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GamelogoBy Australian Ninja

Remnants & Relics. Buttonhole *Special* Feature

Welcome dear reader to Remnants & Relics, the first in an ongoing series of features looking back at various aspects of yesterday's video games. This series is one that I'd hoped to kick off many months ago, but I just haven't had the time to do it justice, until now. So consider this your opportunity to put on your best pair or rose-tinted glasses, open up a luke-warm can of clichés and prepare to hop aboard the way-back-machine.... It came from beyond two dimensions! -A Look Back at Isometric Gaming-

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

ACMI Day Tripper

Welcome Buttonhole readers to another feature that is so choc-full of goodness that I've divided it into several sections. The top half is about the Indy video games showcased at ACMI. The bottom half is about the Pixar exhibit. It's ridiculously long and all terribly interesting to read, so you may as well read it in two halves, or just the parts that interest you. After reading about the ACMI exhibits on their website and getting more than a little excited, I decided to make the perilous trek to inner Melbourne. With time on my side and money stuffed in my pocket I ventured forth to the train station. Once on board I passed the time by staring out the window, reading a volume of Dark Horse's Concrete and snacking on tasty fruit. Arriving at Flinders St, I wandered around until inevitably finding my way out of the rat-maze like station.

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Classic Comic-book Review. Kraven's Last Hunt

"Here lies Spider-Man - Slain by the Hunter" So reads the grave of one of histories greatest superheros. "But he's not dead, is he? What happened to everyone's favourite web-slinger? Spidey seems to be alive and well now, what with his three movie deal and a string of monthly Marvel comic-book titles to his name, so why was he buried six feet under? The year is 1987. The company is Marvel. The character is Sergei Kravinov also known as 'Kraven the Hunter.' Back in the 60's Stan and Steve (Lee and Ditko, respectively) churned out a heap of cool villains for the title "Amazing Spider-Man." Doctor Octopus, The Cham

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Wrestlemania 21 Xbox cover Wrestlemania 21. Xbox Review

It could have been a contender

Publisher: THQ

Tue, 28 June 2005

Sammy by: Hillelman

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I heard some horror stories about this one. I was told things that lead me to believe it was one of the worst games, wrestling or otherwise, to be released in years. Well, now that I’ve played it for myself, I can say that I believe some people just like to be dramatic.

I have even seen this described as the worst wrestling game ever made! I don’t know if maybe some people got an unfinished version or what (I have heard there was an earlier version released which had even worse problems, so for once us getting a game a little later than the yanks might have worked in our favour), but if they are talking about the same version of the Wrestlemania 21 game that I played, well that is just drastically overstating things.

Sure, Wrestlemania 21 has its share of problems, but it isn’t that bad! I’d actually say that it is reasonably good, especially if you’re a big wrestling fan like me.

The saddest thing about it though, is that if they’d just taken more time and really tightened up the engine and gotten everything running well, Wrestlemania 21 could have been awesome. As it is, it is merely okay. That is a huge shame, because the potential is obviously there. Things just don’t come together anywhere as well as they should, so in the end it is another tragic case of 'so near and yet so far'. Such is life.

The main single player attraction is the story mode. You have to create a character of your own to participate here and that’s ok, but the create-a-wrestler mode is not particular extensive or well implemented. It does the job, but it has already been done so much better in other wrestling games that it feels quite underwhelming by comparison. Still, I made a cheesy masked muscle-man, called him Buttonhole and took him to the top.

The actual scripted events are all reasonably effective and amusing, though you are never given any chance to change what happens and are stuck on the 'chosen path' from start to finish. The other problem is that while your character has a voice provided for him, he’s really a bit of a dick. No matter what you make him look like, he talks and acts like a doofus, so you never feel all that connected with him (unless you are, in fact, a doofus yourself I suppose).

Multi-player modes are all accounted for. I never tried any of them out myself, so I can’t really say how well that works. Apparently the first version of the game in the states didn’t work well at all over Xbox Live and had many players quite pissed off. But I’ve been informed by a pretty reliable source that these issues have been addressed somewhat since then and it now works fairly well online. I’ll just have to take their word for that.

You can have all the different kinds of matches you care to think of, so that adds some variety to it. The Hell in a Cell is my favourite of them all, grating dude’s faces on the cage and busting their heads open, then climbing up to the top of the cage and throwing your opponent off is always good for a laugh.

Wrestlemania 21 Xbox screenshot 1
The Undertaker: air guitar champion 3 years running.
The graphics are the definitely the best aspect of Wrestlemania 21. The characters look and move pretty darn well and up close they resemble the real wrestlers remarkably accurately. The intros in particular look much like they do on the actual TV shows, with each little individual nuance the wrestlers use on their way to the ring. All the grapplers are really well rendered and animated, with some excellent little details, like the veins popping out, to add to the realism. As with every other wrestling game around though, the long hair still looks pretty crappy. But, when everything else is so smooth and impressive, that is quite easy to overlook.

The crowds look pretty cool too, all 3D so there are no "Flat Stanleys". As long as you’re concentrating on the in ring action, you will rarely notice that there are quite a few sets of twins and triplets in the audience on any given night.

In most respects Wrestlemania 21 is visually excellent and has taken over as the best looking wrestling game so far.

If you have ears you can use them to hear things, which is good fun and I recommend it. One of the things you can hear with your ears is the sounds in a videogame and Wrestlemania 21 is no exception.

THQ, can you do me a favour and stop using the same songs in all these wrestling games please? You’ve gotten your money’s worth now, give ‘em a rest. Pass that on for me Bubba.

Anyway, the majority of the wrestler’s entrance themes are in there and all the moves and stuff sound suitable and full of meaty chunks. Then there are the voices. Not the ones in my head, the ones in the story mode. All of the wrestlers who appear in the story mode have recorded their own voice work, which is pretty cool. Some of the "acting" still leaves much to be desired, but it is slightly better than the laughable delivery in Smackdown vs. Raw on PS2. It is pretty sweet hearing the wrestlers doing their own talking, so I won’t complain too much about that.

The commentary is from both Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, or Michael Cole and Tazz, depending on which brand you’re wrestling on. Give it about twenty minutes and you’ll be over that, after hearing every phrase they have to say at least twice.

Now it is time to talk about the control and here’s where the game really starts to slip. Tap A for light grapples, hold it for strong grapples, tap B for light strikes and hold…oh, you get the idea. Then you have the triggers to reverse either strikes or grapples. The set-up is good and much like one of my favourite games, No Mercy on N64. Studio Gigante, who developed this game for THQ, even said that No Mercy was a big influence.

Only problem is, unlike in No Mercy, the controls in Wrestlemania 21 don’t respond very well at all. If you set the difficulty on anything but the amateur level, which is just too easy to be any fun, then the reversals hardly ever seem to actually work and the only real way to assure a victory is to just hit first. Once you get your opponent down it is pretty easy to keep them that way. Hit first, stay on the attack and don’t worry about which moves you use, as long as you don’t let the dude recover. In No Mercy you know exactly which moves will work best and there’s always a chance for either guy to make a comeback if you time your counters properly, but that’s not the case here. So, in the end, it really plays nowhere near as well as No Mercy and that "inspiration" just doesn’t come through as strongly as it should. You had the right idea with this control scheme and gameplay style Studio Gigante; it is just a pity the execution is lacking.

There are more problems with the gameplay too. The AI is erratic, with the computer behaving like the 'cerebral assassin' one minute and Eugene the next. Ladder matches show this most noticeably, if you set the ladder up and grab the belt, the computer opponent will just spaz out and you’ll be able to win right away if you time it right. There are numerous other instances (it would take me all day to go into them all) where this kind of thing happens and it does take away from the realism and enjoyment of the game.

Wrestlemania 21 Xbox screenshot 2
Ric Flair shows Rey Mysterio the Electric Boogaloo

The collision detection is equally spotty, with various times when your wrestler hits the wrong move, or fails to connect, simply because the engine is slightly busted. All of this leads me to believe that Wrestlemania 21 was rushed out and not given enough play testing and time in development. It really is a bummer, because if this stuff had been ironed out properly the game could have rocked.

So, all these complaints might make you think I didn’t have any fun with the game. But that isn’t true, because I still played it quite a lot and I did have a pretty good time for the most part. It is still wrestling after all and I will play pretty much any wrestling game you throw at me. The awesome graphics really helped things for me, because the action looks quite close to the "real" sport. The legends you can unlock, such as Bret Hart and Andre the Giant, are always welcome too.

"Worst wrestling game ever" this is not. I’ve played dozens of wrestling games over the years and I can assure you that plenty of them have been far worse than this one.

Wrestlemania 21 is a decent game. This is one to just kick back with and not think too much about. Unfortunately, mainly due to all those problems I mentioned, the novelty does wear off before very long. So, for most I’d say this one is best as a rental. But for the hardcore wrestling fanatics, I reckon you could squeeze enough time out of it to make it worth buying.

I’ll let ‘em off the hook just this once, because I’m a sucker for a pretty face. But next time, Studio Gigante, you ought to make sure the thing is fully cooked before you take it out of the oven. Maybe name the next one "Wrestlemania No Number", so that you can take as long as you need to get it all together.

by: Hillelman

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More articles by Hillelman

It has the looks, but it doesn't have the heart. If it wasn't so rushed it might have been a title holder. Still, for the mad keen fans, it is well worth a look.

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More Games

Press Release. Haze 4 Player Demo Availabe Soon.
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Win a complimentary ticket to ACMI's "Game On"

Which of the following game genres do you like the most?
Role Playing
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ToonlogoBy Borgieman

Manifest '07 Report

Ninja's note: Once again, it's time for another Buttonhole report on the Melbourne Anime Festival, otherwise known as Manifest 2007. If you missed Ichibod's feature on a previous Manifest, check it out here. This Manifest coverage comes to you courtesy of forum regular and newest Buttonhole contributor Borgieman, a cool guy who knows his Anime and has been known to play a video game or two. So read on true believers! A Day at Manifest 2007

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Only Yesterday. Anime Review

The problem with having favourite films is that every time I watch another Studio Ghibli film it becomes my new favourite. It kind of renders the word 'favourite' meaningless when every Studio Ghibli film takes my breath away. Still, I can't complain about being thoroughly entertained by this whimsical and insightful film, "Only Yesterday". This gem was directed by Isao Takahata, well known for his anime film Grave of the Fireflies. Although Only Yesterday is a light hearted film that ambles along at a leisurely pace, it still manages to explore themes such as love, work, family relationship struggles, following your dreams and country versus city living. In the film, the main character Taeko decides to take a working vacation in the country, getting away from her office bound job and unexpectedly starts t

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ToonlogoBy Jason

Speed Grapher V1. Anime Review

Well, "I don't like it" was my initial feeling when viewing this Anime for the first time. Subsequent viewings haven't changed my views a great deal. Nothing really stands out as being absolute shit but it seems that this series tries too hard. It's almost like they were more interested in creating something 'edgy' and confronting but sadly forgot to include an even remotely palatable story. The hero of this particular piece is a bloke called Tatsumi Saiga. Tatsumi is a photographer and a veteran war journalist for whom taking photos has become somewhat of a fetish. Although he seems to have become jaded - nothing is worth wasting his film on - that is, at least until he stumbles across an exclusive club for the mega rich

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