Saturday, December 30, 2000

Game Review: SSX

SSX, my first game for the PS2, SSX isn't just another "extreme" snowboarding game. It is THE extreme snowboarding game that all others will try and follow. The game is from EA sports BIG and it lives up to that name, bigger characters, bigger venues, bigger air. SSX takes an extreme sport and injects it with enough adrenaline for a cow!

The intro alone got me psyched to play the game, it had a banging song from Mix Master Mike that set the mood of the game.

The soundtrack for the entire game is good enough to listen to without the game. Another aspect of SSX is the announcer, with some wise ass comments when you wipe hard is just another way the player is drawn into the the game.

The cast of characters are a refreshing jolt to the genre, each character has their own personality and are overflowing with enthusiasm. Like the cast of Street Fighter II the cast of SSX spanns the world, Mac and Zoe represent the US, Elise is the boisterous blond bombshell from Canada, Moby "Mr" Jones rides for her majesty, Kaori and Hiro have the honor of representing Japan, Jurgen carves the powder for Germany, and JP performs for France.

SSX offers up multiple events, Warmup, Freeride, Race, and Showoff. Choose a character and play as them with their preset stats or enter the World Circuit and compete against the other 7 around the world. By winning races you earn experience points that can be used to boost the stats of your character, the for stats are speed, stability, edging and tricks. As you boost these stats your rank rises from newbie to superstar.

SSX offers up the most extreme venues in a snowboard game, they're BIG! Each venue has it's own intro song and represents one of the 8 characters. The first venue SSX throws at you is Snow Dream which is located in Japan and is home to spunky Kaori. Next is Elysium Alps in Europe, then my favorite Merqury City Melt down on the west coat which has the player carving powder thru a metropolitan winter wonderland. From there we travel to the South West to Mesablanca where the race will have you flying thru a mine shaft ala Indiana Jones! Think that was extreme? Test your skills on the Aloha Ice Jam venue, you'll be racing on a giant iceberg being towed to a tropical port! Now that's EXTREME! Pipe Dream is the final stop in the competition and the name of the game here is rail slides, the whole venue is underground and offers up never ending rails to grind some even do loops! Your reward for winning the SSX competion is the hidden venue named Untracked. The name says it all, the course is simply amazing,a mountain that you can go where ever however you like...the ultimate freeride!

This game is abosolutely beautiful and really showcases what the PS2 is capable of! For a first generation title SSX shines BIGGER and brighter with amazing lighting and snow effects, the movements is smooth and the controls are intuitive and become second nature after a few rides. The sound is great, cool music, fun announcer, and the voice acting for each character gives them individuality.


Thursday, June 15, 2000

Game Review: Vagrant Story

From the creator of Final Fantasy Tactics comes a new adventure in the world of Valendia called Vagrant Story!
The thing that grabbed my attention first was the art style the game used, I liked the comic style text bubbles and the character design was unique. I loved FFT so when I found out this game was developed by Yasumi Matsuno, the same person responsible for FFT I didn't hesitate in buying it.
The story of Vagrant Story has a very similar feel as FFT with the political intrigue and shadowy characters with hidden agenda's.
The game has a heavy focus on Weapon creation and the battle system is one I've never experienced before, when you are moving thru an area you don't randomly encounter enemies ala Final Fantasy they are all on screen and you can try and avoid them or attack. If you attack a wire frame sphere appears around Ashley (the protagonist) and depending on the weapon type determines the size of the sphere, ie Pole, Sword, Ax, Crossbow.
When an enemy is within the target radius you choose a particular body part to attack Head, body, arms, legs, then you attack and try to chain attacks by timing them based on on screen prompts (not easy), defending works similarly by pressing either triangle, circle, square or X at just the right moment(!) Ashley will either block the attack or counter it depending on what action you have mapped to the corresponding button (again not easy).
I love the atmosphere and lore of Vagrant Story, but make no mistake this IS NOT Final Fantasy and if you are not skilled at map reading, sense of direction and inventory management you might find Vagrant Story too much of a challenge, as I suspect was intentional when it was being developed. Hell I've hit a brick wall in the LimeStone Quarry, I have plenty of powerful weapons to deal with everything from humans, dragons, undead and evil things but these creatures are too damn powerful looks like some serious grinding is needed!


Friday, May 5, 2000

Retro Review: Street Fighter Collection 2

Better late than never I suppose, I played the shit out of my copies of Street Fighter II and Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES back in the day.
Right now I'm totally enjoying Street Fighter Alpha 2, but if you get the urge to play the classics this collection is for you!
Street Fighter Collection 2 includes Street Fighter II The World Warrior, Street Fighter II Champion Edition and Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper Fighting.
As far as I can tell this is a pixel perfect port of the arcade games, each tittle comes with Art Collections, Tips (like we need them at this point), Secrets and Cast info such as Chun Li's D.O.B etc.
Oddly enough the game doesn't offer an auto save function.
I really don't see anyone other than Street Fighter enthusiasts picking this collection up five years to the month after Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper Fighting was in arcades.

Thursday, April 20, 2000

Game Review: Gran Turismo 2

It's time to race on a higher level....
Polyphony Digital brings the Real Driving Simulator back for a second lap with Gran Turismo 2. With over 500 cars, more than doubling GT1's 160, 38 manufacturers tripling GT1's 11, and 6 licenses vs GT1's 3 buckle in it's gonna be a long ride.
GT1 showed you how to drive like a pro, GT2 is gonna see if you were paying attention!
Drivers education 2.0...
Lets go get our license to drive. First thing you'll notice is there are six licenses to acquire now B, A, IC, IB, IA & S. The tests are much the same as GT1, braking, cornering, S-turns, handling variances between FF/FR/4WD etc.
Lets go buy a car, GT2 Has four districts representing the four corners of the world and their respective manufacturers.
+=New Manufacturer
North City:
Aston Martin
+Mercedes Benz
South City:
East City:
+Tommy Kaira
West City:
+Alpha Romeo
Gran Turismo 2 adds 11 new race tracks to more than double the amount GT1 had!
+=new track
Autumn Ring
+Apricot Hill
Clubman Stage R5
Deep Forest
Grand Valley East
High Speed Ring
+Laguna Seca
+Midfield Raceway
+Red Rock Valley
+Rome Cicuit
+Rome ShortSpecial Stage R5
+Seattle Cicuit
+Seattle Short
Super Speedway
+Tahiti Road
Trial Mountain
+Test Course
GT2 offers four separate events, the GT league, Special Events, Endurance Races and Rally Events. GT2 takes the Races and Championships from GT1 and adds a plethora of new races, cups and challenges like the K-Cup, Luxury Sedan Cup, Convertible Car World, Compact Car World Muscle Car Cup, Historic Car Cup, Station Wagon Cup, Grand Touring Car Trophy
80's Car Cup, Gran Turismo All Stars, GT300 & 500 Championship.
Gran Turismo2 expands the Endurance Races from GT1 with the return of the Grand Valley 300km (60 laps), Apricot Hill 200 km, Seattle Circuit 100 miles, Laguna Seca 200 miles, Rome Circuit 2 hours, Trial Mountain 30 laps, and SS Route All Night.
Polyphony Digital added Rally Racing to GT2 and was toying with drag racing but opted not to include Drag Racing at the last minute. The Rally Events include Smokey Mountain North/South/reverse, Green Forest Roadway, Tahiti Maze, Tahiti Dirt R3/reverse, Pikes Peak Uphill/Down hill Challenge.
Grand Turismo improves on the original in every way, the graphics show improvement, the sheer number of new manufacturers and cars is astounding, the handling is vastly improved which says alot considering the first was revolutionary, the addition of Rally races expands the franchises influence but needs a bit of work on the way the cars handle off road....they handle too similarly to when they're on a track in my opinion. The inclusion of muscle cars of the 60's and 70's is a great addition and is cool pitting A Dodge Viper GTS against a 71' Dodge Charger!
GT2 is a fun ride!

Friday, April 7, 2000

Retro Review: Street Fighter Collection

Street Fighter Collection is a must own for fans of Street Fighter, the collection comes on two disks. Disk 1 has Super Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II Turbo.
Super & Super Turbo offer Arcade Mode, Versus Mode,
Disk 2 has Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold.
Alpha 2 Gold comes with Arcade, Versus, Training, Survival, and Akuma modes. Additionally SFA2 Gold includes Evil Ryu and  Killer Bee Cammy.
I actually traded in my copy of Street Fighter Alpha 2 for this....common sense! I got a better version of SFA2 and Super Street Fighter II and SSF2T.

For the price any fan of Street Fighter should get this collection!

Monday, February 28, 2000

Retro Game Reviews: Bust a Move'99 & Bust A Move 4

My Friend Krogenar got this game for my girlfriend after discovering her dark secret addiction to puzzle games. Funny....Bust a Move 99 actually was originally  released in the arcades in 1996, then in 1997 on the Dreamcast and finally on the Playstation and N64 in 1999.
Basically players control Bub...some super deformed dinosaur that operates a "bubble cannon" and the objective is to shoot the colored bubble up to a corresponding colored bubble above before they drop down to the bottom of the screen. Similar concept to Tetris but kinda reversed, there is strategy to the game which lends itself to the games multi player mode where players can choose from eight different characters to play.


BAM4 hit arcades and PlayStation in 1998!
BAM 4 has updated graphics and many additional modes to keep players popping bubbles till they're blue in the face.
Puzzle Mode Stages A-Z After beating stage A choose stage B or C, beat stage B and choose either stage D or E, beat stage C and choose stage F or G.....
Story Puzzle Mode
Story Vs.Mode play the game and learn the fascinating story behind the game...
Survival Mode self can unlock hidden characters like Woolen, Monsta, Packy and Maita
PvP self explanatory
Edit Mode create stages for others to play!


Sunday, February 20, 2000

Game Review: Crash Team Racing

I haven't played any of the Crash Bandicoot games yet and I have only owned the original Super Mario Kart, which provided hundreds of hours of split screen kart combat mayhem once I finally convinced Krogenar that S.M.K. was not a kiddie game and was actually alot of fun.
Since SMK it seems like every franchise has attempted to cash in on the Kart Racing phenomenon... none till CTR have been close to being sucessful. Naughty Dog has made a Kart racing game that is just as fun as SMK with characters that are quirkier than Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser and those guys.
CTR has many similarities on the surface to SMK but the game has much more to offer those willing to go the distance. CTR offers eight selectable characters: Crash, Coco, Pura, Polar, Dr. Neo Cortex, Tiny, Dr. N. Gin, and Dingodile.
CTR offers plenty of ways to play; Adventure (single player campaign), Time Trial and Battle Mode. The Adventure mode is basically the same as SMK but goes a little deeper, after beating a level you gain access to Relic Races which are basically time challenges, and CTR challenge races where you race against the CPU and need to also collect the letters C, T & R.
Time Trial is self the best you can on a track to set the best time.
Battle Mode is exactly the same as SMK PvP using power ups to defeat your opponent, you can have up to 4 players via the multitap.

CTR is the only other worthwhile Kart game out there in my opinion and has much better tracks than SMK  (not all flat tracks)!
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and CTR takes the genre SMK created, uses the formula and kicks it up a few notches with over the top characters and solid gameplay a good soundtrack and a lot of enjoyable race tracks.


Wednesday, February 16, 2000

Retro Game Review:Street Fighter Alpha

My first Street Fighter game on a home console since   Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting on my SNES in 1993!
I only played this game a handful of times in the arcade and I was very happy to see it come to home consoles. The core aspects of Street Fighter are intact and in Street Fighter Alpha we are introduced to a few new techniques such as Alpha counters, a tiered super meter, air blocking and recovery rolls. These added aspects aren't just mindless additions but do enhance the strategic dynamics of the game.
SFA takes place before the original Street Fighter (1987) so we get a fresh look at Ryu and Kens humble beginnings....notice Ken's long hair? Notice what it's tied with? Notice Ryu's headband...what color is it! There are many references to The Street Fighter Animated Movie within SFA most notably are the shoto clones but also Chun Li has a fresh new look and probably the coolest addition to the roster is Guile's friend Charlie! Other cool fighters in the roster are Birdie from the original Street Fighter....this isn't the birdie from 1987, the only distinctive feature that was retained was his Mohawk, I like the new design for Birdie but some may have an issue with the redesign. Another Street Fighter Alum that gets the alpha treatment is Sagat's pupil Adon, Capcom did a great job updating this classic character.
SFA also brings two fighters from the Final Fight franchise Guy and Sodom, they fit perfectly in the Street Fighter universe with move sets taken from FF and enhanced to work in Street Fighter.
SFA also introduces two brand new characters Rose and Dan.
Rose is an interesting character, unlike the more traditional fighting styles Rose fights with her cleavage and a mystical scarf O.o
Dan is Capcom's response to SNK's Art of Fighting Ryo Sakazaki and is, for all intents and purposes a joke character.Dan's Back story is actually quite interesting as it ties into Sagat's storyline and why Sagat has an eye patch.
Sagat, M. Bison, and Akuma (returning from SSFIIT) are the final bosses in SFA and are character specific ie: M. Bison is Charlies final boss (for obvious reasons) Sagat is Dan's final boss Akuma is Ryu's final boss.
The graphics are fantastic and is almost an arcade perfect port, the sound track & effects are fantastic and sound amazing on a 5.1 surround sound home theater.
The new additions to the Street Fighter game engine are well implemented and add new depth to an already deep and strategical fighting system.
The cast is great and it's awesome to see characters from the original Street Fighter re imagined.

Being a fan of the franchise my review might be slightly biased, but I give Street Fighter Alpha

Saturday, February 12, 2000

Game Review: Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete

I bought the collectors edition of Lunar Silver Star Story complete on a whim. After playing Final Fantasy VII I was on an RPG binge and  I am so glad I did! What L:SSSC lacks in graphical power it more than makes up for in unforgettable characters, story and overall quality of the product! Working Designs put so much work into this port from the games gorgeous cut scenes to the soundtrack, the hardcover  instruction manual and cloth map to the sound track that this game should be in every RPG fans library! 
Regardless if Alex's story is the most cliched in RPG history the sub plots and character development of the entire cast is so well developed that it really doesn't matter, but thankfully Lunar's story begins simply but excels to such fantastic heights....thanks to the incredibly well developed characters ...that it is a journey that you will not soon forget. 

Retro Game Review: Alien Trilogy

In space no one can hear you your living room they can!

Unlike most people who have been playing the FPS Doom, this is my first foray into the FPS genre. What better franchise to put into this genre! The controls took me a little while to get accustomed to but once i got comfortable moving, shooting, strafing and jumping the carnage really goes into overdrive, The learning curve is fair and by the end of the game you'll feel like one bad ass colonial marine or Ellen Ripley if you prefer playing as a chick (I highly doubt any girl is gonna play this).
The atmosphere is great and really draws the player into the game, there are times where the silence is so un-nerving and then there's times where the action is so intense you think you're chest is gonna explode....see what I did there?
The graphics are impressive as well as the sound effects, the video clips that are incorporated into the game add a smidge more beleivability  that you are on the Nostromo or on LV426 or the Sulaco.
The game is not easy and I'll admit I broke down towards the last chapter and put on my "pink acid boots"...
Any fan of the films will be impressed and FPS fans aught to check this game out!

Welcome to Free Swim

Hello, thanks for dropping by! 
This is my blog,Free Swim, how'd I come to that name for this blog? It goes back to when I was a kid. I went to camp as a child, it was a unique camp because to get there we didn't drive in a bus or car. A ferry would bring us to a small Island in the Long Island Sound, Calf Island if I remember correctly. Anyway Free Swim was always at the end of the day and we had the choice to either braving the trek down the barnacle encrusted rocky beach to the water or hanging out with friends on the beach. The choice was your's, kinda like this blog, you can hang out and read my postings...which could be as painful as walking on rocks covered in barnacles or not, either way the choice is your's.

Free Swim will focus on video games (yes another video game blog), movies (yeah those too) TV and all the nonsense that as a child I was told is rotting my brain....the good stuff! The Decultcure of the 21st century!

First thing I intend to do is bring over as much of my material from a site my friends Krogenar and Kopernikuz made, but is being shut down by the man! Just kidding, the owner of the site just has too much on his plate and the site never did take off like they hoped it would.

So the first couple posts on Free Swim will be "cut n paste" jobs from the now deceased please Oh and if you're interested in any of the topics I mentioned before and are interested in becoming a contributing author drop me a line.