Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top Ten JRPG Final Boss Themes (Spoilers)

There are sometimes top ten lists that write themselves. You can easily select ten items and bestow them with an order no sweat. This is one of those lists that was incredibly arduous to pick from the hundreds of JRPGs that had the most marvelous final boss themes to them. Still, we overcame the struggle of selecting ten themes from ten games and just ten, and we pretty much reached a compromise among staff. This list contains what we deem the best final boss battle themes in JRPG history. If you think we left out any good ones (which we most likely did with only ten picks out of hundreds of games), please let us know in the comments section below.

Also, it's important to note that we've tried to limit the amount of spoilers in this article, but you should still tread carefully. We mostly talk about older games, but there are a couple more recent titles that you may not have been able to play yet. In that case, we don't show the final boss's picture.

10) Final Battle VS. Rival - Pokemon Blue/Red/Yellow (GB)


This is it. You've come a long way as a Pokemon trainer. From your humble beginnings in Pallet Town, you've acquired the eight necessary badges from gym leaders around Kanto, and you've put the Elite Four in their place. However, there's but one last obstacle between you and the title of Pokemon master-- your rival, Blue! Although in retrospect it isn't as powerful as it once was, the theme heard while fighting Blue's six Pokemon was haunting, imposing, and let all trainers who dared face Blue know that this was not going to be an easy battle.

9) Last Battle (Opportunity) - Skies of Arcadia (DC, GCN)


This theme perfectly punctuates the tense feeling of facing the final boss of Skies of Arcadia. Even though the theme is pure synth, it still gives off an emotional impact all the same. At 1:53 the music changes direction into a hopeful song. This part plays as the final boss is on his last leg, so to speak. Victory is in your grasp, Vyse and crew, can you clench it?

8) Battle Vs. Lord Blazer - Wild ARMs 2 (PS1)


Using the main theme of the game as its focal point, Wild ARMs 2's Battle Vs. Lord Blazer hits all the right notes, not feeling foreboding like many of the themes on this list, but rather sounding heroic, as if this final boss is going to get his and Ashley and friends are without a doubt going to let nothing in the way as they save the day. Michiko Naruke's talents know no bounds, as the ending battle tour de force shows.

7) Dragon God - Chrono Cross (PS1)


Yasunori Mitsuda did some fantastic work on the Chrono Trigger soundtrack back on the Super Nintendo, but his compositions on Chrono Cross, in our humble, collective opinion, outshines them. Dragon God is a final boss theme that is one part chilling with its female vocalizations and one part pulse-pounding with its quick string riffs and motifs. Dragon God lets you know that you're in for one showdown against a boss that is anything but a pushover.

6) Awakening - Xenogears (PS1)


We change PlayStation One RPGs and move on from Chrono Cross to another Yasunori Mitsuda-composed soundtrack and game, Xenogears. Technically, Awakening plays during the penultimate boss encounter, but the boss that follows is a story-related boss that cannot be lost against, so we're going to say for the sake of things that Awakening plays during the true final boss of Xenogears. The tense and rapid pulse of the theme creates a sense of urgency, and the use of vocals accentuates the theme splendidly. Awakening is truly a theme that's like listening to a sweet dream.

5) Id ~ Purpose - Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)


Going from one Awakening to another, this time in the actual title's name, Fire Emblem: Awakening's final map theme for the final boss of the game is similar to Battle Vs. Lord Blazer, as it is more a theme of hope, heroism, and glory. Fire Emblem: Awakening already has our favorite soundtrack of the entire series, but this theme, Id ~ Purpose, is a cut above the majority of themes heard in any Fire Emblem game. The choir that chimes in to offer a deep and rich harmony that is hard for other songs to compete with.

4) The Strongest Foe - Ys: The Oath in Felghana (PSP, PC)


We love Ys: The Oath in Felghana's soundtrack to pieces, and one part of that is its rocking, head-banging final boss theme, The Strongest Foe. The action of battle is accentuated  by this uptempo track, delivering a theme that builds up the final boss as this sensational last challenge this Ys III remake has to offer. At 1:29, a heroic motif leaps into the picture, essentially telling players that there is hope to defeat this ultimate evil despite the odds being against them.

3) Serpent Eating the Ground - Bravely Default (3DS)


Whether it's called Serpent Eating the Ground or The Snake That Devours the Horizon is irrelevant when you finally get around to hearing this increasingly more epic final boss theme. The chanting going along with this orchestral blend of metal music makes this theme sound absolutely awesome. When this lengthy theme progresses, it eventually reaches a point where it plays the special move themes of each of the four characters. However, our favorite part of this theme is its epic finale at 5:20, which basically tells the boss that its butt is grass and your party is the lawnmower.

2) One-Winged Angel - Final Fantasy VII (PS1)


A theme that is so well-known that it needs no description, so we'll move onto number one on our list.

...

Just kidding. The final battle against an angelic Sephiroth has a theme that doesn't mess around. The introduction brings the tension, but the most popular part of One-Winged Angel is without question when the choir unleashes a flurry of Latin onto the player, ending with "Sephiroth" as the conclusion. One-Winged Angel perfectly takes Sephiroth's ordinary character theme and turns the knob past 11 to make a fully realized, kick-ass final boss theme.

1) Dancing Mad - Final Fantasy VI (SNES)


However, our favorite final boss theme from a JRPG comes from our favorite Final Fantasy with our favorite soundtrack. It's a final boss theme that was simply put ahead of its time. Starting off with a version of the theme Catastrophe, Dancing Mad plays its haunting opening moments. The song is split up between four movements. Each movement masterfully transitions to the next as soon as a piece of the Esper tower being fought is eliminated. Everything builds up to this final showdown with Kefka himself, where this part of the theme plays as Kefka's heavenly new form descends onto the battlefield. Soon, a rocking version of Kefka's character theme plays as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Whether you agree with Dancing Mad edging out One-Winged Angel or not, there's no questioning the genius that is Nobuo Uematsu. A genius so great that we had to limit the Final Fantasy franchise to two entries on this list!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz (Vita) Review

For our fourth review for this PlayStation Vita-centric month of reviews, we have a series that has been down in quality for some time now. Still, we cannot help by look back and hold fond memories to better times for the series. This Vita exclusive, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz, hopes to greatly improve the series' recent quality. Does it do it? Phil has the answer.

By No Means the Top Banana


Two of my favorite GameCube games from the system came from the now defunct Amusement Vision: Super Monkey Ball and its sequel, Super Monkey Ball 2. The two games had just enough challenge and creativity to make an impact and have an admirable amount of sales. However, over the past decade, the Super Monkey Ball series has seen one average to mediocre game after another. That said, Sega is at it once again with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz, a PlayStation Vita exclusive entry in the franchise. While this entry in the series is closer in quality to the GameCube originals than titles like Super Monkey Ball 3D and Super Monkey Ball: Touch & Roll, Banana Splitz still doesn't reach greatness.

Aiai is frightened. He's obviously
having an out-of-body experience.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz's main mode, just like every other Super Monkey Ball game, is the Challenge mode. Here you guide your monkey in a ball through various stages, evading obstacles, avoiding falling off the stage, collecting bananas, and reaching the goal gate before time runs out. 

The beginner stages introduce the basic gameplay concepts of Banana Splitz rather well. Sure, these levels can seem insultingly easy, but they're a good refresher for those who are a bit rusty or new to the Super Monkey Ball series. Most of these stages have an abundance of walls, few places to fall off, and a lot of bananas to give players easy 1UP's, gained after collecting 30 bananas.

The introductory stages present the
player with plenty of protective walls.
Then once the beginner stages are completed, you can move onto the normal stages. Instead of just ten stages to trek through, there are now thirty. There's less in the way of walls to save your rolling monkey ball from falling, more moving platforms, pinball-like bumpers, and tricky, sometimes narrower paths for your monkey to take. 

The normal stages require
a bit more skill to complete.
What comes after normal are the advanced stages. These are made up of fifty total levels, as well as one ridiculous jump in difficulty between the stages of normal and the stages of advanced. There's a lot of trial and error involved, there's more than enough places where you will lose lives on a swift basis, and there's plenty of unforgiving level design to make you clench your teeth and want to chuck your Vita across the room.

This mode would be great with unlimited continues, right? You'd think since you go from thirty average in difficulty levels to fifty nightmarish levels in comparison, that you'd get a reprieve. Unfortunately, you only earn the ability to have unlimited continues after you beat advanced mode. Yes, this means you must complete all fifty arduous stages of advanced with a set amount of lives and continues, all of which can be spent through rather quickly. It's a very puzzling design choice that means a lot of players will most likely be stuck in the advanced stages and never see the rest of the stages Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz has to offer.

A diet purely of bananas can't be that
healthy for you, can it, little monkey?
In order to control your monkey's escapades across various stages, you can opt to use the left analog stick or go bold with the gyro controls of the Vita. The latter is way too underdeveloped to be relied upon, especially in later levels. When you have to tilt the Vita towards you to slow down, the screen sort of makes it challenging to see what's happening on the screen, unless you're a contortionist. 

Furthermore, the promisingly titled Edit Mode is another disappointment in Banana Splitz. One would imagine creating their own Monkey Ball stages manually, making exactly what they want. Instead, what you get is a mode where you take a picture of an object (and even now I doubt taking a picture even matters), and then shaking the Vita system to create a random, cookie-cutter stage that is as basic and boring as vanilla ice cream. 

Push your creativity to the limi--
actually, push it to the side.
Outside of the typical Monkey Ball challenges, Banana Splitz comes with a party mode, available for solo runs against the computer or battles with other players. A returning favorite in Monkey Target, where the goal is to take your flying monkey ball and land it on a target with multiple areas worth varying amounts of points, is present and accounted for in Banana Splitz, and it's one of the better mini-games in this package.

Another enjoyable mode includes Battle Billiards, a four player mode where opponents take turns hitting their colored balls into others in order to try to hit them into holes for points. There's also a Love Maze game with the goal of controlling two monkeys through an obstacle course, trying to keep the romantic chain between the two from breaking apart. There's also bowling, a number game where you tap a bunch of rolling balls in order, and a game where you control a ball and try to enter into holes, going for bingo in order to score points.

This is a much flashier setting for a
bingo game than a church rec room.
There is one mini-game, however, that is absolute garbage. This is known as Monkey Rodeo. It has you using the back touch pad of the Vita to guide a horse-riding monkey around an enclosed arena, gathering bananas. These controls are close enough to call them broken.  

Whoever thought this control scheme was
a good idea deserves to choke on a monkey ball.
Banana Splitz by no means pushes the Vita hardware, but the game looks and runs nicely all the same. There's nothing that really repulses the eyes in the game. Everything is suitably colorful, and the different animations of Aiai and friends are remarkably charming. The music is hit or miss. There's really nothing I can remember after extended sessions of playing Banana Splitz. That said, the music isn't grating either, so at least there's that.

With Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz, Sega edges the closest it has been in a long time in resembling the glory days of the Super Monkey Ball franchise. That notwithstanding, a ridiculous and highly frustrating leap in difficulty between the normal and advanced stages makes it hard to recommend this game to everyone. Despite its welcoming visual style and wackiness, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz is a Monkey Ball journey for experts only. For most, the majority of stages will never be seen because the game is just too hard and a lot of skill and a little luck is required. Still, while Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz slips on a proverbial banana peel and stumbles a little bit, it by no means falls flat on its face.

[SPC Says: 6.5/10]

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (3DS) Announcement Trailer

It was announced today by Square Enix that Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, a game that we have long hoped would arrive on our side of the Pacific, will be releasing in North America later this year. Featuring over 200 songs and 60 characters from various mainline and spin-off games in the Final Fantasy series, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is no doubt a game that will have fans of the series and rhythm games in generally very happy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Game Boy Turns 25: Our Favorite Games

Today, April 21, 2014, Nintendo's successful Game Boy originally released. Since then, the Game Boy line has sold over 200 million units in total, and has single-handily built Nintendo's portable empire, beating every competitor that tried to dethrone the handheld king (even more technologically advanced hardware). Since the Game Boy is now 25, does this mean that the Game Boy should be referred to as the Game Man? Holy cow, that joke was terrible.

Anyway, the staff here at SuperPhillip Central would like to take this special date and anniversary to look back at some of our favorite titles for Nintendo's handheld wonder, sometimes sharing some of our personal memories of these games. If you have any titles from the original Game Boy that you have fond memories of, please share with the community in the comments below.

- Super Mario Land
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

The first Super Mario Land game is rather strange. There's an absence of recurring Mario enemies, and even Bowser and his perpetual prisoner Princess Peach are nowhere to be found. Instead, Mario ventures outside the borders of the Mushroom Kingdom to Sarasaland in hopes of saving Princess Daisy, in her debut game. It's also the only mainline Mario game to include her in the cast. Super Mario Land featured capable platforming, bizarre vehicle segments (but they were by no means bad), and a challenging enough difficulty to keep new Game Boy systems owners a lot to come back to.

- Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

While Super Mario Land introduced Tatanga as the one time villain of the series, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins introduced the world to Wario. Not only that, but 6 Golden Coins featured a nonlinear game progression, quite unlike Super Mario Land. After the initial opening stage, Mario could visit one of six zones surrounding his shanghaied castle in any order. Once all of the bosses of each zone surrendered their given golden coin to Mario, the portly plumber could enter the castle, participate in a crazy difficulty jump of a level, and retake his home from Wario. Super Mario Land 2 improved the visuals immensely in comparison to its predecessor, and the results were nothing less than spectacular.

- Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

It wasn't enough that Wario had to steal Mario's castle from him. In 1994 he went ahead and stole his rival's own series from him! Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 was the first game of the Wario Land series, and obviously it starred everyone's eventual favorite nose-picking, butt-scratching, fart-unleashing, garlic-eating plumber in an entirely new platforming adventure. Wario Land featured a new means of attacking: ground pounds, charges, chucking foes into other enemies, and more. Of the Super Mario Land games, the third installment unquestionably had the most replay value, with its secret levels, hidden treasures, and different ending castles for Wario that depend on how much coinage players gathered. Wario's debut starring role was a force to be reckoned with... just like one of his farts.

- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes (The DX version)

There was nothing quite like getting an expansive world to explore like The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening's Koholint Island. The fact that you had a Zelda game with the same echelon of content as a Super Nintendo title, A Link to the Past, was mind-blowing to many. Sure, we take this for granted nowadays, as handhelds have improved exponentially over the years, but Link's Awakening is one of a prestigious group of Game Boy games that simply stand the test of time. Its unique combination of items, side quests, and areas like towns and dungeons to explore allowed players to become fully consumed by Koholint Island and its many wonders.

- Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
On 3DS Virtual Console: No

I remember reading about something called "Pocket Monsters" in an issue of Nintendo Power. The two page or so article showed the series of games launching in Japan and the ensuing ruckus that followed. A year later, I received a video tape in the mail from the magazine, all about Pokemon. When the games hit North America, I was in middle school, and I was completely immersed into the series. I played the games like an addict, I watched the anime, I collected the playing cards, and I even drew my own comic books based on the franchise. 15 years later and the Pokemon series is still going strong. I might not have anywhere near the amount of attachment to the series as I once had, but I can't fathom ever disliking it.

- Tetris
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Before Wii Sports, there was a game that introduced plenty of non-gamers to the gaming side for just a brief moment. It was a bona fide system seller for many, and once players of all ages got their hands on it, minutes turned to hours in quick fashion. This Russian-made concept was simple: falling blocks of seven different shapes (five, if you don't count mirrored shapes) fell slowly from the top of the screen to the bottom. The goal was to piece blocks together to form a complete line, thus eliminating those blocks and giving the player points. Tetris has since had multiple ports and iterations on essentially every platform under the sun, and has gone on to sell over 170 million copies, most of which are digital. To say that Tetris is the most prolific puzzle game around would be no understatement whatsoever.

- Metroid II: Return of Samus
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Samus Aran made her second appearance in Metroid II: Return of Samus. Her objective this time around was to eliminate every specie of Metroid on a harsh planet. Along the way Samus would uncover upgrades and abilities to increase the number of areas she could traverse in. While it's true that like the original Metroid before it, making a map is certainly helpful due to all of the identical-looking corridors and rooms, Metroid II: Return of Samus was still a fantastic first portable entry for Nintendo's femme fatale.

- Donkey Kong Land I-III
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes (Japan Only, save for III)

You might scoff and sneer at the visuals of the Donkey Kong Land series today, but back then the trilogy wowed Game Boy owners with its impressive graphics. The original Donkey Kong Land implemented nearly everything concept-wise from the Super Nintendo's Donkey Kong Country. However, the levels and worlds were entirely different. Even new enemies showed up that were exclusive to that game. The sequels of Donkey Kong Land would utilize similar stories to their SNES counterparts, but the levels would be designed differently, despite sharing the same names. While the games haven't aged as gracefully as many of the other games on this list, we still hold a fondness for Rare's portable Donkey Kong Land trilogy.

- Donkey Kong
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Not a straight up port of the popular arcade game but an entirely new challenging puzzle platformer, Donkey Kong released on the original Game Boy in 1994. While its first four levels were modeled after the four levels of the arcade game, once those were completed, the game showed its stuff. Levels consisted of Mario jumping, climbing, and hanging through obstacle-laden courses, with the goal of finding and carrying a key to a locked door somewhere in the level. The amount of new gameplay concepts constantly kept this 1994 version of Donkey Kong from becoming stale. The Game Boy Donkey Kong remains one of the best puzzle platformers ever devised, and if you're looking for a more recent take on the genre (but only after you've played this Game Boy game, of course), check out the Game Boy Advance's Mario vs. Donkey Kong.

- Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Pit returned to gaming with the Game Boy's Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters. The game was a marked improvement over its NES predecessor. For one, the challenge was more reasonable and fair. Climbing up the vertical levels and accidentally falling did not usually mean a lost life. Going off the screen at the bottom didn't kill you. Instead, the screen scrolled with you like a typical platformer. Of Myths and Monsters contained multi-room dungeons set up like labyrinths to keep players engaged and exploring. It was a shame that we didn't get to see the Kid Icarus franchise return to the public eye until decades later with Pit's appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and his first starring role in 20 years with the 3DS' Kid Icarus: Uprising (great game, by the way).

- Kirby's Dream Land 2 
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

One of the hardest classic Kirby games is right here-- Kirby Dream Land 2. The game was a much longer game than what Game Boy owners had previously seen of the Kirby franchise. It implemented multiple animal pals to help Kirby in his adventure, and offered optional collectibles to unlock an alternate ending to the game. The real challenge came from keeping the necessary ability to unlock the way to said optional collectibles. Kirby's Dream Land 2 was a terrific title to give players who mock the difficulty of the Kirby series.

- Mole Mania
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Shigeru Miyamoto was the brainchild behind this puzzle game. Mole Mania had players controlling (if it wasn't already obvious) a mole, as they played through eight worlds, venturing between the surface and burrowing underground in order to solve puzzles and make progress through the game. Mole Mania was deceptively simple at first, but even then, the concept was recognizably clever right from the start. Later worlds introduced harder puzzles, new mechanics, and plenty of head-scratching gameplay for all players of all skill levels to enjoy. It's about time we see a return to this game. You listening, Nintendo?!

- Final Fantasy Legend series
On 3DS Virtual Console: No

The Final Fantasy Legend series gave players an RPG adventure that was as meaty as a Behemoth. An embarrassment of class, equipment, and ability riches were available for players to outfit their characters in a myriad of means to best suit their play style. Although the three games of the series were obviously a little watered down compared to their console brethren, Final Fantasy Legend was an incredibly capable and competent RPG to engrossed in either on the go or at home.

- Mega Man V
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes (Japan Only)

The wholly original Mega Man game for the Game Boy was Mega Man V. It had all original levels and Robot Masters to contend with, each based on a planet of the Solar System. The fifth and final Game Boy installment also showcased a new means of attack for Mega Man, the Mega Arm. Throughout the game, Mega Man could return to Dr. Light's laboratory to purchase items with special chips that were sprinkled about the game's eight initial levels. Also new was the ability to select from all eight stages upon the beginning of the game instead of just four at first (and then once those were completed, the other four opened up). Mega Man V may be only available on Japan's Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console service, but next month Capcom is releasing a slew of Mega Man games, including Mega Man V, for the service here in North America.

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - A Fascination With Roman Numerals Edition

SuperPhillip Central is here on this lovely Monday morning to pump up the jams-- video game jams, that is. This week we're all about games with roman numerals in their titles. All of these games are sequels to well known series. We have Saints Row, Street Fighter, God of War, Breath of Fire, and Final Fantasy to satiate your thirst for great video game music. If that somehow doesn't, however, why not check out our VGM Database? It contains every theme we've ever put under the spotlight in this weekly segment.

v606. Saints Row IV (PS3, 360, PC) - Main Theme


What better way to kick off the first morning of the work week than with some dubstep? Now, we must admit that we aren't the biggest fans of this more modern musical genre, but we can't help but enjoy Saints Row: The Third's main theme given a dubstep makeover.

v607. Street Fighter II (SNES) - Guile's Theme


This is apparently the song that goes with everything. You've most likely heard or read that if you frequent the Internet and its underbelly. This triumphant theme for the patriotic American fighter Guile, gets the body energized and primed for battle! Now excuse us while we go home and be family men.

v608. God of War III (PS3) - Rage of Sparta


We need to drop a bomb on you. Kratos of the God of War series is the type of antihero that we absolutely despise. He's always angry, he's always a jerk, and he does both of those things obnoxiously well. Still, it is way too much fun hacking and slash foes into huge combos, exploring majestic palaces, temples, and mountains, and hearing all of it backed by this chilling score.

v609. Breath of Fire III (PS1) - The Insane Warriors


Played in the battle arena, Breath of Fire III's The Insane Warriors definitely has a 90's feel to it. This jazzy piece has a really nice beat to it, consists of quick motifs, and gets the toes a-tappin'. A port of this PlayStation One classic arrived on the PSP. However, only PAL and Japanese markets received it. All others needed to import, which could be rather expensive.

v610. Final Fantasy XII (PS2) - Ending Movie


Longtime series composer Nobuo Uematsu only wrote one piece for Final Fantasy XII. The majority of the rest of the music was composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, whose credits include Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and more recently Valkyria Chronicles. This symphonic masterpiece does Final Fantasy XII's climactic ending supreme justice. It's stirring, riveting, and makes one's pulse pound with its excitement.

Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS) North American TV Commercial

What an interesting approach to a Kirby commercial! The music selection sounds more like something to be heard for a Zelda game or Fire Emblem game. Somehow, though, it works really well and put a smile on our faces. Kirby: Triple Deluxe releases May 2 in North America, the same day as Mario Golf: World Tour. Nintendo is pulling off a one-two punch to kick off the month of May.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Resistance: Burning Skies (Vita) Review

The first dual analog shooter on a handheld device... Should be great, right? Well, it's not great, but it did show a lot of promise for the genre on Sony's portable system. Here's our review of Resistance: Burning Skies.

Resistance is Futile. And Passable. 


One of Sony's more recent franchises that certainly hasn't been giving its worthy due is Resistance. Instead, Sony has been more focused on Killzone, another first-person shooter franchise, albeit one that predates Resistance. That said, we've always cared more about the PlayStation 3 debuting shooter series rather than Killzone. Perhaps the setting of Resistance, the story, the characters, the action, the weaponry, and no Rico have something to do with that. Regardless, Resistance finds its way to the PlayStation Vita, serving as the first ever handheld first-person shooter with dual analog controls. While Resistance: Burning Skies does make it clear that Sony's PlayStation Vita is perfect for first-person shooters, it doesn't make it a great game in the end.

Short animated comic book cutscenes chronicle the plight that the U.S. and humanity in general is currently facing with the Chimeran horde. You take the role of Tom Riley, a firefighter who simply wants to be reunited with his loving wife and darling daughter. Of course, this journey meets various speed bumps, mostly because Riley wishes to save every person he ever encounters. Then again, you have to make things interesting in a story, right? Unfortunately, Burning Skies' story does little to entertain regardless. It's mostly dull, uninteresting, and the characters do little to make you care about them.

It's sometimes a challenge to write captions for
FPS screens, since all you're doing is shooting stuff.
What is also rather dull is the gameplay. Now, while Resistance: Burning Skies definitely proves that the PlayStation Vita with its dual analog sticks are great for first-person shooters, the game is by no means a textbook example of how a portable shooter should be. This is mostly to do with most enemy encounters and level design.

In the console Resistance games, the Chimera are very aggressive in taking you down. This is not the case in Burning Skies. Enemies are much smaller in number, they seldom come after you, and really, all one needs to do to vanquish them is to lay low behind cover and occasionally pop up to fire. You can alternately simply run up to them and use your one-hit KO move, an axe strike, to put the Chimera in their place. The fact that you are invincible in the KO animation makes battles much easier to regain your health in.

The problems go into level design as well. Far too many times you're battling in the confines of corridors and hallways. When the action happens in more open areas, Burning Skies' action shines more brightly. Enemies, though as seldom as they do so, can run over to where you're hiding and shoot at you. The first 3/4 of the game relies heavily on corridor design. The latter quarter of Burning Skies has much more interesting rooms, offering unique offensive and defensive options for players to utilize. The variety of foes that you face at one time also gets a boost, making confrontations less of a grind and more of an exciting proposition.

Okay. I'll try to come up with a caption here.
Uh... "These bullets in your face will make it look better!"
...I don't know if that one went well or not.
Of course, you can't just take down the whole Chimeran army with just Tom's axe. There are eight weapons to acquire throughout the duration of Burning Skies' campaign. There's the traditional Resistance fare, such as the Auger, which fires bullets through walls; and the Bullseye, an automatic rifle that can tag enemies and thus home shots in on them.

While most of the guns aren't really as inventive as past Resistance games, where the real fun comes in is with the secondary fire functions of each weapon. One weapon's secondary fire has a drone launching from it, shooting at all enemies until it hits a wall. Others allow you to target multiple enemies at once with a rocket launcher, or a crossbow that grants you an explosive shot. The more complicated battles require you to shuffle between multiple weapons to survive. This is all the while moving from cover to cover, dodging a barrage of bullets in the process.

Let's try this again.
"Nice arm. Lose a bet?"
Ehhhhh......
These secondary functions all require the player to interact with the touch screen. For example, the aforementioned rocket launcher can blast out a deluge of rockets at a number of enemies simultaneously by dragging your finger over each desired target. The crossbow gets armed with an explosive round by sliding your finger in a downward diagonal direction. This is also how grenades are thrown, and while these mandatory touch screen moments may seem gimmicky and difficult to ascertain, once you've gotten them down, they feel completely natural, and dare I say even fun.

Through acquiring hidden blue cubes strewn across the campaign levels, you can customize the various guns of the game. You can only have two cubes equipped to a single gun. Therefore, of the six different upgrades available, you can only have two equipped on a gun at the same time. Whether it's faster reload speeds, greater explosions, or less recoil (just to name a few), you can tailor your arsenal to fit your play style.

The campaign itself spans seven missions with multiple chapters to them. The game can be completed in about five hours, but there's collectibles in the form of files to obtain. Though these simply add more background  into an already boring story. Multiple difficulty levels are also available to attempt. However, these just make Tom Riley less of a bullet sponge and do nothing in the way of making enemies smarter or the level design more interesting. Heck, there's not even much enticement in playing on any mode than easy due to the fact that there are no difficulty-related trophies, if you're into that sort of thing.

There is, however, multiplayer to keep players coming back if they so wish. This offers up to eight players the chance to participate in three modes for online play: standard deathmatch,  team deathmatch, and a survival mode where every killed player turns into a Chimera, and the round ends when all humans are eliminated. As you play and win more matches, you earn experience that grants you new weapons from the campaign to use in battle.

One could say multiplayer adds some value,
but there's now better offerings available on the Vita.
Maps are generally small, but they are interesting in their design, something that surprised me considering the campaign's less than impressive approach to its levels. There's always a feeling of pressure in the multiplayer, as your character can die within a few shots, but at the same time, other players can be killed just as quickly, too. This ends up with less experienced players seeing their character down on the ground dead more than seeing them standing upright.

When it concerns Resistance: Burning Skies' visuals, there is nothing here that pushes the Vita hardware at all. Downed enemies have their corpses disappear soon after hitting the ground, levels are full of drab colors, and character models aren't very exciting to look at. As for sound, the majority of what plays during the campaign and multiplayer is purely ambient, environmental noises with little in the way of music. This simply adds to the dullness of the entire game, unfortunately.

I guess if I were to try to pinpoint the biggest problem area of Resistance: Burning Skies, it would be that it by no means at all translates the riveting urgency and gravitas of the original Resistance trilogy well at all to the PlayStation Vita. Encounters aren't anywhere near as compelling and as tense as what can be found on the PlayStation 3's installments, and even the terrific PSP entry, Resistance: Retribution. That's not to say that Resistance: Burning Skies is a bad game. It's really not. It's just not that good of a game either. Now with Killzone: Mercenary out, there's really no reason to pay any attention to Burning Skies anymore, unless you are a big fan of the series like I am. Even then, I can't help but feel that Nihilistic's take on the franchise is anything but a disappointment. These skies burn more like annoying hemorrhoids rather than with any kind of interesting passion

[SPC Says: 5.0/10]

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