Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ever Oasis (3DS) Review

Ever Oasis from Nintendo and developer Grezzo kicks off our July series of reviews. Is it worth picking up? It sure is, but see if it's right for you with SuperPhillip Central's in-depth review.

You'll get more than your just deserts with this game. 

No doubt many Nintendo fans have shifted their attention away from the Nintendo 3DS and towards the Nintendo Switch, and so much so that many find displeasure in seeing games even still coming out for the 3DS. After all, obviously the smart decision business-wise would be to turn one's back on the 60 million+ user base on the 3DS (a system that still sells) and put everything on the Switch, a console that can barely stay in stock as it is. Point being, such an attitude is a bit shortsighted.

That notwithstanding, that means a lot of new Nintendo 3DS games that release after the Switch won't get as much attention or hype. One of these 3DS games launched recently worldwide, and it's an original effort by developer Grezzo. After enhanced ports of two games in The Legend of Zelda franchise, Grezzo got the opportunity to work on an entirely new franchise, Ever Oasis, and they teamed up with the brains behind the Mana series to do it.

Ever Oasis is set in a world that is covered with sand thanks to the presence of an evil in the land known as Chaos. Few precious oases remain, where groups of people gather, protected by a Water Spirit and led by a chief. Your character, of which you can name, lives in his or her brother's oasis, an abundantly prosperous one where he is the chief. One day the dark force of Chaos attacks the oasis. With his final act, your brother transports you out of harm's way while the Chaos engulfs you and your brother's former home.

Now, awakening nearby a small pool of water, your character meets up with a lonely Water Spirit named Esna who squeals with delight that she has a new friend. Together, you two aim to bring life to your small oasis, find out what happened to your character's brother, and vanquish the Chaos menace so the world can return to its former glory.

Even the most prosperous oasis had to start from somewhere.
Who knows--maybe our hero's oasis can be that oasis!
The beginning of Ever Oasis is a bit slow and plodding, offering extended tutorials on how to build and expand your new oasis, but it offers enough variety to not be too terribly tedious. Though it might be on subsequent play-throughs... Regardless, the goal of your oasis is to lure visitors from faraway lands by performing various tasks. The initial visitors will arrive automatically, and by performing the objective(s) necessary to satisfy them, they will permanently move into your oasis. When enough residents have made your oasis their home, you will have the opportunity to expand your oasis and level it up by talking to Esna. In doing so, your oasis will grow larger, perhaps adding more shop space for you to build or grow your garden to cultivate more crops, and so forth. Your new denizens of your oasis will then provide rumors as to how to lure other prospective visitors to your new home. This can be by having a specific shop in your oasis or by discovering them in a specified area outside of your oasis.

Welcome to my humble oasis abode, new resident!
There are a number of tribes within the world of Ever Oasis. Seedlings are the most prevalent, and they're able to open different shops depending on the character. Unlike traditional shops in RPGs like this, you're not actually the one doing the shopping in them. Instead, you provide materials gathered from defeated monsters, discovered from mining and digging, and through other means to stock the goods that shop requires. Sold stock gives you Dewadems that serve as the currency of the game, used to build new shops and buy goods from merchants. It's a good idea to keep shops fully stocked, as when they run out, it affects your overall oasis' happiness. When that is lower, you have less HP to work with when you exit your oasis and enter the outside, dangerous world.

Add new shop types to attract new visitors to your oasis.
When you've stocked a given shop enough, the owner will want to speak with you about performing a side quest for them. These range from simple material-hunting quests to defeating a certain enemy in a specific area of the game. Once a shop owner's side quest has been successfully completed, their shop will expand, being able to sell not only more quantities of goods but new types of goods as well.

Now, early on it can be somewhat strenuous to always have enough materials to fully stock each shop you have. However, as you progress in Ever Oasis, you access the option to send AI characters out in groups of three on one-to-two day material-finding expeditions. This means you need not do all the work of gathering a particular resource all by yourself, and instead you can look at the available materials in a given area of the world, send your team out, and hope for success. Materials are also used to synthesize new weapons, accessories, costumes, and items, all done inside your home.

Once you finally decide to leave the comfy confines of your oasis, you'll find a sizable world to explore. Of course, at first, you're rather limited in where you can go, as natural roadblocks and ability-related roadblocks, requiring a specific character type, block your progress and opportunity to fully explore. That said, Ever Oasis does an adequate job of revealing the world to you in a way that isn't too slow and on the opposite side of the spectrum, isn't too overwhelming. There are main overworld areas with multiple caves to them, each with their own trials and things to discover within them, some of these caves serve as paths to other overworld areas.

As you recruit new characters from having them move to your oasis permanently, you can use their special abilities or weapons to access new areas within Ever Oasis' world. For instance, the tall and lean, lizard-like Drauk tribe is known for using spears as their weapons, and specific levers which hang on walls can only be pulled down by people using spears. These levers open doorways and remove obstacles that would otherwise be impossible to pass. Likewise, certain characters have special abilities that are exclusive to them, such as some Seedlings being able to use specific flower pads to fly and float in the air, crossing over chasms and reaching faraway platforms, or Seedlings that can coil up into a ball like an armadillo and pass through holes to reach other sections of dungeons.

This Seedling's ability summons a leaf wall to block rolling boulders like the one incoming.
The usage of these weapons and abilities to interact with the indoor areas of Ever Oasis is pretty novel, though an annoying issue is that while you can have three characters in your party, you can't switch them out except when you're back in your oasis. Now, while you're able to use a teleportation skill called the Aqua Gate to immediately transport back to your oasis to do so, it's still an inconvenience to have to do that every time you lack the proper ability necessary to solve a certain puzzle or progress in a specific part of a cave or dungeon. Thankfully, you can use the warp in your oasis to return to the site where you originally used your Aqua Gate, but it's a slight annoyance all the same.

The indoor areas within Ever Oasis are the ones where the puzzles and challenges present themselves. Most of the time you'll be in cavernous areas, but other areas present developer Grezzo's teachings with their remakes of the Nintendo 64 Legend of Zelda games by adding in puzzle-filled dungeons complete with obtaining keys and facing a colossal boss by the dungeon's conclusion. And of course, defeating that boss earns you one of the MacGuffins of the game. The dungeons are nicely themed, offering plenty of moments of pure action alongside pure puzzling, but the puzzles don't really get too spirited or impressive until late in the game, unfortunately. All puzzles, though, will have you switching between your hero character and your two party members, who are otherwise controlled by the AI.

It wouldn't be a dangerous dungeon without some deadly swinging hazards, right?
Going along with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora's Mask 3D's influence on Grezzo's design in Ever Oasis is the combat. Here, you can lock onto targets, though this time you're not stuck on any axis to avoid their attacks. You have full directional movement available to you. You have a light attack and a strong attack, which obviously takes longer time to get off, and you also have an evasive roll when an enemy gears up to attack. As you gain experience levels, you get typical stat upgrades, but also more powerful combos to deal more damage to enemies. Enemies are classified by types depicted by an icon next to their name. Certain weapons are strong against certain types of enemies while others do limited damage. Combat is seldom dull or frustrating, and this is due to the game generally throwing multiple enemies at you at a time. Thankfully, a purple icon on the bottom portion of the screen indicates when a foe is behind you.

After our party beats you, you're going to be crying Iguanagator tears.
Ever Oasis is a pretty lengthy experience. Most can complete it and battle the final boss within about 20-25 hours. However, once the final baddie has been beaten, the game opens up even more. Post-game content is available in the form of new visitors to lure to your oasis, optional boss battles, and unique dungeons where the bronze, silver, and gold slabs players will most likely come across in their adventures come into play. Here, placing three slabs will determine what kind of enemies, items, and challenges you will face, changing the experience each time. There is a risk/reward factor here, as dying means you forfeit all of your collected items within the dungeon, so if you reach a place to exit the dungeon, you might want to give it a second thought before deciding to progress further.

We're not retreating. Honest! We're just... Okay, we're retreating.
I'm not the type who can't stand to look at the low resolution of the Nintendo 3DS despite the Nintendo Switch being the new hotness, as the kids say. Thus, Ever Oasis looks and runs pretty well to me. Moments of frame-rate issues were rarities at worst, the character and environmental geometry were glorious to look at, and the animations were pleasant enough. Perhaps the only gripe in the visuals came with the 3D effect. The only real 3D came from text boxes being more pronounced while everything else in the game was pushed back, so I declined to leave the 3D slider up at all. It wasn't worth the more significant loss of battery life to me. When it comes to audio, the music has some token tracks that are delightful while everything else sort of comes off as forgettable.

The sun sets once more on the desolate desert. Did anyone bring a flashlight for nightfall?
Being Grezzo's most important original effort yet, I'm floored by how much I enjoyed Ever Oasis. Niggling things like having to return to my oasis to switch characters, occasional camera bothers, and material grinding got in the way of my overall enjoyment, but not so much as to cancel out my adoration with the game. Ever Oasis is a glorious action-RPG adventure set in the desert, and one that won't even get sand in your shoes. There's no better praise than that!

[SPC Says: B+]

Monday, July 24, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "The Glorious Return" Edition

It's been several weeks now without a new installment of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, but the worldwide nightmare is over--SPC's Favorite VGMs is back, baby! Sporting five new songs from five different video games, we're marching to the beat of our own drummer here.

This week's return to normalcy kicks off with a battle theme from Persona 4. We then venture to uncharted territory in the land of Ys: Memories of Celceta. Following this is a double dose of summer retreats: one in the tropics with Fortune Street and one to the Canadian north (aka the Northern Kremisphere) with Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble. Last but not least, we wrap this week's edition off with some rockin' Mega Man X5 music.

In case you've forgotten since it's been a few weeks, just click on the VGM volume name to hear the song spotlighted, and check out the VGM Database for every video game and theme ever touched upon on this reoccurring SPC segment! Now, let's get on to the music!

v1431. Persona 4 (PS2, PSP) - Reach Out to the Truth

We're starting off this return to SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs to SuperPhillip Central with an atypical battle theme from an atypical JRPG, Persona 4. No doubt many players weren't expecting to hear a J-Pop tune kick in when an ordinary battle began, and it might be off-putting at first listen. However, as you play through the game, the song becomes more natural to the game, and you eventually start really enjoying it--unless you're like me and liked it from the beginning. As regular readers and listeners of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs know, though, I do have quite the expansive taste!

v1432. Ys: Memories of Celceta (Vita) - Gust of Wind

Explore the vast, uncharted wilderness of Celceta in Ys: Memories of Celceta. As always with Falcom Sound Team, they deliver an exquisite soundtrack that never fails to showcase their talents. With a new Ys heading to both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in North America in a couple months, it seemed fitting to cherry pick one of my favorite themes from Memories of Celceta to represent the game and series in general.

v1433. Fortune Street (Wii) - Delfino Plaza

Since we're deep in hot temperatures here in Central City, it's a perfect time to head to the tropical paradise known as Delfino Plaza set on pleasant Isle Delfino. The original locale came, of course, from Super Mario Sunshine, and then it was featured as a location in Fortune Street--Nintendo and Square Enix's combination of the worlds of Super Mario and Dragon Quest. This remixed version of Koji Kondo's timeless piece of music for Delfino Plaza is peppier with heavier instrumentation than its Super Mario Sunshine original version.

v1434. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (SNES) - Sub-Map Shuffle

If a trip to the tropics isn't what you're looking for, then why don't we take a trip to the Canada-like Northern Kremisphere from Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! Packing a wide variety of locales in the form of lakes, forests, frozen peaks, and more, the Northern Kremisphere is a getaway like no other. Previous Donkey Kong Country games had David Wise primarily composing the music, but this time around he only contributed a small amount of specific tunes while Eveline Novakovic did all other compositions. As a note of trivia, Ms. Novakovic also portrayed the main character of my favorite FPS, Joana Dark in the Nintendo 64's Perfect Dark.

v1435. Mega Man X5 (PS1) - Repliforce Base (The Skiver)

Let's take to the skies for this final VGM volume of this July 24th edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs. For me, Mega Man X5 started a decline in the series. The localization changed the Maverick names to silly pop culture references, and as someone who likes consistency, going from Mega Man X1 to X4's Maverick names to Mega Man X5 was a bit of a shock to my system. Still, one thing that the Mega Man X series routinely has is a stellar soundtrack, and that was indeed the case again with Mega Man X5.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (PS4, XB1, PC) Gameplay Trailer 4

San Diego Comic Con brings a new trailer for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite featuring six new characters to add to the roster, such as Haggar, Nemesis, Frank West, and Spider-Man. More reveals should be coming as the actual panel for the game at Comic Con has yet to occur.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Top Ten Spider-Man Games

SuperPhillip Central's been on a much needed vacation for the past couple weeks or so, but here's some new content for the readers that pass by regularly and every so often (and of course, completely new friends as well). For the purposes of this article, the vacation was definitely necessary after need to get all of the hype out of my body over watching Spider-Man: Homecoming, which was really phenomenal. However, my specialty is reviewing games, so I'll graciously offer you links to more reputable film critics than I!

Instead, with the excitement of a well executed Spider-Man film after several misfires of varying degrees, it seems like a perfect opportunity to swing in and look at a subject near and dear to my favorite hobby and favorite superhero with this top ten list featuring the best Spider-Man games of all time. After you've read my picks, would you say you agree with them and the order?

10) Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (PS3, 360, Wii, PC)

Beginning this webhead-related countdown is Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, a game that put players in a wonderfully HD crafted version of Manhattan to explore with various main missions and side activities to engage in. Stellar boss battles featuring Web of Shadows' sensational combat and impressive window dressing like the original story and voice acting all further highlight this game. However, a tricky and often cumbersome camera to work with in addition to the much advertised choice system within the game left much to be desired. Still, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows remains a game starring Spidey that is worth checking out, though you'll have to find a physical copy as the majority of Activision's games licensed by Marvel were delisted on digital marketplaces--Web of Shadows being one of those.

9) Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (SNES, GEN)

We're going back in time a bit further to the 16-bit era days of gaming with one of the first video game adaptations of a comic book story, Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage for both the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. The two versions of the game played and looked the same, serving as a side-scrolling beat-em-up similar to Streets of Rage of Final Fight. The difference here is that instead of original characters, Spider-Man, Venom, and a whole host of Marvel heroes and villains were the stars. Despite playing well, Maximum Carnage suffered from a tendency of repetition in its gameplay. The game didn't offer much in the way of an extended repertoire of moves, but for a lazy afternoon with my brother back in the day, Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage provided more than enough fun for a pair of webhead siblings like us.

8) Spider-Man: The Video Game (ARC)

From one beat-em-up on consoles to one that exclusively appeared in arcades (seriously? No digital release of this yet?!), we turn our Spider Sense towards Spider-Man: The Video Game. This brawler didn't do much to distinguish itself from the multitude of other games of its genre released at the time, but this Spider-Man-themed vibrantly vivid colors, superb sprites with impressive animation, and inclusion of voiced dialogue made for a spectacular showing. To spice things up a bit, there were some platforming segments to partake in, made less frustrating than it would normally sound thanks to a zoomed out camera. For Spider-Man lovers, the appearance of our webbed hero's most nefarious villains like Kingpin, Doctor Octopus, Scorpion, Electro, and even the then-relatively new Venom should be enough to arouse some interest in this arcade gem.

7) The Amazing Spider-Man (Multi)

With the reboot of Spider-Man as a film franchise, Activision also put out video games based on the new direction of the movies. However, with The Amazing Spider-Man, developer Beenox took a different approach than just retelling the same story of the film it was based off of. Instead, the team crafted a story that took place after the events of the movie. This strategy worked out well, and the actual game was tons of fun. Web-swinging throughout Manhattan was just an enjoyable as always (though sticklers of Spidey web-swinging without any buildings nearby weren't too happy), but the thing of it was that Manhattan itself didn't have much fresh in it content-wise that other previous open world Spider-Man games didn't already have. Still, The Amazing Spider-Man game definitely turned out much better and more engaging than the film's sequel. Woof.

6) The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin (SCD)

Returning to retro gaming for just a little bit here, we have The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin. Although the Sega Genesis version was no slouch, we'll be focusing on what many consider the definitive version of the game which is found on the Sega CD. This version improved the entire package whether with gameplay improvements like quicker gameplay to remove any sluggishness from the original Sega Genesis version, two new levels exclusive to the Sega CD port, the ability to gather collectibles in the form of comic books, animated cutscenes with fully voiced dialogue, and also related to the presentation package, a wholly new soundtrack. All of these improvements made what was what I consider the best 2D Spider-Man game, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, even better.

5) Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (PS3, 360, Wii, PC)

If you've ever said to yourself that one Spider-Man wasn't enough, then did Activision have a game for you! In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, four Spider-Men from alternate universes are the playable characters (The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 2099, and Ultimate Spider-Man), each with their own abilities and gameplay mechanics which are tied together with one thrilling story. Shattered Dimensions proved that not every Spider-Man game needs to be open world to be enjoyable. In fact, the linearity of the game allowed for some interesting level ideas, action sequences, and encounters. Whether it was free-falling in an intense free diving sequence as Spider-Man 2099 or stealthily exploring a trainyard as Spider-Man Noir, the degree of gameplay variety on offer was excellent, making Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions a terrific game, though I'm still bitter I could never survive that damn final boss' rings of doom.

4) Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (PS1)

Spider-Man from Neversoft may have released on the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast home console-wise, but the sequel only ended up on Sony's box, despite originally being conceived for all three. Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro doesn't have the same caliber of villains in Spider-Man's rogue's gallery, but all the same it did some things to improve upon its predecessor, such as outdoor areas now having street levels to them--although this limited the openness of areas considerably. Enter Electro may not be as memorable as the original, but it was just as solid gameplay-wise, even bettering certain aspects affecting gameplay such as more realistic AI, for starters. Thus, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro is a stellar Spider-Man game, but it didn't do as much as it needed to in order to get a recommendation over the next title on SuperPhillip Central's list.

3) Spider-Man (PS1, N64, DC)

While Spider-Man games in the 16-bit era and prior all ranged from good to utterly atrocious, the gaming world didn't get a truly amazing Spider-Man game until Neversoft's effort on the original PlayStation with the simply titled Spider-Man. Though the games have obviously since improved in tech since Spider-Man's first PS1 outing, it's not an exaggeration to note just how big this game was for pushing Marvel's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man into the modern era of gaming. While limitations like tech and budget kept outdoor swinging sections strictly to rooftops which might seem lame now, being able to swing around an open space as Spidey was liberating unlike any experience featuring the webhead before it. The cast of characters and nods to the comics were delightful for any Spidey fan, and most importantly of all, the game felt satisfying to play, something even 2D Spider-Man games of the past had trouble nailing down. 

2) Spider-Man 2 (PS2, GCN, XBX, PC)

Not to be confused as the sequel to Spider-Man's PlayStation debut, Spider-Man 2 based off of the Sam Raimi film of the same name is to this day still the standard that all current open world Spider-Man games are measured against and compared to. The reasons for this are simple. For one, swinging as Spider-Man had never felt more rewarding. In many Spider-Man games, you can swing with wild abandon, even if there is literally nothing above Spidey to attach his webs to. This wasn't the case with Spider-Man 2. You needed to be near buildings of the appropriate height in order to swing, and while challenging to do, once you got a rhythm and mastered it, web-swinging was SO rewarding. Then, there was the number of interesting places and activities to be found all around the open world setting of Manhattan. Whether you were saving citizens or children's balloons, you were making progress in Spider-Man 2. All of this adds up to a brilliant Spider-Man game that works so well as both a complement to the tremendous film of the same name and just a standalone experience--but it's not the best Spider-Man game to me.

1) Ultimate Spider-Man (PS2, GCN, XBX, PC)

Not resting on the team's laurels after finding great success with Spider-Man 2, Treyarch hit the air swinging with Ultimate Spider-Man, their second open world game. Having a solid foundation from Spider-Man 2 certainly helped with the development of Ultimate Spider-Man, allowing the team to focus on crafting an even larger playground for players to jump, swing, and soar through with more mission types than ever before. (The latter being something that has yet to be challenged by even later Spider-Man games--here's hoping for Insomniac Games to pull through, though!) Based on the comic book series of the same name written by Brian Michael Bendis, Treyarch took an arc of the comic book and made an entire game revolving around it to terrific effect, having players shift between Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Eddie Brock/Venom. Since the game was based on the comic, Treyarch went with a superb cel-shaded style that makes Ultimate Spider-Man still look incredible unlike so many other Spider-Man games of the past, even from around Ultimate's time! With varied missions, an appealing story (especially for lovers of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book series from when it was around), splendid web-swinging, combat and other gameplay mechanics, and so much more, Ultimate Spider-Man is what I consider the best Spider-Man game currently available.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Miitopia (3DS) “Look Up, Look Down” Trailer

The young gamer in this commercial uses his family and friends as characters in Miitopia, an RPG adventure where players get to use their Mii collection as heroes and villains. If reality won't let you take Michael's girlfriend, young lad, make it so in Miitopia! Like Hey! Pikmin, Miitopia also releases on July 28 for the Nintendo 3DS lineup of systems.


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