First Impression: Sword of Destiny

Sword of Destiny follows in line with 3D oriental fantasy action-adventure slasher games like Genji and Bujingai. Basic and standard story of a lone swordsman who returns home after a long training journey to find the dojo of his master under attack by demons, and finds his master slain and his master's daughter kidnapped by said demonic bad guys, and our hero is now off on a quest to rescue said daughter.
Storyline redundancy aside, the game at least looks good. But when you actually play the game is where you start noticing problems. You have control of the camera, but the camera movement just can't seem to keep up with your characters quick movements at times resulting in the obvious blindsiding enemy attacks. You could probably zip by most of the game if it wasn't a requirement to defeat enemies to allow you to pass to the next area. There's also the learning curve of getting the timing right to continue your air combos. They look cool when you pull them off, but frustrating when you can't and your just slowly gliding down.
And of course like most translated games, the english voice acting is really horrible. You have a badass looking main character, but when he starts to speak he sounds like a kid. All the voices just sound really bad, and it really would have benefited to have the option of switching the voices from english to the original Japanese voices.
Right now, I'm not even sure if I want to continue playing this dreck to give it a full review as it's just boring routine run, fight, open door, recycle etc. I'll probably just drop it and move on. I don't think I'd even recommend this unless you really like repetitive games of this genre.


Outlaw Tennis

Grab your balls and racket, it's time to hit the courts!

In the tradition of Outlaw Golf and Outlaw Volleyball, Outlaw Tennis takes a mediocre sport and spices it up with a cast of extreme characters with attitudes, some sex appeal and a load of interesting play mechanics to stand out from other typical sports games. If not for the added twists of the Outlaw gimmicks, I probably wouldn't be playing tennis, golf or volleyball games, and I'm sure the gimmick has caught the eye of other gamers as well.

Detracting from the norm are the wild bunch of characters available. You start with 4 characters, but as you beat the tour mode, you can unlock other characters as well as clothes and accessories. You can also upgrade the character's stats by playing through the various mini-games in Drill mode, where you do things like strike down a conga line of butchers before they reach a cow, go one-on-one with a killer robot, flip over tiles to reveal a sexy picture of one of the Outlaw babes, and so forth. The mini-games are simple and fun, and do a good job of testing your reflexes and your control of the game which comes in handy when playing the actual game.

Also differing it from standard tennis games are the match types available. From your standard singles and doubles games, there are also Canadian Doubles (two-on-one handicap), Hot Potato (where the ball explodes when the timer runs out), Ping Pong (where the Ping Pong rules and scoring system is used) as well as Football and Baseball where they manage to implement the scoring systems of the two games into tennis. There's also a Casino match where you play for money and a Pinball match where the objective is to score points by hitting the giant pinball pins on the court.

And of course, how can you talk about an Outlaw game without mentioning the characters? The returning cast of stereotypes include the PHD holding stripper, Summer, convicted fellon Killer Miller, Eminem wannabe, Ice Trey, Latin Lover with an enormous bulge in his pants, El Suave, The spoiled rich Jersey girl, Donna, Russian agent Natasha, and there are new characters like Japanese girl Kiku, Swedish porn star Sven Svensvensvenson, and stoned rocker Tommy. There are a total of 16 characters in the game once you've unlocked them all.

The gimmick itself wouldn't hold up if they gameplay didn't deliver, and thankfully, it sort of pulls it off in this one. The controls are simple and easy to get into, with only a small bit of skill required to master to become a top player. But that's not to say the game is without it's challenges. Sometimes it does get frustrating when you have a 1 game lead, and suddenly lose the next two sets in straight games! There also does seem to be a slight control issue as sometimes the characters seem to not respond to your controls in time, which also adds to your frustrations when you lose your lead and are suddenly in a slump where the CPU thrashes you from there on.
You have a Turbo meter which fills up automatically and you can use it to dash around the court quicker or hit the balls faster and harder or even dish out super strong serves. But I've noticed it's best saved just to dash around the court as the super serves and strikes are no biggie and can easilly be countered and returned. There's also the old momentum meter where the better you play, the easier it is, but it's also a double edge sword as the CPU can also take advantage of it, thus leading to you losing major points in straight succession.
You can get a quick Turbo-boost by winning fights, but the fighting engine has degraded to just mashing away at the buttons to fill up your meter before your opponent does, while watching very robotic fighting of the 2 on screen characters.

The graphics for the characters are good and detailed, and the movements are almost realistic looking. Some personnal movement details would have been a nice touch up. The backgrounds range from colorful to bland depending on where the location is, but suit the environment well enough. The backgrounds could do with a little more movement and crowd interaction though.

Audio-wise, the background music seems rather forgettable compared to past games in the series. Maybe some actual licensed tunes would have been better suited. The characters also lack any voices during gameplay, unless you count the quick taunts you can yell before the serve is made. And then there's the commentary, which while funny at times, gets redundant really quick. Nothing really groundbreaking and probably the weakest part of the game.

Overall, despite some minor control issues, this is still an awesome alternative take on the tennis genre of games. Tennis purists might pass, but I think they should give it a try as something different. The same goes for everyone else who wouldn't normally play a tennis game. There really is more to it here than the gimmick, with over a hundred matches to play to unlock everything, this is definately a fun way to kill time.

Game Ratings:
Graphics - 8
Sound - 6
Gameplay - 8
Lifespan - 8
Overall - 8


Sporty Previews

Outlaw Tennis
After seemingly taking forever, the Outlaw crew's rendition of the sport of Tennis is finally out! I've always liked the twists in the Outlaw sports series and have been anticipating this one since it was first announced a long ways back. Hopefully now that I have it in my hands it will deliver the same fun of the previous Outlaw games.

The Hustle: Detroit Streets
An interesting take on pool as you go around from club to club making a name for yourself as the best pool player in Detroit.

Street Fighter Alpha Anthology
OK, this isn't a sport game, but a collection of the Street Fighter Alpha or Zero games; including Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter Alpha 2, Street Fighter Alpha 2: Gold, Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Super Gem Fighter. Expect arcade perfect translations of the games as well as a few hidden surprises in there, and we have a dream come true for Street Fighter Alpha fans like myself.