Aveyond 3: Lord of Twilight (Amaranthgames.com)

When Mel is hired to steal an orb, she thinks it’s just going to be an easy job for pay.  If only she knew what she was getting into.

The plot of this one is more like a prologue than an actual chapter.  You get to know the characters, find out the evil plan of the villain and begin collecting items to try to stop him.  There are a few side quests, but you don’t get to complete some of them until the next game.

The game play is the same as the last two with a couple of exceptions.  You can activate a system that allows you to travel through various locations.  You can also level up your characters without having to add them to the active party.  Oh, and when you search the corpse of an enemy after you kill it, it disappears.

This game is short but exciting.  I give it 7 out of 10; a good start to the third game in the series.

Aveyond 2 (Amaranthgames.com)

When a young elf named Iya is captured by the Snow Queen, it’s up to her friend Ean to come to the rescue.  Can they stop the Snow Queen from turning the world into ice?

Despite what it sounds like, rescuing Iya is only the beginning of the game.  Plus, it’s Iya discovering her magic that allows them to escape in the first place.  The rest of the story is about restoring Iya to normal and defeating the Snow Queen.  Another thing is that the two elves live in a place cut off from the rest of the world called the Vale.  Unlike in other stories, where the main character dreams of leaving their small town to explore the rest of the world, Ean and Iya are perfectly happy in the Vale.  If it weren’t for the Snow Queen, they would have stayed there.  Emma and Rye are the ones that want to leave their home and dream of something greater.  Yes, there are other characters besides Ean and Iya and, like the last game, you can marry various characters.  Ean has to buy things for Iya or have spells cast on the both of them.  Emma has to win or lose a tournament while making a bet with Rye.  Ava can either marry Gavin or teach Nicholas humility depending on which one you’d rather have in your party.  If you want both, go to Amaranth Games and check out the goodies they have for this one.  Oh, and you can also choose between three endings, even though one of them doesn’t actually have an ending.

Unlike the last game where they had a tendency to force pairings, this one actually manages to give them chemistry with the exception of one.  Ean and Iya have been friends for years and there are hints throughout the story that they care for each other a great deal.  Emma and Rye are both commoners who want more from life than what they have.  They also have a competitive streak that causes them to insult each other and place a bet when Emma signs up for a tournament regarding servitude.  To me, this pairing is the most believable because of their natures.  My only problem is that Rye says that Emma’s not like other girls who are boring and sappy.  I get that there probably weren’t many deep women in Rye’s farming village, but he also travels with Iya and Ava.  Ava is a no nonsense pirate who shouldn’t be messed with and while Iya is more girly than the other two, she knows where her priorities lie.  One example is that when Iya and Ean are fleeing from the Snow Queen, though Iya loves her Snow Princess gown, she knows that it’s hard to travel in and that there’s no room for it in her pack so she throws it away.  This is a breath of fresh air from Cassandra Claire’s Draco Trilogy where even when the women were in a life-threatening situation, the minute they got a new dress that was their number one priority.  As I said earlier, Ava has two paths she can take.  Truth is, I didn’t find her relationship with Gavin believable.  During the game, he makes advances that she is constantly rejecting and then he makes an offer out of nowhere that makes her like him.  She refuses, but I wonder if he knew she was going to turn him down.  I also love Nicholas’s storyline where he is rude and conceited yet he sees the consequences of his actions with the help of Ava.  Like Lars, he sees the error of his ways and learns humility.  Unlike Lars, we are not meant to take the writer’s word for it and actually witness his transformation.  His relationship with Ava is far more believable than her marriage to Gavin but I don’t think Nicholas is a better match for her.  Ava and Nicholas’s relationship seems more like an older sibling teaching her younger brother how to behave than that of boyfriend and girlfriend.

The game play is like the last one where you travel the world fighting monsters and leveling up your characters.  You can also partake in events that give certain characters attraction points and buy a farm that can be your party’s headquarters.  If you want an easy play through, you can find several goodie caves throughout the game.  You can also sign Iya up for one of four guilds and get a new outfit based on which one of them you choose.

This game is addictive and has more of a storyline.  I give it 8 out of 10; a superior sequel to the last game.

Aveyond (Amaranthgames.com)

A young girl named Rhen is captured from her home and sent into slavery in a far away land.  Fortunately for her, she has the power to draw magic from swords and is sent to the academy to learn how to use it.  Now she has to stop an evil sorcerer from destroying the world.

I know, this sounds like the plot of Ahriman’s Prophecy with the words changed.  That game is actually a prequel to this one.  While this game does more than the previous one does with the side characters, they all remain the same until the end of the game.  The only exception is Lars who somehow stops acting like a royal brat and gains humility with no explanation of how this drastic change occurred in the first place.  I guess you could say that Dameon also changes but even that literally has to be forced by magic. 

The pairings are another issue I have due to the fact that every one of them seems forced, some of them quite literally.  Rhen’s relationship with Dameon seem to have come from nowhere.  They immediately take a liking to each other and he changes his mind about some of his beliefs just from a few words from her, something his own mother couldn’t accomplish.  You might expect me to talk about how I prefer Lars and Rhen as a pairing, like many other fans do but I’m sort of on the fence about that one.  Rhen was a slave to Lars’ mother and spent years under his abuse.  In the beginning, he didn’t seem to care if he accidentally killed her.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could ever hook up with a guy that I associate the worst years of my life with.  On the other hand, if done correctly, it would have been an interesting story arc to see them struggle with feelings for each other while remembering their history together.  Elini and Pirate John is another pairing I have an issue with because the former pours love potion all over the latter.  I always felt that love potion was a form of rape because you’re forcing someone else to have feelings for you instead of respecting their decisions.  What I liked about Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that such magic was not portrayed in a favorable light.  Te’ijal and Galahad are also forced but how they end up married is believable and in character, so I will applaud the writers for that.

Speaking of Galahad, he was the character that I found most irritating.  He didn’t believe in magic despite all the evidence around him that it exists in this universe.  He also tags along with Rhen in the belief that a young woman needs a man to protect her despite all evidence that Rhen can protect herself just fine.  Though I did like that when Galahad makes the offer, Rhen is understandably insulted by this but agrees to take him along because his skills would benefit the group as a whole.

Rhen herself is not a believable protagonist.  She has no clue what country she’s in and has to be told where to go.  At the end, you can choose what path she takes and every single one of them seems forced.  If the intention was to give her very little personality so the audience can pretend to be her during the game, it would have been better to use her as a silent protagonist like Link from Legend of Zelda.

The game play is different from the last one in that when you touch a monster, you enter a battle screen. 

You can also change party members as you see fit.  Unfortunately, there’s no escape option so you need to save often.  Sometimes you come across save crystals which I don’t really see the point of having seeing as how you can save the game by going to the main menu.  You can go wherever you want on the world map and enter various cities and wilderness areas.  If you do a thorough search, you can find two goodies, one that can warp you to different locations and another that can give you huge amounts of gold.  You can also find various treasure chests and loot the corpses for more items and gold.  During the game, you’ll also have a choice between four guilds for Lars to join.

This game is simplistic yet addictive.  I give it 7 out of 10; it makes up for its lack of characterization by its fun game play.

Ahriman’s Prophecy (Amaranthgames.com)

Talia was once an ordinary girl who only wanted to be a herbalist.  Unfortunately, during her naming ritual she uncovers an evil plot.  Now she must study to become a magic wielder and save the world from destruction.

The plot’s quite simple, save the world from an evil sorcerer. 

The two main characters are Talia and Devin and sometimes it feels like they’re the only two characters in the whole game.  During the journey, all Devin and Talia do is talk to each other.  While you can invite other characters, they contribute little in the way of storyline.  Alicia’s just another marriage option for Devin, after Frederick’s side quest, you don’t do anything with him except when you need to teach him a new shape shifting form, and Jack only has one side quest option and then he disappears.  It’s like the rest of the members just stand there in silence while Devin and Talia talk.  There’s also a dwarf you can hire but I never really use him.  The story line is quite cliché with a villain dumber than dirt.  One example would be a scene where he possesses a very important person and acts very impatient.  If he had acted nonchalant, Talia and Devin would have just given him the relics they collected and he would have won.

The game play is different than I’m used to but enjoyable.  Instead of entering random battles, you see a health bar whenever you exit town, go around destroying random enemies you see in the field and loot their corpses. 

As I said earlier, you can choose whether you want Devin to marry Talia or Alicia.  Another aspect of the game is that there are five guilds for Talia to join.  There is one aspect of the game play I hate and it’s that you can only have four people with you.  You can’t keep other members in a reserved party and when you switch members out you have to go all the way back to the city you found them in to get them back.  Then you have to switch out another party member to do so.  It’s a very frustrating aspect.

This game is simplistic yet addictive.  I give it 6 out of 10, and the best part is it’s free.

Loren the Amazon Princess: The Castle of N’Mar (Winterwolves.com)

While Loren’s on a quest to find her mother, vampires have captured several of her people.  To top it off, her sidekick has to help everyone on his or her own personal journey.  Thankfully, three other people and a hellhound have joined them in their quest.

This is an expansion to the original game.  On each character’s side quest, you find out more about what made them what they are.  You also have an option to spare sacrificing anyone at the end of the game.  You can now recruit Sauzer, Mesphit and Chambara on your quest.  Only the final two are romance options for either gender.

The game play is the same as the last one with options to go on personal quests.  When you’re finished with each one, you can get a special item that only a certain character can use.  You also have more achievements to win along with more options to take in different locations.  You can avoid some fights if you want to.

This is nothing more than an extension of the original game.  I give it 8 out of 10; taking a fourth option took out some of the emotion for me.

The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition Part 2: Zelda II-The Adventure of Link (Nintendo GameCube)

An evil wizard has cast a sleeping spell on Princess Zelda.  In order to awaken her, Link must travel to six palaces and return the rods to get the Triforce of Courage.  Unfortunately, minions of Ganon have set out to kill Link in order to revive their master.

All right, a few issues with the plot.  For one thing, the decree that Hyrule royal family name every daughter Zelda sounds very confusing.  What’s going to happen when the family has two daughters?  Do they just name them Zelda 1 and Zelda 2?  Another thing, I don’t get why Link’s blood is required to revive Ganon.  He seems to revive in every other game just fine without it.  The only explanation I can come up with is that Ganon’s minions have been secretly killing Link whenever he settles down with a family.  I get that the whole purpose of this plot point was to give Link enemies to fight but it makes no sense.  They would be constantly stalking him day in and day out never giving him a moment’s peace.  He wouldn’t be able to do anything without armed guards around him every day of his life.  In addition, what is Link doing in Zelda’s chamber?

I get that the game needed a place for him to start but there is no reason for him to be there.  At best, he’s admiring her beauty while she sleeps.  At worst, well, I really don’t want to think about it.

As for the game play, they pretty much took away everything that made it great.  Instead of solving puzzles, you have to fight your way through everything and if you’re anything like me, you will die quite often.  If you back out, you can’t gain levels.  You can also talk to people in town to gain magic, but you have to complete a quest first.  If you’re low on health, you can visit a woman in a red dress who will take you to her house and heal your wounds.

In other words, while many women have a crush on Link in Ocarina of Time, this is the game where he got the most action and I’m not talking about fighting monsters.  I don’t know if the makers were too naive to figure out what that was implying or this was their desperate attempt at fan service.  Don’t get me wrong, I can understand if hot animated characters arouse you but if a pack of pixels turns you on, please remove yourself from the gene pool.

I once had a very painful cramp in my foot.  Just when I thought it was gone, the pain came back double.  That is exactly how this game rolls.  I give it 0 out of 10; if you’re playing all the Zelda games, just skip this one.

The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition Part One- The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo GameCube)

In 2003, Nintendo released four Legend of Zelda games on one disc for the Nintendo GameCube.  The Legend of Zelda, Zelda 2: Link’s Adventure, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.  Each game has its own charm with the exception of Link’s Adventure but I’ll get to that later.

Hyrule’s in trouble, the evil Ganon has the Triforce of Power and is after the Triforce of Wisdom.  The princess Zelda has broken it into eight pieces and scattered the Triforce throughout the world.  Now it’s up to Link to reassemble the Triforce and rescue Zelda.

The game that started the Zelda franchise doesn’t really have a plot other than rescue the princess.  Still, I do like that even when captured Zelda takes an active role in the game.  If it weren’t for her, the Triforce of Wisdom would have been in Ganon’s hands and Hyrule would have been doomed from the start.

You aimlessly wander around the map and try to find the Triforce pieces located in eight dungeons.  Then you go to Ganon’s tower for the final battle.  You can also find heart containers, various upgrades for items and destroy enemies to get health and rupees.

Be sure to visit a fairy if you’re low on health.  In all honesty, I don’t get how anyone found anything in this game before the days of strategy guides.  There’s no one telling you where you’re supposed to go unless you count the few hints given by old people.  Once you get the hang of it, you can’t stop playing.

Despite the confusing system, I absolutely love this game.  I give it 6 out of 10, a perfect beginning to the Legend of Zelda.

Planet Stronghold (Winterwolves.com)

A new recruit is sent to the greatest outpost a human could ever be assigned to, Planet Stronghold.  Their decisions will shape the fate of humanity and the rest of the galaxy.

The game takes place in the future where humankind is at odds with every other alien race.  A king rules the humans and your job is to find the missing prince.  After that, you have to decide if you want to achieve galactic peace or conquer the galaxy.  You do have romance options, but you won’t have access to them until you make a decision.  Even then, they write it hastily together with side quests for every single character in order to get to know them better.  To me it just seems like info dumping about each one and who you romance has no effect on the plot whatsoever.

All it does is change a few lines in the epilogue.  In Loren, the romances slowly grow and connect to the plot while in this game they’re just there for the sake of having them.

When you start the game, you have a choice between a male and female character.  Which one you choose only affects whom you can romance.  You also have a choice between four classes: Soldier, Guardian, Scout, or Psionic.  The choices you make affect your relationship with the characters.  Every battle you win and every quest you complete will give you experience points.

When you level up, you have to choose how to distribute them.  You can also earn achievements based on what you do in the game.

The game is fun but doesn’t offer much in romance and character development.  I give it 8 out of 10, the story elements have a better use in Loren, but this one has better game play.

Loren the Amazon Princess (Winterwolves.com)

When Queen Karen of the Amazons disappears, Loren sets off on a journey to find her. On the way, she discovers her destiny and is in the middle of a huge conflict that only she can bring to an end.

You might think you’d play Loren in this game, but you don’t. The character you play is her sidekick. When the game begins, you have a choice of playing as Saren (a human male slave) or Elenor (a female elf servant). When being presented to Loren, you can choose your character’s background.

You also have a choice of romance partners for each character. Both Saren and Elenor can romance Loren and the reserved Nomad Amukiki. Saren can also romance the half-elf fire mage Draco and the enchanting druid Myrth. Elenor can romance the bad boy elf Rei and the miserable Queen Karen. There are some graphic scenes in the game, but you can choose whether to view or skip them. You can also choose to have your characters wear more or less of their outfits.

This game might seem like just another dating sim, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The battle system in Loren is unique. Instead of a 2D battle, as I’ve come to expect from most independent RPGs, you have this.

Not only do you gain experience points through battle, you also gain them through completing quests. If you gain enough points, you can level up your characters. You do so by giving each character a number of attribute points for their strength, will and skill. You can also pick a new talent for them to learn. How many points you get while leveling up depends entirely on what time of game play you choose. You also have choices throughout the game that affect your relationship with the characters. During the game, you can retreat to camp to recover your health. It’s also a chance for you to build up your relationship with certain characters. There’s also achievements you can collect throughout the story.

The story and characters have their own charm. The game is not only about the war that’s brewing in the world of the game, it’s also about prejudice. Not only is there prejudice between the humans and the elves, there’s also prejudice within their own groups and a prejudice Amazons hold for men and the rest of the world. It’s because of this that the demons find it so easily to manipulate everyone. There’s also prejudice between the characters that fades over time as each of them get to know one another. Princess Loren is the one selected by a mythical sword to lead everyone to the demons, a role she is reluctant to take due to her belief that the Amazons should remain neutral. Her relationship with Saren or Elenor is also quite special as she starts to view her slave as an actual person and starts to become friends or more with them. Her romance with Saren is the most character developing story arc out of all of Saren’s romances because she actually has to take a good look at her culture and how they enslave men much like women were little more than slaves in Earth’s history. My favorite romance path of Elenor’s would have to be Rei because she truly gets to explore her Elvin heritage. I can’t say more about the game without giving it away, but at the end one of the characters sacrifices themselves and I choked up a bit during it.

This game has an amazing story, intriguing characters and is nonstop fun. I give it 9 out of 10, can’t wait for the expansion and it promises a sequel.