The forty-eighth round of Articles of Excellence saw a nice spread of votes, but a victor emerged in the form of Hell Fire and his review of Valkyria Chronicles. Describing it as a delightful strategy-heavy RPG, they portray it as a near-perfect title only slightly brought down by balancing issues.

 Valkyria Chronicles     Score: 4.2/5
 Genre: Strategy RPG

 So there you have it; the beast named Valkyria Chronicles. This game is a must play for SRPG enthusiasts and definitely worth picking up if anything in the review sparked your interest.

quote Hell Fire
I’ve always liked my Strategy Role Playing Games (SRPGs) and in my experience, few have disappointed. There’s just something about the pre-battle planning and the (sometimes overly) lengthy battles revs me up as the console light turns green. Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem and Suikoden Tactics are a few beasts that have managed to steal many hours away from my life. Valkyria Chronicles however, is the new beast in the jungle. The combination of its amazing story telling and large scale war scenarios put it up there with some of the past greats. I, unfortunately, have a tendency to miss out on masterpieces such as this on their release dates, not due to ignorance, but because “there’s always something else to play”. If you are an enthusiast of the SRPG genre and haven’t touched this yet, then it pains me to say that you and I are alike. As a past Valkyria Chronicles virgin, let me be your sponsor and support you through your journey to the local gaming store (pfft, or eBay) and into the world of: planting your ass on the couch, losing your social life, gaining ten kilos and having fun kicking ass!

Good old Welkin, a creepy crawly, insect enthusiast (yes, that’s right) who seems more interested in those eight legged freaks than getting pimp on. All was quiet on the Eastern front, when all of a sudden; a group of soldiers cross the border and attack the small town of Bruhl. Welkin decides he should probably put his beetle collection away and help the town guards (commanded by Alicia) defend against the small invasion. Luckily, Welkin knows how to handle a gun, and helps save the day, unless of course, you are incapable of completing the first mission (which would be a grand ol’ way of embarrassing yourself among the cooler nerds). From there he Welkin enlists in the Gallian militia, becomes Lieutenant of his squad and helps defend the country of Gallia from the mighty opposing Empire.

For a game so focused on strategic gameplay, Sega clearly put a lot of thought into the narrative. Its unique method of comic book like storytelling and meaningful cut scenes make for some absolutely awesome moments that easily rival most JRPGs acclaimed for their plot lines. There’s plenty of mystery, twists and turns to keep the player motivated, and with a cast of outstanding characters who are incredibly well constructed, this game gets two thumbs up in the story department. While most of your squad have little to no personality at all, the main characters who accompany Welkin (such as Rosie, Alicia and Isaru) drive the story magnificently, and their development as individual characters throughout the game is something lacking in many RPGs of this generation. A rich story with deep, memorable characters is not something that I expected when buying the game, but it turns out that they are in fact one of the games strongest areas.
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Finally saved from the horror of a Resident Evil spiral, Lukas has won the forty-seventh round of Articles of Excellence for his review of Kingdom Hearts. Revisiting a childhood favourite, he looks back upon the golden game which has worn over time to expose some silver and a need for a little polishing.

 Kingdom Hearts     Score: 3.5/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 Add the awesome soundtrack and mostly excellent graphics, and you've got yourself a game that's technically mediocre, but emotionally pretty good.

quote Lukas
Everybody has a favorite from their childhoods, whether it's Space Invaders, Pitfall, Super Mario Brothers, Sonic The Hedgehog, Earthworm Jim, Ocarina Of Time or Banjo-Kazooie... and Kingdom Hearts was my absolute favorite game as a kid. Even if I didn't know what to do and I had to resort to Gamefaqs to pass a bit or two, it was still a game I loved dearly. All the Disney characters, all the Disney worlds, and the fun combat – it just clicked and really kicked ass at doing so. Eventually, you revisit a childhood memory and find yourself analyzing it with a more adult mind (well, as adult as a near-20 year old can get), like why did you love it so much and was it as good as it was? Honestly, unless your old favorite was something like Metal Gear Solid or Super Mario Brothers 3, *bleep* no it wasn't! You realize that some screws were actually loose that were too small for your 7 year old eyes to see, but somehow, your 20 year old eyes can see them, and oh boy, Kingdom Hearts is quite an example of this. Still a fun game, no doubt about that, but come on, it's no masterpiece.

The basic idea of the story is that three teenagers from an island are seperated across the universe when the world's about to get destroyed. But amidst the chaos, Riku disappears into the darkness, Sora gets the Keyblade out of it and Kairi just disappears in Sora's arms. Meanwhile, King Mickey suddenly leaves the Disney Castle on a mission, leaving a note for Goofy and Donald, which tells them to look for the wielder of the Keyblade because he/she's important to save the world. Goofy and Donald meet up with Sora and they travel the universe to slay the evil Heartless and the even more evil Disney villains (from big boss Maleficent, to grunts like Captain Hook and Jafar) before they destroy the universe.

There are a few things that really stand out – for one thing, it's not so much about the original story as it is about Disney fanservice. You basically relive parts of a bunch of movies like Tarzan, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, except there are Heartless in them causing trouble. Honestly speaking, this is when the story is at its best – fanservice done right, if you ask me. It's fun going through these worlds, interacting with various Disney characters. In fact, just seeing them is awesome, like “man what are we/they going to do?” However, the game has an original story going on, and while the allies are stuck in their own stories, the villains sure as hell aren't, and...
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Because our resident reviewers aren't done just yet, Aevers has taken out the forty-sixth round of Articles of Excellence with her review of Resident Evil. Taking us back to the original days of the series, she describes it as a solid title in the survival horror genre, with only some action and voice acting holding it back.

 Resident Evil     Score: 4.0/5
 Genre: Action Shooter

 The action segments aren't that good and any attempt at drama is lampshaded by campy voice acting, but everything else is pretty good - whether it's actually good, like the atmosphere, level designs and the survival elements; or really corny, like the voice acting and dialogue.

quote Aevers
Remember when Resident Evil was about surviving against the undead, as opposed to just blowing their heads off? Remember when Resident Evil was about exploring and solving puzzles, as opposed to just killing zombies? Remember when Resident Evil actually made you conserve your items, as opposed to being allowed to go all guns blazing? Remember when Resident Evil was the video game equivalent of a B-grade horror movie, as opposed to an action movie?

Pepperidge Farm remembers. It also remembers that while it was far from the first survival horror game ever made, it was the game that got the genre on the map in the first place. In fact, it even coined the term “survival horror”, and throughout the game, you'll know what they mean – a haunting atmosphere, limited items around the place, limited space in your character's inventory packs, zombie dogs jumping through windows to attack you and, above all else, just the feeling that you could be dead at any moment is the definition of survival horror. Maybe not the best example of it – the series got better with each installment until the fourth one, in which they changed it up – but it's a pretty good example of it.

A series of bizarre murders have occurred in Raccoon City, so it's up to the Special Tactics And Rescue Service or STARS to investigate. After getting attacked by a pack of dogs, Chris, Jill, Barry and Wasker hide out inside a seemingly safe mansion, but they find more than they bargained for inside. Zombies eating other STARS members and Wesker suddenly disappearing... something's up with this mansion. I want to say that this leads to an excellent story or at least a good one, but it ends up feeling more like a B-grade horror movie, with extremely corny dialogue (“you were almost a Jill sandwich” is poetry at its finest) and overactive voice acting. It's laughably bad, and whatever drama or tension it was meant to convey is lampshaded by campy voice acting, but I guess if you have the case of the blues, this should cheer you up. In saying that, the story has a few changes depending on who you play is (Chris or Jill), and it's a neat little touch to make you want to play it again.
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One after the other, Gryzor has taken out another win for the forty-fifth round of Articles of Excellence with his review of Resident Evil 5. Much less of a fan of this title than the fourth, describing it as having a number of flaws such as plot and controls while forgetting it's part of the survival horror genre.

 Resident Evil 5     Score: 1.5/5
 Genre: Action Shooter

 I never got into Resident Evil and even I feel like an old school survival horror fanboy, that's how much this game blows.

quote Gryzor
If I were to compare Resident Evil games to metal albums, I'd say that Resident Evil 4 is Sons Of Northern Darkness, and that Resident Evil 5 is All Shall Fall (both albums by Immortal). What do I mean? Well, Sons Of Northern Darkness is Immortal's most accessible album, just like how Resident Evil 4 is the most accessible Resident Evil game, but yet it never feels wrong to enjoy it. However, All Shall Fall is a shameless disgrace to the Immortal name, despite following in Sons Of Northen Darkness's footsteps, and the same could be said about Resident Evil 5. Resident Evil 4 was fun, but I don't want Capcom to go down this road again, especially if they're going to further ditch everything that gave Resident Evil its identity in the first place, not even bother to work on the controls, and insert co-op because shit, co-op is the only way a game can work nowadays.

It's been a long time since the events of the first Resident Evil game - so long in fact, that Chris Redfield took up weightlifting in his spare time and he's now *bleep*ing huge! He could give Marcus Fenix a run for his money! But seriously, he's assigned a mission in Africa, alongside some chick named Sheva, to chase down some guy named Irving, who has a biological weapon that he's planning on selling to the black market, and it turns people into zombies. Somewhere along the line, Chris finds pictures of Jill Valentine, his partner from the first game who he assumed had died, but nevertheless, he hopes to find her. Unlike Resident Evil 4, the story isn't deceptively simple; it's just simple, and pretty boring to boot. It does an adequate enough job to keep the game moving, but unlike Resident Evil 4, nothing really grabs you, and it just changes its mind every so often - one minute, you're chasing Irving down; the next, you're looking for Jill Valentine. Like it matters - there isn't much in the way of development and the only cutscenes worth shit are the ones you'd find in an action movie. When there is plot and character development, it's minimal enough to give you something to work with, but that's all - otherwise, meh.
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Stepping away from passively viewing to violently shooting, the forty-forth round of Articles of Excellence has been taken out by Gryzor with his review for Resident Evil 4. Taking the middle ground he describes it as an okay game, sporting some needed improvements yet also missing some of the better elements from previous titles.

 Resident Evil 4     Score: 3.6/5
 Genre: Action Shooter

 Resident Evil 4 is far from the masterpiece or disasterpiece people would make it out to be.

quote Gryzor
Hold on a minute, THIS is the game that changed Resident Evil? Many would say for the worst, but I say it's for the better, and that the PS1 Resident Evil games were mediocre. I'm sorry fanboys, but I will never see the early games your way because I found them generally irritating to play, despite excellent survival mechanics. Resident Evil 4 is both a natural evolution for the series and a bit of watering down of the old formula. How so? Well, while it's easier to play and no longer plagued by atrocious camera angles (were they on purpose or did they just *bleep* up), the survival element (which was the only thing I liked about the older games, funny enough) felt less prevalent, like newer gamers couldn't handle it or something, although it was at least given a facelift to go with it.

Story: One thing I found impressive with its story is that it's deceptively simple. At first, it's about Leon, the guy from Resident Evil 2, having to rescue Ashley Graham (the president's daughter) from a cult located in a small Spanish village, but then you start to learn more about their motives, and it just "clicks" after a while. Memos that are scattered across the village and the various cutscenes that are given careful attention manage to captivate you for the duration of the game, especially as it gets more into the cult and into the "zombies", as you'll be wondering what's going on (in a good way) and what's about to happen. It's a bit tricky to explain without spoiling the story, so I'll stop praising it here and give it the one bit of criticism I have for it - it has moments which border on cheesy. Not quite on par with the older games (oh god, not even close), but one of the characters' accents and some of his writing feels like there's an actor behind it, which detracts from the story when everybody else's voices and writing actually feels convincing enough to breathe life into these characters. Ah well.
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Taking a departure from the usual win by a video game, the forty-third round has been won with a DVD review for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol.1 by Insanity Prevails. Describing it as a complete package, taking something as simple and overdone as a high school drama but giving it enough magic to make it a standout show and something worth taking the time to watch.

 The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol.1     Score: 4.9/5
 Genre: Anime

 The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of those series that I cannot recommend enough. It takes the normal premise of a high school drama and then changes things up with more than enough flair to hook the viewer and keep them there until the end.

quote Insanity Prevails
Imagine what it would be like to be able to bend the world to your will; where whatever you want to exist does and events unfold as you desire. Now imagine if that power was investing into a single eccentric girl with boundless enthusiasm for the strange but who was blissfully unaware she had such power. It's a nonstop rollar-coaster ride into the bizarre and Kyon's along for the ride, whether he likes it or not. Such is the premise of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a story where the weirdness of the world is all around and it seems the only one unaware of it all is Haruhi herself.

The DVD starts off with an episode that would typically be placed after episode 11 chronologically, showcasing the members of the SOS Brigade making their own movie. Here we get hints at the personalities of each of the brigade's members as well as a peek at a few secondary characters, with the episode leaving a proper view of Haruhi and Kyon until the end. For first time viewers it might be hard to understand the significance of this episode and it will be with hindsight that a lot of things make sense here. However, it does give us an idea of the kinds of crazy antics that can and will happen for the rest of the series and certainly serves as a more unique opening episode. After that the remaining three episodes sit properly in chronological order and we get the events as they appear in order, making following the story a lot easier than the original broadcast order (though Haruhi enthusiasts can obtain the original broadcast order by buying the special editions).

When the main stars of the show Kyon and Haruhi are introduced to us in a more traditional sense in the second episode we easily establish Kyon as the sensible realistic guy and Haruhi as the eccentric crazy girl. Their class introductions showcase this perfectly, as Kyon delivers a normal speech about looking forward to the year ahead, promptly followed by Haruhi declaring she has no interest in normal human beings. Events begin when Kyon attempts talking with Haruhi, not knowing of her infamous antics at her old school.
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The new year has been rung in, with the forty-second round of Articles of Excellence won by Dark Arcanine with his review for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. He describes it as a game that is well worth the amount of time it spent in development, making fantastic use of MotionPlus while offering a game that's fun and addictive with an engrossing atmosphere.

 The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword     Score: 4.9/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 So there you have it; Skyward Sword is one highly enjoyable, stuffed-to-the-brim package of great game design and fun to be had.

quote Dark Arcanine
More often than not pre-game hype results in sighs, groans and a lot of post-game hang-ups. For Skyward Sword, there is no denying that this game received its fair share of hype before hitting our shelves. We marvelled at the sound of the MotionPlus controls scheme (and the worry of another Other M crept upon me) and wondered just how great the game could be after spending no less than five years in development, including a good several months of polishing. Skyward Sword marks a celebration of a big 25 years for the Zelda series, so did being in development for the life of the console do the development team and the Wii justice, or did hype kill the Loftwing?

This story mixes things up a little bit: Princess Zelda is not royalty. That’s right, she’s actually Link’s childhood best friend and instead of living in Hyrule, we’re up in a city in the clouds called Skyloft. A boy like any other studying at the Knight Academy, Link alongside his unique red Loftwing dreams of becoming a senior knight of Skyloft. Yet everything goes Kikwi-shaped when Zelda is lost to the clouds, and the task to save her befalls Link. Acquiring the legendary Goddess Sword and a new companion named Fi who resides in said blade, Link sets off below the clouds to the surface world to begin his adventure and discover his true destiny.

In another world ravaged by evil, Link’s exploration of the unknown surface world sees him piece history and legendary powers together in the search for Zelda, as he and those around him come to discover their parts in an epic story of heroism spanning space and time. Twists and turns abound within the story of Skyward Sword, which is closely intertwined with other aspects of the game (explained below). It’s a charming story with a lot of character and beautiful settings to boot. It never feels dragged out or bulked out for the sake of it, and you’ll find yourself completely engrossed in the world of Skyward Sword from beginning to end.
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Getting an early Christmas present this year, Insanity Prevails has been gifted the forty-first round of Articles of Excellence with his review for Gundemonium Recollection. A "bullet hell" title - which is a sub-genre of the standard shoot 'em up for the curious out there - he describes it as a title that may be hard for newcomers or stock standard for returning gamers, but can be a fun title with an interesting theme to it.

 Gundemonium Recollection     Score: 3.5/5
 Genre: Bullet Hell Shooter

 So my final thoughts? It's a fun game that throws up some interesting scenarios and a wonderful setting.

quote Insanity Prevails
Bullet hell shooters are relatively rare from Western developers but Japan - especially their indie scene - certainly has no shortage of them. While we may be waiting forever for the ever popular Touhou to find an actual release over here, Rockin' Android have seen fit to pick up a different set of games to tempt English speaking audiences with. Gundemonium Recollection is the first of these games.

The setting provides us with an interesting alternate 18th century world where alchemy has allowed mankind to progress further (aka welcome to steampunk). But this power comes from a dark source and the world becomes victim to a demonic army pouring out. When an artificial being designed to counter them is subsequently captured and turned against humanity, the Rosenkreuz Foundation step in.

While the back story is nice, you might be hard pressed to fully take in the story during the game. Other than the blurb in the manual, the rest of the story progression is handled purely in text blurbs that crop up in intermission screens that appear between levels and these more tend to be "something happened, go there now" sort of thing. I found it hard to really get involved in the plot, leaving me to focus entirely on the action.
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The fortieth round of Articles of Excellence has seen the much talked about Xenoblade Chronicles as the winning review written by Hell Fire. Describing it as a fantastic JRPG with just a few niggles of small note, with a story that goes without saying as unique and enjoyable gameplay experience to be had.

 Xenoblade Chronicles     Score: 4.7/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 To put it simply, it is the best JRPG this generation, on any platform.

quote Hell Fire
It goes without saying that if a game manages to steal one hundred and twenty hours of your life, then the developers must have done something right. Xenoblade Chronicles is one such game that blew all of my expectations out the window and showed me that there’s still hope for the JRPG genre in a world that is falling victim to Western RPG and Call of Duty addiction. Tetsuya Takahashi is the genius behind this masterpiece. He’s kind of like the Bill Gates of the RPG industry; everything he touches just turns to gold. Xenogears and Xenosaga (director), Final Fantasy IV to VII and Chrono Trigger (Art and Graphics) just to name a few absolute gems. His most recent piece of work, Xenoblade Chronicles, can easily be thrown in the same league as these classics that are often regarded as the best RPGs ever produced. In the end, Xenoblade Chronicles uses the dream formula (seen in the above games), as its base while presenting many unique qualities that will no doubt make it a classic in the future. It’s just a shame Xenoblade never received a North American release, which is not only financial suicide, but also one of the cruelest things you could do to a country. The people have paid their taxes. Do something about it Mr. President!

I can assure you that you’ve never heard this one before. The story is set on two giant gods; Bionis and Mechonis (as shown in the image below), who stopped functioning after a seemingly never-ending battle with one another. Shortly later, there was life. These civilians began to build colonies on the exterior of these gods and all seemed well until the residents of Mechonis (the machines) waged war on Bionis (home to biological life forms). It seemed like all was lost for Bionis, until a young hero, Dunban, harnessed the power of an ancient sword, the Monado, and drove the machines back to their world (or god). A few years later, the game commences. You are put into the shoes of Shulk, a young weapons researcher from Colony 9, who has been tasked to learn the secrets of the Monado. From only a few hours into the game, the action really starts picking up and never stops. It’s much like Speed without the bus, or the bomb. The plot is full of betrayal, friendship, death, romance, twists, turns and all that other stuff that you would come to expect in a decent narrative. It is pulled off exceptionally well too, and while not as deep as Xenogears (which is often regarded as the deepest and most philosophical RPG ever), still raises a few questions at the end. It’s not all sugar and rainbows however (but it is close). The illogical outcome and lack of realistic decisions in a couple of scenes made me want to tear my hair out. Add this to some overly cheesy enemy dialogue, along the lines of: “You can’t catch meeeee. I’m too powerful!” and the smooth flowing narrative is suddenly disrupted. But let’s be honest. 90% of games these days have these issues. I’m just being picky because everything else is so damn perfect.

The characters compliment the story very well. While the main character, Shulk, often tries too hard to show that he has a completely pure heart, he is rarely annoying and definitely tolerable. His sidekick, Reyn, may seem annoying at first (particularly his voice), but actually grows into a likable character. Then there’s the war hero Dunban, who is the essence of cool (think Auron from FFX), a hot healer who is the voice of reason, a hilarious Nopon (another species) who is there for comic value (very successful comic value), a surprising member of a royal family, and finally a product of a massive plot twist which you probably won’t see coming. Each of these characters are well fleshed out and will grow as you journey through the game. Great characters to drive a great story; now there’s a formula for success. Why don’t RPG developers try this one more often?
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Seeing out the thirty-ninth round of Articles of Excellence with his final win, Monterey Jack topped the votes with his review of Resident Evil 4. A game hindered by movement and not knowing what it wants, he describes it as an okay game but one that despite some good moments, ultimately falls short from being a hassle to play through.

We will miss you James.

 Resident Evil 4     Score: 2.7/5
 Genre: Action Shooter

 Resident Evil 4 really isn't too bad. The action can be pretty intense and the story is quite intruiging. It's just that the controls don't work well with the action.

quote Monterey Jack
Resident Evil 4 is known by many things; the best game of 2005, one of the best games made in the sixth generation, the best game for the Gamecube and maybe even PS2. To Resident Evil purists and myself, it's known as the best way to screw everything up! Now, the purists would go on about how it's not scary and not about survival, but that's not the issue – the issue is that it doesn't know whether it wants to be a survival horror game or an action game. It tries to be an action game because you'll be fighting heaps of zombies, but it tries to be a survival horror because there are limited supplies and the controls aren't really meant for combat. It's really not bad – in fact, it's almost a good game, but the controls, man... the controls...

After the incident at Raccoon City in Resident Evil 2, Leon is sent to rescue the president's daughter, Ashley Graham, from a cult in Spain. This cult is planning to infect some pretty big people with some sort of mind control virus that makes them like zombies, except they're still alive. As you progress through the game, you'll find some paper or memos, which explains a bit more of the story, but it's the cutscenes that'll garner your interest as they set up parts of the game perfectly. Really, it keeps you on the edge of your seat as you wonder what'll be right around the corner... I mean, with a concept like that, you'd really be curious to know what this cult is up to!
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The thirty-eighth round of Articles of Excellence has been taken out by Polarity with his review of Shadows of the Damned. A game of ups and downs, he describes it as not a title worthy of high demand for those looking for a good horror game, but throws up a couple of decent elements including combat and humour.

 Shadows of the Damned     Score: 3.2/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 Shadows Of The Damned is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination.

quote Polarity
If you were to ask me what my favorite movie is, I'd often say Shaun Of The Dead. That movie combines zombies with humor, and said humor is *bleep*ing hilarious! So I'd say that it's about time we got a video game that successfully combines humor with horror. The result is Shadows Of The Damned, a game where you have to face down the undead while your companion/gun tells sex jokes. A little crass, but the timing is often impeccable, making each joke hilarious, and because of that, the game itself is actually quite enjoyable to play through.

Garcia Hotspur has to save his girlfriend from the lord of the underworld, Flemming. The cutscenes that take place serve as either a tour of the underworld, or a vehicle for sex jokes.... the dreaded sex jokes – or so I thought at first. After the likes of Bulletstorm and Ar Tonelico Qoga though, it's.. actually quite a surprise to hear jokes that have consideration for timing and set up. Because of that, Shadows Of The Damned's jokes are funny! That's excellent, because aside from a few books you'll find here and there, the story doesn't go too far beyond the damsel-in-distress scenario.
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While the number three pops up on everyone's dial as sequels crawl out of the walls and seep across our floors, Lukas takes us back a step to the cupboard of slightly dusty shelves, Concluding the thirty-seventh round of Articles of Excellence, he's taken out the win with his review of God of War II, in what perhaps could be described as a case of The Emperor's New Clothes.

 God of War II     Score: 3.0/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 Like the first game, God Of War 2 is an above average game in a great game's clothing.

quote Lukas
The first God Of War wasn't bad, but honestly, it felt unfinished in some aspects, like bosses, locations, weapons and all that other shit that makes other games good. It had its fun moments, but then it had its frustrating parts and boring segments, not to mention, even though it looked great, you were just in one dungeon for most of the game. Ah well, we got ourselves a sequel, and surely, it'll improve on everything, right? Yes... and no.

Kratos is the new God Of War. Ohh man this is going to be sick! So what adventures are we going on? Trouble brewing in Rhodes? On my way! Oh wait, what's this, Zeus is taking away my powers? Yes folks, Kratos is back to being human, and even worse, Zeus kills him – and no, this isn't some mid game twist I'm spoiling just to be a dick; this is in the first level! However, he's saved by the Titan, Gaia, and now has to seek the Sisters Of Fate so that he can change his fate to not get killed by Zeus.

Throughout the game, Kratos will mostly be trying to get to the Sisters Of Fate, so if you're one for wanting little subplots, don't bother. However, each scene helps move the story along, and... well, that's about it. I mean, you don't exactly play God Of War for its story, and that's a good thing, because once again, Kratos just drags it down. There's always something that keeps him from being the badass that the writers want him to be... like how he now has like no character or no hook, except smashing peoples' faces against hard books. Wow, what a badass!
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Delving into a series where everybody knows your name (well, the name of the series), Insanity Prevails has won the thirty-sixth round of Articles of Excellence with his review of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. Following some changes to the formula, he describes the title as over-simplified and a cause for some frustrations, seeing it fall in the attempt to bring back some old school ways.

 Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light     Score: 1.9/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 Overall I can't help but feel the game tries to simplify too much and hurts the gameplay as a result. Keeping things streamlined for a handheld game is one thing, but when you start taking out things that seem awfully vital then you're kinda going in the wrong direction.

quote Insanity Prevails
Final Fantasy is one of those names in the gaming industry that people just "know". While the series has had its fair share of fans and detractors, it nevertheless is commonly used as a sort of baseline by which JRPGs in general get measured by. The DS itself has been home to many games of the series, ranging from remakes, side games and those in the Crystal Chronicles subseries. 4 Heroes of Light takes the series in a more traditional direction in the hopes of showing what made JRPGs of yesteryear so great.

The story, while definitely clinging to classic fantasy, isn't particularly forceful about delivery. The four characters are the only survivors of a curse that sweeps through their village and must now seek refuge and find a way to undo the curse. But while there is enough story to justify the actions you're taking I never really felt particularly involved in it. The characters, while having nice personalities, just lack the depth for any real connection to happen and so ultimately it's really hard to care.
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Making an appearance and taking out the win, Crazyhand has topped the thirty-fifth round of Articles of Excellence with his review for Knights Contract. Failing to make a new fan, he describes it as a mediocre title, with a decent storyline being far from enough to take away attention from such issues as the quick time events.

 Knights Contract     Score: 2.2/5
 Genre: Action Fighting

 In many ways, it feels like Knights Contract aimed for a fine line between a niche audience and a blockbuster. Sadly, it's a game that has some of the worst quick time events and escort AI in gaming history. All in all, it's not even worth playing.

quote Crazyhand
This might've been alright for like Shenmue or Heavy Rain because some game designers are such greedy pricks (ie. Team Bondi) that they think they're too good for a 30 dollar price tag - *bleep* that bro, let's jack it up to a hundred dollars and add in some half assed "game" to our movie! ho ho, capitalism sure is fun! Granted, Knights Contract isn't some quick time event filled hunk of junk, but when they're there, good *bleep*ing gravy, do they ruin the game or what!? Not that it's all that good to begin with, but the one good thing about this game gets wrecked by those god forsaken quick time events...

Although my central issue is with the quick time events, I can't really let the story off with anything below a warning. At first, it seems rather intriguing - an immortal executor by the name of Heinrich teams up with a witch known as Gretchen, and there are two twists to this. First off, Gretchen was one of the witches that he has executed, and she was the one who cursed him with immortality. The second twist is that the other witches he had executed are planning on destroying the world, and Gretchen wants to stop them. You want to know what's even more shocking? It's actually being orchestrated by a man named Faust, who had originally made witches out to be these evil demons that had to be stopped, despite the fact that the black plague was caused by something else (oh yeah, gotta have the black plague in there somewhere to make it different from all the other medieval games), all so he could get all the pieces of the gem known as the Anima Del Monde, which will grant the user powers beyond their wildest dreams.

But then something happens a little after the halfway point - nothing. The story pretty much comes to a screeching half, only being progressed by Heinrich killing a few witches. It's not until the final boss that the story gets back on track, but it takes a while to get to that point, so be prepared for a complete standstill in storytelling. Quite a shame actually, because the story is actually pretty good and very well told. Aside from some voice acting (Gretchen in particular - *bleep*, could you be any less enthusiastic), the cutscenes managed to stay interesting due to the amount of depth there is. It was told in a way that actually made it less convoluted than I did, due to the length of the cutscenes and the writing, which managed to turn a potentially confusing story into one that's not only easy to follow, but easy to get absorbed in... until the aforementioned standstill. Seriously, that pissed me off.
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The thirty-fourth round was a killer (cue crowd moan?) with the winner of Articles of Excellence being Monterey Jack for his review of Killer 7. Describing it as a game with more under the hood than first appears, Killer 7 sets itself apart through an interesting storyline, decent gameplay and a nice set of graphics and sound to seal the deal. Yet it may not be a game for everyone...

 Killer 7     Score: 3.8/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 In spite of every single flaw it has, it is a game that must be experienced at least once. With most games, you can already tell if you're going to enjoy it or not because everybody wants to copy each other and not offer much, if anything new, exciting or refreshing to the table – not this game.

quote Monterey Jack
When you make a game, you can go about it in three different ways. You can make what everybody else is making and hope for the best. You can make something that feels like what everybody else is making but clearly isn't. Better yet, you can make something completely different and off the wall. Killer7 falls under the middle category, because in the most basic sense, it feels like Resident Evil with it's “gotta stand still while aiming” mechanic and puzzles while in a horror setting, but then you tamper with the personalities – that being this game's main selling point – and then it really starts to feel like its own game.

Killer7 has quite possibly the weirdest story out there. It starts off rather sensibly, with world peace having been achieved. Unfortunately, for the world to work, there must be conflict, and this is where it starts getting weird. Enter a terrorist group known as the Heaven Smile, who are invisible mutants that can and will blow up. The thing about these buggers is that nobody can detect them. The Killer 7 is contacted to take them down. To make weird things even weirder, the Killer 7 are actually just split personalities that exist in the body of this guy named Garcian Smith, except these split personalities aren't just different in behaviour; they're also different in looks! This "squad" of killers is run by a decrepit old wheelchair bound man named Harman Smith... must be a rich *bleep*er to be able to hire somebody like Garcian... oh wait, Garcian is just a mental projection of Harman's seven personalities? Wow.
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The thirty-third round saw a solid round of voting with several reviewers being recognised. Taking out this round of Articles of Excellence is Dark Arcanine with his review of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. A remake of a classic Zelda title for the 3DS, he describes it as a great polished version of the original, positively noting new additions such as Master Quest and Sheikah Stones.

 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D     Score: 4.9/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is a shining example of why the Zelda series continues to be such a popular franchise and deserves every bit of approbation it receives.

quote Dark Arcanine
A game with a nature reflected in its name, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a game that has stood the test of time. It is an undisputable classic that has remained popular since initial release way back in 1998 on the Nintendo 64, seeing it re-released on both the Gamecube and the Wii. Now thirteen years down the track, it has been remastered for the 3DS, Nintendo’s newest platform. Following a rather poor set of launch titles for the 3DS, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was the first game for the 3DS to promise any substance. Though with the transition into a new era of gaming and to a handheld console, the question arose of whether it could match the brilliance of the original, and whether it could offer a bit more in the process.

Something that hasn’t changed in the last thirteen years is the plot, and is something both veteran and new gamers alike will enjoy. Awoken by an energetic fairy named Navi, Link finds himself summoned by the Great Deku Tree, following a rather frightening nightmare. Although he manages to break the curse upon the old tree, it finds itself too weak to carry on, using its last breath to ask of Link one more thing. Sensing something special about the child he bequests Link with a task: to meet Princess Zelda of Hyrule Castle, and realise his destiny.

Link comes upon Zelda already awaiting his arrival, and she promptly goes into a lengthy explanation of the history of Hyrule. Outlining her concerns of the Gerudo King known as Ganondorf, she begs Link to believe her and stop Ganondorf from achieving his goals. To this end, she sends Link to find the Spiritual Stones and bring them to the Temple of Time. Yet things go from bad to worse, as Link returns to find Zelda fleeing with Ganondorf in pursuit, who stops for a moment to knock him out (like a good baddie should!). Recovering from the blow, Link recovers the Ocarina of Time tossed to him by the Princess, and makes his way to the Temple of Time. In a very “King Arthur” moment, you pull the mighty Master Sword out of the Pedestal of Time, setting into motion a number of events. Falling into a seven-year slumber (yes, Sleeping Beauty), we awake to find ourselves in a chamber with Rauru, a man calling himself one of the seven Sages of Hyrule, and it is by him Link takes upon himself the biggest task yet: to become the master of time, find the other sages and ultimately defeat Ganondorf to bring peace back to Hyrule.
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Taking out the thirty-second round of Articles of Excellence is a review for The Darkness by Polarity, a game that combines modern FPS elements with comic-style powers. Describing it as an overall great game he argues that the pros far outweigh the cons, with the story and gameplay providing an enjoyable first-person shooter experience.

 The Darkness     Score: 4.4/5
 Genre: First-Person Shooter

 After experiencing a very compelling story and top notch voice acting with a side helping of excellent gameplay, it's like “so what if it has these problems”, because they don't interfere with the fun, atmosphere and everything else!

quote Polarity
The Darkness may not have done much for most people... but for those it has affected, it stands out as one of the finest games this generation has to offer. At first, I didn't know what to make of it - a first person shooter with the ability to use special powers based on a comic book series. It doesn't necessarily scream "I'M DELICIOUS". However, once you start playing the game, you'll find yourself eating those words. In fact, you may find yourself falling in love with this game. If it's not the refreshingly good gameplay, it's the captivating and very well written story that will win you over. The Darkness is a game that knows exactly what it's doing, and does a very good job of doing what it does.

It's Jackie Estacado's 21st birthday! What does he get from his uncle, Paulie? A job - that is, to whack some guy. Oh yeah, Jackie, our main protagonist, is a mobster. However, it turns out to be a set up as the mobsters driving him basically suicide bomb themselves, ensuring that Jackie doesn't get to live past 21. But then, in a dramatic turn of events, he's alive without a scratch... physically, anyway, although mentally speaking, he has a few screws loose, as he starts hearing dark voices. Eventually, he learns that he has control of an entity known as The Darkness, and from there, it turns into an intriguing tale of romance, revenge and even the paranormal, although if I was to spoil anything beyond what I said, I'd just ruin the game for you guys. There is never a dull moment. Whether it's from the pacing to the dialogue, it's a roller coaster ride, full of bullets and F-bombs to accentuate the fact that a life of crime is not pretty, especially if you're trying to get out of it, and even more so when you have dark powers. To put it simply, this story is excellent.
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The thirty-first round of Articles of Excellence saw a return to number one for Dark Moor with her winning review of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Despite describing it as a great game which fixes the problems of the previous title, she also discusses the new faults of the sequel including a seemingly rushed ending and backwards sense of difficulty progression.

 The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings     Score: 4.2/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 The Witcher 2 feels like it tiptoed a number of steps forward, but then took many steps to the side. Just about every minor problem from the first game was fixed up here, but unfortunately, the few problems that exist manages to bring the game down quite a significant amount.

quote Dark Moor
In the past, I had reviewed The Witcher, and yes, I did seem fangirly in that review, but it was a very well designed game with the only issues being that it takes lengthy periods of time to load and a few quests every now and again were pretty lame. Regardless, I had very, very high hopes for the sequel, certainly more than I had for Duke Nukem Forever (although kudos to Gearbox for letting us finally play it), and when it finally arrived at my doorstep, I rushed to my computer to install it, and while waiting, I grabbed a box full of Coke cans because goddammit, I want to play the hell out of this game - and you know what, this game is *bleep*ing awesome. It, however, seems to have a few problems that just leaves me gobsmacked, especially the menu's interface, but more on that later. Right now, let's just get on with the review!

So what kind of adventure are we going on for this game? Well, what happens is that Geralt is accused of killing a lot of kings and is then thrown into the slammer. He manages to escape, and is out to clear his name, but to do that, he must uncover a series of conspiracies while trying to regain his memories (yeah... he still has amnesia). Once again, the direction that the story goes depends heavily on the decisions that you make throughout - no two playthroughs are the same unless you make the exact same choices on a subsequent playthrough. Even the smallest choices can make big impacts, especially early on. Killing certain folks obviously means you don't see them again, but if you spare their lives, you may meet them again, and their insistence on living will make an impact on the story. Same for... really, anything within the confides of this game, like how you interact with everyone. What keeps things interesting is that it's not always between good and evil; it can simply be between two things. I really love this in a game - when the choices you make ACTUALLY make an IMPACT on the story, instead of just changing the dialogue.
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With another ten rounds done and dusted, the thirtieth round of Articles of Excellence has seen a two-in-a-row win for Dark Arcanine with his review of Pokémon Black Version. Despite some pre-purchase concerns and niggles he describes it as an overall great game, including a more mature and developed plot and impressive graphics despite original expectations of a 3DS release.

 Pokémon Black Version     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: RPG

 With a story boasting a new sense of depth and maturity, the gameplay experiencing the usual slight improvements, a bucket load of content round every corner, and gorgeous environments supported by an impressive graphics update providing a whole new perception of what constitutes 3D gaming, Pokemon Black has managed to impress.

quote Dark Arcanine
Pokemon Black, alongside Pokemon White, sees the fifth generation of main titles into fruition and into a new decade. Unlike with the fourth generation, where I scoured the dark recesses of the internet for every scrap of information I could find, I took a comparatively relaxed view on Pokemon Black and purchased it with very little knowledge of what to expect. Despite my original anticipation that it would be released on the 3DS, I eagerly plugged the cartridge in wondering not just how far they’d pushed the Nintendo DS, but also the Pokemon franchise itself.

One thing that will never change is the basic premise of Pokemon. You still get to pick your starter Pokemon, while being asked to complete a Pokedex by filling it with information about all the Pokemon you meet while on your adventure; you still travel around the world, collecting Gym badges and becoming the number one trainer; and you still have an evil organisation, who you have to prevent carrying out acts of evil. What’s different about this generation is the new sense of maturity and the quality of the content which encompass the aforementioned premise.

The plot, for example, is the most detailed and engaging to-date. Following the hard decision of your name and gender (I know, I always forget mine too), you venture out from Nuvema Town into the new region known as Unova, with your two (yes, two) childhood friends Cheren and Bianca at your side. These two, unlike previous friends and rivals, are given the royal treatment; their characters appear much more often and, as a result, are far better developed. While Cheren is the whizz kid with an unhealthy focus on becoming the strongest trainer, Bianca is a laidback and quiet girl who just wants to have fun and make friends, with the two characters seemingly representing two halves of your typically non-speaking neutral character.
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The twenty-ninth round of Articles of Excellence continues the indie flavour, with Dark Arcanine winning the round with his review of Trine. He describes it as an overall great game with an engaging atmosphere and enjoyable puzzles, though it does create a want for more content and a longer lifespan in the process.

 Trine     Score: 4.0/5
 Genre: Side-scrolling Action Platformer and Puzzle

 So with a decent plot, engrossing atmosphere and highly enjoyable puzzle system, Trine proves itself a winner amongst the ever growing sea of indie titles.

quote Dark Arcanine
Developed by Frozenbyte, Trine is an indie side-scrolling puzzle game. Nothing new, I hear you say? Well, the difference between Trine and a lot of other indie titles (coughZenoClashcough), is that it’s actually a good game on multiple levels, and not just relying on one element or, even worse, a mere empty husk. Set in the good old medieval world of knights and castles, Trine sees you playing through its 15 levels with an unlikely trio of heroes: a bold and rather brash knight, an acrobatic and sneaky thief, and an eccentric lady-loving wizard. Boasting puzzles, platforming and fighting, Trine successfully combines a multitude of genres to produce an indie title that is actually worthy of attention, allowing it to standout amongst the ever growing crowd.

Upon starting your game, you find yourself participating in three short tutorials, effectively introducing you to each of the three characters. Upon all three characters having show off their personal skills and reaching the same spot, the plot starts to unfold. Each places their hand on a three-sided magical artefact known as the Trine. Feeling an unquestionable magical power, the three find themselves bound together, their souls entwined and their paths merged into one exciting quest. In an attempt to free themselves from one another, as well as saving the kingdom on the side from an army of the undead, the fateful trio set out into a once beautiful world, now ravaged by the forces of evil.
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With the twenty-eighth round finished, Monterey Jack has ceased his winning streak to hand over the round to Dark Moor for her review of Capsized. She describes it as having a solid core, but also as having a short lifespan and features that seem added on for the sake of it.

 Capsized     Score: 3.8/5
 Genre: Side-scrolling Action Platformer

 Capsized is a good game, but it could use some work. The presentation is fantastic, and the game itself is a rather exciting romp. However, it's too short, and the additional modes are tacked on at best, stopping this game from being the masterpiece it could've been.

quote Dark Moor
Crash landing on a far away planet is never fun. What usually happens is that you end up stranded in a wasteland or a series of dark caves and space stations, not to mention alien food! From classics like Doom and Metroid, to even newer games like Bulletstorm, this is a theme that is common, but far from overused, and remains fresh as a result. So... why not have one more game like this? Capsized is a game that takes its cues from games like Contra, Metroid and other such run and gun games, but does so in a way that makes it quite refreshing and well worth your time and money.

There isn't exactly a story to look forward to or anything in this game. Basically, you, an unnamed astronaut, and your crew of other unnamed astronauts crash land on a planet, and now you have to fight through alien hordes while rescuing crew members and finding a way to get off the planet. The astronauts are completely silent, outside of a few grunts and moans every now and again, and the only text is in the menu and a few tutorial segments here and there. It's not a problem, but it always feels like something could've been done. With that said, thanks to the gameplay, it's not going to matter too much.
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Proving it's not an impossible task - and forcing me to finally learn how to spell the name in the process - Monterey Jack has sealed his big hat-trick, with a three in-a-row win streak thanks to his review of TRINITY: Souls of Zill O'll. Aside from the soundtrack and combat, he describes it as a mediocre title in need of a good trim (length of the game, that is) and a much better plot.

We would also like to acknowledge the sad news of the passing of Vergil Ties, who has long been a regular of this contest and will be missed by us all.

 TRINITY: Souls of Zill O'll     Score: 2.8/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 If every cutscene was given voice acting and the game trimmed out 2/5ths of itself, Trinity: Souls Of Zill O'll would be a pretty good dungeon crawler. Sadly, that isn't the case.

quote Monterey Jack
Alright Koei/Omega Force, let's see what you guys got here... ah, I see, a dungeon crawler with some RPG elements. Not bad. I mean, at least it isn't a rehash of Dynasty Warriors. Sure, half the stuff I see here is soo 2004, but I guess I'll let it slide, because it seems like a concept that'll work out for you guys, and I hope some outdated crap doesn't hurt the experience. Hopefully, it won't get snubbed in favor of Dragon Age 2, your arch rival. Perhaps your Japanese dungeon crawler will outdo Bioware's American dungeon crawler on the grounds that people will be too sceptical to purchase Dragon Age 2, and buy this game out of curiosity. Games that come out of nowhere tend to be pretty good, eh?

Yeah, that's what I thought until I actually decided to play through the game. The end result is an above average game that's too *bleep*ing long for its own good, with too much fat that needs to be cut out before it can be considered good or even great. It's got a few more screws loose, but it's also done a few things exceptionally well. I bet you're all wondering what sucks and what rocks, or probably even what this game is. Well, sit down and pay attention. You might learn something.

One day, Emperor Balor receives a prophecy, telling him that he will be slain by his own grandson. This has him go after his daughter and son. The son, Prince Lugh, was actually raising a family in secrecy... until he's figured out, and he gets slain, but his wife and two kids manage to escape. Perhaps Balor ought to use this prophecy to not be such a douche? You know, instead of being all paranoid and shit by killing everyone that shares his blood? Anyway, flash forward a couple of decades, and one of those kids grows up to be a fighter at the arena. This kid is called Areus, and he's a half elf. If Tales Of Symphonia taught me anything, it's that whenever half elves are involved, so is prejudice, and later on in the game, it's used in an effort to turn friends against each other, but I'm getting about 10 or 12 hours ahead of myself here. So yeah, Areus fights at the arena in the town of Liberdam, but he's encouraged to become an adventurer. Basically, he reports to Adventurer's Guilds to start doing some quests that involve slaying monsters, recovering treasures and escorting people through the many dungeons laid out in the world of Vyashion. He eventually meets with two people - big bloke Dagda, and token chick Selene - and together, they go out to save the world from the big bad Dyneskal army... oh, and Areus wants to avenge his family by killing Emperor Balor. Yeah, that becomes his main motivation to really do anything in this game.
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With a second win in-a-row, Monterey Jack has taken out the twenty-sixth round with his review of Vanquish. Despite describing it as having a poor plot, small campaign and an absent multiplayer (if you're insistent on that sort of thing), overall he describes it as a good game with gameplay, visual and audio elements combining to make an engaging title that breaks away a little from the typical mould.

 Vanquish     Score: 4.3/5
 Genre: Action Shooter

 Vanquish is a pretty good game with a pretty shitty story.

quote Monterey Jack
So yeah, Vanquish pretty much kicks ass. No need to really pussyfoot around the obvious with this game, mostly because it never pussyfoots around during gameplay. It never gives you anything more than scenarios where you have to shoot down a bunch of robots, perhaps except quick time events, but they're not overdone or bullshit, so they're not worth expanding on. Anyway, if you haven't already got this game, shit, I'll go and convince you to go and get it.

Basically, Russia attacks San Francisco with powerful advanced technologies, and now it's up to Sam Gideon's badass new ARS suit and some American soldiers to take Russia down before it's too late - whether that refers to America's unconditional surrender or the takeover/destruction of Ameirca, that's up to both sides. That's all there is to it - cutscenes either just go along the lines of "aww shit, more *bleep*ing things shooting at us" or is basically Sam destroying some big robot. I mean, they try to cram in some other shit, but it's so thinly spread that it doesn't even matter. Then again, a shooter is like toast, and the story is like vegimite - spread it thinly, or it'll taste like shit.
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The big twenty-five saw the round receive an equably big number of votes, putting several people in with a chance. A new face brings new success however, as Monterey Jack took out the round with his review of Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland. Despite presenting an interesting alchemy system and a decent soundtrack, he describes it as overall a rather average RPG, let down by the other, less impressive aspects. Perhaps the chemistry wasn't quite right?

 Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland     Score: 3.0/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist Of Arland is an okay game, really. It just lacks the punch that a good game usually has.

quote Monterey Jack
Atelier Rorona marks the beginning of the Arland arc that Gust had started up. But unlike the Iris or Mana Khemia arcs, this arc has a pretty lame beginning. The games aren't exactly complicated in design, but they're at least fun to go through; Atelier Rorona is just *bleep*ing boring, and it eventually gets to the point where you just want to finish it and then trade it in for an RPG that isn't just slightly above average, like White Knight Chronicles. I mean, Jesus, there are many things I could've bought with thirty bucks, like a few DVDs, the first season of the Pokemon anime, or a pre-owned copy of Grand Theft Auto IV... but nope, I spent it on a mediocre RPG instead. Oh joy.

In the beginning, a town lived very simple lives, sort of like medieval times, but then suddenly, a traveller shows them the art of alchemy. The town was impressed, and wanted in on it. Alchemy was here to stay... or was it? Years later, the alchemy shop ends up in debt due to the laziness of the shopkeeper and poor reputation, and the king's advisors suggested that he shut down the shop and open up a factory. The king, however, has a heart and suggested that the shopkeeping alchemist should complete a series of assignments to prove her worth. As the shopkeeper is a lazy bitch, she gets her student to do it for her. No impending doom, no wars, no “the king is really satan” sort of thing going on – just some wholesome shopkeeping woes.
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Seeing out the twenty-fourth round of Articles of Excellence, Dark Moor has taken out another win with her review of Super Meat Boy. Although it may not have much going for it plot-wise, it makes up for it with fun gameplay with difficulty to make you... think, and a catchy soundtrack to boot. If you're a fan of difficulty and achievements, this could be the platformer for you.

 Super Meat Boy     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: Platformer

 Super Meat Boy is a great platformer. It has tough but fair and balanced difficulty backed up by simple yet effective gameplay and a bloody awesome soundtrack.

quote Dark Moor
Beginning life as a game on Newgrounds, Meat Boy enjoyed a decent amount of success, though it was criticised for having slippery controls. But either way, it was popular enough to entice the creators to try and make a full game out of it, available for download on Xbox Live and Steam (and Wiiware... oh wait, that version got canned.. whoops). Well, some time later, for under fifteen dollars, you can sign your life away to play a simple little platformer... that goes from manageable to STOP IT DADDY IT HURTS difficult. It will consume your soul, and the only way you're getting it back is by beating the game...

There isn't much in the way of a story... Meat Boy's girlfriend, Bandage Girl, gets kidnapped by Dr Fetus, and Meat Boy has to rescue her. Nice. Grade A story right there, folks! It's told in cutscenes that occur when you enter a world, and before and after the boss level, but as you should expect, it's nothing deep or meaningful; just simple old school storytelling of "for me to know and you to find out". There are references towards other video games, most notably Super Mario Brothers (if you're not sure, it's in the title and the concept of the minus levels), which gives the story a bit of flavor, but overall, it's nothing overly special.
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Several people scored votes in the twenty-third round of Articles of Excellence, with Dark Moor acquiring the most for her review of the point-and-click game, The Whispered World. Although she's full of praise for some aspects such as the beautiful graphics, the overall opinion is hacked down by such negative aspects as the voice acting and the puzzle-solving, with the combination resulting in a case of gaming irritation.

 The Whispered World     Score: 1.7/5
 Genre: Puzzle Adventure

 The Whispered World is not absolutely terrible, but too many puzzles requiring dumb luck and generally not being accomplishing in any way, plus the irritating and nearly story destroying voice acting just hurt this game to the point of no return.

quote Dark Moor
When you think of adventure games, what's the first thing to come to your mind? Zelda? Maniac Mansion? Shadowgate? Myst? Obviously, the best examples are in the point and click subgenre - with no disrespect towards Zelda, which opts for d-pads/analogue sticks for movement rather than pointing and clicking - and you'd be a bloody fool for not agreeing that the best adventure games are point and click ones. Most of them have well thought out puzzles and some pretty clever storylines and dialogue. They're surprisingly enjoyable, but I don't feel the need to spend hours typing up why that is. Unfortunately, there was a decline for a good few years due to the popularity of first person shooters, but with the rise of Flash and the DS, it got back on its feet. I would say good thing because we'd never experience this game, but then I'd be lying... I mean, I love some of the modern point and click adventure games like the Sam And Max and Tales Of Monkey Island games, and I'm grateful that this style is getting more popular, but that doesn't change the fact that The Whispered World is just really mediocre, bordering on absolute garbage at times...

So our main hero, Sadwick, has recurring nightmares of the apocalypse that he causes... I suppose thoughts of the world ending stem from the fact that he's a down and out circus clown that's one step away from pulling to trigger and ending it all. Coincidently, there's a prophecy stating that Sadwick will end the world. Come on, the lad is clearly depressed. Don't make him feel worse about himself! But I suppose whatever motivates him to actually save the world will do. Oh, and he has to save the king from an illness by finding the Whispered Stone, lest the realm be taken over by Asgil, the kingdom's opposing race... What gives the story its legs are the characters and the writing. The writing can be pretty witty, although sometimes annoying due to Sadwick's extremely pessimistic outlook on like (his dialogue can get tiresome after a while, let's just say), and also due to an imperfect German-to-English translation; what could be a gutbuster ends up being amusing, as the dialogue can feel stilted and often fairly awkward, but then there are some very well written moments to balance that out. Overall, the story - at least, if it was presented as a book - ends up very compelling, if a bit on the crappy side due to mistranslation.
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Our twenty-second round saw some even voting across a couple of reviews. Taking out the win this time is Gamecube Guru with his review of Vectorman. Describing it as a well-made side-scrolling title with enjoyable gameplay and the potential for a franchise that was never realised, his healthy scoring of the game reflects the lucky nature of the fact it found its way into a video game collection release.

 Vectorman     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: Action Platformer

 Vectorman is a very well made game. In fact, it's a near masterpiece as far as sidescrolling games are concerned.

quote Gamecube Guru
Vectorman is a pretty damn good game, there's no doubt about it. The only people who hate on it are graphics whores and people who suck at it. Unfortunately, like Comix Zone, had it not been for some compilation discs that have been released throughout the years, nobody except for hardcore Sega Genesis fans would've heard of it and bought it because 3D gaming consoles were on the way, and everyone was like "oh mate gotta get an N64 or PS1 or Saturn". Thank god for these various Genesis collections, or it'd be pretty hard to experience such an awesome game.

In the future, pollution manages to screw the world over so much, that humanity had fled to other planets, leaving robots or "orbots" to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, a powerful robot known as Raster is attached to a nuclear missile, and influences the orbots to rebel and cause chaos. Our hero, Vectorman, comes back from delivering sludge to the sun - as he was at the sun at the time, he was unaffected - and now he has to stop Raster. What makes this kick ass is that it's one of the few environmental stories that doesn't seem so up its own ass. Like most action games, the story just sets you up, gives you a reason to kick ass and take names. Doesn't matter what the theme is; it takes a backseat to the gameplay, but what you see is at least interesting enough.
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The twenty-first round of Articles of Excellence saw the winning position shift between multiple reviewers several times. Though one review came out on top in the end: Brutal Legend by Crazyhand. Describing it as an average game in some respects and giving it an okay score overall, the reasons you'll want to be getting it is if you're really into hack and slash games or a fan of the metal genre.

 Brutal Legend     Score: 3.5/5
 Genre: Action/Adventure

 Brutal Legend is an ambitious game by an ambitious creator, but too much ambition and not enough effort can only go so far.

quote Crazyhand
When you think about metal, you think about a bunch of dudes banging on their drums, randomly strumming their guitars, and screaming into the mic like dying hyenas. Although people have proved this ignorant stereotype wrong time and time again, who cares, ignorance for the win! Besides, that just means one less poser in the metal culture.. So here's a game that embelishes the culture - the music, and the positive stereotypes... I hate Metalocalypse because it glorifies the negative stereotypes associated with metal (that, and it's about as funny as Dane "MAYBE IF I YELL IT'LL BE FUNNY" Cook), whereas Brutal Legend brings out the fun loving side of metal! Grab a beer and enjoy!

Brutal Legend starts off with Eddie Riggs, the world's best roadie for the world's worst bands, wishing that he could go back to a time when metal was awesome. One night, during a freak accident with one of the props and electricity, Eddie sacrifices himself to save one of the dumbass tweens, and thanks to his belt buckle which is actually an amulet of the fire beast Ormageddon, he's transported to somewhere ripped right out of the stone ages. After some formalities, he learns of a plot by the Hair Metal army lead by Lionwhyte, who looks like a mash up of every hair metal band member at once... shit, he has so much hair, he can fly by flapping it! But yeah, Eddie has to stop him from reviving an evil monster god and has to take down the oppressive emperor known as Doviculus.
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Twentieth round may be late in announcement, but it's no less exciting! Although it was originally a close race between three different reviewers, Insanity Prevails gained a clear lead and took the win with his review of The Path. Another Indie title making waves in the gaming world, The Path makes an interesting blend between gamer participation and experience. He describes it as an interesting creepy adventure title, but one with obvious flaws that might put off the less interested of participants.

 The Path     Score: 2.8/5
 Genre: Adventure

 I do want to say that the experience offered by The Path is unlike anything else, but the gameplay flaws aren't easily ignored.

quote Insanity Prevails
The indie scene has always been a source for finding the mot bizarre "out there" projects you could possibly think of. Tale of Tales is certainly known for fitting this aspect perfectly, and their The Path game is a fine example of this, to the point of raising the question of whether it's a game at all or more of an experience. I guess the best thing to do now though is to figure out whether it's worth your money or not.

I'll start with what The Path is. This is a dark twisted tale based loosely around the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. Six girls are all tasked with taking some food and drink supplies to grandmother's house deep in the woods. That's about where the clear cut story elements end, because the rest of the story essentially boils down to a psychological mind*bleep* where it's up to you to figure out what the heck is going on.
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That's right, they just couldn't help themselves! Seeing an unprecedented occurrence, and a bit of history made in Articles of Excellence, the nineteenth round saw a hat-trick win for the seemingly very popular indie title, Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale. This time our review is written by newcomer (to reviews at least!) Quierta, who also thoroughly enjoys it (surprise!). She too describes it as having a level of difficulty, but being rewarding in return. Perhaps this is a gentle nudge towards developers to say "we want more games about dungeon crawling AND shop keeping"?

 Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale     Score: 4.7/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 For a game with so little backing and so small a concept, it certainly leaves a big impression.

quote Quierta
Recettear, at a first glance, is just a small indie game perhaps akin to the likes of the infamous Facebook game "Farmville" or whatever Zynga's managed to come up with recently. However, that is very much INCORRECT!

The overall plot of the game is rather simple. You play as Recette, a young girl who is currently living alone in her father's home. It seems that he's gone missing, apparently having partaken in some large adventure and never having returned. Much to her surprise she is one day visited by a fairy by the name of Tear. She instructs you that your father left you with a daunting debt which you will have to repay, or you will be thrown on the streets. A compromise is made - you will turn your home into an item shop, buy and sell items at a profit and slowly widdle away at the overly large debt your father has so kindly left on your lap.
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Our eighteenth round saw a heated round of voting and a very interesting win. Switching between clear winner and neck-and-neck, the round ended out with a victory for Dark Moor and her Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale review. This follows Insanity Prevails' win with a review of the same game in the previous round! Though by the sound of it, this game deserves the spotlight twice in-a-row. Describing it as difficult, but in an enjoyable way, as well as highly addictive, she too describes it as a great game with evident originality.

 Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is a very well constructed and original game that puts you in the perspective of a shopkeeper.

quote Dark Moor
You know how in most RPGs, you have to buy weapons, armor and items from a shop in order to stand a bit more of a chance against the forces of evil, right? You'd think that the shopkeepers would cut you some slack and give you a discount because you're saving the world from said forces of evil... nope. Shopkeepers can't play favorites here! And that's the case for this game, where you ARE a shopkeeper, needing to make sure that you earn as much money as possible without driving the customer away because you're demanding a thousand dollars for a piece of candy.

Recette has lived the easy life; she never had to work a day in her life and could spend the day sleeping, dreaming of sweets. Then one day, a fairy by the name of Tear comes by and asks Recette to pay quite a hefty amount of money. Why? Because Recette's father took out a hefty loan and left Recette with an enormous debt. At least Tear isn't a ruthless loan shark/Nazi, and she decided to let Recette work it off, paying it off week by week. Recette decides to work as a shopkeeper, with Tear helping her along the way. Throughout the game, I was expecting the story to become more deep and engrossing, but honestly, simple and lighthearted is a great alternative. The dialogue between the characters ranges from just plain light hearted to pretty hilarious. You can tell that the game doesn't take itself too seriously.
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Seventeenth round took place between Christmas and New Years Eve, though not everyone was busy as Insanity Prevails had multiple reviews in the running, with his one for Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale getting the clear win. Using an interesting combination of shop management and dungeon crawling, the indie title has a lot of fun on offer. In fact, he doesn't really have any complaints, and neither will you unless you're not fond of proper difficulty settings.

 Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale     Score: 4.7/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 Recettear is a wonderful shop management slash dungeon crawler game that brings about a rare experience that I think anyone would just love, and with a low price attached to it then it is easy to go ahead and have some fun.

quote Insanity Prevails
This is my review of Recettear. It is a rather unique and awesome game. Go buy it now. End.

Well, I suppose I should explain things a bit better, but my abruptness should go some way to expressing the sheer love I have for this game. There truely are very few games quite like this, and fewer still done with the kind of addictive quality that demands you to play one more day. A shining example of what indepedent developers can pull off.

So then, what is Recettear? It is primarily a shop management game that reverses the usual RPG roles. This time you are the shop keeper happily ripping off adventurers risking their lives to venture into the most dangerous of dungeons. The game also throws in dungeon crawling areas that can help you in your playthrough. About the only comparison I can make is to Natsume's Harvest Moon Rune Factory games, but done so much better.

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The sixteenth round saw someone who isn't a regular reviewer come in with a hefty challenge and take out the win. Writing a review which measures on the longer side, Machienzo has achieved victory with his review for Fallout: New Vegas. Describing it as a step in the right direction and back towards Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, he praises it for the improvement of storyline and gameplay mechanics, the great attention to audio and a high level of replayability. Though sadly, the game does suffer quite noticeably from bugs.

 Fallout: New Vegas     Score: 4.3/5
 Genre: Sci-Fi RPG

 It needs to be said, that contrary to popular belief, New Vegas stands as its own. Despite the numerous connections and comparisons made between both Fallout 3 and New Vegas, the game has been specifically defined as a Spin-Off and NOT a sequel.

quote Machienzo
The game starts off within the setting of Nevada, more specifically the Mojave Wasteland, in the year 2281, 4 years after the events of Fallout 3, and 204 years after the great war of 2077. As such, it revolves around a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, and focuses on many central themes to the series such as greed and war. The player controls a character known as “The Courier”, who themselves are developed directly by how the player chooses to proceed throughout the game. Everything from their gender, personality, skills and general socialisation is controlled by the player.

The story starts off with attempted assassination of The Courier, and the theft of an important package he was carrying which was meant to be delivered. The game begins with being buried alive after being ambushed by a gang, accompanied by a particularly dressed man. Afterwards, The Courier is dug up by a friendly robot called Victor, and nursed back to health by a small-town Doctor. From then on, they are left to set out into the wide world of the Mojave, and given the freedom to make critical story moral choices which will affect how the game and world develops.
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Fifteenth round of Articles of Excellence saw a second short list of review, but with some very interesting voting. Neck-and-neck from start to finish, right at the end a review managed to get the one-up. That review is Dark Arcanine's review of Metroid: Other M. Giving it an alright score, he discusses how he enjoyed the more immersive combat system, decent plot, return-to-roots gameplay and a good look. Having said this, the game suffers from cut scene spam, fractured perspective switching and playing with a male-dominated Samus.

 Metroid: Other M     Score: 3.8/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 In summarising Metroid: Other M, I’d have to call it an ambitious title. It wanted to achieve a lot, but lost in the process a lot of what made the previous titles so enjoyable.

quote Dark Arcanine
Metroid: Other M promised a lot when first announced. It tantalised the newer fans with the interesting concept of the ability to instantaneously swap between first and third-person. It wafted a familiar smell toward the veterans, promising a gameplay with a return to roots. With something to keep everyone happy, it looked to be a very strong release. Sadly this is not the case, as Metroid: Other M back flips on the previous Prime series efforts to present a game that lacks that something special and will ultimately end up collecting the dust on your shelf. So where did it go so wrong for our blonde heroine from outer space?

The plot starts out simple enough; Samus is cruising around in her ship when she receives a distress call. Alarmed by the name of signal, she has a flashback to when the baby Metroid saved her from Mother Brain. She answers the call and lands on the Bottle Ship. Once onboard, it’s clear that something is wrong as Samus runs into a Galactic Federation squadron led by her former commander, Adam Malkovich. As they split up and explore the ship, it becomes clear that this will not be an easy mission. With team mates disappearing, old enemies resurfacing, and a ship that was home to illegal experiments, it doesn’t take long before Samus becomes suspicious about why the Galatic Federation, along with other things, are onboard this ship. As the game progresses, Samus is faced with not only the challenge of finding out what happened, but also the coming to terms with her own past.
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The fourteenth round saw a short list of reviews facing off for the win, though that's not to say it was any less exciting! With quite a split round of voting, the result was no less than a four-way tie. Emerging from the group to claim the prize, Vergil Ties and his review for The Bouncer. Giving the beat-'em-up title a low score, he discusses how it may have great graphics, but that it lacks anything decent in the way of more vital elements such as plot and gameplay.

 The Bouncer     Score: 1.0/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 Dreamfactory were way too busy jacking it to the graphics to actually program a video game. The Bouncer is a colossal failure and a waste of 2+ hours.

quote Vergil Ties
The Bouncer is one of those titles that Square are – or ought to be – embarrassed with. It was a piece of shit through and through with a laughably crap story and lackluster gameplay that failed to titillate the senses. Now, this was back during the PS2's launch, which wasn't exactly its best time, and there was pressure to make it seem like the next big thing in gaming. The Bouncer was meant to showcase the PS2's power, and while it certainly had some nice graphics, the game was a piece of shit. Don't ask me why people like it, because then I'll have to explain how people can stomach about half the shit on MTV, and I'm not that *bleep*ing smart! But enough procrastination – let's dive into this putrid pile of piss that verifies the fact that graphics do not make a game!

Bare witness to a damsel in distress plot, as our main character, Sion, and his bouncer buddies, Volt and Kou, all have to rescue Sion's good friend, Dominique, from a solar energy corporation. There. That's your entire story.
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The unlucky number thirteen sees our latest round off, and just after Halloween (plays X-Files tune in the background). Though the latest round of Articles of Excellence has been anything but unlucky for Dark Moor, who's achieved yet another win with their review of Resonance of Fate. If you don't mind graphics that won't get Avatar fans wetting their pants for a second time, Dark Moor praises the RPG for great gameplay and for stepping away from the typical structure you've come to expect from the genre.

 Resonance of Fate     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 If you're getting sick of RPGs that follow the same formula set by Final Fantasy and don't mind average quality graphics, give this a spin. You won't be disappointed.

quote Dark Moor
Resonance Of Fate is a JRPG that actually manages to break the mould by presenting itself... a bit differently from its competition. You got your normal towns and townsfolk, and random encounters, but that's about all that stays traditional. The battle system, world map and characterization will surprise you with the execution and presentation, and believe me when I say... it's nothing to be afraid of.

I can't quite say that the story was that good. It starts off interesting, but then it evolves into a mess. Basically, the world is polluted and as a result, everybody flees to the Tower of Basel, which has some sort of purification shield. Unfortunately, it malfunctions and most of the tower is left polluted by poison. Let's skip to our heroes, Vashyron, Zephyr and Leanne - they're hunters who take down monsters for cash, and... I don't know, there's some philosophical stuff about existence and... you know what, I stopped paying attention in the second half, because it just hits you with a whole lot of stuff through some long winded speeches, but when it's delivered, it all feels like a barrage of scrunched up paper; not enough depth to actually mean anything significant. Rather, it's just confusing and awkward.

It's quite disappointing, because the first half was excellent. There wasn't much of a story to screw up; it was just three workmates who acted like best friends, and a fair amount of hilarity ensues throughout.
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Round twelve of Articles of Excellence sees the snag of a two-in-a-row win for upcoming regular reviewer Polarity. Despite votes being spread among several worthy contenders, Polarity won it out with his Prince of Persia review. Describing it as a change of pace, Polarity gives it a decent score because even though it has some flaws, it still brings a solid meal to the table.

 Prince of Persia     Score: 4.0/5
 Genre: Action Adventure

 Prince Of Persia 08 isn't much like the Sands Of Time trilogy; rather, it focuses more on platforming and collect-a-thons, the latter of which, I thought was extinct long ago...

quote Polarity
Having gone through the Sands Of Time trilogy a few times in my short lifetime, to see a completely different prince starring in a game that's called Prince Of Persia was a little bit of a shock to my system, as he looked so different.... I suppose this is how the fans of the older games on DOS felt after seeing the redesigned Prince for the Sands Of Time trilogy. But in any case, with change, has to come lowered expectations - we can't expect the same sort of thing we got with the Sands Of Time trilogy, and in a way, we expected correctly. Prince Of Persia 08 isn't much like the Sands Of Time trilogy; rather, it focuses more on platforming and collect-a-thons, the latter of which, I thought was extinct long ago... I guess somebody at Ubisoft thought to bring them back. But does this change make the game worthy of the name "Prince Of Persia"? Yes, I think it does, but that doesn't excuse some of the problems found throughout.

The game starts with a different looking Prince - who isn't actually a prince, but nevertheless, we're never given a name for the guy, so... why not call him Prince - out in the desert, during a sandstorm looking for his donkey who has the King's ransom in stolen gold. He runs into Elika, who is fighting off two guards. After a bit, they enter the Temple Of Ahriman, which has an evil entity called Ahriman, and his legions of minions known as the Corrupted, sealed inside a room, though that doesn't last long, because Elika's father, the king, cuts down the Tree Of Life, setting Ahriman and his minions free, and corrupting the world around them.
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Eleventh round over in Articles of Excellence and another winner is crowned. Unable to win the majority of votes last round, Polarity not only scored votes for multiple reviews but won with one too. Giving a kinder score to a game that also won two weeks ago, Polarity's review of Final Fantasy XIII describes a game that picks up the slack a bit, but still isn't hitting that high note they've come to expect from the series.

 Final Fantasy XIII     Score: 3.3/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 Final Fantasy XIII had a rocky start with low difficulty and a convoluted storyline, but if you stay with it, you'll actually have a bit of fun with it, and feel a lot more challenged.

quote Polarity
Final Fantasy and myself haven't been getting along for years now. Since Final Fantasy X2, I just can't seem to see Final Fantasy in the same light I saw it in when I first played Final Fantasy VI on the Super Nintendo at the tender age of six, and continued on with the series as I grew up and started supporting Sony instead of Nintendo. Don't get me wrong, Final Fantasy X2 and XII had good intentions, but the storylines just weren't engrossing enough, and neither were the characters. But at the very least, they weren't terrible games; just lackluster in comparison to the rest of the series, as is this game right here, Final Fantasy XIII. It, too, has good intentions, but it doesn't quite meet those expectations. Now, this is a bit more like it, at the very least, but... I don't know, it just doesn't feel as good as it should've.

For instance, the storyline was a bit convoluted. It wasn't the easiest to follow if you weren't paying a lot of attention to the cutscenes. There is a lot of talk about L'Ci, Fal'Ci, the Sanctum (which is Final Fantasy XIII's equivalent of the government), and a bunch of other stuff that only makes sense if you pay attention to the cutscenes. There is quite a lot to take in within the first 25 hours before it decides to downplay the story almost completely, which makes the pacing seem extremely off.
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Having retired from the position of running our much cherished Articles of Excellence contest, we've recently seen the return to participation of one of our long-running, high quality reviewers. Insanity Prevails has netted his latest win for his review of Scribblenauts on the Nintendo DS. Describing it as a game that went and did something refreshingly different with some flaws, he concludes it's worth the purchase, if only just.

 Scribblenauts     Score: 3.5/5
 Genre: Puzzle

 In all it somewhat leaves Scribblenauts as an odd title. I can't honestly say it is a great game because it has some glaring flaws that would get any other title lynched, but at the same time I find the sheer experience of creating almost whatever you want to be something all gamers should dabble in.

quote Insanity Prevails
Every so often we get a game idea that manages to break away from the otherwise endless stream of tried and tested formulae. These are the kinds of games that don't just present a unique feature or a fresh approach on an old idea but instead give us an entire experience unlike the rest. Scribblenauts concept is to allow the creative minds of the gamers to flourish by letting them create almost anything they want to complete the levels and it's an idea that excites any gamer. After all, who could resist that?

The overall point of the game is to collect the starites located in every level. While each stage already has a multitude of objects already in place, the real point of it all is to summon new objects to solve the problems and reach the goal. A simple tap of the book opens up the input screen where you can tap in (or literally write if you want, although it's a painfully slower process) words of stuff you want to summon to the level. You can then drag the objects around, attach them to things in some cases and use them. Finding the right combinations is the key.
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With the ninth round of Articles of Excellence comes another win for reviewer Dark Moor. A clear winner this time, Dark Moor's review of Final Fantasy XIII from the very popular Final Fantasy series paints a picture quite dark, describing the game as pretty poor overall and a poor attempt at a game to appeal to Western World gamers, giving it a low final score.

 Final Fantasy XIII     Score: 1.5/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 Boring story, hardly any gameplay, almost no immersion, devoid of customization, and overall, just a bad game!

quote Dark Moor
Final Fantasy is a series that started off as Square's original swansong, into an innovator in the RPG genre, and now into Square's cash cow with at least twenty two million spin off games for the DS, PSP and Wii. Of course, nothing in the series has managed to top the success of Final Fantasy VII, nor have any been as good as Final Fantasy VI (in my opinion, at least). It's quite unfortunate that Final Fantasy XIII doesn't do the series justice, either. In fact, it was pretty weak. It wasn't interesting, nor is it even that good.

There are two worlds - the floating Cocoon, and the underground Pulse. Both worlds have waged war against each other, and Cocoon have managed to push the beings of Pulse back to their side, but it's raised some tensions between the two worlds, pretty much to the point where Cocoon's government, the Sanctum, have encouraged its citizens to hate anything that is remotely related to Pulse, like the L'Cie and Fal'Cie, which becomes a problem when our heroes become L'Cie after destroying a Fal'Cie named Anima (which may spark a familiar feeling, to those who played Final Fantasy X) and have to...
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Eighth round has been announced for the Articles of Excellence contest with votes going left, right and center. Presenting a list consisting of many quality reviews, everyone picked something different as their favourite for the round. Though a winner emerged, Dark Moor and their White Knight Chronicles review on the PS3. Giving us the reasons for why it's a decent RPG to check out and something apart from the usual bunch with a good multiplayer component and a high degree of cusomisation available.

 White Knight Chronicles     Score: 4.0/5
 Genre: Fantasy RPG

 If you're sick of generic RPGs and you want something different in the genre, especially multiplayer that surprisingly works very well, give White Knight Chronicles a call.

quote Dark Moor
White Knight Chronicles is an interesting game. It, like Final Fantasy XII, has torn audiences apart. On one half, you have the people who hate it because they find the battle system too slow. On the other side of the fence, people praise it for its innovative battle system. Now, when it comes to Final Fantasy XII, I'm on no side. I liked the battle system, but the story and characters never peaked my interest, and ultimately, that's what keeps me playing an RPG. White Knight Chronicles's story, despite its simplistic nature, actually kept me coming back. Basically, when it comes to what side of the fence I'm on with White Knight Chronicles, I'm on the side with rainbows and butterflies.

The story revolves around a lad named Leonard. While delivering wine to a city that's under attack, he notices a princess, and within seconds, they're both together, inside a temple. He notices a suit of armor, and she chants a spell, which allows him to use the power of the armor. The armor transforms him into a giant, sword wielding mech warrior. Within a few more seconds, the princess is kidnapped, presumably because her kidnappers know that she can bring all of the suits of mechanical armor to life. Leonard, along with anybody who is willing to help, has to rescue her.
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Those of you kind enough to read my blog will know that earlier in the year I made an entry about joining GameGrep which I felt was a nice promotion for another part of our wonderful site. Today I want to spend some time talking about User Reviews. (This may become a series)

A User Review is simply a review of a game created by a member of our very own site. It's a way for us to get out all our thoughts on a specific game/movie/book and more. Which leads me on to my first point, variety.

People, in the majority, only seem to think you can submit reviews for games. Now this is a skewed idea as it isn't true! I mean, I myself recently did a review for an Australian movie called Gabriel. We have a movie and book sections too, try checking them out some time! Surely if you're not too big of a gamer but enjoy the TV/Movies forum, you'd want to review movies or for those of the Book forum books.

So what is your incentive for writing a review you ask? Well first and most importantly of all, it should be for yourself. It should be for self satisfaction and to tell everyone else what you really think of the object in question, whether it's worth them looking into it or not. Wouldn't you want to save someone from spending their hard earned money and getting something rubbish? Or putting it to something good they would not have thought of before?

My prime and favourite example would be my review of de Blob which I was very proud of. It's a game which people don't really seem to like based upon what they've heard/seen, but I completely disagree! I love the darn game, it's my favourite on my Wii. I wrote the review with a passion to show others that de Blob is a cool game which anyone would like to play, even taking it further to blog about de Blob (sorry for the lack of link it won't work, check out my blog if you would like to read it) in the hopes of inspiring a couple more potential customers.

How do you go about writing a review? It can seem a bit daunting at first, I admit I still read mine over several times once done and many times during typing. Not to mention checking it constantly until it's approved, I just hope I'm the only one with soft nerves. You have three sections which is the best thing to have a look at being Good, Bad and Summary. This can be done in a number of different ways but some people don't do it effectively.

I used to use the Good and Bad sections but I don't anymore. It's best to look at them as a sort of introduction to your review rather than using them as the review. People tend to use Good and Bad for their points and then use the summary as a conclusion which is... well tacky and poor really, no offence meant. What is a good way of using them is bullet points of aspects you found good or bad which you will then outline in the summary.

Your summary is best used as your actual review. Now you can make this look as professional as you like, the review system accepts the same coding you use in the Neoseeker forums so you make bolded sub headings or underline key terms, whatever tickles your fancy. Personally I enjoy using subheadings with simple coding just to give it some more structure and help break up the points better than just a wall of text.

Images and videos are another thing you can incorporate which only a few people actually do, sadly. Again this uses the exact same coding as the Neoseeker forums, so linking to screenshots or YouTube videos is as easy as 1 2 3. These are really nice to put in, as people may notice I enjoy doing with my own... a lot... Anyway, it allows people to see what you're describing and makes for much higher levels of interest from your audience.

Then of course we have our rating system, which can be anywhere from 1 to 5. This is a straight forward decide and click method which I hope you would not need me to help with, but make sure you give it a good amount of thought to make sure you benefit the community as best as possible. Being a very nice person doesn't mean you have to give out very high scores every time if it's not what you think it deserves.

Oh and one thing I like to stress is length. If you have the motivation to write a review, why why why would you submit one which is only a few paragraphs long!? Please, the longer the better is honestly a philosophy I would push upon all of you. Yes we can say that it's quality over quantity, but I think at least around 10,000 characters is needed to make a decent review. If someone would want to debate my statement you may, but whether it's a game/movie/book the diversity allows you to easily make that count with a little thought and effort.

So for those of you who don't get enough by doing good, perhaps I can tempt you with the prospect of NeoPoints. We offer 6 NeoPoints per review, which is a good amount if you ask me. One of the higher paying contributions to the site that's for sure!

If this is still not enough, perhaps you are one who enjoys challenges? Sadly, there is an awesome forum on our site which is largely overlooked. This is the User Reviews Critiques and Help Forum which we encourage all writers of reviews to join. You can share and discuss with like minded people, which I personally find enjoyable. It's a good place to see all the reviews which go into the site, so you can keep up to date with the latest reviews submitted.

One really brilliant thread in this forum is the Articles of Excellence Thread. This is run by Chad who does a great job by the way and does it out of his own time to try and make it more fun for those who make reviews and quite frankly it's disappointing by the fact that few people participate given how many members contribute reviews, his effort deserves better reward. Anyway, it consists of rounds which last for two weeks. He gathers up links to all of the reviews submitted within each two weeks and puts them in the first post. At the end, it's time for voting where people can vote on which they think is their favourite. Then a winner is picked and they receive a pat on the back through congratulations by other members and a guestbook signing or two if you're lucky.

So in conclusion we have self satisfaction, NeoPoints and competition. If that isn't enough, I'm not sure what else I can do other than offer favours or something... depending on what your flow is. Like with GameGrep, I'm willing to tutor anyone who is interested in doing reviews but isn't quite confident enough to start or you what more explanation or pointers. If not me then PM someone else who has a lot of experience like Chad, Insanity Prevails or Vermillion whom I'm sure wouldn't have a problem with helping you either as we'd love to see more people get involved and have our community grow.

So yeah reviews, get into them or do more depending on who you are. If you're interested in my stuff, look here.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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