Chessmaster Review

Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: October 12, 2004 Also On: None

I started playing chess, with my father, at the age of six. So while my first video game experience came at age 3 with the arcade systems, then later the NES, my first board game that didn’t have the names ‘Chutes and Ladders’ or ‘Candy Land’ in it was the game of chess. It built my strategy skills, which could further assist me in playing my beloved video games.

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The oldest running turn-based game is chess. Chess is one of the longest running pastimes in history, period. In fact, the game originates from China, was translated into Arabic in the 7th century, and was brought to Europe when the Moors invaded Spain. By the end of the 10th century, chess was played by kings, philosophers, clergy, and other important figures. Now it’s played by feeble souls like me.

As far as I’m aware of, Chessmaster is the only chess game on the Xbox. The Chessmaster series is a long-running PC franchise that Ubi Soft has finally decided to bring to Xbox, after bringing it to PS2 sometime in 2003. If you’re a person into Xbox shooters (I am, to a degree), you’re likely not the target of this game. That’s a broad stereotype, I guess, so let’s just say, if you like to bend your mind, you’re the target of this game.

The game will first have you create a user profile. This unnecessarily takes longer than it should, with slow dial movement, and no analog control at this point. They should have had a keyboard, or at least, a button to capitalize, instead of forcing you to go all the way to the other side. Minor complaint from the start, but it should be mentioned for improvement in any future titles Ubi Soft might release.

Once your profile is created, you’ll select from a few modes. First thing to know is that, the computer will tell you if you make a move that’s not valid. Knights move in a 3 space L shape, so trying to move in anything but that will have available moves for your knight show up on-screen. For those of you not familiar with chess, and interested in learning, this is probably the best way to learn, unless you have a patient friend or family member.

The modes available range from offline single player, to offline multi-player, and finally, Xbox Live. The offline multi-player has to be shared using one controller, which is a slight hassle. This isn’t the NES, I’m not sure why two controller support wasn’t made available. Again, small complaint, but it’s noteworthy, since it means you and your opponent need to be sitting in a close vicinity. Other than offline multi-player, there’s also online multi-player via Xbox Live.

Aside from the strong gameplay, Chessmaster also has a visual display that outdoes what should be expected of it. The interface is easy to navigate, while the screens are clean, and the pieces, detailed. There are several piece types, and boards, which is to be expected. Also, your stats are recorded (win, loss, etc.), each by profile, so if your friend plays, he won’t give you a loss if he creates his own. Another nice thing about the visuals is the camera angles, which allow you to take full control, moving it wherever you want on the board. Since there seems to be a glare on the pieces, it’s sometimes a good idea to adjust the board to better see. I sometimes found that I was trying to move a bishop, when an unseen pawn was in the way.

Being that there’s no competition on the Xbox, Chessmaster is the best chess game on the Xbox. Even if it did, it would probably retain that crown, as this package is solid. Don’t expect another Chessmaster to be released this generation on consoles, so if you’re the least bit interested in playing chess via Xbox Live, or if you want to tune your skills when no one’s around, Chessmaster is the game for you. I fully recommend a purchase of this title.

Graphics: 9
Sound: N/A
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.2
Written by Kyle Review Guide

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