I'd love to agree with Gene. I'd love to because Beyond Good & Evil has aspects that give it the potential to be a really special videogame. Aspects like characters that have character (rather than some outlined archetype straight from the marketing department), a plotline that could have a lot to say about the ambiguity of moral choices, consistently stunning art direction and a refreshingly simple control scheme.

Unfortunately, for all the great individual aspects of Beyond Good & Evil, the whole only meets, and never exceeds, the sum of its parts, especially in the case of the story it tells. The title of the game hints at the subjective notions of morality as put forth in the Nietzsche writings of the same name. When the story actually unfolds, it turns into something far more pedestrian, a story where the roles of Good and Evil are clearly defined and acted out. Considering how well the game manages to express emotion and its willingness to offer more substance than your standard 3D action game, it's disappointing to see that more wasn't done with it. Put simply, the game is astounding at how well it can convey meaning and emotion, but winds up having nothing complex to say.

The game also has a remarkable camera system to go with the intriguing role of a journalist for the main character, but neither aspect is used for anything other than plot advancement. The ability to access and distribute information, and thus, to a certain extent, control information, is a vital part of a journalist's job. In Beyond Good & Evil, the access and distribution of information is rote, the camera just another tool in the player's quest to progress through the set pieces of the game rather than as something to emphasize the importance of context, especially in a volatile political situation. Like the story, it's well-done, but too simple to be truly engaging.

And truth be told, as slick as the controls were, there wasn't anything that kept me coming back to the gameplay. It was surely a feat to cram so many gameplay styles into one control scheme so seamlessly, but in doing so, the gameplay experience became generic. I'd much rather sneak around in Metal Gear Solid or Tenchu. I'd rather bash enemies in Dynasty Warriors 3. I'd rather race hovercraft in Wipeout or F-Zero GX. Just doing all of these things well enough doesn't make Beyond Good & Evil a special experience.

When writing out an opinion that holds a game in less esteem than the original review, it's hard to avoid sounding overly negative. This paragraph here becomes sort of a necessity, a quick shout-out to the reader to indicate that while this review is mostly negative, my opinion of the game is positive. It's important to remember that Beyond Good & Evil is not a bad game. It's an above-average game, one that many people would call "good"-just not great. Rated 7.5 out fo 10.

Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.

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Here at GameCritics.com, the Second Opinion is supposed to be used to reflect on aspects of the game that the reviewer might feel that the Main Review glossed over, or perhaps to highlight the areas where the opinions of the reviewers differ. In the case of Scott's F-Zero GX review, there is a rather obvious motif, that being the difficulty of the game. So, without further ado, let's get down to brass tacks.

The most important aspect of F-Zero GX's difficulty is that it is fair. The CPU ships are subject to the same rules and restrictions as the human player. For example, there is no "catch-up" or "rubber-banding" used by the computer opponents, at least as far as I can tell. I feel that the difference between games that utilize these "CPU advantages" and those that do not is an important distinction, as it separates F-Zero GX from games that are "artificially" hard—that is, those games that make themselves harder by essentially cheating the gamer. (There is a large exception to this in F-Zero GX, and that is Story Mode, which often offers up situations where the CPU has an unfair advantage[s].)

So I feel that Scott's criticism of F-Zero GX as being "unfair" to be a little off. Hitting off the wall once and shooting from first to last is frustrating, yes, but if the game allows the player to build the skills necessary to succeed in the game and does not allow the CPU access to a larger set of possibilities than the player, then I feel that the game is being "fair." It's that "building" of the skills that becomes the problem.

If the player is a hardcore gamer, someone who can sink days and days of practice into the game, then F-Zero GX is a near-perfect racing experience. But if the player is someone who wants to come home and spend an hour or so playing a videogame, the experience will quickly turn into a frustrating one, because F-Zero GX pretty much requires a certain level of dedication and investment of time in order to succeed. The game is "fair" in that it's possible to do well, but when that requires learning the "perfect line" for every track, becoming completely familiar with the handling of a particular ship, and learning to deal with opponents who are both vicious and precise, it will be overwhelming for many gamers, especially those without much experience with futuristic racers.

The reason that we see this disparity in experiences is the fact that F-Zero GX has an essentially flawed learning curve. Although most people will be able to step up and win the most basic cup on Novice difficulty, there's a giant hill to climb after that, with the tracks becoming incredibly hard and the competition becoming increasingly perfect. The jump between Novice and Standard difficulty is particularly nasty, serving as a harbinger for what's to come. It's a jump that can be made, but only after much hard work on the part of the gamer.

I do find this to be a flaw in the game because the game could manage to be just as difficult and yet more accessible. If there were intermediate difficulty levels between the existing ones, the game would become easier to learn and thus would seem less difficult while still maintaining the same rigid standards at the higher difficulty levels. By consistently rewarding the player with goals achieved as their skill increases, the game would positively reinforce the player. But as F-Zero GX is currently configured, there are two few rewards spread out over a large section of learning. As it currently stands, it's too much like being thrown into the deep end while still learning to swim.

And the game deserves a wider audience than those who already have their lifeguard's certification because F-Zero GX is a labor of love that hits all the right notes, especially aesthetically. The controls are tight and responsive, offering up a configuration simplistic enough to learn quickly but deep enough to provide myriad racing styles. The blindingly fast races show almost no hiccups, and the soundtrack is appropriately energetic for a futuristic racer. One aspect that I particularly enjoyed was the Pilot Profiles. It's one thing to have a quick backstory for each character, but Sega went far enough to provide an individual theme song for each character as well (and these are not quick little ditties, either). Considering the amount of pilots there are in this game, it's commendable that so much work was put into providing a unique persona for each of these pilots. The Pilot Profile section is an example of a videogame done right, with care taken not only for the mechanics of the game, but for providing a cohesive and multi-faceted experience.

The aesthetics are incredible, the gameplay is as smooth as butterbut does the difficulty level kill the experience? It's a hard question to answer and I feel that the only reliable answer to say that it's up to the player to make that call. Everybody's reaction to this game will be unique, depending almost entirely on the previous experience that the player has had with other videogames, especially racing videogames. It's too bad that the game couldn't have been accessible to more gamers, as that really is all there is standing between F-Zero GX and being a great game. This game is rated 7.5 out of 10.

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The Game Boy Advance (GBA) lives a schizophrenic existence. One hand, it's hailed as the successor to the old Game Boy, a technologically advanced piece of equipment that has already brought us some true handheld classics (Advance Wars, the new Castlevanias, etc.). But at the same time, it's reviled for being a dumping ground for Nintendo's older offerings, as Super NES (SNES) title after SNES title has been ported over to the GBA. The tough question to answer is whether these ported titles are a "good" or "bad" thing. Pretty much all of these titles are still good games in the sense that what made them enjoyable at first remains enjoyable at a later date. But does the production of these games preclude production of new games and the possibility of creating new paradigms in games based in 2-dimensional graphics?

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past is fondly remembered as one of the classic entries in the Zelda series and one of the strongest SNES titles. As such, it's no surprise that it was ported to the GBA. I'm not going to spend much time talking about the details of Link To The Past here. It's a solid and competent port, complete with even many of the secret bugs that enamored hardcore fans of the original. Anybody interested in the title for historical or other purposes can approach it with a clear conscience.

Taken entirely on its own, it would be a tough call to make as to whether Link To The Past is worth the time that was put into making it. But that question is overshadowed by the inclusion of an entirely new piece of Zelda adventuring in the form of Capcom's The Legend Of Zelda: The Four Swords, packaged together with Link To The Past. It's because of this new content that I'm pretty much willing to give the cart a pass when it comes to the issue of recycling material.

Granted, Four Swords is driven entirely by GBA connectivity, and if someone who buys this game doesn't know another person with a GBA, Link To The Past and a link cable, the GBA cart quickly becomes a smaller SNES cart, only in this version Link yells when he swings his sword. But if the hypothetical game purchaser is riding on the connectivity train, Four Swords is a potent reason to purchase the cartridge.

Four Swords is Zelda torn down to its mechanical foundations. In other words, there's little or no story here, and in addition, there's no coherent world or even coherency to the design. Rather, the game's levels are some of the goofiest dungeon-style constructions seen in any Zelda, barring perhaps Majora's Mask, presented with no sort of artifice or logic used to excuse their existence. As such, the player will need to be able to let go of their desire for a consistent back story and indulge in Zelda-style gameplay in order to enjoy themselves.

Thankfully, I found that the mechanics of The Four Swords are enough to provide all the enjoyment I needed. As a friend pointed out, playing The Four Swords immediately turns friends into a cadre of squabbling siblings. Veering wildly between cooperation and competition, it's not uncommon to see people screaming about getting together to kill a boss just seconds after threatening the other players with hot melty death regarding certain sneaky acquisitions of rupees. The best part is that the developers obviously encourage this sort of activity, adding in gameplay mechanics that are specifically designed to allow players to not only conquer the game, but mess with other players in the process. (Two of my personal favorites: 1. You can pick up and fling other players around like the proverbial Zelda pots, and 2. A deliciously evil power-up, the magnet, which can be used to pull around the other players like a puppy on a leash-a very unhappy puppy, that is.)

If connectivity is an option, then Link to the Past offers up the best of both worlds, one being a dusty old tome that's still great fun to rediscover; the other being a new adventure that takes great advantage of the multi-user videogame experience. If it's not, Link To The Past quickly becomes just another SNES archive brought over to a fresh platform. Not that that's inherently bad, it's just there. This game is rated 8 out of 10.

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Gene is right—Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is all about Thanatos. It's all about death, and the destruction and violence that surround it. But this is nothing new to games, and this is nothing new for game reviewers. As Chi brought up in his Dynasty Warriors 3 review, at some point you have to stand back and ask yourself why you receive such enjoyment from this gruesome spectacle.

But is this a unique situation for videogames? Is it a unique situation for art in general? It is not in either case. Carnage and destruction has been used for comedic effect and the amusement of the audience in many different areas, to differing levels of success. The crucial thing is how the violence is presented. One reason that the violence can remain appealing in Vice City is because of the level of abstraction. Since you are killing stereotypes in an over-the-top (i.e., unrealistic) manner, there is not the level of human connection and thus, not the compassion that one might expect in the situation of a brutal murder. Since it's all presented as a cartoon and the simplistic bodies just disappear over time, it is easy for the player to revel in a carnival of excess.

This is heightened by the satirical nature of the game. As much as Grand Theft Auto borrows from gangster movies, it borrows from social satires, treating everything in the game as a parody, as something to be lampooned. It can be argued whether it does this successfully or not, but it brings up the question of how to analyze the violence. Do we negatively criticize 'A Modest Proposal' for its insensitivity regarding the serious taboo of cannibalism? To do so would be to miss the point entirely. Surely, Grand Theft Auto is not in the realm of Swift in terms of sophistication, but it deserves to be considered within the context of its genre, that being satire.

As a sequel, Vice City is barely a progression from Grand Theft Auto III. It's probably better to view it as a refinement, and one that is seriously flawed at that. As Gene notes, there are numerous graphical flaws and aspects that can only be viewed as bugs in the game's programming. But there have been some beneficial changes, and some that have a very real impact on the gameplay. The main area of positive change is in mission design. Missions are now more complex and much harder. Another area of progress is the persona of the main character. Having a personality and a voice to attach to the main character gives the game great focus and narrative flow than the anonymous story of Grand Theft Auto III. The negative changes have been well chronicled by Gene, and it's clear that this game was released well before it was finished.

Even though Vice City has its problems, it still is a case of two steps forward, one step back. Taking all the glitches and the essentially still-born nature of the game into account, it's hard to say that this game deserves all the accolades that it has received. At the same time, it is still a fantastically fun game to play, and that is because it retains the formula that worked so well just a year ago. A great driving engine plus a tongue-in-cheek satirical bent mixed with a healthy dose of black humor equals one of the more mindlessly entertaining modern experiences in videogames. This game is rated 8 out of 10.

Disclaimer: This review is based on the PS2 version of the game.

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