Welcome to Rocky’s Reviews where we briefly review some of the old and new games we’ve played. The games are listed in the order we’ve played them. They’re more a reflection of personal experience and less like a proper review.
Here’s how Rocky rates games:
All games are marked out of five paws
Games that receive a ham are must owns! A list of the Ham games can be found here.
Avoid anything that receives a broccoli!
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
PlayStation 4 – 2014
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is another entry in Traveller’s Tales long running Lego series. As such, you’ll find all of the usual tropes here, from the minikit collectables to the Gold Bricks. The game features sixteen levels, each with three characters, ten minikits and one Adam West to collect. These are accessed through hub worlds such as the Batcave or the Justice League Watchtower. Also within these hub worlds are sort side quests to complete. They range from following a character around to beating up enemies to dressing up in a particular outfit. Its nothing too taxing and it can be a bit repetitive. Later on, you’ll gain access to the Lantern Homeworlds. These have their own missions as well as races to complete. It’s all fairly standard for these types of games. It has a huge selection of characters to choose from, from the usual Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to the odd Green Loontern, Bat-Cow and even Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith). The games length seems to be a nice balance, never feeling too long but has enough to keep you invested. The main plot follows an invasion by Braniac. Here, you’ll have to acquire the help of the other Lanterns to stop him. It’s not really deep but it does have some humorous moments. The voice acting is top notch, with Batman’s grumpiness and Robin’s over eagerness played to perfection. The sound track is good too, with special songs kicking in depending on who you’re controlling in flight. Flying is also massively improved over the second game and makes a lot of the later exploration so much easier. One thing I really liked is how all of the Trophies can now be gotten in co-op. Most Lego games award a lot of the Trophies or Achievements to only the first player but this game allows both players to get that coveted Platinum in one playthrough. The game isn’t without its issues. One save file I have has me locked out of 100% because of an Adam West glitch, I did experience 3 crashes during my playthrough, and the music randomly changed volume after I completed a side-mission. It’s a fun game to play with a friend or by yourself and it is definitely the best of the three Lego Batman games to date.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II
PlayStation 4 – 2019
The second entry in the Erebonia arc starts off right where the first game ended. After escaping battle, Rean Schwarzer finds himself alone, stranded in the mountains. Finding his way back to civilization and learning more about the Divine Knights, Rean sets off to reunite with the other members of Class VII to help liberate Thors Academy. Where the first game spent a lot of time building the nation of Erebonia, the second entry lets us loose on the Eastern half of the county. Erebonia has been thrown into civil war after the events of the first game and the Thors students are caught in the middle of it. The story further expands upon the foundations laid out in the first game, almost feeling like they were one game split in two. While the first Trails of Cold Steel was a linear adventure, moving you from one area to another quickly, this game opens up a lot sooner, allowing you to explore at your leisure. The world feels more connected as you can travel from town to town along the roads rather than being ushered by train but you do gain access to an airship rather quickly. This allows you to visit towns, complete missions and battle secret bosses as you wish. Combat remains fairly unchanged, with Arts and Crafts still at your disposal, but now you can “Overcharge” allowing you to use skills without a wait time. These are built up through combat. Each character must complete a trail chest before you can unlock these but they’re well worth searching out for. You can engage in more ”Divine Knight” battles than before (the first game had one). These are a fun addition to the game. The graphics also look very similar to the first game, with little improvements here and there. The music is much more memorable this time around, with plenty of blood-pumping tracks to keep you engaged. The voice cast from the first returns, so you’ll know what to expect from them. Despite little tweaks here and there, the openness of the world is what really makes it stand out and it is such a welcome addition. However, you’ll be returning to a lot of places you visited in the first game. You’ll also have a larger cast of characters to use in battle, some temporary and others permanent. Again, each character has their own unique skill set but with plenty of options, you should be able to find a team that suits your playstyle. The game does have a difficulty spike towards the end, with the last few bosses requiring a lot of strategy and luck but you can always retry or even weaken the enemies if you’re having difficulties. Less world building, more exploration and an epic finale make this a worthwhile adventure.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
PlayStation 4 – 2018
My first foray into The Legend of Heroes series takes me to the Erebonian Empire, a nation facing threats from both outside and within. Nihon Falcom’s JRPG is an interesting spin on the JRPG genre. Set in a military academy, you step into the boots of several new recruits. Each of these characters have their own attacks and special abilities. They can also acquire magical spells through orbs called Quartz. These can range from defensive spells such as healing or speeding up your characters, to devastating offensive spells. The game features a large cast, with eleven permanent members, alongside some guest party members too. The game manages to balance the large team out by having only certain characters accompany you on field trips. Despite the large range of characters, they’re all interesting. They include the noble Laura, mysterious Fie, explosive Machias and the humble Gaius, all led by the charismatic Rean. The combat is where this game really shines, with character positioning playing a large role in the attacks you can undertake or what enemy manoeuvres you can avoid. You can also link up with characters to build bonds and unleash devastating attacks. There are also S-Crafts, special attacks you’ll learn as the story progresses. The music ranges from epic to forgettable but the voice acting is decent. One issue I had was that in certain scenes, some characters would be voiced but others wouldn’t. It’s odd has the characters that don’t have voice acting in these scenes do have some in later ones. The graphics look good but they’re not exactly pushing the PlayStation 4 to its limit, which is understandable as it was originally a PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita title. There are moments of clipping though, which shouldn’t really be happening. The story is arguably its strongest and weakest point. The game does a fantastic job of unveiling Erebonia to you and details the conflicts between the several factions within the Empire. It also balances it well with a student perspective, keeping you in the dark a lot. However, there is a lot of story, especially for a JRPG. There are times when you will be watching cutscene after cutscene, just wanting the game to move on. The game is also very linear, never allowing you much opportunity to explore. When you think it’s opening up, it just turns into a false dawn. Field studies (missions in the game) take a similar form, go to a new area, complete some mission (both required and optional) and then uncover a bit more of the overarching plot. It’s a good JRPG that sets up its sequel well but it just needed a little less cutscenes and a little more gameplay.
PlayStation – 1997
Developed by Core Design and Published by Eidos Interactive, Fighting Force is a 3D beat’em up, a sort of spiritual success to Streets of Rage. Released in 1997, Fighting Force has you take control of one of four characters to stop the evil Zeng. There’s not really much story. The game has some cutscenes when you travel to a new area but it doesn’t really give you any information. As you’d expect from a beat’em up, each of the four characters have their own stats, from the speedy Alana to the powerhouse Smasher. The game can also be played in co-op with a friend. Graphically, the game looks ok, not terrible but not spectacular either. Some areas, such as the street look good but a lot of the indoor stages look similar, with drab tones. The character models look good but as you’d expect from a PlayStation game, there is texture warping. The soundtrack is forgettable, lacking the explosive beats of Streets of Rage. There are some voice clips but it’s nothing to shout about. Combat can feel fluid in places and sluggish in others. Combos can be pulled off easily but there is sometimes a delay with the button input. This mostly happened when I was trying a running attack. Each button has its own move. For example, O jumps, X punches, Square kicks and Triangle grabs. Grappling in the game is odd as sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t and you won’t really know until you’ve gotten hit. The X button is also used for picking up items, which is a pain especially in levels with items littered everywhere. Like most beat’em ups, you can pick up all manner of items from axes to poles and even guns. Enemies will also have weapons that you can knock out of their hands and take. The levels feature some destroyable environments, from standard crates to drinks machines and even areas where you can get weapons by pulling a bar off the wall. The game isn’t long, with a playthrough taking about 90 minutes but there are some alternative paths to take to try and boost replayability. The levels themselves aren’t as free flowing as other beat’em ups, which each one being a short stage where you’ll have to beat up a few enemies before it ends. It lacks the flow of other games, hampered further by the constant load screens. These occur between stages, cutscenes and even when the stage is simply loading the bosses. The camera for the most part does a decent job but can sometimes swing around to show enemies arriving. It falls apart when it comes to boss fights. In single-player its not so bad but in multi-player it becomes hectic. The camera tries to focus on the boss and as a result if the players go in two different directions, it gets confused as to who to follow. Overall, it’s a decent game that can help waste a bit of time and it did try to pull beat’em ups into 3D but it falls short.
Sonic Advance 3
Game Boy Advance – 2004
Sonic Team return with their final entry in the Sonic Advance series. Released in 2004, Sonic Advance 3 builds on its predecessors in a number of ways. The first thing you’ll notice is that now you have to select a partner. When starting off, you’ll only have Sonic and Tails to choose from but as you progress, you’ll unlock Knuckles, Amy and Cream. This team mechanic has some advantages. Certain characters can access different areas in each level and holding down the R button, you can summon your teammate to help you. These can be things like hurling you forward or picking you up and flying over. Your teammate can also collect rings, defeat enemies and get hits on the bosses. There is a downside to this. Your AI partner isn’t the smartest and, in some areas, he can activate movable platforms or mine carts before you are ready. In one instance, Tails activated a mine cart on me, which left me stranded underwater and eventually Sonic ran out of air. The other noticeable addition is hub worlds. Gone is the simple map, where you’ll select a level, replaced with an open area to explore. Here you’ll find levels, bonus areas and boss rooms. You’ll also find chao to give you hints and tips as well as some to collect. Collectable chao can be found in the levels as well. Collect all ten in a zone and you’ll unlock a key to find the Chaos Emerald bonus zones. Collect all the Emeralds to once again unlock a hidden final boss. These hubs are fun at first but after a Game Over, it can be a bit of an annoyance to retrace your steps back to the level. There are now three acts in each zone along with a boss battle. The game is more forgiving than Sonic Advance 2, with game overs merely making you replay the level and not the whole zone. The difficulty has been toned down but you can still change it from Normal to Easy in the options menu. The levels are colourful and have a range of artistic styles unique to this game. The music once again complements each level well, with a mixture of rearranged classic tracks and new ones too. Speed is still important but you’ll need to be cautious this time around, especially in the later stages that require a lot of platforming. The platforming can feel a bit ropey in places. I noticed this more in the final zones that required precision jumping. The boss battles are a healthy mix of different styles, from the usual jumping on Dr. Eggman’s head to dropping platforms on him as he chases you up the stage. Overall, it’s a great platformer for a handheld but with tighter controls, it would have been near perfect.