PAX 2008

PAX 2008: Assorted Hands-On

John Funk | 5 Sep 2008 15:47
PAX 2008 - RSS 2.0

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels (Lucasarts, Wii)

A good fighting game set in the Star Wars universe would have the potential to be amazing. Combining the Star Wars universe with the Wii's motion sensor controls also has the potential to be amazing, letting gamers act out childhood dreams of swinging their very own lightsaber. Unfortunately, whatever potential is there simply fails to be realized. Lightsaber Duels attempts to mimic the stylized art of the (admittedly excellent) Clone Wars animated shorts, but really just comes off as ugly.

I'm a fan of fighting games and generally try to move beyond just mashing buttons, but I just couldn't get the hang of how the game controlled, resulting in haphazard and random Wiimote waggling in an effort to do something. While I feel that it was certainly far from a complete build, the entire thing just felt confusing, unpolished, and unintuitive to control. When two players attack at the same time (assumedly - I wasn't able to figure out what in particular triggered these bits), there's a short sequence as the characters lock sabers and try to overpower each other, ending in a test rewarding the player with the fastest reflexes. It was kind of cool the first time around, but seeing the same animations every time after that became tedious very, very quickly.

Simply put, the game just felt lazy and sloppy. Given that it was a preview build, there's a chance that this could change before release, but I wouldn't hold my breath for it being worth any more than just a rental.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm (Bandai Namco, PS3)

All told, I've seen maybe two episodes of the uber-popular (so I hear) ninja-themed anime Naruto, and I couldn't possibly care less about the franchise either way. I gave Ultimate Ninja Storm a go simply for the hell of it - and was blown away by how much of a breath of fresh air it was after my fiasco with Lightsaber Duels. Despite my lack of interest in the show itself, I found Ultimate Ninja Storm to be a genuinely good game that controlled well even on the PS3 controller (that I happen to be less than familiar with).

The controls are tight and intuitive. Three of the four face buttons correspond to different basic moves - X jumps, O is the basic melee attack, and Square is a fast ranged strike, throwing various ninja implements depending on the character. Triangle temporarily boosts your "Chakra" for a short period of time, and can be used in combination with any of the other three for a more powerful ability. For example, pressing Triangle and X will execute a quick dash instead of a normal jump. The shoulder buttons call your teammates to jump in for an assist or two, potentially prolonging combos.

The game itself is certainly easy on the eyes, and the cel-shading looks absolutely fantastic. The characters move and attack fluidly, and while there was quite a bit happening on the screen at once I never felt too overwhelmed or like I wasn't in control: Ultimate Ninja Storm felt very easy to just pick up and play. While fans of the series are almost certainly going to pick it up, it might be worth a rental even if you've never seen an episode of Naruto in your life, because I had an unexpected blast.

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