a 10 out of 10 as it is that good.