Game Review – Fire Pro Wrestling Returns

The North America release of Fire Pro Wrestling Returns was November the Thirteenth. That’s a little over two years after the Japanese release. Having spent about two solid weeks with the game in my possession, I think I am able to give a non bias review. I am a long time fan of this series, but I can still recognize it’s faults. How does Fire pro Wrestling Returns stack up against the more popular competition? Where to start…

There are no drastic changes to the core Fire Pro game play. It’s the same solid grappling system long time fans have grown accustomed to. Those who are new to Fire Pro will need to spend some time getting used to the timing. The fighting system punishes button mashers. I would advice newbies to set COM difficulty to 1 and work their way up to a harder level. This is one of those games where appreciation is only gained after learning the ins and outs.

The series’ trademark features are tight game play and a huge roster. FPR boasts a total of 327 real life competitors. To avoid copyright issues, everyone has been given a name modification. Vader is named “Saber”, Kenta Kobashi is “Keiji Togashi”, etc. Feel free to rename everyone accordingly. You also have the option of changing the attire for default characters. You don’t have to sacrifice one of your 500 edit(CAW) slots when your favorite wrestler changes gimmicks.

FPR’s all-star roster features wrestlers, boxers and mixed martial artists from around the world. Puroresu legends like Giant Baba, Satoru Sayama(original Tiger Mask) and Jushin “Thunder” Lyger are selecible. As always the default roster is dominated by Puro wrestlers. Some of the fighters well known to American wrestling/UFC fans include Bret Hart, Sting, Andre the Giant, Petey Williams, Mirco Cro Cop and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

A new addition to the series is a “corner to center” attack. When your opponent is knocked down in the middle of the ring, you can hunker down in the corner to set up a spear, super kick or a few other maneuvers. This adds a bit more drama and accuracy to matches that feature characters who set up these attacks a certain way. Because of this new feature, you can create an accurate Shawn Michaels or Bill Goldberg if you were inclined to do so.

A traditional steel cage match has finally been added. Players can use weapons like barbed wire bats, or the cage it’s self to inflict pain upon others. Other match types include S-1(boxing, punches only), Gruesome( a 12 sided UFC inspired cage) and the Electrified Barbed Wire Exploding Deathmatch. While the has Hell in a Cell, The Japanese hardcore wrestlers hurl each other on electrified boards covered in skin shredding barbed wired. It’s different, but fun none the less

Buzz worthy features include Ref edit, Belt Edit, and Ring/Logo Edit. There is a GM mode called “Match Maker”, but is it very limited. All you do is set up matches between fighters and get graded by the percentage of crowd reaction of the match. There strange special events that happen during match maker do very little to expand beyond it’s limitations. For some inconceivable reason, created wrestlers are barred from use in Match Maker.

Presentation is nothing special. Menus are serviceable, but accessing some features can be a chore at times FPR’s 2D graphics remind me of arcade games like Wrestlefest. Character sprites are not hi resolution, but they are large and detailed. Spike could have easily recycled graphics from Fire Pro Wrestling Z. They instead created new sprites and reanimated some pre existing moves. Some animations seem a bit robotic, but are pretty smooth.

I’m sad to say Spike has once again mapped the pick up weapons button to the run button. Want to get a fluorescent tube from the corner while playing in an exploding barbed wire match? Make sure you are close enough to said tubes. Otherwise you’ll go running into the barbed wire ropes, thus end up looking like a complete fool. It doesn’t ruin the game or anything, but such neglect of the R2 button has me dumbfounded. Overall that is one of my biggest gripes with FPR.

I don’t give numeric scores or grades in my reviews. If I were the type to do that, Fire Pro Wrestling Returns would probably receive a 91. It’s the best in the series, but like any other game it has flaws. Even so called classic games that get perfect scores from other reviewers have a few faults or glitches. I recommend this game to anyone who is into pro wrestling or the UFC. You don’t have to be into Puro to like FPR, the unique game play and customization options are more than enough to peak ones interest.

Online Casino Gambling: A Global Phenomenon

If you check to see where the headquarters of the online casino gambling establishments that you like to visit are located, you’ll discover that a great percentage of them are based in the Caribbean (there and Gibraltar) — on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, specifically. But as of late, a global pool of lawmakers and online casino gambling detractors, including the WTO (World Trade Organization) itself are trying to get these establishments shut down.

Fortunately for us players, the boom in online casino gambling has a life of its own — one that will not so easy be quashed. In fact, a panel investigating the dispute ruled that the U.S. was in violation of its own financial regulations when it gets in the way of American financial institutions engaging in transactions with Antigua-Barbuda online casinos. Score one for online casino gambling.

Actually, score more than that. Numerous countries are starting to face facts about the lucrative business of online casino gambling and finding ways for their local economies to capitalize on the craze. Not only does online casino gambling provide to the local communities that license and regulate them enormous sums of money in the form of tax revenues, but the online casino gambling industry also fosters huge job growth in whatever geographical areas it touches. Consider Antigua-Barbuda, where 30% of the residents are employed by online casino gambling establishments.

It is surely with incentives like those in mind that Prime Minister Tony Blair is trying to enact new legislation in the U.K. that will likely encourage more casinos to be built and a rise in casino gambling throughout the country. Supported by 53% of British voters polled, the new Bill if enacted will, among other things, remove all slot machines from around 6,000 different places and allow them to be placed together in new casinos with extended hours of operation. This legislation may even coax existing online casinos to move their bases of operations to Britain. Many observers and analysts believe this will inevitably lead to other similarly supportive measures aimed at online casino gambling as well.

Meanwhile, the French reportedly gamble 2 times more and for 3 times longer than their British counterparts. France’s citizens have been enjoying online casino gambling for years, especially since a loophole in European Union policy that heavily restricts land-based casino gambling (essentially requiring any French citizen who wishes to gamble to do so exclusively in state-run operations) has no bearing on online casino gambling, practically ensuring the industry a steady stream of eager participants. In fact, many believe that the popularity of online casino gambling is responsible for the skyrocketing demand for high-speed, broadband internet service.

The Australian government is getting into the action as well, granting an online casino gambling site a license to open a customer service center in the state of Tasmania. Recruiting has already begun, and an estimated 300 jobs will be created in the high-unemployment area.

A growing interest in online casino gambling in Asia has led to one of China’s most popular pastimes – the 4,000-year-old card game Mahjong – being offered as a multiplayer online casino game. Approximately 45% of Chinese people polled report that they play Mahjong regularly for money and whether China permits online casino gambling or not, there will be no shortage of players worldwide flocking to any site that offers the game.

Recently a campaign has been put into motion to legalize online casino gambling in Japan as well, supported by the country’s Liberal Democratic Party, currently in power. Several departments in the government have been brought in to figure out how to make this work for Japan’s economy, and it is expected that online casino gambling operators may be invited to contribute to the talks in due time.

And online casino gambling may be right around the corner for Israel, the country’s social and economic cabinet having just given permission for two horseracing tracks to be built, equipped of course with full-fledged betting. In order to make this work, the Israeli government will be obliged to lift its long-standing ban on sports gambling.

Final Fantasy 3 – When Magic Disappeared Forever

Ages ago, evil beings created powerful creatures called Espers, and unleashed them against each other. The resulting battles left their world a smoldering rubble. Legend has it, the Espers destroyed themselves and most of humanity. Magic disappeared forever.

Centuries have passed and a rational world now exists with Espers living only in myths, until one frozen solid since the ancient wars is unearthed. Suddenly, there are reports of magical attacks on civilians. Imperial Commandos launch raids using magic powered MagiTek weapons. Magic is obviously alive and the world is in danger again. Who or what is behind the rediscovery and redeployment of this legendary power? What chaotic plans exists that will wreak havoc on this orderly world?

Final Fantasy III is one of what many consider to be the classics for RPG genre games. Released as Final Fantasy III for the SNES in 1994, it is actually the 6th installment of the immensely popular Final Fantasy series produced by Squaresoft. The game takes place about 1000 years following the ending of a great war called “The War of the Magi” which removed magic from the face of the world.

It is a typical turn based RPG with the player having control of over 15 playable characters each one with his or her own strengths and weaknesses and different fighting styles and stories to tell. The main character is a young half-human, half-Esper girl whom is trying to find her place in a world torn asunder by war. The main villain in the story is one of the most colorful villains in the Final Fantasy series, a rather funny clown named Kefka.

Joining forces with him are a few other military style villains with lesser roles and even a few NPCs who get involved. There are many plot twists that include cut scenes involving characters that allow the player to have a “real-time” feel with the story. The characters have “expressions” that while being very basic, convey the general theme of each scene to the player. In my opinion, this game is perfect for the player who wants to see some of the best the SNES had to offer in terms of RPGs.

Gameplay:

As far as games for the SNES go, there are only 1 or 2 other games as engrossing as Final Fantasy III. All of the elements that make the other games in the series enjoyable are here. The player can rename all of the characters in the game including the ever present summons (called Espers in FFIII).

There are a multitude of side quests in the game that vary in difficulty from easy to difficult in terms of time and involvement to complete, and the level of commitment necessary to complete the game can vary between 25 hours. To just finish the core storyline of the game, can be up to 100 hours give or take. This is if you want to obtain what is called a “complete” gaming experience meaning gathering all of the most powerful weapons, armor, and magic, and also leveling characters up to maximum levels.

The only reason the game is not getting a 10 rating in this department is the fact that while leveling characters is not a problem in the beginning and middle of the game, once a character reaches the higher levels (above 60) it becomes a very time consuming, tedious process to level up the character sometimes taking hours upon hours to raise a character just one level. This I would say is the main common problem with RPGs of this era. But, if you do not mind that sort of monotony, this game is for you.

The characters in Final Fantasy 3 offer a host of clever individual attacks. Each character has his or her own special talents and the player can choose to utilize each character’s talents or can just ignore them. An essential part of each Final Fantasy is magic, and this game is no exception. There are a multitude of magics available to the player to use, each one learned from equipping certain Espers.

The longer an Esper is equipped, the more magic is obtained from the Esper and once the learning curve for the Esper reaches 100%, all of the magic available from that Esper is learned. Some magic is able to be learned from two to four Espers, while other magic may only be learned from one specific Esper. This makes Esper use a conscionable thought process. The player must plan their use of Espers in order to learn the needed spells.

Graphics:

Again, I am comparing this to other SNES games. This game is 2-D. Plain and simple. It features a 3/4 overhead view 90% of the time and also features an overworld which has since been all but removed from most RPGs. The graphics were considered state of the art in 1994 when this game was released. There are rich color textures and some very good use of the Mode-7 graphics capabilities of the SNES in both scaling and rotation which are show cased especially when the characters use the airship for transportation.

As far as actual graphic renderings are concerned, the game is 2-D, so if you are expecting to see walking, talking, fully rendered 3-D you are out of luck. In scenes where the graphics are made to be inflated or close up, they become pixilated the larger they become. These problems aside, the graphics for its day, when compared to other games out at the time, were considered to be very quite advanced.

Sound Quality:

Here’s where the game shines. The score is enormous! Created by the world-renowned Nobuo Uematsu, there are at least 100 different songs in the game (including renditions of the main theme) and also includes a scene with one of the earliest examples of voiced “singing” in video games. The songs feature 128 note polyphony and a beautifully detailed musical story. Because the game’s dialogue is text based, the music allows the player to get involved on a more emotional level with this game and the characters than many other games out at the time.

There is a great combination of deep bass, singing strings, and synthesized keyboards to keep the listener enthralled and engaged throughout the game. There are very few songs that last less than five minutes without repeating so the player never really gets the boring monotonous feeling that usually accompanies games from the SNES.

Replay Value:

There are very few games that can be left to sit for years on a shelf and then picked up and played again with the same level of commitment and enjoyment as Final Fantasy III. The game is just as much fun the every other time through as it was the first time through. As a matter of fact, with all of the side quests and obtainable items, weapons, armor, and magic, the game could possibly be one of the hardest RPG’s created for the SNES to obtain a “perfect” or 100 percent complete game. There are always ways to expand the difficulty of the game and make each play through a unique experience.

Concept:

Not exactly the most cutting edge in gaming, this game has the very familiar “fight the monsters and gain levels before fighting the final boss and saving the world” theme. While the Action RPG gamer will find this game very repetitive, the fan of the Turn Based style RPG gamer will love it.

Having a female as the main character in the game is a concept that was not used very much prior to Final Fantasy III. This seemed to be a risky idea but Square pulled it off flawlessly. Also, with all of the other characters in the game, the stories unfold rather nicely for each character. This adds to the depth of the game as well as the entertainment concept.

Overall:

If you are a fan of the Final Fantasy series, a collector of vintage games, or a person who is interested in getting involved in the series but is worried about the complexity of the newer Final Fantasy titles, this game is for you. Final Fantasy III is great for the “old-school” player and the “newbie” alike. It has a great story, great sound, and WILL take over your life for a few days if you let it. The characters are original, have many different abilities to use, and have emotions that make playing this game really great.

The NPCs seem to have more of an impact in this game as opposed to most and the main characters are some of the most imaginative I’ve ever come across. The towns are sprawling, the graphics are engaging, and the sound is rich and vibrant. The story unfolds well, and from the opening scene, most players are hooked. The enemies are varied and numerous and the bosses difficult while not being impossible. I highly recommend this game to anyone who owns a SNES.