Category Archives: Editorials

Atari’s Greatest Hits for iPad Worth Downloading for One Game

I recently have discovered the amazing gameplay of Atari’s classic arcade game Tempest and you guys want to know how? Through Atari’s Greatest Hits on the iPad. Although I’ve owned this collection since it came out a few weeks ago, I’ve never gotten into any of the games due to just how clunky and archaic they are; and based on control issues with some of them.

However, once I pulled the trigger of a $.99 in-app purchase for Tempest, I never looked back. This game is so fun, addicting, and plays great in orientation mode (you can change various options in settings from the game screen). It is fun because the game looks like it could be made in any era. It really feels 3D and modern despite it’s age. This is the type of game I would like to play on the iPad 3 when it comes out with the rumored full-3D display.

the game made me realize how great the iPad really is for retro gaming. When I say retro, I am not talking about archaic and clunky like a lot of the other offerings of the app, I’m talking about simple but difficult and level-based games with high scores as the aim or level progression. Games like the recently released Enduro or retro-inspired titles like Gravonaut and League of Evil are what truly makes the platform shine.

Despite the many other retro offerings on the App Store, I would still say this one game, Tempest, is in the cream of the crop and really a timeless classic. So if you didn’t have interest in Atari’s Greatest Hits before, download it just for this game. The iPad app also runs different from the iPhone despite being universal, the iPad has both screen orientation options and the iPhone version may not. Either way, check Tempest out if you’ve never played it.


KRPG Cage Fight: Wild Frontier vs. Zenonia 3

I have said before and will say again, Wild Frontier is the best Korean role-playing game (KRPG) in the app store. Wild Frontier may not have the same name recognition as the Zenonia franchise, but it trumps those games in every conceivable way.

The recently released Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story has more of a buzz at the moment, standing upon the hype and legacy of two previous games, the release of the third having been drummed up pretty heavily, and the fact that Gamevil is very active in developing games for the iOS market. Meanwhile, Wild Frontier developer KTH has only one game in the app store — Wild Frontier — and little clout on which to gain footing.

Nonetheless, Wild Frontier is incredible. In this article, I pit Wild Frontier head-to-head against Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story in a number of important categories to prove once and for all which is the better game. Let’s rumble!


Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story

Zenonia 3 is the first Zenonia to support the iPhone 4 retina display, and it’s about damned time. The first two Zenonias were blurry, smudgy looking affairs that never lived up to the visual capabilities of even the pre-retina iPhones. No doubt, Zenonia 3 looks great. But the sprites and animations don’t do anything they didn’t do in previous Zenonias; there have been no refinements to the artistic presentation other than to ensure the game is of proper resolution for the device on which it runs. Enemies still poke around the environments in stilted fashion, and characters in story sections just don’t animate properly at all. Zenonia 3 is pretty, but it’s also pretty pedestrian.

Wild Frontier

Wild Frontier was the first KRPG to embrace retina quality graphics, and the sprites, backgrounds and animations are superb. Everything is full of color and of life, and animates smoothly. Enemies blink and twitch and look alive; your character actually moves his legs when he runs. In general, Wild Frontier’s sprites include more frames of animation than Zenonia’s sprites, and it really makes a difference. Add to this weather effects such as rain and lightning, and daylight cycles including dawn, day, dusk and night and Wild Frontier is one fantastic looking game.

Winner: Wild Frontier

Sound Design:

Zenonia 3 offers up some of the best music the series has yet seen, but its loops are still short and repetitive, and the sound design is overall fairly generic. None of the tunes really stick with you, and that’s actually a good thing — they’re so repetitive, it would become annoying if they did. In terms of instrumentation, the soundtrack is also comprised of pretty harsh sounding synthesizers.

Wild Frontier’s soundtrack is more subtle and emotive, often relaxing and more melodic than anything Zenonia has ever known. The game also makes more of an effort to simulate real instruments. The music is obviously synthesized, but strings sound plucked, string arrangements are epic, and the compositions are layered in thoughtful, compelling ways. Further, the musical sections are much longer than in Zenonia, making them much less repetitive over time. Wild Frontier is a melodic treat.

Winner: Wild Frontier


Zenonia’s story is one that we’ve played a million times, Divine forces battle Demonic forces, the Heavenly realm having fallen from grace, and humanity caught somewhere in between. Mixed in are the personal issues of our protagonist, which mostly amount to boy likes girls, but refuses to admit to liking girl, meanwhile being teased by his fairy companion: grade school romance and teasing, framed in a cliche struggle between good and evil.

Wild Frontier tells the story of a group of travelers having landed upon a new continent. The protagonist Chris is not an adventurer, having tagged along on the journey to follow after his girlfriend, Lamia, adventurer extraordinaire. Much as it pains her to do so, for his own protection and safety Lamia leaves Chris to pursue her adventures. With encouragement from some of his fellow travelers, Chris realizes that to win Lamia back he must become an adventurer himself, capable of surviving in this new land, and with the help of his friends and the Mokar natives he sets out to do just that. There are no demons, and the fate of the world does not hang in the balance. Wild Frontier plays out on a smaller, but altogether more compelling stage; it tells a story of relationships, self-realization, perseverance and personal growth. There is no other KRPG that tells a tale quite like it, nor as effectively. It’s a rare thing in KRPGs, but Wild Frontier’s story is actually worth experiencing.

Winner: Wild Frontier

Characters & NPCs:

Zenonia’s characters are occasionally endearing, but more often juvenile and irritating. They interact with each other not as adults, but as grade school students. NPCs in towns often approach Chael with their problems, most of which are trivial or stupid, and often refuse to offer information for reasons that are simply childish. By and large, Zenonia’s characters are one-dimensional and annoying.

Wild Frontier puts a greater emphasis on characterization. Characters have personalities and real-life problems. They also have real and adult motivations for their actions. Lamia cares about Chris, and that’s why she has to leave him; she doesn’t want him to get hurt chasing after her on adventures. Ben is a crotchety academic, and teaches the Mokars to mix potions and draw maps; he’s also older and requires more rest, and all of this factors into conversations he has with Chris throughout the game. Meanwhile, Roman sees the brighter side of life, and constantly offers Chris advice, assistance and encouragement. He’s an immensely helpful character, and serves to guide Chris on his path to become a self-sufficient adventurer. Greg is aloof and anti-social, and not because he’s an agent for evil, but simply because he can’t be bothered by other people. Meanwhile, the Mokars are consumed with local concerns — monsters threatening the village, missing persons, the need for supplies — but are generally friendly to the outsiders, just as you might expect people to be in a small, foreign town. The characters in Wild Frontier are fueled by their personalities, and are much more than simple mouthpieces intended to push players onward; they feel as if they really live in this world.

Winner: Wild Frontier

Character Classes:

Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story offers four character classes. The Sword Knight is a strength-based melee fighter, favoring heavy weapons and armor. The Shadow Hunter is an agile melee fighter, favoring lighter armaments and putting a greater emphasis on dealing damage through critical hits. The Mechanic Launcher is a long-range class favoring weapons, and the Nature Shaman is a long-range class favoring magic and totems.

Wild Frontier offers three variations of melee classes. The Warrior wields two-handed weapons for high damage, the Tanker is a defensive character favoring heavy armors, and the Scout is an agile fighter capable of dual-wielding small weapons and inflicting criticals. There are no ranged classes, and while there are class differences, Wild Frontiers classes generally approach combat in a similar fashion.

Clearly, Zenonia 3 offers a greater variety of character classes and approaches to combat.

Winner: Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story


Over the course of three games, the Zenonia franchise has made leaps and bounds in interface design. Zenonia 3 has one of the best in-game menu systems I’ve seen in any iOS role-playing game. The controls are easy to use and their positions and opacity may be customized to user preference, and the in-game menus used to manage your character, inventory, quests, etc. are slick, intuitive and easy to use. They also fully embrace the iPhone’s touch interface. Zenonia 3 is a big win for interface design.

Wild Frontier has pretty solid controls; the d-pad could be a touch more sensitive to input, but I really have no gripes against the game for control during play. The in-game menu for managing your character, however, relies on the d-pad and confirm/cancel buttons for navigation and manipulation, and ends up feeling pretty clunky. It’s a lot better than the menus in the first Zenonia, but not nearly so good as the menus in Zenonia 3.

Winner: Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story


Zenonia is well-known for its assinine fetch quests: kill 10 bats in the forest, collect 15 frog horns, find a document and bring it back, etc. While some of these quests serve to progress the storyline, many of them serve only to keep you in one place far longer than you should have to be there. I managed to reach level 15 in and around the first town in Zenonia 3, but found myself constantly being sent back into the Akun Temple area to battle level 3-5 enemies for fetch quests. When you’re level 15 sword knight is battling level 5 frog-people, you’ve been in one place too long. And yet the game kept giving me pointless things to do, liking buying a steak for a hungry child, or collecting flowers for another … Zenonia makes a habit of providing pointless quests as a method to artificially extend the completion time of the game. Further, it’s not always clear which quests are important to advancing the story, and which are filler, and so you just sort of do them all until you’re given permission to move on.

Wild Frontier categorizes quests as Main, Sub or Free. Main quests are those pertaining to the story, while Sub are side-quests you may perform to assist the NPCs you meet in towns. Free quests may be picked up daily from the job board in each town, and are short, repeatable and entirely optional quests that you may undertake for extra experience, when you’re headed that way anyway, or just when you’re bored and looking for something to do. The quests often make sense within the context of the setting, which makes them feel more worthwhile to undertake, and the game does a pretty good job of telling you exactly where you need to go and what you need to do, kill or collect to fulfill the quest requirements. More importantly, you always know which quests are important and which are extra, which allows you to more easily gauge and plot your progress through the game.

Winner: Wild Frontier


Zenonia is a grind-fest. It’s not uncommon to spend 30 minutes or an hour grinding to survive in one area, only to move to the next area — a transition of only a single screen — and to then be obliterated by new, significantly higher-level opponents. And so you spend yet another 30 minutes to an hour grinding to survive this area before moving on. And God forbid you skip through an area without grinding, because enemies two areas on from where you belong will flatten you. Zenonia forces players to grind for experience points constantly throughout the game (and then keeps you in one place too long with questing before forcing you to grind again?!), and the grind-fest eventually becomes a snooze-fest.

Wild Frontier encourages you to press on through the game, and discourages you from dallying too long in any one area. On first entering a new area, enemies will yield significant experience points. Level-up a few times, however, and enemies will give you only 1 experience point per kill — and that’s the game telling you it’s time to move on. Further, enemies are more powerful during the night than during the day, and will yield greater experience bounties. Grinding at night, you can quickly harvest an area and move on to the next. While Zenonia strives to keep you in one place far too long, Wild Frontier is constantly pressing you onward into new, unexplorered territory.

Winner: Wild Frontier


Enemies in Zenonia occasionally drop items. Some of them are useful, but I often find my inventory swelling with garbage that I never use, which I either cart around until the end game or sell off in the nearest town. When I’m actually seeking items, item drops occur only infrequently. No matter which way you cut it, it’s frustrating. Then there’s the mining: you need to carry a special pickax, which will eventually break on you. The act of mining is a constant tap-tap-tap of the action button to beat on rocks, and you have to tap it again every time you pick up an ore. Looting in Zenonia is tedious, time consuming and frustrating. It’s a chore to harvest or mine or items, and then it’s a chore to manage them in your inventory. Further, there is neither rhyme nor reason for most of what you find enemies carrying; to get flowers, you have to kill weird forest spiders?!

Wild Frontier does neat things with it’s looting mechanic. Downed enemies may be harvested for materials, and those materials are generally relevant to the enemy from which you take them — plant-based enemies yield leaves, wood and thorns; crabs yield shells and claws; mammals yield bones, leather and fur; etc. And these are not random item drops; every slain enemy lingers as a body on the field, and every body may be harvested for materials. These materials can then be used in rest areas to craft weapons and armaments, or to cook food, or may be sold off in the Mokar shops for coin. Mining ores from stones or foraging for items in the forest works just the same as looting bodies: you hold the button while Chris harvests materials — a process both simple and well animated — while the message display lists out your findings as they happen. Looting in Wild Frontier makes sense, serves a purchase, and is far less tedious than in Zenonia.

Winner: Wild Frontier

In-App Purchase:

Zenonia 3’s system of in-app purchase is one of the more draconian examples currently to be found in the app store. As anyone can tell you who has played either of the first two games, Origin of Life items are essential to successfully completing the game. When you die, the Origin of Life item allows you to resurrect in place without suffering the usual penalty for dying; resurrecting without an Origin of Life, you lose experience points and item durability, which ultimate leaves you nearer to death’s door than before you died the last time. In the first two Zenonias, the Origin of Life was pricey, but could be purchased using in-game currency. In Zenonia 3, the Origin of Life is only available for real-world currency via in-app purchase. And the game will flat-out steal them from you, such as in the Midgard Bridge quest where you have to raid the demon camp: your character should be roughly level 15-17 at this point in the game, and you’re without warning thrown up against level 47 demons who make short work of you. You’re supposed to find another way around, but the only way to realize you can’t win this fight is to walk into it and get killed, then being given the choice to use an Origin of Life or to resurrect at a penalty.

The Origin of Life is not the only item you can only get via in-app purchase in Zenonia 3. Examine scrolls, two-way portals and other important items must also be purchased with real money. So you pay for an Examine scroll, use it on an item only to find that the item is worthless to you — of lesser value than your current equipment — and … you’ve wasted your actual money.

As I said in my full review of Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story, “the IAP is a textbook perfect example of how to ruin an otherwise good game, and clear indication that Gamevil doesn’t really value its fans and supporters.”

Meanwhile, Wild Frontier also includes items for in-app purchase, but those items are entirely optional. By consulting the Item Shop in each town, you can use real-world money to expand your inventory, add extra ability sockets to items, purchase scrolls to reset your stat and skill points, purchase extra runes or equipment sets, or an unlimited use taming kit. You can also purchase first-aid kits, similar in purpose to Zenonia’s Origin of Life.

Dying in Wild Frontier, however, does not incur the same penalties as in Zenonia. If killed in the field, you may opt to use a first-aid kit if you have one, or you can wake up in town with a deduction in gold. The game does not penalize your experience points or equipment durability, though, so does nothing to cripple your character in the way that Zenonia does.

The bottom line on IAP in Wild Frontier is that it is entirely optional, and not necessary to complete the game. A well-prepared adventurer can survive the game’s challenges, and an unprepared adventurer will wake up in town, where they can easily embark once more, better prepared for the opposition after a visit to the accessory shop (sells potions and other support items, based on in-game currency).

Zenonia is full of cheap deaths, encouraging and all but requiring that you use the in-app purchase system to by restorative items; Wild Frontier offers in-app purchases to enhance the game, but does not require them of them player.

Winner: Wild Frontier


At the time of this writing, Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story retails for $4.99 and carries with it the potential of spending a fortune via in-app purchase.

When I originally reviewed Wild Frontier, the game retailed for $0.99; at present, the game is FREE. In-app purchase is available, but entirely optional.

Winner: Wild Frontier


Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story definitely has some things going for it. My final impression is that it’s a highly entertaining game, derailed by a draconian system of in-app purchase and taken with a grain of salt. For better or worse, it is a Zenonia game, with all of the traditional Zenonia flaws. It does nothing to reinvigorate either the genre or the franchise. For all the good to be found in the game, flat storytelling and characterization, and an over dependence on experience grinding and assinine fetch quests are trademarks of the Zenonia name.

Meanwhile, Wild Frontier does so much right that it’s hard not to love it. The game offers a great story with a wonderful cast characters, a beautiful world to explore with flourishes such as weather and daylight cycles, fantastic art direction in both stills and animations, an enjoyable soundtrack and solid gameplay. It also takes many of the KRPG conventions which often prove problematic in other games, and turns them on their heads, making them all a part of the fun. What’s more, Wild Frontier is an incredible bargain.

There is no question in my mind that Wild Frontier is the better game, and by a long shot. Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story can be enjoyable and takes many steps in the right direction, but Gamevil still hasn’t done enough to improve the game over previous entries, and they really drag the game down with one of the worst in-app purchase systems since SEED 1.

See my original reviews for Wild Frontier and Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story.

iPad 2 Hands-On

If you live on the planet Earth, you probably knew that the iPad 2 launched on Friday March 11th.

With that in mind, I went to my local Apple store to pick up Apple’s new beauty, going hands-on with a couple of titles along with testing out the speed and such.  And while there’s not a huge difference between the first and second versions, one of the most notable differences is the speed.


The first iPad ran most games at a buttery-smooth frame rate, but the iPad 2 has taken that butter and nearly melted it.  Exiting out of games is extremely smooth, and switching from one app to the other executed flawlessly.  I haven’t been able to get my hands on any of the iPad 2-optimized titles except for Infinity Blade, which ran great, but I didn’t see any huge differences.  Infinity Blade is exactly like it was before, and I didn’t exactly notice any huge graphical differences (maybe because I’m used to playing it on the iPhone 4’s Retina display).


This is another huge improvement from the first iPad: it’s much easier to hold the device.  Before, I thought the iPad was a little unwieldy but bearable, although playing dual-stick shooters in which the controls were on the bottom was a little difficult.  Launching up Meteor Blitz on the iPad 2 was much more comfortable, and I was able to play at a more comfortable position.  Does it still get heavy while playing Meteor Blitz?  Yes, it does.  But the lessened weight allows you to play games for a much longer period of time, let alone being able to actually read books without having to readjust everything.


This is really the only subject I’m going to rave about, as the width of the iPad is extremely thin.  It’s definitely A LOT thinner than the old iPad, and it’s extremely comfortable to hold at such thin sides.  It almost feels like I’m holding a magazine while reading The Daily (great app, by the way), and it really adds to the whole “lightness” factor.  The speed and lessened weight wowed me, but the thinness of this device has wooed me the most.  But hey, Apple seems to always do this to me.

I don’t think that iPad users NEED to upgrade to the iPad 2, but it’s pretty fast and pretty light.  The three factors I mentioned above are the only good reasons I found with purchasing the iPad 2, but they’re enough to justify the purchase.  And if you’re smart, you’ll buy two and sell one to save some money (hint, hint).

Freemium: A Costly Mistake for Gameloft

Now I’m sure Gameloft has made some money off using the freemium model.  They’re most recent game, Starfront: Collision, is ranked #46 in the top grossing chart.

Wait… #46?  Even after Apple featured Starfront: Collision as the iPhone Game of the Week?  Gameloft releases have been known to storm the top grossing charts at #2, #10, so on and so forth; never so low in the charts.  Look at the Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden, which is nearly off the top 200 grossing chart altogether after only a week of sales.  And even after a good couple of months of being released, Modern Combat 2 is ahead of both of Gameloft’s recent freemium games.

The best part is is that Modern Combat 2 isn’t even on sale; it’s at its full price of $6.99.

Along with the fact that Gameloft hasn’t made as much as they have with other games, their fans seem to have felt like they have been deceived.  For Starfront: Collision, the first four reviews have all claimed that in-app purchases are stupid, Gameloft should get rid of it, there are uncertainties regarding in-app purchases, etc.

For Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden, people are clamoring on how it’s just a demo after they thought it was going to be the full version for free (I know, ridiculous).  And of course, along with that, people are complaining about the in-app purchase in general.

And for me personally, I don’t want to download Starfront: Collision and Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden.  I haven’t yet and I don’t think I ever will.  What good is it to download all 403 MB only to find out the game is horrible or to find out that I just flat out don’t want to purchase the game?

I rarely download lite versions, and I look at both of those games as lite versions and not full.  It’s just a waste of time to download, buy an in-app purchase, etc.  Waste of space, waste of time.

Now again, like stated in the beginning, I’m sure they’ve made some money.  But have they made enough?  And is it worth making the consumer displeased?

6 Predictions for the New Year

The New Year is coming up, and before that happening, it’s always fun to make some predictions and see what happens.  Here are 6—yes, 6—predictions for 2011 regarding iPhone gaming, the App Store, and much more.

More use of the Unreal engine: I think Chair is satisfied with their runaway success Infinity Blade, as evidenced by their free update that just hit not too long ago along with a promise to release another update sometime in January.  Besides that, Dungeon Defenders was released using the same Unreal Engine, and although the graphics weren’t as great, it still didn’t look all that bad.  With the Unity 3D engine taking up a lot of the App Store for most of the App Store’s life, I think that the Unreal engine will slowly take over.  With graphics such as Infinity Blade, the Unreal engine shows huge potential and promise.  Just remember that first-person shooter tech demo using the Unreal engine, and then you’ll realize that there is so much more in store for this.  And considering Chair’s success with Infinity Blade, I think they’ll create at least one more game on the App Store come next year.  A very conservative estimate in my own opinion, as there’s no doubt that Chair is interested in the App Store and what the iPhone brings.

LEGO isn’t done: Come on, who honestly thinks that Lego is going to stop at just Lego Harry Potter YEars 1-4?  There’s years 5-7, along with some other Lego franchises on consoles that would work quite nicely on the iPhone and iPad.  Considering the amount of praise Lego Harry Potter has received, I honestly think that they’re going to think about making a Lego Star Wars, Lego SOMETHING.  And I also think that Warner Bros., the publishers of Lego Harry Potter, knows what it’s doing on the App Store, as it has made their game universal and nearly added GameCenter before finding that it lagged the game.  Look out for more Lego adventures in 2011.

Online multiplayer will be what makes games: Now that most of the App Store—or at least the serious developers—know how to create a solid single player experience, a solid online multiplayer experience seems to be the best place to expand to.  Honestly, the racing genre is one that has reached the top, in my opinion.  Asphalt 6 clearly displays that fact, acting as an almost clone to Asphalt 5 except for the fact that it includes online multiplayer.  Also, Modern Combat 2 has shown that a solid and addictive online multiplayer experience is possible on a mobile device, leading me to believe that there are going to be a lot more of those types of games in 2011.  So with 2011 approaching, I believe that games will begin to include both solid single player and online multiplayer experiences.

Gameloft will no longer be the top game developer: Asphalt 6 just gave me this feeling: Gameloft can’t produce at a top level anymore.  Well, they still produce great games, but the top level has now been set by others: Chair, Crescent Moon Games, and Firemint to name a few.  The end of the year surge with so many big name titles raised the quality bar quite high, and I think that other developers will be noted for the high level of games they bring to the App Store.  I’m not saying that Gameloft is all of a sudden going to stop producing good games; no, they’re still going to produce.  I just think that they’re games won’t be regarded as the best on the platform anymore; that title will go to someone else next year.  The only genre that I think they will still thrive in is the first- and third-person shooter genre; they are absolutely unrivaled in those areas.

Apple will allow iPhone gaming to go even further: I think that Apple likes the idea of the iPhone as a handheld gaming machine, and I think in the next iPad, iPhone, and iPod touches, it will reflect that.  The iPhone 4 received the Retina display which spiced up a lot of games in terms of graphics, along with adding a gyroscope for some cool—albeit quite useless—gaming effects.  There’s no question that the next iPad will have a Retina display; that’s an unspoken thought that everyone regards as most likely true.  Something as simple as adding a faster processor isn’t out of the question either, which would allow even more intense games.  All in all, Apple will improve the iPad 2 and iPhone 5 (or whatever it’s going to be called) to improve iPhone gaming as a whole.

Mac App Store is going to be filled with casual games: The opening of the Mac App Store isn’t far away—about 6 days left—and I believe it will be regarded as something similar to the App Store for the iPhone and iPad.  The iPad was definitely regarded as similar to the iPhone; therefore, most of its games so far have been blown up versions of the iPhone counterpart.  I think that a lot of indie developers on the App Store will try and bring their success from iPhone to Mac, and I think the first year of the Mac App Store will be filled with casual games because of that.  While something on par with Steam in terms of games catalogue would be nice, I don’t think that will happen for a while.