(single system or link cable)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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.