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Virtual Kasparov

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Titus
Publisher:  Titus
# of Players:  1-2 (single system or link cable)
Genre:  Strategy
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  6-18-02

Despite the nerd-ish stigma attached to it, the game of chess remains one of the most popular and addictive games in the entire world. It has a devoted and rabid fanbase, and as a result the possibility of playing a portable chess game appeals to a lot of people. Titus has stepped up to fill this small, but important niche genre with Virtual Kasparov. While itís the best GBA chess title out (since itís the only one), itís a good game in itís own right.

Kasparov features several different modes, including Story, Quick Start, Versus and Tutorial. The Story mode is the main part of the game. In this mode there are 31 different fictional opponents from across the world. Each opponent has his/her own personality, which is reflected in their playing style. After defeating the four main opponents in each area, additional hidden ones are unlocked. Of course, waiting at the end is none other than Garry Kasparov himself. Quick Start allows you to pick an opponent (the same ones featured in the Story mode), time limit, and just play a game of chess. Versus is of course multiplayer. The nice thing about it is that Titus not only threw in single-pak link play, but also allows two human players to play on the GBA with rotating turns. Thereís no strategy lost by both players seeing the board from the same angle, so this works out wonderfully (especially if you donít have another friend who owns a GBA). The Tutorial is nice, with lessons ranging from the very basic of moves to mate strategies, famous games, and more. Someone brand new to the game could become an excellent player just by walking through the tutorials.

The most important part of any chess game is the AI, as bad AI alone can ruin an otherwise good chess game. Virtual Kasparovís doesnít disappoint. While the AI plays a smart game of chess, it also makes errors like youíd expect any human to make. The computer will get its knights out early to gallop around and wreak havoc, but itíll also occasionally put a piece right in harmís way. Most other chess games fail in this regard, by either making the AI far too smart or far too dumb.

Unfortunately a couple of minor, yet key, features were inexplicably left out. When put into check, the only notification the player gets is a different sound when the piece is placed. In a public place itíd be easy to miss that audio clue. How hard would it have been to make "Check" pop up on the side of the board? Thereís also no way to cancel a move, other than moving it back to the original space. If you move it to another legal space by accident, too bad. Thatís your move. Imagine moving a bishop five spaces, then moving it back only three by accident when you decide to make another move and want to cancel it. Ugh.

However, Titus did include perhaps the best feature ever in a chess game: auto-save. If the power goes out on your GBA for any reason (dead battery, turned off, whatever), the player need not worry. The game automatically saves after every move is made.  So you can play 15 minutes at the doctorís office, cut the game off whenever youíre called, and then pick right back up hours later where you left off. A simple, yet brilliant, feature that should be in every portable strategy game.

For a chess game, it looks about as good as one would expect. Menus are very basic, and the background art is average at best. The pieces look like pieces, although there are 12 different board/piece color combinations to choose from (and two 3Dish views). The basic black and white is still the best however, as most of the other color combinations donít work well on the GBAís non-backlit screen. The opponent portraits staring the player in the face look good, but Iíd rather have something useful like a list of the moves made in a game in that space instead of a big ugly guy. The sound isnít even worth discussing Ė better than average menu music, average piece plop sound effects like any other chess game.


  • Auto-save will save the day on a number of occasions, and eliminate any worry the player may have about trying to get in a quick game of chess.
  • The AI is rock-solid, but makes errors that any human would make.


  • Chess games have never looked or sounded that great, and this is no exception.
  • A lot of board space is wasted on fluff like opponent portraits when it could be better used for a move list or "check". I can understand why the portrait should be there (good reminder of who that opponent is, which will effect strategy based on how they play), but at least Titus couldíve made it smaller.

Final Verdict:

Itís missing a few things, but overall Virtual Kasparov provides an excellent game of chess. The AI is good without being too good, and the auto-save feature is wonderful. The only game in town until Chessmaster is released, but thatís OK.

Overall Score: 8.1

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