Thursday, March 26, 2015

Super Smash Flash 2: When Fans Create Something Special

While SuperPhillip Central covers retail, digital, AAA, independent, and pretty much every other type of video game release, one that I don't really cover is that of fan-made games. Many times you have folks who make a fan game based on an established video game property, and it falls victim to poor planning; it's trying to make money off of someone else's work, which is a no-no; it reeks of amateurism, or it's just not that fun to play. 


However, you can really tell when someone's heart is in the right place when they make a fan-made game that is truly something special. A site that I recently found that houses several very well put together fan games is the newly rechristened Poki. While the selection of games isn't wholly fantastic-- there are plenty of stinkers, as to be expected with any collection of games-- it does offer a lot of content that you can tell was derived by fans enamored with the source material used.

Super Smash Flash 2 is a game in the Mario category of fan games that is the one that I'd like to talk about. If the name didn't already give it away, Super Smash Flash 2 is a party fighter akin to Nintendo's super popular Super Smash Bros. series, one that dates back to the Nintendo 64. 

One of the great things about making a fan game is that you aren't tied to reality. You can throw in Dragon Ball Z's Goku vs. Nintendo's Mario because you don't have to worry about licensing fees or any of the legal mumbo jumbo. Of course, again, that's only if your game isn't infringing on copyrights or you're trying to make money off of it.


Super Smash Flash 2 brings with it a myriad of characters in up to four player brawls. Characters in the game include Super Smash Bros. standbys and Nintendo all-stars like Mario, Link, Pikachu, Fox McCloud, Samus Aran, Donkey Kong, and more. Meanwhile, you have third-party characters like Lloyd Irving from Tales of Symphonia, Black Mage from the Final Fantasy series, Naruto from the anime and manga of the same name, among many others. 


Then you have stages that like the 2D spritework are masterfully done. There's Mega Man X's Central Highway, Sonic the Hedgehog's Sky Sanctuary, and The Legend of Zelda's Hyrule with the world map from A Link to the Past in the background while fighters duke it out on a platform in the foreground. The creativity displayed is quite impressive.


The combat itself is also worth mentioning with positive regard. Character movement is performed with the WASD keys while attacks both physical and special are done with the O and P keys. Grabs are performed with the U key. It takes some getting used to, but once you get accustomed to them, things quickly begin to feel more natural during play.


Super Smash Flash 2 is an example of some folks with a lot of passion for video games and the source materials of their favorite series creating something that not only plays well, but looks great and thankfully does not infringe legally on anything-- all great hallmarks of a great fan-made game. It's incredibly exciting to see pet projects like this get a chance to shine on sites like Poki, and if you're looking for other games like it with as much passion and heart poured into it, thankfully there's a lot more on the 'net where Super Smash Flash 2 came from.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gone But Not Forgotten 3: More Game Cancellations That Still Sting

Time to open up some old wounds, ladies and gentlemen! When a game you're hyping is suddenly cancelled, whether it's with an official announcement or worse, quietly never talked about again, it's an emotional blow that takes something out of your soul. Perhaps I'm waxing poetic here, so I'll just say that a game cancellation for something you're hyped about takes its toll on you. That's what this series of articles is all about, games that were cancelled, either ceremoniously or not, that still hurt to this day. If you'd like to check out the first and second installments of this series, check them out with part one and part two. Now, let's open up those wounds!

Maverick Hunter X (PS3, 360)


We kick this third look at cancelled games with some Mega Man X action. Developed by several folks who had worked on Metroid Prime, Maverick Hunter X was pumped and primed to be Capcom's attempt to create a similar game. Played in a first-person perspective with the ability to scale walls, Mega Man X was in an all-new form for this perceived reboot. However, as Mega Man lead director Keiji Infaune left the company, this project was scrapped. Thankfully, all of us can view this footage of what could have been a fantastic entry in the series and a new era of Mega Man games.

True Fantasy Live Online (XBX)


A collaboration with Level-5 and Microsoft, True Fantasy Live Online was met with feverish anticipation from the moment it was unveiled. Offering an expansive fantasy world allowing for thousands of players to inhabit it simultaneously, the promises made by both companies involved sounded too good to be true. Unfortunately, they very much were too good to be true. A combination of Level-5's inexperience with online gaming and Microsoft's continued demands made for a partnership that quickly unraveled at the seams. The project was officially cancelled, and the two sides left with a bit of equal bitterness.

Star Fox 2 (SNES)


Nintendo and Argonaut Games worked together on this direct sequel to 1993's Super Nintendo classic Star Fox. It was to feature new vehicle types, two new Star Fox team members, and an upgraded use of the Super FX chip, allowing for unparalleled 3D on the Super Nintendo hardware. The latter was the reason this basically complete game was shelved, never to be released in official capacity. Star Fox 2 was set to release in the summer of '95. However, it seemed this projected date was too close to that of the launch of the Nintendo 64. Thus, Nintendo decided to not release the game, wanting the next Star Fox to use highest caliber graphics possible that only the N64 could provide.

Crash Team Racing 2010 (PS3, 360, Wii)


Planned for development in 2010, a prototype for an all-new Crash Team Racing was being devised by High Impact Games, most notably the makers of various PSP spin-offs of acclaimed PlayStation series like Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, Secret Agent Clank, and Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, to name a few. Before the prototype could be completely 100% finished, the publisher Activision cancelled the project. However, there is footage of the prototype and game in motion. The cancellation of this 2010 incarnation of Crash Team Racing was a rolling snowball in the number of cancellations surrounding the Crash Bandicoot IP, including a Nintendo DS racer by Renegade Kid and a new 3D platformer in the series. Nowadays, Crash Bandicoot sits at home reliving his best days and old adventures on his busted PS1 and watching commercials starring himself. He now weighs 408 lbs.

Toe Jam & Earl 3 (DC)


While the funky duo of Toe Jam and Earl did arrive for a third installment on the Xbox, that finished product and the original vision of the game on the Dreamcast are two entirely different beasts. While the Xbox game is more of a traditional 3D adventure, the Dreamcast game was much more in line with how its Genesis predecessors behaved and played. The so-called "rough cut" is available to play, and you can do so and find more information about the project at this link, courtesy of Eurogamer. Do you think in a parallel universe the finished Dreamcast would have been more intriguing than the released Xbox game?

Mega Man Mania (GBA)


Bookending this edition of Gone But Not Forgotten is a double dose of Mega Man. Around the time that Mega Man Anniversary Collection, which contained all eight mainline classic Mega Man games, was announced and later released for the PS2, GameCube, and later the Xbox, Capcom also had plans to release a companion collection for the Game Boy Advance. This would have been a compendium of Mega Man's handheld adventures from the original Game Boy. Months upon months turned into years with little information regarding Mega Man Mania (here's footage in the form of a trailer), the compilation in question, until it was sadly and silently killed off, much like the Blue Bomber is with Capcom today.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4, XONE, PC) Gameplay Video – “Officer Down”

"As the citizens of Gotham flee and criminal gangs take control of the city, Batman uses his own special methods to discover the true purpose behind Scarecrow's plans."

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Spring Has Sprung Edition

We're a few days into spring, and the birds are tweeting (but not on Twitter-- that'd be one heck of a trick!), the flowers are beginning to bloom, and the weather is much warmer. We've broken through the wall of winter and have arrived at spring! Looks like a fantastic chance to share five new VGMs with you guys and gals. I have music from Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, ICO, TimeSplitters 2, Sonic Rush Adventure, and The Last of Us. It's quite an eclectic mix if I do say so myself!

If you would like even more VGM goodness, check out my VGM Database that houses all 835 prior VGM volumes for your ears to listen to!

v836. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U) - Razzle-Dazzle Slider


Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a charming budget title for the Wii U that stars both Captain Toad and Toadette. The latter of which is the character that plays this pinball style level, Razzle-Dazzle Slider, full of bright lights and this jazzy theme.

v837. ICO (PS2) - You Were There


A powerful vocal theme from ICO, You Were There is a song that touches upon the soul and elicits a great range of emotions from the listener. Who knew that over a decade later that we'd still be waiting on the team behind ICO's third game? Is The Last Guardian still around? Does it still exist? Is it finally time to ask for a time of death? These are questions with answers as mysterious as the themes of ICO.

v838. TimeSplitters 2 (PS2, GCN, XBX) - Siberia


TimeSplitters 2 and GoldenEye 007 have quite a few parallels between the two games. For one, several key staff members of Free Radical Design worked on both games. Another is that both first missions in both games take place at a Russian dam. Graeme Norgate wrote the music for the TimeSplitters series, and this theme brings a feeling of mystery and wonder with it.

v839. Sonic Rush Adventure (DS) - Blizzard Peaks (Mario and Sonic Version)


This version of Sonic Rush Adventure's Blizzard Peaks comes from Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. The original song was already an awesome one, and this remix, like most of the remixes in the Mario and Sonic series of Olympic titles, is even better.

v840. The Last of Us (PS3) - The Path (A New Beginning)


A guitar plays this somber theme from The Last of Us. What's your opinion on the game? I don't have nearly the same love for Naughty Dog as others do. Some of my trepidation towards the developer comes from its desire to make more Hollywood-style experiences rather than actual video games. Still, I think there's room in the industry both types of gameplay experiences, so I can't say I have an ax to grind against Naughty Dog.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

TimeSplitters 2 (PS2, GCN, XBX) Retro Review

The first-person shooter is admittedly not my favorite genre. It needs to be a specific type of FPS for me to really dig into it, one with a feel for an arena-based shooting experience, and one with a campaign that isn't linear. TimeSplitters 2 is both of these things, and it makes for a well reviewed game as you'll see with this review of mine.

The Heir to Perfect Dark's Throne


My favorite first-person shooter of all time is Perfect Dark. True to its name, the game offered a perfect mix of solo play and multiplayer options, a healthy heap of content, and a presentation that was jaw-dropping for the time, even if now, the game plays more like a slideshow thanks to the sporadic frame-rate.

Fifteen months before the game was set to release on the Nintendo 64 back in 2000, a portion of the development team packed up and left to create a new studio, Free Radical Design. The team, made up of notable members like David Doak, Steve Ellis, and Graeme Norgate, released TimeSplitters on the PlayStation 2 as their first completed project. As soon as development for that game was finished and the game launched to high fanfare, the team then turned its attention to the sequel, TimeSplitters 2, this time arriving on two more platforms, Microsoft's Xbox and the Nintendo GameCube.

Amassing a hefty load of content and acclaimed first-person shooting action, TimeSplitters 2 seemed like a game I should have played a long time ago, just based on the credentials of the team alone. It turns out that TimeSplitters 2 is the Perfect Dark heir that I had been waiting to play for over a decade now.

Sergeant Cortez and Corporal Hart, two space marines, arrive at a space station that is infested with TimeSplitters, an alien race that wants nothing more than to see the demise of humanity. Using special objects called Time Crystals, the TimeSplitters are entering several periods of time to change the course of history to humanity's dismay. It's up to Sergeant Cortez to leap into the time portal, take on personas related to the various time periods he enters a la Quantum Leap, and stop the plans of the TimeSplitters before they can do irreparable damage to history and humanity. This is all the while Corporal Hart fends off the TimeSplitters trying to reach the portal room.

They're not here on a whim. They're here to
wipe out the TimeSplitter menace!
TimeSplitters 2's story is fragmented thanks to the different personas Sergeant Cortex assumes. The game is most definitely not a story-driven one, which makes it quite easy to not care about the characters or plot whatsoever. You get a text briefing at the start of each mission, but at the same time, you don't fully become aware of why you're doing some primary and secondary objectives, making for some questions on why you, the player, should be invested in this fight.

The fifth mission of TimeSplitters 2 takes
place in a futuristic Tokyo.
There are three difficulties to choose from for each of TimeSplitters 2's ten missions. Regardless of which difficulty you pick, each mission has to played in order. Missions are relatively short in Easy mode, whereas with Normal mode, you get to explore more of the levels with more objectives that are required to complete to beat a mission. In Easy and Normal, you get an ample amount of body armor and the ability to reach checkpoints that are helpful spots that you restart at if you are to fail your mission or die prematurely. Hard mode doesn't give you the benefit of checkpoints, and truth be told, some missions are very challenging even on Normal. In fact, the first, Siberia, is one of the harder missions in the game due to its length and lack of more than one checkpoint. It's here that I realized that TimeSplitters 2's difficulty curve was more of a roller coaster than a straight uphill climb.

There may be no honor in shooting a guy in the back,
but there's also no honor in dying on the first mission!
Outside of the story mode-- which is other than the inconsistent difficulty curve, well designed and offers an awesome ability to play cooperatively with another player-- there are a multitude of other modes to tackle by your lonesome. The Arcade League mode presents you with a varying amount of league difficulties, Amateur, Honorary, and Elite, and have you competing in different themed skirmishes in one of TimeSplitters 2's fifteen multiplayer arenas. Depending on how well you do, you earn one of three medal types and unlock new in-game content like cheats, as well as new multiplayer maps, modes, and characters.

Whoa, ugly! We don't need to get
all up close and personal!
Challenge mode has you taking on a profusion of different scenarios with the goal of trying to meet the requirements, whether a time limit or a score for the best medal. These come in different categories like stealth, shooting galleries, survival, and a several others, giving you plenty of types of scenarios to select from.

Both Arcade League and Challenge deliver a massive amount of more gameplay styles and content for solo players. It's immensely rewarding to gain medals to unlock new, unexpected content that would otherwise be hidden away from the player. The fact that with all of this single player gameplay I haven't yet mentioned how the multiplayer half of TimeSplitters 2 plays is really saying something to just how packed the game is with things to do.

One gun against two? Are you cocky or dumb?
Only four modes are available in multiplayer matches at first: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Bag (a Capture the Flag variant), and BagTag, where a player must hold onto to the bag as long as possible to score points. As Arena League battles are completed, new modes open up-- one of twelve others, offering a grand variety of match types.

The Mexican Mission is one of sixteen unique
and fun multiplayer maps in TimeSplitters 2.
The multiplayer in TimeSplitters 2 is an absolute blast, offering a robust amount of match options to fiddle with, allowing you to create the match types you want to a shocking degree of customization. Bots are here and allow for full rooms, making matches fun if you are by your lonesome or have three other friends to frag. Maps are well designed, allow you to choose from a set of bots, weapons to use, and options like one-hit kills, if players begin with weapons, and a multitude of other customization features.

My favorite multiplayer map Streets
unlocks by beating the game.
In addition to the multiplayer maps already provided in TimeSplitters 2, a returning feature from the original TS is the Mapmaker, now with even more creation tools to allow you to make your own multiplayer maps and even single player missions. With helpful and accessible tools, level kits, and more, you can create a competent map with your own character and weapon spawn points, lighting, and so on.

Like the some of the team's past work on GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, TimeSplitters 2 delivers in offering awesome weaponry to mow down enemies and the competition with. From old school weapons like Tommy Guns and silenced pistols to futuristic weaponry like homing rockets and guns with bullets that bounce off walls, floors, and ceilings, TimeSplitters 2 gives you the offensive goods to tackle any challenge or obstacle the game throws at you with relative ease. At the very least, you'll feel like a one-man or one-woman army, even if you quickly die to your opponents.

Oh, sorry! I didn't think anyone was using
the restroom at the moment.
While the design of human characters leaves a little to be desired, the settings and areas of TimeSplitters 2 look fabulous and have an intricate amount of detail to them for a sixth-generation game. From nice effects to rain droplets blurring the periphery of your view in the Notre Dame mission to intense flames in other levels, there are some lovely effects thrown in to TimeSplitters 2's presentation. Fortunately, unlike Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64, the frame-rate is your friend in Free Radical Design's second offering of TimeSplitters.

Better call your State Farm agent for this one.
Graeme Norgate delivers a techno at some times, dynamically symphonic at others, score to accompany the many hours of missions and multiplayer fragging that await you. The voice work, despite being attached to characters I found no interest for, is performed adequately and believably. This is indeed a presentation for TimeSplitters 2 that is as engaging as the gunplay-- that is to say, very good.

TimeSplitters 2 may not offer the online play that most of us expect from a first-person shooter today, but the ability to play with bots of varying difficulties makes for a nice replacement-- but not totally. You'll easily get your money's worth from the solo content of the game alone, much more with multiplayer throwing in one of a dozen match types, one of sixteen well-designed multiplayer maps, and an abundance of characters to unlock. TimeSplitters 2 is now one of my favorite FPS games of all time, and it makes the thirst to play the other games in the series like the thirst of walking a desert for days without water. As you kids growing up in the eighth generation of video game consoles would say, "I needs me some more TimeSplitters!"

[SPC Says: A-]

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