Bargain Bin: Portables Edition

Bargain Bin

The handheld market has been in the background of the gaming industry lately. With so many big-name console releases over the past few months, it only makes sense that the DS and PSP, rather void of high-profile releases, should lose a bit of attention. TGR hasn’t forgotten them yet, and the Bargain Bin is here to offer a few good suggestions to tide you over in the portables department until the next must-have DS/PSP game makes it way to stores.

Star Fox Command (DS)

Star Fox Command

Let me first say that this is not Star Fox 64. Star Fox 64 was the peak of Star Fox goodness, and though Star Fox Command is not Star Fox 64, it certainly isn’t poor because of that. It admirably emulates the Star Fox formula on the DS, while throwing in its own unique twists into the franchise.

Let us first visit the better parts of the game. As the title indicates, the game isn’t the sort of straightforward arcade action that fans might be used to. There is a focus, albeit somewhat shallow, on strategy. Each level is presented in a sort of pseudo-turn-based action. There are dogfights, but in-between those you are given a static map on which you have your units, the enemy has their units, and the two of you duke it out. If the enemy reaches your base of operations you lose. It’s a fun mechanic, and to its credit the game uses the touch screen well as a method of directing your units throughout each map.

You have a variety of units. You begin, of course, with Fox McCloud, but along the way you can recruit old allies and even old foes to help you in your new conflict. Each character has their own fighter with unique abilities to do battle with, which adds a lot to the game. Best of all, depending on what choices you make in the game–where to go, who to recruit–there are a ton of different endings to pursue, which can lead to a lot of replay value.

There are some problems, though they may just be connected to my particular tastes. The control scheme is completely dependent on the stylus and touchscreen. It works fine, but can sometimes be clumsy. Drawing circles to do barrel rolls and such isn’t nearly as convenient or responsive as a simple d-pad scheme might have been. The fact is that I can’t see any reason for there not have been an optional, more standard control scheme. Worse, though, are the time limits placed on individual battles. Each dogfight has a time limit, and while you can earn more time in each level, boss battles too often come up short. I personally had to replay an entire game once simply because the final boss took too long and all my units died by default.

Overall though, Star Fox Command is an entirely enjoyable and solid game that any fan of arcade action and woodland creatures with fighter jets should be able to appreciate.

Amazon (Note: Used Amazon.com prices are subject to change)

New – $47.99

Used – $10.49

Gamestop (In Store Only)

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PSP)

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Of all the GTA games I’ve played, the Vice City editions were my favorites. Just call me a sucker for the 1980s; I just love hair metal is all. Vice City Stories once again repeats the technical feat of giving you GTA in a handheld format, though not without hitting some bumps on the way.

Like Liberty City Stories before it, the game has some control and camera problems. Aiming your weapons can at times be touch-and-go, and adjusting your camera angle can be a monstrously frustrating affair as the game only allows you a single button for the job. The second analog stick (or lack of…) syndrome is felt sorely here.

That being said, it is still Grand Theft Auto, and though the refinements of GTA IV might have spoiled some people’s desires for old-style GTA, it is still a great game and a wonderful addition to your portable library. If any major complaints can be laid on it besides the already mentioned control problems, they will be that it doesn’t do all that much different from the games that came before it. It is fun, but if you’re a fan of the genre it’s stacked with things that you’ve done a half dozen times before. That doesn’t prevent it from being fun, but the formula was certainly showing its age by the time this game came out.

Amazon (Note: Used Amazon.com prices are subject)

New – $14.99

Used – $8.96

Gamestop

New – $19.99

Used – $17.99

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