Thursday, December 18, 2014

Announcing the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Celebration!

Hello, everyone-- both casual and hardcore SuperPhillip Central readers! Oh, and I can't forget everyone in between! It's nearing the end of the year, so it's about time to look back on the year that was, 2014! Since 2008, I've been holding a five night-long awards ceremony at the end of the year, celebrating the year that was. However, this year, things are going to be a bit different.

I'm not going to be handing out imaginary awards at all. Instead of an actual awards ceremony with nominees and winners, this year I'll be doing multiple top five lists based on a variety of categories all under the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Celebration name. Such categories include Best Soundtrack, Biggest Surprise, Best Visuals, Best Multiplayer, and much more. The best Nintendo 3DS and Wii U games will also be covered in their own individual lists, and the best games of the year will be provided in a special top ten list with the number one choice being SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Year for 2014. It's a different approach, but I think it's one that will be a nice change of pace and allow me to have more fun, rather than just going through the motions. 

The celebration kicks off the day after Christmas, so after you try to return all of your unwanted gifts to your local retailers that day(hopefully you will have receipts given to you), sit down behind your computer and check out what I deem the best and worst of 2014 gaming-wise!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Play It Again, Sam! - Remarkable Remakes - Part Two

What's old is new again! The first time I looked at remarkable remakes, the news of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire was revealed, remakes of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. While I'm a bit late on the remake bandwagon with the news of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask getting the much desired remake treatment, it's time for once again for a glance at some more terrific remakes of the past! From Metal Gear Solid to Ys, there's sure to be something for everyone on part two of my great remakes series!

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (GCN)


I'm going to start off this list of remarkable remakes with two games that might be considered controversial picks. Well, not controversial in the same category as exposing your man parts while on live broadcast TV, but controversial nonetheless. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes was a joint effort by once-heralded Silicon Knights and Nintendo. The remake saw two carryovers from the PS2's Sons of Liberty, the graphics engine and the gameplay elements. The latter of these caused the game to be easier than the PS1 original, as the remake's area design was not retooled to fit the new gameplay mechanics, such as the first-person view for aiming. Nevertheless, the remade visuals, cutscenes (let's face it, MGS is already unbelievable and crazy a series story-wise anyway), and voice-work made for an exciting ride for GameCube owners.

Conker: Live & Reloaded (XBX)


This second "controversial" pick is Conker: Live & Reloaded for the Xbox. Despite having the intention of being wholly uncensored, as the subtitle was once Live & Uncut, the Xbox remake received a ton of censorship. Also, some objectives and tasks in the single-player portion of the game were either removed or heavily altered as well. Regardless of these changes, I was just glad to receive an updated version of Conker's original starring console role with visuals that still amaze to this day (that fur... oh my goodness) and a completely retooled multiplayer component that allowed for awesome online skirmishes via Xbox Live.

Final Fantasy IV (DS)


One of my favorite Final Fantasies just doesn't seem to want to go away. It's been re-released on practically every possible platform under the sun. However, the Nintendo DS version was a total remake, unlike the plenty of ports of the game other platforms had received in the past. As part of Square Enix's celebration of Final Fantasy's 20th anniversary, a 3D remake of the original Final Fantasy IV was put on the Nintendo DS, offering impressive 3D models and areas, voice acting, and some modest but engaging changes that affected the gameplay. Not only was this edition of Final Fantasy IV look like a completely new game, but it gave players a more difficult, and satisfyingly so, RPG adventure to love. I know I certainly was one.

Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver (DS)


Now, I must admit my total ignorance towards the Pokemon franchise. After the initial releases back in 1999, when I completely amassed my middle school self in the series, playing the games, collecting the toys, watching the anime, writing and drawing comics, etc., I didn't follow the series anywhere near as closely as I did. In fact, I skipped Pokemon Gold and Silver. It wasn't until later that I wanted to try either game, but the total archaic looks of the games turned me off of doing so. Thus, I jumped at the chance to try out the remakes on the Nintendo DS. Many of the games on this list are included because of major graphical enhancements, and this isn't more true than with Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver. These two titles make their originals look like they were made in the stone age in comparison visually, and the little touches add to make the games more modern added to my love of the titles even further.

Star Fox 64 3D (3DS)


Unlike Pokemon Gold and Silver, Star Fox 64 is still a game that is easily playable, and not too sore on the eyes despite its more ancient visuals. Star Fox 64 3D was an appealing remake to me for a number of reasons. For one, it brought the Star Fox series out of retirement, albeit in remade form. Anything to get the taste out of the nasty fan fiction of Star Fox: Command, right? Secondly, the game did have improved visuals and performance to justify it being remade. Finally, it was just another excuse to play through the game a few dozen more times. (I might be understating how many times I replayed Star Fox 64 3D.) My only major gripe with Star Fox 64 3D is how the multiplayer did not have an online component to it. It would have been so much fun to enjoy dogfighting with someone other than the AI.

Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA)


Kirby, Kirby, Kirby, he's the star of the show. Kirby, Kirby, Kirby, it's a name you should know. Well, at least if you're on SuperPhillip Central regularly, as I do bring up the pink puffball on more than a number of occasions. Anyhow, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land is a Game Boy Advance remake of the NES game Kirby's Adventure. Obviously the visuals were updated to beautiful standards, but the gameplay was changed, albeit in minor fashion. Added to this upgraded Kirby's Adventure were new mini-games, as well cooperative play for up to four players via the GBA link cable. Nightmare in Dream Land was a less difficult Kirby's Adventure in some regards, but overall it retained the spirit of the original quite well.

Klonoa (Wii)


Unlike Kirby, Namco Bandai's (or is it Bandai Namco? ..Or is it Nandai Bamco? Aw, hell, who cares!) Klonoa doesn't get much love. It's a darn shame, too, as the character is charming and his games are immensely imaginative. The simply-titled Klonoa was released on the Wii in 2008 in Japan and elsewhere the following year. It was a remake of the PS1 cult classic Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, and it plays similarly. The most noticeable change to this remake is its hugely evolved visuals, making for an absolutely beautiful game-- and the original wasn't a bad looker to begin with. Unfortunately, even on a platform with a fan base that loves platformers, the Wii remake of Klonoa sold like it was a remake of Bubsy 3D. That is to say that sales stunk, effectively ending the long-eared lovely's future in gaming for the time being.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana (PSP)


By far the most transformed remake out of any other game on this list is Ys: The Oath in Felghana. It is a total remake of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. Oath in Felgana not only makes some alterations to the original story, but it completely overhauls the Ys III, transforming it from its original roots as a 2D side-scrolling action game to a 3D action-RPG adventure. I have a fond attachment to Ys: The Oath in Felghana, as it was my first introduction to the franchise. I've since played the original Ys III, and it amazes me how greatly Oath in Felghana successfully changed the structure and gameplay to make a much better game.

Even if I've already made mention of them before, what are your favorite remade games? Which do you think didn't do their original games justice? Let the community know in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mario Pinball Land (GBA, Wii U VC) Retro Review

This Tuesday on SuperPhillip Central brings to you and me a new retro review. Mario Pinball Land recently released on the Wii U Virtual Console marketplace, so how about we take a look at how competent a pinball game Mario Pinball Land is? Well, actually, the review tagline sort of spoils that answer immediately... Nonetheless, here's the review!

Round and round Mario goes, where he 
stops is a mediocre pinball game.


Mario is indeed a versatile character. He never shies away from leaving his comfortable platforming roles for rounds of golf, tennis, kart racing, and even an occasional Olympic outing. Most of the time these excursions from the norm are of tremendous quality and execution. Other times, you get what Mario Pinball Land is. While its beauty is apparent, a major design issue holds it back from being another game to add to Mario's greatest hits list.

The first thing you'll probably notice when playing or, even less, just viewing Mario Pinball Land is its remarkable production values. This is one of the Game Boy Advance's most graphically impressive games, having everything essentially being modeled to look 3D. You get a grand combination of animated sprites that are as fluid as water as well as a lovely rendered backgrounds that make for a game that looks marvelous on the GBA's small screen. It's really commendable what Fuse Games and Nintendo were able to do with the Game Boy Advance's relatively weak hardware.

Mario Pinball Land isn't exactly
"well-rounded" as a game.
Mario is a character who has been thrown into all sorts of wacky situations and predicaments in order to make a game out of them. This time, Mario has been turned into a ball and is tasked with once again rescuing Princess Peach from the clutches of the tyrannical Bowser. While it's somewhat irritating to see Mario plopped into another game so clumsily (seriously, wouldn't Kirby who is already basically a ball work better for this kind of game?), it somewhat makes sense when you understand that Mario Pinball Land is basically Super Mario 64's progression turned into a pinball game.

Still-frame scenes like this are rare in appearance,
telling the modest tale of Mario Pinball Land.
What I mean by this is that the goal of the game is to direct Mario across multiple pinball tables, collecting Power Stars to journey to other areas and make it one step, er.... roll, closer to his battle with Bowser to rescue Princess Peach.

Each pinball table is one screen long and has Mario completing some kind of task to acquire a Power Star, whether it's defeating all of the enemies within the screen or... well, actually, that's usually the only task you really have to do in Mario Pinball Land, at least early on. Progressing through the game towards its later stages opens up more mysterious challenges that are quite clever in design and are more advanced than smacking every enemy in the room with Mario in ball-form. These Power Stars allow Mario access into differently numbered doors, each displaying how many stars are needed for entry.

Mama Penguin from Cool Cool Mountain
is going to be none too pleased with Mario.
Traversal through the game's five lands is performed with cannons, just like the ones that the Pink Bob-ombs in Super Mario 64 gave Mario clearance to use. The goal of each land aside from the fifth one where Bowser's domain lies, is to find each land's boss, be it Petey Piranha, a big Boo, or a King Tut version of a Koopa Troopa, defeat the boss, and acquire that land's key. Acquiring all four keys leads the way to Bowser.

You're late for Halloween,
Mr. Koopa Troopa.
The lands have other challenges aside from collecting Power Stars, such as nabbing eight red coins within a time limit, as well as a multiball feature that has Mario and a cavalcade of Yoshi eggs bouncing along, allowing for significant point boosts.

Each land is made up of multiple pinball tables, again just one screen long for each. The variety of obstacles and enemies on each table is varied enough and well designed. However, in Mario Pinball Land, the tables aren't designed to slow Mario down. Most tables house large areas of expanse with no objects to give Mario any kind of deceleration, making it quite challenging occasionally to use the flippers to hit Mario with any sort of accuracy.

Ball Mario plunders the deep for Power Star treasure.
This problem persists in many of the tables, and it's made exponentially aggravating because each time you leave a screen of the game it resets to how it was when you originally entered it. Did you defeat four out of five really annoying enemies only to accidentally enter a door leading to a new area? Well, when you come back to that room, all five of those really annoying foes will be back for you to get irritated with all over again. Enjoy!

A popular Mario character in the GameCube
generation, Petey Piranha is back once again.
Perhaps it's a matter of not having enough memory to save the progress of each room, making the game reset how they were originally when you left them. Regardless, all I know is that this makes Mario Pinball Land an artificially longer game than it should be. Considering how easy it is to exit a room through one of the myriad doors because of an ill-timed snap of the flippers or even worse, a completely random and awkward bounce, Mario Pinball Land crosses over from being a fun experiment into a total chore quite easily and quite often.

Complete an area's task to earn
a much deserved Power Star.
This is immensely unfortunate, as the promise of having a Super Mario 64 adventure-style pinball game is soiled by this severe omission. If you don't mind repeated attempts and retries of the same areas over and over and over again, then you might not mind Mario Pinball Land as much as I. Mario Pinball Land could have been an extraordinary pinball title, but minor and major issues with the game's design make it difficult to play as well as to recommend.

[SPC Says: 4.75/10]

Monday, December 15, 2014

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Home Sweet Home Edition

Last week we burned rubber and sped around the track while listening to some racing game-related VGMs. This week we're slowing things down for another themed week, this time a listen to five village themes. These are from games like The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Pokemon Red/Blue, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. With my usual spiel out of the way, sit back, relax, unwind, and enjoy these five village and town-themed VGMs for this week's edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs.

v761. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (GB) - Mabe Village


When Link washes up on the shore of Koholint Island after he and his boat encounter a powerful storm while on the open sea, a girl named Marin finds him and brings him to her home. Her home just so happens to be in Mabe Village, the place where this light and cheery theme plays. Link's Awakening was one of the first Zelda games played by many, and it's one of the most perfect handheld entries of the series to date.

v762. Illusion of Gaia (SNES) - Itory Village/Lily's Village


Oftentimes when debating the top RPGs of the Super Nintendo, the general names of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Breath of Fire, to name a handful, are brought up. Rare is it that Illusion of Gaia gets a mention. It's a shame, too, as the game from Enix is a mighty good ride. The soundtrack is also underrated, so I feel it's only right to throw in a sample piece from the game for your ears to enjoy.

v763. Pokemon Red/Blue (GB) - Pallet Town


Every journey begins with a single step, and for many first-time Pokemon trainers, that single step was first planted in Pallet Town, the opening locale of the original Pokemon games, Red and Blue. Pallet Town's theme is a happy-go-lucky and endearing theme, making it a place you'd love and be excited to. It is a welcoming place after all, and this theme is a huge reason for that. Don't forget to say hello to your mom, by the way. She worries about you.

v764. Dark Cloud (PS2) - Norune Village


Dark Cloud debuted on the PlayStation 2 relatively early in the system's lifespan, releasing in 2001 in North America. The game is an RPG from Level-5, adding some very interesting city-constructing elements into the fold. Dark Cloud would receive a sequel several years later, becoming quite the collector's item, fetching a high price even for a used copy. Regardless, Tomohito Nishiura wrote the music for both games. If that name rings a bell, then perhaps you're also a fan of the Professor Layton series of games much like I am.

v765. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3, 360, PC) - The Streets of Whiterun


A soft and gentle theme for Whiterun, this song sports a light piano accompaniment and soothing strings. Of course, what wasn't so soothing was how PlayStation 3 owners got the short end of the stick with Skyrim. That version of the game had a multitude of game-breaking glitches, bugs, and other issues. You could get mad about such things, or you could get into a mellow mood with themes from the game like The Streets of Whiterun. Your choice!

Friday, December 12, 2014

BLTN Reviews: Killzone: Mercenary (Vita) Review

BLTN? What could that possibly stand for? Bacon, lettuce, tomato, Nutella? Hmm. That might not be a bad combination for a future sandwich.

Ahem! Anyway, BLTN stands for Better Late Than Never, my series of reviews on games from the past few years that I just played which I am now reviewing. The next game in this feature of reviews is Killzone: Mercenary. As someone who isn't a huge fan of the Killzone franchise, did I manage to find some enjoyment out of this PlayStation Vita installment?

Time to earn some mad merc money


There seemed to be two camps in the PlayStation fan base with regard to FPS games. One camp enjoyed Insomniac's Resistance series, while others were enamored with the world and mechanics of Guerrilla Games' Killzone series. The difference between the two franchises is that one received a lot more hype and a bigger marketing push than the other. That franchise in question just so happened to be the one that stuck around, Killzone.

I've played most of the titles in the series, but they just didn't do much for me overall. The standard mechanics were there-- shooting, sprinting, headshot-obtaining, etc., but something just didn't keep me playing for very long. Killzone: Mercenary, on the other hand, is a rare gem in the franchise. It's a game that I not only picked up and found myself greatly enjoying, but it's one that I played long after the credits rolled. It's the next in a line of Vita first-person shooters that tries to do the genre justice on Sony's handheld, and it definitely does that and then some.

Yes... Come to your death, Helghast scum!
Killzone: Mercenary has you playing as Arran Danner, a mercenary for hire (fancy that) who is hired by the ISA to help fight against the Helghan threat. For fans of the franchise, Killzone: Mercenary is essentially a best-of collection of familiar locations and events in the Killzone trilogy. Being a gun-for-hire, Danner eventually plays both sides of the conflict based off of in-game happenings of the overall plot, and whichever side has the moral high ground, coincidentally enough. Regardless, Mercenary's story is the weakest piece of the equation, and it served for me merely as a means to an end to get to all the running and gunning the game possesses in its nine missions.

I think I'll take a covert approach this time around.
All to itself, the aforementioned running and gunning would be of typical Killzone series quality, which wouldn't be so bad. However, Mercenary offers a clever means to keep players playing. Throughout each mission and multiplayer match you participate in, you're receiving money bonuses for a myriad of actions. Everything from a kill, to a headshot, to a melee kill, to an explosive kill, to getting through a section of a level without alerting the enemy, and so forth, rewards you with money. This money is used at Mercenary's arms dealer, which can be accessed in the main menu, and at various locations throughout each of the game's missions.

This black market will soon be colored
in red with the blood of your enemies.
Money is then used to purchase new primary and secondary weapons, types of grenades, armor, and VAN-Guards, which are high-tech equipment that can range from a cloaking device, a robotic buddy that electrifies nearby enemies with a wave of electricity, a jammer that cuts off enemy communication, a missile launcher that locks on to enemies, and more. These goodies can be used to create customized loadouts for single player missions and multiplayer.

Although there's but nine missions to complete in Killzone: Mercenary, most of them take upwards of a half-hour on one's first time through. There's also money to be earned from completing missions on various difficulties, with Veteran being the hardest-- although compared to past Killzone games, the Veteran difficulty in Mercenary is by far the easiest.

It's a modern FPS game, so obviously we need
to bloody up the screen to show you're injured.
In addition to simply completing the nine missions for story and progression purposes, Killzone: Mercenary has three special contract missions for each of the nine levels. These take the form of Precision, Covert, and Demolition contracts. Not only do they add replay value and longevity to Mercenary, but they change the way you play each level. Each contract mission has different objectives that go on top of the story-related ones. These are things like getting through a section of a level undetected, killing a certain number of enemies with a specific weapon, getting a number of melee kills, beating a mission under a specified time limit, destroying a number of a certain object, rescuing hostages, and so forth. It makes it so you need to do more than just run and gun. You grow to learn the levels and the best paths through them and which strategies work best.

This particular objective in a Demolition contract
is to destroy this armored dropship.
Outside of the exhaustive solo campaign, Killzone: Mercenary offers a massive multiplayer component, delivering intense shootouts between players online. There's three main modes to multiplayer, such as your standard every-player-for-themselves deathmatch and team deathmatch, and nine multiplayer maps. You can customize several loadouts, so you can equip the right series of weapons and the like for the right situation. You can even change loadouts after each death for if the one you're currently using isn't working for you at that particular moment.

Do you enemies mind? I heavily
value my personal space.
As of the time of this review, over a year since the game originally launched in North America, Mercenary still has short waiting times to participate in online firefights. It's easy to find matches with players. There's even downloadable content to add bots for offline play only. I enjoyed the game's multiplayer so much that I decided to purchase said DLC, though it would have been preferred to have been a part of the original game.

Being another attempt at putting a first-person shooter on a handheld, Killzone: Mercenary is without question the king. Sure, the competition, especially on Vita, where its opponents were a weak Call of Duty and a weaker Resistance spin-off, wasn't too challenging, but Mercenary impresses as a shooter in general. Some might find the forced touch screen implementation for melee kills (swiping in a certain direction), sniper rifle zooming, and a hacking mini-game, which is a regular occurrence in the game's missions, to be pure gimmickry, but it doesn't overly deter from Mercenary's overall quality.

This should clear up that ear infection of yours.
Killzone: Mercenary is an absolutely breathtaking game to view. The various vistas and locales in the game seldom manage to disappoint, and the special effects such as lighting and explosions do nothing but amaze. Unfortunately, Mercenary doesn't run perfectly, sometimes dipping heavily in frame-rate when the action gets too intense. Furthermore, starting each mission results in a significant loading period as the mission briefing plays out. You can't skip this until at least 30-60 seconds into the briefing. This makes it that repeated play-throughs of missions becomes quite tedious. "I just want to shoot things, darn it! Shut up already, generic war guy!"

Beat these snipers at their own game!
For those fans of first-person shooters, you haven't had a lot of great genre experiences on a portable device. Well, friends, now you have Killzone: Mercenary, the cream of the bang-bang, shoot-shoot crop. As someone with a passing interest in the genre due to the seemingly millions of shooters hyped to hell and released each year, I found myself absolutely loving Mercenary, and even wanting to attempt the time-consuming process of obtaining the Platinum trophy. The game isn't perfect with its long loading times at the beginning of solo missions and multiplayer matches and weak story, but overall, Killzone: Mercenary mission to bring great fun and great FPS gameplay to the PlayStation Vita was a success.

[SPC Says: 9.25/10]

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...